Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Syrian Attack and cynicism

The day after Sept 11th this year the news informed us that a group of four attackers with a car full of explosives attempted to attack the American Embassy in Damascus, but were gunned down by Syrian security guards. The immediate assumption might be that it's just another episode in the war on terror. I find myself viewing the situation with a slightly jaundiced eye. Syria is a country with a strong domestic intelligence system which is unlikely to have completely failed to identify a quartet of heavily armed attackers who parked a vehicle loaded with explosives outside the embassy and apparently detonated another. Syria has been in the Bush Administration's crosshairs more than once recently because of their relationship with Hezbollah. Would it be beyond belief that the Syrians, watching their domestic terroristas, might know of or even encourage an attack on the Embassy which they could then fend off thus earning some points with the US and getting them a little distance from the hotseat? I don't think it takes too much imagination to consider that possibility. A reminder that things aren't necessarily the way they seem.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Somber thoughts on a day of memory

Five years have passed since the Sept. 11th that transformed the way we look at our realities. And on today's anniversary, there are millions finding their own ways of reflecting on what the date means. One friend of mine commented with disgust that CNN was rebroadcasting the events of that horrific day again today, hour by hour. "It's not a movie," she said.
"I don't want to watch the reruns."

I find myself thinking about speeches I heard recently by the President. He said, in both cases, that the terrorist attacks killed nearly 3,000 "Americans". I went back to the data about those deaths because my recollection was that hundreds of those who died were not Americans. Unless I've missed something, that is the reality. An important reality because the indiscriminate character of the Sept.11th deaths had the potential to unite us with all those countries who lost citizens. Instead, in ironic reframing of what happened, our leader has repeatedly made it "our" loss and minimized its meaning and impact for anyone else. Does this make it more or less likely people will identify with our perspectives and causes? Less I'd imagine. A small sad note.

Third District (Oregon) Congresswoman Darlene Hooley is quoted on the front page of our little regional newsletter today criticizing the Defense Dept. for its decision in November 2004 to cut costs by reducing the standard for combat helmet padding from 150G to 300G force level. That means that a bullet or other blow to the helmet was more likely to cause death or serious injury. Special forces units are provided with helmets rated at 90G forces. The price difference between the 90 and 300G units is quoted as only being $20 to $30 apiece. (Oregon City News 9-6-06 vol86 #37) Hooley goes on to point out that we have had more head wounds and injuries in this war than any other kind and treatment costs hundreds of thousands of dollars. The better helmets at a relatively low cost would seem to be an absolute choice. Hooley has introduced legislation to mandate better helmet lining. We are at war in at least two fronts. Those who have led us there talk always about 'supporting our troops'. And yet, as with Humvee armor and body armor, we aren't giving our troops the support we can. Sad.

And are we winning the war against terror? The war against anyone? I find myself wondering how we can claim we are winning when we spend more and more money to just hold the line in combat and civil control situations at far flung spots around the world. If we were to step up our efforts to do more than hold the line? If we were to be attacked on another front? How ready is the average American to give up their luxurious, overweight, selfish, materialist lifestyle to actually change? And even were we ready, do we have the resources to mobilize, arm, and extend our military application of force further around the world successfully? Even if we were convinced this was the wisest course of action, I don't know that we could sustain such an effort.

Somber thoughts.

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