20 years ago today, like pretty much everyone else, I watched the events of September 11th 2001 in shock and disbelief followed by horrifying realization, sadness and anger. In the days that followed I cried with the families and loved ones looking for answers and clinging to hope. I looked desperately for answers on the TV and the internet. I cheered at the many stories of heroism and at each person rescued from the rubble.
Like many, I bear the emotional scars of the attacks and feel them most keenly today. Also, like many, I was greatly comforted by the incredible outpouring of unity and kindness that swept over the nation. For a brief time, we put aside our differences and worked together.
As anyone who pays attention to history might expect, we screwed that up pretty horribly. We overreacted in every possible way. Under the banner of increasing our security we began widespread surveillance of our own populace, built a whole new governmental department, enacted pointless travel inspection procedures and sent our armed forces to invade Afghanistan in hopes of capturing or killing the one man we determined was the mastermind.
Still hurting from 9/11 we allowed ourselves to become convinced that WMDs in Iraq were a threat and allowed our government to launch another invasion there. How embarrassing to find no WMDs there after all. It’s hard to imagine how we could make such a mistake. It’s almost like there was an ulterior motive.
Not content to stop at two terrible mistakes, we allowed our military to occupy both countries with no plan to withdraw for years and years spending trillions of dollars and killing and wounding thousands of our own citizens.
Perspective is a wonderful thing and a terrible one. Looking back on the events of 9/11, it is hard to conclude anything other than the simple fact that they weren’t that bad. Yes, they were terrible beyond imagining at the time, but what followed was far worse.
Just counting dead bodies reveals the harsh truth. 9/11 claimed 2,977 American lives. Afghanistan claimed 4,096. Iraq has claimed 4,431 so far.
As a nation we’ve sacrificed our privacy, our economic might, our integrity, the lives and health of our armed forces and our our ability to reason for the false promise of safety.
Madness. How many of us can claim to be as deeply scarred by the 930,000 excess American deaths over the past 17 months? That’s a 9/11 death toll every day and a half for over 500 days. Can we explain that fact away with the lack of fiery explosions on TV? Is it because the enemy is us?
We have clearly lost our perspective and the faith that many had in America has been slowly ground into dust. When waving flags, repeating lies and screeching about freedom while undermining the rule of law and our basic institutions is what now passes for patriotism, you have to admit something has gone terribly wrong with the American experiment.