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Friday, September 23, 2011

Remembering 9/11 and Moving On -- September 11, 2011

Today is the ten year anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon. The week leading up to the anniversary has been filled with an overwhelming amount of sensationalistic and alarmist news reporting. I have watched, read, and listened to parts of this blanket news media coverage, including this morning's "Day of Remembrance" event in New York City. Like many, I remember the airplanes' collision into the skyscrapers and their collapse. However, unlike many, I fail to see why it remains of great significance. I also believe the U.S. government has greatly overreacted and continues to do so at the detriment of the republic.

As I do every morning, I watch the news while I eat my cold breakfast which was served to us in the middle of the night. Since the prison has been on lockdown, I have taken my time eating and getting ready for the day. There has been no movement at Stateville since the gang fight a week ago, and I have been doing little over the past week. I have been resting and trying to heal from my numerous injuries. The news this morning was centered entirely on the events that occurred ten years ago and the memorial in New York. I changed channels from CBS, NBC, ABC, FOX, and CNN, but it was all the same coverage from one angle or another. Apparently, I had little choice but to remember 9-11 and 10 years of unnecessary war, scare tactics, and amassing Big Brother government.

The site of the Twin Towers has been remade into an elaborate memorial greater than any I know of in the United States. Where the two buildings stood are now large square waterfalls and reflective pools. News people were persistent to point out the water will be regulated so it is never too cold or warm. Around the circumference of the waterfalls are the names of all who died, similar to the Vietnam War Memorial for dead soldiers. Next to the waterfalls is a museum apparently designed to allow people to fully experience all the trauma of the attack time infinite, and remind them why Americans must continually live in fear and in a police state. The memorial and museum were a costly feat of engineering due to a railway that passes closely underneath. The missing buildings and surrounding park surrounded by skyscrapers in downtown Manhattan seem to create a void and a gaping wound in the city. If this memorial was not enough to remind the public of 9-11 in the daytime, two enormous lights on occasion send a beam of light skyward like a beacon for Batman to protect Gotham from the mayhem of the Joker.

One may ask where is the caped crusader and America's superhero? To seemingly answer that, this morning former President George W. Bush and President Barack H. Obama were presented to a crowd of families of the victims and, of course, the entire nation via television. Before they spoke, a slow solemn procession of men playing bagpipes and beating drums circled the memorial. People at the park were shown clutching each other, crying, or moving their fingers over the inscribed names of the dead engraved on bronze plates. Obama and Bush did not give political speeches, but instead read from the Koran, the Old Testament, and a letter written by Abraham Lincoln. I noticed that a bulletproof glass protected the current President, but not the former. I suppose his life is not important anymore, although I do not know how any harm could come to either one. There was such an overwhelming police and security presence that I do not think a mouse with a backpack explosive could get in.

Hopefully, I did not just give America's purportedly most nefarious, all pervasive, and ingenious zealot terrorists any ideas. These James Bond villains with their shoe/underwear bombs and use of airplanes as missiles cannot be underestimated. Currently, there is a nationwide alert of a plot underfoot to strike the U.S. on the 9-11 anniversary. It is not known where, how, or whom is behind this threat, but from government sources, it is credible. From coast to coast, America must be mobilized with massive police, government intelligence, and other resources to stop the ambiguous attack. Airports, railway stations, energy infrastructure, schools, football arenas, and entire cities are in danger. No place is safe, and Americans are reminded: "if you see something, say something." It is so dangerous out there, I am glad I am in this cage surrounded by numerous walls, razor wire fencing, gates, cameras, and hundreds of unionized guards. Unfortunate that all U.S. citizens could not have the same protections, but maybe they will some day have this privilege.

As I write this journal entry, I am listening to news radio. A couple of hours ago, F-16 fighter jets were scrambled to intercept and follow a commercial airplane. Apparently, two passengers had spent too long in the bathroom. I suppose if you had bowel troubles from bad airplane food, or want to have a cheap sexual thrill during a flight, that is unacceptable after 9-11. They could be making a bomb in there. Who knows? A chemical could be added to an explosive tampon or any sort of altered item still allowed on a plane. Whatever happened on board Frontier Flight 623 San Diego to Detroit, those suspicious lavatory users are now under arrest and being relentlessly interrogated along with a couple of other passengers from another flight who had also purportedly acted strangely.

During the week, I heard many people on television or news radio recount what they were doing ten years ago when airplanes were sent into buildings in New York City and the Pentagon. It seemed like everyone had a story to tell. It was similar to earlier stories a preceding generation had of when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Some people even tried to stretch a correlation with the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. I recall September 11, 2001, although I did not see life altering significance to it until government used it to change millions of lives at home and abroad.

