In past 9/11 anniversary posts, I have discussed my anger for the wasted national unity and lost opportunities. Last year, I noted my anger that the Trump Administration has been doing awful things. This year? We are losing a 9/11 of people every couple of days due to the bungled response to the pandemic AND the economic hardships of this disaster vastly outweigh the damage done 19 years ago.
While there were mistakes made that prevented the US from stopping the terrorist attack, those were mostly mistakes inherent in bureaucratic politics and dealing with an adversary that learns. COVID doesn't think and try to out-strategize the US government. Instead, the US government under Trump acts as the virus's best ally, politicizing masks, denying the realities, and not doing what it takes to minimize the spread of the disease.
The recent revelations in the Woodward book fit into the typical Trump category of appalling but not surprising. Of course, Trump knew this disease was nasty and spread via air. Of course, Trump decided to downplay it so that he would not have to do anything costly to manage the crisis. Of course, he ignored the scientists. Of course, he cared more the stock market than about the American people. Of course, his government is now siphoning money meant for those firefighters harmed on 9/11 because he hates NYC.
I have been trying to focus on hope, on the optimism that that Trump will be gone soon. But the next two months are going to be brutal with more Americans dying unnecessary, with more damage done to American institutions, America's place in the world, and so on. I really look forward to not noticing the White House or the President for day's at a time. Well, if there is an election.
So, what is the meaning of 9/11 this year, 19 years later? It is a generation, after all. Perhaps after next year (because we like round numbers), we can focus on the greater threat to the American people, which is ... us. The threats we face--white supremacy, out of control police departments, climate change, and disease--all require Americans to take action. To put pressure on politicians to take these threats seriously as Americans are threatened far more by these challenges than Islamist inspired terrorism.
It is time to move from 9/11. The pandemic combined with the realization that most police departments are beyond civilian control should make us realize that the problems are at home. I am not suggesting that we need to be isolationist. The pandemic proves that American leadership in the world is in American interests. But the pandemic also proves that American strength in the world depends on having its act together at home. And to do that, we have to undo some of the reactions to 9/11, such as creating the Department of Homeland Security. Along with disbanding ICE, DHS needs to be broken up.
To invoke one of my "laws," just because you made a bad decision in the past does not mean it has to bind you in the present and future. Much of the work of the Biden Administration* will be undoing Trump's damage, but he should go back further to undo Bush's. 9/11 was an awful day, and Islamist terrorism is still a problem in the world. But it is time to move on. Fix the overreactions, be more humble about what the US can achieve, and get one's own house in order.
* If there is no Biden Administration, everything will be so fucked up that the question will be how Americans handle autocracy. Not a post for today.