The Day that Changed America

by on December 5th, 2014
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Paul Krugman in his New York Times blog post titled The Years of Shame posits that “The memory of 9/11 has been irrevocably poisoned; it has become an occasion for shame.”

As one would anticipate, Krugman’s Blog Post Stoke[d] Controversy, and in response he followed-up his post with More About the 9/11 Anniversary.

Now, if anyone should need more on why Krugman stated 9/11 has been poisoned or why it is an occasion for shame needs to read Tom Engelhardt’s America, tear down ‘freedom tower’. Engelhardt says, “Let’s bag it. I’m talking about the tenth anniversary ceremonies for 9/11, and everything that goes with them: the solemn reading of the names of the dead, the tolling of bells, the honoring of first responders, the gathering of presidents, the dedication of the new memorial, the moments of silence. The works.” He calls the 9/11 memorials “Ceremonies of Hubris” and that we need to “[Bury] the Worst Urges in American Life.”

Following the attacks of 9/11, America was united, the world was on America’s side, but instead of embracing that, George W Bush decided instead to exploit that horrendous event. He created a war over what was not an act of war but of criminality, which even his Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said “war” was a word he avoided using. But Bush made the call to describe our involvement as the Global War on Terror. “War” to Rumsfeld sounded too much like our previous wars, and that he knew that this was something that would not be won by bullets. Something more like the cold war, requiring a competition of ideas. He said that the word war was a job for the military and not a job of society. It bothered him because terror is a technique, a tactic, which required an altogether different approach. Bush took us into a second war that had nothing to do with 9/11 but used 9/11 as its reason.

Fareed Zakaria’s take on 9/11 and its aftermath asks these questions: What is America’s position in the world today? Are we safer? Are we stronger? Was it worth it? Zakaria says history will probably not record this period as one of Islamic terrorism. The main story will be about the fate of America, the world’s sole superpower. History might well record 9/11 as the beginning of the decline of America as the planet’s unrivaled hegemon.

Zakaria points out that on September 10, 2001, “the world was at peace, and the United States strode that world like a Colossus. It posted a large budget surplus. Oil was at $28 a barrel. The Chinese economy was a fifth the size of America. Today, America is at war across the globe; it has a deficit of $1.5 trillion and oil is at $115 a barrel. China is now the world’s second largest economy.”

Paul Krugman is right to say that conservatives seized on terrorism as a major national issue in the wake of 9/11 in order to gain political advantage. What happened during the decade following 9/11 was deeply shameful.

As Donald Rumsfeld said, our post-9/11 response should not have been war; terrorism is something that would not be won by bullets. As Engelhardt proclaims, we must “[Bury] the Worst Urges in American Life,” and as Zakaria emphasizes, “America needs to get back its energy and focus on its true challenge – staying competitive and vibrant in a rapidly changing world. That requires not great exertions of foreign policy and war but deep domestic changes at home. The danger comes not from them but from us.”


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