Posts Tagged ‘9/11’

9/11: the path not taken

September 11, 2016
Photo by National Park Service

Photo by National Park Service

After the 9/11 attacks, the whole world, including the Muslim world, sympathized with the United States.

The whole world, including the Muslim world, condemned the terrorist attacks that killed more than 3,000 innocent civilians.

The U.S. government had an opportunity to unite the world in bringing the Al Qaeda terrorists to justice.   This could have been a step to unite the international community behind a rule of law.

Instead the Bush administration chose to implement pre-existing plans to invade Iraq, whose leaders had nothing to do with the terrorist attacks.  The Obama administration has done likewise with Libya, Syria and other countries.

The result has been militarization of American life, eclipse of civil liberties and the deaths of many more innocent civilians in majority-Muslim countries than ever were killed in jihadist attacks on Americans and Europeans.

Even worse, a generation of Americans has grown up in which all these things are normal.

And jihadist terrorism, partly and maybe mainly as a result of U.S. policies, is stronger than ever before.


Afghans unaware U.S. invasion sparked by 9/11

September 15, 2014

When the United States invaded Afghanistan, I thought that at least the invasion would be an object lesson to any government who thought of harboring terrorists who attacked the United States.

But Ted Rall, a writer and cartoonist who has visited and toured Afghanistan twice without protection of the U.S. military, said no such lesson was ever learned.   In an interview with Salon about his new book, After We Kill You, We Will Welcome You Back as Honored Guests: Unembedded in Afghanistan, Rall said this:

I’ve never met a single Afghan who had any understanding of the relationship between 9/11 and the U.S. presence in Afghanistan. 

In fact, I’ve never met a single Afghan who even understood what happened on 9/11, understood the scale of it.

SONY DSCI was repeatedly having to explain it to people, having to explain these buildings and how big they were and how many people were in them and how it affected the American psyche and so on.

Whenever you asked [Afghans], regardless of their age or their politics or their tribal affiliation, they’d all say the same thing: The only reason the U.S. was in Afghanistan was because the U.S. was the dominant superpower in the world; and from their point of view, whoever is the dominant superpower in the world at any given time invades Afghanistan.

So we’re just there because we could — they all think that.

If Americans think Afghans understand that whatever suffering they’re going through is somehow tied to 9/11, no; they should be disabused of that, because Afghans just don’t think that.  That’s just universally true.

They think we’re there because we hate Islam or because we want to steal Afghanistan’s natural resources or because it’s strategically important or “I don’t know, but they’re here, and I just have to deal with them!”

… … They always call us “the foreigners,” which just refers to the inevitable foreign presence that’s always there, whether it’s Soviet advisers in the 1960s and ’70s or the Red Army in the ’80s or whatever it is.

“There’s always foreigners here. We’re a weak country. We can’t defend our borders.  The foreigners come and go; we shoot a lot of them, and then they leave.”

Black humor is absolutely a huge survival tool for people who live in stressful circumstances — and Afghans are very, very funny people.

via Ted Rall’s “uncomfortable truths” –


Elaine Scarry on citizenship, war and terror

September 11, 2011

The Founders of the United States rejected the idea of a monarch with power to take a nation into war on his own sole decision.  Let a single individual have this power, they thought, and all other power would flow to him.  That is why the Constitution gives the Congress, not the President, the authority to declare war.

In the Atomic Age, this is thought to be obsolete.  Decisions about peace and war must be made in minutes, which means that it must be done by a single individual, not a deliberative body or the people as a whole.

Harvard professor Elaine Scarry, in an article published in the Boston Review in late 2002, pointed out that this theory was put to the test during the 9/11 attacks, and found wanting.  The military, despite ample warning, failed to stop American Airlines Flight 77 from crashing into the Pentagon.  But ordinary American citizens on board United Airlines Flight 93 were able to figure out on their own what was happening, discuss it, take a vote and act to prevent the airplane from crashing into the Capitol or White House.

Elaine Scarry

The military was unable to thwart the action of Flight 77 despite fifty-five minutes in which clear evidence existed that the plane might be held by terrorists, and despite twenty minutes in which clear evidence existed that the plane was certainly held by terrorists.  In the same amount of time—twenty-three minutes—the passengers of Flight 93 were able to gather information, deliberate, vote, and act.

September 11 involved a partial failure of defense.  If ever a country has been warned that its arrangements for defense are defective, the United States has been warned.  Standing quietly by while our leaders build more weapons of mass destruction and bypass more rules and more laws (and more citizens) simply continues the unconstitutional and—as we have recently learned—ineffective direction we have passively tolerated for fifty years.

We share a responsibility to deliberate about these questions, as surely as the passengers on Flight 93 shared a responsibility to deliberate about how to act.  The failures of our current defense arrangements put an obligation on all of us to review the arrangements we have made for protecting the country.  “All of us” means “all of us who reside in the country,” not “all of us who work at the Pentagon” or “all of us who convene when there is a meeting of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.”

This is the true meaning of the Second Amendment to the Constitution, she wrote.

When the U.S. Constitution was completed it had two provisions for ensuring that decisions about war-making were distributed rather than concentrated.  The first was the provision for a congressional declaration of war—an open debate in both the House and the Senate involving what would today be 535 men and women.  The second was a major clause of the Bill of Rights—the Second Amendment right to bear arms—which rejected a standing executive army (an army at the personal disposal of president or king) in favor of a militia, a citizen’s army distributed across all ages, geography, and social class of men.  Democracy, it was argued, was impossible without a distributed militia: self-governance was perceived to be logically impossible without self-defense (exactly what do you “self-govern” if you have ceded the governing of your own body and life to someone else?)

Now it is not possible to literally replace the professional U.S. army with a militia, which would be National Guard and Reserves.  Nor is it possible to do without an air defense system.  But I hope it is still possible to get out of the mind-set which says that the only way to be safe is to surrender to Big Brother the power to make decisions about peace, war and national security.

The size and scope of our Homeland Security bureaucracy is comparable to the old Soviet KGB.  Yet the real terrorist plots—the ones that weren’t sting operations or somebody’s delusions—were thwarted by the actions of alert citizens noticing that something was wrong, and acting.

Scarry’s article is still relevant, and worth reading in full.

Click on Citizenship in Emergency here or my “Interesting Articles” in my links menu my Archive of Good Stuff page to read her whole article.  It is still relevant, and worth reading in full.

Click on The ideas interview for a 2005 interview of Elaine Scarry in The Guardian newspaper on the Second Amendment and other subjects.

Click on Rule of Law, Misrule of Men for a review of Elaine Scarry’s 2010 book of that name in the Ludwig Von Mises Institute’s Mises Review.