America was an impenetrable fortress.
That’s at least what the news and the believably competent people in charge said at the time.
We just assumed that nobody would ever mess with us.
Until one day, the Twin Towers came crashing down.
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On the morning of September 11, 2001, our country was wildly understood as the lone hyper power that whooped that bad guy Saddam not so long ago. We also had just bombed the brakes off of Yugoslavia, but that was necessary to keep peace and such. When it came to military prowess, we were the NBA All Stars, and everyone else’s defense capabilities added up to a high school basketball team. At least that’s what we were told. China was not yet on the radar. America was the uncontested hegemon. And we were nice enough to maintain global order as the World Police, too!
Before September 11, it was just assumed that the government would keep us safe from any foreign threats. One could just imagine how all of those ultra intelligent, wise and moral bureaucrats from those three letter agencies would have all of these super secret Star Wars-like tech measures in place to protect us from the barbarians beyond our shores.
Looking back on it now, 9/11/2001 was the first day of my life that broadly challenged my preconceived notion that the government was our partner in preserving our freedoms and our constitutional system of order.
What the heck? Why didn’t our ultra competent Pentagon defense systems protect us and shoot down the bad guys before they could hit us? Hmm, must’ve been a catastrophic error or something…
But instead of allowing for an internal investigation into the developing paradoxes being introduced into the Millennial mind, the current regime quickly distracted the citizenry with the likes of Al Qaeda, Afghanistan, the Taliban, and co.
I was in middle school across the river in New Jersey, and still remember that day like it was yesterday, when we were abruptly pulled out of class and sent home. Some of those kids’ parents worked in the original World Trade Center. For some classmates who lost a loved one, it would mark the last time I ever saw them. I hope they’re doing well now. Everyone knew someone, or several someones, who never made it back from work that day.
In the New York City metro area, it was a time of disbelief, sadness, unity, and rage.
Everyone remembers the unity. Many have to be reminded of the rage.
There was an overwhelming sense that we needed to get even, and as soon as humanly possible. The likes of Ron Paul and other non-interventionist forces were shouted down as treasonous. It was time to get even, even if we didn’t really understand who or what our enemy comprised.
The American war machine weaponized this rage, this indignant mission, into a multi decade boondoggle in dozens of nations.
At the time of the 9/11 attacks, foreign policy was more of an intellectual exercise for the dorks in D.C.
Very few Americans knew anything about the Muslim world, let alone Afghanistan (and later Iraq, Syria, Libya, etc). The people who claimed they knew stuff didn’t really know anything either. We were the easiest of marks.
As the wars continued, George W. Bush reminded the nation that we had to “fight them over there so we do not have to face them in the United States of America."
But wait, how did they get here in the first place ?
There was no time for those kind of “insensitive” questions, even years after the 9/11 tragedy. It was always time to get the bad Al Qaeda guys, harbored by their Taliban sponsors. The mission was ever expansive, and it didn’t seem to matter. Anyone who wasn’t on board with the War On Terror agenda was on the side of the terrorists, we were told.
Trillions in spending and thousands of lost American lives later, our country is no more secure than it was on 9/10/2001. Moreover, our sacred liberties have been trampled upon, and the country once understood as an impenetrable fortress is a power in decline.