I was in New York City on September 10th, 2011. We had played a show in Williamsburg that evening, had ended late and considered staying in Brooklyn that evening. I had to work the next day, so I decided to make the two hour drive, sleep for 20 minutes and then go to work in the morning. When I got there (late, I slept more than 20 minutes), the office was in a panic and in my hazy, sleep deprived state, I could only make out the words “attack.” I poured a cup of coffee and sat down to read the morning news. I then figured out finally what had happened.
9/11 was an awful event, many people died, families were broken, New York City was in chaos, and the overall health of the American economy, which had been so strong previously, took a turn for the worse, in part leading to the terrible financial crash of 2007. Worse yet, 9/11 would usher in one of the worst political eras of American history, strengthening a cabal of right wing lunatics who lead us into two wars, curtailed civil liberties and turned America and sent American politics so far to the right, that we may never return even to the center. It was said that Osama bin Laden stated that one of his goals was to send the United States into a cultural and economic freefall and to militarily engage the US in the middle east. In that, the 9/11 attacks were incredibly successful.
The events of 9/11 were not surprising. The bombing of the USS Cole while docked at a port in Yemen occurred not even a year previous. 1998 saw the attacks on US embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam. More salient, Khaled Sheikh Mohammed, one of the masterminds of 9/11, had personally funded an unsuccessful attempt at toppling the World Trade Center in 1993. These events, however, were quickly forgotten shortly after they occurred, the American attention span short, particularly when the body count is small.
Today the news is covered with impassioned and heartfelt stories of victims and their families, no doubt the echoes of 9/11 nearly 10 years after ring as loud as ever for them. The stories, however, of Americans who believe that 9/11 was an incredible “tragedy” (a gross misuse of the word, though I shan’t expect that CNN read Shakespeare) make me feel saddened for the living, certainly, though a little perspective is in order.
Nearly 3,000 people died in the attacks on September 11. More than 120,000 people have died in Iraq since 2003, due to conflict related events. Due to its non-existent data recording infrastructure, the number of civilian dead in Afghanistan will never be known but it must be well over 100,000. Memorials of 9.11 today, conspicuously leave out the incredible human losses that the world has experienced since the Iraq and Afghanistan invasions. At this moment, the names of the domstic victims of 9/11 are being read publicly, one by one. To read the names of the other victims of 9/11 all around the world would take nearly a week.
To leave these people out of discussions of 9/11 is to assume that domestic lives are more important and valuable than the lives of hundreds of thousands of men, women, children and elderly around the world whose only crime was to be born in a country which housed the enemies of the United States, or, in the case of Iraq, housed one enemy of the United States. 9/11 was not an attack on the United States. It was an attack on humanity. It was a continuation of a history of political bloodshed that takes it’s victims from those who are merely in the wrong place at the wrong time. The difference, unfortunately, was that it occurred here.