On September 11, 2014, MSNBC aired footage from 9/11 for hours, and after 13 years of being furious at the US government instead of the people who murdered 3000 people on that day, it was almost a relief to learn that video of it still disturbs. No matter what happened before or afterwards, 9/11 was mass murder.
The victims of 9/11 were victimized more than once. No matter how many warhawks deny it wholesale, or self-righteously preen like former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, blowback creates terrorism. To suggest otherwise is to believe that the enemies of the United States are not recognizable human beings with motivations, goals, and feelings of their own.
In response to 9/11, the US brutalized civil liberties, created a domestic spy utopia, and started two different wars in the Middle East. US foreign policy created the terrorists, and it has been busy guaranteeing that there will be plenty more for the next generation of Americans.
Now, you see, we’re at war with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS/ISIL/IS, whichever you like). Or rather, as new White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said on Friday, "So I think what you could conclude from this is the United States is at war with ISIL in the same way we are at war with al-Qaeda and its affiliates all around the globe." It sounds okay to use violence, when faced with violent, theocratic propagandists like ISIS. Maybe just this time – maybe it’s really, honestly, truly vital to national security this time. Except only warhawks who are covering their eyes and ears should accept that it will be as easy as just going to war against the baddies – with all predicted, stable outcomes to follow. We don’t know how to go to war justly, or rightly – if there is such a thing.
It’s time to sit out from the world stage for a while. It’s time to bring more troops home, not start sending them out again.
And let the terrorists win?! Never. And never learn. God knows how long it will take for people to realize that the arrogance involved in any government action is multiplied beyond measure when that is translated to an international scale. Experts can worry over ISIS, and plan our war against them. Experts gave us the easy, short war in Iraq. Experts swore we needed to arm rebels and overthrow Syria’s Bashar al-Assad. Somehow, our experts – and anyone else easily swayed into war – seem unable to believe that anything the US can do to other countries will make the people of them righteously angry.
Meanwhile, the wound of 9/11 can never, ever heal.
America being spoiled and safe should be a good thing. We should feel a horror when that safety is violated as it was on 9/11. The US should have that safety, for all the good, honest people who live within it borders. However, other countries should have that same. Not only do they not have that, the US has all too frequently been the cause of homes destroyed, populations displaced, countries destabilized, and thousands upon thousands injured or killed.
It happens again and again, and too many people believe that because our government does not target civilians with the same honest coldness as Al Qaeda or ISIS, that lets us off the moral hook.
Why should it? Never mind the power-hungry and the people with their own selfish interests who lead us into war. What do so many normal people not get about the fact that bombs probably feel about the same as hijacked planes, and falling buildings? Why can’t we get over the attack on the American embassy in Iran in 1979, but the 1953 joint British and American-backed coup that lead to that is barely a footnote in school books? Why was Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) for years almost the only person trying to teach the most basic third grade-style lesson in empathy – namely, that we would never, ever get over it if other countries treated us the way our governments treat them?
To use a liberal, college-y sort of term, we have privilege in the US. We are pretty damn safe and healthy. There’s violence, crime, and certainly some thuggish domestic state action – especially against the poor and other "less important" groups. But this ain’t a war zone. That’s good. If we could simply enjoy having a (relatively, debatably) free country it would be wonderful. We can’t. And we shouldn’t, because our government has been, for the past 100 years or so, periodically taking that safety away from other nations and people. We get to have that comfort, and they do not. We are a teenage nation that throws violent tantrums, then goes into hysterics if we are slapped back. The mildness of that metaphor is not meant suggest that 9/11 wasn’t a big deal. It being a big deal would have been okay. What happened afterwards, and the staggering inability of America to learn from its mistakes, and from other people’s anger, is the bit that isn’t.
And it’s keeping on. The war on terror, be it against ISIS or Al-Qaeda is both the catalyst for and the fever dream of conspiracy theorists. It’s so convenient. It never needs to end, and as we prepare to slip back into Iraq – not that we ever really left – we see that it never will.
Lucy Steigerwald is a contributing editor for Antiwar.com and a columnist for VICE.com. She previously worked as an Associate Editor for Reason magazine. She is most angry about police, prisons, and wars. Steigerwald blogs at www.thestagblog.com.