Friday, January 21, 2005


E. J. Dionne Jr.:
Bush's description of the years before Sept. 11 was disturbing. He dismissed a decade marked by the triumph of freedom, the spread of prosperity and a modest but measurable increment of social justice as "years of relative quiet, years of repose, years of sabbatical." His next line: "And then there came a day of fire."

Repose? Sabbatical? Put aside the fact that in the years Bush dismisses, the United States stood up, slowly and reluctantly, to be sure, for freedom in Bosnia and Kosovo and Haiti. Are years of "relative quiet" somehow inferior to an era defined by war? Is the assumption here that Americans are better off when we are embattled and less noble when we are at peace? Is this a call for unending conflict and confrontation? ***

Do we want Sept. 11 to dominate how we define ourselves indefinitely? The president seems to think so. It's not polite to say at a moment of pomp and ceremony, but defining our politics in terms of that horrific event served the president's interest and was a central reason why he was standing before us yesterday.

Many who supported the president in his bold response to the terrorists in Afghanistan cannot escape the suspicion that Sept. 11 will be used again and again as a political rallying cry to justify genuinely radical foreign policy departures that serve neither our nation nor the cause of freedom.

I pray that I am wrong, that the coming elections in Iraq will begin to "break the reign of hatred and resentment" and that the idealism of the president's words will translate into realistic policies. But I do not want our nation to be defined for decades by what happened on Sept. 11, 2001. I want a nation that loves liberty so much that it can move beyond tragedy and embrace not only the call to battle but also the promise of peace.

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