9/11. On this anniversary, we ask "Does the benefit of time give us perspective to evaluate the impact and meaning of 9/11?"
What about the United States and Global response to that dramatic terrorist attack? As I write this from Mongolia, Mongolian friends still tell of the horror they felt when America was attacked.
They still tell of the sadness and sympathy they felt for America, at least until we started bombing other nations in response.
First, what did we learn by 9/11?
We learned that religio-political radicals are willing and capable of unimaginable things…even murder in the name of their political and religious hatred. We learned again that when politics and religion are mixed that the formula is dangerous, explosive, and toxic. This teaches us to try to guide the world away from religious fanaticism, regardless of the culture, or the cloth it is cut from. It clearly instructs us that Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, Benjamin Franklin all were right in keeping religion out of politics. The two are explosive and on predictable.
We learned that ordinary people, such as secretaries, firemen and police can do heroic things in the most difficult of circumstances. This teaches us that there is true compassion in this world even in light of hatred.
We learned that we all have the ability to see the face of God. We see that face in the ordinary people who risked their lives, who showed love and compassion, in trying to save their fellow men.
We learned that the world can be sympathetic to the United States, and we also learned that we can lose and squander that support, by ill conceived U.S. foreign policy. Are we better or worse off since 9/11?
We learned that when a President and his cronies start a war based upon lies, that we lose the respect of the world.
In a global sense, nations of the world have learned better how to work together to fight terror.
In a financial sense, the United States is worse off, because our "war" on terror has brought the biggest deficits in the history of the United States. This will certainly lead to higher interest rates and ultimate economic stress in the USA and with our closest trading partners.
Does the world seem safer? Most polls around the globe report that people do not feel safer today than on 9/11. Indeed there appears to be more violence and terror now than there was before. Perhaps this has been fueled by anger or response to poorly executed U.S. policies.
What about Iraq? Polls show that 75% of those asked outside of the USA believe that the war on Iraq had nothing to do with terrorism, but was engaged from other motives. Polls show that 56% of Americans feel that the war was engaged for "false" reasons. As more facts are revealed, it would appear that the American people were manipulated by false information coming out of the Bush Administration.
What about the named first target for the war on Terror..Osama Bin Laden. He has not been caught or certified dead. Therefore, we have not achieved what was initially named as America’s first priority.
Is American Intelligence better now since 9/11? Efforts to coordinate the efforts and information of all of the intelligence agencies has only partially been successful. There is much resistance within the agencies and much work still to be done.
Do American’s feel better about their lives since 9/11? Most Americans feel some fear because of Government "warning" systems, and there is a sense that Americans have lost some of their basic freedoms and civil liberties.
What about people around the world. A pattern has arisen in Russia, Israel, India, Nepal, Mexico, Canada, France, Pakistan, USA, where government leaders have used the "war on terror" as a motivator for changes to basic laws creating more rules, more controls, and less personal freedom. This is of concern to idealists and thinkers the world over.
Are we "winning" the war on terror? We have killed thousands, arrested many more. Yet terrorist attacks continue to accelerate. Winston Churchill said: "No war on terror can succeed. Because it is an idea, not a nation. A religion, not a person."
Why then does this "war on terror" continue? Because it is good politics, not only in the USA, but in Israel, Russia and other "hot spots" around the globe.
9/11 taught us many things, but our responses to 9/11 could have been better.
If we evaluate everything since 9/11, the scorecard doesn't give much to rejoice at…except…at least we no longer have to hear those admonishments to put up duct tape or go shopping in response.
One good thing about 9/11, is that it brought a renewed sense of patriotism,.
Another good things are that 9/11 in some ways brought families back to an awareness of what is important. And what is truly important, is to have a few people that you truly love, and to try to give them that love. Even families can engage in war and "terror". Perhaps 9/11 gave us all some reason to pause and ponder the important people in our lives…. and why.