The second diary I ever wrote was exactly two years ago today – a reflection on the hypocrisy of the Bush administration and the sadness felt as we all remembered the attacks on 9/11. It only got 2 comments (including my tip jar) and I didn’t write a 9/11 diary last year. Quite frankly, I wasn’t going to write one this year either, but in light of some recent events, the title of this diary jumped into my head, so I figured that I would see where it took me....
”What have they done?” was a common question that I heard in the days and months after the attacks. Being in NYC that day, and having a number of friends still living in NYC (I had moved to Westchester a couple of years earlier, and moved back into NYC a few months later) – it was something on all of our minds. We all knew pretty little about Osama bin Laden and even less about al Qaeda, despite the fact that the World Trade Center was attacked a few years earlier.
We didn’t know how much the Clinton administration, or Richard Clarke for that matter, were focused on terrorism and specifically al Qaeda. We didn’t know how the republicans in Congress basically sabotaged President Clinton’s anti-terrorism efforts in the mid to late 90s. We didn’t know how Bush was ignoring and blowing off dire warnings, including a Presidential Daily Briefing, with comments like “you’ve covered your ass now”. Nor did we know about the US government’s long relationship with the Taliban before the 9/11 attacks.
All that being said, as millions of people walked around in a daze, felt like we were kicked in the gut, filled with mixed emotions of anger, sorrow, rage, desire for revenge and grief, we put our trust in those who were
selected to lead this country. “Al Qaeda was responsible for the attacks and the Taliban support al Qaeda”, we were told. So we went after the Taliban and al Qaeda – with the world on our side. Even Iran (not yet the latest boogie man) reached out to help us.
”What have they done?” “Why did they do this to us?”
Those two questions were asked over and over and over. Soon, “will we be attacked again?” and “when will they attack us again?” were added to the list of questions. As the first few months after the 9/11 attacks passed, color coded terror threat assessments were blanketing the news, and as someone who worked in the World Financial Center, I thought it was only a matter of time before we would be attacked again.
The amount of goodwill that this country had was at or near an all time high. There was cooperation from countries that we hadn’t had the best of relations with, and there was potential that the United States could use this goodwill to transform the world (at least we thought) in a way that would usher in a new era of cooperation and information sharing at the outset of the 21st century.
Sadly, ”What have WE done?” is now the question that I have been asking for the past few years. Even the “what has been done in my name?” question isn’t really sufficient, despite all that I think I have done to “fight” those who have done and authorized such horrific things in the name of the United States, “freedom” and “democracy”.
Invading sovereign countries based on lies. Authorizing and carrying out torture on a large scale and oftentimes in secret cooperation with other countries. Secret CIA prisons. Suspension of habeas corpus. “Free speech zones”. Warrantless wiretapping of American citizens. Creating and denying the conditions for a civil war bordering on genocide. Neglecting an entire region of the country as a natural disaster ravaged the region. Politicizing the justice department in order to skew elections. Pissing away all of the goodwill in less than a year.
Being hated by countries in all corners of the world. Arming and funding those who are attacking our troops in Iraq, while failing to arm and equip our troops. Neglecting a growing healthcare crisis in our country. Flushing hundreds of billions into a sinkhole with little debate or thought other than disingenuous lines such as “we can’t leave our troops stranded”. Diverting wealth from the middle class to the most wealthy. An economy that has been willfully created based on a house of cards.
Threatening other countries with the use of nuclear weapons. Finger pointing and never taking any responsibility for the hell that was created in Iraq. Allowing those who attacked us to not only get away with it, but to reconstitute in a country that is supposed to be “with us”. Allowing the import of food and toys and other products that are tainted with lead paint or deadly bacteria. Neglecting to address the potential fallout from bird flu. Neglecting the infrastructure in this country that is sorely in need of repair. Denying that global warming is a danger and using the excuse of “why should we do anything if China isn’t” to not take a leadership role.
The list goes on and on and on.
Maybe it isn’t so far off to say that “9/11 changed everything”.
Just in a very different way than many people think.