by Dave Hood
The terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 were a terrifying day for Americans and for millions of others around the world. America will never forget 9/11, the day Islamic extremists hijacked two passenger planes and steered them into the twin towers, and another passenger plane into the Pentagon.
September 11, 2001 is the saddest day in American history. It resulted in 2,977 deaths of innocent civilians, tears of grief and unending mourning for countless others who lost friends and loved ones. A decade later, most people are still shocked and saddened, even haunted by the events of 9/11. And so the wounds of 9/11 continue to heal. America will continue to grieve, continue to mourn the loss of innocent life, and never forget the terrorist attacks of 9/11.
The attacks of 9/ll caught America off guard. Prior to September 11, 2001, most American believed that their country was invincible and protected from a terrorist attack. Most people had never heard of Bin Laden or the terrorist group Al Qaeda. The Intelligence community saw the warning signs and potential threat of terrorism but didn’t believe that it was real threat to American security—and so no significant action was taken to stop Bin Laden or Al Qaeda. And when the threat was real, Airport security failed to detect the Islamic terrorist boarding American passenger planes. And when the people in power finally realized the threat of a terrorist attack was a real possibility, American military planes were launched into the air—and then flew in the wrong direction, away from the hijacked planes that were heading to the twin towers in New York. Prior to 9/11 American was asleep, but so were many other countries, like Canada where I live.
The attacks of 9/11 resulted in America’s “war on terror.” Bin Laden became public enemy no. 1. The focus of American foreign policy was to capture or kill Bin Laden, the mastermind behind 9/11, and to wipe out Al Qaeda, the terrorist network, and to protect the American people from additional acts of terrorism.
The attacks of 9/11 provoked President Bush to declare war on terror. He made the decision to invade, occupy, and fight the extremists in Iraq. He told the American people that Iraq was a terrorist state with weapons of mass destruction. The war in Iraq ultimately lead to the capture and execution of the dictator Saddam Hussein, but there were huge costs.
The attacks of 9/11 also lead to the American invasion, occupation, and war against the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. American soldiers continue to fight the war of terror in Afghanistan. The American war of terror seems like a permanent war. I’m not sure what will be the endgame.
In my opinion, the war in Iraq was an great folly—resulting senseless loss of life, enormous American debt, and the decline of the America’s good reputation in so many parts of the Western world. American has spent $4 trillion waging war. It has spent $400 billion dollars in homeland security. Much of it was needed.
The humiliation and humility caused by 9/11 gave way to hubris. In the early days after 9/11, President Bush’s conduct and comments didn’t help the American cause for sympathy and support. Several times, he made inflammatory and jingoistic comments. On one occasion, he said “If you’re not with us, you’re with the terrorists .” His remarks angered many people in other parts of the world, including bleeding-heart liberals in Canada.
Since 9/11, America has lost its moral authority and international prestige, largely due to America’s reaction to the terrorist attacks. The decision by the Bush Administration to go to war in Iraq, kill innocent civilians, engage in torture in Abu Ghraib prison and Guantanamo, the detainment and interrogation facility, has destroyed the outpouring of good will from around the world after 9/11. Many Muslims in Third World countries continue to view America as an imperialist and militaristic oppressor. Many in the third world believe that the United States is the enemy, the “infidel.” And so they continue to believe in “jihad.”
Prior to 9/11, the border that separates Canada and the United States, “the world’s longest undefended border” was essentially undefended. There were only 334 security agents policing 6,500 km. I could travel by car or fly to the United States without a passport. Now, when you travel by plane, there border scanners, sniffers, security on passenger planes. You also need a passport to travel to the United States from Canada.
The biggest surprise after 9/11 is that there have been no subsequent terrorist attacks by Islamic extremists on American soil. I’m not sure if President Bush overestimated the capabilities and power of Bin Laden and Al Qaeda. We will never know the answer.
The terrorist attacks of 9/11 has spawned a new lexicon, a new vocabulary, with words such as 9/11, jihad, mujahideen, Bin Laden, war on terror, water boarding, counterterrorism, Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay, Al Qaeda, radical Islam, Islamic extremism, ground zero. Each of these words evokes an impression, a memory, an image of September 11, 2001 or its aftermath.
I believe that the sad and shocking events of 9/ll have shown the world that America doesn’t crumble in fear. I believe that America has shown the world that it will defend itself when attacked. It will mete out punishment, will carry out retribution against its enemies. Most of all, I believe that America it is a resilient nation, a proud nation, a patriotic nation. However, it is still loathed by many governments and people in other parts of the world.
The memorial at Ground Zero will continue to remind Americans and the world that evil exists in the world. Some men are just evil incarnate. Bin Laden and his terrorists supporters were evil incarnate. The memorial will evoke sad memories of the day two planes sailed into the twin towers, exploding like a bomb. The memorial will continue to remind us of those innocent victims who were vaporized or annihilated by the explosion and collapse of the towers. The memorial will remind us always of the heroes died trying to save innocent people trapped in the towers, and those who are still dying now from the effects of inhaling dust clouds after the twin towers collapsed and crumbled.
We must also remember that the war on terror is a war against terrorists and not a war on moderate Islam. After 9/11, many people became suspicious of immigrants who from the Middle East or who worshipped Islam, even xenophobic. The vast majority of people who are Muslim are peaceful people who detest terrorism as much as an other person of another faith.
How will America be judged by history? Bush will be viewed as a reckless president, but the war on terrorism will be viewed as a necessary evil. And As well, American soldiers continue to occupy Iraq and Afghanistan. I’m not sure how these wars will end. In all likelihood, American soldiers will permanently occupy these countries.
Since 9/11, Canada has become more patriotic, braver, and bolder. We recognize that we have a responsibility to participate in the war on terror. We no longer play the role of peace keepers and pacifists which was so evident during the many years of Liberal government under Prime Minister Trudeau. We have taken up the cause to “fight the war on terror” by participating in the war in Afghanistan. We have also participated in the NATO cause to remove the nefarious dictator Gaddafi from Libya.
I believe the world has become a safer place since 9/11. The terrorist attacks of 9/11 catapulted America into a war on terror. American invaded two countries Iraq and Afghanistan. The dictator of Iraq, Saddam Hussein, was captured and executed. America has also gone to war in Afghanistan, forcing the Taliban to retreat in to the mountains and wiping out Al Qaeda. The war on terror has lead to the firefight in Pakistan and the killing of Bin Laden, the mastermind of 9/ll. Al Qaeda, the Islamic radical terrorist network, is now in shambles.
Although the world is a safer place since 9/11, I also believe that terrorism and Islamic radicalism are not dead, weakened but not dead. There will always be the threat of a lone wolf, acting on his or her own in the name of a cause, carrying out some evil act of terrorism against the West. There always be a possibility of some young radical taking up the cause of Bin Laden, reorganizing and rebuilding Al Qaeda or some other terrorist group, and then engaging in terrorism against American or some other Western power. The question I continually ask myself is this: Could 9/11 happen again? For these reasons, the war of terror must be a permanent war. We also must not forget, let down our guard, because a terrorist attack could happen again.