9/11

9/11 and Its Legacy of Fear

Sept. 11th has changed America radically--and not for the better.

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Today marks the 11th anniversary of the Sept. 11th terrorist attacks. What, if anything, have we learned? In a Saturday statement, President Obama struck an upbeat note: "The legacy of 9/11," he said, is "the ability to say with confidence that no adversary and no act of terrorism can change who we are."

Who's he kidding? For us ordinary schlubs who don't own our own planes, a trip to the airport provides less reason for optimism. We shuffle shoeless through the security line, at the end of which government agents will either grope us or look at us naked. And despite his campaign trail promises to "set an example for the world that the law is not subject to the whims of stubborn rulers," Obama has forged an expanded "Terror Presidency," with dangerous new powers for all future presidents to wield.

Sept. 11th has changed America radically—and not for the better.

As security analysts John Mueller (a Cato senior fellow) and Mark G. Stewart point out in an important new article in International Security, it's far from clear that any of this was necessary. Though the FBI initially insisted America was riddled with up to 5,000 trained Al Qaeda operatives, an internal agency memorandum, leaked in 2005, admitted that "To date, we have not identified any true 'sleeper' agents in the US." At a certain point, Mueller and Stewart suggest, the absence of evidence becomes evidence of absence.

Last Thanksgiving, the Department of Homeland Security earned a lot of Twitter snark for its video warning Americans of the dangers of deep-frying turkeys. But turkey fryers kill about five Americans a year; jihadists have killed about 16 here since 9/11.

"In the eleven years since the September 11 attacks, no terrorist has been able to detonate even a primitive bomb in the United States," Mueller and Stewart note.

If you're having trouble with pipe bombs, Weapons of Mass Destruction are almost certainly beyond your competence. Though, as the authors explain, erstwhile "enemy combatant" Jose Padilla once planned a domestic nuclear attack: "His idea about isotope separation was to put uranium into a pail and then to make himself into a human centrifuge by swinging the pail around in great arcs."

Mueller and Stewart quote anthropologist Scott Atran: "Perhaps never in the history of human conflict have so few people with so few actual means and capabilities frightened so many." And we have erected monuments to that fear—vast bureaucratic pyramids erected in Al Qaeda's honor.

In their 2011 book, "Top Secret America: The Rise of the New American Security State," Washington Post reporters Dana Priest and William M. Arkin chronicle the growth of the post-9/11 "Intelligence-Industrial Complex": 1,200 agencies occupying three Pentagons' worth of office space. We've spent "hundreds of billions of dollars to turn the machine of government over to defeating terrorism," without seriously examining what we're buying with our money and lost liberty.

Meanwhile, 2008's promises to bring our National Surveillance State under the rule of law have vanished from the 2012 Democratic platform. In the middle of a fiscal crisis, Congress and President Obama have been subsidizing dystopia—using Homeland Security grants to fund the proliferation of surveillance cameras, drones and military ordnance for small-town police departments.

To commemorate the 10th anniversary of 9/11 last year, the conservative Heritage Foundation settled on a theme: "Never Quit." In the accompanying video, Heritage warned that "our continued security is anything but certain … withholding crucial resources and needlessly slashing defense" would dishonor those who died in the attacks. "We must never forget, and we must never quit."

Say what you will about Barack Obama–he's no quitter.

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  1. “no act of terrorism can change who we are.”

    The only exception to “9/11 changed everything”.

  2. “Travelers shuffle shoeless through the security line, at the end of which government agents will either grope them or look at them naked.”
    _
    taking ur shoes off doesnt change who we are.

    and, dont kid yourself, with all the *FAT* around, no one wants to see the avg naked man or woman.

    1. taking ur shoes off doesnt change who we are.

      Really?

      I know that 10 years ago if someone tried to grope me at airport security with no cause for alarm, I’d have told them to fuck off. Then again, I’d tell them to fuck off today too, so…

      1. Don’t worry, the day after Romney is elected o3 will be screaming about how the TSA is abusive and fascist.

        1. but what about teh FATZ?

