-- No, we are not the most victimized country in the world. We weren't 14 years ago, and we certainly aren't now. The new and newish architecture in the city centers of London and Hamburg reminded me that 70 years ago, September 11th happened every day in those cities. The entire death toll from that day in the USA adds up to the dead on a city block in either of those cities during World War II. Our losses from that day pale in magnitude compared to the blood bath taking place in Syria now, or with the losses in all the warfare and violence in Iraq since our invasion.
-- After we got sucker-punched 14 years ago, we did indeed hit back, but at who? We didn't think that through, and as for the people who did think it through, we ignored them. Our invasion of Iraq made as much sense as an invasion of Bolivia after Pearl Harbor. We had our longed for big victory moments in Iraq. We got all that was denied us in Vietnam. Our tanks rolled victorious into the enemy capital. We tried and hanged the evil dictator after pulling down his statue. We put those poor people under American rule and tutelage. So why is it that after all the money and blood spent there, after so clear and glorious a victory, things are worse now than ever? We went to war on "terrorism," and we ended up with ISIS turning eastern Syria and northern Iraq into human abattoirs. Instead of Al Qaida, now we have Al Nusra, Boko Haram, Al Shabab, and any number of independent freelancers in addition to ISIS. We waved the banner of "FREEDOM!" when we went into Iraq and Afghanistan with guns blazing, and now there is less of anything remotely like that in the region than ever. The Middle East now has all the brutality, cynicism, fanaticism, and bloody chaos that anyone could possibly want.
-- The attacks of September 11th brought together the inhabitants of a great city built by social Darwinism. I personally witnessed extraordinary acts of selflessness and solidarity between groups of people who normally hated each other (e.g. East Village punks and cops). In times of national emergency Ayn Rand and Herbert Spencer be damned. People really do come through for each other and turn out to be a little better than the experts tell us.
We had the good will of the world with us in the wake of the attacks. So why is it that all that international good will was squandered so quickly? Why is it that the USA is more polarized now than ever, perhaps since the Civil War?
-- How patriotic is it really to keep an overseas tax shelter in a time of national emergency?
-- It's really easy to be patriotic when it's someone else's kids who get sacrificed on the battlefield and other people bear the burden so that we can feel "free." It's easy to talk seriously about our need to make sacrifices when we know that we won't have to give up a thing.
-- Accountability is for little people. The people responsible for the biggest foreign policy disaster since the Vietnam War got to walk away from it and left it to others to clean up the mess. All the people who supported and cheerlead the whole mess still have their jobs and reputations. They paved the way for all the crooks in the international finance industry who crashed the global economy and got great big government checks instead of jail time.
-- But Afghanistan is so far away. It can't have anything to do with us. It's now the world's largest producer of opium thanks to American occupation. And so our country is flooded with cheap heroin. Our insatiable decadent demand for narcotics funds ISIS, the Taliban, Afghan warlords, and brutal Mexican drug lords. Some of those same piles of money we spend on getting high comes back to us in the form of real estate purchases in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Chicago driving up already sky high rents and housing prices in those cities and across the country. I'm sure there are people in all of those cities paying rent to El Chapo without even knowing it.
-- Osama Bin Laden may be dead, but he won September 11th. We gave him everything he wanted thanks to our national winning combination of fear, stupidity, and arrogance.
-- One more thing. I think we can finally drop all the pretense that somehow we are the "good" empire. For one thing, there is no such thing as a good empire. All empires, including ours, are nothing more than organized smash-and-grabs. For another, we lost any claim to moral credibility when we began torturing and killing prisoners of war. No one in the world is fooled by our pretensions to innocence and virtue except us. The terrorists didn't steal our souls. We sold them for a cheap promise of safety and revenge. When we look at our enemies these days, we look into a mirror very darkly.