Monday, September 12, 2011

Lessons of 9-11

I find myself in two minds on the 10th anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Centre and Pentagon by lunatic Al Qaeda thugs. On the one hand, I am relieved there has not been a repeat of attacks on the scale of that terrible Tuesday and that America has achieved a semblance of justice in the deaths of Osama Bin Laden and other Al Qaeda leaders. On the other hand, I have a sense of sadness and disappointment that Osama Bin Laden and his followers have achieved what they set out to do - to have a significant impact on the freedom and lifestyle of people in America and the West.

Bin Laden's legacy is seen in every major city in America today - in the bag checks, the X-ray scans and the pat-downs that greet visitors to almost every public building or event. It is seen in the overbearing security measures imposed on every airline passenger and the requirement that we are photographed and fingerprinted like criminals when crossing borders. It is seen in laws like the US Patriot Act that give law enforcement agencies unfettered powers of arrest and imprisonment, and in the extra-judicial kidnapping, imprisonment and torture of foreign nationals in Guantanamo Bay and in countries around the world.

Indeed, if Bin Laden was right in his fundamentalist beliefs and he is now enjoying his 72 virgins (or dates, if you believe some translations of the Koran) in heaven, I would say he would be having the last laugh because he has turned Americans and other Westerners into craven people who are happy to accept greater restraints on our liberty than at any other time since World War 2.

Ten years after 9/11 there are few signs that Western governments will ever relax their intrusive security measures and restore the legal rights and freedoms that have been eroded in the name of fighting terrorism. I can't help thinking that there must be a smarter way of dealing with the threats to our society from the likes of Al Qaeda than to turn our own countries into fortresses where we can longer enjoy the all of the freedoms we used to take for granted.

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