Time to put 9/11 behind us

When Stu Bykofsky, a columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News, wrote a column last week in which he openly hoped that America suffers “another 9/11,” he merely had the poor judgment to say what many a right-wing politician and pundit is thinking.

Evidence for this is everywhere: in the fact that Bykofsky was invited to appear on the GOP’s unofficial network, Fox News, to “explain” his comments; in the keen disappointment that ripples throughout the right-wing blogosphere every time the collapse of a bridge or a steam-pipe explosion turns out not to have been the work of Scary Brown People Who Hate Our Freedoms; and in predictions such as that made by former Sen. Rick Santorum, that the GOP’s electoral fortunes will improve as soon as there’s another terrorist attack.

Indeed, at this point, one can practically see these people wringing their hands in frustration at the apparent inability of “the terrorists” to kill a few Americans somewhere (preferably in a solidly red state, although New York or California would do in a pinch), so as to once again give war a chance.

Bykofsky’s column is a nostalgic look back at the days immediately following 9/11, when the nation was unified by fear and anger, and a desire to find and destroy “the enemy.” (Typically, Bykofsky doesn’t bother to define who “the enemy” is. This spares him the effort of having to consider whether invading a country that had nothing to do with 9/11 made any sense.)

Six years later, it’s worth looking back on that terrible day with something other than a wistful longing for a repeat performance, in order to recognize a couple of obvious if unpleasant truths.

First, in the weeks immediately following 9/11, a lot of people said and did a great many ridiculous things. This was somewhat understandable under the circumstances. Still, it’s important to recognize the cultural forces that made it mandatory to attack the likes of Susan Sontag and Bill Maher (Maher was actually fired for merely pointing out that, whatever else they were, the 9/11 terrorists weren’t cowards) helped create a collective atmosphere of national hysteria.

Second, in the years since, we have been encouraged to develop a kind of narcissistic obsession with the events of Sept. 11, 2001 (indeed, the very term “9/11” reflects this). “9/11” is invoked over and over again, as the day that “changed everything,” and that therefore justifies everything from banning toothpaste on airplanes, to wholesale spying on Americans without a warrant, to torturing people who have been imprisoned for years without trial.

The narcissism at the heart of the Cult of 9/11 is captured by an episode of Larry David’s mordant comedy “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” David meets with a rabbi whose brother-in-law was killed in uptown New York in a bicycle accident on the day of the terror attacks. When at the meeting’s end David innocently exclaims, “Let’s roll,” the rabbi is outraged: “You knew my brother-in-law died on September 11! How dare you say something like that!”

A nonplussed David replies, “I didn’t realize that if you died uptown it was still part of the tragedy.”

The fact is that if you, like me, are one of the 99.9 percent of Americans who doesn’t know anyone who was killed or injured in the terror attacks, or in the subsequent rescue efforts, then 9/11 was at bottom a very disturbing thing that you saw (over and over again) on TV.

It didn’t “change everything,” and it didn’t (and doesn’t) justify the Iraq war, indiscriminate spying on Americans, extra-judicial renditions, torture or any of the other immoral actions that continue to be done in its name.

It’s high time to stop wallowing in our obsession with what is becoming the most overblown and shamelessly exploited event in American history.

(Paul F. Campos is a law professor at the University of Colorado and can be reached at Paul.Campos(at)Colorado.edu.)


  1. CheckerboardStrangler

    But wallow they will, and worse yet, clever little think tanks like the PNAC will once AGAIN write what constitutes a “WANT AD” begging for another attack.

    Here’s the text of the first “want ad” which worked so well:

    “…The process of transformation is likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event—like a new Pearl Harbor.”

    22 words, four lines…

    Who did they think read this crap anyway, stodgy old Republicans in starched shirts overlooking the Potomac?

    Republicans are so damn fond of tossing around the implication that liberals aid and abet the enemy while the most damning example of such is none other than the 90 page smoking gun put out in September of 2000 by the Project for the New American Century.

    Nope, come to think of it, I’ve concluded that they will do anything BUT wallow…they’re gonna get positively jiggy with it. They’re gonna work that nipple like it belongs to freshly minted co-ed.

  2. JerZGirl

    It’s about time someone said it!!!

    Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit.

    Wisdom is knowing not to put it in fruit salad.

  3. Electric Bill

    I have stopped counting the references to 9/11 made by the Republican presidential candidates, not to mention the Chimp. Bush couldn’t make a speech without using it at least ten times, even if he is dedicating a day care center in Iowa. 9/11 happened and it’s over. It justifies nothing the US has done in Iraq and the “real killers” are for the most part still out there.
    The most disturbing thing about the whole 9/11 cult is the obvious desire of conservatives to see America get hit again. I don’t know if this is just another shameless attempt at power grabbing or if they, as good Christians, feel like we need to be punished for our sins.

