Democratic Underground

The Bitter Angels of our Nature
September 20, 2001
by ThomPain

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As I watched in abject horror the video of the September 11th attacks and their aftermath there were words coming and going through my mind.

The voice-acted words of Abraham Lincoln, expressed in Ken Burns' documentary "The Civil War" haunted me. "The bottom is out of the tub. What will I do? What will I do?" From the same documentary the words of Stonewall Jackson, upon seeing the destruction of Fredricksburg by the Union troops, "Kill 'em. Kill 'em all."

From further back in time a country and western song surfaced. As I thought of the person responsible for conceiving and ordering this attack the line "I'd like to spit some Beechnut in that dude's eye, then shoot him with my ol' .45!" came drifting through, unbidden.

Hatred for those who did this filled me so strongly that I forgot who I was. I went so far as to say to my wife "If this came from Afghanistan we are going to show the Russians how it's done!"

As I realized what had crossed my lips I started coming back to my senses. I still wanted to see the country of whoever did this turned into a glass crater, but I was cooling. I realized that I was listening to the bitterness of a heart in pain. The bitter angel.

As Wednesday dawned and the sky was vacant except for military aircraft I became more like myself.

It is all too easy to react to violence with violence. It is far too easy to plan mayhem and murder. It is much, much harder to react with care and with forethought. To act with compassionate justice rather than with swift injustice.

As I write these words the American press is still stating that Osama bin Laden is the most likely person to have been behind this attack. So far, however, no one has reported on where the money came from. Where did the money the suicide attackers live on and go to flight school with come from? They were using credit cards to buy tickets. Who collects and pays the bills on those cards?

Money doesn't move through banks anonymously. You can try to hide it. You can try to bury it under a stack of misleading data. Eventually, though, you find the point where money from A changed into money used for B. The only way to avoid this is to keep it all in cash. From start to finish. Credit cards are not cash. There is a paper trail.

Since the press has reported that the suspected attackers used credit cards then we should find the paper trail leading back to the one who plotted this. It was done to the satisfaction of a jury in the original World Trade Center bombing trials.

Maybe that trail will take time to dig up. If so, we should be holding our tongues until we find out where it leads.

The people of Afghanistan didn't attack us. The Taliban might have played a role, but they are not all of the people who happen to live in Afghanistan. So far all that is certain is that the Taliban won't allow us to come and take bin Ladin away. So far he is only a suspect. He has not been tried. How many years did France allow a convicted murderer to live free on their soil? If we aren't going to bomb France for failing to turn over a convicted murderer then why would we bomb Afghanistan for failing to let us have a suspect? Why is there a double standard here? Is it because we are, in practice, bigoted?

When the attackers killed civilians in our country we became outraged. This has happened very, very little in our country. Until September 11th , the worst attack by terrorists on U.S. civilians on U.S. soil was the work of one of our own.

But if we start dropping bombs on Afghanistan aren't we killing their civilians on their soil? How would our service people be different from the attackers? George W. Bush called the attackers "cowards". The men who carried out the attack took their own lives, putting them beyond any punishment we might impose. Aren't the service people who launch the missiles from hundreds of miles away even more free from retribution from the Afghani people? Most of those missile-launching service people will go home when it's over. Back to their families. They will not be killing themselves when they kill their civilian victims.

What the attackers did is wrong. The person or persons who sent them to do it was doing wrong. Calling the deaths of innocent civilians "collateral damage" is wrong. That, however, is what will happen if we drop any bombs on Afghanistan. We will be killing their civilians with impunity. We will be visiting upon innocent people the same horror we now feel. Doesn't that make us "cowards," too?

What is the difference between a loved one buried in the rubble of a 110 story building and a loved one buried in the rubble of a two story building? Is our grief greater because our building was bigger?

I am not proposing that America "get over it." I am proposing that America should stand up as a more mature form of nation. One that stops killing many innocent people to get a few guilty ones.

There has to be a way to get the person or persons responsible for this act. We must not, however, continue to visit death and destruction upon the innocent to achieve this goal. It is the method we have used in Lybia and in Iraq without success. It is the method Israel uses on the Palestinians without success. With all this failure evident in the world why have we not tried some other method?

To get the people responsible for the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City we did not drop bombs on Terry McNichols' trailer park. We did not send cruise missiles to the home of Timothy McVeigh.

Why would we act as though Osama bin Laden's neighbors and family are more worthy of becoming "collateral damage" than Timothy McVeigh's?

As hard as it will be we must transcend the violence. We must listen to the better angels of our nature, not just the bitter ones.