September 11, 2023
What do we need to remember about 9/11?
By: Brian Almon
I was eighteen on 9/11/2001, two years out of high school, feeling aimless. Working only part time, I was at home that morning, and I turned on the news to watch that fateful day unfold. Like most Americans, I could not have predicted how that day would alter American history forever. In two decades we went from members of both parties in Congress singing “God Bless America” on the Capitol steps to a divided nation where one party has fully weaponized the government to persecute members of the opposition.
For me, who at the time had never been to New York, or even east of the Mississippi River, I felt very far removed from the attacks. That point was driven home the following summer when I visited Sydney, Australia on a missions trip and had young children asking me about the 9/11 attacks, as if they had happened in my backyard.
We all say “Never forget”, but what exactly are we supposed to remember? Obviously we honor the memory of the men and women that perished that day, and their families who are bereft.
Should we never forget the perpetrators of the attack — Islamic terrorists led by Osama bin Laden? They’re all dead, and their terrorist network mostly destroyed. The Islamic terrorists at work in the world today are from another generation, only loosely connected to the al Qaeda of 2001. Should we continue to hold them responsible for the attacks? Should we hold a grudge against all Muslims, all Saudis, all Arabs?
Four years after Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, which also killed thousands of Americans, we decisively defeated that nation in a war capped off with the first and thus far only offensive use of nuclear weapons. We held some of their leadership accountable for war crimes, not only against us but also against nations such as China, but in the end we did not hold a grudge against the Japanese people. Today Japan and America are friends and allies.
President George W. Bush believed that the terrorists attacked us because they hated the freedoms we enjoyed as Americans. While I believe this is over-simplistic at best, it should cause us to consider what freedoms we enjoyed before 9/11/2001. In the name of preventing another hijacking, air travel since then has become a humiliating nightmare of security theater, treating passengers like cattle, criminals, or worse. The Patriot Act, ostensibly designed to improve coordination between intelligence and law enforcement agencies, has been turned into a weapon used against the American people.
In the name of fighting the terrorists who attacked us, the United States embarked on military adventures throughout the globe, not only wasting trillions of dollars but sapping the best and brightest young men and women. Dan McKnight, who served in the military and spent time overseas fighting the Global War on Terror, looked back on the legacy of that decision today:
The attacks of September 11th changed everything.
But as Americans we had a choice in how we would allow this bloodshed to change us.
Would we find and punish the perpetrators—and then come home? Would we have the introspection to ask ourselves what happened, and how did we get here?
In 2001 we were part-way down a road to empire that was foreign to our forefathers. We needed a course correction, and leaders with the wisdom to turn back.
But we didn’t.
October 7 is the day we doubled down. American boots hit the ground in Afghanistan.
Less than two years later we invaded Iraq. Down the line we bombed Libya, occupied Syria, and blockaded Yemen.
Meanwhile we deployed to Somalia, Niger, and now Ukraine.
And in many of these places we armed, funded, and supported the same villains who took down our towers.
Did anything we did make us safer? We don’t think so. And we don’t think you do either.
As veterans of this “Global War on Terror” we say it’s time to #BringOurTroopsHome
Let’s end these endless wars abroad, and put our own house in order. Let’s care for our soldiers, wounded physically and mentally after more than two decades of perpetual war.
Let’s restore the rule of law, and returning decision-making to the people’s elected representatives.
Let’s embrace a sense of Americanism that unites our citizens under the banner of a humble republic, not a global empire.
That is our message this 9/11 anniversary. Spread the word.
Sean Davis of the Federalist struck a similar tone:
In hindsight, 9/11 looks like it might have been the beginning of the end of the American empire.
It spawned the worst and most destructive foreign policy in the country’s history. The government response to 9/11 birthed the constitutional abomination that is the modern warrantless surveillance state.
The Patriot Act enabled the government to weaponize its vast resources against its own people. Bush’s failed foreign policy led to directly to Obama’s presidency, and indirectly to Biden’s, both of which are responsible for diminishing the U.S. at home and abroad, militarily and economically.
After two failed forever wars that wouldn’t have happened without 9/11, our government is now desperately trying to foment potentially nuclear forever war against Russia.
Meanwhile, all the massive surveillance powers claimed by the U.S. after 9/11 are being ruthlessly deployed against American political enemies of the regime via the most insidious censorship-industrial complex the world has ever seen.
And then there’s the crippling legacy of debt enabled by America’s response to 9/11. Not content to spend trillions on poorly thought out invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, our leaders spent as thoughtlessly at home, creating insane amounts of new entitlements, while doing nothing to put the country on a sound financial footing.
And where are we today? The ruling political party is criminalizing its opposition and attempting to throw its top political opponent and his supporters in prison, all under the guise of “democracy.”
We generally remember 9/11 as the day that the towers came down. I wonder if historians will look back on it as the day that America started to fall.
If they attacked us for our freedoms, as President Bush said, does that mean that the terrorists won in the end?
Never forget the men and women who died that day, and the hole they left in our national community. But never forget the country we were before 9/11, a country that loved liberty more than safety. We cannot allow the fear of another attack to give cover for our own government to continue eroding the liberties we once took for granted. I believe the best way to honor the memories of those who died is to protect the country they loved, rather than let their deaths be used as excuses for our slide into totalitarianism.
Note: A descendant of American pioneers, Brian writes about the importance of culture and about current events in the context of history. His work can be found on Substack, here.