9/11–Fifteen Years On
Fifteen years into the War on Terror and I can say there have been some positive developments:
- Bin Laden, mastermind of 9/11, is dead.
- Saddam Hussein, one of the most brutal dictators of our age, is no more.
- Al-Qaeda has been taken apart.
- And despite our worst fears there have been no mass-casualty attacks of a similar scale in the United States.*
- Iran, whose national slogan seems to be “Death To America,” has been convinced to give up its nuclear program in exchange for being allowed to trade with the West.**
- We’re even finally making peace with Cuba!
That said, there can be said there have been victories for the other side, too. Part of bin Laden’s plan for 9/11 and similar attacks was to so enrage the United States that it would lash out blindly, causing death and destruction across the Middle East and Central Asia far in excess of what the U.S. suffered, bankrupting itself in terms of lives and treasure and bringing millions of hurt and angry survivors to bin Laden’s side.
To an extent, that is exactly what happened. It’s been estimated that the 9/11 attacks cost bin Laden a quarter-million dollars at most. Since then, America has spent at least a trillion dollars—and most likely closer to five trillion—to stamp out terror, with no final victory or “end game” in sight. And while we did put an end to bin Laden and Saddam Hussein, the disruption we caused when we brought down the Taliban and Hussein’s regime—combined with local sectarian strife and the outrage caused by our drone bombings—created ideal conditions for the growth and spread of even more extreme, outrageous groups like ISIS and Boko Haram. ISIS has gone even further, publishing flatly that its goal is to support and encourage terrorist attacks until the West goes after all Muslims—not just the people plotting and carrying out attacks—and effectively drive the Muslim world into ISIS’ army.
At home, we’re quickly reaching the point where we’re starting to wonder whether this whole war was even necessary, or if we could have achieved our goals through better means. Aside from the massive cost—five trillion dollars?!—over 7000 of our people have been killed in combat, and more than 50,000 more came home wounded physically, psychologically, or both. Even today, 20 veterans commit suicide daily, unable to come to terms with what has happened, what is happening to them. Our use of drones to assassinate known and suspected terrorist leaders—often killing everyone around them, innocent and guilty alike—trouble consciences around the world; and people in this and other countries are worried about the ways our own societies are changing in this fight on terror: Do we have any right to privacy? Do we have to allow our governments to monitor and record all electronic communications? Do we have to have cameras everywhere we go? Could all this massive amount of information on all of us be misused? Would it even stop any future terrorist attacks, anyway?
…and recent terror attacks in San Bernardino, California, Orlando, Florida, and Nice, France have shown that you don’t need huge, complicated, expensive attacks to spread mass terror—a “lone wolf” going on a suicidal blitzkrieg can be horrifyingly effective. Nice showed a terrorist doesn’t even need a gun! Think of the past few days when airports have been evacuated due to reported gunshots—but there were no shooters, a false alarm. In one case an airport was evacuated for one guy just sitting there in a Zorro outfit waving a plastic sword!
And don’t get me started on the changes to airport security—In all my life I’ve never felt more like singing “Next time, take the train.” <g>
Ugh. I didn’t mean to be so depressing. These last 15 years have been a hell of a ride, though, and it doesn’t look like it’s about to stop anytime soon. For example, though hate crimes against Muslims skyrocketed in the years after 9/11, American Muslims fight alongside us against all kinds of terror, Muslim extremist or not. Americans elected—and re-elected—an African American to the Presidency, and it looks like we’re about to do the same for a woman! This has naturally made a very, very loud minority angry, but they are a minority, and they look to become an even smaller minority in the future!
But most of all, from what was once a scene of twisted metal, wreckage, and horror, a new, even prouder tower has risen above the New York skyline. The new One World Trade Center—94 floors, 1,776 feet tall—it is as much a monument to those who lost their lives on 9/11 (and the aftermath) as it is a functional, state-of-the-art office building. Most importantly, it was designed with lessons learned from the old World Trade Center buildings, with a super-strong reinforced concrete core—strong enough to resist truck bombs either at street level or in the below-ground parking structure (remember the 1993 attack?)—containing broad fire-protected stairwells big enough to allow the entire building to be quickly and safely evacuated at the same time fire crews are climbing up—if it gets hit by another airliner! I bet even Godzilla couldn’t knock this building down!
OK, I think I’ve gone on long enough. Tony and I are putting the final edits to a new version of my 9/11 Project play, with all but three songs removed to make it more practical for schools and community theater groups to put on. I hope to interest the college theater scene with this play.
It amazes even after all this time, there still isn’t any real aren’t any other projects—of which I’m aware—to bring the feelings and memories of 9/11 to the stage. I guess somebody has to be the pioneer—why not me?
*The closest attacks in terms of casualties outside the Middle East I can think of are the much smaller attacks in London, Spain and Mumbai (I remember it being called Bombay). There was a horrible attack in Norway but it was caused by a “homegrown” terrorist and not Islamic extremists. Bear in mind though—the vast majority of victims of terror attacks are other Muslims—Muslims belonging to groups other groups are at war with, or who don’t want anything to do with the extremists and their beliefs. Groups like ISIS and Boko Haram don’t really care about other Muslims except as either a money supply or potential “cannon fodder.”
** There are those who say we shouldn’t trust the Iranians—and we shouldn’t—but the only likely alternatives were either another ruinous invasion and war, or worse, a 3-way nuclear arms race between Iran, Israel, and Saudi Arabia!