With the dust not at all settled in New York City, President George W. Bush visited the site of the World Trade Center attacks. It wasn’t the day after, technically – it was September 14th, 2001. He read what must have been a scripted speech, but the audience of workers prompted him into what seems an improvised interruption. Maybe because of his ad-libbing, so rare in modern politics, this was to become his finest hour. Which is, in retrospect, rather a sad conclusion to an eight year presidency.
Thank you all. I eh, I want you all to know … it can’t go any louder … I want you all to know that America today, America today is on bended knee, in prayer for the people whose lives were lost here, for the workers who work here, for the families who mourn. This nation stands with the good people of New York City and New Jersey and Connecticut as we mourn the loss of thousands of our citizens.
–George, I can’t hear you
I can hear you! I can hear you, the rest of the world hears you, and the people … and the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon.
–USA, USA, USA…
The nation, the nation sends it’s love and compassion to everybody [who is here]. Thank you for your hard work, thank you for making the nation proud, and may God bless America.
I was rooting for him that day – damn, the whole world must have been rooting for him at that moment in time. Even in ‘evil’ Teheran the government allowed or staged protests against these terror attacks.
But the people who knocked these buildings down didn’t get to hear very much at all. The Bush White House decided to invade Afghanistan to go after Al-Qaeda but put it’s main effort into Iraq. None of the attackers came from Iraq or had been to Iraq. Saddam Hussein was never a Muslim extremist – quite on the contrary, he ran a fiercely secular ‘socialist‘ regime until the 1990 war prompted him to build mosques and write God is Great in the Iraqi flag, to pander to religious sentiments in the Arab world.
We all know what happened next. The Bush administration pulled out all the stops in order to invade Iraq – including the unproven allegations of weapons of mass distruction – with the War On Terror as a pretext, while the script for the war on Iraq predates 9/11 by almost four years. And it was out there on the Internet for all to see, bearing names which were, by 2001, the names of White House people: Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Armitage, Bolton, Perle, Khalilzad. How clear a picture does it take?
The people who knocked these buildings down are still out there and still very active – that’s the legacy of the Bush administration. The US Army is still deeply entangled in the mess it created for itself in Iraq – that’s the legacy of the Bush administration. And the death toll continues to rise – that’s the legacy of the Bush administration.
But all of this is also our legacy. All of us, we watched it unfold and we failed to stop it. Most of us were too gullible, some (like myself) were just happy to see Saddam go, some were indecisive, some went off into wild conspiracy theories and were subsequently lost to reason, and some were just watching the spectacle.
Bearing this in mind I guess it would be a good idea for the West to get off it’s high moral horse for a few years.