Looking back over the last 10+ years, it's easy to see Sept. 11, 2001 as a turning point in America's history in so many ways. The phrase popularized during the Bush Administration that "9/11 changed everything" as an excuse for fascist-style excess was aggravating as we watched jingoism replace thought, and terrorism become the focus of any and all political discussion. We make jokes about the phrase, but it has actually proven to be quite true.
A lot has faded since then, such as "Freedom Fries" and people pouring out French wine, the rash of "patriotic" claptrap such as yellow ribbon magnets "We Stand United" decals (and why was it changed from "United We Stand"? I blame Yoda), as well as the accusatory "I
support the troops - do YOU
support the troops??" Someday, there will be a museum exhibit at the Smithsonian, with a sober analysis of how America essentially lost its mind.
One of those Bush-era artifacts was the "Most Wanted" deck of playing cards
, adorned with the pictures of various "terrorists". Remember those? They were actually produced by the military for the soldiers as a device to help imprint the images of the faces of these people on the memories of the soldiers, in case they happened to see them while in the field. Saddam Hussein was the ace of spades:
Entreprenuers jumped on the bandwagon and started selling these to the general public (along with the other "I Are A Patriotic Amerrkan" crap). "Dead or Alive" was the mantra - and dead was the preference.
These people were essentially on a target list, a list of people to be captured or killed. It seemed unseemly, perhaps a bit tacky (and a lot chest-thumpy) to produce this kill list on a deck of cards, but was there outrage? Were there grave intonations by pundits about the morality of our country having a kill list? Not that I remember.
Fast-forward to present time, and the revelation that the US still has a kill list, but this time President Obama is keeping himself informed and getting involved. Suddenly, it's an outrage.
I can understand the anger of those on the left who have always been against war, covert ops, or any "government-sanctioned" intentional death. These are people that were equally outraged that we invaded Iraq, that we met 9/11 with a full-on war (still ongoing) in another country.
What's disgusting is those that went along with the deck of cards, but think this is a step too far, or worse - the right-wingers painting this as government overreach in a veiled attempt to weaken support for the president. It plays into the hands of libertarians and those that see "Obamacare" and this as symptoms of a president drunk on power.
The reality is that the government has always had a target list. It's generally kept hush-hush, and the spooks that work in shadows take care of these people without our knowledge. Generally, I suppose that is best.
One of the big suspicions we always had about Bush was that he was not really involved, and that Cheney pulled the strings. How much was he involved in terrorism operations? I suspect he got high level summaries, written to elicit a particular response, and he generally delivered the expected response.
President Obama, on the other hand, is intimately involved in all aspects of what the Executive branch (and all it controls) is doing, particularly when it comes to foriegn policy, and especially with the Mideast and terrorism. I personally think it's a good thing that he is concerned enough to find out who is on the list, and why, and what the best approach is for dealing with these people in a way that minimizes or eliminates "collateral damage". To me, that shows a person who understands the balance between protecting the country, and protecting the innocent in the process.
It's nice to believe that violence is never the answer, but sadly it is when dealing with murderous insanity. A good cop will kill an armed perp if necessary, and will try to avoid killing bystanders in the process. As it relates to international terrorism, President Obama is that cop.
And living in a world where 9/11 changed everything - that's the best I could hope for.