Ten months earlier the US had been split by a presidential election that ended with the Republican majority on the Supreme Court stopping the vote count in Florida and putting George W. Bush in the White House.
The evening of 9/11, 150 members of Congress returned to the Capitol, which had been evacuated that morning. They pushed aside party differences to gather on the Capitol steps and sing “God Bless America” together. Flags bloomed in neighborhoods across the country.
Of course, unity can be a mixed blessing. Three days after the attacks, Congress not only approved a $40 billion bill to put a down payment on military action, national security and reconstruction, but it also approved the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), which authorized the president to use all “necessary and appropriate force” against those whom he determined “planned, authorized, committed or aided” the 9/11 attacks, or who harbored said persons or groups. The AUMF has been used to justify military actions tangentially connected with al Qaeda and its successors, rivals and wannabes.
Then, on Oct. 24, 2001, the House rushed to approve the US PATRIOT Act, which sacrificed individual liberty as it streamlined security authority, one day after it was introduced. The House vote was 357-66. One day later, the Senate passed the bill 98-1..
On Oct. 11, 2002, Congress approved the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq, giving Bush authority for the invasion of the oil-rich nation. In the November 2002 elections, Republicans regained control of the Senate and expanded their majority in the House, and Bush sought to turn that into a mandate. After the election, Congress approved the new Department of Homeland Security, which professionalized the sometimes rag-tag minimum-wage job of securing airports and moved to coordinate activities of law enforcement and intelligence agencies. Approval ratings for lawmakers and the president soared. A Newsweek poll found 79% felt 9/11 would make the country stronger and more unified.
Hillary Clinton was a US senator representing New York from 2001 to 2009. She voted for the AUMF, the USA PATRIOT Act and the Iraq war resolution. She later criticized Bush’s rush to war and his refusal to let UN weapons inspectors complete their mission in Iraq. In December 2006, she said, ”Obviously, if we knew then what we know now, there wouldn’t have been a vote, and I certainly wouldn’t have voted for it.”
Donald Trump, on the other hand, now denies that he supported the Iraq invasion. He even claimed in a Sept. 16, 2015 debate that he “fought very, very hard against us … going into Iraq,” saying he could provide “25 different stories” to prove his opposition. But PolitiFact, in a Feb. 19, 2016, analysis, found no evidence that he spoke against the war before it started. Indeed, when Howard Stern asked Trump on Sept. 11, 2002, if he supported invading Iraq, he replied, “Yeah, I guess so. You know, I wish it was, I wish the first time it was done correctly.” Trump expressed early concerns about the cost and direction of the war a few months after it started.
During the debate over the renewal of the USA PATRIOT Act in December 2005, Clinton expressed concerns with its impact on civil liberties and in March 2006 she voted in favor of a compromise renewed act that passed by an 89–10 margin. She has a 75% lifetime rating from the American Civil Liberties Union from her eight years in the Senate. Clinton also was a co-sponsor of the Zadroga 9/11 Health Act, which finally was passed over Republican opposition in 2010 and funded medical treatment for responders and survivors who experienced health complications related to the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
A December 2003 report by the Foundation Center detailed the “unprecedented outpouring of charitable support” following the 9/11 attacks, as nearly 1,300 foundations, corporations and other institutional donors gave a total of $1.1 billion for recovery and relief efforts. But Trump, the supposed friend of the workers, whose family first became wealthy renting apartments to the working class in Brooklyn and Queens, chose not to take part, William Bastone noted at RawStory.com.
Trump claimed $150,000 in 9/11 relief money to reimburse him for recovery efforts in helping people out after the attacks, but documents obtained by the New York Daily News show that “Trump’s account was just a huge lie,” Cameron Joseph reported.
“Records from the Empire State Development Corp., which administered the recovery program, show that Trump’s company asked for those funds for ‘rent loss,’ ‘cleanup’ and ‘repair’ — not to recuperate money lost in helping people,” Joseph reported.
The government program was designed to help local businesses get back on their feet — not reimburse people for their charitable work.
Trump claims the money was “probably” meant as reimbursement “for the fact that I allowed people, for many months, to stay in the building, use the building and store things in the building.” But it wasn’t, Kevin Drum noted at MotherJones.com. As the Daily News noted, Trump’s application says it was for cleanup and repair, even though he had earlier said that his building wasn’t damaged. “It was not part of the program to give money away for the other ancillary stuff,” says David Catalfamo, who helped run the program. “The way the program worked was to help businesses cover for uninsured losses. Businesses came forward with their losses and we covered part of them.”
While many Americans still approve of infringing civil liberties of immigrants, Muslims and others in an attempt to prevent terrorism, we still have a greater chance of being struck by lightning than by a terrorist’s bullets. In 2015, 19 Americans were killed in terrorist-related shootings in Chattanooga, Tenn., and San Bernardino, Calif., and one American died in the November 2015 attack in Paris, Snopes.com noted, while according to the Gun Violence Archive, 13,471 people were killed in the US by firearms and 27,016 people were injured by gunfire. In fact, Snopes.com also noted that in 2015, toddlers under 3 years of age killed more Americans than Islamic terrorists, as 19 toddlers shot and killed themselves and two toddlers killed others.
While Trump has not advanced anti-toddler initiatives, much less proposals to ban gun sales to people on the Transportation Security Administration’s “no-fly” list, his blatantly xenophobic campaign, as well as anti-Islamic rhetoric from other conservative politicians, has helped fuel anti-Islamic sentiment throughout the country. Since the Paris attacks in December 2015, ThinkProgress.org has recorded 103 instances of “egregious Islamophobia” in the US — an unprecedented spike, according to the Center for American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).
Republicans clearly are hoping a terrorist attack before the election will scare voters into siding with Trump’s extremist views. Islamic jihadists doubtless would like to cooperate, knowing that a Trump presidency, with his demonization of Islam and his inability to distinguish between fundamentalists and more moderate forms of Islam, would provide a boon for worldwide recruiting of jihadists.
The first rule of fighting terrorism is: Do not let fear cause you to do stupid things. The best defense against Islamic jihadists in the US are Islamic communities that are as fully integrated into the United States as any other sect. We hope Hillary Clinton has learned those lessons. Trump seems unwilling or unable to learn them. — JMC
From The Progressive Populist, October 1, 2016
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