My Own September 11th Memorial

Today being the fifth aniversary of the terrorist attacks on the US, there is going to be a lot of to-do back in my home country. I remember well the terror of that day. I watched it on TV in Washington, DC. From some of the rooftops in Georgetown, so I heard, friends watched the Pentagon burn. We gathered at the Tombs that night to eat and drink in silence and kept our eyes on the TV.

Watching the president’s speech in the evening, we all felt he would do the right thing. We all knew that meant going to war. I thought it would happen sooner. Only when I was driving to my Aunt Katie’s house about three weeks later for a family party did I hear on the radio that we had started dropping bombs on Afghanistan. I was morbid, but I felt we had to do it. There was only one way to bring justice to the situation, and that was by capturing or killing as many Qaeda as possible, and most of all the King of Evil himself, Osama.

Since that day we have gotten so much wrong. Bush made a conscious decision to prioritize the invasion of Iraq over the capture of Bin Laden, and let the mastermind of the Sept 11th attacks escape into the ether, probably never to be seen again. Since reducing the country to rubble, we have not done nearly enough to build Afghanistan back up; a large reason for this is the shifting of major resources to Iraq for a completely unnecessary invasion and occupation. The populations of these countries are more inclined to hate us than ever before, especially Iraq’s. And now we’re beating the war drums again, with Iran in our sights.

In a few short years, we Americans went from having the sympathy of the whole world, to having its universal condemnation. Wasn’t it a French woman who said five years ago, “Today, we are all Americans”? Didn’t peace-loving and rational peoples everywhere grieve with us? We even had the full support of the international community in our invasion of Afghanistan, though surely there were many – smarter than I – who knew where it would lead. To never-ending warfare of the type depicted in the pages of Orwell.

Today we will collectively remember what happened when we were attacked, the terrible fury of it. But how many of us will think of what we’ve done since then? What actions have we taken to ensure that we are never attacked again? I believe that the course we’ve taken has not diminished, but in fact greatly increased the likelihood that we will suffer more devastating attacks in the future.

It would necessitate an entire new blog to go into the details of why this is true, and I have plans to eventually create one. It is not my intention to make The Portfolios a political blog. But today is a day to remember, and so I offer this remembrance:

Mark Twain was one of my country’s greatest writers, and no lover of war. As I watched the beginning of the Notre Dame football game and saw a priest offer a prayer for the country, my thoughts went back to Mark Twain’s “The War Prayer”. It is worth visiting the link to read the entire piece (it’s not very long, considering its power). Here I quote the crux in the hope that providence may grant us some perspective.

O Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our hearts, go forth to battle — be Thou near them! With them — in spirit — we also go forth from the sweet peace of our beloved firesides to smite the foe. O Lord our God, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the shrieks of their wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire; help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with little children to wander unfriended the wastes of their desolated land in rags and hunger and thirst, sports of the sun flames of summer and the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring Thee for the refuge of the grave and denied it — for our sakes who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter pilgrimage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded feet! We ask it, in the spirit of love, of Him Who is the Source of Love, and Who is the ever-faithful refuge and friend of all that are sore beset and seek His aid with humble and contrite hearts. Amen.

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