FACE TO FACE: What, 10 years later, is the legacy of Sept. 11, 2001?
The horror that befell our southern friends on Sept. 11, 2001 profoundly damaged our world.
The outrage and fear felt by Americans after 9/11 united them, and the world wept with them. Al-Qaida was reviled by the world. Jihadist stock was at its lowest level - the terrorists didn't stand a chance. The world empathized with Americans.
Since 9/11, however, the U.S. has squandered the goodwill of the world and, in doing so, strengthened jihadist sentiment and recruitment all over the Middle East.
What happened? Iraq.
After 9/11, united in anger and fear, Americans turned inward to commiserate and re-commit to their way of life. Many Americans clung to the symbols and icons of their country for comfort, almost to the exclusion of reason. Preoccupation with love for the flag, the troops, "fallen warriors," guns, the constitution and traditional marriage salved fear and eased suffering. This feverish love for country was strengthened by a distaste for others: gays, immigrants, the French, Muslims and non-confrontational presidents.
Nationalism fuelled by the events of 9/11 blinded Americans, made them look away from the world rather than reach out to it; to look inward and worship American exceptionalism rather than outward to embrace the world community.
Post 9/11 jingoism allowed Americans to accept a "war on terror" and its centrepiece, the Iraq war, sold to them on sketchy excuse by an administration willing to exploit 9/11 patriotism.
The invasion of Iraq was an unnecessary, unmitigated, disaster. The U.S. invaded a country that clearly had nothing to do with 9/11.
The world watched as rationalizations for invading Iraq crumbled: the collapse of the WMD. house of cards, the faux "coalition of the willing," the rooting out of alleged al-Qaida training camps and the shift to the final excuse, ousting a bad guy.
Ten years after 9/11, the U.S. is reviled by Middle East Muslims, whose sympathy is increasingly moving to Islamic jihadists. The Iraq war is a tragic U.S. foreign policy nightmare, which may take them another decade to overcome. It epitomizes a post 9/11 nationalism marked by a you're-either-with-us-or-against-us, swashbuckling foreign policy that increasingly worries the world.
Even more worrying is watching Americans vilify a president who they find too international in view and too respectful in demeanour.
Face to Face columnist Jim Nelson is a retired Tri-City teacher and principal who lives in Port Moody. He has contributed a number of columns on education-related issues to The Tri-City News.