Twenty Years Gone: 9/11
Top illustration by Tim Forkes
Has it been 20 years? September 11, 2001. The world changed for those of us in the United States. Maybe it did for our European and Canadian allies, Mexico too, but most definitely for U.S. citizens. For too long we assumed the two great oceans insulated us from the ills of the world, even as our government stirred up shit elsewhere.
Europe and Asia had terrorist attacks, but let’s be honest, we had domestic terrorists for over a century. From the Ku Klux Klan to Timothy McVeigh blowing up the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, OK. Let’s not forget all the violence and terror associated with the anarchists and labor troubles in the early part of the 20th century. Then the violent fringe of the 1960 anti-war movement that blew up buildings and threatened violent actions.
So the United States was never without terrorism, we just labeled it something else: Disgruntled White Folks or something …
For us “terrorism” meant people of Middle Eastern descent, speaking Arabic and demanding freedom for Palestinians, or something else we had nothing to do with, thank you. Explosions in London, Paris, Italy, Spain — all over Europe.
Al Qaeda tried to knock down the World Trade Center in 1993, February 26 to be exact. A truck bomb below the North Tower. That seemed like a one-off event, but U.S. intelligence was tracking the terrorist organization as it attacked western targets around the world. News organization weren’t really reporting on the intelligence gathering concerning Al Qaeda — until the terrorists bombed the two embassies in Africa; Nairobi, Kenya and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. August 7, 1998. Then the attack of October 12, 2000 on the USS Cole in Aden, Yemen.
Even after those bombings in and around Africa the U.S. populace didn’t get fully engaged with the idea that a bunch of terrorists had declared war on the U.S. We were angry, to be sure, but these attacks happened over there, not here on our shores. We were wrapped up with the GOP obsession with getting Bill Clinton! Gosh, Bill lied about getting a blow job in the Oval Office hallway from someone other than his wife — under oath!
Many of us on the left were pissed at Bill for giving those right wing nut bars, like Lindsey Graham, Bob Barr and Asa Hutchinson, what they needed to have their own collective ejaculation with an impeachment. They were so gleeful to put on a show, on all the TV channels. There it was, the blue dress with the cum stains! It was so exciting!
It was a joke on the America people, paid for by the American people for the pleasures of the GOP and their most fervent and fevered base. They wanted to show the American people Bill Clinton would lie about getting sexual favors from a much younger woman. — and as far as they were concerned, to hell with the young woman involved. Her name is still — 22-plus years later — sullied by the whole affair.
So no, we were not engaged with Al Qaeda’s war on America before September 11, 2001. Members of our government were, like Richard A. Clarke, who, on that fateful day, was the National Coordinator for Security, Infrastructure Protection, and Counter-Terrorism for the National Security Council.
During the Clinton Administration Clarke had direct access to the president to deliver his national security reports. In the Bush (43) Administration Clarke had layers of aides like National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, between him and the president and Rice, we found out, didn’t consider a bunch of Muslim terrorists to be a major issue. She was more interested in continuing the Cold War policies and rewarding the Military-Industrial Complex with big contracts for defense equipment the U.S. didn’t need.
Rice later told the 9/11 Commission she had no idea terrorists would use planes as missiles. She had publicly said no one had any idea terrorists would use planes as missiles and in fact analysts from the intelligence agencies, plus Richard Clarke, had predicted just that. Not to mention author Tom Clancy had written a trilogy of novels with the planes as missiles playing a central role. To begin his testimony before the 9/11 Commission Clarke apologized to the families of those killed by the attacks as well as the U.S. as a whole.
If Condoleezza Rice had no idea people would use commercial airliners as missiles, she wasn’t paying attention. Her failure of imagination was a major reason the attacks of 9/11 were successful for Al Qaeda. You can read her testimony before the 9/11 commission here. Also, there’s no evidence, Secretary Rice, to suggest the members of Al Qaeda hated “freedom.”
But it wasn’t all on the Bush (43) Administration and Condoleezza Rice. According to former Director of the CIA George Tenet he was trying to get approval from both the Clinton and Bush (43) administrations to launch attacks inside Afghanistan before 9/11 to take out Taliban and Al Qaeda targets, including Usama bin Laden.
