Today marks the tenth anniversary of the attacks in New York City and in Washington D.C. that killed c. 3,000 people.1 This event has had and will continue to have a large and significant effect on life, politics and culture in our world. Here I will simply talk about my own recollections about and thoughts concerning 9/11.
I was in Ottawa that September visiting my parents. September 11 was the date I would be leaving to go back to Toronto. On the morning I was packing when my mother told me a plane had hit one of the twin towers. (It was the north tower.) My first reaction was that it was some sort of bizarre accident; after all I knew about the small plane hitting the Empire State building in 1945. The commentators (CNN) were however talking about a possible terrorist attack and referred to the 1993 bombing in the buildings.2
There wasn’t much content to the commentators comments, but I sat watching the coverage and the footage of the north tower burning, wondering about all the people trapped in the building.
Then out of the blue I saw right on the TV in a corner of the screen a plane appear and then crash into the second tower. It was a real WTF3 moment. I also thought about all the people on the plane and in the building and I hoped it was evacuated. The commentators reacted with horror, amazement and shock. With comments like “Oh my God!”, “A plane just hit the south tower!”.
For the next c. 40 minutes it was horror as the fires burned uncontrollably and both towers were shrouded with black, grey and white smoke. I though over and over again about the people trapped in the buildings. Meantime there was news about the Pentagon being bombed, and I thought “What is this?”, “Is there even more to come?”.
Then the south tower came down. I saw on TV how the tower began to fail on one of the edges of where the plane crashed and then in under a minute the building fell upon itself. It was the second WTF moment of the day. Not in my wildest dreams / nightmares would I have conceived of such a structure disintegrating like that. The sound from the TV sounded muffled almost silent as the building collapsed. I knew that I wasn’t just watching a building fall down but hundreds maybe thousands of people die. Then the great billowing clouds of dust and debris erupted all over that part of downtown Manhattan. It was horrible beyond mere words. And I thought if it happened to the south tower it would happen to the north tower. My thought was again “Oh my God!!”.
Soon after that I had to leave to catch my bus. My father drove me to the Bus terminal and we talked very little on the way there. My father wasn’t angry just sad and stunned. He like me could not believe this was happening.
At the bus terminal several TV’s were showing what was happening live. It was there I saw the north tower collapse. I thought about all the people in the north tower who saw the south tower collapse and knew all to well that it was also to be their fate. I thought “What is it like to know that you are going to die shortly?” And yet again the huge puffy clouds of dust and debris filed the TV screen.
After that I could not watch anymore. I was crying and stunned. Watching large numbers of people die even if you can’t actually see them is gut retching. I said very little to anyone during the trip back to Toronto. I did read a couple of the newspapers when I got to Toronto. There were a few early editions. But frankly I was stunned and shocked.
I don’t think I ever got angry but I frankly just could not understand what would possess anyone to do a deed of this magnitude of wickedness? When I found out who had done it and why all I could feel regarding them was contempt about just how pathetically fanatical do you have to be to believe that crashing a plane into buildings and killing thousands of innocents is a battle in a “Holy War”, and that then you are a martyr. The only word for this sort of crap is pathetic.
If for a while people were, worldwide united in shock and grief it didn’t last long. The ghouls were soon out to turn this tragedy into political capital for various ends. If Americans were quite rightly angry and in a mood for vengeance some, and some others were anxious to use what became swiftly known as 9/11 for political gain and real politic.
This even probably marked the point at which the 21st century truly began. The period of time after the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union, (1989-1991), in which people in much of the world looked towards a “Peace Dividend”, and a massive decrease in insecurity and the triumph of Human Rights and world wide peace were over. The world was still unsafe, bad things would continue to happen and new enemies would arise to replace old enemies. A dream of peace, security and prosperity died that day and has remained dead.
