"Surprise, when it happens to a government, is likely to be a complicated,
diffuse, bureaucratic thing. It includes neglect of responsibility, but also
responsibility so poorly defined ... that action gets lost."
---Thomas C. Schelling in the Forward to "Pearl Harbor: Warning & Decision" by
As tragic as a tragedy is the tragedy of many flawed assumptions that follow
in a quest for answers. Accountability is assumed prior to the close
examination that should take place. Blame is blanketed before prejudicial
intent is effectively repressed. Under specific circumstances that clearly
warrant the placement of shared or equal guilt, we must suffer the imposition
of total culpability placed on one party. This comes from all angles with
respect to globe shifting disasters such as that witnessed on September 11.
The explanations offered are sometimes as freshly seasoned with ideological
ilk as they should be helpful in fairly discerning truth from hearsay.
Though national leaders lock hands in prayer and bestow graceful humility in
press conferences, there are pundits of varying degrees - from liberal to
conservative, of Democrat or Republican - who dare wander into trivial bouts
on who or what to blame with little shed of light to shine in times of
serious national grief.
Amid written anger, many commentators feast on raw partisan talking points in
an attempt to bolster agendas (how long bipartisan cooperation in the
Legislature last will greatly depend on diminishing the looming shadow of
ideological whims). Conservatives are quick to argue the culpability of
Clinton as ultimately contributing to the volatility of the present day.
"Surely Washington will see less of Yasser Arafat, the most frequent visitor
to Clinton's White House," whines red-blooded conservative columnist and
baseball fanatic George F. Will in the Washington Post. Or: "Lil' Billy could
wag the dog and bomb all the goat-milk farms in Afghanistan, but nothing bad
would - or did - happen to Bin Laden," quips former Daddy Bush deputy
Undersecretary of Defense Jed Babbin in a Washington Times Op-Ed piece.
"Kill the Clinton Guidelines," laments a Washington Times editorial only two
days after the attack.
As sobering, and even as misguided, are terse assertions that if Bush, Jr.
wasn't so "isolationist" or "unilateral" we wouldn't be at this juncture of
war in the first place. Clearly vexed on previous objections months before,
fiery liberal economist Julianne Malveaux seethes: " ... I am also reconciled
to the fact that this attack, despicable as it is, was also provoked. The
United States has insisted on playing 700 pound gorilla with the rest of the
world, failing to cooperate with international treaties, to participate in
international conferences ... it seems such a message begs someone to humble
A Washington Post editorial jerks to the played tune of Bush as public,
intellectual, executive-deficient dunce: " ... Bush appeared wide-eyed and
tripped over some words ... the nation still waits to see whether Bush can be
The author almost always stays well clear of left or right, independently
deciding that both arguments lack clarity on most issues, especially as it
relates to that fateful Tuesday. The undeniably "soft," or overly-diplomatic
Clintonian approach to global crisis may have left quite a few untended
wounds, but that is far away from Middle East regional antipathy towards U.S.
interests dating as far back as World War I. To an even greater extent, Arab
world discontent with U.S. dominance in the Middle East was also exacerbated
by Bush, Sr.'s intervention in the Persian Gulf a decade ago. And, we need
not mention overall growing Arab/Muslim hostility to Western supremacy since
devastating, turning point losses of Turkish armies in the Battles of Vienna,
Austria back in 1529 and 1683, then spanning over hundreds of years of
Hence, the September 11 attack is as indicative of a longer conflict between
large, warring political factions as it is of assuming this is genocidal
terrorism arranged by deranged individuals on behalf of religious
fundamentalists. "Lil' Billy['s] wag[ging] the dog" is only a microcosmic
skirmish in a thousand year old conflict between Arabs and Jews. "Killing
Clinton Guidelines" does nothing compared against the massive, unforgivable
failure of media to extensively cover the release of two major, prophetic
warnings released since 1999: The State Department's National Commission on
Terrorism and the US Commission on National Security in the 21st Century.
Clinton-faulting or Bush-blaming regurgitates and wastes time if the larger
picture is either not displayed or completely ignored ...
Admittedly, the latter arguments posed lack serious historical analysis,
political realism and present taste for their partisan twists in the wake of
"The Second Pearl Harbor." These are almost fatally and self-mutilistic
flaws of perception. American culpability may be the case as many grapple
with the pivotal role American arrogance plays in the devastation of American
sovereignty, invulnerability and socio-economic stability. These are facts we
faced even before the most recent tragedies.
However, this mistaken view presupposes a very flawed assumption. It is often
quoted that the United States encourages global arrogance as it "lives by the
sword," thus setting itself up to "die by the sword." Former Black Panther
H. Rap Brown observed in 1967 that "violence is as American as Cherry Pie" in
response to civilian rebellions blazing urban centers due to the unbearable
impact of sustained institutional racism. That observation has been used and
bitten on repeatedly as a reflection of American society as singularly,
unilaterally or exclusively violent.
The flaw in the exclusivity of American violence and arrogance is terribly
born in lack of historical analysis. Every nation in the history of the world
- regardless of its face, color, religion or ideology - is born in violence.
Every nation is born in the arrogance and forced superiority of one faction
over that of another. Violence is as global as ... the Internet. Thus, every
nation-state "lives by the sword" - and, yes, will "die by the sword" as only
time and God will tell when ...
Lack of careful, comparative historical study is born in conflicting
ideology, political affiliation and partisan convention. Such school of
thought suggests this deadly tragedy is a unilateral response to President
Bush's shameless and deliberate foreign policy snafus in the Middle East and
his conservative administration's morbid fascination with isolationism on
everything from missile defense on down to simple official attendance (if not
participation) in the World Conference Against Racism.
But, a mixture of common sense, political savvy and a minor dose of military
history would show otherwise. Certainly, the timing against the backdrop of a
Bush administration is impeccable for the red-white-and-blood-thirsty
terrorist thug eager to make his martyred mark. But, the planning into
something this intricate and detailed as to slam undetected or unsuspecting
commercial airliners into key military and business targets has been proven
as an enormous undertaking committing tremendous amounts of material, time,
money and patience - all of this going as far back as the previous
Using the events of Sept. 11th as an excuse to further precipitate
ideological rants and bickering is not necessarily un-American. Yet, it is
strangely ... tasteless to a degree - that's just the opinion of the writer
who feels tragedy of this magnitude supersedes all other considerations. Why?
Because life is too damn short, and if these attacks were symbolic of
anything, it was the metaphysical realization that we live in a cosmetic
world where the material has no relevance in the grander, spiritual scheme of
things. It is also the realization that we are engaged in a conflict of
competing political interests on a scale of globe-shaking proportions. Since
it has now, officially, reached us literally in our "backyards," we are also
compelled more so by personal plight and natural sense of preservation to
defend homes, land and way of life.
What is wonderfully American about being an American is that, supposedly, we
are entitled to forcefully express any opinion. Yet, there is a personal,
philosophical and emotional tax to pay. That's just the reality of living in
any nation-state espousing certain basic nationalistic views. Doesn't matter
how much you disagree with a national platform or policy ... because, even
when you don't know it, you're reciprocating respect for the flag you live
under just as much as you despise those who kiss it.
One could argue that reason, sympathy and selflessness should prevail over
any presumption of guilt at this time. Focus on pulling ourselves from the
falling debris of this horrid moment should override assumptions based on
ideological standing or political affiliation. Keeping an "open mind" is not
the trifle evolution of where you already stand; it's the courage to have the
third eye look carefully at all sides of the story - even if the other side
might not look as cool as you would like it.
C.D. Ellison is a contributing writer to Metro Connection. He can be reached