Different. Better.

Anyone who reads the Whatever knows how much I adore James Lileks, but this bit from Friday’s Bleat is puzzling me:

So if Al Qaeda had failed on 9/11, do you think OBL and the rest of the merry band would be sitting around a table in Kabul holding hearings about who was to blame? I tend to think they would have moved on.

Well, see, the thing is: Aren’t we supposed to be different than OBL and his merry band? Oughtn’t we have, well, higher standards in terms of accountability? Shouldn’t we expect our leaders to do a better job of understanding the failures of their policies than a bunch of zealots hiding behind a holy book to justify their amoral and immoral acts? Can we not expect the citizenry of the United States to be offered a better quality of introspection on an executive level than bin Laden may feel he’s obligated to provide his followers?

I mean, I hate to be touchy-feely about this, but I think we are, we ought, we should and we can. If nothing else, I’m an American, and that means that by virtue of the fact my government works for me (is it not, after all, as one of our executives put it, “of the people, by the people, for the people” — of which I am one?), I should not unreasonably expect it to resolutely examine 9/11 in order to gain as complete an understanding of it as possible. My government owes me explanations. I’m not terribly interested in blame; I’m interested in knowledge. I’m interested in comprehending what happened and why. I’m interested in knowing how my government has conducted its business since 9/11 to keep our nation secure, and if it has (or can) do so while still keeping the essential character and quality of our country intact. If it means having some hearings, well, again, not to be touchy-feely here, but it seems such a small price to pay for what we as a nation stand to benefit.

No, bin Laden and al Qaeda wouldn’t have hearings. But that fact is to my mind not a recommendation against having them. Indeed, I’m rather pleased to discover ways my leaders and my government are not like these two. It beats discovering that they might have too much in common, I would think.