Nine Years After 9/11, the U.S. Remains Stuck

Nine Years After 9/11, the U.S. Remains Stuck

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 As the ninth anniversary of 9/11 takes place, America remains embroiled in its aftermath.

The headlines of three main US newspapers on a single day capture the moment. The Washington Post of August 30 has a front-page five-column top-story encaptioned, “Lessons of a 7-Year War: Iraq Conflict Leaves US Officers Weary and Humbled”. The top story in the world news section of the Wall Street Journal of August 30 proclaims: “American Concerns Over Karzai Deepen." And The New York Times of August 30 has a front-page story detailing how armed US border patrol agents are now extending their reach by routinely boarding public transportation, like trains, deep in America’s interior , and asking questions like, “Are you a US citizen?” and “What country were you born in?”

Experts have criticized the arbitrariness of such queries and methods as “coercive, unconstitutional, and tainted by racial profiling.” The New York Times account cites the fact that, recently, a Pakistani college student was detained for two weeks despite the fact that he was a legal resident of the United States.

The aforementioned is a clear indication that the trauma of 9/11 is yet to be relinquished and the wound remains raw and deep.

The symptoms of the limits of a superpower are evident now through the re-branding of the US venture in Iraq, along with the continuing impasse in Afghanistan. Failures, fears, and frustrations are simmering and bubbling over into the domain of the seven-million US Muslim community. Local issues, like the building of mosques, are being magnified and being manufactured into a symbolic crisis on the national stage. Also, with the mid-term elections looming ahead, it is a disguised attack on Obama, who is seen by one-fifth of the US electorate as a ‘closet Muslim’. In fact, radio host Rush Limbaugh – a figure deeply embedded within the mainstream of the Republican Party – has called the US President “Imam Hussein Obama”.

While in the Muslim world, the extreme talks extreme, in the West, sometimes the extreme is firmly entrenched within the mainstream. Hate begets hate.

But all is not gloom and doom. The influential Presbyterian Church of the USA has recently approved the 172-page report of its Middle East Study Committee, “Breaking Down the Walls”, which found by “overwhelming consensus” of its committee members “that Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza is a sin against God and other fellow human beings.” (page 36) This is the same Church which nearly 150 years ago at Lahore laid the foundations of Forman Christian College in 1864.

In the Washington area, parishioners of the Presbyterian Church asked that I address the group on the existing challenges facing Pakistan. American attendees who had been to Lahore remain inspired by their memories of Lahorites’ traditional open-hearted hospitality. Prayers were offered for flood victims and a donation drive set up to aid flood affectees. There was considerable compassion for the plight of the uprooted.

During the presentation and subsequent discussion, it emerged that many of the attendees showed disquiet on the US role in Muslim world conflicts. There was open questioning and opposition to the drone attacks, and there was deep concern over acts of ignorant bigotry and hysteria being incited by elements in the religious right in America.

The sobering impact of America’s post-9/11 setbacks has sharpened the hunger for listening to a moral voice. There is more room now to take a moral stance.

The naked pursuit of ‘pragmatic politics’ can only produce more polarization. Sometimes, doing what is right is also politically wise.