Not making the same mistakes in wake of 9/11

Anisa Mehdi

Posted Sep 14, 2007      •Permalink      • Printer-Friendly Version
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Not making the same mistakes in wake of 9/11

By Anisa Mehdi

The Pacific Ocean rushes to meet the California cliffs, day in and day out, year in and year out, a pattern of millennia. Waves break like old friends on the rock face. The face of the facade gently softens with age while the ocean remains forever young, forever adoring. From where I sit in a breezy room in a house at the cliff’s edge in Big Sur there’s always the sound of wind and wave mixing, playing, purposing to love these heights to their depth. Erosion. Evolution. Eternity.

Here, at Esalen Institute, I am gathered with twenty top thinkers from the USA, Africa, Asia and Europe (if you’ll grant Turkey European status) in a conference called “Global Potentials.” We’re wrestling with mighty matters like sustainable development, economic inequity, leadership and nation building, conflict resolution and the nature of education. The days on this gorgeous and mindful campus flow through September 11 to first of Ramadan and Rosh Hashanah. Our group acknowledges them all.

Like the ritual that dotted the American landscape this year again, we have our moment of silence on Tuesday morning the 11th. And what fills our minds in these moments? Surely while our mouths are still our thoughts journey on.

In 2002, most American must have focused on our own innocents murdered with airplanes. Some of us at that time reflected on the Afghan innocents, too: three thousand of them dead within the calendar year of our tragedy. An utterly even revenge.

In 2003 we began to add American soldiers, men and women, counted and named; and countless, nameless Iraqi civilians, men, women and children, all victims of an ill advised and unsubstantiated aggression.

Now 2007, and I see with a shudder in my silence the incalculable body count, the range of destruction that might as well have been a meteor crashing onto the earth’s surface. Hundreds of thousands dead by firepower. Iraq: decimated with an assault equal to more than seven atom bombs. Children orphaned: Arabic-speaking, English-speaking, not yet speaking. Women widowed in the USA, Iraq, Lebanon, Israel, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Men, too.

None of this is new to you, my reader, nor to me, it’s true. But the horror of my complicity as a citizen of this great nation; broad based complacency with the egregious lies of our administration; and now the audacious threat to another innocent sovereign nation: Iran.

A statement like that is sure to raise hackles on some of you. Recognize, however, that Iran has neither attacked nor threatened the USA. We have yet to see proof of allegations of nuclear weapons. It wasn’t so long ago we shrugged off the need for proof of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. Not the congress, the fourth estate nor those whom we claim to serve dug in their heels insisting on proof before barreling into Iraq. How easily we forget.

When, I wondered – the voice in my head loud with anguish and shame – will the cost become too high?

And then the moment of silence is over, the sound of the waves rises again to soothe the troubled soul, and the conference resumes. There are documented, implemented technologies for making peace more profitable than war. It is true that climate protection is not more costly than the status quo. There is a method of securing national borders that is non-provocative defense, as opposed to pre-emptive strikes. For some references see (for “natural capitalism”),, and be truly radical, it is said, one must make hope possible, not despair convincing. Revenge, destruction and murder are the easy way out. Justice, sustainable construction and climate protection are just as possible. And like the ocean, it takes relentless pursuit of the goal.

(Anisa Mehdi is an Emmy Award-winning journalist specializing in religion, the arts, and people. Copyright Arab Writers Group, )