Tomorrow the US will mark 19 years since al Qaeda operatives killed thousands of Americans and dealt a likely permanent blow to US culture. Since September 11, 2001, reams of articles, film, and books have addressed how and why the attacks happened. Ironically, as was the case with other significant events like the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor and the lie that led to the loss of approximately 58,000 US soldiers in the Vietnam War, we have yet to reconcile the realities to our perceptions.
So many lessons are contained in the evolution and aftermath of these events. Most of those lessons have gone unheeded.
You’d think we’d have learned by now that war isn’t always a solution. For instance, consider the length of the war technically begun after al Qaeda’s attacks in New York, on the Pentagon in Virginia, and the downing of Flight 93 in Pennsylvania. Writers and filmmakers have suggested these attacks were preventable. The 9/11 Commission Report indicated they were preventable. Yet no media warned us. No government official warned us. In the end, a group of anti-Western terrorists temporarily triumphed over one of the most heavily armed countries in history. Thing is we were prepared for traditional war, not war with case cutters, computers, and hijacked planes.
The US was also caught by surprise in 1941 when Pearl Harbor was bombed.
How long did it take for us to learn a number of truths?
With Pearl Harbor, it took more than half a century. Long assailed as conspiracists, those who believed the late president Franklin Delano Roosevelt knew there would be such an attack were in the end vindicated. It would be the year 2000 before information was disclosed about this. For an intriguing look at allegations FDR “goaded” Japan into war with the US, read Robert B. Stinnett’s Day of Deceit. Why the US government withheld so much information about this long after FDR died is unknown. Those allegations became knowns, and Stinnett proves this beyond a doubt.
The same goes for Vietnam. We know the late president Lyndon B. Johnson lied about an additional attack on the USS Maddox in 1964.
Have you ever wondered how much treasure and human life have been vested in wars in our country’s short history? A document provided by the Veterans’ Administration is breathtaking. The worst war in terms of battle and in-theater deaths was the US Civil War also known as the War Between the States. There are many lessons in that war, and they are relevant to today’s culture chaos in our country.
Since September 11, 2001, our country has changed drastically. We’ve adjusted to rigid levels of security when we fly on a plane or enter any kind of government building. Increasingly, some political activists call for laws banning speech they disagree with. It has become trendy to point fingers at people for various problems based purely on skin color, and that perhaps is the greatest tragedy of all. The skin color, of course, depends on the political bent of the accuser.
Meanwhile, the Global War on Terror lives on.
We have myriad stores of music, film, literature, news coverage, and government documents about what happened in our country on September 11. You’d think we’d have taken certain wisdoms to heart, not only from these works but also from the works relevant to other history-changing events.
Instead, we still respect many politicians, so-called leaders, and intel operatives whose decisions led us into vulnerability from that surprise attack almost two decades ago. We continue to grow a federal bureaucracy that failed us in every way imaginable. We even give credence to media outlets whose skewed and negligent reportage left us unaware of the dangers our country faced.
Our shortcoming in this regard is not new.
It is the story of the human race dating to antiquity.
As for those presidents who deceived us in the past, including some not named in this article, status quo historians still look upon them fondly.
~~Featured photo: New York City, spring, 2001. Used with permission, Jenn Day-Thompson.
(Kay B. Day/Sept. 10, 2020)
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