Monday, September 11, 2006

Happy September 11!

I use this graphic in the ironical sense.

S11 was huge. It was huge for the western world. Actually it was huge for the entire world because the US got a snapped towel right in the goolies and lashed out to take over two entire countries.

I use 'take over' in the ironical sense.

Today the orgy of S11 navel gazing began. Some of it good, some of it jingoistic and simplistic. But most of it with a sense of deep regret that the world seemed on its way to a decent future then wham, bam, thank-you man four planes drop out of the sky or smash into buildings and the world is changed forever.

It was perhaps one of the defining events of the last 100 years. Bigger than JFK, probably bigger than the Cuban missile crisis. Because it gave a shaky administration that was lost in where it was headed a bold new direction to head. A direction where it was 'we're making history, not studying it to make sure we're not doing the wrong thing.'

In Bush's defence he was the man in charge at the time. And whatever can be said of him he does believe in what he is doing. But certainty and (eventual) decisiveness can be bad when bad decisions are made.

Here's the irony for me. I supported both invasions. Yep, both of 'em. I supported the Afghanistan invasion because the Taliban were a bunch of terrorist harbouring bigoted thugs and the world is a better place for it that they are not in power. I supported the invasion of Iraq because Saddam was a dangerous thug who had spent since 1992 moving WMD materials around his country ahead of the inspectors. Little did I realise it was smoke and mirrors designed more to make his neighbours think he still had them more than the west.

But, well, both campaigns have largely fucked up. Iraq is a mess. The only almost in control bit of Afghanistan is Kabul. The rest of it is a collection of warlords who dance with anyone providing the cash. Apparently a record Opium harvest is about to be undertaken that is a record breaking 90% of world supply.

Then there's the 3,000 US servicemen and women killed, not to mention the tens of thousands dead in Iraq. Oil has doubled because of Gulf War II, terrorism has sky rocketed, and a whole host of knock on effects like a massive degradation of the civil rights in the three main invaders of Iraq, all this stemming from S11 and the reactions of the government of the day.

Government is the hardest thing in the world to do right. And doing it with principles intact is even harder still. Bush has principles, that is for certain. He is an avowed Christian who believes in compassionate conservatism. Yet it is his principles that are alleged to have dragged us all into this fetid swamp of a geo-political mire. God told him to invade, and he did, but God never outlined a worst case scenario like this. Just the rosy 'we'll be liberators' welcoming with flowers and garlands and the like.

I use God in the Cheney sense.

I watched it all happen near live. News broke during the West Wing that two planes had hit the WTC. Terrorism hadn't been mentioned but to paraphrase Oscar Wilde to have one plane hit is unfortunate, two is deliberate. I knew before they even cut to it what had happened. I stayed up most of the night in mute horror. I saw the second tower fall live. One minute it was there. Then it was gone. I called friends with US family to find they already knew and were watching it all.

I remember the next day trying to call in sick – cause I was feeling awful – but my psycho then boss apparently chucked a mental about my planned leave and I had to come in anyway. Not much work got done. We sat around watching the TV of the aftermath shuddering at the thought that the mightiest nation in the history of earth had been delivered a bloody nose.

I'm not an American. I'm an Australian. I'm sure that had I been an American I would have felt greater anger and hostility to a world that America had helped more than it hindered only to have it thrown in your face and 3,000 of your people murdered.

But to those 3,000 we add the 3,000 servicemen and women in Iraq who have fallen, their numbers passing those lost in the WTC, not to mention the thousands of Iraqis from insurgent violence or from the civil war that is bubbling below the service.

The world is not a safer place for Iraq. It's not a safer place for Afghanistan. But we have the benefit of hindsight. Who are we to know what would have happened if President Gore had one of the supreme court votes swing his way and be the man in charge if S11 had happened?

I suspect the following. I suspect Afghanistan would have been invaded with overwhelming force as a NATO action and better pacified as the full resources of America and Western Europe re-energised a broken country. I suspect Iraq would not have been. I suspect that the Mid East peace process would have had a better chance under Gore than 'you're with us or you're against us' white hat Bush. I suspect that the world would have been a better place with Gore in the seat than Bush, but that Gore would have been crippled by a howling, baying Republican Congress demanding more and more action than Gore was willing to give. And I suspect that Gore would have lost in 2004 to John McCain.

It's fun speculating isn't it?

Well that's my rambling done for another day. As ever the SMH had some great articles. Paul McGeough, probably the best mid east Australian journo writing today – who was in Afghanistan in the after-math of S11, and in Manhattan on the day. And Michael Gawenda who points out that while the left may hate Bush, they're pretty silent on the abuses of the region that would still be happening if he had not done anything. Both make good points. So does Hugh White.

