World Trade Center

9/11 provides an opportunity to reflect on aspects of American politics

World Trade Center on 9/11

Eleven years ago today, 19 terrorists killed nearly 3,000 people after hijacking airplanes and flying them into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Realizing their fate, Passengers on United Flight 93 fought back, preventing an attack on the Capitol in Washington. Their plane would crash in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. As soon as Americans realized what happened, we knew we were at war.

I was 20 years-old at the time of the attacks. My plans for the day were to pick up a couple of records that had been released that day and head into work for a shift I’d picked up for a friend. After a quick phone conversation with my then-girlfriend at the time (she was a student at the University of Georgia), I got on the web. She sent me a IMs almost immediately telling me to turn on the TV. If I remember correctly, the South Tower had just been hit. When I wasn’t working or sleeping for the next two weeks, I was watching coverage of the aftermath of the attacks.

While I had an interest in politics, the 9/11 attacks really pushed me to get involved and take what is going on in our country seriously. Much of what has happened since that tragic day helped shape my political views; particularly on foreign policy and personal liberty.

Have the terrorists won?

Ten years after the horrific events of 9/11, America braced for other possible attacks to mark the anniversary of the worst terrorist attack in history.  Phone calls from my mother outlined how authorities believed new terrorists were in the country, and how panel vans had been stolen.  She even called to tell me that they believed there was a dirty bomb involved.  In the end, there was nothing.

However, a mother’s reports of what she saw on CNN are only part of the story.  ABC news reports that law enforcement and military elements were scrambled for even more benign reasons.

Fighter planes were scrambled, bomb squads were called, FBI command centers went on alert and police teams raced to airports today, but in the end two separate airline incidents were caused by apparently innocent bathroom breaks and a little “making out,” federal officials said.

On that horrible day ten years ago, we were told that we must not change as a nation or else “the terrorists win”.  Well folks, I have to ask if they already have won.  The Patriot Act made it easier to spy on American citizens.  New similar laws are being created to combat crimes that haven’t needed that level of snooping before.

We now have vehement arguments over houses of worship being located in particular places as a result of that day.  Right or wrong, these arguments just didn’t happen pre-9/11.  They just didn’t.  No one seemed to care.

Norway and jumping to the wrong conclusions

Last week, we were all saddened by the attacks in Norway.  I usually don’t like speaking for people I don’t personally know, but in this case I don’t think it’s out of line.  Innocent people, mostly children, were killed.  Many people started with the belief it was probably an Al Qaeda attack, only to learn later that it was an anti-Islamist trying to make his sick point.  This has had many on the left wagging their fingers at those on the right who believed it was part of the terrorist groups Jihad against the West.

The truth of the matter is that the attack mimicked, at least on some level, what Al Qaeda has done in the past.  Multiple attacks, stacked closely together; it wasn’t out of the realm of possibility that it was Islamic extremists.  Why would we jump to that conclusion unless we have something against Muslims?  Well, possibly because the attack mimicked their MO so closely.  Car bombs are a long staple of the Jihadist arsenal (though in fairness, they’re not the only ones who use them), and the shooting was reminiscent of the Mumbai attacks in India in 2008.

So, folks jumped to a conclusion.  Since counter terrorism experts seemed to have looked in that direction to start with, it’s not completely out of line.  It just turned out to be wrong, which can happen.

I’m not a fan of many efforts to curb terrorism that seem to lump all Muslims into the same category.  They’re not all terrorists or terrorists to be.  Many of them are kind, loving people who are as upset at terrorists as the rest of us.  The hijackers on 9/11 didn’t spare Muslims in the World Trade Center after all, they murdered everyone they possibly could, regardless of religion.

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