With so much written about 9-11 in the past and on this memorial, I wanted to add to the conversation. But I wanted to add something concise, meaningful, . . . and different.
There were 19 men assigned to carry out this attack plus Osama bin Laden and his associates who planned it. This was a very complex mission taking years to organize. Now the question I want to focus on is why and how can we make sure this never happens again?
The basic human instinct is to react on those instincts without thought. I’ve heard from countless people, Christians and non-Christians, who had the attitude, in response to 9-11, of “Damn those bastards! Kill them all! I hate them!” But then we play right into the hands of the terrorists and fulfill their greatest hopes. Their goal was to punish America for meddling in their countries, politically, and to sow hate toward Muslims. If America hates Muslims, then it would help the terrorists prove their point that America is bad, and therefore they can recruit more Muslims and the carnage continues in this never-ending cycle. That’s exactly what happened. We were co-conspirators in the creation of Al-Qaeda and Isis. It was not with an ill intent. America meant well, but we followed our animal instincts, allowing the voice of hate whisper in our ears, rather than thinking this through like real patriots . . . or in the case of Christians, real Christians.
Real patriots don’t circumvent looking at their own country with critical thinking. I think it was the TV character Archie Bunker that said, “My country right or wrong.” But believing that to be a good patriot you don’t do self-examination of your country, is like saying to be a good father you won’t bring up the needle tracks on your daughter’s arm. No, a good father addresses such things so that they can improve things. A good patriot does the same.
America lashed out after 9-11 like a wounded dog but with noble intentions. However, if you add up the toil from 9-11, 2,977 innocents died on that day, not counting the 19 hijackers who were not innocents. Another 2,372 American troops, good men and women, were sacrificed in Afghanistan. Another 4,424 American troops died in Iraq, all because of 9-11. Another 200,000 Iraqi civilians have died because of our invasion, most of them innocents or killed in the civil war which our invasion unleashed. They estimate 157,000 civilians have been killed in Afghanistan since we invaded. There is an estimate of the wounded, both US servicemen and women, but civilians, in the millions.
So, a terrorist attack by 19 men, which killed 2977 good people, had a retribution that killed another 363,000+ people, more than a 100 times the original. And for what? Are we any safer? I don’t think so. The hate toward America has never been higher. I think we did exactly as bin Laden had hoped. We fell for it. Hate always makes suckers out of the haters. But, this is not a piece just to be critical, but to encourage us to change course in how we think.
To look at the why of 9-11, I will give you a link and I won’t elaborate on it here. I’m not trying to justify any of the evil done on 9-11. But the perpetrators met their judgement that day as did most of the accomplices, weeks to years later. But who has suffered the most from our rage? We have. We have squandered trillions of dollars because of hate and the lives of our dear patriots in uniform. We could have had beautiful roads and bridges, free health care for everyone, free education for everyone through college AND all those dear loved ones who were killed back in our lives with all their gifts, to still be receiving all of our love. This does not mention those hundreds of thousands who have been scarred for life . . . for them to be un-scarred.
Here is what a smart choice it would have been in 2001. Yes, we could go after the perpetrators. We could have served justice completely. However, we should have sat down and asked, “Why did this happen? Why do they hate us? How can we change the world for peace and prosperity for all?”
After World War II, America was the most loved country in the world. We were the moral leaders of the world. Not now. We squandered that good name with meaningless wars, and selfish political interventions, that have cost us the most. If you really believed in “America First” or “Make America Great Again” then you should be the one most interested in this process. Now, don’t faint, but this is one area I’m in agreement with Donald Trump (although I still think he is a narcissistic idiot). These wars have ruined us and were a huge mistake. How can we learn from our mistakes going forward?
The False Narrative
In order to cover for our mistakes we quickly wove a false narrative about 9-11. This is human nature. This narrative is the same one the Christian Europe used in the Middle Ages (they may have been more justified with the Turks on their doorstep and aspirations for an Islamic Europe). This false narrative says the Muslims are violent people coming to kill us or force us to convert to Islam. That’s what this narrative says happened on 9-11.
I’m writing a novel right now that deals with terrorism and I had to research the lives of the 9-11 hijackers. They weren’t men devoted to Islam. This act was a political act and they used things like Jihad (الجهاد, struggle) as justification for their action. In Islam, Jihad is the struggle for righteousness and justice. To used it as an excuse for hatred was rejected by most Islamic scholars. No one is coming to steal your babies and convert them. It is beyond the scope of this article to discuss the differences between Islam and Christianity, but it certainly is not that former is the religion of violence and hatred and the latter the religion of peace. If you are a real student of history you will quickly learn that as many or more people have died in the name of Christianity than Islam. Jesus did not teach violence, but the Church rarely listens to the real historical Jesus.
I am especially disappointed that my Christian friends who have adopted this political narrative. I am often so puzzled by evangelicals that say they make “Biblical teachings” the center of their thinking, when really they don’t. From a Christian perspective, we should be slow to anger. We should practice self-examination. We should seek peace with all people. Most of all, we should stop sharing hateful lies.
In summary, the problem of 9-11 was political. It was horrible, but its roots were in political issues that date back decades. If we really want to prevent these meaningless wars, we need to find political solutions. But we can’t win this if we believe that the only way for us to be safe is to bomb the hell out of them, men, women, and children who are not like us. That’s clinical paranoia.
These things are my opinion, however, it is an informed opinion. I know I’ve mentioned this before here in this blog, but I’ve had a recent influx of new followers and some don’t know. I studied Islam for about 5 years in preparation of going to the Muslim world as a missionary. I’ve had many Muslims friends, including my best friend at times. I worked with a group of medics from New York City. They are the ones who recovered the injured and dead from the disaster. We went to the heart of Taliban country inside Pakistan in 2006 on a good will mission to help with their earthquake. We stayed 100 yards from where Osama bin Laden was living at the time (Abbottabad). I had a long discussion with some of the pro-Taliban leaders. They later threatened to kill us and we held up, again, in Abbottabad in a Pakistani military barracks until we could escape.
I will comment that when I had a long discussion with them about 9-11, it reminded me so much of Americans who follow right or left wing web sites. These Taliban people believed all kinds of crazy conspiracy theories. For example, George Bush did 9-11 to get oil from Iraq. American troops are paid by being allowed to rape virgin Muslim girls, that’s the only reason they enlist. You get my drift. But it is just like the hate talk on the extremist websites, but in America it has “Christian” or American national themes.
We can do better. Let’s be the peacemakers. Let’s fight hate with love. Let’s bring hope to the hopeless. When America did that, we were the real beacon on the hill.
p.s. Pardon any typos. I did this quickly and wanted to post it while it was still Sept 11.