The aftermath of 9/11: America never recovered

Though ten years have passed, America still reels from the aftershocks of 9/11.

MONTGOMERY VILLAGE, MD, September 8, 2011 — At the risk of losing my readers, I have to start this article with a cliché: “We all remember where we were and what we were doing….”

When Kennedy was killed? I do. When we set foot on the moon?

Yep. But I think all my readers, even the younger ones, know where they were when the terrorist acts of September 11, 2011 took place. As for me, I was in the building where I worked in Washington, D.C. I noticed several people congregated around a TV monitor that hung from the ceiling and was normally used for official announcements.

Instead of announcements, the monitor showed a burning building and the excited voice of the announcer talking about a strike by a plane to the World Trade Center. Frozen in place, I listened and watched as the picture became clearer. In a relatively short time, two airline jets hit both the North and South towers of the World Trade Center.

When I finally was able to pull myself away from the terrifying events being shown, I took the elevator to the 11th floor where my office was. I went directly to my boss’s office to inform him of the attack. As I entered his office I noticed that he was looking out his window that faced west.

In the distance we could see a big plume of smoke billowing out the far side of the Pentagon across the Potomac River from our office building. He questioned what it could be, and I proceeded to tell him about the attack in New York. Unknown to us at the time, we were witnesses to the attack on the Pentagon.

Eventually I was able to convince my car pool mates that we should get away from the city and go home. I was home about an hour later. We read in the paper and saw in the news how many people had walked for long distances, since the situation was very confused and several more attacks were expected, including on the Metro system.

184 beams of light projected from the Pentagon courtyard illuminate the night sky to commemorate each life lost at the Pentagon on the five-year anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks (Image: Associated Press

184 beams of light projected from the Pentagon courtyard illuminate the night sky to commemorate each life lost at the Pentagon on the five-year anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks (Image: Associated Press)

Metro ran, but some avoided it for this reason.  The reports showed masses of people walking across the several bridges over the Potomac that lead to the suburbs. When I got home my wife informed us that all the schools were on lock down and that it took her a while to be cleared to pick up the children.

Everyone can remember how all airlines were grounded and how we listened in horror as we heard about another plane which had crashed in Pennsylvania. This plane was supposed to crash into the White House and was stopped by its heroic passengers.

We soon learned that the terrorist attack had been planned and implemented by an organization that many of us had heard very little of, al Qaeda. We also learned that al Qaeda had been based in Afghanistan under the protection of the Taliban.

What were the motives for this cowardly attack on our civilian populations? Apparently by attacking our center of economic, military and civilian power, they intended to undermine our way of life.

I personally believe that the terrorists saw this time as being optimal for their purposes. The Bush administration had shown its exclusive support to the Israeli government by officially pulling away from the Israeli – Palestinian negotiations started during President Clinton’s administration. 

Benefiting from the attack

Tragically it is easy to determine that al Qaeda accomplished its intent to gain notoriety by this heinous act. They also showed how a small, determined group can impact the greatest economic and military country that has ever existed. Disenfranchised groups, like some Palestinian groups, publicly shouted their joy about the attack. However, most of the world showed complete revulsion to this kind of attack, especially on civilians.

Since those early days, many of us have become aware of the fact that this attack was perpetrated by a small group, cashing in on its supporters’ discontent for America’s policies and our economic dominance while perpetuating their obsolete religious beliefs. While several plans by al Qaeda were uncovered and stopped, others like the bombings in England, Spain and Indonesia were successful and kept this organization in the forefront of the war on terrorism. However, their most successful accomplishment remains the attack on 9/11.

Yet it is our own political Right which gained the most from those attacks.

Certain Conservatives, especially in the Bush administration, got renewed vigor from the attack. Plans that had been placed on the back burner, waiting for the perfect time, were swiftly moved up.

In the late years of the last century, several plans to turn the tide in the Middle East in favor of Israel were rumored. The one best known is the “Clean Break” plan allegedly agreed on by Netanyahu and American neocons in 1996.

While the Israeli interest was to secure their land by tactical attacks on its neighbors and the continuation of settlements on Arab lands, its main objective against Syria was only partially accomplished. Israel bombed nuclear facilities in Syria, but this act was not sufficient to destabilize the country.

