I believed, you know? I was sincere. I was sincere and I was shell-shocked. September 11 changed everything for me. I’d seen war up close — or rather I thought I had — and it changed everything.
But here we are, four years later plus a few months. Not one but two enemy nations invaded and defeated, and terrorism is still with us. Four and a half years of unprecedented diplomatic rhetoric, and terrorism is still with us. An overseas prison camp full of captured enemies — or suspected enemies — and terrorism is still with us. The most concerted, comprehensive signals intelligence campaign in human history, and terrorism is still with us. Still with us, and growing stronger, emboldened by anger at our excesses.
Oh, sure. The exegencies of war, right? In a war, you do whatever you have to do to win and to win quickly, because once the battle has been joined, that’s the only way to save lives. But here’s the thing: We’re not at war. War is more than a legal condition. It’s a state of political will. We as a nation never had the political will to wage the kind of generations-long campaign against the ideology of radicalism and terrorism onto which we reflexively embarked after 9/11. And the sitting President — whom I sincerely believe to be a man of faith and conscience — did nothing to engender that kind of political will.
We’re not at war. But we’re doing the kinds of things, both at home and abroad, that would only be justified — could only be excused — in a war. And not a war of convenience, either, or a war to enforce the edict of some pseudo-legal body. The tactics we’ve employed in the past four years could only be tolerated in a desperate and frantic war for our very survival.
And that’s just not where we are. It’s not where we are, and it’s not where we’re willing to put ourselves.
And most important of all, it’s not where we have to be.
Now, don’t misunderstand me. I don’t have any answers here, none at all. I don’t know what that third way is. All I know is that we’re on the wrong path — as a nation, as a people, as a world — and that trying to return things to status quo ante bellum is a fantasy. There has to be another way. There has to be.
I just don’t know what it is. Or where to find it.
So what’s my answer? Close the prison camps, pull our troops out of foreign lands, disband the NSA? No, of course not. That’s what I’m saying: I don’t have an answer. But because the men and women whom we’ve elected to represent us and lead for us aren’t even asking the questions, I can no longer stand behind them.
Hear me now, Internet: I do not give a damn about government spending. I don’t give a damn about immigration. I don’t even give a damn about Iran at the moment. Right now, I can’t give a damn about any of those things. Because they’re just polishing the brass on the Titanic, man. They’re just fiddling while Rome burns all around us.
We have to find a way out. We went down the wrong path after 9/11, and we’re still barreling down the wrong path at full speed.
We have to find a way out. We have to find a way out.
It’s too bad when reality comes and bitch-slaps you around; we’ve all had it happen. It tells a lot about person and their character in how they deal with it. And as much as he accuses the Republicans of going the wrong way, he also nails the Democrats, which is why he refers to a “third way.”
I give Mr. Harrell props for his candor, and I also see hope in that he is not giving up. I may not agree with him about the path he will now take, but I applaud his strength of character for willing to take on his now-former friends and endure the inevitable slings and arrows that will come his way.