By asking if 9/11 still matters, I don’t mean in the way a Civil War battle will always be historically noted nor in the way December 7th, 1941 will always live in infamy. I’m asking if it still matters in a major, organic way in people’s lives and the way they make decisions.
Yesterday marked the 11th anniversary of September 11th, and one that I spent in NYC, and I can’t say that people really behaved any differently than any other day. Taxi cabs flew through the streets way too fast, they honked at pedestrians they almost flattened, and pedestrians shot them a bird in kind. People went to work, even though some have called for 9/11 to be a holiday. [Odds of that? Not so great…considering Americans work more than any other nation on the planet besides Japan, and getting a new holiday is a literal act of congress, who, right now, couldn’t pass a bowel movement.] And people were still assholes or nice if they were already.
NBC——-in their 400th tasteless move in the last couple years——-refused to have a moment of silence like the other networks did. No, instead they had their morning shows (which film in New York, not all that far from the WTC site) just keep on rolling, and had Kim Kardashian’s mom blather on about breast implants for that minute.
But I seriously doubt most Americans observed a moment of silence during the exact minute the towers fell either. It’s not that they don’t care, but…well…actually, it might be that they don’t care. As I’ve pointed out before, I was at school in Alabama when the WTC was attacked, and it was a big deal for about a week, but mostly it felt like something that happened in New York City, that wealthy and liberal fortress of snobbiness that most of the red states don’t really talk all that positively about. [They talk about it, just in more of a “Two men holding hands at Appleby’s? What is this, New York?!” kind-of way.]
In terms of U.S. foreign policy, Bin Laden is dead, the Afghanistan War is hopelessly dragging to a close, Al-Qaeda is all but dismantled as new radical Islamist groups (really more gangs than terrorist networks) would rather get political legitimacy post-Arab Spring than blow up consulates. When Mitt Romney was asked what he thought the greatest threat to the U.S. is, he said “Russia.” Not radical Islam, not Al-Qaeda, not a nuclear Iran…but fucking Russia. If that doesn’t show that America never really wanted to leave the Cold War, I don’t know what does.
So this week it was revealed that Bush knew even more about 9/11 than people previously thought. The exact details show that the CIA warned him of Bin Laden’s plot to attack America very specifically, and he kept insisting that it was all a smokescreen set up by Saddam Hussein to deflect attention away from him. Bush never really cared about Bin Laden before 9/11…and it can be argued he never really cared about him after it (attacking the wrong country in retaliation, a half-hearted effort in Afghanistan, letting Bin Laden escape the Tora Bora mountains, refusing to look for him in Pakistan).
Bush was either the most negligent president since James Buchanan or he simply couldn’t “get into” the type of enemy Bin Laden was; a man with no army, no government, no citizens to think about or country to put first. He could blow up a building from halfway around the world, and drag countless third parties into the retaliation effort against him without ever having to worry one iota about that retaliation because he had no survival-interest in the fate of a nation (unlike Iran).
And maybe that’s why Americans themselves could never fully get into the type of threat Al-Qaeda posed. A loose, incredibly confusing web of Muslim terror groups, warlords, narcotics traffickers, possibly complicit dictators, Shias, Sunnis, whatever the fuck a Kurd is, etc. I think they’ve been nostalgic for the dead simple Ruskies vs. Americans cold war dynamic (notice how The Expendables are STILL only going after vaguely Soviet Union-esque bad guys instead of Muslim terrorists)…and I think they’re ready to go back to not giving a shit about radical Islam, no matter how much it tries to chest thump our way into our nightmares. [Notice the recent attacks over…a low budget movie depicting Mohammed, seriously?] With villains this petty, no wonder we don’t feel like chasing them.