(note: this post was supposed to go up on September 11, but a combination of my laze and a revelation as to the subject make today the perfect day to post this.)
I mostly avoided anything involving remembering 9/11 yesterday. It helps that I don’t have cable anymore, because otherwise I’d have likely had some documentaries of the horror and heroism doing white noise duty, at least until I’d have found myself transfixed as I was that morning. Also, I’ve discovered that I remember those events, states away from the ass end of Ohio, with full clarity (sight, sound, touch, smell, tingles, and sinking feelings), partially because I was transfixed, partly because I’ve spent the following decade watching unending numbers of documentaries (including a couple of things with truther bullshit included). Forgetting is not an option.
But what I want to look at is what happened after, as what happened after 9/11 has had a larger impact on our country, and the world, than the events of the day themselves. And my worldview as well has changed so much since then that I find myself reappraising everything.
The Patriot Act – I’ll start here, because this was the bipartisan legislation rushed out while people were’ still sweeping away ash from the towers. The only thing this legislation was missing was a dead person’s name on it (which is always a sign that a law is both rushed and flawed as fuck). Of course, at the time, I was all for it, with a caveat fairly early on that the law should have sunset provisions, since giving the government extra- and un-constitutional powers is an iffy proposition, even in wartime. And in the hearts of Americans in general, we were at war. Now, while it wasn’t the first step and sure as fuck hasn’t been the last, the Patriot act was the point at which we generally accepted the surveillance state. Consider that when you are filling out a form at the bank because of a law to stop terrorists, self-censoring what you write online because you know the FBI is watching, or getting gate raped by the TSA as they expand their mission to feel up America to further the cause of security theater.
Afghanistan – Back in 2008, Senator (and cockbastard loser) John McCain posited the idea that we may need to stay a century to deal with this shit. We upended the Taliban’s rule over the bulk of the country rather easily, then started checking caves and holes and goat-fuck parlors for Osama bin Laden. Over a decade later, we found him in Pakistan and snuffed his ass. Also, the Taliban and al Qaeda are still running parts of Afghanistan, and are otherwise doing the same shit that their predecessors were doing with the Soviets: Fighting them until they give up due to the escalating cost of blood and treasure. And last time I looked, the treasure thing was a problem for us. Now that’s not to say we were wrong to go in. We had every justifiable reason to bust up their shit. But there’s a point of diminishing returns when you become an occupying force. When you commit forces, your choices are to either win or spend blood and treasure until you retreat. And we’re not winning shit anymore.
Iraq – I’ve gone on already about this, so I’ll be brief. I supported it because I believed what the administration said. They were wrong, and it became a quagmire topped only by Vietnam and Afghanistan. And despite an agreement to get the fuck out, we’re STILL there. Not in the depth we are in Afghanistan, but we’ve had uninterrupted war there for almost a decade. And this has been a bipartisan effort, despite the protestation of the Democrats.
Drones – General George S Patton Jr (no peacenik in any sense), in the post-WWII period, expressed his dislike for the ease of push-button bombing. Drone strikes insulate us from the costs of war. It doesn’t insulate the innocent on the receiving end of the strikes from those costs. And in a cross-clusterfuck of mistakes, we’re now in the process of bringing surveillance drones to this country’s sky (no more fucking in the woods). I read somewhere that the first person in this country to bring one of these fuckers down will be hailed as a hero. I can see that.
The “War on Terror” (summary) – When this quote mark-necessitating “war” is looked at in the trash bin of history, it will probably be set next to the “war on poverty” and “war on drugs” in that this is SOMETHING YOU CANNOT WIN. A war against an idea or concept or a state of being is a surefire fucking loser. We started a war to take out the Islamic terrorists who were primarily behind the 9/11 attack. Along the way, we’ve managed to get interventionist foreign policy enshrined in both parties, to the point that, after Bush lodged us in Iraq and Afghanistan for longer than he was president 0bama has taken intervention to another level by throwing piecemeal air strikes (and those cute little drones) into Libya, Syria, etc.
The world will never be a “safe” place (although it is safer now than at any time in recorded history). So given this, and given the fact that much of Islam is a hotbed for terror (they celebrated 9/11 by attacking our embassies in Libya and Egypt), we have to ask questions:
1. The price of freedom is vigilance. It is not security. Why, then, have we been so ready to *Founding Father quote reference* trade freedom for security (in the form of the surveillance state)?
2. There will always be Islamic terrorists. So why are we still fighting a “war” that we can’t win? Specifically, why are we fighting a war against an idea, employing a strategy of draining blood and treasure to defeat us, that we can’t win, especially by bankrupting ourselves?
3. The 9/11 attack was the last successful terrorist attack on us domestically. Every attempt after this has been fucking pitiful (shoe and undie bombers?!?!?!). And yet we continue to react and defend against things that have been done. What’s the point, and why the fuck have we not risen up en masse and started throwing TSA people out windows?
4. If we are serious about winning this “War on terror”, why haven’t we turned the terrorist-harboring countries into sheets of fucking glass yet?
4. How much does our incessant post-Cold War (and Cold War) actions abroad affect how our enemies perceive us? And how much of this gives them, in their evil minds, justification for attacking us? And would a non-interventionalist (but not isolationist) foreign policy be a much less expensive way to defend against the random Islamic raghead nutjob terrorist?
As we return to our lives after remembering that beautiful morning turned into a national nightmare, considering what we have done to deal with our pain and horror is as necessary a part of healing as is the silence at memorials.