Sept. 11 always results in profound emotional response to one of the most observed horrors witnessed around the world, snipping all distances of nations and religions. It broke the heart of the country because the powerlessness in the face of war or violence is so rarely witnessed in this nation. Nothing bigger has ever taken place in these United States, except for the carnage of the Civil War, but for all of that blood and gore, the slaughter of the innocent, other than those killed by accident, almost never happened.
The 3,000 people who went down in the towers erected in Lower Manhattan and near Wall Street brought home terror to all Americans, far more grotesque than any race riot or lynching ever could unless the numbers were equal — and have never been. When credit was taken, Osama bin Laden and the pictures of the men who hijacked those planes and flew two of them into the World Trade Center became known, the hot mess hit the fan.
Unprecedented pain turned into the national feeling of the need for revenge. Many blunders were then made, and they are now on the verge of being repeated. The American people, somehow, are not about to swallow the same falsehood that was soaked in so much blood before but defined by the previous administration as above all evil and run through with a moral sense of necessity. But let us take the long view so that we don’t get confused or distracted. Some pictures might be truly worth thousands of words.
In Pablo Picasso’s paintings, war comes down to two things: slaughtering the innocent and raping available women. In a universal sense, he had it right.
The lethal accuracy and equally lethal mistakes of technology keep extending when and how we can go to war. Human beings fight better now, most of the time.
No military refinement has resulted in anything other than what we have known from antiquity to five minutes ago: The compromised morality of military men is a tinderbox of unpredictable danger. The victims suffer in silence or become pariahs or wait until it is at last safe to complain.
The war of the moment in the Middle East is Syria, where President Obama’s position is that the United States should step in hard and fast, but only slightly. President Bashar Assad’s military has killed at least 1,400 people with chemical weapons, he says.
Sen. Rand Paul, the tea-party camera chaser, must be agreed with when he observes that 100,000 are dead already by more conventional means, and asks why, then, we should risk war over these 1,400.
As always, the region’s politics produce strange, and often reluctant, bedfellows. The Shah of Iran was our man until his addiction to cameras made it impossible to argue that he was treating the people fairly. He was not only deposed but sent globe-trotting in search of medical help, dodging the mullahs who came after him.
Through the years, anti-Islamic rhetoric rose along with gas prices, and our inability to handle a changing world meant that we became ever more committed to Israel as a struggling beacon of democratic practices in the Middle East — a nation unwilling to become a communist toy.
Israel was a creation of British colonial policy that received much American Jewish support because the revelations of anti-Semitic mass slaughter during World War II convinced Jews that they needed a safe and secure homeland. Christian nations had to be convinced to go along, since many of them were none too anxious on behalf of a people too many Christians considered foreign, or at least alien.
That was proven on the Muslim side when Serbia decided to do some ethnic cleansing by killing off apparent readers and believers in the Quran. Eventually, they killed far too many, and Britain and a coalition of countries, including the USA, came in to stop the killing and tear down the regime.
The point was clear: Western morality could be culture-coded, and if one did not have the right beliefs, one could be slaughtered with little consequence.
The light growls about intervention in Syria sour the milk of our human kindness, since we know how we were enthusiastically hoodwinked the last time. Ronald Reagan sold chemical weapons to Saddam Hussein, but the dictator got carried away and invaded Kuwait, sparking the Gulf War he lost to the first President George Bush.
Next, following 9/11, Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney and the second President George Bush told us we had to go to war because Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, and was pals with Osama bin Laden, too. Neocons duped Bush into thinking it would all be easy; the people would welcome our troops.
None of it was true.
Now Barack Obama seems to want to hope for a Tinker Bell to keep our military in the air and beyond harm, too safe not to be pulled into another “dumb” war. This one would be dumb on Obama’s watch.
Stanley Crouch can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.