What kind of mind conceives this outcome?
Reflecting on 9-11
by Tom Thorne
The common question when we reflect on 9-11 is where were you 10 years ago when it happened? I was at home reading the Globe and Mail with CBC Radio 1 on as background. A normal morning for a news junkie like me.
Suddenly the radio announcer broke into the regular morning program with the news that the World Trade Centre was on fire. No talk of airplanes slamming into it, just that there was a very bad fire in one of the towers.
I got up and turned on the TV. Yes it was on all channels and it was definitely on fire. I watched with my wife in morbid fascination as the building smoked and smouldered. We both knew it was serious and so we kept watching. How could firemen reach the top floors to fight such a fire? It looked dire and perhaps hopeless.
Then it happened. The second airplane slammed into the other tower. There was a ball of flame and now both buildings were crippled. And then we went to the Pentagon as CNN confirmed that a airplane had crashed into the headquarters of the US military in the middle of Washington.
President George Bush shocked
Cut to President George Bush at a school watching a teacher read stories to the children. An aid whispered in his ear. He looked grave but remains in his seat for what seems like an eternity. His security apparatus was beginning the process of protecting him and getting him into Airforce 1. The US was moving towards a war footing and on their own soil.
US airspace was shut down and aircraft over the Atlantic are sent to Gander Newfoundland and other Canadian airports. Airforce 1, the president's aircraft, is the only plane left in the air as it travels to whatever secret place in the sky it goes to in such an emergency.
What was going on? Terrorism but from where and by whom? Of course the entire story unravelled as months passed and we learned how US security had blown most clues concerning the young jihadists who trained for this operation right under their noses. It seemed slack when one considers that the Twin Towers had been attacked before in 1981 and US embassies had been attacked before 9-11 all apparently by Al-Qaeda.
A dreamscape...no a nightmare
It also seemed a dream. Firefighters and policemen risked and often gave up their lives to save people in the crippled World Trade Centre. The final fall of the buildings into the streets of Manhattan then happened. The choking dust was everywhere in the streets.
The passengers of flight 93 took on the terrorists knowing they would die in the process to prevent that aircraft from ploughing into perhaps the White House or the Congressional Capitol building. That plane crashed in Pennsylvania with a total loss of life.
This catastrophe reached everyone on this planet and set off a response from the United States for setting up a very tight Homeland Security that we feel to this day. The Iraq War was a response to this tragic event with all its excesses. In addition, it set off the war in Afghanistan to fight jihadist terror on its own ground and in western Pakistan.
Rendering prisoners to foreign lands for torture to gain information about terror organizations was now OK. We now know that western governments used Syria and Libya for these operations.
The first casualty...the rule of law.
Then Americans opened Guantanamo Bay detention camp at their base in Cuba to hold terror suspects without due process or trial. American and Canadian Arabs and muslims were suspects even in their own land. Travelling became a chore if your profile looked remotely middle eastern.
The result of 9-11 is both Canada, United States and most of the European NATO countries have been at war now for 10 years with no end in sight. This is a sobering thought. Peace is fleeting. Understanding between the Muslim world and the West seems very remote and vague and on a sad level of considerable miscommunication and prejudice.
Even with the Arab Spring in Egypt and Libya along with the stresses against the Assad dictatorship in Syria there is still no real effort to mend relations and strike at the real root of jihadist terror which in my view is an extremists response to Western wealth, exploitation and status quo responses to ugly sores like Palestine refugees. It's hard to convince Palestinian refugees that the west cares about their fate.
Whatever the roots of terror are it is not going to end because Al Qaeda leaders are tracked down or Osama Bin Laden is found and killed by the US military. Terror organizations don't fade away because their leaders are killed or captured. These terror cells are structured to survive independently and so rise again constantly.
They are true believers with a just cause in their view. They may even be energized by events like the Osama bin Laden search and kill operation.
The solution? There may not be a solution. Terror as a weapon is very appealing to extremists who are mentally driven to a point where they will wear a bomb to get at the enemy knowing it means certain death.
It's hard to reason with this kind of extremism. How did Al Qaeda manage get into the heads of the young men who piloted those airplanes into the World Trade Centre? Their biographies, histories, education and prior experiences of most of these young jihadists were unremarkable would never arouse serious suspicion of a security or intelligence service. On the surface they seemed very normal low key people.
And that is and remains the problem. Terrorists do not fit neat profiles. Al Qaeda leaders may be captured and killed but the mentality that persuades young men to become violent jihadists can not be explained easily. Jihadist actions are not actions of thinking muslims who stand for peace and mutual respect. In fact what happened at The World Trade Centre 10 years ago has created a huge problem for peaceful muslims and Islam.
The best weapon to counter jihadist terrorism is to remain alert and respect the peace inherent in the Islamic traditions. It requires a very fine balance and ultimately may be the first step to counter terror.
© Copyright 2011, Tom Thorne, All Rights Reserved