Former President George W. Bush has announced that he plans to attend the ceremonies marking the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks in New York City this year. Also attending the ceremony will be a bipartisan delegation of politicians including President Obama, Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York, Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey, former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, and Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
It is difficult to believe that 10 years have passed since the 9/11 attacks killed over 3,000 innocent people and forever changed the course of the country's history. For a brief period the country rallied together in the weeks after the 9/11 attacks, and it seemed like petty political differences could be put aside while President Bush sought to punish those who were responsible.
Yet as the dust settled at Ground Zero, and American forces began to descend on Afghanistan, and later Iraq, that unity dissolved into political bickering. Both Republicans and Democrats were guilty of using the War on Terror to serve their political needs. Issues such as the Patriot Act, Guantanamo Bay, waterboarding, warrantless phone tapping, and the surge in Iraq fractured the American people. By the time George W. Bush left office, his approval ratings were dismal, and Osama bin Laden was still at large.
President Obama was one of Bush's most vocal critics, and he used the country's anti-Bush sentiment as a rallying cry during his campaign. Obama promised to change Bush's terror policies, and he delivered on a few of those promises. Yet two and half years into his presidency the prison at Guantanamo Bay is still open, American forces are still in Afghanistan, and parts of the original Patriot Act are still alive and well. Osama bin Laden was finally killed, but the threat of a terrorist attack still lingers in the back of everybody's mind.
Perhaps this year's ceremony will help unite the country once more. Never has such a bipartisan group of politicians descended on lower Manhattan to remember the 9/11 attacks. There is still a gaping hole at Ground Zero, but new construction continues to progress with each passing day. Is it naïve to think that this rebirth at Ground Zero can help all Americans work together?
Can President Obama and President Bush set a positive example by showing the country that former political adversaries can unite together for the greater good? Or has the country's political environment grown so poisonous that even honoring the victims of the 9/11 attacks cannot provide a brief moment of unity? Hopefully the political leaders who attend the 9/11 ceremonies this year can offer a united front instead of a divided one. If not, then the madmen who caused the 9/11 attacks have surely won.