Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Lessons Unlearned 17 years after 9/11

Nothing invites rebellion and doubt more than the ritual and the dogma of the American Civic Religion's new Holy Day, September 11.

I remember September 11, 2001. I was working two blocks from the White House when news started arriving. However, the idea of the alleged military heroes and the supposed patriotic meaning that is widely spread today rings hollow and false.

First of all, let's recognize that the attackers committed a crime but were never subjected to anything resembling justice under the U.S. Constitution, in part because they were willing to die in furtherance of their purpose. Instead, international goodwill toward Americans was squandered by the fake arms industry "patriots" who lined their pockets inflicting "vengeance" on Afghanis and Iraqis — over a million of whom were killed  — who had nothing to do with the crashing planes in New York, Virginia and Pennsylvania.

Second, the Twin Towers were artless slabs that destroyed the classic Manhattan skyline with the Empire State Building as its topmost point in a central location. I was born in Manhattan and that skyline was one of the first things I knew. Long before 9/11, I regarded the World Trade Center as an eyesore. If there is an icon for 9/11, the towers are not it. Moreover, the professionals who died in the various buildings were not heroes. Most of them were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Many were bond traders, thus not exactly worshipers of anything but Mammon.

Third, the fact that any unarmed plane could crash into the Pentagon without the slightest interference is a monument to the stupidity and overall incompetence of the U.S. military. The event told the world what idiots we are to spend gazillions on it. A few guys with box-cutters could destroy the building without meeting a single counterattack. As a consequence, the thousands of Americans who signed up to kill Afghanis and Iraqis were chumps — 9/11 vets, get what you were promised while you can because the guys who promised you lollipops are about to take them away.

As to real heroes, I propose the Flight 93 passengers, who saved the United States from government by presidential fiat alone, under no less that George W. Bush, unquestionably the second worst president we have ever had. The plane is known to have been on a trajectory headed straight for Capitol Hill. As for one-man rule, this is not mere surmise: the Dubya White House sent Congress a message within days of 9/11 asking for extraordinary powers to act in case Congress was attacked. The legislative branch wisely declined.

But there is an anti-hero who should be studied. Mohammad Atta, the on-site leader of the hijackers, exhibited a moral and philosophical consistency and cogency, and even an asceticism and conviction sadly lacking among American leaders at the time and since. To Atta, the United States was the cause of much suffering in the Middle East. We can debate whether his view was correct — it hasn't been seriously examined: why did they think what they thought? — but given such an opinion, what he did was consistent with his beliefs. Moreover, it was brilliantly planned and executed.

In considering the possible grievances that people in lands far away may have against the United States — meaning the government, mostly, and its most deluded followers — 9/11 offers an intriguing paradox. On September 11, 1973, with CIA collusion and U.S. military and financial support, Chile's military overthrew the elected president of that country, Salvador Allende, a democratic socialist. Might not the Chileans who were subsequently terrorized by their government see with some sympathy the claims of aggrieved Muslims from a vastly different culture many years later?

In sum, we still need to learn the real lessons of 9/11, which I fear the current pageantry and slogans only dim.