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What 9/11 Did to America and the World

2017 September 11
by Ian Welsh

I wasn’t going to write much more about 9/11, but then Obama wrote that no act of terror could ever change America.

I don’t know if that’s true. If it is, it means America was already a terrible, terrible place.

The funny thing about 9/11 is that it worked. Bin Laden had a plan, his plan was to draw Americans in and show they could be beaten.

He thought they’d be beaten in Afghanistan. They weren’t–they were beaten in Iraq. When the US left Iraq it had to pay the various militias off to avoid attack.

That’s losing.

Meanwhile there are al-Qaeda affiliates over much of Asia and Africa. Al-Qaeda central may be weaker, but al-Qaeda the idea is far far stronger than it was before 9/11.

Saddam was a secular Muslim. He was one of bin Laden’s enemies, and the US destroyed him.

Meanwhile, at home, the US destroyed its own freedoms. It tortured people.

The US also instigated a worldwide assassination program, killing whoever it wanted, wherever it wanted, on the authority of the President.

The US has always been pretty shitty when dealing with others: supporting coups versus democratic governments, sponsoring death squads, looking the other way when its pet governments and terrorists raped, tortured, and murdered. (Pinochet had dogs trained to rape women; he was very approved of by Washington.)

Bill Clinton, of course, had killed about half a million Iraq children with his sanctions, and Madeleine Albright, a truly evil woman who is burning in Hell today if there is one (I doubt it) stated she thought it was “worth it.”

But after 9/11, the US went even further. Torture, from the top, by its own soldiers, as opposed to merely winked at. Widespread assassination. The gutting of habeas corpus. Probably a million more dead Iraqis. Later, under Obama, the destruction of Libya, another war crime. (He should hang, as Nazis hung, along with Blair, Cameron and Bush. Most Nazis were hung not for the Holocaust but for attacking a country which had not attacked them.)

American crimes, of course, are endless. All empires’ crimes are endless, and so are all colonial states’ crimes. This is true of both America and Canada, as they moved West, and it is true today of Israel.

Still, something important changed after 9/11. Lines were crossed.

Americans who are okay with all the crimes should be aghast as well, not that lines were crossed (they have no lines) but that they were crossed so incompetently. The US got its ass kicked by a bunch of rag tag militias. The myth of US military supremacy lay shattered. The US can still bomb anyone into dust, but everyone now knows that its military can do nothing but destroy.

Bin Laden was the first great man of the 21st century. Great is not a synonym for good. From a position of infinite weakness, he made his enemy use its own strength to accomplish his goals.

The US proved itself not just evil (don’t even, there are too many dead), but stunningly incompetent and crippled by corruption.

And today, Democrats are rehabilitating George Bush, the war criminal, to attack Trump.

Trump may yet do far worse than Bush, but until he’s started a major war, he hasn’t, and even if he does, Bush was–and is–evil and should be in a war crimes dock, along with most other major American politicians of the time, almost all of whom voted to give Bush the vast powers he used exactly as any fool could have predicted he would.

9/11 either changed the US, or revealed the US. Either way, the US after 9/11 was ghastly and evil.

And in 2004, knowing all the evil Bush had done, Americans re-elected him, thus showing that enough of them approved of what he had done. Cavil all you want about vote suppression and so on, it is not as if there was a huge tide of Americans who said “not in my name.”

This is still George Bush’s America, and his America is bin Laden’s America. Bin Laden was right about the US. He knew exactly what the US was, knew how to push its buttons and America did what bin Laden wanted to.

Bin Laden was a profoundly evil man, and he recognized the US’s profound evil and used that evil to his benefit.

Understand clearly, there were choices: Iraq did not have to be invaded; Afghanistan did not have to be occupied (a punitive expedition would have been sufficient); the Patriot Act did not have to be passed; torture in Guantanamo did not have to occur; routine drone assassination was not necessary.

All of these were affirmative choices, and virtually all of them were reconfirmed in 2004, then in 2008, because Obama continued almost everything Bush did, and even ramped some of it up, like drone assassination and deportations.

Bin Laden won because he was right that the US was evil, or perhaps, that with a push, it was willing to be even more evil.

Hell of a thing.


