A dangerous world, half a decade later

Thoughts about the attack that changed our world and neighborhood five years ago intensify every September. In our community there is real progress, but as we look at where we are in the world on this milestone anniversary, we see the perilous consequences of bad choices and squandered opportunities.

After 9/11, the world stood with us. There was sympathy for America within the Arab and Muslim worlds. We had widespread support for our war with Afghanistan, which was harboring the attack’s planners. But we allowed Osama bin Laden to escape, reduced our forces too soon, and used 9/11 falsely to justify a misguided attack on Iraq.

It may be only a matter of months before the number of deaths of U.S. soldiers in Iraq will surpass the number of people killed Sept. 11, 2001. The number of innocent Iraqi civilians killed since our attack is now many more times 3,000. The Taliban is making a bid to regain control of Afghanistan.

President Bush’s decision to manipulate America’s 9/11 jitters has made us less safe. Iran is closer to getting nuclear weapons and the world is less likely to support tough measures or believe our assertions. Any military threats we might make against Iran lack credibility with our forces overextended in Iraq. Iran, with its proxies, now has an easy American target next door and will be tougher to contain.

The gains have been few, if any, from Bush’s preemptive war, and the costs in lives, safety, dollars, and our moral standing in the world have been unconscionable.

We are relieved that there has not been a domestic terrorist attack since 2001, but Bush policies that alienate our allies and squander the world’s goodwill only serve to make us more vulnerable. It is increasingly clear that the Bush administration is disconnected from Americans’ concerns about energy, health care, the economy, and the war.

Compared to this mess, the strides we have made in rebuilding Lower Manhattan have been quite gratifying. New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin was right even though he was forced to apologize – the World Trade Center site is a hole in the ground – but there is movement and construction on the memorial, the Calatrava train station and on one building, and there are now drawings for three new Church St. buildings. Goldman Sachs is building their headquarters across the street. Downtown neighborhoods are booming residentially with all of the usual attendant problems of schools and amenities.

Sure, it’s been a bumpy ride Downtown but there was a genuine effort to forge a consensus and to move ahead together from out of the trauma.

For the past several years in Washington, we have been heading further into the trauma, not away from it. That is probably the biggest contrast with our Downtown situation, and our most profound regret on this fifth anniversary.