“Where were you on Sept 11th?” is always going to be an easy question to answer for me, and I guess for a few hundred million others. Not only the day but the exact set of events that led up to the shock of learning that something extraordinary was happening would be forever remembered and often recalled.
I was living in Berkeley then, sharing an apartment on the south side of the campus with Wayne, a fellow graduate student. I woke up grumbling because I heard Wayne’s phone ring in his bedroom. Did not know the time but it was too early for me. It was not even 6 AM.
Then Wayne knocked on my bedroom door and told me to see what was on the TV in the living room. The first image I saw was a close up of a burning building. Then the camera pulled back and there were the Twin Towers of the WTC. Later I saw the towers collapse one by one. I can still recall the shock and disbelief. I stood there in my pajamas glued to the TV till about 1 PM when I had to get ready for teaching at 2 PM.
What made it personal, I have often wondered. I had seen NYC from the observation deck of one of those towers nearly 20 years before. I recall the ride up in the high speed elevator and then the thrill of being in the tallest building in the world. Been in that building, been in those planes. But the most important thing was this: I had been ranting about the dangers of Islamic terrorism for years to Americans. Now it was a stunning confirmation of what I had been convinced about.
The following week I spoke at a panel discussion on campus on terrorism. Normally restrained, I was not at that event. A few days later, I wrote The Looking Glass War.
Five years and a few thousand more big and small acts of Islamic terrorism later, the world is still asleep at the wheel. Slowly we are getting accustomed to living with terror if we are lucky, and dying horribly if we are unlucky enough to be going about our mundane lives when the Islamic terrorists strike.
That day was so traumatic to the Americans that they simply refer to it as 9/11. Short, crisp, unique. Of course, in their parochial ignorance, they thought that Islamic terrorism was invented that day. Nope. The world has been the victim for centuries; it was the first time that it was caught live on TV.
The world likes aping the Americans. So every major event of Islamic terrorism is referred to with the American date naming convention of month/day. The Mumbai blasts of 11th July is now 7/11. Be that as it may, this whole naming convention of MM/DD is silly because soon enough the entire calendar will get populated with such dates, starting with 1/1 and ending with 12/31.
The breast beating that Americans indulge in on Sept 11 every year is somewhat nauseating. Sure about 3,000 died on that day. To someone whose country has seen much worse and for centuries, American reaction seems as being both hypocritical and silly. The US created those monsters which attacked it on that day. The chickens were coming home to roost.
The US is the world’s sole superpower. It can, if it really wanted, end Islamic terrorism. But its interests lie not in world peace but in selling weapons. To give military aid to the terrorist nation of Pakistan would seem to be an act of supreme stupidity. It is an entirely rational strategy if the goal its goal is to maintain its hegemony. How?
Here are the key concepts which tell the story: Middle East oil, despotic Islamic oil-rich kingdoms, weapons trade, winking at Chinese and Pakistani nuclear proliferation, gifting weapons to Pakistan, funding jihad around the world, borrowing trillions from the poor, arming third world countries, fueling conflicts, preaching “democracy” and practising colonialism.
We do live in interesting times, as the Chinese curse goes.