Sept. 11 Hangover

Like everyone else, I am deeply outraged by what happened a year ago, and the ceremonial remembrance of those events and those lives lost had a measure of soothing effect. But now that it's over, I have noticed that I feel cheated, and I wondered why.

Then I realized: It is because George Bush is exploiting our anguish to justify an open-ended war on terrorism, a wrong-headed and dangerous invasion of Iraq, and worst of all, the stripping away of the precious freedom to dissent.

It is rather astounding how quickly George Bush & Co. have managed to squander the vast international sympathy and goodwill elicited by the events of a year ago. By continuing its treaty shredding, UN-disrespecting, consensus-snubbing ways, America is once again viewed with suspicion and distaste by the international community. Even here in the United Kingdom, where many Britons have long secretly wanted to be Americans, the thrill is gone.

Now, instead of idolizing Americans, I tell my fellow Brits to feel sorry for them, and to reserve our anger for Bush (and by extension, Tony Blair).

After all, the American people in a scant 12 months have had their once-enviable civil liberties outrageously eroded in the name of patriotism. The ideals of freedom and democracy that America pledges to export across the globe have been perverted so spectacularly at home that it is hard to recognize the country anymore.

Where once Americans reveled in their uniquely American right and willingness to criticize their government, they are now told that those who dissent are no better than terrorists, or terrorists themselves. They have had their pride of country, their patriotism, hijacked by a self-interested and short-sighted government which steals freedoms from its own people and gives riches to corporations, which have proven scandalously corrupt, and "security" infrastructures such as the military, FBI and CIA, which have been revealed to be fatally incompetent.

Those Americans who would question their government are told to "watch what they say." The FBI has been given broad rein to spy on citizens with phone taps and email snoops. Long-held ideals of fair and speedy trials are thrown out the window as suspected terrorists and sympathizers are "disappeared" like the enemies of Pinochet 20 years ago in Chile.

In exchange for their freedoms, Americans are not safer now than they were a year ago; in fact, they are probably less so. Their government is a rogue state, rejecting international consensus on every front and threatening first-strike nuclear attacks and politically expedient invasions of sovereign nations. America has more nuclear, biological and chemical weapons than any other country, and it is the only nation to have used such a weapon against another. And still it stubbornly refuses any international effort or treaty to regulate, minimize or eliminate such weapons, even as it uses Iraq's suspected possession of (or mere desire for) them as reason for wholesale attack.

Bush & Co. has slapped the international community in the face as it tried to embrace and console the United States.

The scars of Ground Zero will heal, the grief at the loss of so many innocents will ease, but the damage the United States has inflicted on itself will last far longer. To hell with George Bush; God save America.

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