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A 9/11 commemoration

Ed Cohen | Wednesday, September 14, 2011

I was disappointed in The Observer’s full-page ad commemorating 9/11.

It is appropriate to remember all those murdered by the al Qaeda terrorists on Sept. 11, 2001. It is appropriate to remember the U.S. soldiers killed and wounded in their commander-in-chief’s misguided, unprovoked invasion of Iraq and the ill-defined and indefinite police action and nation building that has been going on in Afghanistan for twice as long as the U.S. was involved in World War II.

But it is untrue to say — no matter how fashionable or “patriotic” — that soldiers ordered to Iraq and Afghanistan have been sacrificing their lives, limbs and mental health to “defend our freedom?” Being ordered to invade a country that had nothing to do with a terrorist attack is not “defending our freedom.” It is a tragedy of monumental proportions and a dark chapter in our country’s history.

I know it pains and offends many to say this, but merely serving in the military — even being sent somewhere to be shot at — is not defending our freedom either. If a country or group were to invade the United States with the intention of instituting a dictatorship, then being part of the resistance would be defending our freedom. But that hasn’t happened — ever. Even the Japanese attack upon Pearl Harbor was not intended as the first battle in a war to conquer the United States and absorb it into the Japanese empire.

So let’s honor members of the military for their courage and honor when they demonstrate it, as they often do, in a just cause. Let us continue to train and equip defensive — never offensive — military forces in numbers proportional to threats. But let us show service men and women our sympathy — not hero worship — when they are deployed on a nonsensical mission, as Iraq was. Let us demand, finally, an accounting for the wrongheaded decision and a public apology.

And while we’re remembering the victims of 9/11, could we hear even one word of sympathy or regret for the tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis killed and wounded in a war fought on their soil that they neither deserved nor welcomed?

Ed Cohen

Business Writer

Mendoza College of Business

Sept. 13