Friday, September 9, 2011

Telling 9/11 Stories

Lots of people are tired of the tenth anniversary stories about September 11th, 2001.  So, skip this entry, but this post is a tale of two interviews.  I met separately with two students today representing different McGill newspapers: the McGill Tribune and Le Délit. The former is an independent (not supported by the student association) student newspaper, and the latter is the francophone student newspaper.  The two students had different agendas: one wanted my tale of the big day since I was in the Pentagon at the start of that day; the other wanted my take on how 9/11 facilitated American imperialism more or less.  [Updated: Here is the link to the Le Delit story.   Here is the Tribune story.]**
*  The piece is a polemic or an editorial.  It does a nice job of trivializing my point about imperialism, but the context is mostly clear if did its job well enoughf or me. 
**  The second piece gets a few things wrong:  The Metro stop was never closed, but the escalator that went directly into the building was.  Near the end of my year, they finished building an above ground entrance so that you can take the escalator up and then walk into the building.

The latter was significantly influenced by a conference held in Montreal yesterday, which apparently included conspiracy theorists, Al Qaeda deniers (folks who either deny AQ exists or consider it an arm of the US), and critics of American imperialism.  As folks who read this blog could guess, I was a bit more engaged in the second interview than the first, as I:
  • am always suspect when I hear the word imperialism since it is the perfect embodiment of the idea of conceptual stretching--a term used to mean so many different things that it has lost all meaning.
  • am quick to call anything approaching conspiracy theory about 9/11 as utter b.s.  Yes, the US had supported Afghans and others who fought the Soviet Union in the mid 1980's, but I do believe AQ declared war on the US before 9/11.  
  • am quite fine with people being critical of the US and its foreign policy.  I have made it abundantly clear that I was not a big fan of the Bush administration or its invasion of Iraq.  I just do not find it credible on any level that those guys would kill three thousand Americans (and risk many more lives) just to get some justification for the war they wanted.  Did they use 9/11 to their advantage?  Absolutely.  But did they create it?  No.
  • am willing to accept that "we brought it on ourselves" with our foreign policy.  I don't find it offensive to suggest that American foreign policy made the US a target for transnational terrorism.  That does not mean that I think it was ok and fine for civilians to be targeted, but I understand the processes that led to the choices made by the adversary. Being a superpower involved the Middle East made the US a target, especially by supporting despotic regimes (that would be Saudi Arabia and Egypt).  I am not saying we should not have supported them (that is a complex issue for another post), but that the policies had foreseeable consequences and tradeoffs.
    • I am pretty sure that AQ and its ilk would have targeted the US even if Israel was making deals with the Palestinians.  I do think the Palestinian cause does matter to folks in the Arab world, but I also think that AQ and others have used the cause rather than sincerely have the condition of the Palestinians as their main objective.
  • am frustrated that we have to hear this crap again.  But then, those who do not engage in reality-based thinking tend not to have a learning curve.  Harsh, but there it is. 
And, yes, one might guess correctly which student journalist was asking the questions about my experience and which one was asking about the conspiracy stuff.  Francophones may have a higher percentage of skepticism about American intentions (I believe the polls bear this out), but, to be clear, I have had plenty of anglophone Quebeckers report beliefs that buy into the conspiracy theorists.  It is not strictly along linguistic divides.  But it does reflect a national divide.  That is, I doubt that I would get quite as much conspiracy theorizing about 9/11 in the US from college students, although I am know some of it does exist wherever the reality-averse dwell.

Will this post attract comments from the reality-averse community?  Perhaps, but it is my blog, and I can use this occasion to repeat my usual statements about September 11th, such as:
  • We saw it with our own eyes.
  • AQ claimed credit for it.
  • The conspiracy theorists require us to believe that the Bush Administration was super-competent and the FBI and the CIA could get along.
  • Occam's Razor, baby.
  • Thinking that a small group of Arabs could not possibly do this might just be a bit racist.

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