The Nation’s Problem with 9.11 closure? George W. Bush & Dick Cheney owe us the truth about Bin Laden.

As I listened to all the different 9.11 reactions on the radio today –eight years later– I was struck by one overpowering observation.
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As a nation, as a people, we do not appear to have fully grieved, fully processed our Nine-Eleven Tragedy. Indeed –this year– the feelings seemed rawer, more uneasy and unsettled than ever.
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There is an absence of closure, and it is weighing heavily on the nation.
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After eight years it can no longer be hidden.
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It is common knowledge, part of our collective wisdom, that if for any reason we fail to properly mourn a death –be it one death, or three thousand– that the ghosts of the dead will live among us and will haunt us. They will not be released to rest in peace.
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Nor will the same ghosts release us.
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This is how death is. It was part of Homer’s story; it is part of our own story. Nothing has changed.
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As I listened to the radio today, many of the voices I heard were voices of pain. One man spoke of losing his brother, a fireman. His voice trembled as he spoke of his feelings –his sorrow and his anger. But –oddly– these were not directed at The Perpetrators of 9.11. They were directed at Barack Obama. The caller objected to the President “calling for a day of service…” (In fact, he had called for a Day of Service AND Rememberance.) The caller wanted a day of mourning, and “it was almost as if” Barack Obama, for some lesser reason, did not understand it was a sacred day of mourning, did not want to honor it as such.
The caller did seem to be on the verge of realizing some of the contradictions: he did not, he said, “want to wallow in remorse”. But he held on to his blame of Obama; this was all about Obama, not 9.11.
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There was a similar rawness to many of the calls on several different stations. Eight years later many people still felt on the verge of tears as they recounted their memory of a loved one lost, or their story of personal connection to the horror at Ground Zero.
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Some of the stories were extremely painful to hear, very moving, very sad. Others –perhaps more removed from the circumstances of immediate bereavment– were somewhat less so, while still others seemed more to have called to be part of an occasion of sympathy.
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We live in times of intense, ferocious and complex politicization. What might formerly be explained as an agree-to-disagree political disagreement, now is rendered as a vicious personal attack –much exaggerated, and often more than slightly mad.[e.g. The “Birther” flap; the “Muslim” flap; the “Communist takeover”, etc.]
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Take the Joe Wilson shouted interruption, “You lie”, in the middle of the Obama speech on Healthcare. Aside from the breach of protocol, Wilson could have said “I disagree” or even “You’re Wrong”: but to impute the “deliberate deception” of a lie, however unwarranted, has become par for the course.
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Every day –as I have described elsewhere– the airwaves ring with protracted, vicious, angry political diatribes which are heard by millions upon millions of Americans. And as I listened today, I heard echoes of this anger (and the language) in many of the callers.
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And on this Day of 9.11 Commemoration, it was an anger directed not at Osama Bin Laden and his Al Qaeda Perpetrators, but at Barack Obama!
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What –I asked myself– could have gotten in the way of the proper processing our 9.11 grief and sorrow? What has gone wrong?
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As soon as I asked the question; as soon as I approached the issue in these terms, I had an answer: The Great American Story! Actually, it was The Great American Movie!
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Every American knows the story. Every American has seen The Movie.
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The Movie is a Western. In The Movie the Bad Guys do their Bad Deed.
Then Our Guy –once it was John Wayne; now it’s Clint Eastwood- relentlessly pursues The Bad Guys, hunts them down.
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We know he will pursue them to the Ends of the Earth.
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We know he always gets his man/men.
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We know this story very well. It is The Story of America, our narrative. It is part of our American DNA.
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In this story, Justice is done. End of story!
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End of story: things gradually return to normal. We stand at the door, smile in gratitude, shake our heads as the Hero rides into the sunset.
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That is how the Great American story is supposed to go.
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But in the catastrophe of 9.11 that is not how it went. That is not what happened. Yes, George Bush gave his speech on the pile of rubble at Ground Zero, with his bullhorn, and his arm around The Decent Citizen: “…the people who knocked down these buildings…” would be caught; they would be brought to justice.
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We saddled up, with George Bush in the lead and his sidekick Dick Cheney beside him. We took off for The Badlands of Afghanistan where we knew Osama bin Laden and the Al Qaeda to be in hiding.
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It would be a simple matter of time before we got him. And we all pretty much knew that it would end right there, where we caught up with him, and not in some court of law.
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So –what happened?
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Change of Plan.
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It turns out that we’re not going after The Bad Guy, Osama bin Laden, after all. All of a sudden –I remember the speech– George Bush tells us that OBL is not important anymore. We’re going to…..Iraq instead.
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Why?
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This is not The Great American Movie. The Bad Guy is no longer The Bad Guy. There will be no Justice.
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The three thousand dead will not be avenged, nor our sense of anger and outrage at the violent attack that has taken place, and the nation’s sense of violation.
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No. The Two Heroes, George and Dick decide….to make another movie, in Iraq.
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Why?
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Why? Why? Why?
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Why?, Mr.Bush and Mr. Cheney?
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We hear that you both are “Working On Your Books”. We understand that they will soon be out, and you will be making public appearances, and selecting where you want to be interviewed.
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You will want to sell a lot of books.
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We are not interested. I am not interested.
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I AM interested in hearing your explanation of why you stopped going after Osama Bin Laden. You owe that explanation to the American Public; you owe us the truth.
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I have this…ODD THOUGHT. You will listen to us; you will answer our questions –why you failed to do the job, failed to finish the job, that you were supposed to do.
That you said you would do –that day with your bullhorn.
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We hear a lot about anger these days. I have no doubt that the American public is most angry about this failure of Bush and Cheney…the failure to get your man; the failure to take the man “who knocked these buildings down”.
We want the truth.
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A Postscript: Beside all the death and destruction and waste of treasure of the war in Iraq, we have had 8 years of an unprosecuted war and lukewarm pursuit in Afghanistan, where now the Taliban are powerfully and formidably entrenched. And more and more Americans are dying there than ever before.
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If we can have a breach of protocol with a sitting President (with the rightwing extremist Republican/Conservatives cheering him on, and making a joke of Mr. Wilson’s apology) we can surely –it seems to me– insist (civilly of course) on these answers from George Bush and Dick Cheney.
[Media, take notice.]
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So –to return now to the question that we posed above: why the raw feelings at the 9.11 Commemoration yesterday?
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A word (that I have not used until this piece; a word that is the right word here):
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The Absence of Closure.


