Legacy of 9/11: Self Determination
SF State professors Probe 9/11's complex issues
September 13, 2005 9:26 PM
It has been four years since the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, D.C. changed the world, but the political instability they touched off still remains.
Marking the anniversary of the hijacked planes that destroyed the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, and claimed nearly 2,800 lives, a panel of specialists convened in SF State’s Humanities Symposium Room to examine the post-September 11 world on Monday afternoon.
History Professor Jules Tygiel moderated the discussion, which was sponsored by the History Department, and included faculty from other disciplines. He welcomed an audience of over 60 and explained the commemoration had become a tradition at SF State to honor those who died and to reflect on how the political environment has evolved.
Tygiel focused his remarks on the role of the United States in Iraq at the moment. He said the Iraq War has been a disaster on almost every level and that those who oppose the conflict failed to organize a coherent anti-war movement. He recalled how in the fall of 2002, just before the Congressional elections, the Bush Administration set a political trap for the Democrats.
By going before the public and claiming that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and links to al-Qaida extremists, Bush convinced Americans Iraq threatened the U.S. Tygiel noted. This made it impossible for any politician desiring to run for president in 2004 to vote against the resolution authorizing President Bush to use all available force back then and allowed Bush to form a bi-partisan policy.
“Kerry lost the election because he had no coherent policy as what to do in Iraq,” Tygiel said. “And in the absence of somebody on the Democratic side with a vision, people turned to Bush. But I’m not aware of any major political figures who have taken a leadership position on the war that makes any sense.”
Polls show most Americans do not favor Bush’s handling of the war, but it does not necessarily indicate anti-war sentiment Tygiel explained. Even among opponents, there is anxiety of what would happen if America withdrew its troops.
“Iraq was clearly not central to American security or interests before we went in,” Tygiel said. “But it is very possible that it is central to world security now that we are there.”
Whatever course the U.S. takes, it already lost its credibility when it invaded Iraq, according to Tygiel.
“That was the argument that we faced in Vietnam (losing credibility) that kept us in a very long time,” Tygiel said. “Within 15 years of the end of the war in Vietnam worldwide communism collapsed. I’m not saying it’s a cause and effect. One of the lessons of Vietnam is that we abandoned Southeast Asia to fend for itself and we’re looking possibly at the same legacy in the Middle East. We’ve destabilized the region tremendously and the consequences may be felt when we pullout.”
“You’re going to have one impoverished Iraq in the middle (Baghdad region) and two rich Iraqs (holding oil deposits), one in Kurdistan in the north, and one in the Shiite territory in the south,” Behrooz said.
However, continued U.S. presence will not improve prospects for peace in Iraq said international relations Professor Sanjoy Banerjee. The best solution would be to partition Iraq into three sovereign nations, which would avoid civil war, he explained. It will instigate a Sunni/Shiite divide, but that may not be bad from the standpoint of the U.S. State Department he maintained.
“It will create new opportunities for the U.S. to go back and forth between them and reassert our influence,” Banerjee said. “I don’t see the U.S. worse off if it pulls out before the 2006 (U.S.) elections.”
Kristin Lubbert, 20, an economics and international relations junior said the legacy of 9/11 is a complex issue. She suffered no personal loss but was aware of the strong emotional ties for people with a more direct connection to the horrible events. Yet, she was disappointed the panelists did not connect all the dots between 9/11 and the Middle East today.
“I stay optimistic,” Lubbert said. “Hurricane Katrina made a marked change. It was a wake-up call to look at the political situation we’re in now. If enough people are drawn to social movements then it can change policy.”
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