By PAT WATSON
Do you remember September 11, 2001? Do you remember where you were when you heard the news that shook the world? As far as I could ascertain on that indelible day, the world was coming to an end or at least it “had gone crazy” according to the words of the first person I heard the news from.
Twelve years ago yesterday, the world came to a standstill following the unbelievable spectacle of two planes – one from American Airlines, the other from United Airlines – plunging in coordination into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, at the very heart of America’s business district.
Brilliant and terrible in its simplicity, the explosion of those two planes in particular have run countless millions of times on television screens. And while another American Airlines plane that was turned into a bomb flew to Washington DC and hit the Pentagon, America’s military nerve centre, and yet another United Airlines jet came down in Pennsylvania, it was the awful spectacle of the exploding twin towers in Manhattan that held our rapt attention.
In the midst of the horror, government in all political jurisdictions halted all air travel worldwide. This was an unprecedented action, as fear of uncertainty about what would happen next took hold.
We were all glued to our television screens as we tried to learn more and to understand what was happening. More than 3000 people from all parts of the world died together in the twin towers. Another 125 were killed at the Pentagon while more than 200 plane passengers in those four flights also died.
The story that has taken hold since ‘9-11’ is that the attacks were the work of Islamist militants under the leadership of Osama bin Laden. Bin Laden became this era’s Hitler, considered by most Americans as evil incarnate. Yet, he was a hero to disaffected people of the Middle East and those who identify with them.
The story today is that bin Laden was found living in luxury in Northern Pakistan, where he was ferreted out by elite American military fighters and ‘exterminated with extreme prejudice’. Whether he was meant to be brought back alive to face charges is moot, because the official word from the Obama administration is that bin Laden was buried at sea or, to quote one of those memorable lines from The Godfather, bin Laden “now sleeps with the fishes”.
In the aftermath, America has been changed by this event. Before it was discovered that American soldier Timothy McVeigh was responsible for bombing a government building in Oklahoma City in 1995, the suspicion was that Islamists were to blame. The fact that an American was the bomber, had a decidedly different effect on the American psyche, despite how horrible that attack was.
In years to come, 9-11 will be seen with greater perspective for what it was, although conspiracy theorists will never fully be satisfied by the presentation of events as are now broadly known and otherwise accepted.
What we have today is a country that is still on edge about similar attacks. The fact that Chechens, Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, two brothers who are Muslim, are being held responsible for the terror attack in Boston on April 15 this year tells us Americans have reason to be. The fact that U.S. army psychiatrist Nidal Hasan, an American-born Muslim, has just received the death sentence for killing 13 and wounding more than 30 on an army base on American soil in 2009 is grounds for continued insecurity.
Whatever it is that American corporations aided and abetted by Washington have been doing in the oil rich regions of the Gulf States, we are seeing the outcome. Many Americans reject this notion, seeing themselves rather as the victims of terrorists. But as we know from Newton’s third law of motion, every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Feelings of antagonism toward the West did not emerge fully formed from the ether. So unless and until exploiters of Earth’s natural resources find other ways to get at what they want instead of acting like sanctioned pirates, there will continue to be ugly repercussions. And yes, this somehow involves the recent crisis in Syria.
A note on Ontario politicians…
Politicians have returned to Queen’s Park for the fall session. Fresh from their time away during the summer, day one at the Legislature picked up where they left off – the gas plant cancellation strategy.