The Volokh Conspiracy
Mostly law professors | Sometimes contrarian | Often libertarian | Always independent
Today is the anniversary of the 9/11 attack. I have written about my memories of and reflections on that event and its aftermath before. I will not recapitulate all of that in this post. But here is a link to my piece on that subject, written on the twentieth anniversary of the attack. A brief excerpt:
On the day of 9/11, I was clerking for a federal judge in Houston, Texas. I first heard about the attacks listening to the radio on my way to work that morning. The dial was tuned to a "top 40" station that almost never had any news. So when they interrupted the usual programming to say that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center, I assumed it must be some sort of hoax. I had read about the 1938 "War of the Worlds" radio program scare (some listeners were convinced there was an actual alien invasion). I thought this might be the same sort of thing.
When I got to the office and turned on my computer, I could not load the CNN website; too many other people were trying to access it. That's when I knew the attack was real.
Business in our judge's chambers went on more or less normally for most of the day. But I did call some people I knew in the New York area to see about their safety. The longest of these conversations was with the brother of a Muslim friend who worked near the Twin Towers. By the time we spoke (it was late morning), we already knew the attack was likely the work of radical Islamist terrorists. We discussed the implications for US foreign policy, and also the possibility of an upsurge of anti-Muslim bigotry at home. We both thought there would be a strong military response, and also both were in favor of the idea; I still think it was necessary, though many in retrospect disagree.
With respect to the other issue, I said historical precedent…. suggested such a backlash could well happen. But I also thought there would be more resistance to it than in earlier eras….
To an extent, I turned out to be right; but only to an extent…..
We do have at least one piece of unfinished business left over from 9/11 and the resulting twenty-year war in Afghanistan: giving permanent refuge to the Afghans who fled here in the aftermath of the Taliban's return to power, including many who had previously assisted US forces or promoted human rights in their country.
In the aftermath of the fall, the US took in thousands of Afghans fleeing the brutal new government, including many who had fought on the side of the US or worked to promote human rights. Unfortunately, to this day, the US government still has not granted permanent residency to Afghans who entered the US based on executive "parole." As a result, most of the Afghans remain in legal limbo, making it difficult for them to fully integrate into American society. That's bad for both them and the US economy….
In an August 2021 post, I went over the many reasons why the US should grant refuge to Afghans fleeing the Taliban. They include general moral considerations against barring refugees fleeing violence and oppression, the unusually heinous nature of the oppression Afghans face under Taliban rule (worse than most "ordinary" dictatorships), national security interests, and the US government's significant share of responsibility for the Taliban's return to power (both the Trump and Biden administrations deserve hefty shares of blame).
I won't go over these points again here. I will merely note that all of them justify granting permanent, not just temporary refuge. The oppression the parolees face if forced to return is just as bad now as two years ago. And granting permanent refuge will serve US national security and foreign policy interests better than a mere temporary reprieve. People who aid US forces in war and help promote human rights in alliance with us should know that we will give them permanent refuge, if needed, not just a brief stay of execution.
On this anniversary, we should remember those lost on 9/11. And we should also do right by the Afghan victims of the Taliban and our failures in the war against it.