10 September 2005


September 11, 2001 was a defining date in American history. Tomorrow is the fourth anniversary of that fateful day.

Four year later:
- The U.S. military is still in Afghanistan, mopping up the defeated remnants of the Taliban and helping a new regime in Afghanistan, which is expressly subject to Islamic law, establish itself.
- The United States has adopted anti-terrorism policies including an "enemy combatant" policy governing individuals like the Guantanamo Bay detainee and Jose Padilla, and a policy of extraordinary rendition of individuals to nations that tourture people, that have done grevious harm to the reputation of the United States as a defender of human rights. The Republican controlled Congress has taken no action to address these policies.
- Osama bin Laden is still at large, despite a near miss in an attempt to capture him in Tora Bora. Many other senior leaders of al-Queda as of 9-11 have been captured or killed, but it isn't clear that this has weakened the organization.
- The U.S. strengthened our ties with the torture using totalitarian dicatorship of Uzbekistan, only to be ejected by the government of Uzbekistan, in order to have airbases available to fight in Afghanistan.
- The U.S. military is in Iraq, an event which was politically possible, in part, because many Americans mistakenly thought that there was a link between 9-11 and Iraq.
- Any vestige of a U.S. reputation for respecting human rights was destroyed by the manner in which the United States at Abu Grahib prison and other detention facilities in Iraq mistreated detainees in the worst ways imaginable. Discipline in these incidents has been restricted to low level figures despite strong evidence that the causes for these incidents extent all the way to cabinet level and White House Office level figures.
- al-Queda, which was previously largely absent from Iraq, has since our invasion, gains a strong base there.
- There have been terrorist attacks on transit systems in London and Madrid, linked in part to the Iraq War.
- The United States has not in any visible way sanctioned or secured change in Saudi Arabia, despite the fact that this was the source of most of the 9-11 terrorists (and much of their funding), most of the suicide bombers in Iraq, and much of the funding that provided a basis for the Taliban in Afghanistan. Saudi Arabia has seen a new monarch take office and has engaged in gun battles with groups in the country. Saudi Arabia remains an undemocratic nation which treats women more poorly than almost any other in the world, which has a large class of unemployed young men inclined to radialism (often trained in theology), and which is among the most brutal in the world in applying the death penalty.
- Kuwait, which owes its very existence to U.S. military intervention, is not significantly reformed from its Saudi Arabian style practice that were in place prior to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.
- Northern Nigeria is on the verge of becoming a hardline Islamic state.
- The sister party of the party of the Islamic Revolution in Iran is now, with our blessing, one of the leading political forces in Iraq, which was previously a secular dictatorship.
- U.S. ships have faced al-Queda rocket attacks near the Red Sea.
- The airline industry is still crippled, although 9-11 is not the only reason that this is the case.
- The City of New York appears to be well on the way to recovering from 9-11 economically, if not psychologically.
- There are plans to rebuild at the World Trade Center site in New York.
- Most of the families of the more than 3,000 people killed on 9-11 have received compensation.
- Federal buildings everywhere are being reinforced against possible terrorist attacks.
- Congress is debating whether Patriot Act anti-terrorism measures enacted without much discussion should be renewed.
- A Department of Homeland Security was created, in a move that is partially credited with the ineptitude of FEMA in dealing with Hurricane Katrina.
- Fire and police departments in places which are at low risk for terrorism have received substantial anti-terrorism federal grants.
- Port security has received less funding than most observers think is appropriate.
- Security at airports has been federalized into the Transportation Security Administration (the biggest new federal agency in decades) and terrorist watch lists have been established, but neither effort appears to have been terribly useful in making air travel more secure.
- The intelligence services have been reorganized under a single national intelligence czar whose importance is not yet clear. The CIA Director has been replaced by a highly partisan Congressman who has alienated many in the agency.
- "My Pet Goat", remains a symbol among liberals, of a President unable to get his priorities straight in a time of crisis.
- Thousands of people have been deported, often on non-terrorism related charges, in the hope of disrupting terrorist activity in the United States.
- Several individuals who engaged in terrorist activity or had terrorist links have been successfully prosecuted through the criminal justice system and sentenced to long terms in prison. One faces the possibility of receiving the death penalty.
- Ward Churchill, a tenured professor at the University of Colorado, is facing a lengthy examination of his tenure status driven by insensitive remarks he made about 9-11.
- The FAA is considering whether civilian jetliners need to be fitted with anti-missile laser systems.
- A color coded threat level system for the United States has proved itself to be a failure.
- No serious efforts have been undertaken to identify or address root causes of terrorism against the United States and its allies.

We all grieve the losses that were suffered four years ago. I also wonder if the actions that have been taken in response to that event have been wise ones.

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