Saturday was the 20th anniversary of 9/11. As appropriate, there were a lot of heartfelt tributes, and remembrances, and stories about couples who were marrying where both had lost a parent on 9/11. There were beautiful stories about the children of New York firefighters lost in the collapse of the towers who are now firefighters themselves.
It was the recollection of a long time ago, a time when the country did actually come together, and everyone was a New Yorker, and the Yankees would have won the world series but for the Arizona Diamondbacks having both Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling in their rotation.
Now we’re a nation that can’t even agree on wearing masks, getting vaccinated, and whether Joe Biden actually won the election. We couldn’t even get a bipartisan commission to investigate the January 6th insurrection.
Before we view as the time after 9/11 with rosy glasses, we should acknowledge that in many respects our government’s response to 9/11 was terrible:
- We invaded Afghanistan and then stayed there for 20 years, leaving only a 12 days before the 20th anniversary of 9/11. Our expectation that we could create a stable democracy there was just a fantasy.
- We invaded Iraq based on the claim that Saddam Hussein’s regime had “weapons of mass destruction,” which, of course, they did not.
- We detained inmates at Guantanamo Bay, and then we tortured them. In the process we threw out everything we claimed to believe in about our own exceptionalism. A few of the inmates there have still not been tried, in part because of the legal complications resulting from having been tortured.
- Anti-Muslim prejudice and profiling grew substantially, as did hate crimes directed against Muslims.
- We passed the Patriot Act, which was a complete legal overreach into our private lives, and led to things like the NSA creating vast surveillance programs where they tracked the telephone and email activities of vast quantities of American citizens.
The thing that personally disappointed me the most was how quickly we resorted to torturing our detainees. I thought one of the things that made us different is that we didn’t do things like that. But clearly we do. At least, we did.
So let’s be realistic and not just remember the heroism of the day. There are a lot of incorrect things that happened as the result of the 9/11 attacks.