This is a guest post by Mike Parker, a frequent commenter on this and other Mormon blogs.
By Mike Parker
The horrifying events of 9/11 weighed heavily on many of us today. The video images of United Airlines flight 175 careening at full throttle into the south tower of the World Trade Center will be etched on our national consciousness forever, alongside Abraham Zapruder’s flim of the Kennedy assassination and NASA’s footage of the Space Shuttle “Challenger” exploding above the Florida coast. Al Qaeda’s leaders wanted to pull off an attack that would have maximum public exposure and reaction, and they succeeded.
There is no way to disentangle the events of that awful, horrific September morning with everything that has happened since then. Americans and all free people were shocked at the callous loss of innocent life that took place on 9/11 . Those same Americans have been largely silent at the callous loss of many, many more innocent lives that came afterward, in distant countries where the deaths have been largely hidden from the American press and public. As a result of 9/11, hundreds of thousands of people have died and millions have been displaced. Today we are less free, less safe, and trillions of dollars deeper in debt. Osama bin Laden wanted to draw America into a war that would exhaust our blood and treasure, and he largely succeeded in his goal.
In the days immediately following the 9/11 attacks, I reflected in an email to some friends that I was concerned that America’s vast military might would be unleashed somewhere, disproportionate to what we had suffered. Looking back, I wish that America’s response to 9/11 had been more restrained: send in a special operations team to capture bin Laden and his aides and bring them back to the U.S. for trial. That would have been the moral and just response. It would have showed that we are a nation concerned with the rule of law. This was not an attack by a foreign country that necessitated a military response; it was a criminal act that demanded good police work.
Unfortunately—although understandably—emotions were high in the weeks following 9/11. The United States is the most powerful nation in the history of the world. Our military has a global reach. When you’re a hammer, everything looks like a nail. There was a demand to “do something,” and a limited police action wouldn’t have satisfied the many people who wanted heads on pikes. Key individuals in the George W. Bush administration certainly felt that way.
And so began our long, slow national slide, with our attention soon turned from Afghanistan to Iraq, and our all-consuming fear of Islamic terrorism the pretense for giving up many of the freedoms we take for granted: Habeas corpus, humane treatment of people in detention, transparent search warrants, unmonitored private communications, even Posse Comitatus (which, fortunately, has been restored). A changing of the guard at the White House in 2008 has brought virtually none of the hoped-for changes in these policies.
And so, I grieve on 9/11.
I grieve for the people who lost their lives in the planes, in the towers, and in the Pentagon, especially those who suffered extreme terror as they waited for help to arrive.
I grieve for the thousands of our servicemen and -women who have died, for the hundreds of thousands who have been injured, and for the 1 in 5 veterens who suffer from PTSD and other emotional difficulties from their experiences (often to the point of taking their own lives).
I grieve for the hundreds of thousands who have been killed because we invaded and occupied two countries unnecessarily.
And I fear that we will do it again in pursuit of illusory threats.