Seven years later, 9/11 just makes me angry

Like most people, I vividly remember “where I was” on September 11, 2001. The day’s events plunged me into a near depression that lasted a week or so. I had to consciously force myself to turn away from the horror for the sake of my mental health.

I had flipped on the TV early in the morning, after the first plane had struck the north tower of the World Trade Center. All the TV stations were covering it. But at that point, everyone assumed it was merely a tragic accident.

Next came the images of the second plane, which struck the south tower. The screams of onlookers, watching in horror from the streets below. That perfect, gut-wrenching video of the plane turning on an angle before it sliced into the tower like a hot knife through butter.

There came the profound realization that this was no accident, but a deliberate act of terrorism, on an unimaginable scale.

A little later, I was standing in line at a bank. (I had “important” business to do:  something about a student loan.) A TV was turned on in the corner, with the sound down. Standing in line, I saw the third stunning visual of the day:  the shocking, devastating collapse of the south tower.

A bank employee called for me at just that moment, but I didn’t register it at first. My mind was spinning wildly, trying to make sense of this abomination. I can only imagine what my face looked like. The first lucid thought to pass through my mind was, “The USA will soon be at war with someone.”

Terrorism on such a large scale must surely have a state sponsor:  someone who could be held accountable for it.



Seven years later, 9/11 just makes me angry. The collapse of the twin towers (plus the attack on the Pentagon, plus the crash of United Airlines Flight 93) are no longer isolated events in my memory. They are inextricably linked with the war in Afghanistan, the war in Iraq, Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay, torture, extraordinary rendition, Maher Arar, the bald-faced lies of the Bush Administration (yellowcake uranium; "America does not torture" ), disregard for the Geneva Conventions and the American Constitution, the suspension of habeus corpus, the no-fly list, widespread surveillance of U.S. citizens.

To use a trite metaphor, these things are two sides of the same coin. On one side, the inexcusable evil of Osama bin Laden and the puppet men who surrendered their will to him. On the other side, the disproportionate reaction of President Bush and the neoconservatives who egged him on. I cannot pull these things apart, intellectually or emotionally.

They ought not to be pulled apart.

9/11 was tragic. And yes, it was evil. But the American response to 9/11 made things much worse, and on a global scale.

Events did not have to spiral out of control as they did. Cooler heads could have made wiser decisions (e.g. to keep the focus on Afghanistan, the Taliban, and Osama bin Laden — a single theatre of war). The cost of that misguided, disproportionate response has been enormous:  in “blood and treasure”, and in making the world a more anxiety-ridden place than it needed to be.

Such a tragic, senseless waste. And it goes on and on, in Afghanistan, Iraq, and now Pakistan. Meanwhile, some “hawks” (including John McCain … though McCain assures us that he hates war) are rattling their sabres in the direction of Iran and Russia, and ratcheting up the rhetoric against China while they’re at it.

Those were my thoughts yesterday, on the seventh anniversary of 9/11.

Make it stop, please. It didn’t have to turn out this way, and it doesn’t have to continue.

RNC protestFreedom on the march, last week, outside the Republican National Convention. Read a reporter’s eyewitness account via Andrew Sullivan.


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