9/11 was not the first major event I remember, but it was the first significant event I remember after coming to the United States. It is hard to underestimate the tragedy and implication of the events of September 11th, 2001 which have changed the course of the history in the United States and perhaps started a new page in the history books of the whole world. I traveled from my native country of Uzbekistan in February of 2001, and I was about to arrive at the capital of the “Free World” – New York City. I remember seeing the world-famous Twin Towers from the window of the airplane approaching the JFK airport.
I could not imagine that it was the first and only time I was able to observe the World Trade Center Twin Towers standing strong and symbolizing the power and wealth of the United States of America. Neither I could imagine the terror and agony many people faced in those buildings just seven months later. The events of 9/11 left unforgettable tragic memories for hundred million of people witnessing the drama in front of their televisions and these events changed many people forever. Those events have influenced and gradually changed my somewhat idealistic opinions and views of the world. Looking back to my life and events shaping my political views, I ask myself questions such as: how my political views were formed; what predisposed them in my childhood; and how they have changed throughout my life? Most importantly, how and why the events of 9/11 shaped my political views?
According to Ronald Reagan, I was born in the Evil Empire. Interestingly, Soviet people thought exactly the same thing about the United States. I remember that while watching the evening news, I had a view of the United States where a few capitalists got rich off an absolute majority of Americans in the labor force. The life of black Americans was portrayed especially harsh with the majority of them being homeless and living in poverty. Every night I went to bed hoping that America will not start a nuclear war against the USSR.
Then came the “Perestroika” and “Glasnost”, and Soviet citizens learned that Americans were not necessarily evil and their living standards, in general, are much higher than their soviets counterparts. For the first time, many people realized that the Soviet government was not necessarily serving in the best interests of their people and used a propaganda machine to manipulate people’s opinions (which is nothing unique and has been used more or less by every government in the world). The major shift happened in Soviet people minds. Americans were not enemies anymore and people started to idealize America and the American lifestyle. Everything American became popular: movies, jeans, and even bubble gum. For many people including me, the United States of America became a symbol of democracy and the leader of the Free World.
When I won a Green Card in the State Department-sponsored lottery, I felt that I had to take this opportunity to come to the United States, the country with a developed democracy and the land of free. By that time I had witnessed the total collapse of the Soviet Union, had experienced a declining quality of life and a lack of opportunities in independent Uzbekistan. Millions of families lost their lifetime savings and my parents could not escape the same fate. The communist ideology completely lost its appeal and the American free market economy appeared to be the only economic model for a successful society.
Looking at the Statue of Liberty through the airplane’s window, I found myself a little scared, but full of hopes in my new country. A country where the government is of people, by the people and for the people which is a very attractive concept for anyone coming from a not so democratic country such as Uzbekistan where the Constitution exists but does not work.
On September 11th, 2001, I woke up and was getting ready to go to work when I heard on the radio that something happened. I did not speak English yet and could not figure out what exactly happened, but I realized that something tragic was happening in New York just by how stressful the voice of the radio host was. When I arrived at the manufacturing company where I worked as a machine operator, people at the office were watching breaking news on the television and I learned about the horrible terrorist attack.
The picture on the screen was completely surreal. Who would do such a terrible inhumane act and why? Passenger planes crashing into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center, and the buildings collapsing to the ground. It is fair to say that most Americans experienced horror and disbelief witnessing the tremendous loss of lives, innocent lives. I remember feeling anger towards unknown terrorists and giving my full support to the government to fight back at any force necessary. At that moment, I did not ask questions, the important questions were how terrorists could accomplish the attack of such large proportions on the American soil and why our intelligence agencies were completely unprepared?
Shortly after the 9/11, “the White House announced that there was “overwhelming evidence” that terrorist leader Osama bin Laden was behind the attacks” (Hamblin). Later in October, the Patriot Act was introduced in Congress. Some Democratic and Republican critics warned that “its extraordinary surveillance powers would be used to investigate political dissent or low-level offenses rather than terrorism” (Rosen). Is this how Americans are willing to give up their rights to the questionable sense of safety? No wonder, that the Inspector General of the Justice Department warns in its 2007 report about “widespread and serious abuse” of authority by the F.B.I. under the Patriot Act” (Rosen). As a person who was born in totalitarian USSR, I cannot avoid making parallels with almost unlimited powers of KGB in the Soviet Union. However, back then, at the end of 2001 nobody seemed to care. Most people were scared and were willing to give up their rights in the name of the national security. The loss of privacy erodes democracy, and it is a very concerning trend in our society.
In October 2001, after the White House announced that there was an “overwhelming evidence” that terrorist Osama Bin Laden was responsible for the 9/11 attack, the United States, and its allies launched Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. American people showed their crushing support to the government actions, even though, the majority of the hijackers were citizens of Saudi Arabia, our close ally in the Middle East.
In March of 2003, the United States invaded Iraq on the premise of the false intelligence report claiming that Saddam Hussein’s regime possessed weapons of mass destruction. At this point in time, I and some other American people started questioning the integrity of our government.
Inevitably, the question about the truthfulness of the Bush Jr era government brought me to the subject of 9/11. Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States is an official report of the events of the September 11th, 2001 released in July of 2004 (“THE 9/11”). Some well-educated readers of the report claimed it to be a national disgrace because the amount of questions it fails to answer or simply ignores.
David Ray Griffin, a retired American professor of philosophy of religion and theology, and a political writer, expressed his opinions about the 9/11 Report and stated that: “The Commission entirely ignored all evidence for the alternative conspiracy theory, according to which the attacks succeeded only because of complicity by members of the US government” (Griffin). Personally, I have spent many weeks researching the events of 9/11, and while there are many controversies surrounding this tragic day in the American history, I have made the conclusion that some statements of the official 9/11 Report just do not match with the evidence.
There are many private investigators and public organizations searching for the truth and demanding a new investigation of the 9/11 events. Griffin is just one of many who questions the official version of the events, such as (Griffin):
· The Report fails to mention that at least six hijackers were found to be alive.
· The Report states that NORAD jet fighters failed to intercept hijacked flights because they were notified after the hijacked planes already crashed which NORAD previously stated overwise.
· Regarding the World Trade Center, the Report fails to mention that it was a first time ever when steel-frame high-rise buildings completely collapsed due to fire. Also, the complete demolition-style collapse of the Building 7 in its footprint which was not hit by any airplane and only had minor fires is not mentioned in the report at all.
· Regarding the Pentagon, the West Wing was under construction and seems to be the unlikely target for terrorists. At the same time, the Report fails to acknowledge how heavily the Pentagon is protected and that any aircraft without a military transponder would have been shot down immediately. Also, somehow the Pentagon, perhaps one of the most secure buildings in the world, does not have a single footage showing Flight 77 approaching and crushing into the building.
Unfortunately, the above examples are just a few of many which made me physically sick upon discovery and I lost the trust I had in the government, at least in the government of the Bush Jr administration.
In conclusion, throughout my life, I have lived in the different political systems and witnessed some life-changing political events. I was exposed to dissimilar ideologies and went through a variety of political beliefs. Even though my personal research of the 9/11 events deeply disappointed me and made me skeptical about the American government, I still think that American political system is one of the most effective in the modern world. Nonetheless, big money such as Super PACs corrupt politicians and our political system needs a reformation. For instance, running for public offices should be paid by the public to avoid or at least reduce corruption and American citizens should be well educated in political science and economics to make intelligent decisions. Otherwise, what is the reason to have a democracy when many Americans are uninformed and uneducated to make meaningful political choices?