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September 11, 2005

Today Is The Fourth Anniversary Of An Enormous Opportunity

I thought it would be nice to mark today, September 11, 2005, with a short test.

Here's the first question: what is this?

What did you guess? Did you say "That's the last moments of the lives of thousands of people"? Or "That's a hideous act of mass murder"? Or "That's the beginning of a lifetime of suffering for everyone who loved someone who died at the World Trade Center"?

Wrong! The right answer is: that is an OPPORTUNITY, an ENORMOUS OPPORTUNITY:

Through my tears I see opportunity.

—George Bush, September 20, 2001

If the collapse of the Soviet Union and 9/11 bookend a major shift in international politics, then this is a period not just of grave danger, but of enormous opportunity. Before the clay is dry again, America and our friends and our allies must move decisively to take advantage of these new opportunities.

—Condoleezza Rice, April 29, 2002

Now here's the second question: what is this?

This question is a little harder. Some people might answer, "That's the grotesque Al Qaeda bombing of a hotel in Mombasa, Kenya in November, 2002." Others might say, "It's the place where terrorists murdered 13 people, including Israeli brothers Noy and Dvir Anter, ages 12 and 13." Or, "That's the place where, CNN reported, 'screaming children covered in blood searched desperately for their parents amid the wreckage.'"

Of course, those are dumb answers. The right answer is: it is a GOLDEN OPPORTUNITY:

Israeli officials view last week's terrorist attacks against Israeli targets in Kenya, apparently by Al Qaeda or an affiliated group, as reinforcing their argument that Israel and the West are battling a single enemy.

Foreign Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, meeting with ministry staff in the aftermath of the Kenya attacks, said that the incidents had presented Israel with a "golden opportunity" to strengthen its strategic ties with the United States and other Western countries.

Now, here's the last question: what is this?

I hope you didn't answer, "That's a young Iraqi girl covered in the blood of her parents, who'd just been killed by U.S. soldiers terrified of car bombers." Or, "Something that every American should be atoning for until the day we die."

Because, again, those answers are stupid! The right answer is, that's a picture of yet another GOLDEN OPPORTUNITY:

Targeting America in Iraq in terms of economy and losses in life is a golden and unique opportunity. Do not waste it only to regret it later.

—Osama bin Laden, December, 2004

Probably my point here is clear. But I will go ahead and spell it out.

For normal people, it's an unmitigated tragedy when their fellow citizens are killed in terrorist attacks or wars. Normal people cry, become afraid, and think of children who now have no parents and parents who now have no children.

For our would-be "leaders," however—in every country—the situation is different. Of course, they pretend to feel the same as normal people. They give teary-eyed speeches about sorrow and suffering.

And yet, behind their tears, there seems to be something else. When they think no one is looking, you glimpse another expression flitting across their face. You think it couldn't be. But—yes, incredibly enough, they're smiling. Because before the bodies are cold, before the mothers have stopped shrieking, our leaders are thinking:


And for them it is. It's an opportunity for them to do whatever they wanted to do before, but couldn't get away with. It's an opportunity for them to smear anyone who criticizes them as disloyal. It's an opportunity for them to become much more powerful than they ever could be in peacetime. Leaders love war. That's why there's so much of it.

It's understandably hard for most people to come to terms with this. It's terrifying to believe your leaders may secretly be, uh, not so sad if you die. But all you have to do is listen to them, and they'll tell you.

Can we change this? Maybe. But the first step in changing reality is facing it, no matter how ugly and frightening it is.

Happy September 11th!

Posted at September 11, 2005 10:40 AM | TrackBack

Yes, it's me again. I can't sleep.

When I worked as a convenience store clerk across from the University we had a lot of foreign students who were customers. One day I asked one of the regulars,

"is it true what I hear about how the characters for crisis and opportunity are the same in Chinese?"

He just laughed and said they were similar and some Americans who were learning Chinese couldn't tell them apart. Since I don't know Chinese I imagine I'll never know if he was pulling my leg or not.

