The Truth, Mainly - 09/11/2006

Remembering September 11, 2001
by Leon Satterfield

I don't suppose anyone has to remind you that today is the fifth anniversary of one of the most traumatic events in our history—the 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 towers—and their relatives—had 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 guy—but 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 9/11.

Saddam is, just incidentally, the guy who tried—but failed—to kill President Bush's father. Even more important, he's the leader of a country that's sitting on even more oil than Texas is—something 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 Saddam.

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.

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 ago."

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 conflict—you 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 States Army."

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 war?

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 address is:

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