Monday, September 12, 2011

Mission accomplished?

I love my country and want to see it reclaim its former greatness, which is why I grieve to see how far wrong we went in response to 9/11. On that day, the whole world was with us. In response to the events of that day, our then-President urged everyone to go out and shop, insisted on finding a non-existent link between 9/11 and Saddam, initiated a war in Iraq that eventually brought Al Qaeda to Iraq where it had not been previously, bungled the chance to capture Osama at Tora Bora, eventually involved us in two wars which he refused to raise taxes to fund, squandered our entire budget surplus, illegally bypassed his government's own FISA courts to engage in warrantless wiretapping on American citizens, countenanced waterboarding, a practice for which we had court-martialed American officers in the Phillippines War of 1900 and had hanged Japanese officers as war criminals after WWII; and, finally, multiplied a security state apparatus so that the many agencies, and the number of people holding top secret clearances, are larger than Al Qaeda itself, while airline passengers submit to invasions of their personal dignity that would have outraged the Founding Fathers.

All this happened, in part, because the Bush Administration could not be bothered to pay attention to warnings about Al Qaeda in intelligence briefings (and even a warning of the risk of attacks on tall buildings via airplane) before the event and even allowed some of the 9/11 hijackers to board flights, although they were listed on "no fly" lists, because government personnel didn't check the lists.

We fought two wars not only without paying for them but without reinstituting a draft, staffing the whole endeavor by sending family men and women from the National Guard and blue-collar kids who saw this as their only chance to get a college degree. We sent them into Iraq without adequately reinforced vehicles or adequate body armor, sending them home as shattered wrecks while the government sought to cut veterans' benefits and had to dismiss the commandant of its own Walter Reed Medical Center over the scandal of poor care. We sent enlistees into multiple tours of duty through "stop loss" orders. Our military is overstretched, while the recently departed Secretary of Defense had to fight his own bureaucracy to cancel ridiculously expensive weapons systems that didn't even work, and a quarter of the money spent on military contracts for the past 10 years turns out to have been wasted.

Today, we no longer have the respect of the world. It hesitates to follow us on military undertakings, doubts the continuing soundness of our currency as a worldwide reserve currency, looks on aghast as a small faction of yahoos and know-nothings holds the United States Congress hostage, resisting the control of its own party leadership and all but bringing government to a halt over the issue of raising the debt ceiling, which had already happened 87 times since World War II (mostly under Republican administrations!). The country we delivered from Saddam is now moving steadily into the orbit of Iran, while in Afghanistan, soldiers of that country's army are deserting in droves. Meanwhile, the world beats a path to China's door to seek its friendship, while fewer people in the United States are employed than were in the work force on 9/11, middle-class wages have actually decreased, in real terms, since 1970, and Warren Buffett pays less in taxes than does his secretary.

Is this why people died on 9/11? So that we could present a face to the world as a once-great country steadily being ruined by clowns and thugs, bankrupt of principles and proudly indifferent to ideas?

We elected a man 3 years ago as leader of the free world who seems, in retrospect, to have been chiefly interested in showing how balanced and adult he was. He inanely proclaimed that his advent would mark the moment when the rise of the oceans began to decrease, but had to go to the Copenhagen Conference on Climate Change empty-handed. He personally traveled to Europe to seek the endorsement of Chicago for the Olympics, but faced with toxic, hostage-taking political tactics from his opposition, he continually gives in. His self-esteem is perhaps intact, but he is not functioning as a leader, and more's the pity, considering his high intelligence. Meanwhile, among the most intelligent candidates for his office from the opposition, all but one had affirmed a monumentally stupid pledge to refuse a budget arrangement that would have included only a dollar in tax increases for nine dollars in reductions. One of his most likely opponents governs a state where the largest segment of workers holds minimum wage jobs and touts this as an economic miracle, and denies that climate science is settled, while wildfires rage unchecked throughout his state, the worst in recorded history, exacerbated by conditions whose origin he refuses to acknowledge.

This is not the America I grew up in. We are badly in need of a course correction. We need to recognize that actions (including the actions of man toward the environment) have consequences, that wars must be paid for, that social burdens should be shared, that the debt ceiling is merely the way we pay for programs that have *already* been passed, and not a new referendum on them, that the way to fight terrorism is not through an undeclared "war" against no sovereign state with no boundaries and no foreseeable end, that turns our nation into a "security state" that would not seem unfamiliar to residents of constitutionally oppressive regimes and that has government agents forcing women to remove breast prostheses and adult diapers at airports; that our crumbling infrastructure of roads, bridges, and tunnels is a national danger and a scandal in the rest of the developed world; that we spend twice as much per capita as the rest of the developed world on medical care while having health outcomes that lag behind theirs, and that we rank 44th in the world, behind Turkey, in public acceptance of biological evolution, while candidates for the office of President feel obligated to show up at a venue like Saddleback Church and prove their good character to the likes of Rick Warren.

Have we lost our minds?

© Michael Huggins, 2011. All rights reserved.


Lex said...

Michael - This is an excellent article and should be editorialized by every major newspaper in the country.
Thank you, sir.

Michael Huggins said...

Thank you, Lex.