Reflecting on 9/11, Hindsight is 20/20


Makayla Erickson (she/her)

For many Americans, the anniversary of the attacks stir vivid memories of that terrible day.

On a sunny Tuesday morning, September 11, 2001, 4 airplanes were hijacked by the terrorist group Al-Qaeda. 2 of the planes hit the North and South Towers of the World Trade Center, 1 plane hit the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, and 1, intended to hit the US Capitol Mall, crashed in a field in Pennsylvania. 2,996 men, women, and children died directly because of these acts of terror, as well as the many 1st responders and bystanders that died in the aftermath due to diseases caused by the smoke and dust that stemmed from the towers falling.

In response to these attacks, President George W. Bush, launched “The War on Terror”. This “war” included the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003, NSA spying, and the illegal imprisonment of people at Guantanamo Bay.

As the 20 year anniversary of these attacks passed, they remain in the hearts and minds of the American people. We collectively mourn for the innocent civilians that died that day, and empathize with their loved ones.

There is no doubt that America will forever be changed by 9/11 in ways impossible to quantify. Many continue to live in fear when going through day-to-day life. As a new generation of Americans born after 9/11 grow up and enter civic life, we must learn the lessons of that day and the following events.

The motives of the 9/11 attackers were clear as day. Al-Qaeda and Osama Bin Laden were fighting against the values of freedom, individual rights, and pursuit of happiness. However, many say that American foreign policy is responsible for this tragedy. As much as these policies deserve criticism, they were not the true reasons why these attacks were committed. Bin Laden says it himself in his 2002 Letter to America that our support for the Jewish people and so-called “American Immorality” were the primary reasons for his holy war against America.

In the face of continued attack, Americans should, more than ever, continue to defend the principles that we have in common. In a time of deep cultural and political polarization, the truths we hold are the only things allowing the American experiment to continue.

The next day, on September 12, Americans were more united than ever. Although Americans did not agree on much, the basic ideas of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness reigned supreme. George W. Bush’s approval ratings peaked at 90 percent on September 20, 2001, the highest presidential approval ever, according to 538.

It’s important to recognize that the American way of life is the exception. Throughout time, few societies have allowed such extensive degrees of comfort and personal liberty for its citizens. Although there are a plethora of areas in American life which could be improved on, it’s important to recognize that we have it pretty good.
The most important lessons are found in the aftermath of 9/11. On September 18, 2001, the Authorization for Use of Military Force became effective. This authorization gave the President the power to use all “necessary and appropriate force” against those that were said to have “planned, authorized, committed or aided” the September 11 attacks, or who harbored these peoples or groups.

This allowed US Presidents to commit war crimes in 14 countries. Drones that were intended to strike terrorist cells, ended up killing innocent civilians. American Presidents have vastly overused this authority given to them by Congress, resulting in the further destruction of the Middle East.

The United States government extrajudicially detained 775 people in Guantanamo Bay Cuba, although the vast majority of these people were not found guilty of any crimes. The US government used “Enhanced Interrogation,” which is just another name for torture. These methods for extracting information included waterboarding, constant loud music, light control, and sleep deprivation. By using these horrific tactics, the United States went against the Geneva Convention Statutes on prisoners of war.

On October 26, 2001, The Patriot Act was signed into law by George W. Bush. It expanded surveillance abilities of law enforcement by allowing for law enforcement to search property without a warrant, as well as allowed federal agencies to use all available resources against counterterrorism. This creation of the surveillance state has infringed on all Americans’ 4th amendment right to Privacy. The government can now tap your phone calls, search your home, and intrude into your day-to-day life for no particular reason at all.

There is only 1 way that the American people can alter the impact of all of this disastrous decision making: voting. 9/11 has forever changed America, and it’s time for a change in the leadership of this country. As Campo students begin to vote and have a say in who is sent to Washington, it’s important to know that seemingly pointless political arguments have purpose.

America is still bleeding, 20 years after 9/11; it’s time for a new generation to start the healing of this country.