I’ve been spending a lot of time digging through the blogospheric record of 9/11. And it’s brought back some of my memories of those tense days and weeks — less tense in San Francisco, certainly, than in New York, but jittery nonetheless.
And I can’t help thinking, again, as I have before — on the one-year anniversary of the attacks, and again at the five-year milestone — how miserably the U.S. has fared in pursuing its interests since the towers fell. President Bush had a good first couple weeks (after a bad first couple of days), followed by an awful rest of the decade.
In the days after 9/11, we didn’t know whether there were more attacks in line. There was anthrax in the mail and fear in the air.
But we also had a measure of political unity, unthinkable now; an outpouring of good will from around the world; and a national resolve to bring the 9/11 perpetrators to justice.
If you could somehow send a messenger from today back to that packed joint session of Congress that Bush addressed on Sept. 20, 2001, Joe Future would have to say something like this:
“I’m sorry to tell you that, nearly seven years later, you won’t have captured Osama bin Laden. You’re going to have a big scare about anthrax-tainted letters, but you’ll never find out who sent them. You’re going to depose the Taliban only to let them survive and prosper. You’re going to invade Iraq, commit America to a disastrous open-ended occupation, and give the Islamists a whole new banner to recruit under. You’re going to bankrupt the Treasury, trample the Constitution, and drag the name of the U.S. through the mud.”
Such a prospect would, of course, have been unfathomable.
UPDATE: I didn’t even realize when I posted this last night that today is the fifth anniversary of Bush’s hubris-laden “Mission Accomplished” stage show. Thanks to Amos in the comments for pointing out.