Having been evicted from Joliet Correctional Center, I was sent to this most miserable maximum security prison in 2000. I spent a few years here before being able to transfer. It was while at Stateville that the terrorist attacks occurred. I was at the gymnasium when the planes hit and was not able to watch it live on TV. On the return, someone mentioned the U.S. had been attacked. I did not learn the details until I returned to my cell where my cellmate was glued to the television. I watched the prerecorded plane collisions into the towers and saw the buildings collapse. Although I am not a religious person, the destruction reminded me of the Biblical tale of the tower of Babel.

My cellmate seemed riveted by what had occurred. However, I continued about my routine as normal. In retrospect, it was like when I returned to the apartment I shared with my co-defendant and he told me about the Palatine Massacre that occurred the night before. He went on and on about the mass murders. It had little interest to me despite how he would try to impress on me the sensationalism of it all. Seven people had been brutally murdered at a Brown's Chicken and Pasta restaurant in Palatine, Illinois. A couple thousand people had perished in the Twin Towers. Yes, I heard this, but what apparently was lost on me was the emotional impact it had on the Chicago metropolitan area, or in the case of 9-11, the entire country.

The media coverage of the terrorist attacks and the Palatine Brown's Chicken murders in Illinois were very different in scope, but similar in the nonstop hyped emotional and sensationalistic news coverage. The public would demand justice and revenge at any cost. After the Palatine massacre, a task force of over one hundred police from various agencies was created. This police agency and the State's Attorney's office were under enormous pressure to solve the case. Politicians also sought to prop up their own elected office, and under no circumstance wanted to be seen as incompetent or less than zealous. Enormous sums of money and resources would be spent, and suspects' rights were of no concern. When I was arrested, I was denied a lawyer, intimidated, and roughed up. A statement was eventually fabricated, and I was presented to the public as a scapegoat for the Palatine Massacre while my co-defendant later walked free and the real Palatine Brown's Chicken killers were not apprehended until a decade later.

After 9-11, the Bush administration pursued a vague global war against Islamic terrorism. This strategic incoherence along with an emotionally enraged public allowed the U.S. executive to battle thinly accountable enemies, with or without credible evidence. Millions of people, trillions of dollars, and untold amounts of resources have been used in the vast war on terrorism whose battlefields have no boundaries. America itself has been turned into a police state with the rights and liberties of U.S. citizens being further curtailed. All the while, al Qaeda largely slipped through the cracks, their global support grew, the invasion of the U.S. southern border continued, and a vastly more dangerous threat in the East was ignored. Almost a decade later, Osama bin Laden, the alleged mastermind was killed.

"Strategory," as former President George W. Bush may say, was greatly missing. The ability of al Qaeda to take control of a few airplanes with box cutters and use them as crude missiles to plow into U.S. buildings never demonstrated their power, sophistication, or pervasiveness. Contrarily, it showed how impotent, crude, and insignificant they were. It was an enormous overreaction to send an invasionary force into Afghanistan. It was also unwise to attempt to defeat the host tribal leaders and Taliban in the extremely difficult mountainous terrain bordering Pakistan. It was almost tantamount to Bill Murray in the move "Caddieshack," bumbling about attempting to kill some gophers on the golf course. The British Empire tried this, then the Soviet Union, but Americans thought they could not only win at Whack-A-Mole, but succeed in putting together a united free democracy allied with the U.S. and embracing Western culture. No wonder the world views Americans as arrogant. The arrogance or delusion of the White House is almost laughable, if not for its serious negative consequences.

Former President Bush said we will bring the war to the enemy. However, instead of changing the way of life in Afghanistan, the way of life has changed in the U.S. The fear of terrorism and the growth of Big Brother government since 9-11 has further eroded the founding principles of America. I may have been in prison almost the last two decades, but I see how liberty and freedom have been lost at almost every turn. Homeland Security, eavesdropping on U.S. citizens, enormous police presences in public, police so heavily armed they may as well be soldiers, checkpoints, searches, seizures, arrests without cause, and the list goes on. You cannot even be in an airplane toilet too long or face arrest and interrogation. Bush and Obama have spoken about bringing freedom to the oppressed peoples of the world, but Americans should be more concerned about their own freedom. More and more, the maximum security prison of Stateville is a microcosm of the country around it.

