I can’t believe it’s already been five years since that Tuesday. It’s one of those moments so burned in my brain that it seems like it was both a million years ago and a few days ago at the same time…if that makes any sense. Kind of a fucked-up time to have to relive every year (or as we’re supposed to call it now, Patriot Day). I’ll spare you the sight of me sinking back into the emotional muck of 9/11 (though it would be easy to do) and get right into discussing politics. Besides, I’m sure none of you need much of a reminder how horrible it was to watch the murders of thousands of people on live television.
All last week, there’s been a discussion on NPR and elsewhere on the question of “Why haven’t we been attacked again?”. My short answer would be that multiple attacks don’t fit into the “bleed until bankruptcy” strategy that al Qaeda seems to favor. Besides, that question is almost tailor-made to make our leaders look good. The real question in the aftermath of 9/11 isn’t when we’ll get hit again, but “Is the United States government able to keep its citizens safe?” Of course, that question was answered a year ago :
To me it’s impossible to separate 9/11 from Hurricane Katrina. For four years we’d been promised that the leadership of George Bush and the Republican party could keep us safe, yet the aftermath of a natural disaster showed us that the federal government can’t even protect us from a threat they have a week to prepare for. How could we expect them to respond to a dirty bomb attack, on electromagnetic pulse, a nuclear bomb smuggled in a shipping container, another anthrax attack, a few trucks filled with fertilizer explosives surrounding a sports arena, or more airliners hijacked with terrorists using ceramic or plastic blades and crashing them into chemical plants, the New York Stock Exchange, or the Capitol building during the State of the Union? These are the scenarios that keep me up at night and, al Qaeda’s motives aside, there are still plenty of crazy people out there who’d love to kill as many Americans as possible.
So, where does that leave us? Well, the presidential administration we’re stuck with for the next two years is a deadly combination of arrogance, stubbornness, and being-wrong-about-everything-ness. But it is an election year (which you may have guessed from the President’s suddenly sparked interest in Osama Bin Laden), so there’s still an opportunity to change course. Who’s holding the President’s feet to the fire to ensure that Russia’s missing nuclear weapons are tracked down? Or that shipping containers entering the United States are searched? Or that people entering this country aren’t here under falsified documents? Or that the FBI and CIA are sharing information? Or that our intelligence agencies have enough people to translate the mountain of data they’re receiving?
Right now the Legislative branch is controlled by people who have bent over backwards to protect the President, despite his string of failures. They excused his stonewalling of the 9/11 Commission, dragged their feet on investigating Iraq’s many scandals (torture, WMD’s, no-bid-contracts), ignored his extra-constitutional dalliances (imperial presidency, signing statements), and they’ve made the extraordinary choice of working to change the laws that the President has been willfully breaking rather than insist that he follow the laws like the rest of us. That’s your Republican party in action.
So on this fifth anniversary of the worst day of my life, I’m tired of watching the country be crippled by its grief and fear. We’re in danger, things aren’t getting better, and we need to keep asking the same goddamn questions until we get answers. Who’s keeping us safe? Well, I know who isn’t.