Oh – fire away with your S11 memories. For me the starkest most unreal one was hearing of the plane hitting the Pentagon and not knowing how many other tubes of thin metal were in the air with screaming people facing forced suicide and crashing into monuments of the most successful nation in the world.

God bless America. I hope whatever happens that the future improves. That they find a way out of this mess. And that this administration gets given the arse in the mid terms.


  1. I didn't find out about it till the alarm went off on September 12 to get me out of bed for work. I didn't think to turn the TV on - I got ready as I normally do with the radio on. I remember almost crying as I was driving in.

    The weirdest part was at work when they told us they'd upgraded the security alert level. Because of the procedures at the time, that meant we had to close all the blinds - so that if a truck bomb went off outside the blinds would slow down the window glass as it imploded inwards and hopefully stop us getting shredded. Not that they said that was the reason, but it was.

    People joked in a very half-hearted way that it was so we couldn't see the planes coming.

  2. Remind me to describe to you all how I spent my September 11 sometime ... surreal in hindsight.

  3. Yeah that was a messed up day to be at work.

    On the lighter side check this out!

    blog about S11 tat

  4. Oh and read this one too. Andrew Sullivan on the use of torture as a PR coup for the Republicans in the upcoming mid terms.

    Yep. As a coup. As in 'we sure showed 'dem ragheads whose boss.'

    I still can't believe people vote for these fuckwads.

    torture as a PR coup"

  5. Not to shine some sun on your rainy day, or anything, but...

    While I agree with much of your post...

    I don't necessarily see the current conflict as being a big fat failure. What the Coalition forces in Iraq and Afghanistan are trying to achieve has never been done - to defeat a country militarily, with an absolute minimum of friendly casualties, expenditure, civilian casualties, and damage to infrastructure, to build liberal and democratic institutions in largely tribal cultures ruled by corrupt institutions and with laws rooted in theology and the blood feud, without shifting the country to a war footing and without the support of many of the home country's electors, elected officials, or media organisations, operating under an unprecedented level of scrutiny, and patiently refusing to respond in kind to the unrestrained barbarity of the armed opposition.

    It seems to me, then, that such a task might take more than a year or two or three to complete successfully. It would have been easier had either or both countries been smashed flat and rebuilt from scratch... but that was politically untenable. God forbid the US should do to Iraq what they did to Japan. Look how that turned out.

    As for what might have happened had the USC come down for Gore?

    The US would have signed the Kyoto agreement, and no doubt have implemented it. Australia would have followed suit - not for us standing alone against the world.

    Something might have been done about the Taliban. Maybe. But let's face it, the Afghans drove the Russians out, going into Afghanistan would have been scary. If they did, well, NATO doesn't have a whole lot of fight in it any more, absent the USA, so any expedition to Afghanistan - which would have been questionable in my view - would have looked much like it does now. But an air campaign with no ground campaign would have been more likely IMHO, with maybe some SF types on the ground. I can't see regime change taking place. UBL would not have been found.

    Iraq would not have been invaded. No doubt the US would have continued to shout in the UN and fly air missions over the no-fly zones. Sanctions would have continued, oil-for-food would have continued to line the pockets of jackals in and out of Iraq, Kurds and marsh Arabs in Iraq (along with ordinary Shi'a Iraqis) would have continued to die in tens and hundreds.

    Maybe Gore would have been as successful as Carter or even Clinton in moving the Israeli-Palestinian peace process forward. Or, in other words, Israelis and Palestinians would continue trying alternately to talk and kill each other. Hizbullah occasionally would get into the mix.

    Partisan party politics in the US would have become more polarised, as moderates in both parties are battered from either side. Well, that much hasn't changed.

  6. Sanctions would have continued, oil-for-food would have continued to line the pockets of jackals in and out of Iraq, Kurds and marsh Arabs in Iraq (along with ordinary Shi'a Iraqis) would have continued to die in tens and hundreds.

    Instead of the tens of thousands that died who were non combatants in the invasion.

    But then what's the value of a life?

    As for Iraq, I backed the invasion on WMD grounds. Hell I thought regime change - the real reason - was fair enough. But then I actually read about it and saw what was happening and realised the absolute fuck up they, the US administration, allowed it to become.

    These being

    1) Garrisoning it with 200,000 instead of the 800,000 needed

    2) Sacking anyone that was a Ba'athist and the entire army losing in one stroke almost all professionals and putting the one native organisation that could be retooled for reconstruction out on the street and at the mercy of fanatical recruitment.

    What a complete shomozzle. It could have been done successfully. It could have, but then the US administration allowed blind ideology and belief in their RMA warfighting capability to ignore the realities of governing a fractious country.

    You'd think what happened in Yugoslavia would have been a wake up call. But oh no...

  7. So your basic criticism is they did the right thing, but badly?


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