The question of whether it is legal or not to assassinate adversaries came up during the 9/11 Commission, as a road block to pulling the trigger before 9/11. The United States doesn’t use assassination as a form of foreign policy. Or at least it didn’t before 9/11. Now we use unmanned drones to take out targets around the world. Assassination by drones has become a very comfortable way to conduct foreign policy. Thank you President Barack Obama. Obama getting the Nobel Prize for Peace was a joke.
In his book, At the Center of the Storm, Tenet covers his ass pretty well, claiming he took his concerns to Condoleezza Rice in July 2001, about attacks from Al Qaeda being imminent and, as he told Scott Pelley of 60 Minutes, “Essentially, the briefing says, there are gonna be multiple spectacular attacks against the United States. We believe these attacks are imminent. Mass casualties are a likelihood,” Tenet also said he told Rice, “We need to consider immediate action inside Afghanistan now. We need to move to the offensive” and she pushed it off to a third tier official to consider.
Tenet thought the rules around assassination as a tool of national security and foreign policy were going to change, as a result of the attacks of 9/11 — and so they did.
In the 20 years since Al Qaeda attacked the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and the failed attempt that crashed in Pennsylvania, we have engaged in two major wars, the first of which — America’s longest war — came to an end August 30 of this year and included the assassination of Usama bin Laden by SEAL Team 6 on May 2, 2011, in Abbottabad, Pakistan, just a few clicks over the border of Afghanistan. Well, it’s an eight hour drive from Kabul, Afghanistan, and just a couple hours by helicopter from Bagram Air Base.
What have we to show for these 20 years of continuous war on terror in Afghanistan and Iraq? In Yemen and Libya? And who knows where else in Africa and Asia? Trillions of dollars spent, essentially given to the military-industrial complex for the very latest in war fighting equipment. Night vision gear for everyone serving on the ground in a war zone, updated versions of the A-10 Warthog ground support aircraft, which was scheduled to be taken out of service 20 years ago.
The F-22 Raptor, F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and there’s another very expensive aircraft the air force or Navy needs. Or maybe it’s the Marine Corps because the it’s long past time to retire the Harrier.
And we’re building all those Abrams tanks we will never use and armored personnel carriers, Humvees and hundreds of other pieces of equipment that just keeps the military-industrial complex rolling along. Who were the big winners from the past 20 years? It wasn’t the families of the thousands of Americans killed in the wars for the past 20 years, or the tens of thousands wounded, carrying around scars we sometimes can see and often times not.
Whomever that person was before they joined the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard or National Guard, that person no longer exists, especially if they witnessed and took part in the brutality of war. You will never understand him or her, who that person is today because you didn’t serve.
For the 99% of America that has no clue what it means to be of military service to this nation, what happens to the people that do serve will forever remain a mystery. Please stop saying “Thank you for your service.” How about showing your support by pressuring your representatives to fully fund the Department of Veterans Affairs medical and social services.
But this is about 20 years post 9/11. What do we have? Nothing really. No new infrastructure in America, no high speed rail, crumbling bridges, roadways and airports.
Fifty-five years ago Los Angeles International Airport — LAX — was a marvel of modern air travel. Now it’s a laughing stock compared to modern airports in other nations. Same with JFK in New York and O’Hare in Chicago. Airports in the United States are a joke, mainly because we have given trillions of dollars to the people that make money off wars, people that skim aid to enrich themselves in countries we are supposed to be helping, like Afghanistan.
Corruption is big business, here at home and abroad. We can ask where all that money went all day long, but it doesn’t matter. What matters is that money wasn’t used to make life better for the people of this nation, here at home. We did nothing to address the wealth gap, nothing to address poor health outcomes that are a result of our “for profit” health care industry. We did nothing to address the opioid epidemic.
We did manage to exploit everyone’s fear of being attacked again by foreign terrorists. The irony being we have been under attack by domestic terrorists, culminating with the attack on our nation’s capital, January 6, 2021.
It’s probably been since 1865 that our nation was this divided. There are actually idiots proclaiming they will start another civil war over mask and vaccine mandates. Over a fucking vaccine.
There’s that dip shit governor of South Dakota talking about freedom, like her state and a few others are the only ones to have freedom. Everyone in the United States has the same freedoms, you self-absorbed, divisive little twit. Over 200 sovereign nations in the world and over 180 of them have freedoms. South Dakota isn’t the only place in the world that has freedoms.