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29 Responses leave one →
  1. The Stephen Miller Band permalink
    September 11, 2017

    If bin Laden did 9/11, why did he & his alleged organization, Al-Qaeda, initially deny it? Did someone not get, or read, The Memo?

    Bin Laden Says He Wasn’t Behind Attacks

  2. September 11, 2017

    Your government is lying to you.

  3. The Stephen Miller Band permalink
    September 11, 2017

    And today Democrats are rehabilitating George Bush, the war criminal, to attack Trump.

    When they’re not doing Deals with Trump like the recent Deal to raise The Debt Limit. AGAIN. The Democrats would Blow the Devil, or let The Devil sodomize them, if it meant they could stay relevant another year or day even.

  4. The Stephen Miller Band permalink
    September 11, 2017

    What kind of Terrorist or Terrorist Organization denies its own Handiwork? Daesh, or Al-Qaeda v. 2.0, has corrected this Flaw. It claims responsibility for any Terrorist Act whether it conducted it or not. It’s important to learn from one’s mistakes.

    Why 9/11 Pisses Me Off

  5. nihil obstet permalink
    September 11, 2017

    It’s still not clear what bin Laden did. Several sources (Wakil Ahmad Muttawakil, Taliban’s last foreign minister, and Kabir Mohabbat, Iranian-American who carried the offers) report that the Taliban offered several times to turn bin Laden over prior to 9/11 for trial for plots against the U.S. including the USS Cole bombing. It does seem clear that the Taliban offered to turn bin Laden over after 9/11 if the U.S. would provide evidence of his involvement in the World Trade Center attack, but Bush refused to “negotiate” because “we know he’s guilty”. It’s almost as though the two sides colluded with each other to destabilize the Middle East, each hoping for a different outcome — bin Laden to bring about a fundamentalist Muslim caliphate, Bush, Blair, and a neocon elite to return an increasingly independent area to helpless colonies.

  6. Jane permalink
    September 11, 2017

    I’ve always enjoyed going to Vegas mainly because it encapsulated the best and the worst of the USA in one place. On my last trip, that changed. While waiting in line for our car rental at the car rental hub I watched a young black woman as she spoke to each customer and pointed them towards their designated kiosk. When we reached the front of the line she asked us where we were from and then told me she liked hearing about different places because she knew she would never be able to afford travelling to them. Ever.

    Before 9/11 I’m almost certain that young woman would have said she hoped she would visit there one day; now, she’s certain that will never happen. That is what 9/11, or rather, US political will, has done to the US: robbed its young of hope. Yes, they’ve caused enormous harm in the world, especially since 9/11, but they’ve gutted themselves in the process, and that is truly sad.

  7. escher permalink
    September 11, 2017

    I don’t even know what I’d say to someone who claimed that 9/11 didn’t fundamentally change America’s character. Can you imagine the internet left’s reaction if that exact tweet had come from @RealDonaldTrump?

    (Yes, you could argue it would carry different implications, but either way it’s ultimately a screen for the reader’s projections, as both of them know very well.)

  8. Steeleweed permalink
    September 11, 2017

    Read Stonekettle Station. Jim Wright has a sensible view:
    http://www.stonekettle.com/2016/09/renegade-911.html

  9. Katherine Calkin permalink
    September 11, 2017

    I thought Madeline Albright was still alive, but she will burn in hell when her time comes.

  10. Richard McGee permalink
    September 12, 2017

    Pretty harsh judgement. As an American, it hurts. But it’s better to face the truth. It’s hard not to lapse into apathy, but that’s no escape from responsibility. Realistically, it’s hard to know what to do that will make a positive difference.

  11. Herman permalink
    September 12, 2017

    The aftermath of 9/11 taught me that most Americans don’t care about anything unless it impacts them directly. I recall reading that the post-9/11 wars were the first major ones that the United States fought without either increasing taxes or implementing military conscription, meaning that the vast majority of Americans made no sacrifices whatsoever to further the war effort. Americans will talk about “supporting the troops” and put yellow ribbon magnets on their massive SUVs but when it comes to actual sacrifices nobody wants to be bothered.

