9/11 Ripple and Remembrance
It was a lovely September morning, autumn arriving in a crisp mist in Cincinnati. After drop off, I was sitting with a group of other Montessori preschool moms on a coffee shop patio discussing an upcoming event and fundraiser. My youngest child rocked in a car carrier at my feet, she was six months old to the day. Bringing a drink outside, the server, frazzled, handed it to me, and then in confusion said to the group, “a plane just hit the world trade tower in New York.”
My husband, who often traveled for work to NYC, was unusually home. I called him immediately. Other moms put mobile phones up to their ears. I grabbed the carrier, waved bye distractedly and left the group as others decided what they needed to do. In the car, NPR Public radio knew little. Bystander accounts described the smoke, the confusion, and the scene. I arrived home minutes later and joined my husband in the family room with the televised news to witness the second plane hit the second tower.
After a couple minutes of shock, horror and disbelief passed, I was handing the baby to my husband and running to the car to pick up our oldest child, who I dropped off at school less than an hour earlier.
Nothing felt safe.
Within hours we understood the extent of the plot. Our Pentagon was also targeted. We understood true bravery in the 40 citizens aboard Flight 93 who prevented further destruction with their very lives on that Pennsylvania field. That morning, we tasted hate as we considered who might be responsible for such atrocity. Our intelligence agencies surmised the mastermind was Osam Bin Laden that same morning (my husband told me an hour after the planes hit that it was Bin Laden; President Clinton had left a directive with the new Bush Administration about immediate concerns with Bin Laden and Al Qaeda).
We were a country united in the first days. Drawing together in concern and pain to weather devastation and honor the lost. We rallied behind our country and most Americans gave deference to President Bush, Democrat, Republican and Independent alike.
Within days we were certain of the Al Qaeda connection and became bent on islamic bigotry, blaming innocents for a shared skin color or religion, with hate crimes rising on Muslim Americans. Within seven days the United States would sign a joint resolution securing use of force against any nation or individual responsible for the 9/11 attacks.
Within months we were a nation leading from the seat of fear, militarizing our allies and bombing targets.
Within a year we were at war, monetizing and politicizing the terror living among us in Afghanistan, dropping the first bombs in October of 2001 with an international coalition of developing Home Land security and Counter Terrorism forces. That December we toppled the Taliban in Afghanistan. It was not enough. Bombing Afghan hillside caves, our fury fueling terrorists already decrying the West’s influence, who were buring American flags, pressing embassies. We developed drone warfare and bombed more and even strategically killed the mastermind and it was still not enough.
February 2003, Colin Powell, acting Secretary of State, and skeptic of any invasion, delivered a message from directors of intelligence that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction. March of 2003, both the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Bureau or CBP and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, now known as U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement or ICE were opened; that same month the Iraqi Invasion began (as Afghanistan raged). In a speech, May 1, 2003, President Bush declared major military combat action over in Iraq in front of an enormous Mission Accomplished banner onboard the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln.
Continuing that war based on lies about weapons of mass destruction, we toppled statues and in December of ’03, Operation Red Dawn found Saddam Hussein, a dictator the United States earlier supported to power (seen on CIA payrolls as early at 1959), reduced in a 6x8 hole near Tikrit. The war continued into a second George W. Bush term. War mongers got richer and our nation grew more numb. We board our planes differently now and have been taught to hate Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and other known extremists. Abu Graib and Guantanamo Bay prisons now haunt us with our own abuses of Human Rights and the Geneva Convention.
With WMD lies revealed, across the globe mistrust in America bred, feeding hatred and revenge in attacks of U.S. citizens. Allies questioned their unwavering support. American anti-islamic rhetoric and hate led to the making of a film released on YouTube that sparked outrage in Libya; on September 11, 2012, a United States diplomatic compound was attacked and 4 American lives were lost including Ambassador Christopher Stevens. Hillary Clinton responded to an 11 hour inquiry and after two years was cleared, with a lawsuit also dismissed.
Without a seeming end, the Afghanistan conflict waged, spilling innocent blood for over twenty years, with 2.313 trillion (T) tax dollars spent on 165,000 Iraqi civilian deaths and 4,700 of our own patriots flew home in boxes draped in flags. Each new President campaigned to end the war. We elected Barack Obama on the promise of hope. We elected Donald Trump on the promise of hate.
Beginning with Bush, all presidents used ever developing technology through drone strikes. According to a blog post in 2017 by Micah Zenko, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, “Whereas President George W. Bush authorized approximately 50 drone strikes that killed 296 terrorists and 195 civilians in Yemen, Pakistan and Somalia, Obama has authorized 506 strikes that have killed 3,040 terrorists and 391 civilians.”
Three years into his presidency, Obama required that drone strike casualties be reported for both terrorists and civilians. In 2019, Trump revoked that transparency as his own drone strike civilian casualties increased 330% since 2016, when Trump was elected President, and relaxed the rules of engagement.
In an effort to keep a campaign promise, President Trump worked directly with the Taliban to negotiate a withdrawal to end the never ending war in Afghanistan in May of 2021.We elected Joe Biden in November, 2020 amidst strong division and though definitive, that election is still doubted today. In December 2020, Attorney General Barr filed his resignation.
January 6, 2021, an insurrection on the Nation’s Capitol drove the point of anger home. The same citizens that derided Hillary Clinton’s emails and the loss of life in Benghazi, came armed to beat past Capitol police officers, intent on threat of safety to the Vice President and members of Congress at work certifying the results of the election disputed by former President Trump. Even now, conservatives believe Trump’s lie over the 50 dismissed lawsuits filed on his behalf by federal judges appointed by him. A Jan. 6 special committee was appointed and conducted open to the public hearings. Thus far, 910 people have been charged with complicity.
Leah Millis | Reuters/photo
Nearly 20 years after 9/11, after the longest war, a severe failure at great cost, the Taliban regained power. Following through on Trump’s negotiation, President Joe Biden finally withdrew all our troops, with an extension, in mid August of 2021, resulting in a chaotic exit made worse by a suicide bomber killing 13 American troops. Despite the pandemonium, our troops evacuated 105,000 Afghanis from Kabul, aid providers to our stationed Americans. Many more of those who aided the U.S. remain, unable to leave under Taliban rule.
For more than two decades we have feared foreign terrorists, despite the recurring and increasing threat of domestic terrorists. For more than two decades we have fed the hate that fills our citizenry. For each debacle, each side, each party, each president is blamed by the other side and it’s not enough. There is no easy way to govern this country or keep it safe and yet, we citizens will only disparage and criticize the president opposite our party leaning. We place blame anywhere but on ourselves, anywhere but on our policies begun and continued in the name of democracy and capitalism.
Here after 21 years, we are still killing and it will never be enough. It can never.
We have forgotten to even respect each other, to see our actions in totality, to honor all the people and all their differences that died on that horrific September 11th day. We have dishonored our country in service to our hate. Our legacy of revenge is on ourselves. I fear we will never learn.