On the anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, I watched the Ground Zero commemoration ceremony — or all of it that NBC was willing to show us — I read the Baltimore Sun, and I watched President Barack Obama's speech at the Kennedy Center memorial concert. Out of all these, the only really thoughtful reflections I found were in Dan Rodricks' column that day ("The deaths of others"). No one else made a effort to synthesize the lessons of the terrorist attacks and the decade of war and paranoia that ensued.
Mr. Obama went so far as to affirm that "The Pentagon has been repaired and is now filled with patriots working in common purpose, " an utterance that makes Dwight Eisenhower's farewell speech sound like a searing critique of the military ("Beware the military industrial complex") by contrast. The Sun's own editorial was vacuous; its conclusion — that we should just go on living our lives, and that is the "legacy" of Sept. 11 — struck me as a little more than a distant echo of George W. Bush's admonition that Americans should just continue shopping at the mall, "or the terrorists win."
Mr. Rodricks' observations on the enormous human costs of the Iraq war were absolutely appropriate to the occasion. The war in Iraq was a conflict initiated under the dishonest pretext that Saddam Hussein was somehow "behind" the hijackers of September 2001. As Mr. Rodricks pointed out, scant attention has been paid to the hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths that were the consequence. Remarkably, hardly any other public commenter on the Sept. anniversary — certainly not Mr. Bush himself — acknowledged these grim results of U.S. foreign policy. Mr. Obama even boasted that in the 10 years since the attacks, "it has been shown that those who mean us harm can't hide anywhere in the world," vague words which could easily be interpreted to include Iraq, Afghanistan or even Libya.
Apparently the antiwar candidate of 2008 has evolved into a patriot of the type the Pentagon is, in his words, "filled with." Neither in New York nor at the Kennedy Center were any apologies were offered to the Iraqi civilians.
Much as I regret to say so, as long as so little heed is taken of "the deaths of others," I believe there will be more 9/11s.
Mark Chalkley, BaltimoreCopyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun