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March 20, 2005

Two Years Later

9-11 radicalized me. I had always been a critic of Clinton for his weak-sister military responses to Al Qaeda terrorism, and to his reliance on law enforcement as the primary weapon with which to fight an actual shooting war, but 9-11 was something different.

I got into a huge argument with a long-time on-line friend and usual ally over the invasion of Afghanistan (I realize that's not the anniversary we observe today, but bear with me). My friend supported the plan, as it was known before it was actually executed, of taking out Al Qaeda training camps and Taliban military targets and using the Northern Alliance to fight the war on the ground.

I did not. I was angry. I wasn't just angry, actually; I'm angry about Terri Schiavo. I was filled with blood-lust. I didn't want to take out a tent with a $200,000 missile; I was not sanguine about the chances that the Taliban could be ousted simply by knocking down the few radio masts they possessed.

I wanted, I'm not proud to say, a bombing campaign against civilian-rich environments. Also known as "cities," where people live with their families and work. And I'm afraid to say that at that time I didn't much care if innocent men, women, and children had been killed -- hadn't ours? I suppose I agreed with Ward Churchill, in a roundabout way-- they were the "little Eichmanns" supporting, or at least allowing to exist, the subhuman monsters who had killed 2800 Americans and foreigners working in America.

Eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth. Savagery against savagery.

And when discussing this with liberal correspondents, I'm afraid I really let loose. This email was sent to me by Von Kreedon:

Regarding my "of course" being a good guy, when last we were speaking you were calling me a traitor, a fucking idiot, and an asshole, while insisting that my positions were indistinguisable from any other Liberal position you wanted to argue. I had considered you a friend, but it became apparent that was not the case and when I stated such you did not deny it. You are an excellent and hilarious writer. You have an excellent intellect. You let your vitriolic partisanship get in the way of your intellect in such a way, at least on line, as to make it impossible to have either a political discussion or even a friendship in which politics impinges. You are not alone in this; after 9/11 [deleted] and [delted] also became viciously unfriendly and perhaps worse, unfunny

I quibble with the idea of "partisanship" having anything to do with my anger; it wasn't partisan, it was payback against people who I thought deserved as bad as we would dare deliver (and probably double that again). But there can be no doubt-- I was not sunshine and sugar during this period.

Bush and Rumsfeld did not, of course, heed the counsel of Ace of Spades. And for that I thank them.

Instead, they mounted what must be the most merciful war in human history, against the most savage and barbaric enemies this side of the Third Reich.

I didn't think this merciful approach would work. I was angry at Bush for choosing mercy over bloody justice.

But it did work. And rather than having fought a war that America might be ashamed of in the coming years, they fought a war that future generations can be proud of. They went to Afghanistan not for vengeance, but to actually improve the lives of our enemies.

And seeing the progress there now: Who, except the most partisan of liberals and most committed of pacifists, can say they did wrong?

As they say: Not in Our Name. And rebuilding Afghanistan and turning it into a fledgling democracy where women are not beaten in the streets for daring to hold the eyes of a male passer-by, and where girls can actually be taught to read without threat of execution for the teachers... a wonderful thing. Not in My Name, I have to admit. But I am proud as an American that my countrymen, at least, were wiser than I.

And now the two-year anniversary of the war against Saddam's brutal and dangerous regime.

Once again, a supremely merciful war, fought with the greatest feasible caution against harming civlians. A massive and costly reconstruction, both in terms of physical infrastructure and democratic, liberty-supporting political infrastructure.

Over 1,500 brave and good men and women died to accomplish this so far, and sadly I think another 500 will perish before it's through. And thousands more of our troops have lost limbs or suffered paralysis or brain damage in fighting one of the most honorable fights in the history of warfare.

There is hardly any point saying "Thank You," as those small words hardly convey the gratitude of the nation, and can hardly bring much comfort to the dead and the maimed. But I offer them anyway: Thank You. They are two little nearly-useless words, but I mean both of them. Thank you all, and thank you eternally.

George Bush, in consultations with his top advisors -- Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Powell, Rice -- saw two main possibilities for confronting the ever-growing and evermore-savage threat posed by Arab/Muslim hatred of the west.

First: be prepared to visit unholy nightmares upon the region, kill as many as possible to convince the survivors to stop attacking us, or giving aid and comfort (and money and shelter and technical assistance) to those who attack us.

Second: change the region, and for the better, in the hopes that better lives and more hopeful futures will channel all the hate and rage into more productive directions.

They chose the second option, of course. I didn't think it would work; I still didn't think it would work when Bush gave his Second Inaugural, announcing his goal to be the "end of tyranny."

I am still not sure it will work.

But it may work. It may liberate millions from tyrants as well as from hatred and resentment and the impulse to murder.

It seems, in retrospect, to have been a good gamble. And one that is beginning, however tenatively, to pay off.

This country was less savage than I thought it ought to be, and more merciful and humane than I, frankly, thought wise. But the mass of my countrymen were right and I was wrong. And that's another reason I'm proud to be an American, even if I'm not proud of some of the bloody-minded impulses this particular American felt after 9-11.


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posted by Ace at 02:59 PM

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