SYNDICATED COLUMN: We Learned Nothing From 9/11

Ten Years Later, Americans Still Stupid and Vulnerable

They say everything changed on 9/11. No one can dispute that. But we didn’t learn anything.

Like other events that forced Americans to reassess their national priorities (the Great Depression, Pearl Harbor, Sputnik) the attacks on New York and Washington were a traumatic, teachable moment.

The collective attention of the nation was finally focused upon problems that had gone neglected for many years. 9/11 was a chance to get smart—but we blew it.

First and foremost the attacks gave the United States a rare opportunity to reset its international reputation. Even countries known for anti-Americanism offered their support. “We are all Americans,” ran the headline of the French newspaper Le Monde.

The century of U.S. foreign policy that led to 9/11—supporting dictators, crushing democratic movements, spreading gangster capitalism at the point of a thousand nukes—should and could have been put on hold and reassessed in the wake of 9/11.

It wasn’t time to act. It was time to think.

It was time to lick our wounds, pretend to act confused, and play the victim. It was time to hope the world forgot how we supplied lists of pro-democracy activists to a young Saddam Hussein so he could collect and kill them, and forget the “Made in USA” labels on missiles shot into the Gaza Strip from U.S.-made helicopter gunships sold to Israel.

It was time, for once, to take the high road. The Bush Administration ought to have treated 9/11 as a police investigation, demanding that Pakistan extradite Osama bin Laden and other individuals wanted in connection with the attacks for prosecution by an international court.

Instead of assuming a temperate, thoughtful posture, the Bush Administration exploited 9/11 as an excuse to start two wars, both against defenseless countries that had little or nothing to do with the attacks. Bush and company legalized torture and ramped up support for unpopular dictatorships in South and Central Asia and the Middle East, all announced with bombastic cowboy talk.

Smoke ’em out! Worst of the worst! Dead or alive!

By 2003 the world hated us more than ever. A BBC poll showed that people in Jordan and Indonesia—moderate Muslim countries where Al Qaeda had killed locals with bombs—considered the U.S. a bigger security threat than the terrorist group.

In fairness to Condi Rice, Don Rumsfeld and Bush’s other leading war criminals, everyone else went along with them. The media refused to question them. Democratic politicians, including Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, cast votes in favor of Bush’s wars. Democrats and leftist activists ought to have pushed for Bush’s impeachment; they were silent or supportive.

9/11 was “blowback”—proof that the U.S. can’t wage its wars overseas without suffering consequences at home. But we still haven’t learned that lesson. Ten years later, a “Democratic” president is fighting Bush’s wars as well as new ones against Libya, Somalia and Yemen. Now he’s saber-rattling against Syria.

American officials correctly inferred from 9/11 that security, particularly at airports but also in ports where container ships arrive daily from around the world, had been lax. Rather than act proactively to close gaps in transportation security, however, bureaucrats for the new Department of Homeland Security created a gauntlet of police-state harassment so onerous that it has threatened the financial health of the aviation industry.

“Aviation security is a joke, and it’s only a matter of time before terrorists destroy another airplane full of innocent passengers,” wrote Barbara Hollingsworth of The Washington Examiner after the 2009 “underwear bomber” scare. As Hollingsworth pointed out, the much-vaunted federal air marshals have been removed from flights because the TSA is too cheap to pay their hotel bills. (This is illegal.) What’s the point of taking off your shoes, she asked, when planes are still serviced overseas in unsecured facilities? No one has provided an answer.

Ten years after 9/11, there is still no real security check when you board a passenger train or bus. Perhaps the sheer quantity of goods arriving at American ports makes it impossible to screen them all, but we’re not even talking about the fact that we’ve basically given up on port security.

While we’re on the subject of post-9/11 security, what about air defenses? On 9/11 the airspace over the Lower 48 states was assigned to a dozen “weekend warrior” air national guard jets. Every last one of them was on the ground when the attacks began, allowing hijacked planes to tool around the skies for hours after they had been identified as dangerous.

