So here we are! Several things happening at once. This is all a bit awkward for me today, for several reasons.
First are the uncomfortable memories of “my own private 9-11,” which, if you don’t know, involved my going to work at my office on Church Street in lower Manhattan one city block north of the World Trade Center complex to get ready for a trial I had scheduled for that particular Tuesday morning. Thus, I bore witness to events from that vantage point– close enough to see some of the poor souls falling out of high floors of the WTC and to hear and feel both of the airplane impacts. Eventually I climbed 11 flights of stairs in the courthouse to learn (of course) that the trial was postponed; a court officer advised me that a plane hit the Pentagon and that another plane was “unaccounted for.” I walked home to Brooklyn over the Manhattan Bridge, where I saw the second tower implode. The first time I heard from my employer after I took my leave to go to to the courthouse was a phone call nearly a week later where I learned that my co-workers had all gotten home safely… and that I was fired (the building was off-limits for several months thereafter).
Second, of course, is that I haven’t actually been able to “long form” blog since about May (technical issues concerning a server upgrade were incompatible with the Movable Type format I was using for around 18 years). The blog has been migrated to WordPress (all credit to the technical wizardry of Richie, who has my eternal thanks). I have, of course, been “micro-blogging” on twitter as “Donald J. Putin.” But something about being able to rant beyond 280 characters at once… I have perversely missed!
And third is the gestalt of where we all find ourselves twenty years on. I note that we are now over a year and a half into the plague year. Kudos to the Republican Party and its media arms (Fox News, OANN, Breitbart, etc.) for encouraging their audiences to literally kill themselves, their parents and their children just to keep the pandemic going for the sole reason of their knowing that their eventual ju-jit-su move of eventually blaming the entire pandemic on Joe Biden and the Democrats will be amplified by the so-called liberal media outlets. Hence, endless “liberal” media legitimation (and I’m talking PBS, NPR, the NY Times, etc.) of extremists refusing to wear facemasks in public or to get themselves or their eligible children vaccinated against COVID-45.
Meanwhile, America’s longest war– the revenge campaign waged against the people of Afghanistan– has now come to an abrupt end, with most unfortunate images of embassy evacuation by helicopter. The Taliban, Afghanistan’s rulers who we displaced because they were harboring OBL in 2001, have managed to retake control of the place as our military abruptly withdrew pursuant to a deal reached by “President” Donald Trump, and to his credit, implemented by Joe Biden. Americans should not worry that their military industrial complex will suffer much, as the Global War on Terror rages on everywhere, even if its signature campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq are formally over.
Of course, 20 years on, proof of OBL’s ultimate victory is legion, even aside from the restoration to power in AFG of his friends, the Taliban. Despite his apparent execution by Seal Team Six in Pakistan in 2011, OBL essentially wanted us bogged down in an endless war against Islam. Check. He wanted us to do things like amp up a national security state which would, in the end, remove the pretense of our being an actual liberal democracy. Check. He wanted us to brazenly flout international law for all to see, with abominations like Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay. Check. And in the end, he wanted us to fissure internally, to turn on each other– to take the partisan divides that seemed to be bridged in the aftermath of 9-11 itself, and turn the metaphorical culture wars into an actual never-ending low grade shooting war. Check.
And so we come to the obligatory remembrance ceremonies, taking place roughly a mile from where I now sit (and where I have sat for about a year and a half, as, although Mrs. TD and even the Loquacious Pup now travel to Manhattan for work, I have still not returned to the office). Presidents Biden, Obama and Clinton are there (while Trump provides commentary for a boxing match). While I don’t know his role (and I hope it is a tiny one), former mayor Rudy Giuliani will also be there, trying to bask in the former glory that he flushed at the altar of Trump; Rudy was always, as the late, great Jimmy Breslin put it, a small man forever in search of a balcony. I try not to pay attention to these uncomfortable ceremonies, as even twenty years on, we still can’t determine if they are private memorials for the families of those who lost loved ones, or public commemorations of an important historical event that ushered in the foolish wars that ultimately dissipated the remaining power and potential of the American empire in a blood frenzy, leading quite directly to Donald Trump and the bayoneting of the American body politic.
And I end this post where it all began (and I don’t mean Operation Iraqi Liberation– O.I.L…. oh wait, I do!) The Afghan campaign really began in the 1970s, when then national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski convinced President Jimmy Carter that it was a good idea to arm rural Afghan religious extremists– the Mujahadeen, who would eventually become the Taliban and al Qaeda– so they could attack and undermine the Soviet backed government there. [It is not without irony that I found myself in the same classroom as Barack Obama, hearing Brzezinski’s lectures on international politics at Columbia in the early 1980s, but such is life.] But while the United States dipped its toe into the graveyard of empires back then, the real fun was the broader “Carter Doctrine” ostensibly permitting/encouraging broad American intervention in the Middle East (because you didn’t think we were actually going to cut back on petroleum use, did you?). Yada yada yada, the first Gulf War and American troops permanently stationed all over the Middle East, particularly in Saudi Arabia, and yada yada yada the African Embassy bombings, the Cole bombing and 9-11, and then the attack on Afghanistan as our excuse and entree to do what Cheney, Rumseld, Bush, etc. wanted to do all along and take over Iraq and its massive oil reserves. Meanwhile, our profligate energy use has led to a climate crisis that we are responding to not with a systemic response of actually reducing fossil fuel consumption or even mitigation efforts, but with stepped up propaganda about how everything is fine, even as larger portions of Earth suffer record high temperatures, droughts, super-storms, wild fires, and the attendant conflicts, migrations and refugees that follow.
And here we are. Americans, and indeed, humans, are facing existential crises– and terrorism isn’t and never was one of them– at a moment when media giants have gone out of their way to make the populace (including the all-powerful financial elites) stupider than ever. It’s kind of early… but man, I think I need a drink…