        2. #1 reason I’d like to see Romney win:

          Suddenly, the Democrats and their band of stupid partisans will remember civil liberties again.

          1. …and then promptly whipe their asses with them again once their TEAM regains the white house.

            1. Obviously. But there will be more footage to play back at them, by then.

  3. What, if anything, have we learned?

    Not to let a good tragedy pass by without using it for political gain.

  4. “our continued security is anything but certain … withholding crucial resources and needlessly slashing defense” would dishonor those who died in the attacks. “We must never forget, and we must never quit.”

    Oh, for fuck’s sake.

    1. I love how on anything thing else (except the drug war), conservatives understand that more money does not equal better results, and that there’s always plenty of waste in government programs, but when it comes to the military, every penny is necessary and not wasted, increasing spending automatically means more security, and cutting spending always means we’re less safe

      1. Yup, that’s one of the (many) realizations that caused me to “evolve” from a conservative to a libertarian.

      2. I don’t think most conservatives believe that there is no waste in military, it’s just a trade off they want to make. That’s the main difference between them and libertarians: trade offs.

  5. ironic observation: saw a guy at the gym today in a t-shirt with CCCP across the front. He’s Russian but seeing it on 9/11 was interesting. Enemies to the state, real or perceived, never go away, they just change uniforms. In some ways, the old days were easier; mutually assured destruction had a way of tamping down the crazies.

  6. Let me fix Obama’s quote: “No act of terrorism can change who we are. Only I can change who we are”

    1. You win the Internets.

  7. We have nothing to fear but fear itself. And terrorists. And child molesters. And ebola. And clowns. And … I know i’m missing something, somebody help me out here.

    1. And apparently deep fried turkeys.

    2. and walter white

    3. People smoking a joint in their own homes. Unlicensed hair-braiders.

    4. Bath salts.

    5. Lemonade Stands

    6. Trans fats

    7. Guns

      1. Along with lawyers and money, right?

    8. Bankers

    9. Paying for rubbers

    10. Large Cokes

    11. Rap music

    12. An end to Medicare and Social Security

    13. x-rated films

  8. You forgot ratfuckers, T.

    They are totally the worst.

  9. There is little doubt that 9/11 changed things in the US. Supporters of individual rights, civil liberties and smaller governments saw many of their fears come to fruition through things like the Patriot Act, the TSA and Homeland Security. There is plenty of evidence that the fears brought about by the attacks resulted in an over reaction in which the consequences have been disastrous.

    But I still remember the week after 9/11 as one in which no one I knew believed that we were safe anywhere, and it was unheard of to believe we wouldn’t get attacked again. I can’t help but believe that a part of the reason we WERE NOT attacked again is due to our reaction. Whether or not it’s worth the price we paid is tough to say considering the fact that nothing happened.

    We should begin to dismantle the TSA, Homeland Security and the Patriot Act, but let’s not forget just how unfuckingbelievably terrible this day was, and why our reaction was the way it was.

    1. “I can’t help but believe that a part of the reason we WERE NOT attacked again is due to our reaction.”

      Stop it. There is absolutely no evidence of this. And every time a new “attack” is prevented, it turns out to have been some false flag operation or straight-up entrapment. The reason we were not attacked again is because an attack like that wouldn’t work again, and everyone knows it.

      1. but..but…THE CONSTITUTION IS NOT A SUICIDE PACT!1!!!1! or something….

      2. So this whole list is straight up either entrapment or false flags?

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/L…..ted_States

        And let’s not forget the subway bombings in England.

        There are several reasons we weren’t attacked again, but to say that the only reason was because “another attack like that wouldn’t work again” is fucking stupid. There are and remain plenty of ways to attack a soft target like the US.

        1. It’s solid investigation and intel. We didn’t need to create that goofball Homeland Security Dept., erode civil liberties and scorn people who don’t wear an American flag lapel.

