In the 1980s and 1990s, whenever you went to the airport, your family and friends went with you to the gate. They would embarrass you with hugs and kisses before you began your journey down the gangway and into the plane.
The cockpit door was sometimes open. People could drop in on long flights and get a quick tour. I once watched the sun rise from the cockpit.
Then, on September 11, 2001, everything changed. We gave into the fear of an attack on our country.
On a bright, sunny morning when President George W. Bush told us “you’re either with us or you’re against us,” I knew our fate was sealed. In that moment, I became “against us.”
I did not agree with the invasion of Iraq or Afghanistan. There were no ties between Saadam Hussein and Osama bin Laden. Hussein was not allied with bin Laden. I told my husband, “If we go in, we’re never leaving.” I didn’t agree with the toppling of two countries. If we must find bin Laden, then do it with small teams of SEALS. Do it through investigation and working with local people and those in charge in Afghanistan. There was no reason to start an unending war.
IRRATIONAL DESIRES LEAD TO MORE ENEMIES
We weren’t prepared for a war in Iraq or Afghanistan. We didn’t have a proper exit strategy. We didn’t learn from other countries’ mistakes.
No invasion has ever succeeded in Afghanistan. The country is too mountainous. Invaders have never controlled the entire country all at once. The Soviet Union couldn’t conquer Afghanistan.
Some of the invaders in the history of Afghanistan include the Maurya Empire of ancient India, Alexander the Great of Macedon, Umar, an Arab Caliphate, Genghis Khan of Mongolia, Timur of Persia and Central Asia, the Mughal Empire of India, various Persian Empires, the British Empire, the Sikh Empire, the Soviet Union, and most recently a coalition force of NATO troops, the majority from the United States, which entered the country in the first-ever invocation of NATO’s Article 5 “an attack on one is an attack on all” following the September 11 attacks in the United States.
No matter the strategy, it has failed. Yet, in our arrogance, anger and desire for revenge for 9/11, we let fear control our actions. Politicians know how to stoke fear, and Americans no longer seem to have the critical thinking skills to know when they are being played.
When I moved to Scottsbluff in 2007, a woman told me she was scared a terrorist was going to bomb Gering. I tried to calmly explain that it was unlikely such a thing would ever happen. She insisted it was extremely likely. Her husband told her so and he was a cop. He just got back from training on it. She believed the fear-mongering, which had been taking place daily for six years.
Two weeks before the 2017 total solar eclipse, a gentleman told me he feared a bombing might occur during the event. Alliance, and its tourist attraction Carhenge, would be a good target. If you have been following international politics and news over the past 40 years, you would know this is preposterous. But we cower in fear.
PROFITING FROM FEAR
From the beginning, we allowed those who stood to make money to dictate our actions and emotions. People reassured themselves – the government had better intel.
We allowed untested full body scanner machines in our airports to make us feel safer. Michael Chertoff, former Department of Homeland Security director, pushed for the machines and made a lot of money at taxpayer expense.
The series of tests were conducted by Homeland Security Red Teams who pose as passengers, setting out to beat the system.
According to officials briefed on the results of a recent Homeland Security Inspector General’s report, TSA agents failed 67 out of 70 tests, with Red Team members repeatedly able to get potential weapons through checkpoints.
In one test an undercover agent was stopped after setting off an alarm at a magnetometer, but TSA screeners failed to detect a fake explosive device that was taped to his back during a follow-on pat down.
We still want security theater because it feels good. We decided fear is a god we can all believe in. Fear unites us. And fear dictates our policy overseas, which has led to more people hating us who want to kill us. We allowed the Taliban to regain footholds. We created Daesh as they stepped in to fill the hole we did not or could not fill.
The death count in Afghanistan is nearing 100,000.
The study, “Mortality in Iraq Associated with the 2003–2011 War and Occupation: Findings from a National Cluster Sample Survey by the University Collaborative Iraq Mortality Study” found and estimated 500,000 Iraqis died as a direct result of the conflict since the invasion. How many of those people may have been sympathetic to the United States? Do you think their families, if any of them are left, like America now?
OUR POLICIES ARE NOT ABOUT JUSTICE, BUT FEAR AND CONTROL
We didn’t go after the right people. Fifteen of the 19 hijackers were Saudi citizens. Saudi officials supported the attacks. The New York Post reported on Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017, a lawsuit against the Saudi government alleges Saudi Arabia funded a “dry run” for the 9/11 attack.
