September 11 Digital Archive: XML Document

Story:All War Talk, All The Time
America's Leaders Fail To Offer Public Alternatives To War


Americans went to public places 12 months ago bearing their doubts and their questions. They gathered in town squares, in living rooms, they even called into talk radio. They wanted to grieve, to ask why the United States had been attacked, and to discuss the possible options for a response. And they came together to find each other because all there was on TV was horror and fright.


A year after the 9/11 attacks, Americans are still besieged by news of -- as the logos put it a year ago -- ""America Under Attack."" As has happened every time the public has started to ask questions (about the state of the economy, or the level of corruption in the White House) the administration is full of new scares, this time of the threat posed by Saddam Hussein's Iraq.


Dick Cheney used his air time on NBC this Sunday to stir more fears: he asked if Saddam could have been responsible for last fall's anthrax attacks. Donald Rumsfeld, speaking on CBS, got into a conversation with Bob Schieffer about the possibility that ""mom and pop terrorists"" might be just waiting to buy weapons of mass destruction from Iraq.


But as the Bush administration seeks approval to launch the second war in a year, the situation demands some serious consideration, not of America's vulnerability, but of her strength. Is America vulnerable? Sure, but it's also the richest, most powerful, and only superpower on the planet. And the United States is on the attack.


As Congress met in New York on Sept. 6 in a special remembrance of the 9/11 dead, 100 U.S. and British aircraft took part in an attack on Iraq for which there was no international or domestic mandate. Ostensibly to police the ""no fly zones"" over northern and southern Iraq, last week's assault was the largest engagement in four years.


As usual, Pentagon spokespeople told the wire services that their planes acted in self defense, but the Daily Telegraph, a conservative British newspaper, suggested that the intent was to destroy all Iraqi air defenses to allow for easier access for special forces to land in advance of an American-led war.


So far not one U.S. journalist and not one member of Congress has even raised a question, for example, about self defense: One hundred planes against what?


As Americans gather again this week, the media and the administration will remind us of our grief. But what's still beyond the media pale is talk of America's choices. Being terrified is only one of them.


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