New York Times columnist Paul Krugman posted comments on his blog claiming the memory of the events of September 11, 2001 have been poisoned by those who exploited it to start two wars, and played on America's fears to advance a regressive agenda diluting or eliminating over 75 years of court decisions expanding civil liberties in this country. I had written a similar piece more than a week before the anniversary. In last week's Newsweek, Andrew Sullivan writes about his reaction to that day and ends up in the same place I did as well. He bemoans how he, the punditocracy, and Americans in general, let fear lead them to support calls for war and excoriates the corporate media for shirking its responsibility to act as a check on government excess and falsehoods. He says he is embarrassed he found himself "trusting" the government. Along with Sullivan and Krugman, the publication The Week had on its cover a fortress America with the question, "Did We Overreact?". Once again, sentiments echoing my piece. It warms the cockles of this incarcerated heart to see my mind and perspective have not gone to seed yet. It is also proof what should have been a defining moment of unity in this nation; instead became a political instrument used to irreparably damage America economically, politically and spiritually. (Yes, this is a bit of a self-serving pat on the back, but believe me there haven't been many opportunities for such self-aggrandizement over the last 3 years)
I'm sure Mr. Krugman will not take much solace knowing he and I agree, nor will my words help him weather the tsunami of criticism which inundated the blogosphere in the following days. According to Politico.com, "liberal" bloggers did not rise enthusiastically to his defense and regressive bloggers had a field day criticizing him. I have no idea why progressive bloggers wouldn't have agreed with everything Krugman wrote but I understand perfectly the vitriol from regressives.
What is most interesting is the nature of the criticism. The attacks on Krugman by the likes of Michele Malkin and Faux and Friends attacked his appearance..."ugly little man with a beard."...Patriotism..."how can one hate his country as much as Krugman must?"...Work ethic..."he only wrote 181 words which is an insult to his readers"...and timing..."how does he post this on the 10th anniversary of the attacks?" What I could not find, and did not see, was one attempt to address the meat of Krugman's piece. The criticism was all ad hominem attacks with no substance. In fact, if you read the more prominent regressive voices, they seem to have ceded the field to Krugman when it comes to the central point of his argument.
Osama Bin Laden knew us better than we knew ourselves. Sullivan writes Bin Laden baited us, set a trap and we fell for it hook, line, and sinker. Bin Laden said one of his goals was to bankrupt America's economy and he also apparently knew our history. Whenever Americans are scared, the first thing they do is abandon the Bill of Rights and look towards a benevolent dictator who will both assure them and keep them safe. 10 years later, not even Bin Laden dared to imagine his plan would work out so well. America is weaker today than it was 10 years ago. Our economy is in shambles and our military is irreparably broken. We have squandered over $1.5 trillion on two unnecessary wars. (Ironically, exactly the number the congressional super committee must cut from the federal budget further damaging a fragile economic recovery) We are at each other's throats on almost every domestic front. We are paralyzed and appear incapable of producing resolutions to vital economic and political problems.
Maybe Bin Laden read the PNAC document Cheney et. al. signed in 1998. Maybe he was a genius and knew given the chance, Bush and Cheney would implement the provisions calling for an invasion of Iraq and projecting American power in the Middle East to protect the Likud party and Israel. His plan would have failed had Al Gore been president. Gore would have invaded Afghanistan, but not Iraq. Gore would have opposed most of the Patriot Act's worst provisions. Gore would have killed Bin Laden at Tora Bora cutting the head off of Al Qaida and the Taliban. (Mullah Omar escaped at that time as well) He would have finished the job in Afghanistan and not diverted resources to Iraq and we wouldn't still be there today. Gore would not have cut taxes for the rich to the tune of almost $2 trillion in lost revenue to the government. He would not have eviscerated environmental and other regulations and he would not have set up secret prisons to torture nor the continuing eyesore that is Guantanamo. For Bin Laden to succeed, he needed Bush, Cheney, Giuliani, Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld, Fife and Tennant in power. They did exactly what he wanted. They "poisoned" the memory of September 11th by so politicizing and manipulating it. Today it is a symbol of a tragedy not caused by terrorism by rather by self-inflicted wounds.
If I have one criticism of Krugman, it would be for turning off the ability of readers to comment. Donald Rumsfeld was forced to tweet. (I love that image) He was cancelling his subscription to the Times. Yes, the comments would have been nasty ad hominem attacks on him and his patriotism, but he also would have read many agreeing with him. More importantly, the dialogue would have been good for us and he could have taken great joy in provoking his enemies and giving succor to his friends.
The butcher's bill rung up for September 11th is still growing. When will it end?