As the twenty-year anniversary of 09/11 approaches and as the US makes a chaotic messy devastating departure from Afghanistan, I struggle to connect two events I’ve witnessed with my own eyes. Maya Angelou’s poem On the Pulse of Morning offered a poet’s interpretation of these events for me and led me past the rock to the river and the tree.
Molly Ivins, on the other hand, was an American newspaper columnist (August 30, 1944 – January 31, 2007) who witnessed 09/11 and had this to say about the beginning of the war in Afghanistan on October 17, 2001. Excerpts of her column are printed here by permission of Creative Commons.
“Afghanistan is to nation-building what Afghanistan is to war — pretty much the last place on earth you’d choose, if you had any choice at all. I point this out not to oppose the idea, about which I think we have no choice, but to underline that the task is hard, long and incredibly complicated. President Bush has said that from the beginning, but it cannot be said too often.
There are some signs of what could become a dangerous division in what has been an unusually unified America since this crisis began, and they have to do with a class difference in information. To oversimplify, those who are getting their information from the Internet and/or a broad range of publications are having conversations with one another that are radically different from those heard on many radio talk shows.
This is more than the simplistic jingoism that is a constant in American life; this is simplistic jingoism with a dangerously short attention span. The “let’s nuke ’em” crowd is still looking for a short, simple solution, and there just isn’t one. More stark evidence of this is the poll of Pakistanis just released by Newsweek, and the numbers need to be read carefully: While 51 percent support their government’s cooperation with the U.S. during the crisis, 83 percent are sympathetic to the Taliban, and almost half believe Israel was behind the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Fortunately for us, bin Laden and the Taliban are taking care of that theory. I think one of the few mistakes the Bush administration has made so far in this was to criticize the networks for putting on bin Laden — we want everybody to hear him claim credit for those attacks.
While some of us search for the answer to the question, “Why do they hate us?” the voices on radio talk shows are answering, “Who cares? Nuke ’em.” Those inclined to think that’s not a bad plan might keep in mind the already-classic lead by Barry Bearak of The New York Times: ‘If there are Americans clamoring to bomb Afghanistan back to the Stone Age, they ought to know that this nation does not have far to go. This is a post-apocalyptic place of felled cities, parched land and downtrodden people…'”
The task in Afghanistan for the past twenty years has indeed been hard, long and incredibly complicated. Our exit is proving to be difficult, dangerous, disastrous – I wonder what Molly Ivins would have to say on the subject. Hm.
President Biden promised to bring the remaining American troops (approximately 3,500) home from Afghanistan while campaigning for President in 2020, and he kept that promise – but the promise lacked an informed plan to insure the safety of the troops, their Afghan allies, and a whole host of other folks who needed rescuing from the control of the Taliban so he sent 6,000 more US troops back to Afghanistan last week.
Stay safe, stay sane, please get vaccinated and stay tuned.
There were very few sane voices in the media in the many months after 9/11. Ivins was one. I particularly remember the sole voice on sanity in the NY Times was Frank Rich He had an OpEd column that came out every two weeks on Saturdays. It was a small island in a world gone mad. Pretty much everyone else was cowed into submission and following the neo-con, Bush-Cheney warmongering script. That included members of Congress. The one exception to that being the lone voice of Congresswoman Barbara Lee.
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One of my all-time favorite movie quotes was from the American President Andrew Shepherd when he said “It’s a world gone mad, Gil.”
It was then, and it is now.
I remember the one vote against, too. Thank you for your comments.