Monday, September 11, 2006

9/11

New York City is my home.
I've been away for more than twenty years, but this summer I returned for personal reasons to live in Queens, about two miles from where I grew up.
Many others have managed to capture in words and pictures the devastation I felt that day, as my home suffered what felt like a mortal blow. When I heard through the grapevine at my office in Albany about a radio report of a plane hitting the first tower, I remember looking at one of my co-workers and saying, "Look at the weather. We're under attack."

After the second tower had fallen, I also said, "Well, I can see where missile defense would have protected us today."

A lot of people have forgotten that the Bush administration's major defense initiative prior to 9/11/2001 was missile defense. Still fighting the Cold War that we'd already won, the cabal surrounding George W. Bush was determined to ignore the recommendations of the outgoing Clinton administration and focus on stopping an enemy that had either evaporated or didn't yet exist.

They ignored the warnings, including a memo entitled "Bin Laden Determined to Attack Within U.S.", preferring not to interrupt a bout of vigorous Crawford brush clearing, and nearly 3000 Americans paid the ultimate price for their incompetence, leaving behind a gaping wound in the earth, in the skyline, and in the hearts of every New Yorker, as we learned that our government wasn't capable of protecting the nation from attack.

I grew up during the end of the Cold War, and I avidly studied the time gap between the warning and the arrival of a hypothetical brace of Soviet missiles. Warnings would come in 17 minutes after detection. The missiles would arrive 14 minutes after detection. Throughout my teenage years, I knew that at any moment, I could vanish without warning into the heart of a pocket sun. All of us knew that New York City was on the short list of strategic targets for any enemy of the United States of America.

Did 9/11 change everything?
Not for me, not really. I had always known I'd grown up in a target. When the Cold War ended, I felt a wave of relief, thinking my home was finally safe. Then I found out I was wrong.

Worse yet, within days I knoew that the Bush administration would never bring the architects of the attack to justice. The moment Bush substituted "The War on Terror" for what should have been "The War on Al Qaeda", I knew the USA was in for the downbound roller coaster we have been riding straight to hell for five years.

Rather than give so many innocent deaths meaning, the Bush administration has piled on more innocent deaths without pause, and to what purpose? Osama bin Laden is still free. Afghanistan is in the control of warlords that, together with a resurgent Taliban, have produced a record poppy crop. Iraq is embroiled in an undeclared civil war. North Korea has gone from having no nuclear weapons to having anywhere from 8 to 10, and Pakistan has signed a treaty with people protecting bin Laden within their borders.

Meanwhile, a few American plutocrats have grown fat on our tax dollars, siphoned from the various misguided war efforts and quietly deposited in their greasy pockets.

There has been much controversy over a memorial for the victims of 9/11, but any monumnet is so much empty steel and stone if we do not build the better world demanded of us. That is the memorial we should be erecting on this day. And we should cast out the evil, stupid men who would memorialize this dark day by forever multiplying the world's pain to their private profit.

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