As time passes, we can examine things more objectively. The recency of 9/11 means that its still difficult to look at things without emotion all of this time later. Hell, we still don’t even know what the sum total of the effects of the attacks even are. That said, there are some truths that we can, and should, be able to speak. None of them involve any ideas of “patriotism” or resiliency. The heroes of the day are known. Their stories have been told by people much better than I. At this point in our collective history we should take it upon ourselves to at least take a step back and examine the effects of the date as we can see them today.

I struggle deeply with the memory of 9/11/01. Not necessarily because I was old enough to vividly understand it as it was happening (I wasn’t) or that I had any family or friends harmed (I didn’t). No, what I struggle with is the idea that we as a country and our government allowed Osama bin Laden to succeed beyond his wildest dreams.

Directly because of the attacks on 9/11/2001, we have been embroiled in foreign wars with no definable end-goals for 17 years. We have wasted trillions of dollars on pointless, murderous warfare and for what? What have we gained? Thousands of US soldiers and citizens have died in vain. Hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of civilians in the Middle East have died and for what? The vague promises of “freedom” that came attached to the business end of a 2,000 pound bomb?

By invading the Middle East as we did, we have done nothing but secure death, doom, and destruction for an entire generation. Despotic governments were toppled, yes, but in their place grew instability, chaos, and corruption to the highest degree. What we did to the people of Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria,Yemen, and others still will not begin to be fixed for at least another generation.

Terror networks and the ideas that they propagate have grown exponentially since 9/11 despite us being at war to combat that very thing. Our disastrous decisions in Iraq gave birth to ISIS and have fueled al-Qaeda’s rise in all six inhabitable continents on this planet. In 17 years we have come no closer to the end. In 17 years, not only are we still stuck on the starting blocks, but we have slipped immeasurably backwards. The Middle East, once a region of promise, has become a region of terror and a region of fear. What many nations had before our ventures there wasn’t peace and it wasn’t prosperity, but it was at least stable. If we could sit here and say now that, while yes it was rough for a while but now those people are liberated, perhaps we could say it was worth it. But, alas, we can’t do that. All we can do is look upon our works and despair for we have left only disaster in our wake.

But enough about the Middle East and abroad. Many people have that war and thousands that have died for nothing so far from their minds as to forget it even happened. At home has also suffered. Beyond the greater threat of terror attacks, the US has undergone some ugly revisions that have steered us further off course from the beacon of light that we strive to be.

Individual freedoms and individual liberties continue to get stripped away in the name “safety.” One bill, the USA PATRIOT Act, passed on October 27th 2001, stripped away the 4th Amendment. Spying on American citizens by the government without a warrant is legal, and it has been for 17 years! This bill, with its devilish name and purpose, was slipped in during the furor of those first few weeks after that wretched date. We stared at the face of terror and blinked. In it we made law something that immediately struck down one of the very rules that this country holds dear. Not because we had to, but because we were afraid.

But it gets worse! The US government has made very clear, despite proclaiming otherwise, that torture is an acceptable form of punishment and interrogation. US law (hello, 8th Amendment) has expressly forbid it for hundreds of years, but in the name of terror we go right on ahead! Guantanamo Bay is still open and still defying laws not just of the land, but international law as well. Another generation of terrorists and extremists were raised in the halls of that hell, and either due to arrogance or incompetence we continue to pump broken men out of that facility. Broken men with new fears, new anger, and confirmation of all that they had been told was wrong with this country.

But still it gets worse! Congress, through a wide variety of bills and refusals to act on violations of norms, has handed over virtually all of its war-making powers to the Executive. One man has the capability of killing anyone on earth with the power of a drone, and he has no real oversight. No one, technically, can stop him from killing and violating the sovereignty of other nations. Barack Obama had even used this power to even kill American citizens overseas! We’ve denied American citizens the right to due process simply because of “terror”! Whether what they were doing was wrong or not (it was) the simple fact remains that there’s nothing in place from stopping those up top from broadening definitions and taking advantage where they can! The Bill of Rights has been butchered because first we were afraid, but then we came became ignorant and apathetic.

If someone asked Osama bin Laden what his end goal was, I don’t think he could’ve even thought of being this successful. What he did to turn this country upside down, and what he did to the world, were beyond what even he could have imagined would happen. We have lost the War on Terror. We have lost the fight we took on in the names of the people that heroically lost their lives during 9/11. With it we have lost the very underpinnings of this country that made it so great to begin with. The course now is set for a much darker future. The course that was set in the days following 9/11 is one that we have not deviated from and one that I’m not sure we can reverse. Rarely do I like to write of doom and gloom, but hell, when you let Terror win, what else is there?

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