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Reflections on 9/11, Then and Now

At the national memorial service on September 14, 2001, the Bush administration showcased Muzammil Siddiqi to represent Islam in the ecumenical service.  The administration was quick to show that this was not a war between America and Islam. But just who is Muzammil Siddiqi?  A formidable and recognized Islamic scholar, Siddiqi has called for the transformation of America into an Islamic, sharia-observant community. And while he personally does not accept punishing homosexuals by death, he condones that punishment when applied in Muslim countries that embrace sharia. In 2000, he spoke of the importance of jihad to Islam. In September of 2001, he was the public face of moderate Islam.

The Bush administration used the term “Islamo-fascism” once, and found it had stirred up a hornet’s nest of outrage. And the Obama administration has created a bunch of misfit euphemisms to discuss the terrorist threat. “Man-caused disasters” and “countering violent extremism” have replaced the only slightly less nonsensical “war on terrorism,” as if it were possible to wage war on a mode of conflict. Every euphemism confirms what everyone knows: we are engaged in a battle with radical Islam. Every euphemism confirms that we are pandering to those who would destroy us.

This administration has militated against the harsh methods used against Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, but had no trouble basking in the spotlight when information derived from those methods led directly to the elimination of Osama bin Laden. Suddenly, all the rhetoric about terrorism being a criminal justice issue and not a military issue was forgotten, as was closing Gitmo. There were political points to be scored from the elimination of bin Laden, and in America almost everything ultimately boils down to politics. When the election campaign fires up, there will be time enough to mobilize the Democratic base with recommitments to guarding civil liberties for those who would murder thousands in the blink of an eye.

Two needless wars are still ongoing ten years later. The war in Iraq that shifted the balance of power in the Persian Gulf toward Iran, and the unending war in Afghanistan that continues without resolution. Neither of these makes us more secure, as our treasure and blood are spilled.

Ten years after 9/11, we are a society less together than we were with the ephemeral burst of patriotism that ensued in the wake of disaster. But even then, news organizations saw the wearing of a flag pin as a violation of journalistic objectivity and asked news personnel to continue to obey the pre-9/11 standard. No such standard was promulgated for participation in various types of politically related events that news organizations typically sponsor. Mayor Bloomberg, most likely for fear of a Muslim cleric present at a religious service for the tenth anniversary, has ruled out all religious participation. We are consumed with what our enemies think of us. We have put in power a party whose base is more concerned with the rights of terrorists than the lives of their victims. We continually hear the refrain that terrorism is a criminal justice problem, ignoring that the criminal justice system is incapable of dealing with a military threat.

We have returned to the mentality before 9/11, only to await the disaster next time.