By Ben Cohen: I was taking a driving lesson in the UK when I first heard the news about the planes crashing into the twin towers. The lesson finished early and I went home to a stunned family sitting glued to the television. Like the rest of the world, I spent the next few days thinking we were on the verge of a new global war, and as the scale of the crime settled in, I knew the world – at least the one I lived in – would never really be the same again.
The attacks on 9/11 were one of the most abhorrent crimes committed in history – a shocking mass slaughter of innocents with no real precedent. Thousands of people going to work with no part of any war were killed, a great city was severely damaged and the grave psychological effects an unknown quantity. The image two passenger jets slamming into the World Trade Center serve as a reminder of human cruelty and the callous disregard for life.
But today should serve not only as a reminder of the crime, but the enormous spirit of collaboration, kindness and humanity that came after it. The world watched in amazement as Americans came together to help each other, citizens risking their lives to pull strangers out of the rubble, money flooding in from rich and poor alike to help victims, monuments, vigils, charities, support groups and a limitless well of empathy. It was an amazing spectacle and a testament to the strength of human decency in the face of brutality.
Shamefully though, the Bush Administration used the tragedy to fulfill its own grotesque ambitions – the conquering of Afghanistan and Iraq for oil that left a disaster that exceeded anything the terrorists on 9/11 could have ever wished for. Bush and Cheney’s disastrous expedition into the Middle East was built on lies and the flippant disregard for the public whom they deceived over and over again. 9/11 was used to commit more murder, more blood shed and more disaster all in the supposed name of revenge. Bush admitted that he regarded the mastermind of the attacks, Osama Bin Laden as ‘not that important’ and ‘not our priority’ as he focused his attentions on Iraq, a defenseless country that had nothing to do with the attacks.
It would take too long to get into the shameful abuses of power committed by the Bush Administration, but it is suffice to say that they added massively to the misery caused on 9/11 and today we should remember their victims – the hundreds of thousands of people in Iraq and Afghanistan killed unnecessarily and the destruction caused to their countries that will take decades to recover from.
We will never know what Bush or Cheney’s intentions were post 9/11. Maybe they honestly believed in what they were doing and thought their actions would have a positive outcome. But they didn’t and the rest of the world now lives with the consequences.
9/11 was a tragedy and we should remember not only the Americans who died, but the Afghanis and Iraqis who suffered too. Because if we don’t, we risk repeating the same mistakes again – the belief that the outside world doesn’t matter with people whose lives are unimportant. We found out on 9/11 that our interference in the outside world has consequences, that they will fight back and use violence to achieve their ends, just as we will. Because violence begets violence, and once you start it is almost impossible to stop.
Perhaps we could remember the victims of 9/11 and pay homage to their unwitting sacrifice by stopping the cycle. And that starts with the understanding that our lives are not more important than theirs and remembering their suffering in equal part to our own.
Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.