Slate (in addition to various other media outlets) has been running a series of editorials by former Iraq war boosters on why they got the war so horribly wrong, five years later. In other words, why did they think that everything would be rainbows and kittens six months after the invasion?
This is a silly question. It allows these people to look back on their views and pontificate endlessly about how they were fooled, leading to an endless array of excuses. "Oh, the administration was so convincing" (seriously?) or "oh, September 11th made me so angry and afraid" (the one in 2001 that was in no way connected to Iraq?) or "oh, Saddam was a bad, bad man" (your point?).
I have yet to see anyone give what is the correct answer: "Somehow, I believed (despite all the historical evidence) that forcing our way into a country and completely upsetting their political system (not to mention killing a lot of people) would lead to the 52nd State of America. Yes, I am an idiot." Because that's really what it all boils down to, in the end. You can point to a number of intellectual distractions, but the fundamental problem is that pro-war sloganeers believe (note the present tense) that war is a perfectly good initial solution to their international problems.
Sadly, the fact that this is a really obvious error will not stop these people from being paid to offer their opinions for the rest of their natural lives. You get the pundit class you deserve, I guess.
Nobody seems to be particularly interested in paying people who were right about the invasion to expand on their views, perhaps because Daniel Davies already did it about as well as anyone could, for free.
As Ezra Klein says, 9/11 is no longer a day with any meaning. It's a talking point that we are never allowed to forget, as Bush repeats it over and over with a fanatical ease. I think Ezra's five and a half years too late in saying so, though. The political appropriation took place practically from day one.
There are people who actually lost friends and relatives in the 2001 attacks. There are people who saw the devastation in New York, who were profoundly affected. Those people deserve respect. Out of that respect, I have little to say to them.
And then there is the rest of the country, who have never stopped talking about how "9/11 changed everything." I don't think it's crass to point out that Fleawallow, USA (population: practically nobody) probably didn't lose anyone six years ago, and has never been in any real danger. But as a country, we lept at the chance to gnash our teeth and wring our hands--which is all well and good, except that we never stopped.
Six years later, Americans have squeezed as much angst and increasingly-hollow emotional resonance as we could from those deaths, to the point where I wonder if we are not actually enjoying it a little. All I would like us to consider is that perhaps we should see what it's like moving out from under their shadow. The attacks in 2001 were a tragedy, but they do not define us.
In the previous two years, I eschewed commemorating the eleventh day of September. Today I only mention it in the hopes that I will not feel like doing so again.
Seems perfectly reasonable and aboveboard to me. Let me just dig out my copy of Islamic Terror Organizations and their Front Groups: The ACLU, Hillary Clinton, and Hollywood before I fill out my application.
I don't know what I find more appalling, the sheer paranoia dripping from every word or the fact that it will probably be a raving success.
Travelers rejoice! The United States Threat Level, as maintained by the Department of Homeland Security, has been moved from Red to Orange for air travel. Passengers are no longer Severely Threatened, but may now take comfort in being Highly Threatened.
With all this Threat Level activity, I had to check my calendar to make sure we weren't at mid-term elections already.
Which is not to imply that the Department of Homeland Security has become simply a politicized bureau of fearmongering for the purposes of a Republican party desparately gripping the reins of power. (After Katrina, do I even have to imply that?) But in my personal observations, a funny fact has emerged: anxiety at terrorism seems to increase with distance from likely targets. John Rogers has noticed the same thing:
I may have shared too much there.
To be honest, it's not like I'm a brave man. I'm not. At all. It just, well, it doesn't take that much strength of will not to be scared. Who the hell am I supposed to be scared of? Joseph Padilla, dirty bomber who didn't actually know how to build a bomb, had no allies or supplies, and against whom the government case is so weak they're now shuffling him from court to court to avoid the public embarassment of a trial? The fuckwits who were going to take down the Brooklyn Bridge with blowtorches? Richard Reid, the Zeppo of suicide bombers? The great Canadian plot that had organized over the internet, was penetrated by the Mounties on day one, and we were told had a TRUCK FULL OF EXPLOSIVES ... which they had bought from the Mounties in a sting operation but hey let's skip right over that. Or how about the "compound" of Christian cultists in Florida who were planning on blowing up the Sears Tower with ... kung fu.
A while back, we had some people running around the DC metro area with sniper rifles, taking potshots at completely random people. At the time, I was still at GMU, which has an open campus. And yet, what could you do? Not go to gas stations? Freak out every time you saw a white van? There was really nothing a single individual could do to stop the snipers from killing them while they walked back from Home Depot, except stay in the house all day watching The View.
Needless to say, Barbara Walters and Star Jones didn't really see an increase in viewership.
There are signs here at the World Bank, explaining that--in the event of a chemical or biological weapon attack--the air filtration system can keep us safe for something like four hours. They do not explain, probably because it goes without saying, that not only are we the World Bank, a huge symbol of international globalization, but we are one block from the Bush White House. I am not filled with an incredible feeling of safety when I consider that fact, personally.
But I still come in to work. We all do.
Whereas out where my parents live, in a town of 220 people and a pair of chihuahuas, the volunteer fire department has actually used town funds to take anti-terrorism courses. A couple hundred people, two hours from DC, without even a stop light, and yet to listen to them, you'd think Osama Bin Laden himself was going to personally crash a plane into the Handy Mart. ("They hate us for our freedom and our easily accessible beef jerky.")
It does my heart good to see attitudes coming around on the Iraq war. Honestly. I am so happy to see that apparently storming into another country on a flimsy pretext and attempting forceful democratic reform was perhaps a losing proposition. It would have been nice if we'd learned that lesson before a couple thousand US soldiers and who knows how many Iraqis were killed, but let's try and look on the bright side. One of these sides must be brighter. Just keep turning it over until you find it.
But it would also be nice if we could get back to the root cause of that policy: the way the rest of the country freaks out every time that some Al-Qaeda wannabe manages to tie his shoes together. A foreign policy driven by fear and reactionary panic is not a good way to run a country. Maybe we could give cynicism a shot instead.