Date: Tue, 12 Sep 2006 16:58:29 -0400
From: Jett,Dennis C
*The nation’s values, not survival, at risk*
By Dennis C. Jett
September 12, 2006
In all that has been written and uttered in recent days about the fifth
anniversary of 9/11, here is one question that has not been asked: What
do boats, bicycles, guns and terrorists have in common? Answer: They all
kill about the same number of Americans each year.
Dividing the nearly 3000 people killed on 9/11 over the last five years
gives you an average annual figure of 600. About that number die each
year in accidents on boats, while riding bicycles and from the
accidental discharge of firearms. (Tens of thousands more die from guns
each year, but those are suicides and homicides.) Or put another way,
more nonsmokers die as a result of breathing someone else’s tobacco
smoke every year than died on 9/11.
The horror of watching the exact moments when thousands of people died
was a national trauma, but that shock has been exploited relentlessly
since then. The point of the statistics is not to denigrate the pain and
suffering that were inflicted on America on that fateful day. But the
size of the threat President Bush and other administration officials
have likened the challenge that terrorism poses for the United States
today as equal to the ones faced during World War II and the Cold War.
While we mourn the loss of every one of the nearly 3,000 who died it is
worth remembering that the number of dead resulting from World War II
exceed ed 60 million. And if there had been a nuclear war with the
Soviet Union, there would have been hundreds of millions of casualties
in the first few hours.
Comparing the threat of terrorism to that of Communism or the original
Axis of evil is not simply historical ignorance or hubris. It is sheer
political opportunism. Do those in power really think the nation’s very
survival is at risk because of a handful of fanatics? Or do they know
that their political survival depends on convincing 51 percent of the
people of that?
The nation’s survival is not at risk, but the values that made it great
are. We don’t torture, because we use enhanced interrogation techniques.
We don’t outsource torture, because we ask those governments to which we
deliver prisoners for questioning to assure us they don’t before they
wink and get on with it. We don’t abuse prisoners because all those that
have are low-ranking officials operating without written orders. We
believe justice delayed is justice denied except for those who now have
been held for years.
We believe in fair trials except the accused cannot see the evidence
against them if it is based on intelligence reports. (And we all know
our intelligence reports are infallible.) After years without trials,
the administration will now argue that anyone in Congress that opposes
the rapid ratification of the procedures just proposed for military
tribunals is soft on terrorism.
In other words, we believe in the rule of law. And the law is whatever
the ruler says it is.
When reports first surfaced that a clandestine system of prisons
existed, the administration declined to comment on “intelligence
matters” and condemned the journalists that published the stories. Now
that it is the right political moment, the president has announced their
existence. Clearly freedom of the press means the press is free to
report what the government says and not what it does.
The warnings that 9/11 might happen were not as clear as a weather map
indicating a hurricane was headed toward a city below sea level. In both
cases, however, our government failed to anticipate the catastrophe and
has been hopelessly inept in its wake. And in both cases, the president
has visited the scene and tried to portray his concern for the victims
as a reason for reelecting those that failed us.
He has made a speech almost every day recently not because he has
anything new to say about terrorism, but because he knows the media will
air his every utterance. In this way he can filibuster until we all
forget who is responsible and what they have done in our name.
Washington searches the world for threats, not to eliminate the serious
ones, but to scare themselves and us in order to justify anything that
We should never forget what happened on 9/11 nor stop mourning our loss.
But we should also not succumb to politically-motivated paranoia and
should instead reflect on what 9/11 has been used as a pretext to
create: A nation of sheep lead by a collection of liars, fools and cowards.
/Dennis C. Jett entered the foreign service in 1972 and has worked in
Argentina, Israel, Malawi and Liberia. He also served as Ambassador to
Peru and Mozambique/