Three years later

Saturday marks the third anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on America, which means we’ve been through three of our most difficult and painful years since the Vietnam War ended three decades ago. More than 1,000 Americans have died in Iraq, and the hard times are far from over.

We remain embroiled in two nasty wars that are draining our treasury, our economy is lackluster at best, health care costs continue to climb, there are more people in poverty than before and more without health insurance, the gap between rich and poor is greater than it’s ever been, environmental laws are under assault, our government is borrowing and spending as if there’s no tomorrow, much of the rest of the world is angry at us, and we’re more afraid than we’ve been in decades.

The last factor, our fear of terrorism, is turning out to be the most important in this election year, at least when it comes to votes. President George W. Bush understands this. He’s made good use of this fear.

He used it to justify the invasion of Iraq. Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and was helping terrorists, he insisted. Then, as those rationales proved to be groundless, he continued to conflate the war in Iraq with the general war on terrorism, something he is still doing despite all evidence to the contrary.

We remember Franklin Roosevelt’s immortal words to the American people as World War II began, that the only thing we had to fear was fear itself. Instead of exploiting Americans’ fear, Roosevelt instead appealed to their courage and determination and optimism.

In contrast, President Bush mawkishly exploits the 9/11 tragedy for political gain, challenging John Kerry’s patriotism and touting the Iraq war as if it were some glorious victory for democracy instead of the disaster it’s become. We deserve better.