Ten years after that fateful Tuesday morning in September 2001, the world continues to mourn the tragedy that saw four hijacked airplanes take the lives of nearly three thousand innocent people from around ninety different countries. The terrorist attacks on the United States have been marked every year with memorials, the reading of the names and of old news coverage of the events to go along with a new credible imminent terrorist threat.
While a tragedy of such size and sophistication is always worth remembering, it is more important to reminisce on why it happened and what has happened since. Many reporters and pundits said at the time of the incident that America would never be the same again; in most respects they were right, except for the most vital aspect to this tragedy that has so far gone unchanged.
Most of the changes that Americans have seen since George W. Bush re-declared the war on terrorism has come on the domestic side; a huge increase on military spending, a new government agency (the Department of Homeland Security), new laws (the Patriot Act), and of course the assumption that every Muslim is potentially a terrorist.
Whether these were changes for the good depends on whom you ask. Those Americans who live in a constant state of fear would no doubt agree with them, but one has to wonder if doubling the military budget was necessary to go after a band of ragtag terrorists, or if the ability to spy on average Joes actually made the country any safer.
On the foreign policy side there were of course some vicissitudes, such as unlawful detention (Guantanamo Bay) and torture (Abu Ghraib), but not in the grand scale of things. One has to remember that when Al-Qaeda planned those attacks ten years ago, they targeted the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and presumably the White House. These buildings were/are the centers of American political, corporate and military power. Al-Qaeda used the symbolism and destruction of these institutions to send a message to Washington to stop interfering with the businesses of other countries, specifically Muslim nations.
Since World War II and even before, the United States has had a bad habit of meddling in the affairs of sovereign, often democratic nations. This often led to an autocratic regime reigning their own brand of terror onto their own people, or supporting those that already existed. These nations included Chile, Panama, Columbia, South Africa, Haiti, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine/Israel and of course Iran, among others.
After that tearful morning ten years ago, President Bush declared disingenuously that the terrorist acts were a cowardly attack on the freedom of the American people. The truth is, it was an attack on The United States’ freedom to interfere with others whenever and wherever it best suited them. This fact was obviously lost (or ignored) by an American Government that has invaded two virtually unarmed nations, threatened others, and continues to take sides in the Palestine/Israeli conflict.
The United States has spent about $3.7 trillion since 9/11 in national security, wars in Afghanistan & Iraq and Predator Drone strikes in half a dozen countries. Conservatives would argue that with Bin Laden finally dead the world is a much safer place, but in reality, both American administrations have played right into Osama Bin Laden’s hands. By invading a sovereign nation without just cause, torturing, holding prisoners without trial, and assassinating individuals from high up in the sky, Bin Laden’s foundation will live on well after he’s forgotten.
The events of that day and the lives that were lost are worthy of remembrance, but so too are the reasons behind it. If the American people don’t wake up to the root causes of this tragedy then there will always be a terrorist warning to accompany the ceremonies every September 11th… and the fear will live on.
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