John R. MacArthur, publisher of Harper's Magazine, highlights the hypocrisy and hidden agenda of the official narrative of a supposedly innocent America promoted by “opportunistic politicians”. By now anyone who reads beyond Fox News should know that Bin Laden was a former CIA asset, that the two post 9/11 wars have been utterly disastrous, and that the US has
“severely damaged the historic right of habeas corpus, and curtailed civil liberties by engaging in illegal surveillance and entrapment of "potential terrorists" on a scale not seen since the height of anticommunist paranoia during the Cold War. The torture conducted at Abu Ghraib and the prisons at Guantanamo and Bagram Air Force Base are stains on the American soul, while the FBI's grossly unconstitutional practice of enticing Muslim-Americans into fictional "terror plots" is a scandal that deserves much greater exposure.”
MacArthur asks “How can we understand all of this anti-libertarian, ‘un-American’ activity?” and suggests, quite rightly, that “Such angry, costly, and ultimately self-defeating overreactions can only be traced back to the wounded innocence that makes up so much of the American psyche.”
A false sense of exceptionalism and innocence has enabled the United States to overlook its own acts of genocide, imperialism, “brutal colonial war” and related acts that led intellectuals such as Noam Chomsky to label the USA as the world’s leading terrorist state. These are the facts that get swept under the rug when 9/11 silly season rolls around and American streets get covered in flags and bibles.
As the nation drapes itself in a sense of its innocence and remembers those who were brutally killed by terrorists ten years ago, it is important to stand against what MacArthur calls the ‘ongoing legacy of 9/11’ – ‘more of the same: more killing in the name of saving lives, more repression in the name of defending liberty, more camouflaged Christian piety in the name of freedom of religion, more hypocrisy in the name of "American" values of truth and justice, more massacres of the English language (terrorism is a tactic not an ideology) in the name of straight talk.’
He is right, this is not the legacy Americans deserve, and it is the wrong memorial for the victims of 9/11.
And it is not just the reviled left-wing intellectuals who call for a counter-narrative to the contemporary 9/11 memory. Conservative commentators such as Margaret Wente, writing in Canada’s national newspaper, The Globe and Mail, notes that ‘a wounded giant is rarely rational. Over the next decade, the U.S. paid a steep price in blood and money, in moral capital and in international prestige. And the wounds it suffered after 9/11 were largely self-inflicted.’
The massive security industries have profited mightily from a post-9/11 world, and the American people have suffered greatly, not at the hands of terrorists (“As terrorism expert Bruce Schneier concludes: “There aren’t very many Islamist terrorists, and most are incompetent”), but at the hands of their own government and corporations, which use the memory of 9/11 for political gain and economic profit.
It is time to remember 9/11 a different way.