As with the assassination of John F. Kennedy in a previous generation, everyone remembers where they were on 11th September 2001. Even if you wanted to, you will never be allowed to forget it. For the footage of two passenger aircraft slamming into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in downtown Manhattan on that clear, bright September morning has been seared into the world’s consciousness courtesy of a global media dominated by the West, and replayed endlessly in the years since.
None of us will ever be allowed to forget the gruesome images of people jumping to their deaths, compelled to by the heat and smoke and flames that filled twin towers which hitherto had stood as proud symbols of America’s power, prestige and exceptionalism. None either will ever be allowed to forget the heroism of the hundreds of police officers and firemen who lost their lives trying to save others, nor the tragic accounts of passengers on hijacked aircraft saying goodbye to loved ones during tearful final phone calls as they flew to their deaths.
The events of the 9/11 attacks have given birth to a vast industry of documentaries, books, articles, and movies in the ten years since.
They have also spawned a burgeoning and lucrative market in conspiracy theories, wherein all manner of self declared experts and out-and-out wingnuts have mined a rich seam peddling ridiculous and fantastical theories of what really happened and by whom to the gullible and deluded.
More significantly, in the 10 years since that fateful day – the first ever attack mounted against the mainland of a nation that had begun to believe it was both invincible and impregnable, that it really was that ‘shining city on the hill’ of popular mythology – the world has witnessed the best and worst of humanity.
When it comes to the worst, we have lived through the depravity and savagery of those who cynically exploited this atrocity to carry out an agenda of military conquest and colonisation that was conceived years previously. Millions have been slaughtered, maimed, psychologically scarred and/or made refugees in the name not of democracy, security and civilisation, as asserted, but in the name of profit, economic advantage, and geopolitical objectives.
As to the best, we have experienced the hope provided by a global antiwar movement that for an all too brief moment in history played a noble and courageous role in challenging the rush to war, attracting millions to its ranks as it offered a vision of a world united in common humanity instead of one polarised by war, racism and intolerance.
A complicit mainstream media, which succeeded in dragging the profession of journalism through the mud, willingly and eagerly made the case for war, a case comprised of half truths and lies, while the few who dared raise their voices in dissent were smeared, attacked and calumniated.
Yet even at the height of reaction, when in the US dissent was labelled treason and the Constitution was defaced, there remained those willing to stand up and say no.
American filmmaker, Michael Moore, as unlikely a hero as it is impossible to imagine, was one of those. Receiving an Oscar for his documentary ‘Bowling For Columbine’ in 2003, he accepted his award and then delivered the first public denouncement of a Bush administration comprised of religious extremists and warmongers, constraining civil rights at home and violating human rights on a mass scale overseas. The cacophony of jeering and boos that rained down on Moore that night were evidence of a society in thrall to the lies and propaganda being fed to the American people by their government and a supine media.
Refusing to be silenced, Moore released another documentary a year later, ‘Fahrenheit 911’, which fired a shot across the bows of a Neocon express that was hurtling out of control as rich white men practised statecraft like gangsters.
George Galloway, former MP and founder of the Respect Party, was another of that small group who refused to be cowed. His verbal destruction of a Senate Committee in Washington in 2005, a committee comprised of the finest congressmen that money can buy, earned him the gratitude of millions desperate for a victory no matter how small.
A war on terror had been unleashed, giving birth to an epoch of state sanctioned murder, torture and kidnapping. It was a war on Islam, on Muslims at home and abroad, the consequences of which will remain with us for years to come.
In Iraq a people already half starved and suffering as a result of 13 years of sanctions still refused to greet their occupiers as liberators. Instead they mounted a fierce resistance. The collapse of Iraqi society into sectarian strife and medievalism was the end result of an occupation justified by the need to protect the American people and bring democracy to the Middle East. This was and remains a lie. Meanwhile, in Afghanistan, a decade of war and occupation continues with no end in sight.
The inevitable blowback arrived in our midst on the shape of the attacks experienced in Madrid in 2004 and London in 2005. Hundreds of ordinary people were brutally slaughtered as they went about their daily lives. Yet in a startling denial of the truth and basic logic, across Europe governments and opinion formers pointed the finger of blame at the ‘other’ in our midst, at those who suddenly found themselves accused of adhering to an alien culture that was a threat to civilisation and progress. Gleefully cheering on this campaign of demonisation and dehumanisation was yet again a liberal media which had long since abandoned truth and integrity for patriotism and self serving opportunism.
Britain’s prime minister Tony Blair, a glowing testament to the virtues of an elite, privileged education, who reached the apex of political power via the door marked nepotism and connections, breathed life into Camus’ dictum that ‘a man without ethics is a wild beast loosed upon this world.’ Embracing the opportunity for personal glory and prestige he strutted the world’s stage determined to impress his masters in Washington, attaching himself to power and wealth like a newborn baby to its mother’s teet.
A policy of war and militarism abroad was married to rising levels of social and economic injustice at home in obeisance to a Neoliberal orthodoxy which decreed eradicating the poor better than eradicating poverty and the hungry better than hunger, as barbarism triumphed.
Ten years on we live in a world defined by fear, hate and despair. New governments and administrations are in power yet bombing in the name of peace and killing in the name of democracy continues. In 2009 Barack Obama swept to power in the US on a wave of optimism as millions believed his pledge to bring meaningful change to a nation and a world starved of hope. Three years later that nation and the world remain starved.
The brutal truth is that the lasting legacy of 9/11 on this the tenth anniversary has been many more 9/11s. The only difference is that the countless victims of the 9/11s that came after have been rendered anonymous, their lives and deaths deemed unworthy of news. Indeed, they have been deemed so unimportant their bodies have and are not even counted.
The author is a co-editor and regular contributor to the left blog, Socialist Unity, and also blogs at the Huffington PostTags: North America
Categorised in: Article
This post was written by John Wight