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Saturday, September 10, 2011

THE DAY THAT CHANGED HISTORY

"A day that will live in infamy..."


I'm too young to recall World War 2. I was born after JFK was shot. I saw the fall of the Berlin Wall, and people too young to remember that have conception how immense and world-changing that day was. I remember the inauguration of Ronald Reagan, and that changed the world, too - for good or ill depends on your political perspective. There are events at which history hinges, swinging a different direction than it had before. The terrorist attack on September 11, 2001 was one of those.

Like any big event, there's controversy about its meaning, origin, and future import, but everyone can agree on one thing: nothing was the same on 9/12/01. For a while that lesson sunk in with powerful conviction, but like all things the memories started to fade and life distracted us. And unlike, say, WW2, we didn't have a united nation working constantly to remind us of the importance of what happened and the need to stay united and work together. Despite that, we had a president who stayed strong and worked hard against all opposition to get the job done in Iraq, at least.

Around the world, terrorism and terrorists have stayed busy but have suffered an immense blow to their ability to move, fund, and carry out attacks. Half a dozen major attacks have been stopped and the whole world changed its outlook and response to the threat of terrorism - except, perhaps Israel, who always had to take it seriously.

Yet from the very first days of this new era, there were always voices who claimed that nothing had changed and every attempt to deal with this attack was misguided, awful, and even evil. I don't mean the lunatics who claim that 9/11 was staged or even allowed. I mean the people who tried to find moral equivalency and give the pretense of objectivity and moral enlightenment by blaming both sides.

There's a childish feeling of superiority when you try to find fault with everyone and condemn them both in a conflict. There's blame to go around everywhere any time there's a fight, but almost always one side is worse than the other. And the inability to see and act properly based upon that is objectively to support and cheer the bad guys. Because if you treat evil as morally equivalent to good, you're boosting and defending evil.

The typical comment by the faux enlightened is that the United States somehow had it coming. Some are more direct in this statement, and others, like Ron Paul try to temper it by saying that the US did things that brought this attack on them.

The problem with this argument is that while on its face it has some merit, it ignores the antagonist in this war. The US has done things that upset and annoy people around the world, and in the Middle East, where feelings of hurt pride and frustration run high, where Muslims once felt glorious and powerful but have long been left behind by the rest of the world despite having been told their whole lives that they are innately superior beings because of their religion, anger can run high.

The US has done some bad stuff in the past, and will in the future. No country is free of moral failure and corruption, even ones so free, so often noble, and so often a force for good as the United States. So the argument that we did mean things to them and they did mean things to us as a result seems to have some merit.

There are several basic problems with this argument, fatal flaws that kill it even before its spoken. Flaws which are obvious and easy to understand, but also easy to ignore.

The first is that the US has done bad things all around the world to all sorts of people at various times in the past but none of them felt compelled to murder 4000 non combatants. This alone kills the argument, but there's more.

If you look around the world, you'll see that there's hardly a country on the planet, no ethnic group, no continent (save, perhaps Antarctica) which has not suffered terrorism and brutality from Muslim radicals. These countries are often nations which have done nothing in the Middle East, let alone bad things to Muslims. And the most common victim of Muslim Terrorism is... fellow Muslims. And this is the second stake in the heart of this argument; it doesn't matter what you've done in the middle east, these radicals want you to die or submit.

Your lack of being the right kind of Muslim is what drives their fierce hate and brutality. America is the most prominent, richest target. This kind of thing was due to happen eventually no matter what the US did, unless it was an Islamic Republic with the exact right sort of brutal Muslim brand.

And finally, we come to the same problem that the palestinian-Israeli conflict deals with every day. Even if the aggrieved Muslim extremist has a valid, just reason for their anger, even if they have a proper and reasonable complaint, some actions negate your righteousness. When you deliberately and specifically target innocent civilians for your wrath, you lose the moral high ground. It doesn't matter what your complaint is when you do some things. You are the bad guy.

And only a fool asks why they hate us, they have made it absolutely clear in perfectly understandable language and action. There is no question why they hate the US, unless you're the kind of person that rejects the truth and tries to force everything into a preconceived narrative. The only reason radical Muslims hating the US because of our lack of submission to their ideology makes no sense to someone is because they refuse to accept the truth.

Whether or not the US made Muslims upset around the world, 9/11 was a craven act of brutal murder and an act of despicable evil for which no defense can be made. And given the situation, the kind of evil it was, and the need to stay focused on the battle at hand, trying to defend and argue the case of the terrorists puts you in the column with the bad guys. I know that's not where most of these people mean to be, but that doesn't change the fact one bit.

And yes, it was cowardly. It was cowardly the same way shooting someone in the back is; cowards do not face their enemy. Cowards do not give their enemy a chance. Cowards attack people not even involved with the conflict to kill. Cowards. Killing yourself takes no great courage, in fact, its probably the ultimate act of wretched craven weakness. Life is very hard, each day can be a terrible struggle. And it gets worse, each year, until finally you die, and usually that death is not easy.

Killing yourself with the belief you have a glorious paradise awaiting you with virgin girls (and boys, according to the Koran) is not an act of bravery. Its pathetic.

The only thing more pathetic is defending the act. And a close second is acting like we can pretend it doesn't matter and should just give up any fight and live our lives "in peace."

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