Or worse: forgotten.
Even before I learned of the killing of the American ambassador in Benghazi and the storming of the U.S. embassy in Cairo, it seemed to me that our commemorations of the 9/11/01 attacks have become exercises in self-deception. Of course it is appropriate to remember victims and pay tribute to first-responders. But did you hear any government official or major media figure say what should by now be obvious: that on a September morning eleven years ago, America lost a battle in a global conflict that began much earlier and continues to this day? On television and in the editorial pages of newspapers there was almost no discussion of who our enemies are, what they believe, what goals they seek to achieve, and what strategies they are pursuing. There was no debate about the policies that can best defend “liberty and freedom.”
On September, 11, 2012, the front page of the New York Times had not a single article on the attacks or the anniversary, but a piece on page 17 described “a growing feeling that it may be time to move on.” The day before, there was an op-ed by former Times reporter Kurt Eichenwald charging that President Bush could have prevented the 2001 assault had he “reacted with urgency” to warnings provided by the CIA — warnings that gave no indication of where or when the attacks would take place. Eichenwald wrote that “Mohamed al-Kahtani, a Saudi believed to have been assigned a role in the 9/11 attacks, was stopped at an airport in Orlando, Fla., by a suspicious customs agent and sent back overseas on Aug. 4. Two weeks later, another co-conspirator, Zacarias Moussaoui, was arrested on immigration charges in Minnesota after arousing suspicions at a flight school. But the dots were not connected, and Washington did not react.” How should Washington have reacted, Kurt? Should Bush have ordered al-Kahtani and Moussaoui arrested and subjected to enhanced interrogation techniques if that’s what would have been necessary to make them talk?
On the morning of September 11, 2012, NBC’s Today show featured Kim Kardashian’s mother discussing breast implants. The producers did not bother to cut away to the moment of silence that was being observed elsewhere in New York City. Even Foreign Policy magazine featured an article by Juliette Kayyem, a former Obama administration official now teaching at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, headlined “Our Foolish Obsession with Stopping the Next Attack.” She argued: “It is time to make [9/11] personal again…The burden of tragedy is private.” Silly me, thinking this had something to do with national security. I guess if I were at Harvard — which, coincidently, has received millions of Saudi petro-dollars — I’d know better.
It’s much bigger than national security. This is a civilizational conflict that has been ongoing, with very occasional pauses for breath, for around a thousand years. When enough of us recognize that, and that the stakes are the highest imaginable, AND that the victory of Western values over barbarism and cruelty is by no means assured and therefore not something that can comfortably be taken for granted (as so many other things are by spoiled Western brats of all ages), then and only then will the battle be well and truly joined. Until that momentous realization occurs, we”ll continue groping blindly and ineffectually along, futzing and fumbling around and accomplishing little of note or worth.