For the American neocons, the main objective was to use the might of the military to reconfigure the Middle East (Pax Americana?). Ironically, it also played into the hands of some fundamentalist Christians who believed that intervention in the Middle East would fulfill scripture prophecy.

The White House and its friends from the Right saw the answer to their plans in the invasion of Iraq, the establishment of an American and Israel friendly government there, and the securing of a safe source of energy. The attacks of 9/11 were used as an indirect justification for the invasion of Iraq. It is easy to note that in a recent interview with former President George W. Bush, he mentioned that his administration had put “plans on Iraq” on the back burner after the 9/11 attack. The invasion did not take place until March 2003.

Finally Bush succeeded in being reelected on the premise that you don’t replace the Commander-in-Chief during war (actually two wars). Many would argue that this was the main reason Bush didn’t become a one term president like his father.

Lasting effect of the attack

In hind sight I can see why the terrorists felt that the US reaction to the terrorist attack would be more important to the accomplishment of their ends than the actual attack.

In close order, we defeated the Taliban, at least momentarily in Afghanistan, and had them running for the caves.

Flush with the temporary victory in Afghanistan, the administration decided that the time was ripe for accomplishing their goal of securing a dependable oil source in the Middle East. Their next target would be Iraq. They used the flimsy justification that pointed to Saddam Hussein possessing “Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD).” These WMDs were never found.

An unintended (!) consequence of our invasion of Iraq was the involvement of Vice President Dick Cheney’s old company, Halliburton. This company that had already been enhanced by Cheney’s connections before he became vice president, but suddenly it became the main contractor for the US in Iraq. These contracts, ranging from logistics to security, were awarded noncompetitively. Claims of abuse by Halliburton were resolved quietly by the Bush administration.

Ron Suskind wrote a fascinating book titled “The Way of the World” that chronicles this era, including the events leading to the invasion of Iraq and the role of Cheney in it and in the ensuing “war on terror.”

How successful were the terrorists in accomplishing their plans?

I believe they were very successful. While they may not be alive today to enjoy their success, I think we can see the result.

Acts of terrorism are usually not intended as a military victory. They are intended to cause terror in the population and to either destroy the desire to fight or weaken the enemy by making him act against his own interest.

By widening the scope of the effort and by treating it as a war instead of an act of terrorism, we ended up becoming the enemy of just about every terrorist group on Earth.

In the aftermath of the attack, our financial system suffered very large losses. Efforts to stabilize it, including further deregulation, tax reductions and economic incentives have not helped a great majority of Americans. Only the rich have gotten richer.

The attacks of 9/11 may not be a clear reason for our current economic recession, but they were in part responsible in pointing out weak financial bases for our economy. Our efforts to correct these perceived weaknesses have not been very successful.

Another negative result is the belief by a large part of our population that our “war on terror” is a euphemism for a war against Islam. Constant propaganda about how the Koran actually orders the destruction of all other competing religions have turned many of our citizens into 21st Century crusaders.

More subtle, but probably more important in the long run, is the gradual loss of civil rights that we have experienced and even welcomed in the last decade. America is no longer the same country we were on September 10, 2001.

Mario Salazar, the 21st Century Pacifist, is a bleeding heart liberal, agnostic, exercise fanatic, Redskin fan, technophile, combat infantry veteran, jewelry maker, amateur computer programmer, Environmental engineer, Colombian-born, free thinker, and, not surprisingly, pacifist. You can find his articles - ranging from politics to cooking a mean brisket - in 21st Century Pacifist at The Washington Times Communities. Follow Mario on Twitter @chibcharus #TWTC and Facebook at Mario Salazar.


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More from 9/11 We Remember: How terrorism changed us
 
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Mario Salazar

Mario Salazar is a combat infantry Vietnam Vet, world traveler, renaissance reconnaissance man, pacifist, metal smith, glass artisan, computer programmer and he has a Master of Science in Civil/Environmental Engineering.  Now retired from the Environmental Protection Agency and living in Montgomery County, Mario will share with you his life, his thoughts, his musing on living in yet another century of change.  He will also try to convey his joy of being old.

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