Thoughts Six Years Later

23:31 Tue 11 Sep 2007
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Six years ago, I first heard about the planes on SlashDot. I thought it was a hoax, someone hacking their submission system, at first. I wasn’t as accustomed to getting my non-tech news online, then, and went to cnn.com, and from there to CNN on television, to find out that it was no hoax.

Even then, I was deeply worried about the response. I didn’t trust the Bush Administration, or America in general, to do the right thing under such circumstances. I was quite worried about an upsurge in jingoist bullshit, fuelled by religiosity.

One of the most notable things about that day, and the aftermath, was the massive outpouring of support from the rest of the world. There were few exceptions. For the most part, other countries were appalled, people broadly wanted to help.

It didn’t take long for the Bush Administration to squander all that, did it? Do they deserve all the blame? A lot of the population in this country went along. They swallowed the lies fed to them by the government (and including a lot of the Democratic Party) and the media, and credulously accepted that Saddam Hussein had terrible weapons arsenals that made him a threat to the United States, and that he’d been part of the 9/11 attacks.

In some ways, though, the passage of the Patriot Act was worse. Not in terms of human suffering—clearly there’s no comparison to the horror that the United States has inflicted on the Iraqi people—but in terms of immediate suffering. Bad enough that Bush and cronies meticulously crafted lies leading to war. But the Patriot Act was passed so quickly (and without enough time for the legislators to, say, read it) that it’s quite obvious that it was really a giant wishlist that the FBI, CIA, DoJ, NSA, and Unitary-Executive-believers cobbled together out of existing materials. How could that be worse? Merely that these people were so cynical and so emotionally unaffected by the deaths in the towers that they could right away seize the opportunity to push their power grab. Yes, in a sense one has to admire their political ability, as political success comes so often from being able to strike while the iron is hot. At the same time, it seems clear that the people involved are generally unaffected by human suffering, in fact are quite accustomed to taking advantage of it. And if it happens close to home without preparation (that we have hard evidence of, at least) rather than far away at their behest, well, then the domestic agenda rather than the foreign policy one is pushed along in response to the wonderful opportunity.

The unprovoked war crime that is the invasion and near-destruction of Iraq was a terrible thing to plan and implement (and remains a terrible thing to persist in). It required breathtaking cynicism and disregard for human life. Yet somehow it seems to me that the immediate, opportunistic response, the moving to grab more power while others were still reeling and knowingly exploiting the emotional state of the nation, is perhaps more revealing about the kinds of people running the country. The ultimate lesson of 9/11 isn’t that shocking: it’s that leaders cannot be trusted, that what’s good for them is often diametrically opposed to what’s good for the majority, that they will exploit anything for their own gain, and that as individuals we absolutely require both the capacity for critical thought and the knowledge of real history and real current events—else we will be suckered over and over and over.

(Incidentally, I recently came across a claim that the FBI states it has no hard evidence linking Osama Bin Laden to the 9/11 attacks. Make of that what you will.)

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