          1. That’s why I said “We should begin to dismantle the TSA, Homeland Security and the Patriot Act”.

        2. Yes, the vast majority of that list is either entrapment or false flages. The rest were prevented using pre-Patriot-Act law enforcement tactics. And since when is England “We?” The subway bombings there just demonstrate the complete failure of the massive, rights-destroying surveillance state.

          1. The shoe bomber was a false flag?

            The Times Square car bomb was a false flag?

            Neither of these two were prevented, the only reason they didn’t happen was the incompetence of the bomber. Maybe you feel better depending on the incompetence of our attackers -oh, except for the ones on 9/11, they were pretty competent- but I don’t.

            The threat of attack is very real and I predict we will get hit again one day. We are simply too easy a target. But that doesn’t mean I believe in the Patriot Act, the TSA or Homeland Security. That doesn’t mean I don’t think we should do ANYTHING. There are better ways to implement enhanced counter-terrorist operations.

            1. Fascinating.

              “I can’t help but believe that a part of the reason we WERE NOT attacked again is due to our reaction.”

              and “The threat of attack is very real and I predict we will get hit again one day.”

              Yet you want to undo the reason that we have not been attacked again?

              I’m not saying we shouldn’t do ANYTHING. No one is, but that’s a very nice straw man. Like I said above, normal, Constitution-abiding law enforcement tactics should be used in counter-terrorism. The Times Square car bomb and the shoe bomber (And the Underwear Bomber, you forgot about him!) prove my point. These extra-legal tactics don’t actually prevent terrorist attacks. And again, those two (I’ll even grant you three) attacks do not constitute the “Vast majority” that I referred to above.

              1. Constitution-abiding law enforcement would include the right of citizens to carry firearms, including on an airplane.

                1. (which BTW I support)

              2. Yet you want to undo the reason that we have not been attacked again?

                That’s not what I said. I think the main reason we haven’t been attacked again is because the “information wall” that existed prior to 9/11 has been removed, and thus various agencies can cross reference intelligence in order to be more precise and accurate in analyzing the data. Homeland Security, the TSA, and the Patriot Act have nothing to do with that walls removal, thus why I believe they are no longer necessary.

                I think you’re missing the point of the Times square/shoe/underwear bombers. Those attacks weren’t really “prevented”. They just failed to go off due to the incompetence of the attacker.

                We simply got lucky. Our luck can’t last indefinitely.

              3. “I’m not saying we shouldn’t do ANYTHING. No one is”

                I am pretty sure that a lot of libertarians and liberals would like to have very minimal national security, if any. (That is until they learn that a lot of people do actually want us to die)

    2. Full-blown panic attacks by our leaders are not a good thing, Tman….

      1. That’s pretty much what I said -“There is plenty of evidence that the fears brought about by the attacks resulted in an over reaction in which the consequences have been disastrous.”

        But jesus, let’s not forget the unprecedented nature of an attack like this. This wasn’t some kid with a Ak-47 in a movie theater. This was an attack that permanently altered the fucking SKYLINE of New York City. I’m not defending the over reaction, but I’m not condemning it either.

        1. We just happened to be the target of some well-organized psychos.

          Now, if those hijackers parachuted out of the planes before they were hit and scrambled out of NYC through an underground network, I would say we have a problem on our hands….

          1. Actually, suicide bombers are much worse because they can follow through the attack to its completion. Ask Israel how easy it is to prevent suicide attacks.

            1. You can stop the attack, but not the suicide.

    3. I can’t help but believe that a part of the reason we WERE NOT attacked again is due to our reaction.

      If we had just waved it off and done nothing, we would have gotten attacked again. I don’t think there’s much doubt of that.

      The reaction that worked was invading Afghanistan and (arguably) Iraq. The terrorists and their state allies weren’t expecting that, and it did a lot of damage and diverted a lot of terrorist resources.

      Did the domestic security theater of the TSA prevent a single attack? I really doubt it. Did all the other domestic anti-terror activity? Maybe.

