How Far Have We Come In Dealing With Fear & Terrorists 15 Years Later?
A Commentary by Doug Draper
Posted September 11th, 2016 on Niagara At Large
It’s a small world, some will say, and 15 years ago this September 11th, 2016, the world got very small, indeed.
It’s as if people all over the world were gathered in the same square of Marshall McLuhan’s “global village,” watching on our electrical devices in real time as the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City burned and pancaked to the ground, and two more commercial jets crashed into the Pentagon outside of Washington D.C., and into a field in Pennsylvania.
The world seemed smaller still as I, like many others I’m sure, witnessed this horror and wondered with concern about friends who might be in harm’s way, steered deliberately by zealots into their targets.
There was the friend from New York City who my wife and I tried calling over and over again that day, and could not get through to because the lines were jammed. She was working for a law firm located in a building a block or two away from the World Trade Center. When we did finally get through, we found out that fortunately, the firm moved to another location, several blocks away, before the towers went down.
There was another friend from New Jersey who had been accepted for a job by a firm located on one of the floors near the top of the twin towers. Fortunately for him, another firm in Manhattan made him a better offer, which he accepted just a few weeks before 9/11, to work for them, or he may very well have been in the towers that morning with the others who perished.
Then there was a good friend who once worked with me at The St. Catharines Standard and, by then, working in Washington, D.C. for the Reuters news agency. The lines there were jammed too before I finally got through and found out he was okay.
As we talked, we reminded ourselves of a day just a few months earlier when our family was visiting his, and he and I took a walking tour of the buildings and monuments in Washington, D.C. It was July 4th, Independence Day in the U.S., and as tens of thousands of people were gathering on lawns of the Washington Mall for concerts and fireworks, we showed up at the doors of the Capitol Building, asking the few guards still there if we could take a quick tour.
After my friend explained that I hadn’t toured the building since I was a child and was looking forward to seeing it again, they let us in to roam through the empty halls and lobbies unattended. At one point, we walked the floor of the Senate, each choosing a Senator’s seat (mine was Ted Kennedy) and parroted a few lines from that old film classic ‘Mr. Smith Goes To Washington.’
‘Let’s remember our free romp through the corridors of the Capitol building,’ we told each other, ‘because we’ll probably never be allowed to do it again.’
Yet as sad as it was to consider all of the surveillance and restrictions on freedom of movement that were already coming into force in the hours and days after the 9/11 attacks, at least here was a friend who was alive to remember all that.
Others, of course, were not that lucky.
A psychologist from the New York City area who had been coming to Niagara periodically to work with my wife on a research project, had a cousin who worked in the twin towers and who was among the almost 3,000 people, including more than 20 Canadians, killed in the attacks that day. Her body, like so many others, was never found and the “Ground Zero Memorial” where the towers were is the only grave he and many others have for their loved ones.
As so many of them gather at that site for prayers and moments of silence this September 11th, one wonders if there are similar memorials to the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, Afghans and other civilians who perished in wars launched after the 9/11 attacks.
We in the West, don’t hear very much at all about memorials to them.
Nor do we engage in enough discussion about all the security and so-called anti-terrorism measures that have been put in place by politicians who, in some cases, are exploiting fear to consolidate their own power.
Do we really need to have every grandmother and young child remove their shoes at an airport or is that just another way of reminding us that we should be afraid? And why should that kind of broad-brush surveillance send out a message to the bad guys that we really don’t know who we are looking for?
How come it was the FBI in the United States that recently had to alert Canada’s police that something threatening was cooking on the internet before security forces finally moved in on a young man in Ontario who was reportedly right on the verge of going out and committing mass murder?
I can’t see how spending billions of dollars on more fighter jets is going to improve Canada’s ability to deal with threats (now all too common around the world) like that.
In fact, manufacturers of fighter planes, bombs, armoured tanks and trucks and the like have been making a fortune off of all this, even in the middle of questions as to how that is going to stop psychos in some other region of the world from using the internet to convince someone here to purchase a military style gun or use a delivery truck to mow down a crowd of people celebrating Canada Day or the 4th of July?
The latest issue of The Alantic, one of America’s more respected news magazines, asks in a cover story this September that was a year in the making if we are really any safer after a trillion dollars spent since 9/11 on homeland security and so-called wars against terror.
Could we have collectively done things differently and did we really have to spend that much money – money that could have been spent on health care, education and rebuilding infrastructure needed for a 21st Century economy on this continent?
It seems to me that 15 years after the 9/11 attacks, a very real, honest and open discussion on all of this has yet to begin in Canada and the United States.
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