For many, the ten year anniversary of 9/11 will be an emotionally charged time. People lost friends and loved ones on September 11, 2001, and those who didn’t know people who did. President George W. Bush had a great opportunity, as did the American people, to use the events of 9/11 to unite us and work together to make the world a better, safer place for all people. Instead, Bush and his White House team used the 9/11 attacks to make money, create disunity among the people, break international law, attack our fundamental freedoms and increase their political power. Here are some of the ways in which 9/11 was misused by those in power and the people in general and how the events of 9/11 are being exploited to this day.
1. We have used the attacks to censor dissenting voices. The terrorist attacks pushed us to censor our media. War friendly voices at the New York Times helped sell the Iraq war for the administration. Meanwhile, the millions of people who protested Bush’s saber rattling were not heard from. Massive anti-war protests got far less media coverage than today’s much smaller Tea Party rallies.
2. The attacks were an excuse to create an unprecedented surveillance regime. The United States government has a history of spying on the American people under the guise of security and during a time of perceived national threat. The events of 9/11 are no exception. The Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism, better known by its acronym, the USA PATRIOT Act, was signed by President Bush on October 26, 2001, barely a month after the 9/11 attacks. This law allows the government to act unconstitutionally in the name of freedom. Constitutional Amendments can be circumvented through the Patriot Act. The protection against unlawful searches and seizures (Amendment IV) is violated by Title III in the PATRIOT Act. The right to a speedy trial (Amendment VI) is circumvented by the Act’s provision for indefinite detentions if a person is deemed a “national security threat.” In fact, all provisions of Amendment VI can be deemed null and void for security purposes according to the PATRIOT Act. Furthermore, the law also eliminates the need for the signing of warrants by judges and almost entirely eliminates the judiciary from decisions in criminal cases regarding terrorism.
3. The Bush Doctrine of preemptive war and unilateralism was justified due to the 9/11 attacks. For all of the noise made over Obama’s actions in Libya, no President has gotten a formal Congressional authorization for war since WWII. But President Bush took his war power one step further, introducing the nation to the concept of “preemptive war.” He decided it was okay to attack sovereign nations because of the perceived threat they posed, specifically, the possibility that Iraq might have WMDs, and amazingly, that was enough for most members in Congress. Although many people no longer supports the wars, the wars continue, albeit with some signs of a draw down in the near future.
4. Our post 9/11 national security regimen has legitimized torture. Because we were (and are) angry and wanted revenge, we said nothing when the Bush Administration (along with Congress) approved the torture of terrorism suspects, a policy whose opposition seems to consist of nothing more than lip service from the Obama Administration. Sadly, the American people have also expressed support for torture, even when they learn that it does not work as a means of garnering reliable intelligence.
5. We used 9/11 to justify the rendition terrorist suspects. Rendition means taking a terrorist suspect from the United States, where we will be judicially banned from torturing them, to a nation such as Syria. Syria is the home of President Assad, a known war criminal. And in Syria, they have no qualms about using torture on those who may, or may not, be terrorists.
6. People used 9/11 to justify their Xenophobia and Islamophobia. Attacks on Muslims rose in the United States after 9/11, as did the hateful rhetoric. People will argue that this type of behavior is “unAmerican.” I would counter that it is very American…and European, and African, and Asian. In fact, it’s human. The more we fight the tendency to stereotype entire communities based on the actions of a handful of people who just happen to be tied culturally to Islamic terrorists, the better.
7. The terrorist attacks were used to increase military budgets and expand our mercenary army. We have spent $208 billion on private contractors for the war effort. Reports estimate that at least $30 billion of that amount consisted of pure waste. People say we can’t afford food stamps, but they look away when it comes to war spending. The misuse of our capital due to the 9/11 attacks is staggering. This spending not only led to larger deficits but was also one of the major causes of our economic collapse.
8. We used these attacks and the wars to reelect of George W Bush. George W. Bush was both reviled, and reelected, because of his wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Ironically, the same President who failed to heed national security warnings prior to 9/11 was praised for “protecting us” since 9/11. Not only did this “protection” lead to further war spending and huge tax cuts to the top 1%, but also to further deregulation of the banking industry which, in turn, had an enormous impact on the recent recession.
The 9/11 attacks have been used to justify the heinous behavior by a handful of our troops overseas and continuous attacks on civilians in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. The 9/11 attacks have brought out our racism and xenophobia and shown our worst character. Instead of a nationalistic ceremony of puffery followed by hatred and fear, my hope is that the anniversary of 9/11 can be, for some, a somber occasion to remember those lost. It can also be a time to rebuff those who have taken advantage of the attacks for personal gain.
Photo credit: http://www.aclu.org/photo
Edited By: Sherri Yarbrough