Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Statistical Tenth Anniversary of 9/11

I don’t have all that much to say about today’s 10th anniversary of 9/11. I was about three miles from the Pentagon on that awful morning; almost close enough to have witnessed the plane crashing into its side. A friend of my wife was working there at the time, but she made it out okay. I remember saying to my wife at home that evening that the world would never be the same. I was right, of course, but in so many ways that I would never have expected.

Rather than rant and rail and the sheer and utter collective and bipartisan stupidity of our government since that day, I thought I would let the statistics (hat tip to do the talking instead:

U.S. Military Deaths in Afghanistan = 1752

U.S. Military Deaths in Iraq = 4474

Other Military Deaths in Afghanistan = 947

Other Military Deaths in Iraq = 318

Total U.S. Military Wounded in Iraq = 33,139

Total Civilian Deaths in Iraq = over 100,000

Total Cost of War in Iraq = over $794,000,000,000

Total Cost of War in Afghanistan = over $452,000,000,000

Total Combined Cost of Wars = over $1,246,000,000,000

"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the clouds of war, it is humanity hanging on a cross of iron." – Dwight D. Eisenhower


  1. Due to the near constant drumbeat of 9/11 stories in the media, the topic has been on my mind quite a bit recently.

    I was trying to determine how I actually felt about this anniversary.

    On the one hand, I am truly sympathetic to all those who lost family, friends, colleagues, etc. Such a loss is a void that no words or deeds can ever fill, and I will not try to do so. These folks have the right (as we all do) to feel as they do.

    On the other hand, the more I think about 9/11 the more I come to the conclusion that it represents the most unprecedented, disproportional, and ill-conceived response in the history of human endeavor.

    Terrorists do not, have never, and will never represent an existential threat to the US. True, this was an horrific act. Several thousand people lost their lives and millions of people were impacted. Still, on purely human terms, these numbers pale. We kill tens of thousands of ourselves every year on the highways. Tens of thousands with guns, drugs, and alcohol. Tobacco is responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths each year and we sell the stuff over the counter to anybody who can fog a mirror! Where's the outrage for these things!

    That doesn't even get into the response itself, a response that has spent trillions of dollars, cost thousands of additional American lives, and tens (probably hundreds) of thousands of civilian lives in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    Even putting aside the stupefying costs (economic and human), perhaps the greatest tragedy of the response is the loss of civil liberties, freedoms, and morality that we've seen. We've accepted torture and indefinite detention. We've accepted being scanned and groped before boarding transportation or entering public buildings (which, by the way, we fucking own!!). We accepted racial, ethnic, and religious profiling. And who did this to us? Terrorists? Nope. We did it to ourselves. And that's the saddest part of the entire event.

    In the end, the terrorists could knock down some buildings and kill some people. They could cause some havoc. But they couldn't change the US. They couldn't take away our freedoms and rights. No, only we could do that to ourselves. Only we could turn our backs on 200 years of sacrifice, blood, sweat and tears that went into creating an America that truly was the home of the free.

    Only we could do that.

    And we did. :-(

  2. @bmerson - Thanks for that very moving post. It sums up my feelings that I just did not have the energy to put down in writing for the blog. I've worn myself out the past ten years thinking about this stuff.

    For a long time I thought it was just another example of American temporary insanity, like the detention of the Japanese-Americans during World War Two or the McCarthy witch hunts of the 50s, and that we would eventually regain our senses. Now it is painfully obvious that the disease is permanent, and will not run its course until it has caused our collective doom.

  3. Being Irish I know a thing or two about “terrorism”. In fact my two grandfathers were inventors of modern terrorism, both of them being members of the IRA who fought against the British in 1919 to 1921. Their methods have been copied again and again since. The key thing about “terrorism” is that it is used by the weak to fight the strong. Al Qaeda can never defeat the USA militarily, what they have to do is get the USA to use its own strength against itself.

    9/11 was a trap, what was required to avoid the trap was a tempered, measured international, anti-criminal, policing response. By declaring war on Al Qaeda President Bush handed them a huge propaganda victory. By attacking Iraq and Afghanistan the US was dragged into unwinnable wars. Guantanamo Bay and Abu Garab dragged the name and prestige of the USA down into the mud.

    Bmerson has it exactly right “Only we could turn our backs on 200 years of sacrifice, blood, sweat and tears that went into creating an America that truly was the home of the free” It is all so sad that Bin Laden has succeeded beyond his wildest dreams.

    About 13 years ago when Hamas were suicide bombing Israel buses and fast food joints every week, I remember seeing an old Israeli man on the news. He was riding the bus into Jerusalem to have a meal in a fast food joint. He said he didn’t usually ride the bus and he didn’t like fast food, but he was not going to be intimidated by Hamas. This is the kind of defiance we need in the face of “terrorism” not a pathetic and unwinnable war on terror, not water boarding, not gulags and not the destruction of our civil liberties.

    But there is little hope of this, we in the west are just going to go on using our own strenght against ourselves.