Reflections on 9/11 as U.S. enters conflict with ISIS

by Nicole

I was 10 years old attending the 5th grade in Webster, Texas. I believe I was in my music class when I started noticing something was awry. Kids were leaving class. One after the other. None of us knew why at the time. We only knew that parents were coming to pick them up.

Little did we know, parents were picking up their children out of pure angst and fear.

Fear that, the images they were seeing on televisions at work and at home, were going to be replicated at their child’s elementary school.

It wasn’t until I was in homeroom that the principal of McWhirter Elementary School came in and spoke to us. Although she was very calm, there was seriousness in her face and an urgency in her voice that I will never forget.

“Two planes have crashed into the World Trade Center in New York City,” she said. Even though she stayed poised, I could sense a nervousness in her eyes.  It was clear that she was unsure of how to explain this tragedy to the young students in my classroom. It seemed as if she was trying to make sense of the situation herself.

After she left the room, I was trying to comprehend what she told us. A whirlwind of questions started rushing to my mind. “What kind of planes? Who would do that to someone else? “Are we at war now?”.

It wasn’t until I got home that afternoon that I began to grasp the situation in its entirety. Having it explained to you and seeing the images for yourself are two completely different things. I was scared, confused, and deeply saddened.

13 years later, the memories are still vivid in my mind. A new-wave patriotism resulted in a surge of U.S. flag purchases. Even African-Americans, who have very little reason to feel patriotic allegiance to this country, sported “FDNY” hats and tiny U.S. flags.

What followed was over a decade of ill-advised military engagements in Iraq and Afghanistan. In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, retaliation made sense to many Americans. Unfortunately, the Bush Administration went about it the wrong way. Have we learned anything from reactionary foreign policy?

With the ascendance of ISIS, President Obama is reluctantly setting the stage for war-like military actions in Iraq and Syria. In his prime time address to the nation on Wednesday, the president articulated a 4-step plan to “defeat” the Islamist terror group. I am concerned about the U.S. engaging in yet another conflict abroad – one that calls on us to be mediators in the centuries-long Sunni-Shiia feud. While President Obama says the U.S. is leading a broad coalition of forces, it has yet to be seen just how countries like Saudi Arabia and Turkey will be helping to rout the terrorist group.

The president also claims that Iraq is on the path to a more inclusive government. How so? Yes, Nouri al-Maliki stepped down from the presidency, and his successor is Sunni. However, al-Maliki is still the prime minister. How will a Sunni president and Shiia prime minister lead to more civic participation from Iraqis? Moreover, how will this change in leadership lead to government efficacy? In the face of an upcoming non-war, answers to these questions are critical.

The despicable beheadings of American journalists by ISIS militants were referenced in the president’s address. It certainly is an easy way to rally public support for some type of retaliation. The president says there will be no “boots on the ground”. The effort will be lead by airstrikes. This will undoubtedly lead to the loss of civilian life. It is unavoidable.

So as we remember the men, women and children who perished on 9/11/01, let’s also remember the fact that hundreds of Arabs are being held without due process in Guantanamo Bay. Thousands of innocent Iraqis have been killed as a result of the 2003 invasion. ISIS did not exist before the U.S. invasion.

In order to be the standard bearers of peace, we must also bear the burden of the unrest that continues since combat troops left Iraq. Whether you call this latest mission “war” or not, we are headed down an unknown path that will cause geopolitical ripple effects across the world – similar to the aftermath of 9/11.

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  • September 2014
    M T W T F S S
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