Alongside millions of others, I spent the morning of September 11, 2001, watching the teevee in equal parts horror and disbelief. CBS News was perhaps the first network to broadcast unedited amateur video and audio of the planes hitting the World Trade Center.
It was the first — and likely the last — time I'd heard someone yell “Jesus fucking Christ!” on network television. That pretty much summed up my initial reaction as well.
In the afternoon I had fortuitous occasion to be in a University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee political science class called “Conduct of American Foreign Affairs” taught by Prof. Steven B. Redd. It was both timely and extremely helpful in terms of putting the morning's events in larger perspective.
While Prof. Redd was — and presumably still is — an unapologetic conservative Republican, I don't recall any attempt on his part to equate the views of the immediate suspect, Osama bin Laden, with the positions of the political left or Democratic leaders in Congress.
Nor were there any intimations of placing the blame for the bloodthirsty, murderous attacks at the feet of “Pagans, Gays, and the ACLU,” as the late, unlamented Jerry Falwell and the not-yet-late but otherwise similarly unlamented Pat Robertson did.
But he did do an exemplary job at facilitating fruitful discussion.
Every once in awhile we need to be reminded that there are thoughtful and even scholarly conservative Republicans, as opposed to the contingent of reactionary dimwits that populates the blogosphere and wake up every morning to go and genuflect before what Michelle Malkin commands them to be outraged about today.
Prof. Redd was so fair minded, in fact, that he awarded me a 96 for a paper arguing in favor of U.S. ratification of the Rome Treaty establishing the International Criminal Court, compared and contrasted with President Bush's Executive Order of November 13, 2001, which authorized the creation of military tribunals to hear cases against suspected al-Qaeda members.
It was a position, I suspect, in diametric opposition to his own.
I believe I lost the four remaining points mostly for formatting errors, although Prof. Redd did mildly chastise me for referring to Bush's power to institute the tribunals as “newly minted.”
I don't remember whether I subsequently defended myself over the use of the expression, which was partly facetious and mostly a response to the administration's attempt to equate the present tribunals with those established by the F. Roosevelt presidency.
Because, from a strictly constitutional perspective, Roosevelt's executive power was enhanced by a formal declaration of war by Congress, whereas the current administration's is not.
As for the formatting errors, I ascribe them to the fact that the paper was due only a couple of days after Bush's Executive Order appeared, and its issuance necessitated a drastic reorganization and rewrite of the material I had assembled to that point. There was a good deal of the proverbial midnight oil burnt, as I recall (a gallon of it was a lot cheaper then, too).
In retrospect I probably should have been awarded those remaining four points, because several of the military tribunals' constitutional infirmities that I described in my paper have since been recognized by a number of federal courts, including the highest one.
The moral of the story is that it didn't matter, in those days, whether you were a conservative Republican or a raving Trotskyite lobbying for aspects of world government. One of the effects of 9/11 was that it united Americans to a common purpose.
Indeed, it brought about a remarkable confluence of sympathetic international opinion toward the United States of America, including from the French and possibly even from Canadians.
And those days, of course, are long gone, thanks in large part to the Bush administration's “Conduct of American Foreign Affairs.”
Nevertheless, the memories of this day are not so easily shaken.