It’s been 10 years since Al Qaeda launched its heinous attack on the United States. I still hear the silence. I still see the aftermath.
When I look at tall buildings, I see the full length of United Flight 175 accelerate and crash into the south tower of the World Trade Center. I see black flecks representing the “jumpers,” first on the west side and then the north side of the south tower. Single jumpers and then a couple holding hands. I see the south tower collapse and the north tower implode. Death and destruction. The flashback occurs in less than 15 seconds.
I also see a changed world and a “lost” decade.
The terrorist attacks resulted in the direct loss of nearly 3,000 American lives. Operation Enduring Freedom (1,626 deaths, 13,316 wounded) and Operation Iraqi Freedom (4,471 deaths, 33,125 wounded) add an additional 6,000+ deaths or twice the tally from the Al Qaeda attacks. The casualties of war include the “walking wounded” – e.g., those without limbs, scarred and/or emotionally devastated. PTSD affects 15 to 30 percent of returning veterans. An additional 20 to 40 percent are affected by traumatic brain injuries and behavioral health disorders such as depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and PTSD. Our military heroes are returning without adequate support from the U.S. government. Headlines and pills don’t restore livelihoods and quality-of-life. The number of military suicides each year now exceeds that of combat related deaths from Iraq and Afghanistan.
Ask returning veterans. I have. We need to do more AT HOME.
Afghanistan, excluding Kabul and a few other cities remains driven by clan rivalries, the heroin trade, the Taliban, Sharia code of conduct and a corrupt central government. In 2009, President Obama approved the addition of 30,000 troops. A temporary solution for a country that is ungovernable. More casualties, wasted resources and effort. Reminds me of Vietnam. It’s time to go HOME.
Iraq will be viewed as a great success by the Iranians. Saddam Hussein has been executed. Shiites lead the government. U.S. influence is continuously be challenged by an Iraqi neighbor with proximity, co-religionists, oil-fueled cash and a despotic regime dedicated to fundamental Islam. The cost of war in Iraq to the U.S. approximates $800 billion. We went after the wrong enemy. We must go HOME.
Osama Bin Laden is dead. Al Qaeda is no longer a centralized authority. We now have Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), Al Qaeda in the Islamic Magrheb (AQIM), Al-Shabab, Jama’at-ud-Dawa (JuD), Hamas, Hezbollah and others working independently but sharing a global vision of Jihad. Suicide bombers, IED’s, fertilizer (ammonium nitrate) bombs and other terms entering the vernacular. The “Arab Spring” offer hope for Jihadist marginalization.
The U.S. economy is “hemorrhaging”. Federal government deficits approximating $1.5 trillion have become routine. Military spending continues to escalate. Wall Street brought the economy to the brink of a global depression through “creative” financial instruments such as mortgage-backed securities, derivatives, credit default swaps and off-balance sheet financing. Companies were taken private, loaded with debt and obligated to pay consulting fees without value creation. “Too Big to Fail” remains the mantra and implies the potential for additional taxpayer bailouts. No claw back provisions or jail time for the financial executive executioners.
The unemployment rate is 9.1% or 16.2% depending upon the definition. The chasm between the “have” and “have not” has widened. It has never been easier for special interest groups to influence policy, regulation and taxation. Politics is no longer bi-partisan. Compromise is a lost word. President Obama offered hope and delivered the (Un)Affordable Care Act. We lack leadership.
We are hitting bottom.
The decade after 9/11 has been bleak for most Americans. The future remains uncertain. However, I remain an optimist. The U.S. is a great country that has recovered from military, economic and moral crises in the past. It will happen again.