We are all watching. We are passive observers of a political tornado that is sucking up everything dear to us and depositing it again in different places, twisted, looking almost unfamiliar. But we are not participating, not acting now. We are watching the weather, but most of us are not out in it. We are relying on the WeatherMen...but has that ever been a good idea?
In the convergence, or collision, of two "weather systems," the 9/11 Commission proceedings and continuing difficulties in Iraq, things are really getting intense. The accusations, the implications, currently being leveled at the Bush administration are framed in such a way as to be transparently political, and to suggest mistruth. The administration is caught between calls to (1)admit mistruths, which then would defeat any efforts the Bush administration makes to distinguish itself from previous administrations, and/or (2) admit mistakes, admissions that would help make the case for follow on arguments implying incompetence, which must lead to firings, a politically disruptive ploy. Severe storm warnings in effect.
The secret for the Bush administration to weather the storm may be to resist self-defensive arrogance and to admit humanity. I wouldn't advocate admitting failure. That���s too strong. I would advocate admitting to misjudging certain things, and would admit to being a victim of circumstances, including unacceptable delays in getting key personnel into position after the election fiasco. I would admit missteps along the way. I would also make sure to point out that this business of fighting terrorism is not black and white, not "go or no-go," not pass or fail, at least not in the sense of the business of a nation. Its much more like climbing a mountain. A misstep, even a fall, is not necessarily failing to climb the mountain. It is a misstep, a setback of varying degrees and implications, depending upon its severity. Certainly, anybody that sets out to climb knows that some missteps can be grave, even fatal. They also know that perfection is a myth when climbing mountains, and that there will be unforeseen challenges to overcome. But if the unrealistic pressure of the possibility of a misstep causing the entire effort of climbing a mountain to be judged as "failure" is allowed to fester, then it is unlikely that one would dare to climb the mountain at all.
The United States of America can not afford to be afraid to weather storms or to climb mountains...if we succumb to fear of missteps in our efforts to reach the summit, to accomplish our goals of liberty and justice for all, then the terrorists have indeed scored a victory. I would say that failure is the same as defeat, and no American has been defeated, in the past, now, or in the future, by whatever threat or enemy, if they were engaged in a fight for truth, justice, and liberty. Yes, to the families of the victims of 9/11, the fact is, we could have and should have done a better job of preventing the terrible tragedy, the most costly misstep in recent memory. But we should be careful not to sully the memory of the many men and women who died on that day and since, by saying that their deaths were part of a "failure." We should resist efforts to politicize tragedy and responses to it. We should be wary of bringing dishonor upon the many leaders at every level of government and law enforcement in this country, from any political party, who are putting immense effort into correcting the causes of this costly misstep and focusing with renewed vigor on the summit. And I would say to the commission, do not dishonor yourselves, as Americans, by allowing the enemy to sow the seeds of discord, deceit, and division amongst us. The blame for 9/11 lies squarely, squarely, on the evil men who brought terror to our families. The burden for the aftermath lies upon every American. We should not be asking who is to blame now, we should be asking how we can emerge from this stronger and wiser than before, and what we as citizens can do for our country. Sound familiar?