As we prepare to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the tragedy of Sept. 11, 2001, all Americans and many around the world have vivid memories of that terrible morning: the nightmare vision of the twin towers collapsing, the impacts visited on the Pentagon and the field in Pennsylvania, the toll of dead and wounded among the victims and the rescue teams who sought to save them.
A decade later, it’s time to review the lessons we as a nation have taken from that terrible day. And, to ponder whether they are the right lessons to move our country and the rest of the world toward a place where terrorism – wherever it occurs and whoever initiates it – will forever be a thing of the past.
A good lesson, in the immediate aftermath, was the way people around the country came together to mourn our losses.
A good lesson was the way many bereaved families joined hands to proclaim a message of peace and social justice, under the banner of Sept. 11 Families for Peaceful Tomorrows.
Far less fortunate were the “lessons” that brought about the U.S. invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, and the deaths of many thousands of U.S. soldiers and innocent Iraqi and Afghan civilians.
Far less fortunate were the attacks, detention and deportation affecting thousands of immigrants especially from Middle Eastern and South Asian countries, the heightened anti-immigrant prejudice, the abuse of detainees abroad, the intensified domestic spying and surveillance.
Far less fortunate was the soaring military spending and the slashing of domestic human needs programs that has followed.
A decade on, it’s time and past time to recognize that none of these measures has made us safer. Instead, our country, and the world, have become far more dangerous places.
As the world’s wealthiest and most powerful country, the United States has a golden opportunity to lead for real security at home and abroad. That means a foreign policy of peace and cooperation – ending the wars, bringing the troops home, and instead, pooling our enormous material and intellectual resources with those around the globe to fight hunger, disease and poverty wherever they exist.
In today’s domestic political climate, that’s a tremendous challenge. It will take a huge grassroots mobilization. If we can meet that challenge, coming anniversaries will see lasting gains for real security.