9/11 Retraction

I would like to formally retract, this 9/11 morning, this post I wrote on my old blog. Not the part about what the day was like; that’s fine. What I mean is my subsequent analysis that 9/11 didn’t mean that much. That’s ridiculous, the worst kind of contrarian nonsense. I like to think the reason I couldn’t come up with anything better than the truly puerile conclusion of the post is because I didn’t really believe, in my heart of hearts, what I was saying.

What I now think about 9/11 is that it was, of course, the beginning of the era. The 90s were an indian summer for the world, a time of peace and prosperity between the end of the Cold War and the new century.

(I speak in general here. It doesn’t work if you’re, say, Rwandan).

9/11 revealed that The System of the World had quietly changed. In the 20th century, you had to watch out for nation states. They had vast armies, fueled by the power to tax and draft, war machines backed by bureaucracies, flanked by diplomats who argued their causes in vast and serious venues like the U.N.. In the 21st century, the danger has become anyone with a box cutter, a cause, and the knowledge of how to twist the complexities of postindustrial society against itself.

In William Gibson’s Neuromancer, there’s a scene where a corporate office is raided. The attackers (our protagonists) use various stimuli to induce a psychotic break in the employees, causing a riot, in order to steal something in the chaos. The attack is done with the aid of a group of mercenary hackers, and blamed on religious terrorists. Blood coats the lobby floor, but it’s nothing personal. The dead were just in the way.

Is this our time, when for any reason we can find ourselves caught up in the machinations of people acting in a sovereign fashion, for their own aims, unaccountable to any law or value, completely regardless of civilian lives?

Recently I’ve taken up the bad habit of watching too many 9/11 videos on Youtube.

This one, rare footage of the first plane hitting, gives us the sound of the future arriving Express.

This, with running, and screaming, and the ominous loss of feed.

But I keep coming back to this one, to the venomous clouds, skyscraper tall, billowing out to engulf the world.

1 comment
  1. lysid said:

    In regards to the part where I say Dick Cheney still would have invaded Iraq even if 9/11 hadn’t happened: I think that was accurate, if rather snarkily expressed. I think Cheney was the thought leader for the foreign policy in the first Bush Administration, and I think he thought that the world needed a demonstration of American power to curb the incipient threats that anyone could see curling up along the edges in the late 90s (threats, just by way of example, such as international Islamic terrorist networks).

    This makes sense when you think about Gulf War I. We have to keep in mind that there were no few people, circa 1989, who thought the end of the Cold War meant the decline of both superpowers, creating a vacuum into which the ambitious man might swell. Saddam Hussein thought so. But George H. W. Bush, in the one of the most incredible foreign policy tour de forces in American history, demonstrated that the United States was as strong as it ever had been, and could wield decisive force to maintain the status quo, with full approval of the world community.

    Bush and Cheney wanted to repeat that lesson. The problem was circumstances were completely different, and instead they ended up showing that while the American military was still powerful, neither the armed forces nor the American people could handle a drawn-out, low-intensity conflict. We could defeat a 20th century nation state; we couldn’t defeat a 21st century whack-a-mole-game-with-causalities. Americans don’t really want to be the world’s policeman, a message that other nations have heard loud and clear—which is why the Saudis and Iranians are currently knife-dancing all over the Middle East.

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