Next Sunday will be the tenth anniversary of the September 11 attacks. On that fateful Tuesday I was living in Evanston and working for the Massage Therapy Foundation. Three days later I led a group of my colleagues to a memorial service at Alice Millar Chapel on Northwestern's campus, and that night was part of the throng that lined Ridge Avenue for Evanston's official candlelight remembrance.
At the time we were living in a studio on the top floor of a downtown apartment building. I briefly put a small American flag up on the door, before taking it down for fear of being perceived as jingoistic. Right after the attacks there was a spate of anti-Muslim fervor throughout Chicagoland, and the nation, and I saw that little flag as an implicit endorsement--us against them--of that hostility.
Some things never change. Just this year Osama bin Laden was killed, and I was horrified by the jubilation before the White House gates. Just the other week a friend at work told me her view that national flags are really just large gang symbols, and I heartily agreed. Then again, this is my country and--like my efforts to mark the tragedy in its immediate aftermath--I want to do my part to make it better.
Ten years is a good time to take stock. In the NYT Magazine slated to be published in print next Sunday--exactly ten years later--Bill Keller reconsiders his support for the war in Iraq. He concludes that, on balance, the war was unjustified. Iraq is free of Hussein but still must endure random killings; and the post-invasion rebuilding was arrogantly and tragically botched. That said, Keller still thinks that the intelligence available in 2003--namely, those supposed weapons of mass destruction--means that his support of the war at the time was justifiable, or at least understandable.
I never believed that "evidence," not for one second. President Bush was behind it, and there was no doubt that his people wanted war. I don't think Bush is evil; the trouble was fixation upon a single course, with no room for dissenting opinion.
The greatest equivocation was the connection of the 9/11 attacks, which were nurtured in Afghanistan and Pakistan, with the need to remove Saddam Hussein in Iraq. This was a spurious connection made from hubris. In 2003 Bush was in the middle of a first term that had been handed to him by the Supreme Court, after losing the popular vote to Al Gore. I didn't and don't see that first term as fully legitimate.
And it was then, in the middle of that disreputable first term, that the war began. Sometimes--sorry, Bill Keller--you know whether something is true by noting the messenger.