We have still not woken up to whom we have become, to the fatal erosion of domestic and international law and the senseless waste of lives, resources and trillions of dollars to wage wars that ultimately we can never win. We do not see that our own faces have become as contorted as the faces of the demented hijackers who seized the three commercial jetliners a decade ago. We do not grasp that Osama bin Laden's twisted vision of a world of indiscriminate violence and terror has triumphed. The attacks turned us into monsters, grotesque ghouls, sadists and killers who drop bombs on village children and waterboard those we kidnap, strip of their rights and hold for years without due process. We acted before we were able to think. And it is the satanic lust of violence that has us locked in its grip.
As Wordsworth wrote:
Action is transitory -- a step, a blow,
The motion of a muscle -- this way or that --
'Tis done; and in the after-vacancy
We wonder at ourselves like men betrayed:
Suffering is permanent, obscure and dark,
And has the nature of infinity.
We could have gone another route. We could have built on the profound
sympathy and empathy that swept through the world following the attacks.
The revulsion over the crimes that took place 10 years ago, including
in the Muslim world, where I was working in the weeks and months after
9/11, was nearly universal. The attacks, if we had turned them over to
intelligence agencies and diplomats, might have opened possibilities not
of war and death but ultimately reconciliation and communication, of
redressing the wrongs that we commit in the Middle East and that are
committed by Israel with our blessing. It was a moment we squandered.
Our brutality and triumphalism, the byproducts of nationalism and our
infantile pride, revived the jihadist movement. We became the radical
Islamist movement's most effective recruiting tool. We descended to its
barbarity. We became terrorists too. The sad legacy of 9/11 is that the
a**holes, on each side, won.