But your point is well taken-- I would add that my stomach turns when I think of all the real estate developers who are waiting, hungrily, for a land rush on various lower-income New Orleans neighborhoods that will be rebuilt with a starkly different demographic than that of the previous residences.

After all, why do poor people think they deserve to have their shotgun shacks rebuilt when we could have more strip malls and swanky upscale tract homes? Don't they know that five liberal supreme court justices decided, just this summer, that that sort of behavior is nothing less than people standing in the way of opportunity?

Posted by: Jonathan versen at September 11, 2005 11:31 AM

I greatly fear at this point that you may be turning into an ideologue, Jon, please try this quote on for size.

"I discovered to my amazement that average men and women were delighted at the prospect of war. I had fondly imagined what most pacifists contended, that wars were forced upon a reluctant population by despotic and Machiavellian governments."
Bertrand Russell (1872–1970)

Posted by: En Ming Hee at September 11, 2005 11:57 AM


My understanding is that that's actually not true—ie, the characters actually are different and it's just something English-speaking people have said for a long time because it sounds good. En Ming Hee, can you settle this?

And, I've had the same thoughts about New Orleans. Even as the bodies are being collected, various lobbies are mobilizing in Washington for their slice of the pie.

En Ming Hee,

You're may be right that I'm making the distinctions more stark than they are. Have you read War is a Force that Gives Us Meaning? I think that gives an accurate portrayal of war fever.

Still, leaders play a critical and necessary role in making wars happen. Regular people always and only go to war because they believe they're defending themselves. Leaders delight in making people afraid and encouraging them to give into their worst instincts. Very few leaders try to appeal to the better angels of our nature. Of course, you can argue whose fault this is, the leaders or the led.

Posted by: Jonathan Schwarz at September 11, 2005 12:11 PM

I have sent Hugo Zoom a letter, and I will repeat my message here: the two Chinese pictograms for crisis mean "danger" and "situation" respectively. The second pictogram can indeed mean "opportunity", but not in the context it is used here.

Jon, I actually think that appeals to war succeed because they are built on the appealing to the better angels. Look at all the goals that war has been justified with, "war on terror", "lebensraum", "Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere"...the worst instincts only come in later, never at the beginning.

Posted by: En Ming Hee at September 11, 2005 12:27 PM

I understand where you're coming from, but I'd argue that's not right. Certainly wars often include (along with the appeal to fear) an appeal to a desire to "uplift" others. That's obviously the case with Iraq/democracy. The Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere was another. (By the way, bless you for mentioning that. It's one of my favorite phrases from history, and I can never get enough of it.)

But I don't think that's an appeal to the better angels of our nature, although it appears so on the surface. It's an appeal to our self-righteousness. The better angels of our nature are humble.

Posted by: Jonathan Schwarz at September 11, 2005 12:36 PM

Yeah! Thank you for your pedantry, Jon (Versen). Twain's great-- I wish more of his political stuff was better known. For example-- Twain's one of the first parodists of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic."

And thank you too, Jon (Schwarz). I just got back from a "peace community" meaning where Michael Berg, whose contractor son Nick was killed in Iraq, spoke about the exploitation of both September Eleventh and Berg's own tragedy by the Bush administration. I've occasionally suffered from "outrage fatigue" in the last five years, but I actually left the meeting shaking in anger. It's long past time to change things.

Posted by: Sully at September 11, 2005 08:09 PM

You go, Jon. This is a great post.

Posted by: BionOc at September 11, 2005 10:34 PM

What a fantastic OPPORTUNITY to test out the Kelo decision! Buh-har!!! Think about it; New Orleans would obviously want swank, not poor people so just resume their land and lock 'em out. Regards.

Posted by: grinna at September 12, 2005 01:10 AM

No sweat, ginna. They screwed the pooch in N.O. if they wanted to upscale it. Looks like it'll take 10 years to detoxify it for human habitation. I'll bet they'll leave it to squatter-mutants now.