    I am not saying that I support the wars (I don’t) but the refusal of most Americans to even pay a tax to support the wars that they championed and George W. Bush’s advice to go shopping instead really opened my eyes to just how morally bankrupt this country is. Also, I am now convinced that most Americans don’t value their privacy or any other civil liberties. Terrorism is a problem but it is not worth losing our civil liberties over. I am amazed at how afraid Americans are of the very slight chance that they will be killed by terrorists. My uncle, who spends much of his free time watching Fox News, is so afraid of terrorists that he almost never leaves his house these days.

  12. realitychecker permalink
    September 12, 2017

    Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!

  13. Peter permalink
    September 12, 2017

    My last two comments were disappeared, does that have anything to do with 9/ll?

  14. nihil obstet permalink
    September 12, 2017

    The propaganda that supports America’s evil is the constant division among the media, politicians, and political activists between Americans and non-Americans. Even most absolute self-styled civil libertarians make the distinction. Here for example is Glenn Greenwald on Obama: “The most extremist power any political leader can assert is the power to target his own citizens for execution”. We’re seeing it now in the self-styled liberals’ nattering about Russian interference in U.S. elections.

    We used to pay at least lip service to the Declaration of Independence as a guiding document: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men. . . .” No one translated that to me as a child as meaning “We’re a bunch of selfish men who want to establish a government that will give us special privileges over everybody else.” The whole American ideal was a government that protected all human unalienable rights, however meaningless in practice.

    But now it’s constant unchallenged statements that our government has every right to violate every non-American’s rights as the leaders wish. So we can run a ludicrously corrupt election process, but if non-Americans use money and secrecy to persuade Americans to vote in a given way, then my God, how can we stop it without resorting to honest open elections?

    Our human need to belong to a community leaves us vulnerable to the evil of our leaders, and it becomes a diabolical spiral downward.

  15. sid_finster permalink
    September 12, 2017

    @Herman. I recall that after 9/11, George W. Bush urged us to go shopping in order to aid the economy and the war effort. Even if it hurt.

  16. Billikis permalink
    September 12, 2017

    “Understand clearly, there were choices. Iraq did not have to be invaded. Afghanistan did not have to be occupied (a punitive expedition would have been sufficient.) The Patriot Act did not have to be passed. Torture in Guantanamo did not have to occur; routine drone assassination was not necessary.”

    Domestic repression is a predictable response to terrorism. Even I predicted it. On 9/11 Tom Brokaw called the invasions. Terrorists count on official overreaction.

    One thing that received little mention at the time. One of Bin Laden’s causi belli against America was the presence of US troops in Saudi Arabia, which he — along with many other Muslims — believed was an affront to Islam. Not long after 9/11, with no fanfare, the US removed those troops.

    The 9/11 attack succeeded beyond measure.

  17. Billikis permalink
    September 12, 2017

    As for whether the 9/11 attack changed America, not much, IMO. OC, I grew up in the South, so that colors my views. But America had been moving towards the culture of the antebellum South for long before 9/11. The attack probably accelerated that movement to some extent, as fear evokes authoritarianism.

  18. Hugh permalink
    September 12, 2017

    If you recall, the Bush Presidency was floundering before 9/11. Among other things, it was suffering the rather nasty aftershocks and recession following the bursting of the Clinton dot com bubble. Meanwhile Cheney and the neocons who filled the Administration were dying to find a pretext to enact their agenda. While 9/11 was a tragedy for the country, it was a godsend for them, really a twofer. They got to start their series of endless wars, also known as the global war on terror (GWOT) and they got to build on the foundations of a nascent surveillance, i.e. police, state domestically. The neocons were not only casually brutal and rigidly dogmatic. They were intensely ignorant, and proud of it.

    I for one do not think either Bush, Cheney, and the neocons, or al Qaeda and bin Laden won. The GWOT feeds on itself, creating more terrorists than it eliminates. At the same time, funding of terrorism by Saudi Arabia and the Emirates ensured that there would be al Qaedas and Daeshs throughout the Moslem world. But in the larger scale of things, these areas were always going to destablize due to overpopulation, climate change, and poor to nonexistent civil societies and institutions.

