Tuesday, September 11, 2012

In Memoriam...

     Eleven years ago, I was six. I remember seeing passenger jets with terrorists at the controls and innocent civilians huddled in the seats slam into the sides of World Trade Centers One and Two. I remember watching the graceful glass and steel crumble into concrete and ash around the impact as the fireball enveloped the upper floors. I remember stoically watching the faces of panicked pedestrians and newsmen blurting out the story before the debris of Tower One filled the streets as the building fell.  Seeing the tower crumple in on itself like a card house, floor falling through floor, and hearing the announcer exclaiming "Oh my God! Oh my God!" I finally grasped what had happened, and realized that nothing was going to be the same.

  I continued to watch, eyes glued to the screen, as survivors who escaped the building told stories of the bloody chaos and destruction on every floor of the Towers. The anguished voices of wives and mothers filled the newscast, calling the station to ask about the welfare of their loved one, And above all of the mayhem, reports began to stream in that another plane with hundreds of husbands, wives, sisters, and brothers had slammed into the western side of the Pentagon.  The images of firemen at both sites carrying away the wounded and dead are pictures that I, nor America, can ever forget. I knew I was safe in my small-town Virginia house, but the terror of the moment touched me as well, as it did Americans all across the nation.
    We did not know anyone at the Towers or the Pentagon, but their pain and fear became our pain and fear. We did not know the people courageous enough to drag coworkers out of the inferno or attack terrorists in the cockpits, but those people became our heroes too. We rose up as Americans and vowed to endure, to rebuild, and to never forget. Though the road of rebuilding has led us through two bloody and stigmatized wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, we have never stopped devoting ourselves to the idea that never again will 3,000 Americans perish in an attack on their homeland. We are the land of the free and the home of the brave, but only because those who died fighting for freedom were brave enough to remind us how precious our liberty is.

    Many have asked, where was God at Ground Zero, the Pentagon, or on Flight 93? I will tell you that He was right there with every person who perished, His heart broken that so many of His children died in the space of five hours. Why did He allow 9/11? I must say that we cannot know for sure; as Isaiah the Prophet explains this in Isaiah 40:13, "Who has understood the mind of the LORD, or instructed him as his counselor?" However, understand this, that the Lord's plan, while it may look destructive, is more beautiful than we could ever foresee.We cannot see the pattern of the tapestry God is weaving. We are on the other side of the loom looking at knotted threads placed seemingly without purpose. Occasionally we can catch a glimpse of the design,but then as soon as we think we have it pegged, a new thread or knot is placed that changes everything. Only when we meet God face to face in Heaven will we see his master plan. 

     Until we see this master plan however, know that there is a greater hand at work in the world than terrorist masterminds. Today is a day to never forget the patriots who died on 9/11, but also a day to never forget that there is more to the world than flesh, blood, and concrete. 

To those who saw the fire,
To those who felt the pain,
To those who were under rubble,
The places where loved ones were lain.
Your courage to face what had crumbled,
With patriotism, you took a stand;
Though through your hearts destruction rumbled,
And felt the evil planned.
Your sacrifices we shall never forget,
In the shadow of the Towers.
With tears on cheeks, but faces set,
You showed the world that Courage and Love still hold power.

911--never forget

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Debt Forgiving Debt...

An Egyptian woman adjusts her veil in front of a poster
outside an exchange office. (VOA)

           This past week, the United States grew close to finalizing a deal with Egypt’s new Muslim Brotherhood government and president, Mohamed Morsi, to help Egypt cut $1 billion from its national debt. Aside from the irony of one of the most debt-laden countries helping another nation pay off its own debt, the diplomatic move for the United States promises numerous benefits.
As the new Egyptian political system stabilizes, the Muslim Brotherhood ruling party has set its eyes on dramatically reducing the amount Egypt owes to foreign nations. This past month, President Morsi set off on a whirlwind tour of the world, not only re-establishing diplomatic relations with China, Syria, Russia, and the EU, but also requesting funds to help re-establish democratic relations within Egypt. Overall, Mr. Morsi’s requests have been successful with China pledging $270 million, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) throwing its support behind a $4.8 billion loan, and over $375 million invested by American financiers (in addition to the $1 billion provided by the American government). However, numerous Congressmen and taxpayers are wondering one thing: where does the money that President Obama pledged Egypt come from?

Where is the money coming from?
            The official explanation from Patrick Ventrell, the State Department’s acting deputy spokesman is that the $1 billion is not “new money.” And surprisingly, for once, the government seems to be correct. Like clockwork, the United States has given over $1.2 billion per year in military aid for the past few decades. Throughout the years, the account books have fluctuated back and forth until Egypt came out in the red—owing the US over $3 billion. Essentially, the money that the Obama administration is giving/forgiving out of the Egyptian debt is the money that would have gone to Hosni Mubarak for military support. In other words, the United States regularly gives Egypt $1 billion per year, so this deal is nothing new.
                        Except for the fact that the U.S. has already given Egypt millions this year. According to the 2012 Appropriations act signed by Obama in December 2011, the U.S. would only give to Egypt if the government was "supporting the transition to civilian government, including holding free and fair elections; implementing policies to protect freedom of expression, association and religion and due process of law." However, the act allowed the Secretary of State to waive that requirement, which Hillary Clinton did in March, increasing the amount donated to over $1.7 million per month given to Egypt.

The reason for the charity.
            As usual, there is a method behind the madness. Maintaining a strong U.S. presence within Egypt, either militarily or monetarily, is key to preserving Middle-East accessibility and Egypt-Israel solidarity, notes Patrick Ventrell. As the New York Times reports, given Egypt’s influence in the Arab world, officials said, its economic recovery and political stability could have a profound influence on other nations in transition and ease wariness in Israel about the tumultuous political changes under way.
            It is  an economic fundamental that nothing is free—you always have to give to get. In this case, the U.S. is trading money for security. One question remains unanswered and unasked however: do we even have the money to spend?