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Thursday, September 11, 2008
9/11 Thoughts

A few thoughts on September 11 and larger themes, including a sign that history is begin to liberate itself from partisan blinders, where the Iraq war is concerned.

September 11, 2008, is nearly over, but perhaps it's not too late for a few thoughts. I acknowledge but refuse to honor the risk that someone will think mentioning September 11 at all is politicizing a tragedy. I say that as if those who gripe about it weren't already doing what they criticize, and as if an act of war were merely a tragedy, somehow separated from human malevolence. I don't know personally anyone who died in the September 11 attacks or in the ensuing combat, but I know people who, combined, know quite a few of these casualties. And I know some who fought, did not die, but will be suffering the physical and psychological wounds for the rest of their lives.

There were many flags out today in American Fork, and those that can be placed so were at half-staff. It was good to see them.

I have previously paid tribute to history and heroes, in connection with September 11, and my thinking hasn't changed much since then. So tonight I'm wondering if it wouldn't be best to dig into one point of that history for a few minutes, then zoom out a bit for some more philosophical musings. In fact, my writing is not a significant part of this; I'm relying on three others' articles. You may want to read them and think about them.

No, He Didn't

First, nearly every Democrat with a microphone or a keyboard has insisted for years that, in the words of one protest chant, "Bush Lied -- People Died." (Senator Joe Lieberman is an honorable exception.) To the contrary, objective observers have long insisted that there is no evidence that President Bush lied our way into the war with Iraq. Lately, even thoughtful people on the Left have joined them in this. But "Bush lied -- People died" still seems to be a staple of the current political campaigns.

Nearly three years ago, Norman Podhoretz carefully analyzed and dismissed all the charges of presidential deception in a lengthy, detailed article for the Wall Street Journal. If you haven't read it already, isn't it time you did?

Here is a shorter article from this summer on a similar theme, coming to the same conclusion. This one is interesting because it comes from the thoughtful Left, in the person of James Kirchick, an assistant editor of The New Republic. He acknowledges room for legitimate criticism of the war, but before he's done he calls the "Bush lied" chorus "cowardly and dishonest." What's happening here, I hope, is that history is gaining enough distance and perspective that it is putting off its partisan blinders.

Historical Amnesia

Now we zoom out for a much broader perspective.

In an excellent recent article, Paul Greenberg observes:

The ahistorical think of peace as the normal state of man, rather than a prize won for a precious time by war. In amnesiac America, war is assumed to be the unnatural aberration, an interruption of the normal course of things, rather than a state as old as man himself. Every loss -- indeed, every war -- becomes "the worst in American history."

It is good to live in the present, but to live only in the present is to deprive it of proportion, perspective, meaning. Without some appreciation for the past, we cannot live fully in this present. We reduce it to one dimension. And everything that happens seems to be happening for the first time.

The rest of Greenberg's article is just as good.


Those, for what they are worth, have been my thoughts today, on the eight consecutive September 11 of the current era. I confess not only pleasure, but gratitude and some surprise that, so far, none of the subsequent ones have been like the first.

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