Six years ago today, the bravery of the passengers of United Airlines flight 93 was reported in the press and heard around the world. That moment of pure heroism (and dramatized in the film United 93) surely touched us all. Upon hearing the reports, President George W. Bush declared September 14 as the "National Day of Prayer and Remembrance for the Victims of the Terrorist Attacks on September 11, 2001."
Looking back, I feel that it all unraveled afterwards.
Americans today are still traumatized, overwhelmingly fear another 9/11, don't think we are winning the "war on terror", and don't think the US is fully prepared for another attack. Around the world, the United States is feared as a threat, and even our closest allies no longer view us favorably. "Anti-Americanism" has become part of common parlance.
It's clear that the US war in Iraq, and its view of being "illegal in the eyes of international law", and other related frustrations and condemnations has been at the origin of these "doom and gloom" days (mega-dittos). Just read the words of the leading human rights organizations.
Irene Khan, Secretary General of Amnesty International, wrote in her latest report:
"Today far too many leaders are trampling freedom and trumpeting an ever-widening range of fears: fear of being swamped by migrants; fear of 'the other' and of losing one's identity; fear of being blown up by terrorists; fear of 'rogue states' with weapons of mass destruction."
"Fear thrives on myopic and cowardly leadership. There are indeed many real causes of fear, but the approach being taken by many world leaders is short-sighted, promulgating policies and strategies that erode the rule of law and human rights, increase inequalities, feed racism and xenophobia, divide and damage communities, and sow the seeds for violence and more conflict."
Kenneth Roth, Executive Director of Human Rights Watch, adds in his latest report:
"What government is today’s champion of human rights? Washington’s potentially powerful voice no longer resonates after the US government’s use of detention without trial and interrogation by torture. The administration of President George W. Bush can still promote 'democracy'—the word it uses to avoid raising the thorny subject of human rights—but it cannot credibly advocate rights that it flouts."
The abandonment of universal rights and the laws that protect them have come under attack since 9/11, sending an ominous message around the world and gripping people with fear. But, there is still hope in reversing this negative trend and honoring the courage reported six years ago.
Michael T. Klare, professor of peace and world security studies at Hampshire College, upon hearing the battle cries of Americans six years ago, proposed an alternative road to justice. Klare thought that a military action was "highly unlikely [to] actually succeed" and that the best method of achieving justice would be through a "global law enforcement collaboration."
First, Klare suggested we view the hunt of Bin Laden and Al-Qaeda as a "criminal matter," not a war campaign. Second, "we must seek out and ally ourselves with the vast number of Muslims who are repelled and horrified by the death of so many innocent people in New York and Washington." Third, "[t]o win over peace-minded Muslims to our side in this struggle, we will, of course, have to show greater sympathy for their concerns... After all, we are now victims too -- and this gives us a common basis upon which to ask for their assistance in a common struggle against violence and terrorism."
These are reasonable steps to achieve, and can certainly be extended to all persons (victims or not) protected under international law. Human rights depends on such an approach, a noble effort already revered throughout the world in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
But, to achieve these goals, one must have real courage. Just like those heroes we will remember tomorrow.