The World Trade Center towers on fire after the attack on Sept. 11, 2001. Photo courtesy of The Commons

Thoughts on the 9/11 Tragedy

The tragedy of 9/11 has come, been acknowledged with great ceremony, and gone. But not the aftereffects. Slightly less than 3,000 lives were lost on that momentous occasion. As a direct result of this destruction and loss of life, we have fought two wars and essentially lost both of them.

In Afghanistan alone, during the 20 years of war we lost 6,241 military and civilian contractors’ lives, which exceeds the death toll of 9/11 twice over (Skeptical Inquirer Magazine). If one includes all deaths of all nationalities resulting from the Afghanistan hostilities of the past two decades, it comes to 176,000, far greater than the event that triggered the hostilities to begin with.

The Brown University Cost of War Project has estimated that our country’s total cost for the past 20 years of warfare in the Middle East is $8 trillion. That money was spent to punish the people who conducted the events of 9/11.

The only problem is that none of the perpetrators of 9/11 were from Iraq or Afghanistan. The majority were from Saudi Arabia, and we continued to treat the Saudis as trusted allies at that time and ever since.

When we compare the loss of life in 9/11 to other ongoing issues in this country, such as motor vehicle deaths, we find that slightly more than 3,000 deaths occur on our streets and roads every month. That’s more than 36,000 deaths per year caused primarily by driving at unsafe speeds and driving while impaired by alcohol or drugs.

Why have we as a nation not taken this extremely high death toll and made a national effort to decrease this number? After all, we spent $8 trillion in the Middle East over the past 20 years and walked away from Afghanistan leaving it in the hands of the Taliban, the same as it was when we invaded it.

What if the trillions of dollars that we spent over the last 20 years on war were directed instead to improve the safety of automobile drivers? We could develop new strategies and new technology, making both cars and roads safer. We’ll never know because we were blinded by our need to punish someone for 9/11, even if we punished the wrong ones.

As a direct result of 9/11, we beefed up our own 17 intelligence agencies, including the CIA, the NSA and Homeland Security, at a cost of close to $70 billion per year. And 20 years later, we have not reduced their budgets even though there have been no foreign enemy attacks on our nation.

And please, don’t say that our combined intelligence agencies have protected our nation from attack, when all those agencies together could not tell President Biden that immediately after removing our troops from Afghanistan the country would within days fall to the Taliban.

Afghanistan has been a costly problem since the Soviet invasion. To cause the Soviets a problem in their invasion, we secretly armed the Taliban with weapons and munitions. When the Soviets pulled their troops out of the country, the Taliban took control of the nation.

Then came 9/11, and we decided to punish Afghanistan for harboring terrorists. So, we invaded a country ruled by the Taliban who a few years before that we were furnishing with war materials.

Maybe it’s time for us to put aside our gallantly failed attempts to spread democracy throughout the world and begin trying to take better care of our own citizens.

  • Norman Lambert is a native Californian, a former small business owner, a writer, a Democratic Socialist and a secular humanist. He participated in antiwar activities, the farmworker movement, boycotts and picketing. He is accustomed to being on the losing side a lot.

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