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Politics, Paranoispiricies, neologisms, diary, creative, ruminations

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Who Defended the Country on 9/11/2001?

Ms. Scarry brings up some great issues in her (slightly dated) essay Who Defended the Country? In short, she states that the most effective defense that day was waged by citizen volunteers on the flight that crashed in Pennsylvania, while the Federal government couldn't defend NYC or even the Pentagon despite warnings and hours of notice that a problem was occurring. This despite fifty years of our sacrifice of democratic checks on executive and military power in the name of security and speed.

Time, security, and governance are always salient issues, but they are seldom discussed. This lack of discussion does not bode well for the state of our democracy which requires a vigilant, informed, and involved citizenry.

Ms. Scarry rightly points to the dawn of the nuclear age as the beginning of a major threat to our democracy, in that rapid delivery of nuclear holocaust almost makes the deliberative process of democracy seem quaint. Even so, on September 11, 2001 the President sat for several minutes in a classroom after the Twin Towers were attacked, biting his lip. He later explained to the 9/11 Commission that he did this because he was projecting strength. The rest of the day the President was flying west to air force bases in Louisiana and Nebraska. It is not clear that he ordered the shoot down of civilian flights, since the Vice President gave the order, which is not constitutional. The 9/11 Commission and Congress were barely allowed to question the President on his conduct that day, and he needed the Vice President to accompany him to keep their stories straight.

After fifty years of a nuclear age, we have more than two generations of 'citizens' who have given their powers of consent to the executive branch and the military. People no longer understand what a democracy is or what their role is in one, including, it seems our President. On the one hand, the President compares 'the War on Terror' to World War II, yet no Bush children of military age are volunteering to defend our nation. They are partying in nightclubs. Few seem to question this. A recent poll of high school students indicates that a large proportion of them believe that the government should censor all articles before publication.

As a result of the arteriosclerosis of democracy, the military and the executive branch no longer have checks or competition to their power. As a result, these institutions act increasingly like monopolies. They are unaccountable, bloated, and they don't provide good value -- at least for most citizens. The Military is a good deal for the millions in the military-industrial complex, and it is a good deal for the countries that it serves, such as Japan, Germany, Taiwan, and the U.A.E, but for typical New Yorkers the military is a constant drain and doesn't protect us when we need it.

Silly me for assuming that the military patrolled our borders and airspace over major urban centers, including our capitol! I thought that the military was already the Department of Homeland Security. If Tapei, Tokyo, Berlin, or Kuwait City were attacked I assume that the US military would be involved in a quick or at least a dramatic response. Meanwhile, the military griped that they had to patrol the airspace over NYC and DC for six months after the plane bombings of 2001 on those cities.

The US has about eleven more huge and expensive aircraft carriers than the next largest navies, yet I'd wager that all those navies' countries provide healthcare for all their citizens, and free quality higher or vocational education for all high school graduates. These countries aren't even outsourcing their security to the US, since they aren't paying us for their protection, which we give them freely. The Romans collected tribute. These countries aren't paying for my healthcare, but my military is protecting them better than my city is being defended. So I'm not covered, and millions of US citizens aren't. I don't feel secure wondering if I can get sick for not having checkups, or going bankrupt if I get into an accident. I am not even sure if there will be bankruptcy to protect me!

It took the National Security Council over seven months to even discuss preliminarily the terrorist threat on the US, despite warnings to President Bush from President Clinton during the transition, despite warnings to Bush during the campaign since 1999, and despite over 50 warnings recently disclosed by the 9/11 Commission (after the Presidential election). In addition, it seems that the air force was engaged in several wargames the day of the attacks, including an exercize dealing with a civilian aircraft hijacking. This might explain that during the announcements to the pilots the transcripts or recordings state that this was 'real world.' These disclosures came out after Ms. Scarry's essay.

The U.S. took a month to build up an invasion of Afghanistan in October 2001, giving Bin Laden and his circle and the Taliban leadership time enough to pull up their stakes. Even with this build up, we outsourced fighting the terrorists and the Taliban to Afghanis by literally handing them wads of cash. Did these mercenaries have shifting loyalties based on the larger or latest wad of cash? Somehow the top leaders of the terrorists got away at Tora Bora in December 2001. Bin Laden and Mullah Omar are still at large, and the President said he wasn't all that concerned with them anymore.

The U.S. followed a similar tactic in Iraq, buying off generals after telescoping for months that we were going to attack their nation. This massive build up wasn't enough to secure the country after the government melted into the country as an insurgency. Our slow moving massive military build up gave the well-organized Baath party time to organize a resistance. Hussein was at large for about nine months. After his capture, to our surprise, the insurgency grew stronger as, perhaps, its leadership become more networked, not wasting its time trying to get orders from him.

There's a million persons a year working in the U.S. military, and millions more employed in private companies serving the military industries. What impact does this huge budget have on a society that doesn't provide enough housing, education or healthcare to its citizens? What impact does millions of persons having military training and, sometimes post-traumatic stress or other diseases, have on society? How many trained snipers are on the streets? How many incidents, from Lee Harvey Oswald to John Muhammad, the DC sniper, have sick veterans let loose on society and their families in the form of gun violence, domestic violence or silent sicknesses such as dioxin poisoning or alcoholism?

Our military is too big and too slow. It doesn't protect us from today's threats, and it is dragging our society down and it is doing so in a cyclical way so that we don't even question it, and the ability to do so is further restricted through censorship or dumbed down through ignorance or military companies owning media outlets. Meanwhile, the executives 'in charge' of the military, seem bogged down in the complexity of the system.

Ms. Scarry makes good use of the example of how the military and the Executive Branch handled the attacks on Washington and NYC. Basically, the system that we pay and sacrifice so much for is not working for the citizens. It is self-serving and largely incompetent.


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