Posted by: Petro at September 12, 2005 10:49 AM

A thoughtful, angry and coldly coherent tribute on an anniversary I was disgusted to see celebrated a day or so early by the so-called pro-war 'Freedom March' at the Pentagon - by invitation only and under armed guard.

As well as thoughtful and angry commenters. This is a good blogsite. Think I'll bookmark it.

Posted by: anon in the uk at September 12, 2005 10:50 AM

The American "Culture of Grief" is actually a miasma of sentimental (infantile) pornography and raw propaganda (both religious and political).

We are so saturated with continuous and ubiquitious corporate marketing, designed for the sole purpose of generating "desire," that as a nation we no longer even recognize a clear, untainted, pure expression. Every message we hear is designed to inflame a need, a desire, a hunger; and even news is marketed to make you feel intellectually careless if you turn away.

And once the addiction is established, it is easy for media masters to manipulate the masses by managing the loci of catharses. Karl Rove is only possible in an era of complicit and corporate mass media ... and soon we will be seeing (and crying over) the "true heroes" of NOLA, and hear language that attempts to link the "meaning" of NOLA to 9/11 and Iraq ... and calls for patriotic understanding, sacrifice, understanding, patience, and self-reliance.

Disasters are opportunities because chaos is when the big money can be made by those positioned to do so. The real looters of NOLA were thousands of miles away, ensconced in comfortable offices, manipulating oil prices and exacerbating scarcity and fear. Someone in NOLA may have gotten away with a radio or a fancy watch -- but a lot of shadowy people pocketed millions for a few days unpatriotic and unChristian work.

And history is replete with the masses falling for this over and over and over and over again.

I have no idea how to help hold back the darkness.

I simply remember that Mahatma Ghandi said, "Everything we do is futile, but we must do it anyway."


Posted by: ehj2 at September 12, 2005 10:42 PM

It's a crisatunity!

Posted by: Homer Simpson at September 13, 2005 09:14 AM

I would add Katrina as a new opportunity and they are wasting no time. It's on. Another opportunity to put their idelogy into action. Sadly, we'll let them

Posted by: kaff at September 13, 2005 11:53 PM
"Once a State has been established, the problem of the ruling group or "caste" is how to maintain their rule."

-The opportunity to demonstrate the forces that the state wields and the violence the state is willing to use.

-The opportunity to establish new vested interest with either the destruction, construction or security industries.

-The opportunity convince the majority that the state is wise and good, or at least better than nothing.

"We the People of the United States..." support a constitution that intends to limit the power of the State.

If an employee of the United States government should see an opportunity to overstep those limits it would certainly be a worrisome event.

Posted by: Paul at September 14, 2005 01:27 AM

Your, um, rant, is so pure truth it blows me away. You must have channeled it or something. It's heavy. It's real.

Gotta say, though, that if "Normal people cry, become afraid, and think of children who now have no parents and parents who now have no children," there are way too many Americans who think about ragheads homos, N.O. blacks, etc., the same way our leaders think about us.

Posted by: Tilda Getreal at September 16, 2005 12:02 AM

KT Cat,
you didn't read any of this 'cept through your:
"hell-bound commie scum types and islamo-fascist enablers question our Dear Leader"

I think you've got some nasty parasite eating it's way through your silly little mind.
That's what happens when you eat cat-shit.

Posted by: Me, fools... at September 12, 2007 10:10 AM

No clue!!!!!! You have no clue whatsoever!
The day will come when you ask, why didn't we do more!

Posted by: 123 at September 12, 2007 03:04 PM

As if the Israels are Saints. Sorry guys,nice try but 911 was a self inflicted killings.
Try next time, showing DEAD blown-up Palestinians defending their right to land and freedom.

Posted by: :-( Toronto at September 13, 2007 12:15 PM