Never Forget — What?

W.J. Astore

The 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks has come and gone. The theme I often heard was “never forget.” Never forget what, exactly? That we were attacked? All of us of a certain age remember 9/11. We remember where we were when we first heard the news. We remember the shock, the confusion, the sense of loss. We really don’t need to be reminded to “never forget.”

A similar phrase is “always remember.” Like “never forget,” it’s remarkably labile, much like Obama’s slogans of “hope” and “change.” And that’s the point. It’s vague while being emotive. It plays on our emotions without encouraging us to think.

So, let’s think critically for a moment. What should we “never forget”? We should never forget the victims, of course. The heroes. The first responders who gave their lives. And, by the way, why is Congress always so reluctant to provide health care to those first responders who worked so tirelessly in the dangerously unhealthy rubble of the Twin Towers? Let’s not forget them in their moments of need.

But what else shouldn’t we forget and “always remember”? I think we should remember the colossal failure of the Bush/Cheney administration to act on intelligence that indicated Al Qaeda was determined to strike in the U.S. We should remember the chaos generated by those attacks, and how our government responded so slowly, and with a measure of panic. And we should remember how quickly men like Bush and Cheney and Rumsfeld deflected any blame and took no responsibility for what can only be described as a massive defeat.

Also, it’s important to recall that 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudi nationals, yet America’s leaders chose to invade Afghanistan and Iraq after announcing a global war on terror. In short, they used 9/11 as a pretext to embark on wars that they wanted to fight, wars of choice that proved disastrous, and for which they’ve largely evaded responsibility.

As a military historian, I’m also taken aback by our leaders choosing to rebrand 9/11 as “Patriot Day.” When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941, America’s leaders didn’t rebrand that day as an occasion for patriotism. They recognized it was a date of infamy and declared war on the attacker.

It’s almost as if 9/11 has become a date of victimhood for the U.S. An old Air Force buddy of mine put it well recently in a message to me:

“It felt like it wasn’t about remembrance as much as just wallowing in self-pity. Interesting you bring up Pearl Harbor. Back then we went off and fought a 4-year war, beat our enemy, and helped them rebuild. For 9/11, we went off and fought a 20-year war, came home with our tails between our legs, and left our enemy more empowered. A celebration of victimhood, but not of honor.”

I like my friend’s appeal to honor. It’s an old-fashioned word that you hear rarely in America’s offices and corridors of power. Where is the honor in turning the 9/11 calamity into some kind of celebration of victimhood and patriotism?

As a historian, of course I want 9/11 to be remembered. But let’s not allow propaganda and cheap sentiment to shape our memories. And let’s “never forget” the failures of our leaders both before and after that date of infamy.

17 thoughts on “Never Forget — What?

  1. Professore, I could be wrong of course but I’d posit that US foreign policy has been fueled by propaganda and cheap sentiment for twenty years now. It’s all the Amerikan people can understand. As you may recall, Holy Mother Church once referred to their ilk as “the simple” and with good reason. (see anything to do with the NFL observance of “Amerika’s Fighting Men and Women/Thank You for Your Service”).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m not sure it’s all the people can understand, but it may be all that they hear. Repetition is remarkably effective. And those who challenge the narrative are ignored or suppressed or otherwise sidelined and dismissed.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. These memories continue to metastasize in proportion to the continued propaganda. The medical industrial complex’s refusal to honor the toxicologist’s reports that indict ground zero as the source of first responders failing health concerns; which would drive a stake in the heart of some of their Crown Jewels that prop up their flawed theories of disease; is the most egregious example of greed and arrogance. There’s no excusing this fact, that their pledge to the Hippocratic oath means nothing to those who’s soul has been darkened and captured by power, fame, and wealth.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. And let us not forget, within 2 weeks of 9/11, the US made WAR PLANS to change the regimes of Iraq, Libya, Syria, Lebanon, and at THE END, Iran.

    all those Countries are failed States, and while Bideen moderated his attitudes toward China in the 90 minute phone call he had with China’s Xi, he has not moderated his attitude toward Iran coming into compliance with the JCPOA the US abandoned, before there will be any relief from the devastating US Economic War to destroy the Iranian Economy.

