It's hard to determine what legitimate purpose there is in commemorating the 10th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on New York and the Pentagon. The difficulty arises in going back and seeing how those nearly 3,000 deaths were essentially commemorated over the last ten years.
9/11 wasn't so much a daring, boldly executed attack as it was the culmination of an incredible succession of blunders starting with FBI and CIA field agents through to their directors and on to the White House National Security Advisor and straight into the laps of the President and Vice President. Bin Laden's al Qaeda didn't have anywhere near the amount of money to pay for the breaks they got from the Bush administration.
Yet Americans, so supposedly dedicated to the loss of their fellow citizens, let the Bushies off the hook. They even rewarded them three years later with a second term in office.
12/7, that is to say December 7, 1941, was so different in its aftermath. America rose to the attack. The American people committed themselves to do whatever it took to avenge their dead. The country mobilized, the people sacrificed and droves swarmed into recruiting centres to sign on for the duration. 9/11? Not so much. To show their patriotism, President Bush urged Americans to "keep shopping."
Only a small wedge of society, the working classes, showed up at recruiting centres. Instead of spreading the burden of service equally by reinstating conscription, Bush and a craven Congress decided, instead, to invoke "stop loss" and keep those who had answered their country's call in harness for five, six, sometimes seven combat tours. Families were destroyed, livelihoods and careers ruined. It was the rankest societal betrayal of those willing to sacrifice all in their defence.
After Pearl Harbor the Americans set about to fight back against the forces of fascism and imperialist militarism. It led to an intense, four year war that ended with the unconditional surrender of Mussolini's fascists, Hitler's Nazis and Imperial Japan.
After 9/11 the White House launched a half-assed effort to topple the Taliban. Due to the powerful combination of political and military incompetence that war still rages inconclusively a decade later. Afghanistan stands as one of the world's most failed states headed by a criminal enterprise of a government and bureaucracy of our choosing. Not content with that, the American people rallied to Bush and Cheney's call to attack Iraq on the flimsiest of contrived pretexts. Iraqis, after all, were Muslims and that was what really mattered. Again it was a brilliant display of utter military and political incompetence that has left Iraq with a criminal enterprise for a government and has propelled America's true security concern in the area, Iran, into the driver's seat for the entire region including Iraq itself.
Rather than calling for sacrifice to honour the dead of 9/11, America waged these wars on borrowed money even as Washington did the bidding of the richest of the rich and enacted massive tax cuts for them. America might be heading down the tubes, plunging headlong into debt, its economy hobbled and bent, entangled in wars without end, but it was a great time to be a truly rich American.
Post-9/11 Americans have been indoctrinated to recoil at the mention of "socialism" or "liberal" but accept the transformation of their country into a true "warfare state." Marines in dress blues parade on the track and air force jets fly overhead at Nascar races, a now permanent part of the race ritual. These spectacles of American militarism are paraded out to almost every event imaginable as the crowds stand and cheer without dwelling on exactly what it all means.
9/11 has been exploited to the point of obscenity. It has been used as the essential anchor to hold fast both fear and anger in the American people. Fear and anger have become the ersatz substitutes for pride and optimism in America. This conditions Americans to accept manipulation. Fear and anger were the stock in trade of the despicable, dishonest, even odious Bush administration and they used these weapons shamelessly upon their own people. American opinion makers, from credible journalists to open-mike carnival barkers, spoke of the "post 9/11 world" as though that day's events necessitated a transformed world. 3,000 dead Americans mattered. 5,000,000 dead Congolese weren't even mentioned.
It's entirely possible that 9/11 has hastened the decline of America. The country has lost much of its once considerable goodwill abroad. It may never be trusted or respected as it once was. The country that ushered in Bretton Woods has now become known as the home of Casino Capitalism. What had been the world's most vibrant democracy has been broken on the wheel of inequality and recast an oligarchy, a true corporatist state fueled by political, social, religious and military radicalism.
Perhaps 9/11 should be commemorated, not for what happened on that tragic day as much as for everything that has happened in its wake, in its name. 9/11 in retrospect wasn't a day but merely the first day in a very sad era not yet nearing end.