When I think about 9/11. it’s not some random event that I witnessed on TV, but a real tangible happening in my then home town of Manhattan.
I knew people who worked there, and who sadly perished. And I was drawn to the wreckage by a sense of misplaced guilt that I had not been there myself at the time.
I’d actually been on the 91st floor of the World Trade Centre in 1993, when the Ryder Truck bomb went off, and had felt first hand both the impact of a blast that vaporised 6 floors below ground, and filled our office with smoke in a matter of minutes.
But life had to go on, as it always does, and despite the plumes of acrid smoke that drifted uptown for weeks afterwards, and the incessant clear-up operation, life did go on, and by Christmas NYC was humming again.
The reaction of the USA and its allies to 9/11, however, has had much longer lasting ramifications, which are still continuing. The 12 year war in Afghanistan has cost not only billions of dollars. And the conflict with Iraq expended much political capital, and the will to engage in further military conflict.
You only had to listen to President Obama’s speech Tuesday night to realise that the USA is tired of war, and the U.S. government has a major PR job to do to persuade its people of the dubious virtue of airstrikes in Syria, even with the caveat that there will be no boots on the ground. We no longer have the comfort of a ‘World Policeman’ and everyone knows it - even the President.
For 9/11, a stand-alone terrorist attack, to have destabilised the West in the way it has must be a historic first. Not since the days of the Crusades has so much anger and resentment been stirred up in the Islamic Middle East.
And just like the Crusaders, the West has come away with a bloody nose. We who used to cosy up to so many Middle East dictators who ‘kept the peace’ now find ourselves taking the moral high ground and getting dragged into wars that are in essence tribal.
No longer can we see 9/11 as an event in isolation, however sad it was. It has been the catalyst for something much more dreadful.
image: © Scott Hudson