Tue, May

9/11, Once More, With Feeling


ACCORDING TO LIZ - The shock, the confusion. The images seared in our memories. Of what was shown on our televisions, again and again and again, as if all the buildings in every city were falling, and what we felt and did as we reacted to something that, during those first few hours of the morning of 9/11, was incomprehensible.

The need to reach out and embrace loved ones, unconditionally. The days during which the entire world shared our grief and outrage. Where did that all go?

It’s been 22 years.

Many fled, us to camp out in the San Bernardino Mountains. Having shared memories of the Rodney King riots following the exoneration of four white cops beating a black man in black-and-white, we feared not only possible terrorist acts in Los Angeles but also the potential home-grown violence of our fellow citizens.

I have indelible memories as do most of us. People we lost, friends stranded across the country, on an airfield in Labrador, desperately trying to connect with family members. Reading Michael Moore's serialized odyssey, driving from Los Angeles home to his daughter and friends in New York City begging the Shrub to resist the warmongers and refrain from anything rash.

A defining moment, like the murders of JFK and MLK, but worse.

Like with those events, our relationship to what we remembered of that day has changed over time as the world around us mutated – the blame game and finger-pointing between the alphabet agencies, the ceding of privacy as the Big Brother state expanded, sucking up our tax dollars and crushing our rights before it, the spawning of dictators here and abroad.

Deliberately generating a fear economy and the need to lash out, extract revenge. Brazil and Animal Farm made real.

We have come to understand how our media failed us by blindly jumping onboard Rumsfeld’s flag-waving juggernaut and ignoring the lies, the abuse, all other points of view. By not reporting on New York where almost half a million people filled the streets protesting the proposed invasion of Iraq, on Montréal where I was one of a hundred thousand of millions more around the world demonstrating in 40-below temperatures joining in opposition to more killing, more destruction.

To quote Joan Didion, our government instituted an “insistent use of September 11 to justify the reconception of America’s correct role in the world as one of initiating and waging virtually perpetual war”.

Americans were shocked with the almost 3,000 deaths on 9/11. But does that justify the deaths of almost 7,000 American soldiers and 8,000 American contractors who died in Iraq and Afghanistan in the years following? 

Does it justify headlines about how many people died which only included Americans? Does it justify the civilian casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan estimated to exceed one million souls? 

And what about the injured? Medical and disability costs in the United States have topped a trillion dollars. The social impact of broken relationships and suppressed anger are incalculable.

Research within the military shows that 30,177 active duty personnel and veterans committed suicide from 2001 and 2021... compared to 7,057 lives lost by service members in combat, four times the number incurred purportedly fighting for our country. What a waste of lives!

What a waste of money.

Instead of crushing al-Qaeda and the Taliban Dubbya’s military grandiosity, built primarily on false pretenses and driven by corporate greed jonesing for Iraqi oil, begat a worldwide terrorism industry that is exponentially expanding to this day.

In the 22 years since, mission creep or more accurately mission metastasizing has grown the American military budget to nearly 40 percent of global military spending, yet even the Democrats push to add billions more every year. 

War is tribal.

Can’t America rise above the need for revenge and brutality? Demonstrate to the world that we can be better than the freedom-fries mania under Dubbya, the bullying of Abu Graib and Gitmo? The Proud Boys under he-who-should-not-be-mentioned?

Or has 9/11 become the tipping point, the start of the final decline and fall of the American Empire?

On the tenth anniversary of the twin towers’ collapse, renowned economist and Nobel Prize winner Joseph E. Stiglitz wrote:

“Military overreach has predictably led to nervousness about using military power, and others’ knowledge of this threatens to weaken America’s security as well. But America’s real strength, more than its military and economic power, is its “soft power,” its moral authority. And this, too, was weakened: as the US violated basic human rights like habeas corpus and the right not to be tortured, its longstanding commitment to international law was called into question.”

Our wars continue to drag us down through condemnation, covert if not overt in the eyes of the rest of the world. It has made our own lives and quality of life much poorer with 50% of our government’s discretionary spending now going to fund a bloated military that, on top of all the killings in quasi-approved and Black Book operations.

Our leaders love wars, on just about anyone or anything, because they are opportunities to jump on the bandwagon, join the parade showing their love for God and country.

Let vengeance stay in Gods’ hands and stop the military sucking up funds that should be spent on healthcare and improving American lives, stop them using inordinate amounts of natural resources to build their toys and move around the globe.

Seventy years ago a Republican president said: “This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the clouds of war, it is humanity hanging on a cross of iron.” 

Can Angelenos, can Californians, can Americans rise above the millstone of 9/11?

Let’s celebrate today by demanding our government beat Pentagon swords into plowshares and wage full-out Global Wars on Poverty and the Climate Emergency to win back hearts and minds around the world.

Let’s feel that Americans can once again be the good guys.

(Liz Amsden is a contributor to CityWatch and an activist from Northeast Los Angeles with opinions on much of what goes on in our lives. She has written extensively on the City's budget and services as well as her many other interests and passions. In her real life she works on budgets for film and television where fiction can rarely be as strange as the truth of living in today's world.)

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