Other Voices: Reflections on the eve of September 11
The worst terrorist attack in U.S. history destroyed New York City’s Twin Towers of the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. Less than an hour later, another hijacked plane crashed into the Pentagon, while another crashed in an unpopulated area of Somerset County, Pennsylvania. These are all well-known facts, but what has 9/11 actually meant for America since that tragic day?
After America won the Cold War, the elite, the media and the public were not fully aware of the vast implications of being the world’s sole superpower. Relief, triumph and hubris dominated many American attitudes after winning the Cold War. While the FBI regarded terrorism as a nuisance, it wasn’t a real threat at the time because after the Cold War ended, it was difficult to imagine that the U.S. had any enemies left.
So, by the time 9/11 hit, it hit hard, sobering many people up to a new international reality: a post-9/11 atmosphere in which national security became an overriding concern due to America’s vulnerability to terrorism.
Fanatical Muslim terrorists couldn’t expel America’s power by conventional military methods, so they employed kamikaze hijacking to vent their hatred. In fact, some of the causes of al Qaida’s hatred toward the U.S. have been because of America’s international dominance; its military presence in the Middle East; its support for corrupt regimes; America’s harmful culture corrupting Islamic countries; America insulting their politics and religion; and hatred for the superior economic power that enables U.S. military to control their region.
To a large degree, 9/11 altered international relations. One of the distinctive features of 9/11 has been the subsequent increased assertiveness of American primacy internationally. The Bush doctrine’s resulting policies that the U.S. pursued in dealing with enemy terrorists led to a significant turning point in American hegemony.
Hunting down intransigent terrorists bolstered American power globally. Also, al Qaida’s capabilities have been severely degraded to the point that they have been seriously limited in their ability to attack the U.S. again.
Yet, the terrorists have not all been defeated. The invasion of Iraq has been a blessed propaganda victory from Allah to their cause. It convinces many to jump on the bandwagon against the U.S.
What emerged from 9/11 was that the War on Terror, which soon became the hallmark of Bush’s foreign policy, shifted somewhat to being a covert war, with its work largely conducted by secret government intelligence agencies. The obvious proof that the War on Terror has been successful in the hands of surreptitious intelligence resides in the fact that America hasn’t been attacked since 9/11.
Also, due to the painstaking efforts of the CIA, FBI and military, over 5,000 terrorists have been rolled up since 9/11. In short, counterterrorism works.
How terrorism can be prevented depends on how America and its allies improve conditions in the Middle East. Fighting regional poverty, political inequality, corrupt governments, injustice and oppression, however, doesn’t appear on any lists of terrorists’ raison d’etre. Surprisingly, poverty can be ruled out as a main factor in motivating terrorist attacks. (Neither al Qaida leaders nor the 9/11 hijackers were poor; its leaders come from the middle class and upper classes.)
Non-religious education may hold the key to the reduction of the area’s breeding ground for terrorism and, perhaps, end terrorist culture once and for all.
Protection from terrorism doesn’t come without a price. An open information society may be incompatible with a covert governmental apparatus. Intelligence work, which requires secrecy to operate effectively and efficiently, presents problems, such as press leaks, spies being compromised and the government’s secret agenda being revealed.
On the other hand, democracy can suffer from civil liberty violations, such as secret surveillance, detaining suspects indefinitely, torture, and illegal search and seizure. Undoubtedly, without adequate oversight, secret agencies can invite abuses of power very easily.
What the future holds for terrorism remains to be seen. The prevention of another terrorist attack like 9/11 remains paramount to national security. Terrorists will not cease being a threat to U.S. hegemony. The use of weapons of mass destruction against America makes the fight against terrorism not only an imperative duty, but also a fight for America’s very survival.
The price of freedom from terrorism demands 24/7 vigilance. Measures must be taken to detect, investigate and prevent another terrorist attack.
On this coming seventh anniversary of 9/11, America should stand up and be proud of its counterterrorism efforts. America’s sign declares: “No terrorism allowed here!” Fear and violence will not deter America from its international destiny.
David Briceno lives in Grass Valley.
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