For reasons of a pressing personal nature, I refrained yesterday from the political commentary I usually engage in, and I own that the composition of this piece was accomplished by no small labor, for I cannot seem to muster the vituperative instinct that usually flows so readily from my hand. I had thought, that by unfortunate coincidence of date, that there would be no occasion for me to need to voice my opinion on anything, and I could tend to my own personal sorrows. I seem to have underestimated both the desperation and the native vitriol of the modern Republican Party.
Yesterday was the eleventh anniversary of the attacks by Al Qaida on the United States. Not generally given to mawkish observance of events that do not affect me individually, I thought my time better spent engaged in the aforementioned matters. By mutual composition, both campaigns agreed to suspend their usual activities for memorial observation. Mitt Romney seems to be the only member of the his Party, though, to get that message.
Before proceeding further in my analysis of the events of the last few news cycles which I have neglected, it would be instructive to observe that the terrorist attacks eleven years ago were not the historical watershed they are generally supposed to be in the public consciousness. Taking nothing away from the horrific loss of life and the attendant grief, the attacks, in and of themselves, are analogous more to Lockerbie than Pearl Harbor. I know that this may seem insulting, prima facie, to public sentiment, but a historian should, if he is worthy of the sobriquet, practice his craft as dispassionately as possible. On December 7, 1941, the United States was attacked by state action, precipitating our entry into, and eventual dispositive action to end, the Second World War. The Japanese attack was not used as an excuse by the Roosevelt Administration for military adventurism, indeed, the isolationist sentiment of the time would have made such a motivation well nigh impossible. The attack was the proximate cause of our declaration of war against the Japanese Empire; the widening of our involvement into the European theatre, which to me is more personally significant, was accomplished not by our own accord, but that of Nazi Germany, which declared war on us the next day.
The events of September 11, 2001 naturally aroused a instinctual need for revenge, and more practically, a need to assert the military might of the United States in such a way as to dissuade any other potential miscreant from thinking they could attack the United States with impunity. That the Bush Administration would mishandle the tragedy, from the intelligence reports preceding the attacks, and after, both militarily and on the world’s diplomatic stage was something that America, in it’s grief, could not have foreseen. The commencement of hostilities in Afghanistan that swiftly followed was a war of necessity, not of choice, and though the method of its prosecution is worthy of some derision, an attention I will presently pay it, it would be patently foolish to object to the necessary and proper use of America’s military might.
Unlike the hostilities in Afghanistan, the campaign in Iraq was pure military adventurism, a fulfillment of a neoconservative imperative that was a blunder diplomatically and was detrimental to our national security. It turned Iraq into a terrorist haven, which under the despotic fist of Saddam Hussein was an awful abuser of human rights, but just as surely, it was not the safe haven for terrorist activities directed at the United States it would shortly become. It is in the light shone by the Iraqi campaign that the events of September 11 merit historical notice from a scholarly, rather than emotional, paradigm.
It is becoming increasingly apparent that our involvement in Iraq was preordained by the election of George W. Bush and the elevation of his neoconservative national security team. We learned through a New York Times editorial published yesterday that the Bush Administration systematically ignored the intelligence they were fed leading up to the attacks, seemingly focusing instead on the war with Iraq they had already decided upon (see Kevin Phillips, American Theocracy.) This informs the historical precedence of September 11; that it was used as an excuse to widen an already costly “war on terror” is unpardonable. I am not one to engage in the mindless speculation of conspiracy theory, nor am I an author prone to writing counterfactual history, but it does seem remarkably convenient that Bin Laden escaped at Tora Bora, thus giving Bush the loosed boogeyman so necessary to sell widening engagements wherever he so chose. It is inconceivable that it was unknown to the Bush Administration where he was likely to be found, logically where else could he have gone? For an administration committed to the eponymous Bush doctrine not to prosecute the war in Pakistan seems to border on giving “aid and comfort.”
Rather than having a mea culpa moment, and moving on, the Republican hypocritically chose yesterday, which the President was accused of not observing with the proper solemnity, to attack the Obama Administration on the perception of (rightful) secularity in government, “feckless foreign policy,” and sequestration. Perhaps there were some other things that escaped my notice.
Fox News attacked the President for not invoking piety in his memorial observations. It is a charge that is, regrettably, untrue. In a Presidential Proclamation issued Friday past, the President called for National Day of Prayer and Rememberance. Obama’s proclamation apparently wasn’t theocratic enough for Fox’s liking; one wonders if they similarly rebuked Bush’s proclamations issued for the same purpose. The “wall of separation” that Jefferson so eloquently evoked in his letter to the Danbury Baptists is the only viable way for a nation such as ours was envisioned can be, and I would, myself, be inconsistent, if I did not chastize the President for invoking the name of God (and the question “whose God?” succinctly illustrates why such a proclamation has no proper place in our civil government.)
Senator McCain’s assertion that the President’s foreign policy is the most feckless he has seen since Jimmy Carter is hardly worth comment. Senator McCain might direct his attention to the immediate past administration, as I did earlier.
Eric Cantor, who facing a surprisingly tough reelection bid has receded from the forefront of Republican bombast chose yesterday, with it’s tinge of military significance, to assert that the President wants to cut military spending, that this is a mistaken policy, and that the Republicans have offered other, viable alternatives. Congressman Ryan himself is now attempting to disavow his sequestration vote. People ought to be aware that the Republicans with a combination of neoconservative and Tea Party bravado, would rather cut services to those already marginalized by society than to cut military spending. The fact that our military spending could be quartered and still leave America as an implacable foe that no one in their right mind would dare engage seems to be of no account to them.
It had been generally agreed, admittedly with occasional potshots, that the anniversary of the attacks should not be a day on which political hay was made. This sentiment, combined with other unfortunate events, dissuaded me from setting pen till this morning, but though my grief is unabated, if that composition will be so egregiously violated by the Republicans, I will feel no compunction in clicking “Post.”