13 September 2011

The 9/11 decade - the true cost

Yesterday was the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on the US. It's often said that you always remember what you were doing when such events occur and that is certainly true for me in this case. I was in Berwick on Tweed running a field course for a bunch of Nigerians. When the first plane struck I got a text from my then girlfriend who then proceeded to send more text updates through the day. An early version of rolling news on my phone at a time when texting was still novel.

After our day in the field we returned to the hotel to watch dumbstruck as the TV kept repeating the main events. It was indeed shocking. Next morning at breakfast it transpired that the terrified Nigerians had been up all night reading their bibles and they were convinced that the final chapters were playing out and the Revelations were taking place. To them the World was about to end. I remember trying not to knock their superstitions and saying there was no doubt that after the events of that day the World would indeed change for ever. I met one of those Nigerians in Utah three years later and he reminded me of my prediction and we agreed that it had been valid but not in a way either of us had thought. By that stage the west had invaded Afghanistan which was arguably justifiable, at least that is where the terrorists were hiding out, and Iraq, which was utterly unjustifiable.

When I was younger I was obsessed with history and I used to wander how it must have felt to be German in 1937, not an evil bastard Nazi but a normal person? How did it feel to watch your government flaunt international law, unilaterally bully it’s smaller neighbours and invaded sovereign states under an umbrella of thinly veiled lies for justification? Well in 2003 I didn't have to imagine anymore because my government, not just the government of my country but the party I had voted for did exactly that agaisnst the will of its own people and the international community. For that I was, and still am, ashamed to be British.

So while it is poignant to remember the victims of 9/11 perhaps we need to take a broader view of the decade. Let’s look at some statistics

2997 civilians died in the 9/11 attacks
There have been 8813 civilian deaths in Afghanistan
There have been a staggering 1,455,590 civilian deaths in Iraq
2710 international soldiers have died in Afghanistan
6962 international soldiers have died in Iraq
The two wars have cost $1,247,603,518,251 - that's 1.2 trillion dollars.
That's $400 million, 3 soldiers and 490 civilians for ever person who died in the towers.

And that is just the physical and financial cost. There is also reputation. We have systematically abused human rights, flown suspects (many innocent) to dark corners of the World and tortured them. In doing so we have lost all the respect and credibility that we previously had. Not even in the darkest days of the Cold War or WW2 did we behave so badly. Now the people that hate us have ammunition to sway the views of the people who were previously ambivalent or even positive towards us. We have become the evil empire and we are suprised that the World hates us.

So our allies hunted down and killed Bin Laden for what he had done and maybe that was right. I am not liberal enough to feel sadness at his death, the World is a better place without evil fucks like that. But what about the real criminals? Bush, Blair, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice et al. have all walked scott free after causing the deaths of 1.5 million people, destroying 2 countries and bringing down the World's economy. Where is the justice there?

These people should be tried for crimes against humanity, locked up and the key should be thrown away. This is not a joke, it's not even rhetorical, I genuinely think they should be brought to justice for what they have done in our name.

So let's not forget 9/11 but also let's also not forget what a bunch of evil fuckin bastards did in the decade that followed.

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