Remembering Tuesday, September 11, 2001

Originally posted by Daniel K on 09/12/07

I save my wall calendars.

You see, each year eventually comes around again in exactly the same date to day of the week arrangement. It is just a matter of time.

To see what I mean take a look at this table at the Virtual Perpetual Calendar site. Each year of the calendar has a number next to it that can be used to located other years that have the exact same calendar. For example, 2007 will repeat in 2018, meaning the wall calendars you are using this year will be reusable again in 11 years.

In this manner I’ve been able to use my 1989 calendars twice since then, which is nice since one of those is a much loved Calvin & Hobbes calendar. However, some periods before reuse are much longer. Next year’s calendar last occurred in 1980, and won’t be reusable again until 2036. That’s such a long way out that they might actually have light rail running to Redmond by then!

But I bring this all up because this year I am reusing my 2001 year calendars, and tomorrow will be the sixth anniversary of one of the darkest days in this nation’s history: September 11th, 2001. Like back then, tomorrow will be a Tuesday. Like back then the weather will be sunny and glorious, so much reminding us of that day six years ago in sunny New York.

We will look up at blue skies and remember.

9/11 – A Horror Frozen In Time

Everything changed on 9/11, or at least that’s what we were told. In many ways everything did seem to change, and yet very little seems to have changed. We were going to change the way we lived our lives, and change the way we viewed ourselves in the world. Soem little things would matter less. Some little things would matter more.

While no one could have imagined a day like the one we witnessed 2191 days ago (except perhaps those with information we’ve since discovered was out there and might have helped prevent the attacks), no one could have guessed either how this nation would respond, and that we’d invade Iraq within two years and be embroiled in a quagmire of our own making on the sixth anniversary of the four suicide airliner attacks, having spent $450 billion and sacrificed the lives of 3775 U.S. soldiers in the process.

After 9/11 we had the sympathy of the global community. “We Are All Americans” the French newspaper Le Monde famously proclaimed in solidarity. The New York Times carried a sub-headline (above) stating that Bush vowed “to exact punishment for ‘Evil’“. The perpetrators, the Taliban and Osama bin Laden’s Al Qaeda were swiftly targeted in Afghanistan and it looked like they would be crushed by the military might thrown against them.

But then we lost sight of the target and our leaders started telling us we needed to invade Iraq, a nation, Bob Woodward would inform us, that was a top priority immediately after the terrorist attacks, despite the fact almost all the terrorists came from Saudi Arabia, and despite the fact Saddam Hussein was not involved. Suddenly, what was a righteous cause became an excuse to exact revenge of a different nature, of a personal nature, against a dictator of our own making, with the reward of untold riches in oil reserves. While Osama bin Laden escaped our sights in Tora Bora, retribution took on a new twist. The man Bush proclaimed we’d capture “dead or alive“, was now someone he was “not concerned” about anymore. The man they now wanted captured and brought to justice was a former ally, Saddam Hussein.

After a decade long economic embargo, Iraq’s army was unable to put up much resistance to America’s “shock and awe” blitz. Within three weeks Baghdad was taken and Hussein was in hiding. Bush declared “Mission Accomplished” and Dick Cheney was preparing for glory in the form of a welcoming population with flowers in hand.

Neither had it right. Iraqis began plundering a city without law enforcement to stop them. Westerners watched from a distance as priceless ancient artifacts were looted from the museums. Baath party and military sympathizers crept into the shadows taking billions of dollars and armaments with them, waiting to fight another day. The inner city guerrilla warfare tactics the generals had feared started to coalesce in earnest. Baghdad may have fallen, but our mission had only just begun.

There has been an attempt to create a new Iraqi political structure. Popular voting in 2005 gave hope that process would soon evolve into a viable government and lead to a political solution to the ongoing sectarian violence crippling the country. However, that has not happened, and Kurds, Sunnis and Shiites continue to fight over the control of the nation, while the unrest and lawlessness in the land has invited jihadists and terrorists to do their violence and brew a civil war.

Meanwhile, the Bush administration, amidst the scandals of the massacre in Haditha and and the prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib, has tried resolving every issue with the same blunt and worn out tool: military power. The potential of soft diplomacy opportunities to create a world coalition against terrorism cells long since a faded memory, each and every problem would come down to a new troop deployment. With the U.S. Army stretched to a breaking point, supplemented by reservists in a full time role, decimated by tens of thousand of wounded and maimed, lacking the body and vehicle armor to withstand roadside bombings and IEDs, Bush called anew for another “surge” in January. This was the essence of their plan: when the hammer wasn’t working, it would be tried again, and again, and again.

Now, with the latest general “reporting” back to Congress, we’re being told, just another six months, just give us another six months.

We’ve been here before, and in six months time, they’ll want another six months, and they’ll use the same hammer to nail this one on the head.

There is no exit strategy save the one on January 20th, 2009 when Bush is replaced by a new U.S. President who will seek to make the moves necessary to extract this nation from the hole we’ve dug ourselves into. And only once we have managed to get out will we be able to renew the hunt for the true perpetrators of the attacks that supposedly triggered this whole thing six years ago. Embroiled in an occupation of Iraq that has become our modern day Vietnam, it is so easy for us to forget that sunny September morning, and the horror we saw with a glance to the sky, or eyes glued to a TV screen.

While Osama bin Laden remains free to taunt us we need to recognize that we have forsaken those souls that perished at the hands of the terrorists by engaging in an illegal invasion and occupation of a sovereign nation under false pretenses. Until we leave Iraq, fully and with finality, we will be weakened in any world struggle. While Al Qaeda and bin Laden are allowed to regroup and plot new attacks due to the Iraqi distraction, the lost lives of 9/11 will not have been avenged.

After six years we are left with our memories. Would that we had also learned some lessons along the way.


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