Which could easily happen again. According to a 2009 report by the federal General Accounting Office on U.S. air defenses: “The Air Force has not implemented ASA [Air Sovereignty Alert] operations in accordance with DOD, NORAD, and Air Force directives and guidance, which instruct the Air Force to establish ASA as a steady-state (ongoing and indefinite) mission. The Air Force has not implemented the 140 actions it identified to establish ASA as a steady-state mission, which included integrating ASA operations into the Air Force’s planning, programming, and funding cycle. The Air Force has instead been focused on other priorities, such as overseas military operations.”

Maybe if it stopped spending so much time and money killing foreigners the American government could protect Americans.

On 9/11 hundreds of firefighters and policemen died because they couldn’t communicate on antiquated, segregated bandwidth. “Only one month away from the 10th anniversary of 9/11,” admits FCC chairman Julius Genachowski, “our first responders still don’t have an interoperable mobile broadband network for public safety. Our 911 call centers still can’t handle texts or pictures or video being sent by the phones that everyone has.”

Because the corporate masters of the Democratic and Republican parties love the low wage/weak labor environment created by illegal immigration, American land borders are intentionally left unguarded.

A lot changed on 9/11, but not everything.

We’re still governed by corrupt idiots. And we’re still putting up with them.

What does that say about us?

(Ted Rall is the author of “The Anti-American Manifesto.” His website is



  • What does that say about us?

    We would speak up, but we gave up that freedom with many others with the “Patriot” Act.

    We are guilty until proven innocent by the rent-a-cops of the TSA. (Seriously, these overweight losers are our best defense?)

    About six years ago I was traveling on business and after having my carry-on baggage examined and my feet checked I went to the gate to wait for the plane. While sitting waiting for the flight, I was approached by a white-shirted TSA manager. He asked my name and after stupidly telling him who I was, I was asked to undergo a secondary screening.

    Fortunately, I did not care if I went on this trip or not, it was on the government’s dime and if I didn’t make the trip no one would die and no sales would be lost. So I asked the man from TSA a very nasty question.


    “Why do I need a secondary screening? I was told at that point to be quiet and let them check my bags and person.”

    Another fateful question.

    “What are you looking for?”

    At that point his demeanor changed and I could see the fire in his eyes. I know that bureaucratic glare and knew that I was NOT going to be read the Riot Act or be told anything else. It was none of my business.

    Then I asked the penultimate question.

    “Where is your search warrant or your authority to do this?”

    At that point, armed airport security escorted me, my offending bag and offensive shoes to the door and was told that I would not fly again.

    It has been great, I no longer am asked by my boss if I want to go to some dreadful meeting in DC and I still am allowed to drive where ever I want. But I do notice State Troopers taking down my tag number. It is just a matter of time before I have to walk or kayak to destinations.

    We need more civil disobedience. It will make more patriots and will take the teeth out of the “Patriot” Act.

  • “The Bush Administration ought to have treated 9/11 as a police investigation, demanding that Pakistan extradite Osama bin Laden and other individuals wanted in connection with the attacks for prosecution by an international court.”

    That’s it.
    Dorme bene.

  • DuJour, I’m sorry you had to put up with that, especially when Mexicans can just walk their ass into this country without so much as an “ola” from any border guard.

    People call the 9/11 Truthers “tin-foil hat” wearers, but everything that has happened since then has only reinforced their position that the attacks were an inside-job.

  • Mexicans know what “rule” or “law” they are breaking.

    All I wanted to know is what was probable cause. But I guess true Patriots shut up, stand in line, and wiggle in their socks.

  • If you would watch the movie, ‘The Distinguished Gentleman’ or read the Supreme Court rulings, you’d know that the sole purpose of the US government is to put baksheesh into the pockets of elected officials and senior civil servants, and the US government is doing an excellent job of that, the best in the world. What more could the voters possibly want?

  • I saw that the latest USA Today advertising Dick Cheney’s new memoir front-and-center. “Packing a punch”, they proclaim.

    Forget conspiracy theories, how about arrogant revisionism by corrupt officials being accepted in the media?

  • I was pleasantly surprised to read in the last paragraph that you consider our unenforced immigration laws to be a problem. This usually isn’t the case for people, like yourself, on the left. But it is obvious that one can’t have both a welfare state and an open border. Here, in California, it is clear we’ve chosen an open border. Jerry Brown probably won’t admit it, but all he is really doing as governor is presiding over the dismantling of what used to be a pretty good welfare system.