Today marks the 10th anniversary of the day of the attacks on the US through hijacked airliners (also, my 18th wedding anniversary, but that's totally another story). Rather than jingoistic breast-beating or re-cultivating the spirit of revenge, I suggest that we think of the innocents and the heroes who were lost that day, and those who were injured or killed in events both before and after 9/11/01, and give some thought to what we can do to reduce the unnecessary death toll in the future.
At this distance in time, we can begin to have some historical perspective about September 11 and what happened in the months and years following. My thought is that 9/11, though hugely significant, is neither more or less memorable a day as Pearl Harbor Day: December 7, 1941, a day that President FDR rightly said would “live in infamy”. As with that day, we were attacked suddenly—though the event of the attacks, if not the manner, might well have been anticipated—by foes who felt they had legitimate grievances against the US and wanted to carry their fight to our shores at any cost. As with Pearl Harbor, the attacks were audacious in concept, nearly flawless in execution—and certain to produce the opposite effect of the stated aims. The Japanese hoped the attack and its follow-up invasions of Pacific Islands and British and American colonies in East and Southeast Asia would lead us to sue for peace; one of Al-Qaeda's stated war aims was to get the US out of the Middle East (!)
We think of ourselves as straight shooters, but Pearl Harbor and 9/11 show how much we are misunderstood. Didn't they know our reaction would be implacable, unrelenting anger, an eagerness to unleash the greatest military power in history, the might of an industrial, technologically-advanced giant with the full support of a democratic populace and mass conscription? In retrospect, the Taliban should feel lucky they were routed from Afghanistan in a couple of months; their country would've been turned into a sheet of glass if they were somehow able to retain power and brazenly shelter Bin Laden after 9/11. Iraq, of course, was not so lucky as many previous US foes; having tried most everything else, we can only hope that the impending departure of US forces from there will allow that country's self-immolative efforts to come to an end.
...And the Band
If I hear the mawkish, 9/11-revived anthem “God Bless America”, I'm going to be thinking of the rock band with the same name as this posting, and their one big hit. Ten Years After was a popular band of the late Sixties, one of the prominent performers at Woodstock, but they have faded into justified obscurity. The band 's songs were basically excuses to allow its lead guitarist, Alvin Lee, to exhibit his speedy riffs at great length. And their big hit's chorus is practically a theme song for our generation's woolly-headed, idealistic inactivism, and its unfortunate results:
I'd love to change the world
But I don't know what to do
So I'll leave it up to you.