Monday, July 24, 2006

The Legacy of 9-11

Lately I have been thinking about the legacy of 9/11. We had been attacked and violated in a way unprecedented in history. We watched from our offices and living rooms and listened on our radios as the planes slammed into the towers. We watched the smoke and flames billowing out from the wounds. We watched people jump to their deaths rather than be burned alive or choke to death on the smoke. We watched as the first tower fell. And then the second fell. We watched and we cried and we raged. And the whole world watched with us. And then the world held its breath. What would we do?

In his book “Confessions of an Economic Hitman” John Perkins discusses the legend of the Eagle and the Condor. The Eagle Spirit is materialistic and centered in around the head where the Condor Spirit is spiritual and centered around the heart. Now in the 500 years since the conquest of the Americas we have allowed the Eagle Spirit to dictate our actions, however the legend tells that every 500 years the two great spirits come together. At this time we have a choice: We can embrace one or the other, or we can embrace them both and return balance to the world. I know this sounds kind of hokey, but as I look back 9/11 was a moment where we were faced this momentous of a decision.

The world was united in its condemnation of terrorism as never before. Certainly there were groups who felt America was only getting its just desserts, but by in large the opinion of the world was with us. All we had to do was provide the right sort of leadership and we could usher in a new era of international dialogue and cooperation. We could finally act as the leader of the world.

Poised upon this precipice the President of the United States addresses an anxious nation, an anxious world, on September 20th. Imagine how different things might be today if he spoke the following words:

Fellow Americans, citizens of the world:

Tonight we are a country awakened to danger and called to defend freedom. Our grief has turned to anger, and anger to resolution. Whether we bring our enemies to justice, or justice to our enemies, justice will be done.

We cannot see inside the head of a terrorist, and yet today we understand clearly what it is he demands. A terrorist demands hate. He demands fear. Above all else, a terrorist demands war.

But a free people does not bend to the demands of terror.

Our friends and family members have died in the thousands, their bright lights of life made suddenly, brutally dark. To the world tonight I say not one more innocent person will die in the name of this terrorist act. Not one more mother’s son in America. Not one more beloved father in Afghanistan. Not one more infant child in Israel or in Palestine.

To the men and women in uniform I say: We all must hope that your soldiering days are done. Today you are our officers of law and our keepers of precious peace. You have been challenged by a terrible crime and make no mistake, this nation’s hunger for justice is as strong as its love of peace. We look to you, to our police forces and out troops, to the elected representatives of our citizens, and to our friends and allies in the international community, to bring the full weight of law and human dignity against the wrongdoers and criminals.

America is ever prepared to act, and to act alone if we must. Tonight, we know that we can instead act in concert with every nation on Earth. The citizens of 80 other nations died with our own in New York and Washington. The murder of innocents has been carried not only to America, but to Iran and Saudi Arabia, to Mexico and El Salvador, to Japan and South Korea, to Canada and Great Britain, to India and Pakistan. The world has been stunned into silence, but only to emerge with a voice more unified and sure than ever before in our history.

We will convene a meeting of the United Nations Security Council. We ask for the establishment of a world tribunal with authority to seek out, extradite or arrest and try those responsible for the September 11 attack, and any who conspire to commit similar crimes in the future. We call on our partners and friends within the United Nations to establish an international force to carry out this mandate. Let their work reach with unrelenting certainty into the shadowy world of terror and into the network of criminal finance, but above all else let them reach toward the diplomacy of cooperative effort. We join all the world in our expectation that this mandate will be swift and certain. We have encountered an unprecedented crime against humanity; we demand unprecedented action.

And so to the hawks I say: We salute you.

And to the doves I say: This is your moment. We leave behind us a century of war; we see ahead a century of peace. Already, this new century is stricken by the deepest of challenges. We look to you, to the peace builders, the peace makers, and peace keepers, for your wisdom.

We cannot comprehend terrorism, and yet today we understand clearly that its aim is to remake the world. Let us not fulfill the prophecy of terror by providing it with martyrs and justifications. Even as we wipe the blood from our brows and the tears from our eyes, we cannot forget that we are the world’s fortunate citizens. We must take extreme care not to provide the movements we deplore with gratuitous fuel for self-regeneration.

We know that we, too, can remake the world. Let us closely examine our actions on those fertile grounds from which terror grows. Is there more to be done to bring peace and justice to Israel and Palestine? Surely there is. Is there more to be done to ease poverty and suffering in the Middle East nations so rich with oil? Almost certainly, there is. Is there more we can do to hear the reasoned and gentle voices of the many who are struggling to be heard and understood? We cannot doubt that there is.

Let these, too, be our unrelenting pursuit. And let us be clear: These shall be out goals because these are no the goals of terror. Terror demands extremism, fanaticism and war. We will redouble our efforts for peace because we are a people that does not bend, does not buckle in the face of fear.

And so to the doves I say: We salute you. Fellow Americans, citizens of the world, we will meet violence with patient justice – assured of our cause, and confident of the victories to come. In all that lies before us, may God grant us wisdom, and may he watch over each one of us. Thank you.

This was written by James MacKinnon and appeared in the Jan/Feb 2002 issue of Adbusters with the title “What Could Have Been: The speech that was never made. Lest We Forget.”

There are times when I look back and I feel like crying. With all that has happened in my short life nothing could have demonstrated the beauty that is humanity like the road we failed to take after 9/11. Now rather than leading the world against the international scourge of terrorism we have to contend with increasing levels of terrorism around the world, ongoing failures in Afghanistan, daily violence in Iraq, and a deepening conflict between Israel and her neighbors in the Middle East; all the while doing our best to alienate the rest of the world. Not to mention the oppressive atmosphere of fear we have created on the home front.

Tags: Politics

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