Dear Mr. Secretary,
Thank you for your kind words. September 11 is among the saddest days in recent U.S. history, with regards to the senseless loss of good, hard working people; a day I hope sincerely never repeats itself. But while the half-staff flags remind you of the enduring work of the U.S. government, it reminds me of the 12 years of indiscriminate killings around the world, which we have justified using the tragedy of 9/11.
Sir, the blood we have shed in the name of the September 11 victims has created many more days of remembrances around the world than one could have ever imagined 12 years ago. Every week and every month there is a commemoration of death around our globe. In our time of grief and sorrow, we have ensured that anyone living in a territory viewed suspiciously by the U.S. feels our pain repeatedly and consistently. What bothers me about your statement is that you unabashedly equivocate the 12-year campaign of our armed forces, authorized by your colleagues in the legislature and supported by your diplomatic corps, into something as obscure as our “nation’s resolve to make peace and bring light to the darkness.”
In your years of service to our armed forces and to our government, I would like to ask — when did a period in which we authorized military force equal peace? The 9/11 attacks resulted in 2,996 casualties, which included 343 firefighters and 59 police officers who were trying to save victims inside the World Trade Center. The War on Terror has caused the death of at least 227,000 people (more than 300,000 according to other estimates). One-quarter million have been killed to avenge our citizens, and we are still not done. Blood money has been paid to those fortunate enough, while the rest lay seething in their anger at night imagining a day when they too can avenge the loss of one dear life with scores of indiscriminate targets.
I am sure a fresh face from Capitol Hill can come up with a quick retort regarding the difference we have made in our national security. In hushed tones, they will assure me that plots have been uncovered of which a civilian like me will never know. But I am asking you, Sir — not the underpaid 20-somethings
So, I am asking you to tell me, without disrespecting the memory of our lost fellow Americans, what is it that we have accomplished? In the last 12 years, have we reached a new level of global security and stability? If not, then isn’t it time for us to re-examine our foreign policy, which stresses heavy-handed military might, over that of diplomatic relations and regional cooperation. As you attend meetings and press ops, we stare into possible military engagement with Syria.
Despite the proposed Russian plan, scores of pundits and analysts jumping on the airwaves to establish a case for why Syria will never accept diplomacy, forcing us to intervene regardless. This time, however, national security is no longer the principle upon which we act, but rather the moral imperative for America to police the world. And I just wonder, at what point is our country going to stop trying to create a world in which the opinions and security concerns of 330 million people outweigh that of the six billion global citizens over which we impose our military and economic superiority?
The beauty of this country used to be in the balance in the legal rights of government and the judicial system, which ensured certain rights guaranteed to individuals and their property. In the moments of our terrible loss, we chose to shred the very document which gave the average American their strength; we chose to devalue the proposition of democracy that we so proudly hailed as perfection — a system that our legislature and executive branch destroyed in the moments following our tragedy, all in the name of the 9/11 victims.
In order to protect us, the government asked for cart blanche to interpret the constitution and the legal restrictions under which any agency was to operate. We torture captives, whom we never tried for any crimes. We use drone warfare without clarifying the target or their locations. We spy on private thoughts and communications of people we never had reason to suspect. We hold Assad responsible for chemical weapons use while giving the generals and commanders ordering similar strikes in Iraq a free pass in the name of justice.
The FBI, whose domestic programs should have focused on financial fraud in our nation and other crimes, was diverted to — under the leadership of the likes of Steve Emerson — surveying Muslim communities. All the while average Americans lose their jobs, housing, dignity and the right to ask their country to help them. Our fear, anger and hunger for dominance have led us down a dark and narrow path from which there is no turning back.
Meanwhile, we silenced ourselves at 9 a.m. on September 11 and read aloud the names of our dead, without any mention of the thousands of others buried around the world in the name of our revenge. Our media runs specials on the events of the day using every opportunity to instill a quiet obedience to the strategy under which we have undertaken our engagements around the world. And businesses use the emotions of those being vividly reminded of the national tragedy, as a sales strategy for products ranging from 9/11 wine to an AT&T iPhone that we will “never forget.”
The good people of New York that gathered and responded on September 11, 2001 did not do so to see their memory mocked and insulted for gain, financial or political. And yet here we stand, campaigning on the dead and buried to justify the killing and burying of many, many more. Mr. Secretary, this “extra day” might have been extra to you. But for the rest of us, this “extra day” has lasted 12 years, in which America has completely abandoned its founding principles and morals.
The country I once loved is taking its last breaths — just one more victim in this unlawful, vengeful war against humanity.
Misha Fazal is a writer and business professional based in Washington, D.C., where she specializes in South Asian trade development. A version of this letter orginally appeared in The Islamic Monthly.
Below is the letter from Secretary of State John Kerry issued on September 11, 2013
THE SECRETARY OF STATE
For all of us, September 11 is much more than another day on a calendar or another anniversary. It’s a day like none other. Seeing American flags flying at half-staff brings back powerful and haunting memories of loved ones, friends and colleagues lost on two awful days – last year and twelve years ago – that remind us in searing ways just how complicated and dangerous a world we live in. While the flags fly low, they still fly proudly – an equally important reminder of the enduring work of this enterprise and our nation’s resolve to make peace and bring light to the darkness.
I lost friends – people I’d known a long time – who were on those flights that left from Boston on the first 9/11. I knew Chris Stevens from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and heard his passion for what America stood for in Libya. I mourned him, Sean Smith, Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods last year at Joint Base Andrews along with many of you. From the other end of the Washington Mall, I and my colleagues in Congress shared your loss even as we admired your service.
On this September 11, I know friends and families are still grieving, and the Department still grieves with them. We pause to remember those we’ve lost and their families, and when we see their friends in the hall, we ask how they’re doing. We send an email to a colleague who was there that night, just to let them know that we are thinking of them. I hope that as you read this, wherever you are in the world, you’ll join me for a quiet moment of remembrance and reflection. It may be a thought, a hope, a prayer or a wish. My hope is that as we remember our fallen colleagues from both September 11s and all the other sad days, we never forget the reason we do what we do. And though we can’t inscribe all their names on a memorial, we also cannot forget the families and loved ones of those who serve and sacrifice in faraway places.
Friends of mine who lost friends in a different context long ago have a simple saying: “Every day is extra.” I’ve always thought it was a beautiful expression and I try to hold onto it on bright September mornings like today. It’s a way of saying that we honor those we’ve lost by continuing their work, serving our country and helping others. That’s what it’s all about. We remember that with every extra day, we readily give a little something extra of ourselves.