9/11 was a tragedy in which 2,996 people lost their lives. The truth is, you can never be prepared for terrorism. It’s designed to strike fear into you. When you cower instead of remaining calm and thinking rationally, you lose. And we lost a lot more than people that day. We lost the ability make our own decisions, to think for ourselves and to remind ourselves of Present Franklin D. Roosevelt’s first inaugural address.
So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is…fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. In every dark hour of our national life a leadership of frankness and of vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory.
Instead of standing tall, we submitted to fear. For the past 16 years, we allowed that fear to control us. We fear that which is not like us. We are afraid of brown and black people. We are afraid of change. We are afraid of whatever those in power have decided we should be afraid of.
THE SOCIETAL IMPACT OF FEAR
The impact on American society is overwhelming. We have wasted trillions of dollars on two futile wars. Security theater keeps everyone in line. Our racial and religious ties have divided us. We are destroying ourselves. Osama bin Laden said this was his ultimate goal.
We are continuing this policy in bleeding America to the point of bankruptcy. Allah willing, and nothing is too great for Allah.
We, alongside the mujahedeen, bled Russia for 10 years until it went bankrupt and was forced to withdraw in defeat
He also said al Qaeda found it “easy for us to provoke and bait this administration.”
All that we have to do is to send two mujahedeen to the furthest point east to raise a piece of cloth on which is written al Qaeda, in order to make generals race there to cause America to suffer human, economic and political losses without their achieving anything of note other than some benefits for their private corporations,” bin Laden said.
Al Qaeda spent $500,000 on the 9/11 attack. Our cost has been trillions of dollars and a slow destruction of the country.
It is true that this shows that al Qaeda has gained, but on the other hand it shows that the Bush administration has also gained, something that anyone who looks at the size of the contracts acquired by the shady Bush administration-linked mega-corporations, like Halliburton and its kind, will be convinced.
And it all shows that the real loser is you,” he said. “It is the American people and their economy.”
So the war went ahead, the death toll rose, the American economy bled, and Bush became embroiled in the swamps of Iraq that threaten his future
Though groups like Daesh are terrifying, they would not have flourished if we hadn’t destroyed an entire region of the world.
While we walk in fear, we also glorify those who died and disrespect them at the same time. There is nothing not brave about running into a burning building to save people. The men and women who gave their lives to save others were courageous. The people who died just going to work should not be propped up as heroes. Their deaths are tragedies, but their deaths have been shunted into the fear narrative. Their lives have been elevated and beaten like the drums of war so we feel like fighting is the only way to give their lives meaning. But their lives had meaning. Dying in a tragedy doesn’t take that away from them.
As people wander the memorial in New York City, I’m reminded once again that, while they irrationally fear terrorism, they are also highly disrespectful. They walk the memorial taking selfies and making jokes. As much as I am hesitant to lift any victim onto a pedestal, I am angered when a solemn place of remembrance is made into tacky souvenirs and a “good place for a selfie” as one woman said in June 2017 when I visited the memorial.
There’s a lesson there we still haven’t learned. We’re still too interested in ourselves and our self-preservation to see the bigger picture.
WE ARE ALREADY AS SAFE AS WE CAN BE
9/11 was perpetrated by villains with box cutters. And we have made flying as safe as possible without a need for war or security theater.
“Only two things have made flying safer: the reinforcement of cockpit doors, and the fact that passengers know now to resist hijackers,” security expert Bruce Schenier told The Atlantic in 2008.
Schneier said, and I agree, everything else is a waste of time any money.
We screen for guns and bombs, so the terrorists use box cutters. We confiscate box cutters and corkscrews, so they put explosives in their sneakers. We screen footwear, so they try to use liquids. We confiscate liquids, so they put PETN bombs in their underwear. We roll out full-body scanners, even though they wouldn’t have caught the Underwear Bomber, so they put a bomb in a printer cartridge. We ban printer cartridges over 16 ounces — the level of magical thinking here is amazing — and they’re going to do something else.
This is a stupid game, and we should stop playing it.
We should, but fear will probably continue to overwhelm rationality. It’s hard to say Daesh, the Taliban, al Qaeda or any other terrorist group has won the fight. But we sure did lose.