September 11

Today is my birth­day. I share it with a nation­al tragedy. I like to acknowl­edge both. For the birth­day, I share it with my friends and fam­i­ly. For the oth­er, I share it here.

On the day I turned thir­ty-one, ter­ror­ists killed 3,000 peo­ple in the Unit­ed States. It was a hor­rif­ic moment of awak­en­ing for this coun­try, a moment that those of us who had grown up over­seas thought we under­stood. I grew up with car bombs on the news and in my city. It had only been a mat­ter of time, I thought, before the Unit­ed States would have had to face it. Amer­i­can head­lines screamed that “The World has Changed!” and I remem­ber think­ing that was a lot of hubris.

I did not account for what the Unit­ed States would do in response. This was a moment that could have touched off a world-shak­ing dri­ve for peace, com­pas­sion, and a bet­ter future. Instead, we launched a world-shear­ing assault on “ter­ror­ists,” which has, in most rea­son­able esti­mates, been respon­si­ble for the deaths of almost 5,000 US ser­vice mem­bers in Iraq alone, and between 100,000 and 1 mil­lion Iraqis. The issue is not as stark as these num­bers make it out to be, the world is a mud­dy mess, even at its best. But that is a lot of blood spilled in vengeance. The world did change after all. And our coun­try was the agent of that change.

I’m not ask­ing to com­pare the three thou­sand vic­tims of 9/11 to the hun­dreds of thou­sands of vic­tims of the Iraq War. That is a scale that will nev­er bal­ance. Instead, I am ask­ing us to put ALL the deaths on one side. What goes on the oth­er side then?

For my birth­day wish, I would like us to reflect on these scales, and do what we can to see them bal­ance.

The Legacy of Nine Eleven?

Dri­ving to work today, I drove by a home in our neigh­bor­hood where they had mount­ed a huge Amer­i­can flag on a flag­pole attached to a tree. I thought of all the peo­ple who had their lives tak­en from them on 9/11/2001, and all the peo­ple who had some­one ripped from their hearts on that day.

I have vis­cer­al mem­o­ries of watch­ing the tow­ers go down. I was stu­pe­fied, hor­ri­fied, and angered. But above all, I was sad. I felt hol­low to my core.

I also gave thought, this morn­ing, to all the peo­ple who have died in the after­math of the events of that day. I am a Lib­er­al, and so I am pre­dis­posed to dis­like war, but I think every­one can find room in their hearts to decry the end results of the sec­ond war on Iraq, entered into on the pre­text of security/revenge for 9/11, but against a coun­try that was ulti­mate­ly deter­mined to have had noth­ing to do with those attacks.

Let me repeat that.

The Peo­ple of these Unit­ed States went to war with Iraq because we were told Iraq was respon­si­ble for 9/11, except that it turns out they were not. Sad­dam Hus­sein was a ruth­less dic­ta­tor, yes, killing with aban­don and with no fear of ret­ri­bu­tion. But Syria’s Assad is the same, and our coun­try has no will to fight that fight. We were told we went to war with Iraq to avenge, and pre­vent, any fur­ther 9/11s.

This is part of the lega­cy of 9/11:

  • Vic­tims killed on 9/11 itself: 2,977 (source)
  • US Mil­i­tary killed in the Iraq War since 2003: 4,409 (source)
  • Iraqi cit­i­zens killed in the Iraq War since 2003: over 100,000 (source)
    (These num­bers are from var­i­ous Wikipedia arti­cles, fwiw, and that last num­ber is the low­est of esti­mates)

Here’s what I take away from this.

Ter­ror­ists attacked our coun­try, killing inno­cent peo­ple in num­bers stag­ger­ing to behold. Almost three-thou­sand peo­ple died on that sin­gle day. In reac­tion, and for no good rea­son, we sac­ri­ficed almost four-thou­sand five-hun­dred of our bravest men and women, and had a hand in killing or pro­vok­ing the deaths of over one-hun­dred-thou­sand peo­ple, most of them as inno­cent as the orig­i­nal 3,000 who died eleven years ago.

I think today is a day to hang our heads in shame, and in anger. That we were attacked. That inno­cents have died. That we react­ed so child­ish­ly, so vio­lent­ly, with such patri­ot­ic fear. We did the work of Evil for them. We killed thou­sands of our own, and a hun­dred thou­sand inno­cents died because of us.

I am sor­ry.

And I still find myself, on this day eleven years lat­er, inef­fa­bly sad.