On Sunday night, the eve of the fifth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, 13 million viewers watched the first half of the controversial ABC “dramatic miniseries” The Path to 9/11 — almost 10 million fewer viewers than tuned in to the NFL Sunday Night Football kickoff.
This (tele)prompts the question: Is our citizens healing? Perhaps so, and no thanks to the mainline media, which collectively featured more heartstring-yanking headlines during the past seven days than your average week on the Oxygen channel. In the pre-coffee early morn, I was treated to no less than two front-page 9/11 stories in my local daily, which is printed some 1,338 miles from the closest 9/11 target, the Pentagon.
Those of us in the way-lower 48 states, whose families were not directly involved as victims or rescue and cleanup workers, were nonetheless deeply affected by the events of that terrible September morning — but not entirely in the way the Administration and papers that mindlessly reprint the president’s empty rhetoric would have us believe. While we are encouraged by repeated headlines and overwrought TV coverage to once again finger the wounds of those who lost loved ones as if they were our own scars, our eyes are averted from the aftermath that does continue to affect us all equally.
As of press time, the Department of Defense had confirmed 2,667 American deaths in Iraq. Opponents of the war have made much of the fact that the death toll is fast approaching the 2,948 confirmed deaths of 9/11 (and that number, of course, doesn’t include Iraqi civilians and security forces). If we were fighting a war against the perpetrators of 9/11, or if we were making the world a safer, more peaceful place, there might be an argument to be made in favor of the sacrifice on our end, and the bloodshed on the Iraqi side of the conflict.
But, as recent polls show, a majority of Americans finally see through the Administration’s lies about Iraq: There were no WMDs, they knew it, and the President gave up the last of the pretense in this year’s memorial speeches; Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with the al-Qaeda planned attack on America. In the light of these two facts, we can see what the world perceives: Our unprecedented preemptive invasion of Iraq was naked imperialism.
Prior to 9/11, Middle-Eastern animosity toward America was not a rare commodity, but our presence as a military occupier has coalesced a terrorist diaspora of bit players. Al Qaeda, which has accomplished less than the average vlogger in the past five years, knows that its greatest strength is our weakness for the Administration’s rhetoric — and so we have the brilliantly timed release of new taunts and threats from bin Laden’s right-hand man. Rove could hardly have done better himself. As long as our troops occupy Iraq and threaten Iran and Syria, bin Laden has his version of the End Times war with which to rally his troops (and back in the U.S., our homegrown religious fanatics have their End Times war with which to rally voters).
In the meantime, the Republican-controlled federal government has failed to adequately fund and implement new security measures for ports. The issue of border security has become enmeshed in racial politics, leaving a vacuum that has been filled by those Minutemen clowns. Rather than address these issues, our top-secret spooks are busy developing new ways to subvert the Constitution by spying on Americans without oversight, and the Administration is busy drafting legislation to introduce one of the finest features of fascism to democracy: military tribunals, in which hearsay, secret evidence, and coerced confessions can be used to convict suspects.
(On a related note, when Democrats start grandstanding on symbolic issues like a no-confidence vote on Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld look for them to fold on a critical vote, like military tribunals.)
The media has persisted in presenting questions about 9/11 like liturgical calls in a mass ritual — which is what they have become. To restore their real power, we must begin to answer them and act on those answers. Are we safer? No. Are we defending the principles of American democracy? No. Or, to counter this morning’s Express-News headline, “Bush labels war on terror ‘the call of our generation’” — the call of our generation is to preserve and perfect a government of, by, and for the people, before it becomes the confirmed 2,949th casualty of 9/11.