Americans are about to relive the misery of 9/11 with wailing, moaning, lamenting and endless self-pity and self-absorption. As they do so, they will also wallow in mourning of the loss of 1000 soldiers in the invasion of Iraq. The tears will be real. The grief will be sincere and the pain heartfelt. Americans care about themselves uniquely and seem to have far less empathy for the suffering of others who in reality have suffered far more and far longer at the hands of the American government and the American military.
Americans and their government do not even bother to keep accurate records of Iraqi combatants killed in opposition to American hegemony. Neither are records kept of innocent Iraqi victims of U.S. bombings and displays of firepower. We do not know how many Iraqi children and adults and elderly were sickened or who died prematurely from the sanctions levied against Iraq by after the Gulf War. Yet, estimates are that Iraqis have died by the tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands, or perhaps a million individuals or more, compared with less than four thousand Americans who have died in since 9/11. The self-pity by Americans dwarfs American pity for Iraqis and Afghan people have have suffered far, far more grievous injury.
Americans feel far more empathy for foreigners who died in the World Trade Center than for innocent victims of the American "Shock and Awe" campaign over Baghdad. Americans grieve far more for the four mercenaries killed in Fallujah than for the hundreds of innocent women and children and other noncombatants killed in the American bombing campaign in retribution for those deaths.
America lost two magnificent office towers and suffered damage to the Pentagon on 9/11/01. Iraqis have lost countless buildings, bridges, houses, and infrastructure of all kinds. Iraqis have spent years without reliable electricity due to American bombings of critical infrastructure, which bombings were arguably illegal under international humanitarian law.
According to the American "value system" what is the rate of exchange between value of American lives versus value of Iraqi lives? The rate of exchange must be high! Perhaps it is over 1000 to 1. That is, it appears that Americans think one American life is more precious than 1000 Iraqi lives.
So, on September 11, 2004, Americans will gather around to grieve and mourn and console themselves for America’s "sacrifices" and losses in the "War on Terror". Few Americans will think about the sacrifices of innocent lives of Iraqis caused by American policies and actions. Americans are self-absorbed and lacking in concern for the pain and destruction imposed by American forces on others, even though Iraqis had no connection with the events of 9/11.
If the day comes when American citizens and officials lament the loss of ALL human lives in the "War on Terror" and seek to eliminate ALL the root causes of this destructive way of thinking and acting, then we can have hope of a safer world with sanity and empathy. Americans never used force and violence to end the wars on poverty and illiteracy. The ability to move beyond self-absorption could enable America and its government to see and seek REAL solutions to the frictions and violence in today’s world.