Saturday, September 11, 2021

The Lessons of 9/11 and the Price of "Freedom"

By New York Bureau Chief A. Cahan
with Vincent Boom-Batz, M.D., Medical Correspondent

Not the graphic you were expecting on the 20th anniversary of 9/11?  Think we're forgetting the terrible losses of that day?  

Are you forgetting that thanks to the mishandling of the COVID pandemic this country is losing the equivalent number of 9/11 deaths every two days, or fewer?

Don't see the connection, Hamilton Burger?  Just wait a minute.

We won't forget the more than 3,000 Americans who lost their lives on that stunning day.  But we also don't forget what happened after that, unlike a surprising number of our still-breathing fellow citizens.

Immediately after 9/11, the world came together to support the United States and pledge its support to take down the al-Qaeda terrorist gang that perpetrated that evil deed.  Even Iran joined the fight against al-Qaeda.  But Toronto David Frum, then doing business as a speechwriter for George W. Bush, still said they were part of the triangular Axis of Evil along with Iraq and North Korea.

Two days after 9/11, the Queen of England, not known for public shows of emotion, ordered her Coldstream Guards to play The Star-Spangled Banner as a gesture of solidarity:

That was September 13, 2001. One day later

Three days after 9/11, George W. Bush had already decided he would use 9/11 to invade a country that had nothing to do with 9/11. 

The reasons remain obscure, although the best that can be deduced from the neocon fever dreams is that, like Michael Corleone, they wanted to take care of all the family business at once. Unlike Michael Corleone, though, they had no f***in' idea of what they were doing.

The cost of this unforced stupid error was immense, and is still climbing today.  The first casualty (well, maybe the second, after truth), was the global unity engendered by 9/11.

As for the later casualties, here's a handy chart:

At the risk of stating the obvious, that's a lot of people who didn't have to die.  Had George W. Bush not perverted the unity and patriotism generated by 9/11 to flog his lethal insane wars, most of them would be alive and perhaps well today.

Why did all these people die?  According to George W. Bush and his fellow Republicans it was all about – freedom. In his words:

In Iraq, the [U.S. occupation] Authority and the Iraqi Governing Council are also working together to build a democracy....And we're working closely with Iraqi citizens as they prepare a constitution, as they move toward free elections and take increasing responsibility for their own affairs.... 

Securing democracy in Iraq is the work of many hands. American and coalition forces are sacrificing for the peace of Iraq and for the security of free nations.

....The failure of Iraqi democracy would embolden terrorists around the world, increase dangers to the American people, and extinguish the hopes of millions in the region. Iraqi democracy will succeed -- and that success will send forth the news, from Damascus to Teheran -- that freedom can be the future of every nation. (Applause.)

Of course not everyone got to enjoy this wonderful freedom:


And back home in the United States, there were victims, mostly Muslim, of the post-9/11 hysteria fanned by the Bush Administration (despite Bush's occasional pious claims that Islam was not our enemy).

Just today, Slate's Amicus podcast recounts the brazen assault on Constitutional rights and international law perpetrated by Republicans in the name of freedom. And Washington Week, in between not very fascinating accounts of what Peter Jennings said in the ABC newsroom that morning, managed to provide some airtime for Muslim journalists who didn't recall America as being a bastion of freedom for them.

Here' what a dangerously subversive, um, candidate for the New York City Council, Shahana Hanif, recalls about that time:

So throughout undergrad is when I was really able to understand the violence enacted by our government with the Patriot Act, the creation of the NYPD demographics unit, the formation of ICE—that all of this was happening. These horror stories were caused by harmful, violent, xenophobic, Islamophobic legislation.

The evidence suggests that 9/11, in addition to being a terrible tragedy, did not in fact usher in a new dawn of freedom.  Rather the opposite.  

Which bring us to the current day.  As of last week, the total COVID-19 death count in America has exceeded 658,000, with no end in sight.  On September 9, more people died of COVID-19 than on September 11, with a new 9/11 toll added every 48 hours:

Source: The New York Times

And why is this catastrophe happening?  Once again, it's in the paper of record:

Three studies that drew data from different U.S. regions evaluated the protective power of the vaccines. One looked at more than 600,000 virus cases in 13 states, representing about one quarter of the U.S. population, between April and July, and concluded that individuals who were not fully vaccinated were far more susceptible to infection and death from the virus.

They were 4.5 times more likely than vaccinated individuals to become infected, 10 times more likely to be hospitalized, and 11 times more likely to die from the coronavirus, the study found. 

People are dying because they refuse to get vaccinated (except for children under 12, who have no choice). They're also dying because some refuse to take simple steps to limit transmission, like wearing masks indoors.

And why is that?

Just like 2003, mass death is caused by “freedom.”

And who is making the specious argument that requiring masks and vaccines is an assault on freedom? If you guessed the same people who told us after 9/11 that we had to invade Iraq for freedom, you win:

If the need for federal action last week seemed clear, the response in some quarters to Biden’s announcement was hostile.

Several Republican governors, including in Texas, Georgia, and South Dakota, vowed to fight the mandate in court.

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster said Biden and the Democrats had “declared war against capitalism” and he pledged to “fight them to the gates of hell to protect the liberty and livelihood of every South Carolinian.” [Just like Fort Sumter? – Ed.]

Even before the president spoke on Thursday afternoon, the Federalist, a right-wing publication, assailed the vaccine-and-testing plan as “a fascist move.” 

Ah yes, who could forget Mussolini and his evil fascistic drive to improve public health in Italy?

It's hard to know how much of this crap is a sincere perversion of liberty properly understood (which does not include the liberty to run red lights and drive drunk), how much is pandering to the perpetually lunatic angry Republican base, and how much is the cynical calculation that the worse the pandemic gets, the more the Republican midterm chances improve.

We don't care. All we know is that just like the aftermath of 9/11, Republican contempt for facts and relentless pursuit of partisan political advantage no matter the cost to the Republic have led to ridiculous claims that the defense of “freedom” requires the deaths of hundreds of thousands.

On this 9/11 anniversary, the pandemic losses serve as a useful reminder that Republican disinformation is just like the toxic rubble pile at Ground Zero: it kills for years.

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