For our great grandparents it was Pearl Harbor, for our grandparents it was the JFK assassination, for our parents perhaps the Challenger. For those of us of Generation Y 9/11/01 is the moment we will always remember, like those generations before us, we remember where we were, what we were doing, how we heard about it… It has been an event that has had a dramatic impact on our early adulthood; from airport security checkpoints to color-coded threat levels, the U.S. is in many ways very different now than it was 10 years and 1 day ago. I remember the night before I was watching the Denver Broncos on Monday Night Football, I think they were playing the Giants. Broncos wide receiver Ed McCaffrey broke his leg during the game; it was a grisly sports injury and as a fan I was disappointed to see the Broncos lose one of their best players. Less than 12 hours later, that was by far the least of my concerns.
There’s this saying, “don’t get mad, get even.” And after we sort of were finally able to catch our breath as a nation, to come to grips with the horror and destruction that had been caused by crazy, extremist terrorists, America felt like it needed to hit back. Less than a month later we were sending troops to Afghanistan to defeat the Al Qaeda and the Taliban. The other strong desire was to rebuild the buildings which had been destroyed in this act of evil; to rebuild them bigger and stronger, to show the world how strong and resilient the American Spirit is. It’s been 10 years since the tragedies of that day, and if you were to ask the average citizen, perhaps a month after the horrible event which would happen sooner, the rebuilding of the towers or the defeat of Al Qaeda and the Taliban, they probably would have said both. In the stages of grief, we were far past denial, we had seen the ghastly images on TV; we were in the stage of anger. You don’t mess with America, we’re going to take care of business and come back stronger than ever. Who would have believed 10 years later, neither the war nor the rebuilding has been finished.
There’s an axiom in sports that “the best defense is a good offense.” I’m not really sure what that means exactly, neither am I sure how one could prove such, but it sounds good. America took that axiom out of the world of sports and into the realm of politics, our best defense was said to be a good offense as well, namely the war on terror. Perhaps this phrase would fit within the term of axiom as well, in that it is sort of unprovable and presuppositional. We were told that the best way to prevent future terrorism was to take it to the enemy… so we did…and still are.
America has taken it to the enemy and fought the “war on terror, not just in Afghanistan, but in Iraq. We fought the “war on terror” to the tune of nearly $4 Trillion. We’ve fought the “war on terror” at a human cost of over 6,000 soldiers (1,500+ Afg. & 4,400+ Iraq), not to mention the non-lethal casualties of war, or the many soldiers who face PTSD, or even the suicide victims (yes they are victims of war and I’m glad Obama has begun sending condolence letters). This doesn’t even account for the loss of lives of those we were going over to “protect,” the civilians of Iraq and Afghanistan. No reliable records have been kept, but some estimates have the range at over 100,000 (antiwar.com). The New York Times suggested in an article that 10 civilians on average die for every soldier killed in combat. So even with this estimation, the number is roughly 60,000. That’s a ridiculously large amount of human beings killed, all in the “war on terror.”
The U.S. currently has a budget deficit of $14 Trillion or so, yet it has been suggested we have spent $8 Trillion in “defense” since 9/11. Our Annual “defense” budget is $800 Billion; double what is was 10 years ago. Robert Gates has been quoted recently as saying that any more than $400 Billion in cuts over a ten year span to the “Defense” Department would be a national security threat. According to my math, that’s about 5% a year and this is theoretically after our two current wars will be basically “over.” Every day America spends millions of dollars on weapons of war in order that we may achieve peace. How’s that for paradoxical. What’s that about those who “live by the sword, die by the sword?”
My question, is after 10 years, are we any safer? Has it been worth it? Nearly 3,000 precious lives were lost 10 years ago, but we have lost twice as many in our attempts to revenge their loss and likely caused ten times as many deaths in an effort to bring “peace.” It is almost as if the rationale is that enemy deaths over there will somehow make up for the tragic loss of life over there.
Beyond the money, beyond the cost, beyond the time spent at war – all of this pales in respect to the most costly part of the war – the human lives involved; be it the soldiers or the civilians. The soldiers can still be heroes at home, they can still serve our country in peace, and they can still be people we love and admire without having to risk their lives every day in this “war on terror.”
Support the troops, END THE WARS!