A somber birthday

By Ted Rogers

My birthday, Sept. 4, has never been a good day to watch the news. My freshman year, I couldn’t get a normal birthday greeting without, “Jeez, did you hear about Steve Irwin and the stingray?” The year before that, I remember hearing about hurricane Katrina destroying New Orleans.

And no matter what year it is, every media outlet will begin to ramp up the coverage of the tragedy yearly revisited on us a week later ? Sept. 11.

Magazines, television, newspapers ? no matter the source, there are images of the burning towers, the wrecked Pentagon, the fiery hole in Pennsylvania where the passengers made a decision to not be victims. All of them, asking us not to forget that horrors of that day.

As if we could.

I can only speak for myself, but as long as my heart beats, I can see the towers collapsing in my mind’s eye. As time goes on, however, I’m beginning to think that I see the situation a lot differently than most people.

Most stories about what happened on Sept. 11 have a surprisingly upbeat message to them. The pieces generally are about how brave the passengers on Flight 93 were, or how the firefighters are coping. Some publications like to say nice things about the Bush administration’s first responses, which is a rare thing in these days.

As nice as it is to hear about the triumph of the human spirit, I have a hard time connecting these stories with 9/11. As much as I’d like hope and heroism to be my final thoughts on the matter, they aren’t. When I think of 9/11, all I can see is an aftermath of failure.

Even the silliest television programs tell us that when a tragedy occurs, the participants will come back bruised, but wiser. If that’s the case, well, we’ve got the bruises. America may have been deeply wounded by the terrorist attacks, but American policies have become no wiser.

Any thinking person will tell you that one of the reasons why America was attacked had to do with the US government’s interference with the Muslim world’s affairs. This is not an opinion of some crazed minister in Chicago ? this is a fact repeated by many of the terrorist leaders.

American foreign policy in response to the attacks has been nothing short of befuddling. Under the doctrine of Neo-Conservatism, (Corporate favoritism mixed with schoolyard bullying to you and me,) the Bush administration started wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and threatens Syria and Iran with the same unless vague specifications are met.

While international affairs are tricky to understand, threatening war and destruction upon a country as a bargaining tool seems like a poor way to get a positive response, especially in a political hotspot like the Middle East.

The Muslim world has suffered greatly in 9/11’s backlash, especially where the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are concerned. Not much can be said about Afghanistan other than that it was necessary. After all, the Taliban was a ruthless and dangerous regime which was sheltering criminal fanatics like Osama bin Laden. It stands to reason that this conflict has been all but ignored in favor of a much larger and much murkier war, Iraq.

Even as the levels of violence in Afghanistan rise, Iraq has still suffered the worst from 9/11’s fallout. The irony of this is, Iraq had nothing to do with the attacks. Not one of the hijackers claimed Iraqi descent. No money exchanged hands from Iraq to Al-Qaeda. All intelligence connecting Al-Qaeda with Iraq turned out to be false, or even worse, forged.

It seems like anywhere from 85,000 to 95,000 Iraqis and nearly 5,000 US citizens are dead for reasons only our president knows. The more cynical amongst us will say it was because the Iraqis are unlucky enough to live on top of an ocean of oil.

Whatever the causes of the second Gulf War really are, the results have been nothing but clear and devastating. Millions of Iraqis have fled the country. Tens of thousands have been killed. Iraqi Christians, a rare breed to begin with, are facing persecution and extermination because the Muslim segment believes they are colluding with Americans. Big oil companies have already set up shop in the fields, essentially becoming war profiteers.

It seems like people are forgetting how bad things are in Iraq because the surge worked and violence is down. It’s sad that we spend countless hours remembering our side of the tragedy, without pausing to consider the victims of 9/11 who live a world away.

It’s the sort of thing you should consider when you hear stories about American heroes, about things returning to normal.

Try telling those stories to the Iraqis.

Ted Rogers is a Collegian columnist. He can be reached at [email protected]