Sep. 12th, 2012 06:31 am
max_boma: (ripples)
[personal profile] max_boma
I realized last night how much 9/11 depresses me.

The attacks were bad enough. I don't anyone I knew died in the attacks; certainly, not anyone I was in touch with, and in the years since, I haven't found out about former classmates having died in it or anything. However, living at the time about ten miles from the Pentagon, belonging to a Catholic parish in Georgetown, DC, I knew people who knew victims. I've been to the site in New York City and have biked past the Pentagon since that day. I never made a detour to the Pennsylvania crash site, but I've been within miles of it, too, on the Pennsylvania Turnpike many times.

What depresses me is how America changed after the attack.

I don't argue with toppling the Taliban from power in Afghanistan; they were harboring terrorists unrepentantly. I'm disappointed that we didn't have better ideas of how to fill the resultant power vacuum; we ended up supporting the war lords who had been so awful that the Taliban rose to power in the first place. Sometimes, my enemy's enemy isn't much of an ally.

What I argue with is the unquestioning pursuit of anything labeled "security" and many of the tactics we have applied around the world, including in our own country, in conducting this "War on Terror(ism)."

The Patriot Act is an abomination. Why have we allowed so much intrusion by the government into everything? I'm not a Ron/Rand Paul Libertarian, but there are reasons why there were so many limits on government powers, including powers of surveillance. Many of those limits are eroded or simply gone.

The increasing measures taken in the name of air travel security are absurd. For example, if a team of hijackers tried to hijack a plane today, passengers would fight back, because we no longer assume cooperation is our best hope for getting out alive. But now we have no-fly lists, and secure airport concourses, and a federalized TSA. Armored cockpit doors, I can live with. Federal air marshalls on random flights, sure. But some measures, like the special procedures for planes landing at Washington National airport, work to minimize risks that not have been meaningful to begin with.

Worse, every time a threat has appeared since then, regardless of the validity of that threat, we've reacted. Binary liquid explosives! Ban liquids and gels from carry-ons! Don't mind the chemical engineers who assure us that the thread is overblown and not possible to implement in an airliner; they might be wrong! Don't think about how easy it would be to bribe concourse workers to smuggle those amounts of liquid onto the concourse for a terrorist; we must show that we're defending against the threat. Shoe bomber? Tighten security on shoes! Never mind that the threat was contained; it might not have! Underwear bomber! 

And then there's Iraq. I'd never defend Saddam Hussein, but more people have died directly because we invaded his country than if we'd left him in power, unchecked, until now. Worse, the nominal reasons to invade have been disproven, and there never were any links between Iraq and 9/11. Finally, as in Afghanistan, we won the war, but we surely didn't win the peace, from the looting and destruction of Iraqi antiquities, to the ongoing political strife in Iraq.

One counterargument is that we'll never know how many threats have been countered by these measures. That's true. But I've grown so cynical, I wouldn't believe those who have a reason to know about those threats, with one possible exception. For the most part, the people who have a reason to know are a subset of the people who have benefited in the post-9/11 world.
As I said, 9/11 is a depressing day of reflection for me. The world is not as I would have it. I'm much worse off than I was on 9/10/01.

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February 2013


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