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"America has two great dominant strands of political thought - conservatism, which, at its very best, draws lines that should not be crossed; and progressivism, which, at its very best, breaks down barriers that should never have been erected." -- Bill Clinton, Dedication of the Clinton Presidential Library, November 2004

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Tuesday, September 11, 2007



posted by Aziz P. at Tuesday, September 11, 2007 permalink View blog reactions
It's six years since 9-11. Everyone has their own stories about what they were doing that day when time stopped and a nation turned to CNN. It was a day that truly changed the world, like a catalyst. It is time now to accept the new world we have and stop worrying about why it is so. That also means letting go of 9-11 to some extent. What about 9-12? What world do we want to create?

From the beginning, 9-11 has been politicized by the Bush Administration and the Republican Party. It's become a substitute for debate, a massive black hole on the horizon of our political discourse.

Contrast this with the soaring rhetoric by President Bush to a joint session of Congress just days after the attacks:

"Some speak of an age of terror...But this country will define our times...As long as the United States of America is determined and strong, this will not be an age of terror; this will be an age of liberty, here and across the world."

But what is the actual legacy of 9-11 thinking? An increase in worldwide terror (via CAP):

A study conducted by Peter Bergen and Paul Cruickshank, research fellows at the Center on Law and Security at the NYU School of Law, found that there was a 607 percent rise in the average yearly incidence of attacks (28.3 attacks per year before and 199.8 after) since the Iraq invasion. When Iraq and Afghanistan, which together account for 80 percent of attacks and 67 percent of fatalities, were excluded, there was still a 35 percent per year increase in the number of jihadist terrorist attacks.

The 9-11 mindset has failed. And it's done incalculable damage to our own rule of law and the Constitution - a fact made all the more bitter by Osama bin Laden's latest video on the even of Ramadan exhorting Americans to give up democracy to save ourselves. Osama is really just an observer as we destroy ourselves.

There's an incisive article in the International Herald Tribune that also speaks to the damage that our refusal as a nation to tear our gaze from 9-11 has caused - a false conviction of ourselves as perpetual victims:

In the "benchmark" assessments on debate this week, Washington's question is whether the "feckless" and "corrupt" Iraqis are any longer worthy of the virtuous presence of American forces. The war-prolongers say yes, the out-now people say no - but most accept the moral divide between good Americans and bad Iraqis.

This calibration is partly a result of the universal impulse to regard individual U.S. soldiers as innocents. It is hard to conclude that United States policies are bad if the people carrying them out are only good. Indeed, as Thomas Friedman said last week of American troops he observed in a field hospital, "We don't deserve such good people."

But then, repeating what has become a Friedman trope, he added pointedly, "Neither do Iraqis if they continue to hate each other more than they love their own kids." Notice Friedman's move: children are a lesser value to Iraqis, unlike Americans, even as we ship our children off to that blood-drenched hospital.

The real purpose of such punditry, like this week's focus on imagined terms of a U.S. exit someday over actual effects of the U.S. occupation this day, is American self-exoneration.

Why do they hate us? Perhaps an answer is embedded in this visceral insistence on innocence as the defining note of the American character.

For the sake of clarity it bears repeating: 9-11 was six years ago. America's war in Iraq, for all the good it has achieved in deposing a cruel dictator, has also done massive injury, for which we do bear responsibility and yes, blame. We did not act in evil intent, but we must accept the moral burden of responsibility for our actions, good and bad. We are no longer innocent victims but active participants.

We need a fresh outlook that takes the present situation into account as the facts on the ground, and free ourselves of all concerns about why we are where we are. It's time to lay 9-11 to rest and focus on 9-12.

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About Nation-Building

Nation-Building was founded by Aziz Poonawalla in August 2002 under the name Dean Nation. Dean Nation was the very first weblog devoted to a presidential candidate, Howard Dean, and became the vanguard of the Dean netroot phenomenon, raising over $40,000 for the Dean campaign, pioneering the use of Meetup, and enjoying the attention of the campaign itself, with Joe Trippi a regular reader (and sometime commentor). Howard Dean himself even left a comment once. Dean Nation was a group weblog effort and counts among its alumni many of the progressive blogsphere's leading talent including Jerome Armstrong, Matthew Yglesias, and Ezra Klein. After the election in 2004, the blog refocused onto the theme of "purple politics", formally changing its name to Nation-Building in June 2006. The primary focus of the blog is on articulating purple-state policy at home and pragmatic liberal interventionism abroad.