Tuesday’s sixth anniversary of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, will unfortunately turn into a glut of self-serving reasons to use the tragic events for political, philosophical or personal advantage.
Candidates for President will talk endlessly about how they could have better handled the events that cost more than 3,000 Americans their lives on that devastating day.
Conservatives will claim the attacks prove we must never, ever, let up on the so-called “war on terror” while liberals will say the war on terror is overblown and we need to remember but not dwell on 9/11.
Conspiracy theorists will trot out their tired claims of government involvement in the attacks, some even claiming the Bush Administration planned the whole thing to justify war in the Middle East.
And quick-buck artists will release more “commemorative” edition coins for “collectors” to “honor” the memory of those who died.
But lost in this sea of rhetoric will be the sad fact that Osama bin Laden and his crazed fanatics achieved exactly what they hoped on the day six years ago.
Osama and his buddies wanted to destroy the American way of life.
Six years after the attacks, America is a paranoid, corrupt, rotting shell of itself: A country divided by political extremes, economically devastated by a war based on lies.
Gone are the freedoms we used to cherish and take for granted: Buried not under the rubble of the twin towers of the World Trade Center but by a callous Presidential administration that considers the Constitution an “outdated document” and individual rights a disposable commodity.
The Department of Homeland Security, created in the aftermath of 9/11 and now the largest federal bureaucracy in history, decides who can or cannot board a commercial airliner in this country, who can or cannot obtain a passport and who can or cannot even criticize their government.
In a non-descript building on Fairfax Drive in Arlington, Virginia, a giant government computer developed by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) monitors everyday financial transactions and tracks day-to-day travel of millions of Americans. If either fits a pre-determined “profile” an investigative file is opened on those Americans.
FBI agents, armed with thousands of “National Security Letters” swoop in on banks, employers and Internet service providers to secretly obtain records on Americans. A federal judge recently found such tactics unconstitutional but stayed an order banning the practice so the government can appeal.
On street corners in many large cities, cameras scan the faces of people just going about their business and feed the images into “facial recognition” software programs, looking for those “suspected” of terrorist involvement. Americans who fall into the web of “suspected” involvement are grabbed off the streets and whisked away to secret detention centers out of the country where “enhanced interrogation techniques” are used to try and obtain confessions.
Most of this “increased anti-terrorism” activity stems from the USA Patriot Act, a rights-robbing piece of legislative over-reaction passed by a shell-shocked Congress in the aftermath of 9/11. Most members of the House and Senate admit to this day that they didn’t read the act before voting for it and still don’t know what’s in the law, even though they voted to reauthorize it last year.
The America that pauses Tuesday to remember the attacks of September 11, 2001, is a far cry from the America that woke up on that morning. America today is fearful, paranoid, anxious, fading and dangerous.
President George W. Bush argues that the drastic steps taken by his administration were “necessary” to “make America a safer place.”
He’s wrong. America is not a safer place today. A nation robbed of its freedoms can never be safe. A nation that distrusts its own government is not safe.
America can never be safe as long as its people face a far greater threat from its own government than it ever faced from Osama bin Laden and his band of thugs.
When you pause Tuesday to remember September 11, 2001, say a prayer for those who died on that terrible day.
Then say another prayer for America, a once-great nation felled not by Islamic terrorists but by the combined forces of governmental, political and philosophical extremists.