Monday, September 11, 2006

What If?

The claims by the current administration that "maybe somebody did something right" (Dick Cheney quoted in the Los Angeles Times, September 11, 2006) because we have not been attacked in five years somehow doesn't make me feel safer. It's like screening for cancer with mammography. Yes, it helps with early detection, and, in the moment that negative results come back you feel safe (a bit). Then you read the part about false negatives, and realize that trying to detect cancer visually is way, way after the fact. The relief is temporary.

Fighting terrorism is like that. Because we haven't been attacked yet (again), means that we have been safe up to now, up to this moment. Detecting terrorism is hard work and a little like screening for cancer. You're looking for disease that has already presented itself.

What if, instead of putting all our energies into detecting terrorist activities, we put more into understanding the root of the problem? Did anyone else wonder what we (Western society) did to piss off the perpetrators of 9/11 to make them hate us so much? Here are some questions to ponder:
  • What if we hadn't invaded Iraq? Yes, we know that Iraq had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks, but invading Iraq has everything to do with terrorism. Invading Iraq is like performing cancer surgery without getting it all, allowing the cancer to metastasize and spread. The country of Iraq is all but destroyed, embroiled in a civil war whose side effects create terrorists and grow terrorism.
  • What if we instead had put our war machine money (Iraq invasion) into addressing the needs of developing nations, helping to stamp out hunger, improving other people's lives?
  • What if we had used diplomacy to harvest world sympathy thrown our way after 9/11 instead of alienating other countries?
  • What if we had created a true coalition of terrorist-fighting countries that includes Pakistan or Saudi Arabia, for example?
  • What if we put more energy into educating Americans to be world citizens, to appreciate other cultures, to learn other languages, to learn about and understand other religions? (Nothing was more ridiculous, in my opinion, than the Freedom Fries frenzy of 2003.) (It is commonly known outside the U.S., in both France and Belgium, that French fries originated in Belgium, not France, anyway. My reference is both personal experience and this article. Oh, and here is even more corroborating evidence at this local Belgian Fries restaurant!)
Yes, we haven't been attacked in five years, but is that how you measure success in the war on terrorism?
The number of civilian deaths from terrorism in 2005, as defined by the institute [National Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism (which maintains an exhaustive database)] swelled to more than 8,000, mostly because of sectarian violence in Iraq. (Los Angeles Times, "Is the U.S. Winning This War?" by Doyle McManus, Times Staff Writer, September 10, 2006.)
Anyone who claims we are winning the war on terrorism is simply ignoring deaths that are not American, an extremely ethnocentric (and bad) viewpoint. We allow this misguided war on terrorism only because we haven't been attacked since 9/11, and because for many of us, our lives are not affected. ("Remarkably, though, the day-to-day lives of most Americans have changed very little. We have found it easy, perhaps startlingly easy, to stick to routines and habits and mind-sets forged before we could have conceived of planes as missiles." - Los Angles Times, "9/11 Has Changed Few Lives" by Stephanie Simon, Times Staff Writer, September 11, 2006.)

I hope that Americans will educate themselves politically. Don't let fear guide you. Don't let someone else tell you what you should fear. Educate yourself. Know your representatives at all levels of the government, especially the national level. Please vote RESPONSIBLY.
Next Entry: Civic Duty

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