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In Their Names We Have Done It

....and what is that, precisely?

This is Dark Cloud on Wednesday, September 11, 2002.

It has been a solemn day. New York came to a halt, and a memorial service at the World Trade Center seemed appropriate and dignified. To hear New York peal its bells, let its river fleet unleash its whistles and horns, is an oddly moving and effective moment, because it is so rare that this city stops and does the same thing at the same time for anyone. If New York had stopped and sung, en masse, the Hallelujah Chorus, it would not have been as fitting as the blasts of air from the fleet, the resonance of the bells. And the reading of names, in the memory of which we have done so much. Do they approve?

There was one of the interminable 9-11 shows that caught me yesterday. I think it was PBS, and a photographer was doing enlargements on his photos taken with a powerful lens. In one, a man is seen under the smoke at a corner window, holding on by one hand just previous to jumping or falling, or riding the building down. He looks like he was trying to grab a ledge and make it around the corner – to what is a valid question. But he hasn’t given up; he has not thrown in the towel. He’s trying. What a quest, to escape the burning ninety something floor. We did, partly in his name, go to war in Afghanistan and against Islamic anti-occidents. A year ago today.

And while the citizenry that cleared the rubble, and rebuilt the Pentagon and prepared the World Trade Center site for its next life seems elevated in the hindsight of history, our blustering government looks weak, leaderless, and rather pathetic. The nation looks to its Vice President for calming leadership; the world doesn’t look to our President at all. He’s a joke, a schlub. All hat. Even when he has a good cause, like Iraq, he manages to alienate everyone including Canada, precluding his ability to get rid of Sadaam. It might be that all we are trying to do is intimidate Iraq, but if so it is badly done.

Being President requires exceptional communication skills. Bush has terrible, awful instincts, and is the worst public speaker of the last twenty years. Even when all the good is ours, he cannot make a case for it. Like his enemies, he can only condemn and denigrate. When he tries to inspire, he sounds like what he is: a sound byte composite of poses and phrases, bluster and blarney. An empty man, an empty mind.

Only England feigns support for our plans to remove Sadaam, and it might be that Blair is only trying to stay close for keeping lines open; for Bush does not have the magic touch for personal relationships he claims and thinks he has. Putin, Fox, Blair, and all the other leaders of the world are clearly appalled at the man. Their flattering public statements, which were not uttered about Clinton or Bush I or Reagan, are clearly to offset the distance between them visible in all photo sessions. They simply do not think him qualified for his job. Bush continues his Davy Crockett management style: he can look folks in the eye and see their soul, intentions, and heart. Unfortunately, the item right behind the eyes is the brain, and they’re looking into his as well.

Attorney General Ashcroft, the real American Taliban, has been nothing if not consistent, but he has been consistently wrong, power hungry, ineffective, and hungry for camera time. The powers he claims to need to fight the war wouldn’t and won’t stop future 9-11’s, but they sure would be handy for civilian intimidation in the future were they to stay on the books. Now that the year of mourning is over, we need to focus on what we have given away to right wing incompetents.

A year later, after elevating a delusional thug with daddy issues and his team of suicidal wannabes to Evil Mastermind status, and using him as a frightening rod to gather central strength, the Administration still can’t explain how any of the new laws and policies would prevent another September 11. It is now clear that locked cockpit doors would have saved all except passenger fatalities. It is now clear that motivated and paid air security personnel, doing the job we thought we had paid them to do for thirty years, might have caught some of the hijackers as well as the blustering frenzy now.

The new administration cannot explain why the twenty five million dollar bounty has not produced Bin Laden, nor tell us where he is, or if he is alive, or – really – if Al Quada really exists anymore. Same with Omar, the Taliban leader. We have no idea.

We’ve bid farewell to the victims of last year, and honored them highly. Time now to assess what we have done in their name.