Being on the furthest periphery of the events of that day (watching it unfold on TV), I think I’ll leave the tributes and remembrances of the specifics of that day to others where there, who covered it, and who know it more intimately than someone who simply sat on the sidelines and watched the machinations of the various parties of the actual attack, as well as those that sought gain from it in one form or another. So let me start with my history, and we’ll go there.
I was woken up by my grandma a bit before 9. Flipped the TV on to Fox News (as I was watching it in quantity at the time). This was when the speculation was that it was still an accident, as we were still not living in the pos-9/11 world at that point. That changed at 9:03 of course. I watched the events for hours. No need to relate everything, just the sight of people plunging to their death before the towers finally fell. It’s video they don’t show on TV, but they were showing the raw video that morning.
Two things I noticed later in the day. First, I was out getting food, and the usual panic was in play, as the gas station was packed with people fueling up. I thought this a bit ridiculous, since we were in rural Ohio, but panic is the way this country often rolls. Second, after things had died down, I noticed it was really quiet. Without the jet traffic, the constant background roar that we usually don’t hear when we’re outside during the day was missing, and while we don’t consciously hear it, it was certainly missing. To put than into perspective:
The War on Terror
Pissed is an understatement as to our reaction. After all, we don’t generally take the slaughter of 3000+ innocent people lying down. We do what we do best. Return overwhelming fire. Without getting into specifics and the politics of the wars, we launched against a clear enemy in Afghanistan within months. We opened a second front under more controversial circumstances in Iraq. And against conventional enemies, we killed the shit out of them a thousand times over (hard enough we probably got some of the 72 virgins in the afterlife in the blast). But we’re not fighting a conventional enemy. These are brain cancers that have to be cut out, not rotting limbs that can be lopped off. Our military is best at the latter.
That’s why we’re still in both countries. That, and we’re trying to rebuild the countries. While running up record debts. And with the population divided, as it appears we are in a state of perpetual war.
Now I’m not saying we don’t need to hunt down and kill terrorists. But have we set the perpetual war machine in motion now due to the events of that day 10 years ago? This is not to disparage the brave soldiers who answer the call to serve and do their duty, but to ask questions:
1. Does this mean that we need to respond to every terrorist-supporting country be eventually bombing the fuck out of them? Do we invade? Or can we achieve the same results by non-military means? Because Iran hasn’t changed their stance, and we know Pakistan has been jerking us off for years (including hiding bin Laden).
2. Does our continued massive presence in the Middle East give our enemies a clear enemy to point to? And does the fact that we’ve created many of the regimes we’ve had for enemies part of our problem?
(Examples include the current regime in Iran, which was a revolt against our puppet, Saddam Hussein in Iraq, who we propped up to deal with Iran, and the Taliban, who grew out of the resistance we supported against the Soviets. And Saudi Arabia, who we still suck off for oil despite the fact they play both sides.)
3. When the goals of a war change with the political winds, can we actually win that war, or is it simply an expenditure of blood and treasure to buy temporary respite? (For an answer, see Vietnam.)
4. How do you fight this war then? Intel? Tactical strikes by special forces? Black Ops (the kind that don’t play by rules)? Again, I don’t know for certain, but when you try to rewrite the rules to suit your preference (enhanced interrogation) you enter dangerous territory. And you give future leaders the same kind of justification (War Powers Act).
Those who would trade liberty….
At home, we took the usual approach to combating terror. Not hunting down terror threats or finding ways to secure vital locations, but trying to sort through the myriad numbers of Americans with a haphazardly swung comb through my daughter’s hair. There’s lots of tugging, tangles, and pain, except without any eventual results.
Again, this is not a 100% indictment of the steps we’ve taken, but an examination of some of our methods, like:
The Patriot Act – Passed shortly after 9/11, it had some clearly unconstitutional items that have been weeded out. And as it has survived several reauthorizations, it still contains several abridgements of individual liberty, which possess increased potential for abuse, like in the ill-fated war on drugs under a disguise of dealing with terrorists. It comes down to whether you trust the government not to overreach when they have the opportunity.
The Department of Homeland Security – Yet another bureaucracy, who’s existence skates the line between foreign and domestic. In theory, sharing info so that we can coordinate forces and not get surprised again is a good thing. I don’t know whether this has been a lot of bureaucracy for little gain. Their efforts have stopped terror attacks, but whether this could have been achieved a more efficient way is the question.
The TSA – A sad, pathetic political solution to a real problem. These are the cockblasters that grope old ladies in diapers, 3-year-olds, people with urine bags (who then get covered in piss), all in an effort to catch a terrorist doing something we know they’ve done. There was the threat of nail files. And shampoo. And shoes, because one idiot tried and failed to blow himself up with them. The obsession with looking for stuff rather than looking for terrorists has done not a damned thing to protect us, has stripped us of liberty and dignity, and has cost a lot of money. This is emblematic of how we politicize every necessary steps to the point they become ineffective.
USA – 5
Terrorists – 5
Terrorists get points for: 9/11, TSA, Patriot Act, interrogation/torture controversy, and entangling the USA in perpetual wars.
We get points for killing the Taliban, Saddam, bin Laden, crippling al Qaeda, and 0 terrorist attacks for the majority of the decade.
Now I’m sure everybody has an opinion that doesn’t involve a draw, but consider this. Those who say we are winning are the ones who are most likely to suggest a path of perpetual war to stay “safe.” And those who say we are losing consider believe we’ve killed our country’s spirit in a jihad against jihadists and can only recover by fully dismantling everything. They’re both right in a sense.
That’s why, a decade later, as we remember those we lost, we take measure as well of what we have gained and lost in those things in our culture that are a result of the tragedy brought by hatred.