America’s day of shame, loss, and mourning

Confronting the fourth anniversary of the horrific September 11 attacks wasn’t enough. Today brought new mourning for the victims of hurricane Katrina, and a new darkening of the American mood.

Adding insult to injury, we have the religious gloating of rising Al Qaeda bogeyman Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, and a new terror tape from former Orange County resident and self-styled jihadist Adam Gadahn.

Zarqawi purports to believe ‘god’ has punished the people of New Orleans. Whether or not he actually believes this, or is cynically appealing to the ignorance of his audience is an open question, but his words leave nothing to the imagination:

"I believe the devastating hurricane that hit the United States occurred because people in Iraq or Afghanistan….were praying for God and God accepted their prayers."

I always wonder, when these types of claims are made, how religious zealots imagine god makes a decision.  On the one hand, you’ve got Zarqawi  and his gang praying for the destruction of New Orleans, on the other you have frightened New Orleans residents praying for god to save them from Katrina. Are we to imagine god flipped a coin to decide which prayers to answer?

Gadahn on the other hand sends an unabashedly political message to US and its allies: do as we say, or face further attacks, this time in Los Angeles and Melbourne:

Yesterday, London, and Madrid. Tomorrow, Los Angeles and Melbourne, Allah willing. And this time, don’t count on us demonstrating restraint or compassion….

[as if you ever did before—asshole!…he continues]

We love peace, but when the enemy violates that peace or prevents us from achieving it, then we love nothing better than the heat of battle, the echo of explosions and slitting the throats of the infidels. When it comes to defending our religion, our freedom, and our brothers in faith, every one of us is Mohammed Atta.

The timing of both the messages is clear.  Kick us when we’re down.  Terrorism has always been a combination of political theater, and last resort of the weak.  Islamist jihadists have plumbed new depths of infamy, with such techniques (used in Iraq) as dual car bombings: one initial blast, and then a second to kill as many rescue workers as possible. A corollary to this approach is the funeral bomb, where a first attack produces mass casualties, and a second wave of attacks targets families and friends at the first victims’ funerals.

Rhetorically at least, that’s what these September 11 messages accomplish.  The nation is trying to lick its wounds after two unprecedented disasters. On this day of the marking of infamy, amidst somber ceremonies, we are forced to endure the apocalyptic rantings and clipped religious phraseology of two poster-children for the most enduring fascist movement since World War II.

We would not be susceptible to these messages, if we had our own nation in order.  Our leadership has failed us on many fronts:

•        The Bush administration has a habit of making political appointments instead of practical ones. This has hamstrung every level of the government. From science panels stacked with creationists, to the FDA who can’t approve emergency contraception, to the head of FEMA who went AWOL during the nation’s worst disaster, Bush has consistently favored ideology over experience.

•        The recently passed energy bill did nothing to reduce oil usage, has precious little money for renewable energy, and keeps us dependent on the very region that spawned the September 11 attacks.

•        The Department of Homeland security, at least in any visible form, has been a complete debacle.  FEMA was gutted, leaving us not only unprepared for Katrina, but for any other large-scale terrorist attacks or disasters.

•        The TSA, aptly nicknamed “thousands standing around," has harassed millions of American air travelers without making planes any more secure.  While normal Americans have their shoes examined and their lighters confiscated, security auditors routinely get weapons past checkpoints.  This does not even address plastic guns, or the fact that trained fighters could kill airline personnel in-flight with their bare hands, lethal poisons, or even sharpened credit cards.

•        The World Trade Center site still sits empty while leaders squabble.  Meanwhile, a building boom elsewhere in Manhattan takes up the slack.

•        The Iraq war drags on, (at a cost of $200 billion and counting) while political parties in that country bicker over a constitution that even under the best possible outcome leaves Iraq an Islamic state, with the hated sharia as a primary basis of law.  Looking back on past American treatment of occupied lands, I see no reason why we could have not imposed a constitution on Iraq that guaranteed basic rights and freedoms, (women’s rights, freedom of religion, and freedom from religion) much as we did in Japan and Germany after World War II.