    Re the US military, it has not successfully occupied a country or nation built since World War II –as history form Vietnam forward attests. It remains very good at blowing places up and destabilizing what’s left. This capacity is fundamentally at odds with the neoconservatism which continues to dominate American foreign policy. They simply do not understand what the military does or what it is to be used for. I think too that both our civilian and military leaderships have completely forgotten the difference between policy and strategy. So the question asked about say a war like the one in Afghanistan is how to fight it and not why it should be fought at all, especially in the regional context of a Pakistan and India which are both destablizing, are nuclear armed, and have vastly larger populations. The lack of any sense of policy which permeates our political and military establishments is not confined solely to them. I find progressives, and I do identify as progressive, just as incoherent.

  19. Lex permalink
    September 12, 2017

    I had recently returned from living in Russia, where I got to to see the response to the Moscow apartment bombings (there were lesser bombings in Petersburg as well). The military reaction of invading Chechnya (again) on the pretext was immediately questioned by the Russian lobe of conspiracy theories. I also remember having to hide an American friend’s Georgian wife when we were out and would see the security services because she did not have a valid internal passport for Petersburg.

    My reaction to the events unfolding after 9/11: the rhetoric, the militarized domestic response, etc. was simply “it’s over”. Whatever we tried to make ourselves believe the US was was over. I guess it was like watching a rerun; you know how it ends.

  20. realitychecker permalink
    September 13, 2017

    @ Hugh

    “I find progressives, and I do identify as progressive, just as incoherent.”

    Me too, brother. Ain’t it aggravating?

  21. V. Arnold permalink
    September 13, 2017

    Lex PERMALINK
    September 12, 2017

    Indeed; the U.S. is over…

  22. Peter permalink
    September 13, 2017

    @RC

    The failure of the so called progressives is that too many of them are little more than rebranded Latte Liberals. A new brand and some progressive talking points isn’t enough to hide that fact the conservatives correctly illustrated. If you want to find their leadership just follow the limousines on their way to the Hamptons.

    Bernie’s sheepdog drama attracted the lightheaded leftists into the extreme center and along with the snowflakes they are being groomed for the ‘progressive’ armed resistance militia called antifa.

    The early pictures I saw of the BlackBloc during Occupy showed an organized group of paramilitaries while the latest pictures show antifa as an, anybody can join, motley collection of snowflake resistors.

  23. realitychecker permalink
    September 13, 2017

    The problem with progressives, just like with ideologues on the right, is that they decided long ago that it was OK to live with multiple basic contradictions. Electoral arithmetic completely displaced basic integrity. That decision necessarily requires lying to yourself at least some of the time, doesn’t it?

    Essentially, they undermine their own values by lying to themselves about what reasonable expectations might look like.

  24. Peter permalink
    September 13, 2017

    The republicans used to lead the lying game with whoppers like Trickle Down Economics and Balance the Budget but that can’t be compared with what we see happening now coming from the extreme liberal center. They have most everyone in positions of power spinning out a constant stream of misinformation with one goal, overturning the results of the last election by any means necessary. They even have the #Never Trump republicans working on this and I think the Koch brothers are involved.

    This isn’t the old lying game that fed the Kabuki theatre and kept the partisans active and engaged. These people are on a deadly mission built on hate and fear and values, if they ever had them, have been discarded.

  25. different clue permalink
    September 14, 2017

    I wouldn’t believe anything Obama has to say about anything. Obama lies like a Clinton.

    About America the Evil . . . am I being invited to consider the evil America has done/ is doing . . . and how some Americans might reduce it if they (we) can figure out how to sabotage and jam the machinery of mass evil-production?

    Or am I being invited to believe that America is existentially and essentialismically Evil in its basic cultural genetics? If Ian Welsh or others among our neighbors to the north believe that we are Essentiallismically Evil, then Ian Welsh, other Canadians, and Canada in general should prepare for Genuine Evil Action from the Evil Americans who make up Evil America. When most of Latin America and the southern half of USA become uninhabitable due to man made global warming, several hundred million Latin and US Americans will surge into Canada when that happens. It will not be the kind of formalistic State-on-State invasion which can be deterred by any military deterrent force or action. It will be a new Volkswanderung of the Desperate Tribes to herald a New Dark Age of the Barbarians. If that is what Canadians fear from a geneticulturally irredeemable Evil America, then the Canadians should invite a few hundred million Indians and a few hundred million Chinese to pre-emptively settle in Canada first and fill up all the empty spaces. Those hundreds of millions of “got there first” Indians and Chinese would be able to help Canada keep the American Barbarians out of Canada by any means necessary.

