America, and more distinctly, the United States, is often referred to as "a nation of believers". While those "believers" range in denominations from Christianity, to Jews, to many other religions, all the way to non-"believers", and though the individual faith beliefs may vary in definition, style or lack thereof, most of us in that range would agree that we are a land of principles and fundamental values. Values that include honesty, integrity, forgiveness, and repentance. With the recent demise of Osama Bin Laden still making its way to our ears, and the many varied emotions that has stirred among us, from jubilation, justice and closure, to concern, shock or apathy, it seems appropriate to evaluate just what has been accomplished in the 10 years since 9/11, and whether our approach has been the most true to our fundamental principles and values, or if opportunity existed to have gone a different path, or to now seek a different path.
It is my opinion that the greatest victory or out come from 9/11, would have resulted from not engaging in war to begin with. Before the shock of that statement sends you fleeing to the "Back" button, allow me to elaborate on that claim. On 9/11/2001, close to 3000 people died in the plane crashes and collapse of the twin towers, explosion at the Pentagon, and flight 93. That is a very tragic loss of life and to record, the single most deadly terrorist attack on US soil.
Now for some statistics. Below are the casualties to soldiers and civilians since the beginning of operations in Afghanistan and Iraq in 2001 (totals as of May 3rd 2011 unless otherwise noted).
US Military and Civilian deaths in Iraq: 4,421
US Military and Civilian deaths in Afghanistan: 1,560
Conservative Iraqi Civilian deaths through April 2009: 110,600
Conservative Afghan Civilian deaths through Dec 2009: 7000
Total Deaths from just the above: 123,581
Please note that these totals don't include Iraqi nor Afghan/Taliban soldier deaths, which estimate into the tens of thousands, nor do these totals include injuries of anyone, be they soldiers or civilians, which also number into the tens of thousands, or hundreds of thousands.
Now lets consider a different possible outcome following the events of 9/11 had we held truer to our fundamental values. Had we "turned the other cheek" post 9/11, we possibly would have done some introspection as to what could have provoked the attacks, dismissing the assumed reason of American hating extremists, to realize that most terrorists acts are acts of desperation, spurred by oppression and deprivation. We might have asked ourselves, "is there anything about our foreign policy in the middle east and in our ties with Israel that might promote the animosity of those not benefiting from our presence and influence there?" Instead of seeking death for death, seeking resolution and reconstitution to diffuse whatever tension we might have caused in that region. Instead of a man hunt abroad, securing our borders and values at home. Instead of creating more animosity and hatred by invading and occupying foreign lands, establishing more respect and integrity in our Nation of principles and values. The money saved would either have remained in our pockets and in the pockets of our children and their children, or better invested in both securing our borders and seeking solutions to other challenges in energy, food production, world hunger and so forth. Rather than producing more weapons of mass destruction, outreaches of abundance and healing.
From the conservative death totals above, it would take forty-one 9/11 equivalent terrorist attacks before we'd be hurting to the degree we've reached now. If differences had been approached diplomatically and humbly, would it have been likely that even one more 9/11 incident abroad or domestic to have occurred after the original? Would the nearly 6,000 now killed US soldiers, and 40,000 plus wounded in action soldiers, now be with their families, free from injury or PTSD? Would the 110,000 now dead Iraqis and Afghanis abroad still be among their loved ones? Would the US Government and US economies be in a much better financial state than where we are currently? While it is nearly impossible to predict the exact outcome had a different approach been taken after 9/11, it certainly seems that a more positive and less destructive outcome could have been accomplished.
From the many who like to consider the US a "Christian Nation", which path seems more Christlike? Which path would likely result in less deaths, less suffering, and more peace? Now hindsight is seeing 20/20, and it is now a pipe-dream to wish we could go back and do things differently. But at point do we say "enough is enough"? At what point do we return to our roots, return to building and peace making, and end the policing the world approach? We the People do have it in us to demand an end to the wars, an end to the occupation and an end to the "eye for an eye" approach. But we have to see and rid ourselves of the beams of hypocrisy in our own eyes first, before we can gain the clarity to set an example of being the peace-makers through example, rather than through force. How about some repentance, another of the values to which many US citizens hold. We don't repent by staying on the same path. We get there by abandoning it and seeking to reach where we otherwise could be, and doing so in as minimally damaging way possible to those we've encroached for too long. What do you think?