As every one of us, I remember that day as if it were yesterday. I thought life as we know it would change. No safe flying anymore, periodic announcements of the next aeroplane gone down, things like that. It may seem stupid to say it now, but it wasn’t so much at the time.
I remembered the terrorist years in Italy: they had started slow and then had become a truly dramatic phase in the life of the Republic. I really thought it would get worse before it gets better.
Nine years later I pray, like everyone else, for the victims of this heinous act.
But I would also like to share some reflections:
1) Huge, huge kudos to the security services and information agencies of all Western countries. It is now nine years and Nine Eleven never repeated. This is a stunning success. Perhaps this was achieved at the price of some rendition flights, some harsh prison conditions and some waterboarding to boot. Fine with me. We’ll never know how many lives have been saved.
2) The declared aim of the terrorists was to change the way we live. To make us feel afraid of living our free way of life. The mission is, emphatically, not accomplished.
3) That terrible day has brought on the Arab world a series of humiliations. Two countries invaded as a result of the attack, several others (like Syria and Jordan) told to choose the right side, sharpish, or face war. The Arab/Mulsim history is full of humiliations from the West (from the First Crusade to the Reconquista, from Lepanto to the European colonisation), but this was a sudden awakening to their utter military and social inferiority, (the religious one goes without saying) on their own ground.
Every Arab now knows that a strike to the West brings back humiliations on a multiple scale of the offence caused. Not a good investment. I wonder how many of them admire those idiots. A very tiny minority, I think.
4) From 9/11, paradoxically, hope also sprang. In Afghanistan, things might become less savage in the next years and in Iraq a most cruel and dangerous dictatorship has been replaced by an uncertain democracy now trying to walk unassisted. If it works in Iraq, democracy might spread to other countries. It will depend on the locals of course, but even from the humiliation of a foreign invasion a new dawn and a new hope has arisen.
As an Italian, I see in this what has happened in my own Country.
5) Bin Laden is just ignored. Forgotten. More dead than Disco for the media, probably truly dead since 2001 or 2002 anyway. Nine years later, he doesn’t even help to sell newspapers anymore. In the meantime, his people continue to die like flies, hunted down all over the planet.
6) Nine years later, the West discovers that it is stronger than ever. Iraq is on the way to trying to become a half-decent country; Afghanistan trying not to become a Taliban state; people in the West are flying, holidaying, living as they did before.
Nine years later, Ronald Reagan’s slogan remains more valid than ever: we win, they lose.