Did 9/11/2001 Mark the Beginning of the End of the Empire?
In a strange coincidence of calendar, today is the end of the holy month of Ramadan. It is a time for Muslims to celebrate after a month of fast. For Americans, tomorrow will be a time a grief and remembrance about a turning point in our global history that is still an open wound in our collective psyche. After almost 10 years since September 11, 2001, the anger is still palpable. A poll released by the Washington Post has revealed a disturbing trend: nine years after 9/11/2001, 49 percent of Americans hold a negative view of Islam.
In a press conference, United States President Barack Obama reiterated that “America was not at war against Islam, but against Al Qaeda.” For a lot of people in the US and in Europe, however, the distinction between Muslims in general and Islamic fundamentalists has become dangerously blurred. On both sides of the Atlantic, far-right parties are exploiting this irrational anger.
Tomorrow American right wingers will gather at ground zero in New York City to voice their opposition of the Park51 Islamic Community Center. Not only are they there to say “no mosque,” but also their overall message is clearly anti Muslim. Far-right Dutch politician Geert Wilders will speak at the rally to promote his message of “violence to all Islam,” and he will surely paint Muslims as “the enemy from within” that threatens both the US’ and Europe’s way of life.
Across the US, right-wing radio hosts and preachers of many stripes have been cranking up their virulent rhetoric, spreading hatred of Muslims. And this shows that the wounds open by the collapse of the Twin Towers are still festering. Several anti-war leftist organizations plan a counter protest at 12:30 pm, not far from the location where the Muslim haters will gather. The Coalition to Stop Islamophobia denounces “A toxic atmosphere of bigotry, fear and hatred stoked by right wing demagogues like Pam Geller, Robert Spencer, Sarah Palin and Newt Gingritch has led to a rise of anti-Islam in the US.”
September 11, 2001 is a day that will leave a permanent mark on all of us, but further, it is the historic turning point when irrationality won over pragmatism as the deciding factor in global geopolitics. In this sense, Osama Bin Laden and his associates were fully successful in the attack. The target was picked for its symbolic value as a key center of America’s global empire. Bin Laden accurately calculated that the US and its Western allies would impulsively embark on a spree of revenge and almost immediate retaliation.
Of course, at the time, the neo-cons were running the show both at the Pentagon and at the White House with Dick Cheney. What the neo-cons saw in the tragedy of 9/11 was a unique opportunity for what could be a final consolidation and expansion of their American empire project; however, Osama Bin Laden and Al Qaeda outplayed and outsmarted the neo-cons and the West’s financial elite. The goal of the attack was not to kill of few thousand people and take down a few tall buildings, it was to bankrupt the American and European economies.
It is estimated that the overall cost of organizing the Twin Towers attack was $300,000. Because of an irrational reaction in the aftermath, in the form of the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, the US and Europe have already spent several trillion dollars on their response, and this ongoing expenditure has still no end in sight. The so called “war on terror” has turned out to be the Achilles heel of the empire, and in this sense, that dreadful day of September 11, 2001 marked the start of the United States global empire’s decline.
Editor’s Note: All photographs by Gilbert Mercier. All photographs were taken near or at ground zero in mid-October 2001.