Ten years later, all we have are losses
In two days, it will have been 10 years since our world changed forever.
Sept. 11, 2001, began like any other Tuesday in late summer, but by mid-morning, two planes had struck the Twin Towers, a third had hit the Pentagon and a fourth had crashed into a field in western Pennsylvania.
Just like that, we were at war.
Ten years later, one thing is fairly obvious. Osama bin Laden accomplished everything he wanted to accomplish, and we lost.
If that sounds harsh, consider a few things:
We can start with that old proverb from Benjamin Franklin about how people who are willing to surrender some of their freedom to gain a little security deserve neither.
That one sort of speaks for itself.
But let's look at the country in which we lived on Sept. 10, 2001. Our economy was strong, although it had gone through a slight slowdown after the Dot-Com Crash. Unemployment for the year was 4.7 percent, and even in 2002, it averaged only 5.8 percent.
The federal budget was in surplus, thanks to a Democratic president working with a Republican Congress, and money had actually been paid to lower the national debt.
There was even a long-range plan to pay off the debt by 2010. It might not have happened, but things were moving in the right direction.
Things had changed somewhat with the 2000 election. George W. Bush decided that a massive tax cut for the wealthiest Americans, even if it meant paying down the debt more slowly, should be a priority. Bush insisted that the economy was so good that we would still have a balanced budget with the tax cuts.
Democrats and Republicans weren't exactly bosom buddies, especially in the wake of the Clinton impeachment and a hotly contested election in 2000, but the atmosphere was less poisonous than it is today.
Then Sept. 11 happened, and for a few months the nation was as unified as it had been at any time since World War II. President Bush said we would go after bin Laden and we wouldn't rest till we got him.
Dead or alive.
But then we started doing things wrong. Just as generals have often been accused of preparing to fight the last war, we spent billions of dollars to make sure airliners were never again flown into skyscrapers. In the process, we made flying nearly unbearable and we bent over backward to avoid profiling the very type of people who had committed the crime by practically strip-searching 85-year-old women and 3-year-old children.
We also began spending massive sums to create a Department of Homeland Security, doubling and redoubling the government hierarchy and wasting tens of billions of dollars in the process.
At least we went after bin Laden in the mountains of Afghanistan, although once he escaped our trap at Tora Bora in December, things seemed to get a little muddled.
The next nine years seemed to go almost perfectly according to bin Laden's plan. His stated goal was to make America change, and all we did in that respect was devastate our economy, ruin our relationship with people of Muslim faith -- both here and abroad -- and go to war to depose the single greatest force against bin Laden in the Middle East.
Saddam Hussein was a bad guy, to be true, but the idea that the secular Hussein was supporting bin Laden was ridiculous. The ensuing war further ruined our economy and resulted in thousands of dead American soldiers.
We didn't get bin Laden, either, not until a different president was in office in 2011. By then our economy had collapsed and the trillions of dollars spent on the wars and on homeland security had ballooned our national debt to previously unheard-of levels.
So now Democrats hate Republicans, Republicans hate Democrats and the Tea Partiers hate everyone. We've got no money to rebuild our economy and the world is in danger of heading into another recession.
Yes, Osama is dead.
But we're still fighting those same wars and losing both lives and money. Our country is in a shambles and the two parties can't seem to agree on anything.
Osama may not have won, but we sure didn't either.