I don't suppose anyone has to remind you that today is the fifth
anniversary of one of the most traumatic events in our historythe event
we all wake up in the middle of the night remembering.
9/11. The unprovoked attack on and destruction of the twin
trade towers in New York City, to say nothing of what happened to the
Pentagon and the plane that was crashed in Pennsylvania. Total number of
American dead: about 3,000.
For a different generation, December 7, 1941, was nearly as
traumatic as 9/11. But our soldiers and sailors at Pearl Harbor knew that
they were putting themselves in danger. The workers in the trade
towersand their relativeshad no sense of danger where they were. And
we all knew immediately who the bad guys at Pearl Harbor were.
But today, five years after 9/11, some of us still seem confused
about who was responsible for the 9/11 atrocities. Some seem to believe it
was Iraq. Hence our justification for taking the war there. We see those
god-awful TV pictures of the falling towers, the screams, the people
jumping to their deaths and somehow some of us see that as the
justification of our war in Iraq.
Except Iraq wasn't the guilty party. 9/11 wasn't an Iraqi
project. A guy named Osama bin Laden claims responsibility. But we can't
find Osama. He spends most of his time in Afghanistan hiding out in caves.
So what do you do if you can't find the bad guy? Zero in on the guy you
can find and call him the bad guy. And that's Saddam, a guy who has a
history of being a bad guybut not in the particular case of 9/11.
It's as if FDR had gone to war with the Chinese after Pearl
Harbor because they were easier to find.
The real culprit, Osama, occasionally comes out of his caves
long enough to appear on television and gladly take responsibility for
Saddam is, just incidentally, the guy who triedbut failedto
kill President Bush's father. Even more important, he's the leader of a
country that's sitting on even more oil than Texas issomething the
president doesn't want to talk about in public.
So you sort of lose track of Osama, and focus as best you can on
You have about 20,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, about
one-seventh the number you have in Iraq. The numbers reflect your sense of
relative importance of the two goals: finding the guy who brags about his
guilt in planning the 9/11 catastrophe, or rebuilding an oil-rich Iraq in
ways that would benefit your party and incidentally your long-standing love
affair with the oil industry.
The Truth, Mainly
And despite all your efforts, your plan doesn't seem to be
working very well. Polls in August, according to the Christian Science
Monitor, "show that support for the war in Iraq among Americans is at an
all-time low. Almost two-thirds say that they oppose the war, the highest
totals since pollsters started asking Americans the question three years
Well, you may be saying, all of that whimpering is coming from
Americans who know nothing about conducting a war, who have no
understanding of how to do what you gotta do to win wars. You know, those
Democrat wimps who go around saying things like this: "The sickening
slaughter on both sides must end now. This madness must stop."
The guy I quote there was talking about the war we've been
conducting in Iraq. And he's not one of those who "know nothing about
conducting a war."
The quote comes from Nebraska's GOP Senator Chuck Hagel, a
decorated veteran of the Vietnam conflictyou know, the war that young
George Bush just couldn't manage to take part in.
In an interview reported in the Omaha World-Herald last month,
Sen. Hagel said that sending more U.S. troops to Iraq "isn't doing any
good. It's going to have a worse effect. They're destroying the United
And it's not a newfound position for Sen. Hagel. A year ago, he
talked about parallels between the war in Iraq and the war in Vietnam.
Here's part of what he said:
"The longer we stay in Iraq, the more similarities will start to
develop, meaning essentially that we are getting more and more bogged down,
taking more and more casualties, more and more heated discussion and debate
in the United States."
But compared to Our President, what does Sen. Hagel know about
Have a pensive 9/11.
Retired English Professor Leon Satterfield writes to salvage clarity
from his confusion. His column appears on alternate Mondays. His e-mail