Dear Readers, 20 years ago, the unthinkable happened. On September 11, 2001, foreign terrorists commandeered commercial jet airplanes and flew two of them into the World Trade Center Buildings in New York City. The first plane went into the North Tower at 08:46 am. The second plane flew into the South Tower at 09:03 am. Within an hour and 42 minutes, raging fires caused both towers to collapse into a gigantic pile of twisted steel, smoldering debris, concrete, and rubble. Several other buildings in the complex also collapsed. In total, 2,977 victims died and over 25,000 sustained injuries. At least 8,000 first responders have died since then from toxic dust at the site.
The War on Terror
America changed forever. We engaged in a "War on Terror," which had profound consequences on the countries involved, our adversaries, our allies, and us. In some ways, we prevailed. Jihadist organizations have not mounted a successful external terrorist act in the USA since 2001.
But for 20 years, officials in the US Government lied to the American public about the success or lack of success in the wars. Deceit became entrenched, an unspoken conspiracy to hide the truth. We never learned the real goals of the war, the definitions of success, or the cost. The longer the war lasted, the more its “grotesque subtext” of nativism and racism moved to the foreground of American politics (Spencer Ackerman, 2021. Reign of terror, How the 9/11 Era Destabilized America and Produced Trump, Viking Press). Thom Hartmann observed, "Bush’s presidency had devastating consequences to America in terms of international credibility, faith in our government domestically, the waste of trillions of dollars in tax cuts, and the loss of hundreds of thousands of human lives in unnecessary wars."
Many of the divisions, hatreds, suspicions, intolerance, and viciousness that we see today in our domestic politics stem from those two decades of warfare. In a long article by The Washington Post by Carlos Lozada titled, "9/11 was a test. The books of the last two decades show how America failed," Lozada points out,
Rather than exemplify the nation’s highest values, the official response to 9/11 unleashed some of its worst qualities: deception, brutality, arrogance, ignorance, delusion, overreach and carelessness. This conclusion is laid bare in the sprawling literature to emerge from 9/11 over the past two decades — the works of investigation, memoir and narrative by journalists and former officials that have charted the path to that day, revealed the heroism and confusion of the early response, chronicled the battles in and about Afghanistan and Iraq, and uncovered the excesses of the war on terror.
America was indeed knocked off balance. As William Galston wrote in American Purpose, the fact that the USA is now "weaker, more divided, and less respected than it was two decades ago" was due to our own choices, not prescience by Osama bin Laden or other jihadist theorists.
- Now we have renewed domestic right-wing terrorism here at home, although the state's security apparatus may be able to keep it under control (or will it?).
- We lie to and deceive ourselves, and we have the Covid pandemic running rampant, with anti-vaxxers engaged in a death cult.
- The 9/11 terrorists did not manage to fly a plane into the Capitol, but American traitors attacked it on January 6, 2021.
- We invaded Iraq to dispose an autocrat, but several contenders here in USA are trying to impose autocracy on the USA.
- We tried to teach Iraqis and Afghans to hold free and fair elections, but in many US states, Republicans have undermined voting access for minority citizens, gerrymandered voting districts, and corrupted the vote certification mechanisms.
- The forever wars in Iraq and Afghanistan soured the world's opinion of democracies as agents of development and good.
- The endless wars led to today's revisionism and inward-thinking.
Civil war has come to the USA, and we did it to ourselves.
How will history books a century from now describe the war and its consequences? Who will write these history books? What mythology will those writers try to relate to their readers?
Will schools honestly relate the story, or will they be muzzled as per the racist restrictions on "critical race theory" and the banning of books?
|World Trade Center, May 30, 1997 |
This is the view of the WTC from the rooftop of 270 Broadway. I attended a meeting in that building on the top floor, and the view was too good to resist. This is a vertical panorama using an Olympus Zuiko 35mm ƒ/2.8 shift lens, with one frame shifted fully down and the second frame shifted up. I joined the frame with Photoshop's >Automate>Photomerge function. It is amazingly effective. Click to see the panorama at 3000 pixels
|South Manhattan panorama from 270 Broadway, May 30, 1997|
This is a horizontal panorama from the roof of 270 Broadway. My lens was not wide enough to include the top of the World Trade Center towers. Click to see 5000 pixels wide.
|West panorama from 138 Lafayette Street, New York, Dec. 9, 1994|
I took this panorama from the rooftop of the old Holiday Inn at 138 Lafayette Street. Back in the mid-1990s, this was one of the few hotels in lower Manhattan. Now there are dozens of trendy hotels. The Holiday Inn was a bit grungy, but it was convenient to the Federal Center, where I had business. The smog is over New Jersey.
|New York view south from roof of 138 Lafayette Street (Leica IIIC, 5cm ƒ/3.5 Elmar lens, Kodak Tri-X film)|
This is another view south from the roof of the Holiday Inn at 138 Lafayette Street. The tall building in left center is the Jacob Javits Federal Center. Click to see the photograph expanded.
|Manhattan view north from the South Tower of the World Trade Center, April 29, 2001. Panorama consists of four frames from a Rolleiflex 3.5F camera with 75mm ƒ/3.5 Xenotar lens. The north tower is on the left of the scene. Click the photograph to see the full-size image.|
Notes from the 10-Year Anniversary
I wrote about the World trade Centers on the 10-year anniversary. Please refer to these earlier articles:
The early years before 2011:
The later years and destruction:
Thank you for reading. I hope I can write an article in 2031 at the 30-year anniversary. Will we still be the USA then?