Have the Republicans hijacked Sept. 11 as a political tool to win votes? Is 9/11 a political act for the enthronement of the Grand Old Party (GOP)? Did all those people die so that the political likes of Trent Lott, George Ryan and Richard Nixon may remain in power?
So it seemed at the Republican convention in New York. I did not have a chance to join the delegates on the floor, nor the demonstrators in the streets, but I did watch the proceedings filtered through Comedy Centrals The Daily Show. It looked, at least in those snippets, like the Republicans wanted Americans to re-elect George Bush because a group of terrorists had hijacked planes and attacked buildings in New York and Washington, D.C.
Im not sure that is such a great rallying cry. After all, it happened on their watch, right? Wasnt it the partial result of Ws obsession with Saddam Hussein? They still havent captured the perpetrator, Osama bin Laden, though theres talk of an October Surprise when hell be paraded in chains through Washington, D.C.
The Republicans did invade Iraq and depose a tin-pot dictator who used to be real friendly with Republican presidents. And it seems a lot more Americans are getting killed by the newly formed Iraqi Freedom Fighters/terrorist hit squads on the streets of Baghdad. Of course, George Bush says there havent been any attacks on American soil, suggesting that the increase in attacks on foreign soils is OK.
Sept. 11, to me, was a horrible crime perpetrated by evildoers who should be rounded up and thrown in the deepest, darkest dungeon. I also think the world would be safer if America didnt support tin-pot dictators and instead supported more democratic institutions, unlike Saudi Arabia, where the people have yearned for at least a parliamentarian form of government instead of the royal House of Saud.
I saw a picture from 1976 of then-Secretary of State Donald Rumsfeld shaking hands with a much more friendly Saddam Hussein. Mr. Hussein was at war with Iran, and Donald was presenting Iraq with a pile of weapons to keep the war going. Maybe thats how he knew Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. Funny, at the same time Rumsfeld was also trading arms with Iran for hostages and then using the money to fund an illegal Contra war in Nicaragua. Boy, those boys sure do love their war games!
Anyway, I do believe we should memorialize Sept. 11 as a time of reflection, prayer and lifting up human rights. We should be honoring those innocent civilians who have been killed because of fanatics, whether they are individuals, religions or governmental leaders. I will be spending the morning of Saturday, Sept. 11 at the Rock Valley College Starlight Theatre. The Rockford Interfaith Council, along with others, has planned a 90-minute memorial service that is free and open to the public. It starts at 8:30 a.m. The program will be a tasteful, moving commemoration, and Im sure it will be devoid of the political brouhaha that has surrounded that date of late.
And then I invite you to hear a true hero in the war on terror: Bob Leoni, a former missionary in Africa and presently the director of outreach for Church World Service (the CROP Walk people). He will speak about non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and other aid groups that are working in the Sudan and the Middle East, even amidst war, trying to bring about a better world. Bob will be at a free program Monday night, Sept. 13, starting at 7:30 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Rockford, 4848 Turner St.
I have always supported sending the Peace Corps instead of sending the war corps, especially into places where there are many kids. And these Church World Service people are the best. They work with many different faiths on the ground in response to disasters. But they also work on long-term development and people-to-people projects that change lives as well as whole countries.
Sept. 11 shouldnt be politicized, but political changes should be made so that it doesnt happen anywhere again.
Stanley Campbell is executive director of Rockford Urban Ministries and spokesman for Rockford Peace & Justice.