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4 Responses to “The Nation’s Problem with 9.11 closure? George W. Bush & Dick Cheney owe us the truth about Bin Laden.”

  1. mary kay stewart

    I read seriously your sober analysis. Well said. Additionally we are distracted this summer, this fall due to the health issue and same refusal to deal with truth. Peace, MK

  2. Kevin McEneaney

    According to a French journalist who reported on a meeting between bin Laden and reps from the CIA at his Dubai hopital bed in July, 2001(which appeared in Le Figaro), bin Laden died of kidney failure in mid-December, 2001. Subsequent CIA video and audio tapes have been proven to be fakes. You can’t hunt down a dead man.

  3. Malachi

    Kevin: Bin Laden Dead? No problem! Let’s go get The Ghost of Bin Laden! Saddle up! (We only have to change the name of The Movie ….to?…how about “Exorcist Two”?
    By the way, do you have the name of the French journalist? Does he have a blog?

  4. Malachi

    Dear Mary Kay: I appreciated your comment –thank you. You are right –the distractions are intense, the onslaught unrelenting. But I do strongly believe in the rightness of the attempts to fix healthcare, and very much appreciated the President’s speech the other night. I do hope that sufficient Republicans will speak up in support; “loyal opposition” could make an important contribution –not least, in dissociating themselves from the appalling and toxic remarks of the extreme right.