As we mark the six anniversary of the 9/11 attack, it is time for Americans to face the real lessons of that horrible morning. Until we dispel the myths which the Bush administration and a compliant media have been feeding us, we are doomed to repeat the same mistakes and suffer similar consequences.
Lesson 1: They Do Not Hate Us Because 'We are Free.'
For decades the U.S Government has committed horrible acts around the world, often in secret but always in the name of the American people. In every region on earth, our government has overthrown or undermined democracies, aided brutal dictatorships, and funded guerrilla wars under the guise of fighting for freedom. Until the American people grapple with this fact, our government will continue to engage in activities that destabilize the world community and bring pain and suffering to millions, including our own citizens.
Lesson 2: Anyone Could Have Imagined the 9/11 Attack
Our government failed to protect us on 9/11 not because such an attack was unimaginable but because bureaucratic turf wars and incompetence at the highest levels impeded our counter-terrorist efforts. The CIA tracked one of the hijackers into the United States but refused to pass that fact along to the FBI. FBI field agents repeatedly warned their bosses about suspected terrorists taking flight lessons but no investigation followed. The president was explicitly warned about an impending attack with airplanes but did nothing. Why not? We still don't know. The 9/11 Commission was a whitewash designed to protect the reputations of incompetent, bloated bureaucracies and a distracted White House.
Lesson 3: Our Leaders Displayed Cowardice in the Face of Terror
After the attacks, our local and national leaders refused to question the administration's contention that the air at ground zero was safe. Why was no alarm sounded by all the politicians who visited ground zero and smelled the foul, poisonous fumes? Leaders in both parties also surrendered our constitutional liberties and protections because they feared being called unpatriotic. They allowed Bush to ignore the Geneva Accords and engage in torture and extraordinary rendition. They allotted Homeland Security funds based on politics, not genuine threat assessments. And some politicians now seem unbothered by our failure to kill Bin Laden. Let's be clear, Bin Laden is not just a symbol -- his hands drip with the blood of thousands of Americans who must be avenged. When our leaders abandoned their responsibility to protect our lives and our ideals, they gave a great victory to the terrorists. Nothing could be more cowardly.
Lesson 4: The World is Not Divided between Good vs. Evil.
We should never negotiate with terrorists and we must hunt down Bin Laden and anyone else who attacks us. But we should not arbitrarily label governments 'evil' or 'terrorist regimes' and then wage covert or overt war against them. Look at the effects of Bush's belligerence toward the so-called Axis of Evil. In Iraq, we could have avoided 3700 American dead and the deaths of tens of thousands of innocents if we respected international law and allowed the UN weapons inspections to continue. By spurning direct talks with North Korea and threatening them, Bush forced Kim Jong-ill to create and test a plutonium bomb. Fortunately South Korea took a conciliatory diplomatic approach that now promises a peaceful resolution. We need to once again work with Iran on issues of mutual concern (Iraq, arms proliferation, and regional peace). Opening diplomatic negotiation with Iran is not naïve, shameful or irresponsible. In fact the tough talk we hear from Bush, Cheney and many presidential candidates simply feeds influence of Iranian extremists. The United States must stop all covert activities against Iran and begin good faith negotiations that will secure a lasting peace.
Long before 9/11, Iran fought a war against the Taliban and Wahabi terrorist networks like Al-Qaeda. The Iranians funded the Northern Alliance and in the fall of 2001 they provided the U.S. with key intelligence about Afghanistan. However, Bush and the neocons ignored the advice of the State Dept. and the CIA and spurned further cooperation. Once Bush dropped the 'Axis of Evil' line in January 2002, there was no turning back. We missed a great opportunity to learn from the Iranians and to build ties between our intelligence communities that might have helped us find Bin Laden.
Lesson 5: We Must Fight Them Over There Before They Attack Us Over Here.
Invading Iraq was a terrible mistake and now we are trying the fix the mistake with more violence. The surge is not working despite what General Petraeus says. In the last year the civilian death toll has risen along with the number of refugees. Our occupation of Iraq has fed anti-American resentment worldwide. We need to admit we made a terrible mistake, begin a troop withdrawal immediately and work with regional powers, including Iran, to stabilize the country and the region. Once we stabilize Iraq, we need to settle the Palestinian issue once and for all. The cycle of violence will not be broken with more violence. We will live in peace only after fair-handed, good-faith negotiation.
Lesson 6: We Need a Real 9/11 Investigation
This September 11th I am going to give a speech at the UN calling for a new, truly independent 9//11 Commission. This commission would investigate unanswered questions including the historical causes of the attack and the manifold failures of our government before and after the event. Unlike the first investigation, this commission should be granted subpoena power and full access to all governmental files and personnel. George Bush should be forced to testify ALONE.
I do not believe 9/11 was a governmental conspiracy. But I know that our government was partly at fault by engaging in polices that inspired it, failing to take aggressive steps to stop it, and sacrificing the liberty and safety of our citizens after it. It's time we find out why and do something about it.