Motley Moose – Archive

Since 2008 – Progress Through Politics

America's Post 9/11 Hand: The Light and Dark in Retrospective

With such a lofty title I fear the text below will not fulfill the promise. The thoughts expressed in the comments will hopefully help us elevate this diary to that level.

Below the fold is a comment I wrote that has me thinking that it is a timely topic for Moosetemplation this week. Let my words here be more of a first volley in a longer exhortation or exhibition, then, of the complex views and moods we have about our place in the world these last ten years.

As incomplete as it may be, I stand by the shape of the comment below as a starting point for my part in this discourse. The past ten years have seen the blunt violence of America as well as its opposite. The Yin and Yang of America has been played out for all to see. All in all, it seems to me, a more honest demonstration of who we are would be hard to imagine than the range of behavior we have engaged in since we were jarred out of complacency over five hundred Tuesdays ago.

But there is enough from me below about that. What do you think, Mooses, as you look forward ten days and backward ten years?

Watching the Nat Geo 9/11 documentaries, including the Bush interview,I think I understand the chain of consequences more clearly. Really, it is what I have thought all along, so perhaps I am deluding myself. However.

Bush had the right kind of idea: “Folks don’t really want to live like that, and if they didn’t we wouldn’t have these kinds of problems.” I have never believed there was a Grand Evil Scheme – certainly not on his part – but that the chaos was the rock-falling-downhill inevitability of the situation.

His failure as leader was that he didn’t have the intelligence to understand the more subtle means. But anyone who expected him to was even more deluded. Bush is a simple kinda guy and he took the simple and obvious kinda approach. The complexities of dealing with that approach have led to all of the angst and (frankly) horror that goes with such endeavors.

Not to shine the lilly – the consequences of his decisions are what we see them to be – but even in that context there is a certain aspect of it all that is perhaps not for the worst.

The Clue #1 response to a traumatic attack against The Giant In The Room is a spastic and violent reaction that all near the creature will relive (who first live to tell) in hushed tones forever. Every fool knows this, and we all treat such Giants with due circumspection as a normal part of daily life. When you are part of a group naturally antagonistic to such Giants it behooves you to enforce an appropriate amount of control over your most fervent fellows, lest said Giant resolve your grievances by wiping out you and everything within ten miles of your location.

One of Al-Qaeda’s senior folks is quoted as saying, shortly after 9/11, that for one single act they had “lost in months what it had taken seven years to build” in Afghanistan. The subsequent success of the group – and its affiliated goals – since is perhaps a Lesson Learned for the shells of decreasingly radical individuals surrounding the Fervent.

Lesson Learned: “Don’t do that.”

The long sweep of history is showing the other side of the American Hand with Obama. The Kinder, Gentler America that is interested in your concerns and will work with you to overcome obstacles. Where the exact same goal as Bush unclearly enunciated regarding Iraq is pursued with informed nuance and respect, and where Seal Team Six will still show up and blow your damn head off if you just can’t be reasoned with.

I would have liked to see the latter side shown earlier during the Post 9/11 years, but in reality that wasn’t going to happen. Not with the President in office and not – after watching enough 9/11 memorials to remind me how I felt – with the mood of The Giant in those days.

When I watch the flash of my friend’s plane disappear into the Pentagon or hear the ballistic thump outside the Trade Center doors during their last minutes, I take great comfort in the slow-motion mental image of a bullet penetrating Bin Laden’s eye. I am that vengeful and violent – we are – and it is only fair that others know this. Samuel L Jackson’s Pulp Fiction character speaks for the unrestricted violence we keep on on tap, carefully and knowingly laid near at hand and only restrained by a contemplative consciousness.

When I watch the people of Libya free themselves from shackles only Shelley could have fantasized it is that contemplative consciousness of America that is most evident. I/we do in fact wish those people well, and this time our approach shows the more measured and thoughtful side of our character. However, those who would choose to call our bluff and bluster us into submission need to know that this thoughtfulness does not separate us from our ethos, or the Dogs of War we will unleash to defend it.

The Gaddafi’s and Jung-Il’s and (fish-feeding ;~) Bin-Laden’s of the world should fear us. They are mad dogs and we will destroy them without hesitation. Those around such mad dogs should have every reason to fear the consequences of such associations as well. Any sane person would.