I live in Southern California and I have never felt freer in my life. And I’m fully vaccinated and wear a mask. I voted “No” on the recall, “no” to kooks like Larry Elder, who wants to be the next Krisi Noem. Or maybe the next Ron DeSantis (R-FL) or that idiot in Texas, Greg Abbott.
Everywhere you look, in real time or on the internet, everyone is telling us to “Never Forget.” Remember the 3,000 brave women, men and children that died on September 11, 2001, as a result of the terrorist attacks — and we should. We should also remember the thousands of men and women that went to work on the pile at Ground Zero, inhaling powdered glass, cement, asbestos, and who knows what other toxic materials, developing lung and other diseases and eventually dying. We should remember and honor them as well and be thankful that congress finally did the right thing to make their compensation permanent.
To honor those people we are remembering today we should make America a better place. One that is more inclusive for immigrants and refugees. That likes and allows Muslims, Christian, Jews, Buddhists, Sikhs, Hindus, Shinto and atheists to exist and flourish in this nation without fear, discrimination or persecution. Christians are not persecuted in this nation by the way. They just happen to be some of the biggest whiners who like to claim persecution because we won’t run the nation like a theocracy based on their brand of Christian fundamentalism.
Personally, I’m not even trying to be united and healing. I’m with Howard Stern. I’m done with the 25% who are ruining this country with their bullshit anti-Vax and mask protests. You had the cure for COVID-19 and you refused to take it. Now thousands of the unvaccinated are showing up in hospitals to die, while people with heart conditions, kidney ailments and other health problems are turned away. I say turn away anyone that refused to get vaccinated. They chose their bed so let them lie in it.
Do I sound bitter? I am. Forty years after Newt Gingrich started dividing the nation people like me are tired of trying to be accommodating and understanding. I don’t want any part of the compromise. Grind the GOP into the dirt. No one — NO ONE — has ever been held accountable for not stopping the attacks on 9/11, nor has anyone been held accountable for lying to get us into a war with Iraq. There was never weapons of mass destruction. The Bush (43) Administration just flat out lied about it. And no one has been held to account.
Yes, I will never forget 9/11, but I will also remember the Patriot Act, the Authorization for Use of Military Forces that started the two wars: Iraq and Afghanistan. And the Patriot Act was the biggest assault on our civil liberties in history. “Preserving Life and Liberty.” Please …
Most of all let’s stop being afraid. Fearful of “them,” whoever they are. Remember the TSA and all the security just to get on commercial aircraft. Remember the extra layer of bureaucracy in the intelligence gathering community, called the Department of Homeland Security. Remember “enhanced interrogation,” “torture,” as it is known in the real world. Remember Gitmo — Guantanamo Bay — where our government theorized they could skirt around all of our civil liberties and the restrictions of the Geneva Conventions.
We became one of those countries, the kind that spits on freedoms. The kind of nation that tries to ignore its history as it pertains to the subjugation and exploitation of indigenous people and Africans brought to these shores as slaves, plus all their descendants. We don’t want white children learning about how certain white people put bounties on the heads of all indigenous people as well as runaway slaves.
There’s a lot to remember on the 20th anniversary of 9/11 so let’s start with the ones that lost their lives as a result of that terrorist attack. Let’s remember and honor the loved ones of those who died as a result of these attacks. Let’s honor and remember all the men and women who went to fight in the wars that were started as a result of the attacks, especially the thousands who gave their last full measure of devotion.
Let’s honor them by making our nation just a little better than it was on September 10, 2001.
Tim Forkes started as a writer on a small alternative newspaper in Milwaukee called the Crazy Shepherd. Writing about entertainment, he had the opportunity to speak with many people in show business, from the very famous to the people struggling to find an audience. In 1992 Tim moved to San Diego, CA and pursued other interests, but remained a freelance writer. Upon arrival in Southern California he was struck by how the elected government officials and business were so intertwined, far more so than he had witnessed in Wisconsin. His interest in entertainment began to wane and the business of politics took its place. He had always been interested in politics, his mother had been a Democratic Party official in Milwaukee, WI, so he sat down to dinner with many of Wisconsin’s greatest political names of the 20th Century: William Proxmire and Clem Zablocki chief among them. As a Marine Corps veteran, Tim has a great interest in veteran affairs, primarily as they relate to the men and women serving and their families. As far as Tim is concerned, the military-industrial complex has enough support. How the men and women who serve are treated is reprehensible, while in the military and especially once they become veterans. Tim would like to help change that.