Who is the man on the horse?
A hero, of course.
We had travelled to One World Trade Center and glimpsed, through gaps in a high security fence, a monument featuring the epic figure of a US Special Forces member, complete with machine gun, riding nobly into battle upon his trusty steed.
A natural figure to grace Ground Zero.
All real American heroes are immortalized atop a mighty horse. There’s no greater evidence that a man is good and great and sacred and true.
Take George Washington. Father of our country.
Or General Robert E. Lee. His valiant defense of slavery led to his continual veneration, as he remains displayed prominently in Richmond, Virginia, and elsewhere.
And we will always honor General George Custer. So handsome, so virile. He fought to exterminate the Sioux and the Cheyenne, but alas, those tribes managed to exterminate him first.
Even in the 20th century, age of the automobile and the jet, our finest men were immortalized atop a horse. Behold the great John Wayne, a fine actor and mighty patriot who became the 40th president in American history.
Now the visual grandeur continues with this 9/11 statue of a Green Beret astride an Afghan stallion, his M4 with attached grenade launcher close at hand. Just where did artist Douwe Blumberg get the impulse to use this form for his monument on the war on terror?
Did God himself inspire his creative vision?
It was this man.
Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, a hero in his own right, was giving a news conference on November 16th, 2001. Blumberg was watching as Rumsfeld proudly presented a photo of a man from our Special Forces riding a horse over the fraught and treacherous Afghan landscape.
Yes, only 39 days after the slaughter of 3,000 Americans, our heroes were in Afghanistan, in full gallop, launching a historic crusade to annihilate the Taliban, destroy Al Qaeda, and end terrorism once and for all.
These mounted troops became known as horse soldiers. Years later, anonymous Wall Street bankers funded the monument as the perfect symbol of America’s response.
Of course, a dozen Green Berets on horses didn’t quite win the war. Nor did high-tech weaponry and thousand-pound bombs and foreign troops and torture and assassination. Hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis and Afghanis perished in these conflicts, tens of thousands of our own troops were killed and injured, 4-6 trillion dollars were spent on the massive efforts. And the result? Jihadist terrorism has expanded and thrived, and we live in a security state that spies on everyone for the good of us all.
But it’s nice to pretend otherwise.
In the age of drones, nukes, and other distant but devastating warfare, we must continually resurrect the dream of brave, rugged men who fearlessly ride out to fight tooth and nail to preserve our freedoms.
In the American Empire, it’s always payback time.
The myth is far more attractive than the reality.