The space for rational and civilized discourse only exists with rules, and rules always come with consequences. Both the value of that space and the reality of those consequences must be clear. The sum of the world’s experiences with the two post-9/11 President’s provides all the evidence of how America views both of those that anyone should need.


  1. This country was born in war. (2.00 / 1)

    It grew by war during the years of Manifest Destiny. It matured in the wars of the 20th Century. We can’t get enough war. We’ve even gone to war with each other.

    A very partial list. It doesn’t include the wars that were fought in the 1600’s or earlier 1700’s. Nor does it include some of our Caribbean adventures. Or any of the so-called “Indian Wars”.

    1775-1783 American Revolution

    1798-1800 Franco-American Naval War

    1801-1805; 1815 Barbary Wars

    1812-1815 War of 1812

    1813-1814 Creek War

    1836 War of Texas Independence

    1846-1848 Mexican-American War

    1861-1865 Civil War

    1898 Spanish-American War

    1914-1918 WW I

    1941-1945 WW II

    1950-1953 Korea

    1960-1975 Vietnam

    1983 Grenada

    1989 Panama

    1990-1991 Gulf War

    1995-1996 Bosnia

    2001-Present Afghanistan

    2003-Present Iraq

    “The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread.” – Anatole France – Le Lys Rouge 1894  

    by: John Allen @ Tue Aug 30, 2011 at 23:53:42 PM PDT

    *[new] It is our Dark Side, and it is intrinsic in who we are. (0.00 / 0)

    We revel in the heroes of Conan Doyle (and with infinitely less literary zest, Clive Cussler) who strive for decent goals while maturely acknowledging the limits of reason. Dick Francis novels fly off the shelves here, because the heroes always strive to remove themselves from their own interests even in-extremis, struggling to cleave to a Greater Good. Only with great regret and at last resort using the superior violence they held all along.

    There is – there has to be – a difference in value to different views on the use of violence. Bin-Laden’s “we love death” weighed against any American view it could be compared with. Gaddafi’s indiscriminate civilian bombing (and worse, good lord with a foul man) weighed against the actions and aspirations of the Libyan people.

    Condoning or encouraging or even welcoming violence is a path that begins in and leads to nowhere worth being. Swearing off violence under all circumstances is a chair bolted to the ground in the same place.

    As far as globe-straddling empires go, the American era has been one of decreasing and more discriminating use of violence.

    Maybe someday there won’t be a world where Serbs attempt to ethnically cleanse lands or psychotic dictators shell their own cities. Until that time, the world remains better off with America holding the keys to unlimited violence than any other likely candidate for the job.

    (I’m going to paste both these comments in the new diary)

    “Conway, whom experience had taught that rudeness was by no means a guarantee of good faith, was even less inclined to regard a well-turned phrase as a proof of insincerity.”  James Hilton, Lost Horizon

    by: Chris Blask @ Wed Aug 31, 2011 at 00:19:32 AM PDT

  2. Shaun Appleby

    The “rock-falling-downhill inevitability of the situation” had more to do with a bunch of neoconservatives getting their hands on the levers of power.  “New World Order?”  Spare me.

  3. anna shane

    I lost confidence in our so-called intelligence community. I was in NYC August before 9/11 and was staying on the lower east side, and had a blocked view, only the tops of the two towers showed, and I thought, like a sore thumb. I’d been there a few years earlier and walked through the towers, really fast. I mean they had been hit before? They were obviously a target? (What if the message passed by the blind sheik was, I had a dream, of planes hitting the towers?)  

    Before 9/11 I thought what I know they know and they’re thinking of all the ways to take the down the towers and making plans to make sure none of those ways would work. Not bombs in basements, that didn’t work.  And that the important dates would also be known and around those times there would be extra intelligence/precautions.

    So, I found out they don’t predict anything with logic or smart people trying to plan like terrorists might, they were just getting lots of data and trying to put that into some picture that had not yet been predicted, and not listening to their own people, and not coordinating departments, just being random and confused..  I realized after 9/11 that there was no structure to our intelligence gathering, no looking ahead to see if passengers were preparing to fly planes into targets.  

    So, what’s the next target?  And how could low rent terrorists try to accomplish it?  

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