The Pentagon will hold a massive march and country music concert to mark the fourth anniversary of 9/11, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said in an unusual announcement tucked into an Iraq war briefing yesterday. "This year the Department of Defense will initiate an America Supports You Freedom Walk," Rumsfeld said, adding that the march would remind people of "the sacrifices of this generation and of each previous generation." The march will start at the Pentagon, where nearly 200 people died on 9/11, and end at the National Mall with a show by country star Clint Black.
Word of the event startled some observers. "I've never heard of such a thing," said John Pike, who has been a defense analyst in Washington for 25 years and runs GlobalSecurity.org.
I don't even know what to say about the parade/concert aspect, except that it seems grossly inappropriate to the occasion. "Hey, a few thousand people died on September 11! Let's celebrate! We support them for dying!" I mean, what the hell...?
Leaving aside the relatively recent mercantile aspects from the private sector, the official approach to Memorial Day is handled much more respectfully than that. Granted that we're talking about far fewer people than Memorial Day is meant to memorialize, surely a more dignified approach would be ... appropriate.
The news also reignited debate and anger over linking Sept. 11 with the war in Iraq. "That piece of it is disturbing since we all know now there was no connection," said Paul Rieckhoff, an Iraq veteran who heads Operation Truth, an anti-administration military booster. Rieckhoff suggested the event was an ill-conceived publicity stunt. "I think it's clear that their public opinion polls are in the toilet," he said.
Rumsfeld's walk had some relatives of 9/11 victims fuming. "How about telling Mr. Rumsfeld to leave the memories of Sept. 11 victims to the families?" said Monica Gabrielle, who lost her husband in the attacks.
Administration supporters insisted Rumsfeld was right to link Iraq and 9/11, and hold the rally. "We are at war," said Rep. Pete King (R-L.I.). "It's essential that we support our troops." He also said attacking Iraq was necessary after 9/11. "You do not defeat Al Qaeda until you stabilize the Middle East, and that's not possible as long as Saddam Hussein is in power."
This, however, is an utterly absurd argument on its face. Iraq under Hussein was a vicious despotism, to be sure, but the one thing it was was a stable despotism. It cannot be reasonably said that what we've done to Iraq has made it more stable. It's become a rolling civil war zone, is headed toward becoming an Islamist theocracy with severe curbs on women's and minority rights and the margins are so unguarded that it's become both a terrorist magnet and exporter. "Stable" is one thing the country is not. Destabilizing Iraq has not notably made the rest of the region quieter; Iran is charging willy-nilly back to the nuclear age, Lebanon is perhaps a hair trigger away from another civil war, Afghanistan is a disaster area and once again ramping up opium production, Saudi Arabia veers wildly between appeasing and viciously suppressing its religious extremists, Egypt and Pakistan are quite nearly as despotic as Iraq was (but on our side, so we like those kinds of despotism), Israel is flailing about trying to deal with the questions of the Palestians and the settlement areas ... and since when is it our job to stabilize the region, anyway?Posted by iain at August 11, 2005 01:12 PM