For students who were on campus Sept. 11, 2001, the day is one we will never forget, a day that changed the course of history and the way we perceive the world. GW students will forever remember the smoke billowing from the Pentagon across the river, the boisterous mass exile that swept through the city and the eerie silence that followed. It was evident on the faces of students, huddled around televisions throughout campus watching the Twin Towers burn and then collapse, that the United States would no longer be the same.
Two years ago the American public began to understandably engage in blind patriotism. Americans implored their government to protect the homeland in the emotional aftermath of September 11. Thus began a series of actions by the Bush administration presumed to be in direct reaction to the attacks and for the betterment of national security. But now, two years later, it is appropriate for informed citizens to question their government and examine the decisions made.
If there was to be a silver lining from September 11, we hoped it would be a rejuvenation of interest and involvement of the everyday citizen in the democratic process. There was much talk in the days and weeks following the tragedy that Americans would no longer ignore the rest of the world that it was too dangerous to do so. Citizens were to once again question their elected leaders to ensure the government was adequately protecting them. But it appears the change was not nearly as dramatic as the many newscasters anticipated.
Today marks two years after one of the greatest tragedies in our nation’s history, yet seven in 10 Americans continue to believe that Iraq’s Saddam Hussein had a role in the September 11 attacks, according to a recent Washington Post poll. No authoritative source contends this to be true anymore, but the administration continues to encourage this misconception by linking al Qaeda to Iraq whenever possible. It is unacceptable for citizens of the “post-September 11 era,” with a wealth of information available, to remain ignorant to the world and be so easily misled by their government.
While the war in Iraq is sold by the Bush administration as an accomplishment in the war on terror that removed “an ally of al Qaeda,” this is not completely true. The American public should see this as a “false impression.” And it is, as former Vice President Al Gore contends. While the war in Iraq might be justified for other reasons, the government is selling the war as something it is not – a war against terrorism to end an imminent threat.
For example, on May 1 President Bush combined Iraq and September 11 and the war on terrorism in one sentence.
“The liberation of Iraq is one victory in a war on terror that began on September the 11, 2001 – and still goes on,” Bush said while declaring “major combat” over in Iraq. In his next sentence Bush refers to “19 evil men.” Bush’s repetitious implications use public reaction to the September 11 attacks to gain support for a war in Iraq, when there is really little-to-no connection.
Two years after September 11, the American public should no longer embrace the simplistic connections purported by their government. Students, the nation’s future leaders, need to be especially cautious of irrelevant connections if they care at all about progression. Americans should use the tools at hand to get beyond the “government rhetoric” and develop a realistic outlook on the status of homeland security.