Friday, 9 September 2011

10 years on

As the 10th anniversary of the September 11th attacks approaches tomorrow, the inevitable tirade of articles and TV pieces around the subject swarm our lives. This blog, of course, is exactly one of those things I speak of. But this is because I doubt anyone (well certainly in the Western world) won't be giving at least a fleeting thought towards that bizarre and horrendous day and many of us, myself included, a considerable amount of thought.

Anyone who was old enough to remember September 11th 2001, will probably know exactly where and when they were when they heard the news that the World Trade Center in New York had been hit by an airplane. I was 11 years old, in my second week at "big" school and blissfully unaware anything was amiss that day until I returned home. I was greeted by a group of adults, sat around the television, transfixed to the screen. I, in my ignorance, assumed they were watching a film. By the looks of it a film with outstanding special effects, in fact the special effects looked so good it could almost be real. Then I realised it was.

That moment of realisation was all the explanation I needed at that brief moment. Of course later on I wanted to know why? Who? How? But at that moment, knowing that the images I was seeing were real, made it clear to me how atrocious it was. Not only that but I couldn't look away. I spent all of that evening and several days after, glued to the television watching the increasing number of photos and footage from the heart of Manhattan. It's perverse voyeurism I know, but I guarantee there were millions of other people doing the same thing. It wasn't because I was enjoying it, I just couldn't take my eyes off it. The sheer scale and effect was mesmerising. Although we wouldn't quite know the consequences this effect would have until much later on.

Skip forward to present day and that moment in history marks the beginning of a series of conflict, mistakes, mistrust and propaganda. The most powerful nation in the world was brought to it's knees on that day, by a terrorist attack on their own soil. Then they had to decide how to get back up.

I have deliberately delayed including the word 'terrorist' for as long as I can. But inevitably in a blog about 9/11 it had to come up at some point. I've delayed it because this word has been rammed down our throats by politicians and newspapers so much over the last ten years, it has almost blurred it's impact. The USA's 'war on terror' is now a pseudonym for shambles. On September 12th 2001, America had the sympathy of the world. Now they have none. So what went wrong?

Well no one could judge the Americans for wanting to stand strong and united in this moment of extreme fragility. The American people were calling for retaliation, revenge, something just to show that they weren't completely exposed and vulnerable. George Bush saw his opportunity. An opportunity to complete a job his father had started 10 years previously - to overthrow the government in Iraq and seize all it's oi..ahem, I mean release it's people from a dictatorship.

Now I wouldn't be as crude as to say that President Bush exploited the heightened emotion of a nation and used his "war on terror" as a mask for another objective. But why the United States (and us lovely old faithful Brits) invaded Iraq is unfathomable. As the Hutton inquiry clearly outlined, the death of David Kelly - a man who dared suggest that the possibility of finding 'weapons of mass destruction' in Iraq was highly unlikely, was suspicious to say the least. Maybe Bush and Blair should have looked in their own back yards for these weapons, there's loads there. But then of course we need piles and piles of nuclear weapons (enough to destroy the planet many times over) apparently.

The man pinpointed as the 'mastermind' behind the 9/11 attacks, Osama Bin Laden, was believed to be in Afghanistan. Maybe we just thought it would be nice to visit Iraq as well, since we are in the Middle East. I hear Baghdad is lovely in the summer. At least it may have been, I'm not sure I'd bother now.

So here we are 10 years on. Phrases such as 'war on terror', 'WMDs' and 'terrorist mastermind' are now common language. Britain and America are embroiled in a war that they may never be able to leave (at least not in the foreseeable future) and rerun footage of the September 11th attacks just shows us the moment when America began to lose it's grasp on the role as the world's superpower. Then the money borrowed to fund this war contributed towards putting the US (and much of the rest of the world) into economic free-fall. I wonder if 10 years from now such a colossal shift will have occurred? Possibly, but let's just hope that it won't be another atrocity to trigger it.

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