Five Years Later

All of us remember where we were and what we were doing when news reached us that our country was under attack. (I was playing golf, and my playing partner got an emergency message on his beeper.) The hijacking and murders in Washington, D.C., Pennsylvania, and New York changed our nation forever.

In the weeks and months following the terrorist violence, the United States of America enjoyed an unprecedented level of national unity and international empathy. For a brief and glorious time, politics and religion and all the other mechanisms that normally divide us were sublimated by a collective sense of grief, healing, volunteerism, resolve, and indignation. The country — and most of the civilized world — was truly a “coalition of the willing” determined to crush the enemies of liberty.

Today, we’re a horribly fractured republic. The rest of the world hates us. And almost no one feels safer than he did five years ago, when the towers fell.

George W. Bush, despite lavish campaign promises of “compassionate conservatism,” had conducted a Presidency whose hallmarks have been transferring what was once a budget surplus to the wealthiest among us, bowing to the “moral” demands of the radical Christian right, and treating the rest of the world’s policy concerns — greenhouse gasses, nuclear proliferation — as naughty children better seen than heard.

And then our disastrous, tragic invasion of Iraq. The global goodwill the USA enjoyed in the wake of 9/11 has been utterly extinguished by the lies, the arrogance, and the obvious wrongheaded-ness of our folly on the Tigris. No matter how much the administration attempts to fool gullible consumers — many of whom get their “news” from talk radio — into thinking that the police action (the “war”) in Iraq is our best hope in defeating worldwide terrorism, the facts are plain. On Friday, the bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee released their report on the alleged Saddaam-Al Qaeda link, and concluded, without doubt, that there was none whatsoever. Just as there were no Weapons of Mass Destruction. Just as there has been no blissful transition to democracy across the newly “free” Middle East. Yet our Vice-President and our Secretary of Defense give speeches comparing opponents of their policy as appeasers of Nazism.

Five years later, we’re worse off than ever. And not just because gas prices are high. The thousands of friends, neighbors, and countrymen who perished on September 11, 2001, deserve a better legacy than a country whose reputation for upholding the finest impulses of humanity has been dashed by a cabal of dull-minded liars.

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