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Volume 71, Issue 83, Monday, February 6, 2006

Opinion

9/11 a lesson, not a marketing tool

Adil Saleem
Opinion Columnist

Usually every morning on my long trek to UH, I decide to avoid the major routes like Highway 59 and Interstate 45, but I decided a long time ago that one morning, I too would go on these highways. Well, that sort of happened. As soon as I saw the backlog of cars on the Southwest Freeway, I promptly turned back around from the feeder road. 

I took my usual route of taking Alternate US 90, which becomes Main as it approaches Loop 610. So why does all this matter? Well, it really doesn't except that every time I drive to UH taking Alternate 90, I notice one blaring sign, and it consumes my mind for a little bit, and then life goes on as normal. The sign reads "Never Forget 9/11" and it sits near the John Berg Air Conditioning and Heating Service Store. 

While 9/11 affected everyone and everything, I think it's time to move on. I've noticed that politicians have capitalized on this tragedy, as well as other figures in the media. Even the president uses it for his own gain. If the approval ratings are down, 9/11 comes to the rescue. It has become something that you can't argue against. 

Everything starts with "after 9/11" and that argument can't be argued against without being accused of treason. My real problem is with exploiting 9/11 for personal and political gain. President Bush said in 2003 before heading to war that, "We also know that Iraq is harboring a terrorist network headed by a senior al-Qaida terrorist planner". As we now know, and actually the government knew then, Saddam's "link" to al-Qaida was not a credible one. 

The Patriot Act rose from the ashes of 9/11 and only provided U.S. citizens with a false sense of safety. It takes away basic freedoms in the name of national security, and it's a hauntingly reminder of George Orwell's 1984. Numerous dictators in this world's history have taken powers upon themselves in the name of national security and we allow it because of our need to be protected; such is the way of the social contract. But in our rush, we forget that we exchange our liberty for our protection. 

Yes, the country should protect its own citizens, but a should it costs us our civil liberties? A striking example is Jose Padilla, who spent three years in military detention but was never charged for a single crime. He was finally charged in late 2005, but three years is an awfully long time to wait, even if you are guilty. Padilla is a U.S. citizen and that just makes the issue more volatile. If this could happen to a U.S. citizen, then none of us are safe. 

The 9/11 attacks were a horrible incident in American history, and there is no doubt that no one will forget what happened on that day. But keeping 9/11 fresh in our memories to incite specific emotions is equally wrong. 

Using a tragedy to promote one's agendas, as well as scaring people into giving up their rights in the name of security, is not what this country stands for. The events of 9/11 were a lesson, and we should treat it as such and not conjure up the pain it left behind for our own petty motives.

Saleem, an opinion columnist for The Daily Cougar, 
can be reached at aild@hotmail.com.

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