Respect all victims of violence

Does it have to be this way? A decade of disaster. A dozen dying in war daily.

Does it have to be this way? Bloated budgets. Though billions for bombs.

Does it have to be this way? Public schools and prison cells: overcapacity and underfunded.

Does it have to be this way?

A decade after the malicious murder of nearly 3,000 fellow Americans, where do we as a country find ourselves? The United States is still mired in multiple wars and bombing campaigns, though only two commonly known. The present seemingly prescribes a heavy dose of imagination moreso than reflection. Imagination allows the creation of desperately needed new possibilities, whereas only reflecting panders to present realities with past events.

Let us imagine how the world would view the United States had the response to 9/11 been one of international unity, and not a bloody bonanza. Of 34 major countries polled in late September 2001, only India and Israel favored a military response in any capacity. This should not be overlooked.

The world also sought justice for the disastrous deaths of that dreadful day, just not by “neutralizing” the supposed nemesis with carpet-bombing. Imagine if the U.S. had mobilized this international consensus to bring the murderers to justice, without harming one innocent life along the way. Five similar terrorist attacks illustrate how there was indeed a definitive and plausible alternative to immediate war.

Indonesia suffered its most deadly terrorist attack on Oct. 12, 2002. Suicide bombers killed 202 in Bali’s downtown nightclubs, injuring 240 people. Madrid suffered bombings in 2004, with 29 dying and 191 injured. Subway bombers in London killed 56 people on July 7, 2005, and injured more than 700. And in 2008, 10 coordinated shootings and bombings in Mumbai led to a death total of 164, with 308 injured.

Perpetrators of these attacks did not become religious martyrs, but rather internationally scorned as murderers. The surviving assassins and associates have promptly been brought to trial in all four of these cases. Notably, these trials will be difficult and take time. Yet, the Nuremberg Trials set an important precedent for how to deal with such crimes. Does the extrajudicial killing of Bin Laden make it seem that Nazis deserved more rights than terrorists?

Of the five events I mentioned that necessitate a re-imagination of the American response to 9/11, the rampage in Oslo back in July is probably the freshest on people’s minds. An assassin bombed the Prime Minister’s building and then proceeded to mow down over 65 at a Labour Party youth camp; 77 was the final death count. Surely Americans mourn for Oslo’s terrorist attack victims as much as Norwegians sympathized with the United States a decade ago.

But Norway, in the aftermath of such mass murder, pursued quite the un-American response. Oslo’s Mayor addressed the public the day after, saying, “I don’t think security can solve problems. We need to teach greater respect.”

Though an intended victim of the bombing, Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg insisted at a news conference that “the Norwegian response to violence is more democracy, more openness and greater political participation.”

These statements come from leaders of a country that, adjusted for population, suffered more victims on July 22 than the U.S. did on Sept. 11.

Let’s make this clear. Norway, with a population of 5 million, lost 77 people. The U.S., with 300 million, lost 3,000. This is not a game of numbers, but an analysis of responses to comparable national terrorist attacks.

In the days following the attacks, what were the different responses? With the assassin in mind, did Norway begin to prey on people with blonde hair as Americans did on those with brown skin? Did Oslo create media spectacles out of Christian church buildings as New York has done with mosque constructions? The rhetorical questions could never end.

As we reflect on the dead of Sept. 11 throughout this 10th anniversary, I wish to remember more than those who perished in the twin towers. Let us recall victims of senseless violence throughout the world, not just those of American nationality but of the human species.

Adjusted for population, and taking the very low estimate of 110,000 dead Iraqis, the country of Iraq has suffered a “9/11” every 18 days since the March 2003 invasion. Focusing only on 9/11 will blind us from the murder committed in our country’s name. Does it have to be this way? I certainly don’t think so. Do you?