Meanwhile incompetent politicians used 9/11 as an excuse for a series of military adventures that have killed vastly more than 9/11 did. If America reaped a lot of good will with 9/11, bad politics and adventurism dissipated the good will and now, more than ever anti-Americanism is rife world wide. If the destruction of the thoroughly repugnant Taliban regime in Afghanistan, (A creature of the Pakistani ISI), that gave safe haven and a training ground for Bin Laden’s Al Qaeda, along with Bin Laden himself was relatively un-problematic. Certain aspects of the follow-up to 9/11 were not. One was the total failure to deal with the fact that 15 of the high-jackers, (The great majority.), were Saudi Arabians, the products of the fanatical religious schools of that theocratic regime. That Saudi Arabia was a coercive, autocratic theocracy ruled by a corrupt family regime, whose credo is religious, puritanical theocracy for the masses and hedonistic extravagance for the family elite who, by subsidizing fanatical religious schools and subsidizing, directly and indirectly Islamic extremism all over the world, sought to defuse antipathy to their own rule within Saudi Arabia, was ignored. After all Saudi Arabia was an American ally and a major source of oil. Thus Saudi Arabia’s theocratic police state with its contempt for liberal values, like elections, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, the right to vote were ignored. And so to this day Saudi Arabia continues to be a strong hold of Islamic extremism. Bush Jr. said once that the terrorists hated America for its freedom etc. Bush Jr. forgot that Saudi Arabia, that staunch American ally, whose extremely wealthy oil Sheiks Bush Jr. likes to hang out with also has a deep abiding hatred of American freedom and is fanatically opposed to those values. Thus the total failure to deal with Saudi Arabia, and its campaign to create Islamic theocracies world wide, was highly significant in that so long has rich Saudi families / government were involved in fomenting extremism this “war” could not be ended.
Finally what made the good will vanish was Iraq. Even before 9/11 plans were being made to target Iraq and get rid of Saddam Hussein. After 9/11 certain administration officials wanted to go after Iraq at once even though there was no evidence of any Iraqi involvement in 9/11. It was decided to get rid of the Taliban first in Afghanistan, but once that was done go after Iraq. The propaganda campaign to go after Iraq will not be gone into here. Except to note that it was characterized by much lying, distortion and mendacity. In the end Iraq was invaded and Saddam Hussein overthrown and later captured and executed. No tears need be shed for Saddam Hussein, a man guilty of crimes against humanity and war crimes, and the head of a kleptocracy that robbed his country. In the end this still doesn’t justify the lies and distortions, and of course America’s main ally in the region aside from Israel was Saudi Arabia, another brutal kleptocracy.
9/11 also gave rise to the ghouls known as “Truthers” who believe with great fanaticism and paranoia that 9/11 was an inside job. Their role is discrediting those who had real questions concerning the foul ups and stupidity that let 9/11 happen cannot be minimized. As it is they have played a massive role in fomenting paranoia and mindless fear.4
So America ten years after 9/11 is bogged down in two long running costly occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Bin Laden is dead, (Good riddance.), but nothing much seems to have changed. In Afghanistan the Taliban was able to reboot itself, with the aid of support within Pakistan, (An American “ally”!?) from Islamic fanatics and elements of the Pakistani military and secret services, (ISI).
In America and much of the world 9/11 has led to a significant erosion of individual rights with crap like the Patriot Act, and unauthorized searches etc. We have seen the creation of a world system of camps for the indefinite detention of suspects and the creation of previously dubious “crimes”. We have seen the re-emergence of torture and, very worrying, the re-emergence of arguments justifying torture.5
I remember 9/11, but I also remember that for the time being the terrorists have won.
1. Casualties of the September 11 attacks, Wikipedia gives the number of dead as 2,996 which includes the 19 high-jackers in the attacks, or 2977 victims, Here. The figure includes 24 Canadians and over 100 Muslims.
2. B-25 Empire State Building Crash, Wikipedia Here, 1993 World Trade Center Bombing, Wikipedia Here.
3. WTF – What the Fuck.
4. There is no point in debating a “Truther” anymore than in debating a Flat Earther or a Holocaust denier. For those interested in pursuing the matter see Dunbar, David, Debunking 9/11 Myths, Second Edition, Sterling Press, New York, 2011, and Screw Loose Change Here.
5. The literature concerning the effects of 9/11, the Iraqi and Afghani wars is huge and so is the literature on the effects of 9/11 on Civil Rights. For example see, Bricmont, J., Humanitarian Imperialism, Monthly Review Press, New York, 2006, Kagan, R., Paradise and Power, Vintage, New York, 2004, Packer, G., The Assassin’s Gate, Farrar, Straus & Giroux, New York, 2006, For a very large collection of postings concerning the erosion of civil rights by means of post 9/11 policies see Brayton, Ed, Dispatches From the Culture Wars Here and Here , Gold, Dore, Hatred’s Kingdom, Regnery Pub., New York, 2003, Shahzad, Inside Al-Qaeda and the Taliban, Pluto Press, London, 2011, Danner, R. K., Torture and Truth, New York Review Books, New York, 2004, Seymour, Richard, The Liberal Defence of Murder, Verso, London, 2008. The above is just a small sample of a huge amount of material available.