It’s been two years since that awful day. I don’t live in NYC or know anyone who does, so I don’t have a particularly harrowing story to tell, but I still remember it. I was at work, hanging out in a chatroom with my friends. Anna was at home, since she was still on maternity leave. She chatted that a plane had flown into the World Trade Center. I thought she meant something like a Cessna, but she said it was a 747. We all thought this was terrible, but didn’t realize what had happened yet. Then, a few minutes later, she said that a second plane had hit them. At that point we knew something was going on, as did everyone else. I remember someone at my work finding a TV and getting in the news. I watched the first tower fall from there. A co-worker had a daughter in NYC who she couldn’t get in touch with. Since the internet news sites were swamped, I was getting information via the Straight Dope forum, where people were posting news updates. We all wondered how many planes had been hijacked. I realized that, being in the middle of Illinois, my town wasn’t a likely target, but when the plane went down in Pennsylvania, I thought that the hijackers were just ditching them wherever they could if they couldn’t get to a good target, and hence anywhere was possible. It was terrifying. I know how I feel about it, and I wasn’t even there, so I can’t imagine how those who witnessed it first-hand feel.
I also remember what happened afterwards. I remember everyone I know doing whatever they could to help out. Donating blood, donating money, donating supplies. Flying flags to show solidarity. For a shining moment we were all unified, putting aside our differences. Americans joined with each other. Other nations joined with America. All it took was this horrible tragedy.
It’s been two years and what has come of that, both the terrible event itself and the unity it engendered? Both have been wasted. I’m sorry if this seems like taking advantage of a terrible event to make a political point, but it’s going to be done by the other side, so I’m going to do it for my side.
The facts about the hijackings are well known. Members of an organization called Al-Qaeda, led by Osama bin Ladin, engineered it. Fifteen of the nineteen hijackers came from Saudi Arabia. These are facts. Two years later, we have bombed innocent people in Afghanistan and turned their country over to warlords. The Taliban, which sympathized with Al-Qaeda, is regaining power in that country. Osama bin Ladin remains free. Saudi Arabia, who we know provided hijackers and funding for Al-Qaeda, is immune from investigation. Instead, we have focused our attention and power on Iraq and Saddam Hussein – a despicable man, yes, but one who has no revealed ties to the event. Never mind that, because the current administration insists he does, an alarming percentage of Americans believe he does — we unfortunately live in a world where reality is not shaped by opinion polls. The fact of the matter is, we have let the true architects of this evil plan escape because there was another target we’d been wanting to hit anyway. Our soldiers are dying because of a barrage of lies about Iraq, and the administration and its supporters have declared this good, spinning it into this bizarre and unconscionable “flypaper” strategy that supposedly brings terrorists out into the open to be shot and keeps them from blowing up non-soldiers.
The goodwill and sympathy felt towards America by other nations after the fact has also been squandered. In Bush’s mad dash to bomb Iraq, he isolated and outright insulted some of our best allies. One of our biggest supporters, Great Britain, has been played for fools by him, and Tony Blair is on the ropes for his support. In addition, we have declared that America has the right to wage war on other countries not just for past wrongs but for suspected future wrongs. Countries that one supported us are now terrified of us, and we couldn’t be happier. If there’s someone spreading terror, after all, may as well be us.
And here at home, what happened to that sense of unity, of being joined in a cause? Our President — a uniter, not a divider, remember — squandered that as well. Not long after September 11th he decided that if you weren’t with him, you were against him. And by “with him” that meant you had to support, 100%, without question, any policy he and his partners came up with. Anything less was tantamount to treason. The USA PATRIOT Act was passed, scaling back civil rights immensely. Ashcroft is currently on tour to support a newer, broader PATRIOT Act, explaining that the first one is the reason we haven’t had another terrorist event, as though before the Act was passed we were getting hit every other week. We’re told how much terrorism is now secretly being thwarted because of this plan, but as lie after lie is exposed from this Administration, it becomes harder to believe anything they say. The civilians are now polarized into two camps being set against each other, both camps lied to to egg us on. From goodwill we’re told to hate: hate France, hate Canada, hate Iraq, hate Liberals, hate anyone who is an enemy of Freedom, where Freedom is defined as the Freedom for Halliburton to profit immensely from the takeover of Iraq. And as a result, does anyone actually feel safer? Hardly. In fact, the President has taken a single horrible instance of great terror and turned it into a constant background hum of fear, rated by a color-coded chart. The way to save us from terrorism, apparently, is to ensure a never-ending level of terror.
And it doesn’t seem to be ending any time soon. We’ve heard about how Iraq, still falsely linked to 9/11, is going to cost us a lot more money, time, and lives. We’ve heard about the new and improved PATRIOT Act which will cost us more of our rights. Rumsfeld has stated that people who oppose the President (including, presumably, Democratic Presidential candidates) are aiding the terrorists. The media continues to be filled with right-wing shouting heads calling anyone slightly to the left of them traitors. The prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, being held because they’re terrorists, have never had a trial, never been charged with anything, and never will, if Rumsfeld has his way. And still Osama bin Ladin walks free.
Which isn’t to say the War on Terror hasn’t done some good. It’s provided a nice distraction, after all. Anyone remember how Ken Lay, the CEO of Enron, fleeced his employees, his investors, and several states and walked away a free man? Anyone noticed that the unemployment rate continues to skyrocket? That we’ve drained the budget surplus? The number of lies coming out of the Administration? And not small, funny ones, either — big lies, lies which are so obvious and so easily refuted that they display an astonishing level of contempt for the American people. A recent Showtime movie tried to rewrite 9/11 and Bush’s role in it, despite how well documented that role actually was.
Today, remember the innocent people who were murdered on September 11, 2001. Remember the real events of that day, not the made-up ones you’ve been told since. Those people should not have died at all, and certainly not just so that civil rights could be eroded, the balance of power could be lost, people could enact the plan of overthrowing Iraq that they already had, corporations could make millions, and people would still be terrified. The deaths of those innocents have been corrupted by the Administration, using them to further its own selfish gains. It has not honored their memory, it has desecrated it.