Ten years ago this week, 19 Islamist terrorists hijacked four airplanes, murdered nearly three thousand people, destroyed the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers, and damaged one side of the Pentagon. Our therapeutic culture encourages us to “move on,” rather than wallowing in anger. And we are supposed to seek “root causes” to violence, absolving belligerent individuals and nations of moral responsibility, especially if we perceive someone from the Third World assailing powerful white Westerners. But at the risk of being politically and psychologically incorrect, I remain angry after all these years. The ruins of the Twin Towers have stopped smoldering – I haven’t.
I am still angry that so many good people lost their lives. I mourn with the parents who buried their children so prematurely – or had no remains to inter – along with the widowed spouses, the orphaned children. Every victim has a name and a narrative; imagining the possibilities of lives not fully lived compounds the daily ache of missing a lost friend or relative’s look, laugh, love. For weeks after 9/11, the New York Times ran what became a Pulitzer-Prize winning series, "Portraits of Grief." These mini-biographies painted a pointillist picture of what America and the world lost that day, one precious life at a time. And they confirmed what many of us knew but the media was too PC to say – although the victims came from dozens of countries and all classes, most were either white collar male professionals – like me – or blue collar rescue workers who went to work one day and never returned.
I am still angry at the anti-Americanism that formed the backdrop to these mass murders. Al-Qaeda’s anti-Western ideology is a murderous manifestation of a broader phenomenon mixing resentment of American power, jealousy of American success, fear of American freedom, and contempt for American novelty. In its mildest forms, this anti-Americanism unites haughty Old World Europeans who disdain the aggressive New World upstarts as crude cowboys. In its ugly Islamist form, this anti-Americanism strengthens Muslim fundamentalists’ dreams of a Caliphate theocracy dominating the world.
I am still angry at the foolish, foul Red-Green alliance between radical leftists and Islamists, that has too many in Europe and on campuses echoing the Islamist agenda even when it entails rationalizing sexism, homophobia, theocracy and autocracy. These laptop jihadists, these posturing Chomskyites, view Third Worlders as necessarily noble, oppressed, and thereby justified in attacking Americans, Israelis, and others they deem powerful “whites” – despite the multiracial makeup of both America and Israel. These self-hating hypocrites only see Western faults, staying scandalously silent about Syria’s crackdown or Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
I am still angry at the United Nations which has become international headquarters for this selective indignation and these double standards. Founded with democratic idealism in the 1940s, the world body has degenerated since the 1970s into the Third World Dictators’ Debating Society as autocrats deploy in New York the very democratic techniques they ban at home.
I am still angry at the bipartisan failure by both Bill Clinton and George W. Bush to prevent the crime. The moral onus remains on the terrorists, but President Clinton lacked the guts to hunt down Osama bin Laden more aggressively while President Bush failed to focus on the threat. Informed speculation that better cooperation between the CIA and the FBI could have stopped the jihadists is emotionally devastating. The fact that reporters and politicians ignored terrorism in the 2000 presidential campaign reflects the bipartisan sloppiness that made the terrorists’ work easier.
I am still angry that despite the rhetoric claiming that terrorism never succeeds, terrorism has worked -- most dramatically in popularizing and somehow legitimizing Palestinian demands, making the late Yasir Arafat and his Palestine Liberation Organization the spiritual and tactical trailblazers for Osama Bin Laden and al Qaeda.
I am still angry that this summer, just weeks before 9/11’s tenth anniversary, leading media outlets again rationalized and relativized terrorism by calling the Gazan terrorists who slaughtered eight Israelis near Eilat – including two sisters vacationing together with their respective husbands – “militants.”
I am still angry about the convergence of anti-Americanism and anti-Zionism, exemplified by the candy Palestinians in Gaza threw to celebrate the 9/11 murders, and the cynical way Osama bin Laden started invoking the Palestinian cause when retroactively attempting to popularize his despicable act.
I am still angry about the added vulnerability of Jews following 9/11 – partially due to the parallel terrorist onslaught Palestinians unleashed. Even today, throughout the Diaspora, many Jewish synagogues, schools, and organizations require special protections because terrorists target us and our institutions particularly.
And I am still angry that most American Jews only started acknowledging the renewed Palestinian terrorism against Israel at the time, after 9/11 – even though that wave of terrorism began in September 2000, a year before the devastating al Qaeda attacks.
Fortunately, despite all my lingering post-9/11 anger, I also hold on to the overwhelming feelings of pride, gratitude, and hope from that day and its aftermath. I remember the way Americans united, transcending partisan, racial, and religious differences, as so many millions throughout the world expressed sympathy – and outrage. I honor the estimated 5 million Americans who have served in the military since the attacks – alongside many soldiers from allies such as Canada, and Great Britain. I lament the 6,200 Americans lost in combat – along with so many other fallen soldiers and civilians from other countries in this fight for freedom. And I appreciate more than ever the liberties we in the West enjoy , the civil society we have developed, and the moral values we cherish, well aware that civilization itself, let alone functional democracies, requires careful tending – and when necessary, an aggressive, effective defense against our enemies --ideologically as well as militarily.
Gil Troy is Professor of History at McGill University and a Shalom Hartman Research Fellow in Jerusalem. The author of “Why I Am A Zionist: Israel, Jewish Identity and the Challenges of Today,” his latest book is “The Reagan Revolution: A Very Short Introduction.”