My “Do you remember how you found out about….?” stories tend to be a little odd. In 2001 I didn’t have the internet at home yet and so used it only at work before, between and after classes. I was done teaching for the day and browsing around before heading home and I saw a headline about a plane hitting one of the Twin Towers. Since I had known a few private pilots, when I hear ‘airplane’ I tend to think in terms of small private planes. My first thought that this was like the plane the plane that hit the Empire State Building in 1945 – newsworthy but not my kind of story.
Then, sometime later (I don’t remember how long) I saw another headline mentioning a second plane flying into the Twin Towers. But I was still thinking smaller planes and hadn’t realized the import.
“Wow! What are the odds?!!?” I remember thinking to myself. It wasn’t long after that I saw a headline about one of the towers collapsing which is when I knew it was serious. My first thought about the culprits turned (absurdly in retrospect) toward Serbian retaliation for the NATO bombing here a year or so earlier.
Within the next few days almost all my colleagues approached me with expressions of consolation. In Warsaw, people started leaving candles by the embassy and where I live they began leaving them in front of the symphony hall (by some unspoken agreement where things like that happen – they went to the same place when Pope John Paul II died).
At the time it felt like a major change but the opportunistic cynicism of the US response (let’s invade a country that had nothing! to do! with the attacks!) soon burned out any possibility for positive change at the root. Instead the response has been almost superhumanly insane and ineffective.
And now, 18 years later the US is still in Afghanistan after accomplishing… nothing beyond wasting the lives of a few thousand US soldiers and the US is still in Iraq accomplishing nothing beyond wasting the lives of more US soldiers and killing vast numbers of Iraqis. And we’ve wrecked Libya and helped revive slavery there and are doing some goddamned pointless thing in Syria.
But this year 9/11 does mean something a little special to me. Because September 10, 2019 is the day after Donald Trump fired the bloodthirsty, war mongering, psychopathic war criminal John Bolton, who’s reportedly had a hard on about starting a war with Iran since about three seconds after he was appointed.
If Donald Trump does nothing more than not start any new wars in the Middle East he’ll be the best American president since Bill Clinton (at least). If he winds down any of the pointless US “missions” in countries we have no business in then he’ll deserve re-election in a landslide.
I don’t trust a single democrat to not start a new war or to re-escalate in some failed mission either out of naivete, inability to stand up the war lobby or desire to look tough for the cameras. No, I take that back. I tentatively trust Tulsi Gabbard but the democrat establishment is doing everything they can to sabotage her.
The lesson of 9/11 and its aftermath is that the US has nothing positive to do in the Middle East besides getting out with all possible speed.