September 20, 2006

Second Class Citizens

Second Class Citizens

The shameless patriotic babbling about Sept. 11 was exceeded only by the gall emanating from the White House. President Bush used the sacred memory of those who lost their lives that day to advance his War on Terror agenda.

First of all, we are losing the "war." While our boys and girls, men and women in the armed forces (and tens of thousands of innocent civilians) are being slaughtered in Iraq, the real enemy, Osama bin Laden and the Taliban, are slowly but steadily rebuilding and regaining control of Afghanistan, because our troops there are undermanned and overwhelmed. Why? Because the president insists on trying to convince us the real enemy is in Iraq, even though it has become crystal clear that not only did the country not have weapons of mass destruction, it viewed the Taliban with the same distrust that we did.

As the days go by, the number of dead this dubious war has cost our country exceeds the innocent lives lost on 9-11, and bin Laden and company continue to plot revenge. Bush's "War on Terror" catch phrase plays on our memories of 9-11, but is little more than an excuse to kill and maim our own young people needlessly.

There was never a reason to invade Iraq and there is no reason to continue to lose lives there. Yet the damage done is permanent: a generation of moderate Middle Easterners, Arab and Muslim alike, view our country as a collective loose cannon ready to explode into a fit of massive warfare and destruction at the drop of a hat. Thus, any action that might succeed in harming Americans is viewed as acceptable in many quarters.

George W. Bush has not made the country safer. George W. Bush was not a 9-11 hero. George W. Bush used 9-11 to advance the agenda of Dick Cheney and friends, and it had nothing to do with patriotism or fighting terrorism. Despite the rhetoric, bombing and killing does not "heal the wounds" of 9-11, it causes more.

On another note, it is curious that the families of 9-11 victims were compensated so generously by the government, with the average settlement exceeding $1 million per victim. Katrina victims, meanwhile, were given a few shekels to buy smokes and forced to live in trailers built so shoddily that, a year later, they are already beginning to fall apart.

How come middle and upper middle class families — the wives of investment traders, hedge fund analysts and the like — were treated so lavishly, and the homeless people of New Orleans had to scrape for the few shreds allotted them?

The view here is like everything in this country under this administration, there is a galling double standard: the richer you are, the richer you'll get. Unfortunately, the downside is also true: we have turned our back on the homeless, the poor, the jobless, and yes, the immigrant communities while we shovel hundreds of billions into a senseless war and billions more into the stuffed pockets of the already wealthy.

Meanwhile, environmental safeguards have been rolled back — the E.P.A. can't even afford to clean up Superfund sites — a catastrophic blow our environment will never recover from. The President's laughable "No Child Left Behind" program has become an under-funded fiasco, and our children are losing more and more educational ground to their peers in other countries. Even funding for Head Start, a vital program that begins the process of educating young children of our working class, has been slashed.

Make no mistake, under the current administration, we are all second class citizens.

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