Sunday 11 September 2011

9/11 Ten Years On

If there's been a bigger news story than 9/11 in my life time I certainly don't know what it is.

Even now 10 years on, watching the footage of the Twin Towers collapsing still makes me think 'Did this really happen?' I'm still fascinated and shocked by the whole event.

As part of the generation that grew up towards the end of the Cold War, I imagined the world would be a safer place after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union.

9/11 made me realise this wasn't the case. You knew where you stood during the Cold War days. Suddenly there was a new danger out there, a new enemy which we knew little about and was totally different to anything we'd seen before.

If you want to know where I was on 9/11 I was temping at the London School of Economics. Apart from remembering how boring the job was, 9/11 was the one thing that stood out from my time there.

After getting home and watching the news coverage that night, I remember going to work the next day thinking 'What's going on the in the world?'

I imagined it might have been like this during the Second World War. That sense of danger, knowing that you were at war with an enemy that hated you and could attack at any time. Looking back it was scary stuff.

A couple of days later I went into a book shop at the college and bought a book called The Islamic Threat - Myth or Reality?

The book asked the question whether Islam and the West were on some sort of collision course and if so why. Clearly after 9/11 they'd already collided, but I wanted to understand why this had happened.

I had this intense desire to try and make sense of it all. I wanted to understand why some Muslims in the world hated America and the West so much they were prepared to fly planes into skycrapers and kill thousands of innocent people.

So on the tenth anniversary of 9/11 is the world a safer place? Has America and the West understood the causes of Islamic extremists?

It's debatable. A few months after 9/11 US forces invaded Afghanistan to take on the Taliban. 10 years later they're still there and we still don't know what victory will look like or if it will ever happen.

US and NATO Forces were meant to crush the Al Qaeda supporting Taliban regime and bring about democracy. The Taliban may not be in power but they're still part of Afghan society, whilst democracy is still struggling to survive.

As for Iraq, this has been an even bigger disaster. Despite no evidence linking Saddam Hussien to 9/11 or Islamic terrorism. It still presented the perfect opportunity for 'regime change' for the likes of former US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other Neo-Cons in the Bush Administration.

It's all very well having 'regime change' but what about after the change of regime? What happens next? Not much thought was given to that.

Earlier this year we saw the killing of Al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden who'd been in hiding in Pakistan. I suppose this brought some form of closure for many Americans, but Bin Laden's death was more a symbolic event. Al Qaeda aren't the danger they were, despite America telling us of their continued threat.

If the truth be known, for most of us living in the West our lives are pretty peaceful. 9/11 was a spectacular one off - a one off that changed the course of history, but still something unimaginable.

We have become more aware of extremist Muslim views around the world even in the UK, but much of their hatred and anger against the West has no real logic or objective. They're just anti the West because they hate the West. They have no political goals or objectives to offer ordinary Muslims.

We've seen with the recent 'Arab Spring' uprisings in the Middle East that many Muslims aren't looking for radical Islam to change their lives, they want modern Western ideals and values like democracy, political freedom and prosperity. Extremism can't give them these things.

Looking back, if 9/11 changed anything then it's changed the way the world sees America.

We're seeing the decline of the world's only Super Power. In years to come we'll see 9/11 as very much part of America's decline as a major power.

Never before had we seen the US attacked on its own soil. It reacted by starting two foreign wars with limited success, and which as a result only added to the huge financial and economic difficulties the country is currently experiencing.

9/11 showed that America could be vulnerable like anyone else, and despite it's economic and military power it's been unable to truly defeat the causes of those terrorist attacks.

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