    But if Ian Welsh thinks America was / is facultatively evil and/or inducedly evil, then perhaps he and others can realistically cheer up a little by taking note of how “America” responded to the exact same kind of Aggressive War agitation against Syria during Obama as was deployed against Iraq during Bush. In that second instance of Protracted Governmental Information Operations against the American people . . . the American people responded by successfully obstructing the Establishment’s effort to gain citizen support for an aggressive war against Syria.
    And enough Americans in enough high and low places obstructed Operation Assad Must Go that the DC FedRegime and its fellow members of the Global Axis of Jihad were not able to arm the Cannibal Liver Eating Jihadis enough to Make Assad Go.

    In fact, it looks like it is Assad who will Stay, and the Cannibal Liver Eating Jihadis who will Go. Or preferrably Die. Just enough Americans voted for the Assad Can Stay candidate ( Trump) and voted against the Assad Must Go candidate ( Clinton) that Trump won and Clinton lost and Assad Will Stay. So perhaps people in despair over Evil America can take a little bit of cheer in the fact that America has de-Evilized itself just enough to get Clinton defeated and keep Assad preserved, thereby preserving some hope of continued civilization in Syria.

    Something else about how so many Americans became so Evilized after 9/11 . . . something that goes unmentioned and unremembered time and again . . . and that is the anthrax attacks.
    Nobody even pretends that al qaeda was involved in the anthrax attacks. Nobody likes to speculate on who spread that anthrax around. Nobody likes to talk about that at all. But that anthrax was military quality and finely milled for best airborne dispersal. Not something performable by some jihadis without inside contacts from inside the anthrax factories. But yes! . . doable by someone with access to that very-strictly-controlled DC FedRegime anthrax. Those anthrax attacks were designed to threaten and terrorize the House and Senate into voting for the already pre-written and ready-to-go Patriot Act.

    So if you want to think about who evilized the American public, think about who used that anthrax, and who gave it to them in a form for military-grade weaponized dispersal.

  26. realitychecker permalink
    September 14, 2017

    @ Peter

    I couldn’t agree with you more on this one.

    The Big Lie worked so well for Rethugs, the Dems decided to imitate it, and take it even further.

    Nobody takes me seriously, it seems, when I assert that the liars are at the root of most of our problems, but I think it was obvious for decades and that now it is beyond the obvious.

    The really interesting question now is whether there will ever be a point where the People refuse to tolerate it any longer.

  27. September 14, 2017

    The truth of all of this is plain. The world is broken, controlled by Oligarchs and Monsters of Capital; held hostage by ever-more draconian surveillance states; and we appear to be one significant event away from social disintegration on a large scale (This last, by the way, something bin Laden hoped for — the West, eventually consumed by it’s own arrogance and greed, and unable to stop the grassroots rise of his Dream Caliphate).

    All right, then. So: Quid Autem, Ladies and Gentlemen? Chto Delat?

  28. Peter permalink
    September 14, 2017

    @RC

    The liberal democrats produced some oversized lies such as the War on Poverty and the ACA was their last fiction. Most of their other c0ntributions were the small lies such as claiming to represent the working class and that ‘you have no other choice’ which finally earned them humiliation and defeat.

    Trump seems to think that rehabilitating the Clintonite elite will produce some gains for his agenda but this is a dangerous deal and probably won’t have any effect on the violent snowflake feeding frenzy that is developing.

    The snowflake propagandists are now openly promoting the use of force at sites like CP. With the none too bright new recruits to antifa the upcoming free speech week in Berkeley may produce mayhem.

  29. realitychecker permalink
    September 14, 2017

    Both parties have been adept at lying to us. Our only hope is to get to where we have other choices apart from the duopoly.

    In that regard, Trump is performing well, IMO. The Dems, the Reps, the media, and the Deep State are all completely discrediting themselves as they react hysterically to every Trump fart and hiccup, not realizing that Trump can fart and hiccup at will and with great skill lol.

    But it will be a process, not an event.

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