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It's like being at a funeral
Jack Balshaw 2/6/02

The way everyone's avoiding criticizing what's happening as the result of September 11 reminds me of being at the funeral of a powerful person or someone of notoriety. In line with accepted folk customs, the deceased's sins, shortcomings and failings have all been erased and are not discussed. At least officially.

The ceremony was all laudatory and sentimental and little groups are standing around relating personal perspectives. Some are light hearted and full of joyful memories. Others are more in the character of, " He was a great guy/hell of a worker/person of integrity, etc., BUT ….". This latter group might be called critics. People who might have admired the deceased's success, drive, accomplishments, but who also were aware of real or imagined shortcomings.

In regard to September 11, we're at the point where the funeral is over and it has become acceptable to begin to criticize, with 20/20 hindsight, what's being done, how it's being done, who's performing meaningful tasks and who's not. In other words, life is getting back to normal. We were happy to accept at first that this was a "war". We needed that level of reaction by the U.S. to balance out the magnitude of the September 11 attack. But we're getting to the point that it's difficult to continue to accept that one combat death is indicative of a "real" war.

We over use the word "war". There's the war on poverty, the war on drugs, the war on child abuse, the war on you-name-it. These are not wars and no amount of talk will make them wars. Similarly, any semblance of a real war in Afghanistan is about over and fairly soon we'll stop thinking of it as one. That's when we'll see just how serious we are about eliminating terrorism in the world.

But for now, one group still wants it to be considered a "war" because that allows them to label anyone who doesn't agree with them as non-patriotic. I'm critical of both the Administration and the bureaucracy for using the panic and fear created by the attack to push their private agenda under the guise of "fighting the war on terrorism". Some of the foolishness and waste is simply the result of impetuous acts. But a lot of it is the result of pure political and bureaucratic maneuvering to take advantage of the situation.

We've had continuous phony "alerts" purely so agencies could cover their backsides. If nothing happens, then it's because their alert disrupted the adversary's plans. If something happens, they can say, "We warned you, see how good we are."

Then there are the comments that, " We disrupted a number of planned terrorist plots, but we can't tell you what they were." Reasonably now, if actual plots were disrupted, those who were going to carry out the plot know it. If they know it, and they're the bad guys, why can't we be told?

The prisoners in Cuba are illegal combatants because they didn't have an identifiable uniform or insignia and they weren't fighting for a government we recognized. Do you recall any of our allies in the Northern alliance in uniform with insignia? What government were they fighting for? Were they the ones doing the fighting or were we? We've had one combat death so far.

I realize that Afghanistan is a great training ground to test military weapons and tactics, but it's not the kind of "war" that justifies keeping the country as a whole on wartime alert.

It's time to begin to question actions that are being justified by our "being at war" and ask if they make any sense under the present circumstances. It's time to get back to normal.



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