There are retrospectives and introspectives all over the internet and the mainstream media marking the fifth anniversary of the attacks on New York’s World Trade Centre. The Open Democracy site has a good series of pieces asking a range of people the simple question – “what have we learned”?
Whilst there have been greater numbers of people killed in a range of other incidents and events, this one clearly struck a greater psychological chord with many in the West for a whole lot of different reasons. It is certainly one of those ‘what were you doing when you heard about …..?’ moments. I was watching television in bed when the newsflash came on – just at the end of an episode of West Wing. If the Twin Tower attacks had been part of a West Wing storyline, it would have seemed ridiculous, yet there was this literally unbelieveable event unfolding in front of my eyes.
The first thing I instinctively think of whenever I hear the term ‘September 11’ (and even more so when I hear ‘9/11’) is an echo of my father grumbling about how the date should be pronounced ‘11 September’.
The second, and rather more serious, thing I think of is how badly the opportunities coming out of this tragedy have been squandered. Tragedy brings people together and it also brings opportunity to build on those bonds. Unfortunately the main thing 9/11 seems to have been used for by people in many parts of the world is an opportunity to make war and grab power. The rhetorical device of proclaiming a ‘war on terror’ has made us all less safe. Nothing makes war more likely than determinedly insisting that we’re already in one.
One thing I find amazing is how strongly conspiracy theories about the attacks prevail, so much so that it is the cover story of this week’s Time Magazine. A survey last month found that
36% of Americans consider it “very likely” or “somewhat likely” that government officials either allowed the attacks to be carried out or carried out the attacks themselves. Thirty-six percent adds up to a lot of people. This is not a fringe phenomenon. It is a mainstream political reality.
If it was that many people in Pakistan thinking the US government had a hand in the attacks, it might be understandable, but for that many people in the USA to think so is rather disconcerting, even given the many examples of how low a value the current administration puts on truth, the law and human life.
I’ve had so many people give me or send me material about allegations of US government involvement in these attacks that I’ve felt obliged to look at some of it. However, regardless of any views about how bad or otherwise the current US administration might be, I just cannot believe a conspiracy that enormous could ever be covered up. Even given the fact that people lie to pollsters, so the figure is probably overstated, I still find it disturbing that such a sizeable minority could think that about their own government without there being a revolution around the corner (which I don’t think there is, I hasten to add).