9/11 and the Uses of American Amnesia (or Self Delusion)

As another anniversary of the events of  September 11, 2001 passes, the endless reflexive bleating in the press and our politics about 9/11 reminds that Americans continue to be enormously ignorant and callous about our place in the world. The destruction on September 11, 2001 of a few buildings and the associated loss of life continues to occupy enormous space in the media and our political life. It remains a resource for politicians and the media serving (directing) them to distract the country from much of the reality of the world about us. Now, heading towards the tenth anniversary, this event has become nothing but the reflexive haven for political hacks and an ongoing embarrassment for our inability as a nation to put things into any kind of reasonable perspective.

Just to examine the Iraq War (aka, in the Bush hagiography, Operation Iraqi Freedom) for a moment, how are we to compare the 100,000 to 250,000 Iraqi civilian deaths ((You can Google the data. The estimates vary quite a bit, but like all wars, soldiers are counted with several orders of magnitude better detail than civilians)) or the 1 to 2 million displaced Iraqis to US losses on September 11, 2001?

For comparison, these statistics applied to the US population would be 2.1 million dead and 15.9 million displaced. This is almost half the population of the state of California turned into refugees, more than the population of metro NYC, or 80% of the population of Florida displaced from their homes.  Add to this the complete destruction of major parts of some cities and widespread damage to buildings and infrastructure across the country. In the socio-political sphere we have produced a country with a barely functioning central government, sectarian violence, and foreign troops and combatants numbering in the tens of thousands (this includes the residual 50,000 US occupiers). Some might claim that the Iraqis are better off without Saddam Hussein, but his regime was not a threat to us and it is extreme arrogance and foolishness to think that it is our business to topple ruthless dictatorships. Where would that thinking lead? Saudi Arabia, Iran, China, Russia, and more?

So where are the commentaries about our adventure Operation Iraqi Freedom and all of the death and destruction brought in our name? Or, to look back to the Vietnam War, where is the acknowledgment of the millions of civilians and soldiers who died during that adventure in geo-politics? Have we acknowledged the strange moral mathematics that brought more tons of bombs to fall on a long skinny country the size of Minnesota and Wisconsin combined than all of the bombs dropped by Allied forces in WWII? ((again I leave it to you to Google for the data))

Unfortunately, our treatment of 9/11 and this deluded worldview of the US in imminent existential danger only serves to prevent us from seeing how the presence of over 750 military and spy bases throughout the world might influence how the rest of the world views us. And,  this myth serves the military, industrial, Congressional, Executive complex as a universal explanation for spending as much on our so-called “defense” as the rest of the world combined. It is the great virtuous circle of an empire that almost no Americans perceive or acknowledge, the empire under threat for forty years by the Red Menace and now by Islamic terrorists.

All of this was carried out by American regimes that were following myths about dominoes ((we now know that many leaders of both the Johnson and Nixon regimes did not even believe this theory themselves)) or, in the case of the Bush II regime, lied about the reasons for the war or were criminally incompetent. Probably both as the conduct of his war proves. As with every war since the end of WWII, no declaration of war was made by Congress. We had more of the bowing and scraping before the imperial presidency that has characterized Congress in their dealings with every President since Roosevelt. There simply is no critical voice to be heard in our political system nor the media once the dogs of war are unleashed by the White House.