In the Wall Street Journal, I read an editorial entitled "Ten Years Without an Attack." It seemed to argue that America is safer now than a decade ago, and this is worth being a police state. It is misleading to say there have been no al Qaeda inspired attacks because there have been mass and serial shootings. These, ironically, also were the cause of the government's overreaction to 9-11 and giving such a small terrorist group the prestige and recognition they desired. There is no question the U.S. should have retaliated with fierce vengeance. However, this retaliation should have been strategically focused. My father had a saying I recall from childhood that it was often "better to be smarter, not harder." This is advice the republic's executive should pay heed to. The fact there has not been a major terrorist attack on U.S. soil says nothing of the expensive and oppressive measures taken in security. The Gecko-like Cavemen could have carried out 9-11, and the fact it has not occurred again is not necessarily due to the trillions of dollars that have been spent, the wars, and massive human and other resources implemented, nor the country's oppressive police state. The threat of being harmed in a terrorist attack then and now is less than the odds of being hit by lightning. Possibly, I am biased as a prisoner, but I tend to believe the vast majority of Americans would prefer this risk of danger than live in an oppressive police state.

There are a number of more reasonable or smarter approaches that could have been taken by the U.S. to retaliate, deter, and protect the homeland. Precision bombings and special forces could have eliminated most of al Qaeda. Over the years, intelligence agencies could have located other members of consequence, and assassinated them like Osama Bin Laden. Hijacking of airplanes could have easily been thwarted by a locked reinforced cockpit door and armed pilots. The CIA and NSA could have been greatly expanded without causing unnecessary infringements on U.S. citizens' liberty and Constitutional protections. Border security and ICE could have been enormously increased also, not only stopping the invasion of the country by Mexicans and violent gangs or cartels, but scrutinizing non-Western foreigners' entry, visitation, and residency in the U.S. I agree with the Bush administration that foreign terrorists have no rights and can be squeezed for information, detained at Guantanamo without lawyers or civilian trials. I have no qualms with war. In fact, I believe the U.S. should have a powerful military and intelligence agency to not only defend the nation but to project its power globally. What I disagree with is how the might of the U.S. is used.

I find it ironic that while the U.S. continues to play "Whack-A-Mole" in Afghanistan, which is of no threat and is a barren wasteland that does not even have any oil, nothing is done about other enemies, most ominously China. It is clear the U.S. will soon be in a cold war with the Asian horde. While America has been recklessly spending trillions on homeland security, an unnecessary and futile war, wasteful consumerism, and a purported economic stimulus, China has been amassing a fortune. They are currently accumulating enormous assets around the world, especially natural resources, to build and sustain a technologically advanced modern national infrastructure, economy, and ominous military. It is no secret that China has been steadily cranking out submarines and stealth bombers, and recently an aircraft carrier was revealed to the world. The Asian menace also protects North Korea, engages in cyber attacks, espionage, and threatens their neighbors. It is only a matter of time until they are able to threaten the world with projected global power. While America continues to look back at 9-11, China is gaining economic and military parity that will soon eclipse the U.S.

China is not any joke like Osama bin Laden pretending to be an Austin Powers super villain from the caves of Afghanistan or the compound in Pakistan he was assassinated in. China is set to become as dangerous, if not more so, than the former Soviet Union at the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Unlike the former Communist country that imploded from its own backwards socialist economics, the Chinese have largely turned away from collectivism. They are a virile hybrid dynamic, mixing capitalism and nationalism on the world stage. While liberals cling to the folly of tax and spend socialism, and neo-conservatives cling to the idea of global free trade, the U.S. continues to lose economically. The U.S. cannot compete with a country such as China that cheats, steals, subsidizes industries, lowers their currency, and sells the U.S. unsafe children's toys and foods with poison ingredients. I get the impression sometimes that Western leaders are not simply cowards or beholden to international business, but think they can cause a democratic revolution by letting them take advantage of open trade policies. However, they are only feeding the tiger.

Years ago, when the war against terrorism first began, some prisoners had a fantasy that possibly they would be released into the military. I do not know what these men were thinking, considering they were convicted murderers, rapists, and armed robbers. Possibly, they had watched the movie "The Dirty Dozen" one too many times. It was an intriguing daydream, however. I would most certainly love to be on a Special Ops team, and even die in battle rather than die a slow death in prison. However, I will not die in vain or for a counterproductive purpose. Although Americas are not imprisoned at Stateville for the rest of their lives, I believe they should nonetheless have the same perspective.

In the last decade, neither America nor any of the Caucasian nations of the world are any safer. The freedoms America purportedly fights for others have been taken away in their own land. The power of the nation has not been quantitatively increased, but seemingly diminished. The country is trillions of dollars in debt, the standard of living has deteriorated, millions are unemployed, the economy is on the brink of another recession. Furthermore, while the U.S. mobilized to fight terrorism, its other military hardware and preparedness has been left to atrophy, despite a greatly more powerful enemy emerging. Traditional Western values, culture, and its people continue a slow death. Does 9-11 mark the resiliency of the U.S., or its accelerated decline? While today is a day of remembrance, hopefully tomorrow is a day of ascension and moving forward.