  10. The Manhattan Raid was a crime, pure and simple.

    It’s kind of fun to see, in a perverse way, how fuckin’ scaredy-cat American Tuff-Guys responded and continue to shit their pants over it.

  11. Jose Padilla once planned a domestic nuclear attack: “His idea about isotope separation was to put uranium into a pail and then to make himself into a human centrifuge by swinging the pail around in great arcs.”

    Can’t tell if this is a joke or serious. And that right there is about as poignant a statement as can be made about the true offensive capabilities of Al-Qaeda and other affiliated terrorists. We’ve given up our civil liberties because of these people?

  12. But what does Jesse Ventura think?

  13. So because some terrorists are crazy, it should be assumed all are crazy?

    Anyway, I love how True Libertarians go ape-shit over every no-knock raid gone bad, which of course proves the evil guilt of every cop who ever lived and who ever will live.

    But even after 10,000-plus acts of Islamic Murder against the West since the early 70s (or maybe even going back to Palestinian Sirhan Sirhan killing R. Kennedy), the Libertarian Response: “Why, you’re a small-minded fearful idiot for even paying attention. Who cares? People die all the time. Why bother? And oh by the way, Bush should have done more to prevent 9-11, but anything that we did after 9-11 to prevent future attacks has been pointless. And who can forget the BlowBack?”

    1. What the fuck are you trying to say here? That Libertarians don’t support rational self-defense?

    2. Wow. You can’t even set up an effective strawmn, you pathetic douche.

    3. Can you cite where an actual Libertarian said that? And another one agreed?

    4. You do realize Sirhan Sirhan was a Palestinian Christian? Which kind of aids the argument that there’s more going on than just a religious war?

  14. How about those Muslim Egyptians today?

  15. The attackers set out to hurt our pride and ended up causing us to destroy our own country. They were successful beyond their wildest dreams.

    1. I live in the United States. What country do you live in that is “destroyed”?

        1. America is destroyed? I get up everyday and see that is not.

        2. P.S. For those who don’t get it . . .

          America was once a great idea ? in fact America IS an idea, much more than a place. But now it’s just another corrupt nation state.

          Doug Casey

  16. We’re screwed because so few people not only don’t care about civil liberties, they’re not even aware of them. They just want to be “safe”

    Take the end of this conversation I had last weekend about drones with a friend. Mind you, this guy has an MBA and CPA and makes 6 figures.

    MBA guy: So what, Obama’s only killing terrorists
    Me: But he droned an American citizen and killed his 16 year old son while he was at it.
    MBA guy: They were terrorists! Who cares?!
    Me: But who decides who’s a terrorist?
    MBA: They do.
    Me: Who?
    MBA: Them. The CIA and President. Whoever.
    Me: So, Top Men?
    MBA: Yeah whatever.
    Me: So fuck the 4th Amendment?
    MBA: What’s that?
    Me: Left room shaking my head to get alcohol.

  17. It did not change American character it simply exposed it for what it was. It exposed the myth that Americans are freedom loving at a very fundamental cultural level, just check out half the comments here, and this is supposed to be a libertarian site, imagine how much freedom loving there is at other US sites.

  18. The government’s agents and apologists try to deflect attention from disturbing facts by redefining factual evidence revealed by experts as the product of “a conspiracy culture.” If people despite their brainwashing and lack of scientific education are able to absorb the information made available to them, perhaps both the US Constitution and peace could be restored. Only informed people can restrain Washington and avert the crazed hegemonic US government from destroying the world in war.

    Paul Craig Roberts

  19. Reason needs some correspondents that know something about the middle east and military history.

    1. Heck, I wouldn’t even care if the middle east/military history correspondent was a “US government is Zionist controlled and just wants Afghanistan’s gold” crackpot. At least both of those views are more representative of actual middle eastern views than anything I’ve seen Reason address.

  20. There is too much debates on this 3/11 issues, but the question is where west standing against the Al Qyda, they control the activities and Osama is dead now, still there are so many Al Qyda leaders are independently doing their work.

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