Looking back: One year after September 11th

Looking back: One year after September 11th, by Hamdan Yousuf, Mirror International, 11 September 2002. English Language.

This week, we commemorate the first anniversary of September 11th. We remember the selfless heroism of the rescue workers who died in the line of duty. We pride ourselves on how this nation bonded together after the attacks. It is such things that make one proud to be an American, for truly what makes America great is its people.

As we look back on this last year, we cannot help but mourn our loss.

However, of greater distress is not what we lost on that September morning, but what we could have gained in the months after. September 11th presented this nation with a unique opportunity. The United States could have forsaken its destructive ways and returned to the non-interventionist policy of self-preservation pursued by its founding fathers. America could have emerged a new nation, humbled by the colossal cost of empire. We could have joined the international community with our hand extended in peace.

Yet, after September 11th, America resumed its self-appointed post as the world’s police officer. The first thing we did was launch the War on Terror to punish those who had attacked us. However, it soon became clear that this new war was excessively broad in

scope with no end in sight. Anger towards the United States increased as more and more people began to view the war as an exercise in imperialism, designed to expand our military empire. We installed a puppet government in Afghanistan and sent our soldiers there to protect our “colony.”

Even now, a full year after our president vowed to capture Osama bin Laden dead or alive, Al Qaeda and its leader still remain at large. Yet the bombs keep dropping, killing innocent women and children. Now attacks against foreigners in Pakistan have become a daily occurrence, and Afghanistan’s leader, Hamid Karzai, narrowly escaped an attempt on his life just a few days ago. Massive protests have erupted in the Philippines, the latest front in the war on terror, with chants of “Go Home Yankees” dominating the scene. One must ask what Mr. Bush’s war has accomplished, while keeping in mind that Al Qaeda is still strong and Mr. bin Laden remains alive.

The Middle East is another region where American foreign policy needs improvement. Instead of running pro-American ads aimed at reducing animosity towards us in the Arab world, we should concentrate on revitalizing the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. More importantly, we should attempt to alleviate the suffering of the Palestinians, since desperation is what creates terror.

Perhaps what is most disturbing in light of last fall’s events is the president’s desire to invade Iraq. It prompts the question: Have we learned nothing? The same policy of pre-emption that allows Mr. Bush to attack his father’s nemesis invites other countries to do the same. If Mr. Bush invades Iraq, he can expect terrorists to adopt a “first-strike” policy towards us as well.

However numerous America’s faults are, its people are not one of them. The American people are the most tolerant, diverse and freedom-loving people in the world. If September 11th had one benefit, it was that it stimulated people to think. People began to ask questions and wonder aloud why so many people hated America. This new awareness among the American people sparked outrage at the Justice Department’s attack on civil liberties. Secret trials, eavesdropping on the Internet, racial profiling and mass detentions don’t represent the essence of America. The American people understood that an America without freedom and liberty wouldn’t be an America any of us would want to live in.

So, in a sense, America has changed since September 11th. The American people are now at the apex of geopolitical awareness. However, our government continues down the road of imperialism and belligerence. At times like this, it is helpful to look to history for guidance. In referring to the Roman Empire, a historian once noted that when a nation-state places greater emphasis on military ventures than it does on providing for its people, the nation-state has become an empire. This statement could not be more applicable to contemporary America, where, although poverty levels are on the rise, military expenditure continues to increase. So, as we approach the anniversary of “the day that changed us all,” we should ask ourselves, did it really change us at all?

Hamdan Yousuf is a student at the Bronx High School of Science in New York and a contributor to the Mirror.

Comments are closed.