I’m sorry. We wrecked all possible good outcomes in our responses to 9/11. It was a terrible event and we have mourned, but we do need to move on. So much of our response was about revenge. Very satisfying, I suppose, until you hear from returning service people who went to Iraq and Afghanistan with such “patriotic” feelings. They have second thoughts. Some have PTSD or thoughts of murder or suicide. Too many were severely wounded. All of the money spent, more than 6,000 lives lost (twice that of 9/11), and the fear and hate.
I canvassed in Waukesha WI for Kerry in 2004. I talked with many people who leaned toward democratic proposals, but who told me flat out “I’m afraid. I don’t want to change horses in the middle of the stream.” Rove’s campaign for Bush that year, if you have forgotten, was all about fear. Several times a week in September and October of that year there were warnings of terrorist attempts to destroy us (What if they go after random shopping malls?) and increased reminders of alert warnings.
So all in all, the terrorists won. We lived a decade in terror. We were and are still fearful. We spent our wealth to get the terrorists and to prevent terrorism rather than on building a good and better society. Immediately after 9/11 there were special deals on cars and trucks and wow did they sell. This made many people very happy and unquestioning of what would happen next.
We adopted the methods of terrorists and became advocates and practitioners of torture. We became our enemies. We passed the Patriot Act and dismantled our freedoms. We are less free today than at 9/11. We still have Guantanamo, a symbol of our fear that our legal system isn’t good enough to do its job.
Freedom Tower I is the most expensive skyscraper ever built. The WTT subway station cost more than many subway systems. Towns around me argue about where to place 9/11 memorials, some of which are truly ugly. They will take their places with other ugly memorials to the Spanish-American War and WWI, etc. There just aren’t many good ways to memorialize the carnage of war.
That’s a big problem: 9/11 wasn’t a war, but we made it one – or two. What would have happened if we had treated it as a “crime?” First responses of police, FBI, our intelligence agencies, and European police and intelligence groups were very successful in rounding up suspects and finding guilty parties. This is where the money should have gone instead of wars. Get the bad guys and ask good questions.
The questions were not allowed to be asked. Several good writers and television commentators asked “Why did these individuals commit these acts?” “What is bin Laden’s motivation?” “Why is there an al queda and why do they hate us?” All who asked these questions were told to “shut up.” Comedians and commentators like Bill Maher (no relation) were squelched. Yeah, those 19 guys were courageous for their cause, and we continue to do things around the world that elicit hatred.
Many Muslims and people thought to be Muslims (like Sikhs) were threatened and even killed. This week there are threats in Tennessee against the building of a mosque. Understanding, tolerance, and better yet acceptance is further from us. At least we don’t hear about “freedom fries” anymore. BTW, immediately after Colin Powell made his infamous UN speech, the French objected because their intelligence agency KNEW that the claims he made (I think we can call them “his”) about wmd’s were false. I’m glad that’s over. But we are still at war in many countries, and still spending billions on weapons and becoming a surveillance state with increasingly limited civil rights.