•        Finally, Al Qaeda retains worldwide operational capability.  The London bombings and the recent arrest of a Los Angeles Al Qaeda cell prove this fact. We are taunted by the airing of a terror tape only because we have learned the threat could very well be real.

Studies of terror tactics, and the inability of Western governments to respond, have proved advancing technology favors the worldwide insurgency.  After all, it is much easier to disrupt systems, than to keep them in working order.  As bombings and tactics become more potent, this point becomes more clear. Where WMD’s are concerned, Western intelligence has to succeed every day to keep us safe, and Al Qaeda only has to succeed once to sow untold destruction– not only to kill thousands and possibly more– but to undermine the entire global economy.  As bad as things are on this fourth anniversary of September 11, they could conceivably get a lot worse.

With approval ratings at a dismal 38%, and the above litany of mismanagement and bungling of every important initiative, it’s time for the Bush administration to call it quits.  Their rhetoric is tired, they’ve proved they cannot govern. They are out of touch with the American people. Those who claim Bush is insensitive to black people are wrong—he’s insensitive to all Americans.

The shame of it is, while many may disagree, I do believe that America elected George W. Bush. Even though the first election was decided by the Supreme Court, and the second election was won by the most razor thin margin imaginable, the fact remains it was all done in accordance with the Constitution. (Bush did especially well in the south, ironically.) Therefore, since the nation elected him, the nation unfortunately deserves what it gets.

Since George W. Bush and his cronies are not likely to resign any time soon, one can only wonder what new horrors lie ahead as the final three years of his ignominious term play out.  One can only hope that Bush and the Republicans are severely punished next year in the midterm elections.

Think back for a minute to the optimism and promise we all felt in the year 2000. It is hard to imagine things having fallen so far, so fast.  I had a chilling thought today.  If things keep falling at the same rate, we might not have a recognizable country left by the time Bush leaves office in January of 2009. Call it the curse of the Georges.  Our ancestors left England to get away from George.  Our new leader was named George.  Hopefully, our last leader will not also be named George(!)

On this gloomy day, in a hopeful sign, Islamic relief organizations are helping hurricane victims—proving once again that humanity is more powerful than religion.

Hope springs eternal: I hope Americans of all persuasions will not forget the Bush debacles, and the failed approaches of his party. Revenge will be at the polls. We must demand the following, for starters:

•        A crash program similar to the Apollo program to wean the U.S. from middle east oil and establish sustainable and renewable energy sources.

•        Elevation of FEMA to a cabinet level postion, and clear lines of authority and automatic mobilization from the federal to local level.

•        A combined military and diplomatic strategy to boost America’s reputation and standing in the world, while simultaneously fighting the real terrorist enemies.

•        Proper management of the Iraq transition of power to ensure a democratic government remains in place. (Or we just wasted $200 billion, and 2000 American lives.)

•        HIV/AIDS initiatives that distribute condoms worldwide, without regard for religious based abstinence programs. (These programs are a death sentence on hundreds of thousands in this worldwide pandemic.)

•        Decentralization of domestic financial and industrial assets and energy resources so that we are less vulnerable to terror attack OR natural disaster. Beginning the process of conversion of the electrical grid to distributed generation would go a long way toward this.

•        REAL homeland security—beginning with the vulnerable ports and porous north and south borders.

•        Mandatory caps on federal deficit spending. Current levels of spending keep us dependent on a constant infusion loans from foreign governments to operate (currently China).

Keep hope alive….live to fight another day.

Comments (One comment)

Chris / September 14th, 2005, 9:56 am / #1

Tragedy is such a bewildered understatement. It seems that despite our over-all growing intelligence, we move deeper into an age of darkness represented by religion. Call it the age of irony.

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