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The Political Aftermath



On the anniversary of 9/11, we are compelled to reflect and take the pulse of our country, our culture and our place in the world. That certainly is as it should be, despite the usual over-exuberance of TV news programs, beating the bush to come up with some new touching angle on the tragedies.

Sales of American flags, dwindling before 9/11, have shown an upsurge that is unprecedented in real numbers. A spokesman for a flag manufacturer surmised that during the ’80s and ’90s, Old Glory had been appropriated by right-wing groups. That changed a year ago. Now all Americans again embrace the Stars and Stripes.

That said, the world does not seem to be a more dangerous place than it was before terrorists from Osama bin Laden’s Al Qaida network took down the World Trade Center and smashed into the Pentagon. Nonetheless, parents and teachers may be having a difficult time explaining that to their charges. The truth is, even before Sept. 11, 2001, the world was a dangerous place. And continues to be.

As anger, sorrow and fear begin to dissipate one year after 9/11, we still seek to put meaning to the attacks and give them some kind of perspective. Some analysts have surmised that bin Laden’s plan envisioned an angry United States lashing out at Arab and Muslim nations and thereby uniting them against the “Great Satan.” Looking at the Bush administration’s insistence that we make a preemptive strike against Iraq and Saddam Hussein with the aim of forcing a regime change, that analysis gains prescience. All of our Middle Eastern allies are dead set against it and as the administration continues to sue for war, Muslim and Arabic nations are indeed closing ranks.

Noted Middle Eastern expert and New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman has said that nothing the United States has done can be legitimately seen as provoking the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. Rather, a group of Islamic extremists who see their culture being left behind by modernity struck at the symbol of globalization. Friedman also notes that those Islamic fundamentalists have no ties to Saddam, a despot who is Muslim in name only.

Friedman contends the Bush administration has taken the patriotism and the energy of 9/11 and used it to invigorate a right-wing agenda. That is, to shift our goal from routing Osama bin Laden and the Al Qaida terrorists to fomenting war on Saddam.

That harsh analysis squares with the facts. Using 9/11 and the subsequent outpouring of patriotism to further an agenda expounded now for a decade by ultra-conservative hawks would leave in its aftermath generations in this country and elsewhere turned cynical toward the motives of the United States.