Recently, before the start of class, one of my bright faced Taiwanese students waved me over. “Teacher,” she said, “My friend sent me this ISIS video. You should watch it!” We had discussed ISIS in class, and so, not wanting to squash my student’s growing interest in world affairs, I acquiesced. Plus the clip was only 41 seconds long.
I am not posting said clip. It is simply too grotesque. A prisoner with bound legs and clad in an orange jump suit is seen for a a second or two trying to hop out of the way of a tank. The tank catches the wretch and rolls over him longways. The camera then does a close up survey of the carnage. The most notable image: the flattened mass that used to be the victim’s head.
The video was hardly more outrageous than any of the other killings perpetrated by ISIS. But newspaper reports, the printed word, have a way of concealing even as they reveals. Witnessing someone turned into a red pulp is not quite the same as reading about it. In those brief seconds you viscerally and vicariously experience the terror of the imminent end, the obliteration itself, and the remains—all in 41 second.
Jeb Bush has distanced himself from his brother’s decision to invade Iraq, and the Republican presidential candidates have joined him in this. Nevertheless, the Republican field still excoriates Obama for “not finishing the job” and pulling the troops out. Now there is talk of sending troops back in, of getting tougher on Assad, on re-instituting sanctions on Iran, and sending weapons to Ukraine. As much as this is “not the party of GWB” the bluster about existential threats emanating from different corners of the world and charges of human rights abuses are strikingly similar to the tone preceding our invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan. After a decade of grave misadventures abroad, you would think that the Republican Party would take a step back to reevaluate but not much seems to have changed. The party can’t seem to buck their George W cowboy.
I had forgotten it was 9/11 today until a student wanted to know if we would have a shortened day. She was hoping the tragedy carried a holiday status. I found this rather disturbing: thousands of dead Americans and a Chinese student hoping to get time off school. But she’s a kid, so I cut her some slack.
I do not for a second, though, cut the American government slack for its actions post-9/11. This is the day that many will opine about the tragedy of that day, and while there is no doubt such reflection is well-deserved, it can easily blind us to the greater tragedy: what America has inflicted upon the world in the aftermath of 9/11.