Never Forget

I was not directly effected nor especially traumatized (no moreso, that is, than the vast majority of humans who were¬†horrified by the suffering, death, and destruction) by the attacks of September 11. Far more traumatic, for me, was what took place in the weeks that followed, specifically the adoption of the Patriot Act, the invasion of Afghanistan, and the declaration of a “War on Terror”.

It’s not so much that I thought these were all bad ideas, although I did – it’s that it didn’t seem to matter, to anyone, whether they were bad ideas. There was this grinding inevitability to it, like “Of course we’re going to invade someone,” “Of course we’re going to massively expand the powers of law enforcement and intelligence agencies,” “Of course we’re going to make a big show of attacking ‘terrorists'”. The question of whether or not these measures were likely to be effective for their stated purpose, though raised, always seemed beside the point. They were simply going to happen. Congress, famously, enacted the Patriot Act without ever really giving its members a chance to read it.

It was obvious to me and I think many people at the time that, once adopted, these measures wouldn’t just go away. When would we ever be able to declare victory in a war on terror? When has the government ever said, “OK, the need for us to have that authority has passed, here are your rights back”?

Now, 15 years later, there seems little danger that the attacks of September 11 will be forgotten. What I fear is being forgotten is what America and the world looked like on September 10, 2001. Warrantless eavesdropping, the Transportation Security Administration, Guantanamo Bay, and American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan have become the new normal, exactly as their critics predicted that they would. It feels like a “12 Monkeys” scenario, where we knew exactly what was going to happen but were powerless to stop it.

Even now, there’s no end in sight. With Obama has proving unable or unwilling, how can there be any hope¬†that either of the current frontrunners for the presidency will step up where he did not? And after another eight years, well, the nail will really be in the coffin then.

All of that said, and as much as I deplore so much of what the Bush Administration did in the aftermath of September 11th, I did express some gratitude, yesterday, that at least Donald Trump wasn’t in charge. Here’s hoping we can steer clear of that catastrophe which, though far from inevitable, is still much too imminent for my comfort.

6 thoughts on “Never Forget

  1. The thing that always kills me is that there are voting-age Americans—millions of them—who can’t remember what America was like on 9/10/2001 in any real sense. Even if it was just a naive mirage, the post Cold-War, pre 9-11 decade really felt different, at least in comparison to both my late Cold-War childhood and the post 9/11 feel. Both day-to-day and year-to-year. It was gloriously boring in a grand sense. My distinct memories of the summer of 2001 are (1) how much everyone thought was riding on Bush’s stem-cell speech in August; (2) my own personal reflection that the “big events” of my lifetime were going to be the fall of the Berlin Wall and the invention of the internet. Ha.

    But you can’t return to a normal you don’t even remember. And they can’t remember. And we’re not going back.

    Which is really creepy, because it makes me realize I have very little sense of what it felt like to be in America in the 1970s, nevermind the 1930s. Which makes me think the lessons of history and experience we rely so much on are less valuable than they seem.


  2. Killing 3000 civilians in a country of 300 million people makes no sense as a strategy war, holy or otherwise. Terrorism only works if it spreads fear which is why the only possible defence to it is simply to refuse to be afraid.

    Declaring oneself to be under attack and at war is therefore to lose.

    Rather than confirming the delusions of criminals that they are soldiers, terrorism should just be treated in the same way as any other crime.

    In my country (the UK) the generation of politicians (of either party) who grew up during WWII seemed to know this during the period of Northern Ireland-related terrorism, but the generation in power in and since 2001 is making the same mistakes as the politicians in the US.

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