In Times Past


In the days when the US had the twin towers and the Royal Navy still had an aircraft carrier

The tenth anniversary of the terror attacks on New York and Washington combined with the opening of the memorial on the site of the World Trade Center Twin Towers. It was an occasion when myth and tragic combined.


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The attacks on the US homeland were a huge shock to the US which had previously assumed that it was immune from the terrors visited on other countries and other cities.

It was a terrible and enduring tragedy for all those who lost friends, loved ones and relatives. Many American citizens lost their lives, but the attacks by evil men were visited on the world with many foreign nationals amongst the dead and injured.

On the day of the attacks, first responders performed magnificently and with great personal bravery. Firemen, police and medical personnel rushed to the Twin Towers without thought to their own safety.

To open a memorial was a fitting tribute to those who died and a point where survivors and the relatives and friends of the victims could come to remember. Whether the planning, cost, design and timing were to everyone’s satisfaction are irrelevant. The memorial is there now, the most important aspect is that there is a place in New York to honour the innocent victims and to grieve. Equally important is that a memorial is also a symbol of hope, that tragedy is not in vain and that new rises from the ashes of old.

The news media and politicians are quick to claim an event has changed the world for ever and they were not slow to make this claim for 9/11, but the event did not change the world for ever, anymore than terror attacks in Britain, Spain, Israel, or any other place, changed the world for ever.

Bin Laden and his followers used a perversion of Islam to justify their attacks around the world and their hatred of humanity is their only legacy. Like their predecessors, the Assassins, they will never completely die out but the attacks on the US were the high point of their campaign of evil. They may never have the strength to replicate their atrocities on the innocent, but some other group, using nebulous justifications, political or religious, will form and grow to take more innocent lives and leave more people in morning for friends and loved ones who have been cut down in the prime of life suddenly and unexpectedly.

Terrible though the attacks may have been for the families and friends of victims, the greater tragedy was not the attacks but the lack of capable world leaders in the form of Churchills and Roosevelts, Pitts and Elizabeth Tudors, Bolivars and Washingtons. The actions of low grade politicians in the US and Britain made a much greater impact on the world. For cheap political gain they took war to other countries, helping recruit for the terrorists. Bush and Blair both cling to discredited justifications. Blair insists that only 100,000 innocent Iraqi citizens were killed in the US-lead invasion of Iraq, others claim 600,000 died, but even 100 would be an outrage. Neither Blair nor Bush seem to have any idea, or even care, how many innocent Afghan civilians have been killed. A US strike on something was perhaps inevitable, although it is difficult to imagine a Washington, Lincoln or Roosevelt lashing out blindly when a careful and measured response could have targeted the guilty with minimum collateral damage.

Happily, these changes are not for ever. Their consequences may live on for years, and more innocents may be slaughtered, but eventually this particular madness will die out.

Unhappily, people will forget, new tyrants will emerge, more haters of humanity will emerge. More outrages will be committed in the name of a religion, even where this is a total perversion of a faith.

The real lessons from 9/11, Northern Ireland, anarchists, crusades, World War Two and all of the horrors that have marred humanity, are that we all face a multitude of potential risks as individuals, families and nations. We have to be constantly aware, to look and to listen. 9/11 was possible because some intelligence services failed to monitor the range of potential threats and those that did identify new Middle Eastern threats were ignored by politicians who were more interested in their narrow political ambitions.

There is a legacy of fear and over reaction that has achieved what terrorists always try to create in the hope of destabilizing democratic government. Civil liberty in many countries has been attacked in the name of national defence and the War on Terrorism. The memory of the 9/11 victims can be best served by voters standing up for democracy and rejecting politicians who seek to profit from tragedy.



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