September 11, 2011

Some things cannot be forgotten, even if we want to

Sobering numbers** (no terrorists in these numbers, just victims):

2966 victims in total
2639 American citizens
327 foreign nationals from 53 countries
247 people on four planes
343 NYFD firefighters
23 NYPD police officers
37 Port Authority police officers

No. I will never forget. I don't know about anyone else, but I can't forget. It replays in my mind at least once a day, sometimes several times throughout the day. Every time someone mentions New York, it is the first image that comes to mind. When I see a television special on firefighters, it replays inside my head. Whenever I see the CNN logo, it leaps up from my subconscious. It is one of the last images my brain retrieves as I am falling asleep at night.

I was in Tokyo. My wife called from work asking me if I was watching CNN. I wasn't.

"Something has happened in New York," she said, sounding puzzled. "It seems to be important. The World Trade Center is on fire."

I turned on CNN. The second plane hit about two minutes after I turned on the television. For the next 18 hours I stared in disbelief. I watched both towers implode. The one thought in my mind during that 18 hours was, "we trained them. Whoever did this, we trained them! Only someone we trained would have had the technical and logistical skill necessary to succeed."

I was not the least bit surprised when I learned it was a former mujahideen.

No, I don't think President Bush and/or Vice President Dick Cheney planned it and oversaw the operation as a false flag event. That thought never once crossed my mind. That would have required too many people and too many secrets. Believe it or not, our government is really lousy at keeping secrets. By the same token, right now somewhere in the world the CIA is training a terrorist. Oh, we aren't calling him a "terrorist". We're calling him a "freedom fighter". And today, that's what he is. Somewhere the CIA is training someone to fight against an unjust government that is oppressive, dictatorial, and murderous. It is, after all, the one thing the CIA does really, really well.

The problem is, once in awhile those guys get a taste for destruction. They enjoy it. When that happens and their current fight ends, they go looking for another one. Fidel Castro, for example, and his buddy Che Guevara. Osama bin Laden and the team leaders for each of the hijacking teams on 9/11 all benefitted from CIA training. When we train someone, we do it right. They are the best in the business and for some of them, it becomes their life's work. Once in awhile it comes back and bites us, but that is the price we pay for "nation building" and "bringing the light of democracy" around the world.

In the long run, we save American lives, tens of thousands, maybe even millions. The CIA and their work are quite possibly the main reason we haven't had another world war. Likewise, our men and women fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq for the past decade are the best in the world at what they do, bar none. They are the reason we haven't had another 9/11.

It is important to give credit where credit is due. It is important to learn from our mistakes. Maybe we should never have trained the mujahideen. Or maybe 9/11, as horrible as it was, is the price we had to pay in order to avoid a direct nuclear confrontation with the Soviet Union.

Life as a responsible adult is never a simple choice between good and evil. Almost every choice I have made since I turned eighteen has been a choice between the lesser of two evils. There are a lot of secrets I will carry to my grave. There are a lot of ghosts that haunt my nights. No, I had no hand in training the mujahideen. That particular ghost is not one of mine, which is partly why those towers burn so very brightly in my memory. I did know enough to recognize American handiwork, though. That was unmistakable. The telltale signature of American expertise is why so many conspiracy theories have grown up around 9/11. Yes, in far too many ways, it was our fault and we did it to ourselves. That does not mean we planned it and carried out, nor does it mean it was entirely avoidable.

We trained Osama bin Laden and his co-conspirators to fight the Russians. We armed them with weapons that were sometimes bought and sometimes stolen, or sometimes captured from Chinese-trained guerillas in South America. Our tax dollars gave Osama and his people the skills and tools they needed to drive the Soviets out of Afghanistan. When that war ended, they went looking for someone else to use those skills against. When we used Saudi Arabia as a launchpad to drive Saddam Hussein from Kuwait it gave them an excuse to turn and bite the hand that fed them.

Yes, we all share the guilt in those three thousand dead. No, it was not a secret conspiracy to topple America and bring on a New World Order. It had nothing to do with evil bankers, secret societies, Bilderberg, or the Council on Foreign Relations. It was much simpler than that. We trained a Saudi playboy to fight the Russians. Then we made him mad so he turned that training against us.

Life is like that. Sometimes our best intentions come back to kick us in the gut when we least expect it. I will go to my grave mourning everyone who died that sunny autumn morning. They were innocents from around the world going about their business in one of the finest cities mankind has ever raised. It is not fair that they had to pay such a heavy price just to avoid a nuclear confrontation between two arrogant superpowers. It is not fair that tens of thousands more have been killed, maimed, and wounded in revenge. Sadly, sometimes life is not about what's fair. Life is about what's necessary.

Bringing an end to Soviet occupation of Afghanistan was necessary. That defeat contributed greatly to bringing an end to the Soviet Union itself, which was even more necessary. It was not necessary for Osama bin Laden to destroy the World Trade Center, but he did it anyway. After he did, it most certainly was necessary to remind him the student had not surpassed the master. Not by a long shot.

I also still believe that it was not necessary to go into Iraq and topple Saddam Hussein, but we did it anyway. That debt has yet to be repaid. I fear it is coming due very, very soon.


**(The numbers cited here are from WikiAnswers)