  4. Steve Horn

    The “real killers” from 9/11 are dead – they were on the airplanes.

    If what they were told in advance of their attack is true, then they’re currently suffering through eternity with 72 attractive virgins who must never be deflowered – sounds like a definition of hell to me.

    Those who have destroyed America are still, for the most part, alive. One just quit his job in DC and a couple more are still employed by the Federal Government in rather high (executive, if you will) positions.

  5. Steve Horn

    Fear is a powerful tool my friends.

    Fear of the spread of communisim was the reason behind the Korean war (which is still officially “on” – it’s just been at a dwell point for a very long time), it was the reason behind the Vietnam war and (obviously) was the justification for the creation of the military/industrial complex that allowed us to “win” the cold war with the soviet union.

    To paraphrase Gordon Gecko in the movie “Wall Street” – “fear is good, fear works” – and the current administration will do anything it can to promote fear – to make people think that the preservation of the American way of life in the face of fear can justify any action desired by those “at the top” – even if it means (as it has) destroying the American way of life and replacing it with the neo-totalitarian state we live in today.

    FDR told us that “we have nothing to fear but fear itself” and our nation rose to be the most powerful in the world. Imagine if instead he’d said “we’re fucked – build some walls and lets isolate ourselves”. Winston Churchill told his nation “this is our finest hour” while surviving the blitz and the UK remained strong – imagine if he’d said “it’s done – the Germans will be here tomorrow”.
    “W” told us to be afraid of everything and our nation has reached the antipod of our global reputation relative to its position at the end of the second world war. Imagine if, in the face of the 9/11 attacks he’d told us to be strong and acted as, well, a true leader.

    True leaders don’t hide behind or nurture fear, they face that which they are afraid of head on and lead nations to vanquish and overcome those who would destroy them – we haven’t had a true leader in the Oval Room for quite a few years.



  6. mojibyrd

    Never ever forget 9-11.

    Why would you wish to forget 9-11 when it is mentioned everytime it is convenient for Bush and those who were in on this terrorist act, or when the progpogandized media wish to bring up terrorism when it is convenient for their viewers, why forget 9-11 when it is the supposed reason that more americans are dying every day over in iraq, why forget 9-11 when those responsible were never brought to justice and the tangled web snakes it’s way to the white house….so why oh why would we forget about 9-11.

  7. anthny

    When Lennin’s look-alike Chertoff said we need another 9/11 I could not believe it.
    These leaders were not doing there job while it was going down. Dicky Cheney was running war games in New York the same day. And NORAD stood down under orders from Cheney, the first time in history that a vice president contoled NORAD.
    In the PNAC manifasto they needed and wanted another Pearl Harbor. So what that says to me is they either let it happen or they were running a black opts.
    Are these coincidencents?
    George Bush’s cousin was in charge of security for the twin-towers.
    Larry Silverstein for the first time in insurance history took out a terrorist attact policy for the towers.
    And this is the first time in the history of steel structured buidings that fell down in there own footprint in 9 seconds destroyed by fire from jet fuel.
    There are just to many coincidences for my liking.
    A lot of smart people still believe the story put out by the MSM that day of days. FIve minutes after the first tower fell there was a guy giving an interview that he thought that the tower fell because of the high temputures caused by jet fuel.
    Another great coincidence was that the concrete in the bridge collaspe last week, were chunks of ceament, not powered ceament like the towers. The only thing they found on the gound was the passport of one of the terrorists. Who most are still alive and living good lives in Saudi Arabia.

  8. SEAL

    Steve said:
    “True leaders don’t hide behind or nurture fear, they face that which they are afraid of head on and lead nations to vanquish and overcome those who would destroy them – we haven’t had a true leader in the Oval Room for quite a few years.”

    Kennedy was the last when he faced the soviets down with the blockade of Cuba. People never knew the firepower we had sitting in Florida during that time. We were prepared to level Cuba into the stone age if necessary and Kennedy was willing to risk war with the soviets based on the “right” conviction that they would back down. Kennedy listened to his Joint Chiefs.

    It is no wonder that these clowns use fear to motivate considering the fear all of them have demonstrated all their lives by avoiding serving their country by any means necessary. Cheney’s deferements and Bush’s National Guard by daddy’s connections then going AWOL because he could pass the drug test and I don’t know any of their appointees that weren’t draft dodgers.

    BTW, something I forgot. I heard that the pilot that flew Bush onto the carrier for “MISSION ACCOMPLISHED” day told his pilot buddies that Bush was so terrified he was whimpering during takeoff and especially landing. I’ve had the experience and understand how scary it is the first few times but he said Bush was shaking and white as a ghost. That wasn’t a strut he made across the flight deck, it was a stagger. The man(?) is a gutless wonder.

  9. Warren

    It’s time to put the real perpetrators behind bars before they do it again. Forget it? No. Get to the bottom of it.