Six years it has been. Six years so very long ago, and six years still very short.

A child born that terrible blue sky morning prepares this September to head off to school. A freshman made suddenly aware the meaning of real terror after living only in terror of her first days at high school is now an upperclassman at college. A sixteen acre hole in the heart of a nation slowly fills with concrete and rebar, a sky-scraping phoenix soon to rise from the ashes.

Six years in which so very much is different, and six years in which too much is the same.

We all remember where we were and what we felt on the morning of September 11th, 2001, when calamity glided down upon us out of a clear blue sky. We remember the feelings of fear and trembling, of sadness and loss. Most of all we remember the images, the so many awful images indelibly seared on our souls.

Beyond the immediate trauma Americans experienced that terrible morning we also remember the great upwelling of simple togetherness, and the extraordinarily powerful feeling of international solidarity and cooperation forged in the heat that collapsed our buildings. Having lost so much on that day, how did we also manage to since lose so much unity and goodwill?

Perhaps because six years ago the history of the world changed twice: once by the actions of nineteen angry men, and once by the response of two vengeful and opportunistic leaders.

Under George Bush and Dick Cheney we have now been longer at war with the ghosts of these nineteen angry men than was America with Hitler's Germany and Hirohito's Japan. Having been spooked into believing we've no other option but to act fast, alone, and preemptively, we have become aggressors and invaders, busy always at the task of ridding the earth of Muslim "evildoers". To that end we have supported al-Qaeda's claim that the United States is waging a crusade against Islam.

Under George Bush and Dick Cheney we have abrogated civil liberties here at home, and trampled on the rule of international law and the Geneva Conventions. We have suspended the right of habeas corpus. We have become torturers.

And, as a result, we have long ago used up the last of our moral credit drawn from the bank of our dead three-thousand.

When measured against the possibilities created by 9/11, what we have actually accomplished over the past six years has compounded rather than eased the immensity of the tragedy. So intent were these two men on going to war against Saddam Hussein they would leave unfinished the job in Afghanistan. In doing so, they traded a massive funeral pyre in Manhattan for a nation-sized funeral pyre in Iraq.

The dread that enveloped the world like a thick black cloud six years ago not only has not lifted, it continues to deepen. Not content with having exploited the American people's legitimate grief and fears as a license to chase our nation's fortune into the mouth of an omnivorous and unwinnable war, George Bush and Dick Cheney would now invoke the attacks of September 11th to justify an expansion of their disastrous and degenerating offensive to neighboring Iran.

And yet the single thing that can be guaranteed about any assault on Iran is that, however well laid out the plans beforehand, events will quickly spin out of control. Blinded by arrogance, consumed by power, delusional in their divine mission, ridiculously sure of themselves, fearless of other people's lives, and still ignorant of their mistakes with regard to Iraq, they will once again be unprepared to deal with them.

Therefore on the sixth anniversary of al-Qaeda's assault on New York and Washington it is important that we mark not one but two great tragedies: the first, of course, the attacks; and the second, that we have allowed and are continuing to allow our grief misled into an endless war against endless enemies, an endless war that has made us considerably more isolated, less admired, less secure and less free.

The greatest tragedy of 9/11 is not what we lost on that September morning, but what we have lost since.

Todd Huffman, M.D.
Eugene, Oregon