America vs. the Terrorists, 9/11/10: a status report, nine years on…

In September 11, 2001, al Qaeda terrorists hijacked four passenger jets. They flew three of them into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The fourth was retaken by the passengers and crashed in a field in Pennsylvania. These things we know. Since then, much has transpired. For example:

  • The US invaded Afghanistan, the nation that had harbored the terrorists and their mastermind, Osama bin Laden. The war has not been uniformly well managed and attempts to install a stable self-government have so far failed. Many experts argue that our efforts there have been woefully counterproductive.
  • Using falsified evidence and outright lies, the US government engineered the invasion of Iraq, a nation that had nothing to do with the attacks (or, for that matter, any meaningful export of terrorist activity). Estimates of Iraqi deaths resulting from this invasion: more than 1.35 million, many of them women, children and other innocent civilians.
  • We have yet to apprehend bin Laden. Most attribute this failure to a significant mishandling of operations in Tora Bora in eastern Afghanistan, where the terrorist leader is believed to have been holed up.
  • As part of the 9/11-inspired “War on Terror,” the US government embraced the use of torture and “rendition,” a practice whereby suspects are removed to proxy states that have no compunctions against using torture as an information (and all too often, disinformation) extraction tactic.
  • The US turned its detention facilities in Guantanamo Bay into an extra-Constitutional prison where those suspected of aiding our enemies could be held indefinitely without due process.
  • At Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, US military personnel engaged in a program of abuse and dehumanization of detainees unprecedented in our history. The resulting scandal, complete with pictures, represented a global embarrassment for America and its armed forces.
  • The scope of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan provided the Pentagon with the opportunity to employ massive numbers of mercenaries, euphemistically referred to as “contractors,” the most notorious of which worked for a firm called Blackwater. The firm’s CEO, Erik Prince, is a wealthy religious extremist closely allied with a variety of Christian Dominionist groups.
  • American citizens responded to the attacks with increasing levels of racism (against Arabs, and indeed, anyone who appeared to be of Middle Eastern or even Indian extraction) and a rash of hate crimes.
  • A recent Washington Post report detailed the massive expansion of the security state apparatus in the wake of 9/11. According to this study, “The top-secret world the government created in response to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, has become so large, so unwieldy and so secretive that no one knows how much money it costs, how many people it employs, how many programs exist within it or exactly how many agencies do the same work.” It characterizes this explosion as an “alternative geography of the United States, a Top Secret America hidden from public view and lacking in thorough oversight” and notes that the system’s “effectiveness is impossible to determine.” Some details:
    • Some 1,271 government organizations and 1,931 private companies work on programs related to counterterrorism, homeland security and intelligence in about 10,000 locations across the United States.
    • An estimated 854,000 people, nearly 1.5 times as many people as live in Washington, D.C., hold top-secret security clearances.
    • In Washington and the surrounding area, 33 building complexes for top-secret intelligence work are under construction or have been built since September 2001. Together they occupy the equivalent of almost three Pentagons or 22 U.S. Capitol buildings – about 17 million square feet of space.
  • The National Security Agency, with the aid of multiple corporate telecommunications carriers, embarked on a widespread surveillance campaign against American citizens that directly violated the dictates of the United States Constitution.
  • Plans by an Islamic organization to build a community and cultural center near the site of the fallen World Trade Center led to widespread controversy. One of the organizations responsible for fanning the flames was FOX News, which is owned, in large part, by the Saudi prince who is financing the Islamic Center.
  • On the eve of this, the ninth anniversary of the September 11 tragedy, a small-time fundamentalist preacher in Gainesville, Florida sparked an international outrage with his announcement that he would mark the occasion by burning copies of the Quran. After garnering unprecedented levels of attention from political organizations, religious organizations, the media and even US President Barack Obama, the Quran burning was finally canceled.

Over the course of the past nine years a question has been asked over and over, and I believe the answer is now clear: yes, America, the terrorists are winning.

9 replies »

  1. I dont any of those things are how people keep score. I think the scoring is simply: Additional high profile attacks on U.S. soil: Zero. I would go with your scoring, but I think it is a minority view.

    • I asked for (and got) a book of quotes for Christmas one year, and I read through it cover-to-cover. Lots of pithy, smart, and poignant phrases from people over the years. I figured that quotes could be used a hyper-condensed version of learning from history, and I wasn’t disappointed. Quotes like “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.” from Benjamin Franklin.

      Alas, smart quotes like this are too often used to prevent debate and thought instead of augment and enhance it, and so I’ve generally taken to explaining the idea expressed in the quote. Still, it strikes me as applicable here, and there’s no little question that the S&R audience will think about what it means instead of using it as some thoughtless jingle.

      Ahh, the advantages of a smart audience.

  2. Oh, there’s no doubt that mine is a minority view. On just about everything. But hey, what was it Twain is alleged to have said? “When I find myself in the majority, it’s time to reform.”

  3. Count me among the minority. And, sadly, I only see this getting worse: let us see just how many Tea Party lunatics prevail in today’s primaries. Many Americans have let their fear overwhelm them, and there are plenty of politicians ready and willing to exploit that fear. Can you say “Sarah Palin”?

  4. Lets get to investigating our whole system, big picture then detailed from there. We will see who’s on what take, what programs are for our collective benefit including the rest of the world, and shake things up. All politicians are by nature and logic politicians. What they need is a context to exist in that prevents, not promotes corruption and greed. You should not get rich or avoid work just because you have to meet the CEO of Pfizer for golf and blow…jobs. Al Gore was involved with Enron, Dick Vader was Haliburton, Barney Frank has had weed plantations and prostitution busts go down at his house. THey are alll criminals, let the tea party expose some of the stuff and get the scared people curious enough to make choices based on truth not b.s hype or jesus.

  5. Since the beginning of time, war has been a convenient excuse for man to release his savage instincts and get away with stealing property, murder, horrific torture, brutal rape, robbery, and horrible destruction that leaves millions homeless and without even basic necessities. It is the worst kind of human abuse, and currently we Americans are the largest abusers of all. Man has tried to make war a civil undertaking with rules of war, such as the Geneva Convention. In reality though, there is no way anyone can civilize war. It always represents the very worst of mankind and proves beyond a doubt that most humans are still barbaric brutes.
    The futility of this realization is that although we have an abundance of intelligent, peace-loving people on this earth, they never rise to the level of leadership. Warriors always win, even when they lose.