I was just told that the number of people dead at the pentagon alone is 10,000 (the only official numbers I have are 2100 wounded there). That is hard for me to come to grips with. This is a tragedy on a large scale. What bothers me is that this is only the tip of the iceberg--the real tragedy has yet to come and I am not talking about the death count from New York.
The real tragedy will come with the response by the United States.
Earlier today, the Golden Gate Bridge was closed. For those of you who don't know, that is a bridge in San Francisco. San Francisco is not an island. What good is closing the bridge? Are we thinking, "We may not be able to stop terrorists, but by God! We can inconvenience them!"
We in the US have a strong tendency to respond inappropriately to any tragedy. Because of the uni-bomber, all packages over one pound in weight must be taken to a post office. Does this make anyone safer? No. We respond inappropriately to tragedy.
What I am expecting from this is a wave of new laws that demolish the civil rights of Americans at the same time that don't make Americans any safer. Ben Franklin said something to the effect, "Those who would trade liberty for security deserve neither." Now we trade liberty for nothing at all.
One thing that the United States government could do to make all Americans safer is end the War on (People Who Use) Drugs. This would free up enormous resources to fight real crime. But of course, the US government will not do this, nor anything like it.
The War on (People Who Use) Drugs is a good example of a minor tragedy, to which the US government responded inappropriately. The result: a huge tragedy--a bigger tragedy than even today's--though, admittedly, not as concentrated.
Either I am really good, or politicians are really easy to predict. I wrote the paragraphs above this morning, and before the end of the day it already had started. The Governor of California instituted a "Limited State of Emergency" which entitles the police to hold arrested people for 7 days (rather than 48 hours) before seeing a judge.
How is this justified? Was Sacramento bombed? Was any part of the government of California hurt so that those accused (and only accused) of a crime should not receive their traditional rights? Of course not. But those in power will use any excuse they can to exercise that power.
Governor Davis, you disgust me.
It's a little over a year later, and I'm struck by one thing in particular: how wrong were the initial estimates of the number killed. It's not so much the error itself, but rather the fact that we continue to assume the numbers are correct.
In the end, just under 3,000 people were murdered in the 9-11-01 attacks. This is a large number of people. And no number is low enough when it is a loved one who is dead. It is important to keep these numbers in perspective, however. The total number of people killed as a result of these attacks is roughly the same as the number of people killed in auto accidents each month in the United States.
We could and should count our blessing that more people were not killed. In the end, the terrorists won the battle on 9-11-01 because they succeeded in causing the United States to harm itself. How many innocent people have died because of our government's response? How much less free are we now than we were before?
The government wants us to focus on the horrible events of 11 September 2001--and even to exaggerate them. Doing so makes us less safe and less free and makes the government more powerful and evil.