Eleven years after the day that forever changed our country, the way we live and the sense of security we always felt as Americans, this anniversary doesn’t really get any easier. Yesterday, MSNBC played the first two hours of the NBC coverage, exactly as it happened that morning back in 2001 and I felt like someone watching a car wreck on the highway, you know, one of those people who can’t avert their eyes. It brought back all those feelings of immense fear and pain. Incredibly, Matt Lauer and Katie Couric were restrained in their reporting and the quality of reporting was stellar. They were so careful not to speculate or make assumptions or give bad information – but I can tell you, I will never watch it again.
In the ensuing eleven years, the information regarding that day has not been so accurate. A year ago, on this day, Donald Rumsfeld, President Bush’s then Secretary of Defense, stated that in the morning following the attacks, “George Tenet called me the– in– in the morning and said he– he– he confirmed that it was al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden.” Wait for it… wait for it…
Then why in the hell did we attack Iraq when we knew bin Laden was in Afghanistan? Now we know why. In that Face The Nation interview with Bob Schieffer, Rumsfeld wasn’t content to merely remember 9/11, he used that interview to make excuses for and glorify the war crimes of George W. Bush. No mention of the 4,400 American soldiers who died there or the 100,000 who were wounded. History will not be kind to these men.
Still, there is so much misinformation about what happened. We now know, for example:
We can’t say we weren’t warned. The threat of hijacked planes crashing into buildings goes back as far as ’72, when hijackers shot the co-pilot of a Southern Airways flight and threatened to crash the plane into the nuclear facility at Oak Ridge, Tennessee.
The attacks, while a tactical success for Al Queda, were never a strategic success. Bin Laden believed the US didn’t have the stomach for war. Clearly he didn’t understand the modern Republican Party. They love war and it took a Democratic President to kill him regardless that we’re stuck with such a sadly uninformed electorate that today, 15 percent of Ohio voters believe Willard Romney killed Osama bin Laden. Here’s a newsflash, Ohio, it was President Obama who ordered the killing of Osama bin Laden and by the way, he’s still dead.
Nuclear war is not even close to inevitable. Bin Laden believed that all of the Islamic countries would coalesce around him, facilitating nuclear war. Bad call. Turns out they didn’t name him Homecoming King after all.
I won’t even go into the conspiracy theories. Suffice it to say, it would take a lot more evidence than has been put forth to date to ever convince me “this was an inside job”. Do I think we’re technically capable of it? I suppose. Could I ever love my country again if I believed there were powerful people so dastardly, so unbelievably sinister they could murder nearly 3,000 of our citizens for power and financial gain? No. That’s not self-delusion on my part, as I’m certain someone will leap at the chance to accuse me, but a genuine belief that no one within our country could be that evil. Despite the jingoistic rhetoric bandied about these days, it’s just a profoundly un-American thing to even consider doing.
I do mourn the loss of our privacy and so many of our civil liberties in the aftermath of 9/11. In swift succession, government security and intelligence agents were granted broad powers to spy on citizens and others lawfully in this country, without evidence of any crime. The government can now indefinitely detain a citizen or anyone else without criminal charges. They can conduct secret searches and wiretaps, without probable cause, monitor your internet and library use and collect your personal records without cause or your knowledge. So many of these changes came with the “Patriot Act”, enacted in October of 2001. Many other civil rights violations came in the form of less publicized executive orders, administrative law memos, and even unwritten executive branch directives and guidelines. The “Homeland Security Act” created a gigantic new federal department charged with defending the “homeland” (there’s something very ‘Cold War’ in that moniker) from terrorism, and exempted from collective bargaining rights and civil service protections for more than 170,000 employees. Few citizens were ever aware of then Attorney General John Ashcroft’s proposed “Domestic Security Enhancement Act of 2003” (aka “Patriot II”), leaked to the public on the eve of the invasion of Iraq, after the Justice Department had repeatedly denied the existence of any such draft legislation. Among other things, if enacted “Patriot II” would have provided for the unprecedented revocation of the citizenship of anyone deemed to provide material support to an organization the government labels as “terrorist.” Of course, it never outlined what constituted “material support”. And of course, we’re still being subjected to the most egregious sexual assaults at the hands of TSA agents when we fly, porn scans and being forced to remove our shoes. I nearly missed a connecting flight to the Bahamas last year when a TSA agent freaked out over some CD-ROM discs in my luggage. When I attempted to show her what they were, two large men physically restrained me. Yeah, as a middle-aged, pasty-faced, over-weight white woman with distinct Anglo features, I’m often mistaken as a terrorist.
I can never forget what happened that day. I can never forget the pervasive fear that gripped the country. I can never forget the real people with real lives and real families who must live with the insurmountable loss of their loved ones. I can never forget the First Responders who ran into those burning buildings to save as many citizens as they could, surely knowing they themselves would die, but as a nation, we need to move on. While I won’t deny we have made many enemies throughout the world, it’s time to roll back the fear machine that gripped the American psyche. It’s time to stop with the “Sharia Law” nonsense. It’s time to end Islamophobia. It’s time to stop demonizing anyone with a funny name or ethnic dress. It’s time for bigotry to once again become socially unacceptable. It’s time for Americans to pressure the President to repeal The Patriot Act – that has nothing to do with patriotism or security. It’s time to stop wrapping ourselves in the flag as proof of our loyalty to this country and time to stop accusing anyone who doesn’t spout Christianity of being disloyal to the United States. It’s time to stop with the chest-pounding threats to invade any country that disagrees with our ideology.
It’s time to stop.
I have a dear friend, a comedian by the name of Paul Day who probably has a better grip on reality than just about anyone I know. The stock and trade of any brilliant comedian is his ability to be more observant than the average person and Paul has that gift. For many years, most people knew him by his stage persona, “Billy Bob Neck”, an ultra right-wing Christian Conservative who believes Abraham Lincoln’s image should be blasted from the face of Mount Rushmore and replaced with the image of his hero, George W. Bush, and who sleeps with a gun under his pillow because of the inevitability of President “Barack “Homosama bin Laden” coming to kill him in his sleep. I highly recommend you go to his YouTube channel and watch his Billy Bob Neck videos – they embody post 9/11 insanity at its finest. Here’s a taste:
The Baggers and the Allen Wests and the Peter Kings of the world need to stop the McCarthyesque rhetoric and permit this country to heal. While I detest the Bagger screed, “I want my country back!”, I sure as hell don’t want it rolled back to 1863, but wouldn’t mind seeing it returned to September 10th, 2001.
Those who would call me unpatriotic and freedom-hating need to listen to me and listen clearly when I tell them, in the words of the late, great Christopher Hitchens:
I will never forget the victims of 9/11. We are essentially all victims of 9/11, but moving this country forward is how I honor them.
Carol Baker is a free-lance political writer and sometimes satirist. She is a regular contributor to Here Women Talk.
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