What's changed in the US nine years after 9/11
Along with increased airport security and warrantless wiretapping, a look at the war on terror and personal rights in the United States in a post-9/11 world.
Images of the twin towers burning need no words to describe them in the United States. They're no less recognizable nine years after the September 11th attacks. The streets around ground zero have recovered in many ways from the sights there nine years ago. But passerbys remember it like yesterday.
“It was a nightmare, early in the morning I heard a big explosion,” said New Yorker Ata Rizkalla.
“It felt like your home was being attacked," said Albert Johnson another New York resident.
“I called my friends and family saying this is the beginning of World War III," said Justine Bakker, a citizen of Holland who watched the twin towers fall from Portugal.
That prophecy did not unfold, but days later the War on Terror did.
“Our war on terror begins with al-Qaeda, but it does not end there," former US President George W. Bush said in a speech to a joint session of Congress on September 20th, 2001.
Nine years, a trillion dollars and a long way beyond al-Qaeda later, it still has not ended.
It was not stopped when weapons of mass destruction weren’t found in Iraq, nor when Saddam Hussein’s regime tumbled.
It did not stop when Americans questioned the war.
“If I had been in the military I wouldn’t have gone to Iraq,” said Johnson.
US leaders went on to spend $700 billion dollars on a mission in Iraq to defeat and replace a government never found to be connected to 9/11 or al-Qaeda at all. In raised ire with critics at home.
"It was so transparently weak a reason for mounting these military operations," argued Mark Crispin Miller, author and New York University professor.
All the while it was chipping away at America’s credibility abroad.
“The day when Bush said you’re either with us or against us caused trouble in my country,” said Bakker.
The mission did not change with a new president, a face on which the nation’s hope was resting to restore America’s image and get out of the battlefields entered into in the name of 9/11.
“Our nation is at war against a far reaching network of violence and hatred,” President Barack Obama reiterated in his inauguration speech on January 20, 2009.
His mission was contrary to the hopes of the world at-large as well when he took office.
“There was support everywhere for closing Guantanamo but opposition to sending more troops to Afghanistan,” said pollster Andrew Kohut of Pew Research in Washington DC, going over polling results from countries outside the US when Barack Obama was elected president.
According to George W. Bush when he was president, “it will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped, and defeated."
It is a mission born of 9/11 that has inspired presidential powers never seen before in America, such as assassinating US citizens abroad.
“Beginning with 9/11 really we’ve seen this notion take hold that as long as a president does something or says he’s going to do it serving as commander-in-chief he can do whatever he wants,” said Bob Barr, a former US Congressman from Georgia and former Libertarian presidential candidate. “That’s very destructive of this notion of the rule of law and a consistent standard of justice.”
The notion does not end with presidents, whether it is civilians taking up arms in defense or protesting a mosque.
“September 11th woke New Yorkers and other Americans up to the fact terrorism can and does happen here,” said Yonotan Stern, the founder of Kitat Konenut, a group that trains Jewish-Americans to use guns and exercise their right to bear arms.
In 2001 George W. Bush said “the enemy of America is not our many Muslim friends.” These days it seems much less clear.
“You hear people say they’re under surveillance at the Mosque, that people are being investigated,” said Eide Alawan of the Islamic Center of America, a mosque in Dearborn, Michigan. “And this comes with the territory right now.”
The broader American populace has seen their civil liberties erode, too, with the Patriot Act used in any investigation deemed relevant by the government.
“That is far too low a standard that the government can site and gain access to all sorts of private information that is being used to violate privacy of American citizens,” said Barr.
The private parts of innocent people have also been exposed, in an ever increasing build up of post-9/11 security. But after years of this reacting to 9/11 has the world become a safer place?
“I think it’s become more hostile,” said Bakker.
It appears for the US the more things change, the more some things stay the same.
“Opinions in the Middle East remain largely unfavorable,” reported Kohut on the attitudes towards the United States after Obama became president.
Nine years later at ground zero New York City is still rebuilding. They are working on a new tower and a memorial for the nearly 3,000 people who died in the attacks.
In that same time more than 5600 Americans have lost their lives in combat missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. That is not including the Iraqi death toll, for example, which conservative estimates put at 100,000.
Needless to say, when the new World Trade Center opens, slated for 2013, it will be a new world indeed.
Journalist and RT contributor Wayne Madsen has been in New York City for the second, fifth and now ninth anniversaries of the September 11th attacks.
He said that in that time he has seen many New Yorkers who are still seeking answers and closure.
“What they [New Yorkers] felt over this past weekend, by seeing all these anti-mosque people show up in New York and the Islamophobics, is that they feel this was a diversionary tactic by to get the attention off what happened on 9/11 for purely Neocon and other right wing political purposes and are very very unhappy that these individuals showed up to turn this into a political issue,” said Madsen.
Madsen explained that the people of New York are working to come together; Christians, Jews, and Muslims, and that these protests are contrary to those efforts. He also pointed out that there was a small mosque and Islamic prayer room inside the World Trade Center.
“People are using this whole issue for political cheap shots,” said Madsen.