Tuesday, September 11, 2007

six years of blood

It is now six years, almost to the minute, that I was awakened by the scream of American Airlines flight 11 low over head, and shocked into running downstairs by the unnatural rumble that soon followed. Though a sitting president and a former mayor (and presidential aspirant) would like me to think about their fantasy lives as brave heroes on that day and in the 6 x 365 (+ 1 to be exact) days that have followed, all I can really think about is the blood.

I think about the blood shed needlessly that September day because a president had no interest in intelligence reports warning of an imminent attack. I think about the blood shed because a mayor had neglected the demands of first responders for better communications equipment, had located an emergency management bunker on the site of a previous attack to pay back a major campaign contributor, was AWOL for a half-hour after the attacks because he spent the night away from Gracie Mansion, and insisted on having response commanders parade around with him for the cameras rather than allow them to do their jobs and coordinate the evacuation of the burning, crumbling towers.

I think about the blood that continues to run cold because of the toxins that were released into the air after the towers collapsed—toxins whose presence was deliberately underplayed by Bush and his EPA head Christine Todd Whitman. I think about the workers on the pile who labored without proper respirators and now labor to take their dying breaths. I think about the two firefighters that died just last month because New York City and New York State have failed miserably in their oversight of the contractor entrusted with the dismantling of the Deutsche Bank building.

But most of all, I think about all of those that have died in Afghanistan and Iraq—Americans, Coalition troops, contractors, Afghanis, and Iraqis—because George W. Bush and Dick Cheney chose to turn the attacks of 9/11/01 into personal and political opportunity rather than an opportunity to bring the country and the world together in a struggle for equality and understanding.

Two thousand, nine hundred and seventy-three people were killed in the attacks of September 11. Three hundred and seventy-two Americans have been killed in Afghanistan to date (another 245 coalition forces from other countries have also died). Three thousand, seven hundred and sixty US troops have died in Iraq (and another 297 coalition forces from other countries have perished). Likely tens of thousands of civilians have died in Afghanistan since the 2001 invasion. The journal Lancet believes that over 600,000 Iraqis have died as a result of Bush’s war there.

As I observed one year ago, it is hard to imagine how different things might have turned out if others had been in charge in 2001. However, I find it even harder to imagine how those in charge will do anything but cause much more blood to be spilled before the next September anniversary.

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