    To deny the Iranians the right to defend itself with conventional weapons, as the US sells and supplies all their Middle East allies with even more offensive weapons is a non starter, and could lead this world to the Armageddon derived from Har Megiddo in Occupied Palestine Jesus walked through some 2000 years ago.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I just read that Iran is getting close to having adequate nuclear material for a bomb, which their government feels will help pressure the U.S. to re-agree to the JCPOA. Not likely, after the so-called disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan—Biden can’t afford to look any “weaker.” Even so, as you point out, Ray, in the face of U.S. arms sales in the Middle East, Iran feels a need for defense. What needs to happen is a defusing of tensions, not a ratcheting-up of hostility. But the wiser heads necessary for such a de-escalation don’t exist in any of the relevant governments.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Interesting timing of that report. Since “we” can’t allow Iran to have a bomb (even though the U.S. and Israel have plenty of them), this will likely lead to military action, all in the cause of “pre-emption” and “defense.” Not sure when the “kinetic action” will come, but it’s almost certain to come, unless cooler heads prevail.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. When Biden spoke with China’s Xi in February, it was in the usual delusional American belief this World belongs to the US and you have to do what we dictate to satisfy American Interests.

        I just learned this am about Biden initiating the 2nd call to Xi last week, where he had a much more humble attitude, not domineering like the 1st call, after the great humiliation of the US Pride of Money & Power in Afghanistan.

        Fools rush in where Angels fear to tread is an old saying, and in the blind American hubris and ignorance, they rushed into the Nation having the Historical record of being the ‘Graveyard of Empires”

        Almighty God showed the world, in a display of Divine Judgment and Justice, the US is not Exceptional at all, any more than any other Nation, like Jesus established the Common Era, when Gentiles are as much the People of God as are Jews, not one superior or better than the other, with the same Rules of Behaviour applying to both.

        But still, I was happy to learn of the new US attitude which augurs well for a possible Better Future than the Troubling Future the World can see developing now.

        Perhaps Biden does have a Purpose to be a Transition President, getting the US back on it’s rightful track among the Nations.
        At this point, we can only Hope and Encourage him to stay on Point!

        Naturally, I would like to think, even though I get no acknowledgements to any of my Messages to him, by this change in the US attitude, maybe my Messages did get to him?

        When I washed dished for $1/hr in Venice, California in the Spirit of ’76, one morning I woke from a very powerful, vivid dream, of the Pope coming down from the Throne, to me. I was a small child wearing an oversized Adult General’s Uniform.
        Of course, he didn’t come down from the Throne to me, and it makes no difference.
        I was very happy to see, 2 years later, Pope John Paul I, did in fact come down from the Throne in This Real World, and he came from Venice, Italy.
        That is just one more of the so many co-incidences in my Life I have to make sense of in my Life BC and AD.

        Pope Paul VI was the last Pope to be Crowned and Enthroned, ending a 1000 Year Roman Catholic Tradition and Ritual.
        He died just 3 Days after I said to Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau (Pierre in French=Peter in English) on a chance encounter late one night as he was going to his Office in the Langevin Block in the Capital,
        “Peter, feed the sheep!”
        I was speaking in the Spirit of the words Jesus said to the Apostle Peter, the 1st Pope, recorded in John 21:15-17

        I was happy to discover the RCMP Security Detail guarding Trudeau Sr. recorded for Posterity that FACT in this Official RCMP report of the incident

        Naturally, it was a “non-nonsensical remark” to the RCMP Agent. He had no clue of the Spirit that moved me, and the Spiritual sense in the Words to the Prime Minister.


  4. We’re lucky that at least one cooler head prevailed when TFG wanted to go to war with Iran. I don’t recall specifically who stopped him, but sanity won out, fortunately.

    Will anybody do that if Biden feels a need to get tough?


  5. Hasn’t it always been the case that America is seen as the promise of mankind? Originally not only by Americans but by many around the world.

    We’ve always been in love with ourselves and WW2 put the seal on it. This has blinded us to our own faults and I believe the crowning achievement of this blindness was the neocon vision of a remade world to their liking but couched in terms of bringing a better world for all.

    9/11 prompting self-pity is in keeping with this.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. We’ve always been in love with ourselves and WW2 put the seal on it.
    That blanket has been used to cover our original sin, and every egregious attempt to insert our will upon the sovereignty of other nations.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. the saudis escaped culpability b/c the ‘leaders of the free world’ at the time were complicit. cheney and his haliburton-board status, bush and his oil-baron family, blair and his british petroleum support team, wolfowitz and his banking cohorts, et al, were all in bed w/ the saudis. their cancerous petro-esurience and fulminant fiscal greed prevailed.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. you at bracing views are likely apprised of the counterpunch article below by patrick ‘cock-burn’ [intriguing morpheme confabulation, eh?]:



  9. Lets not forget that 9/11 was 100% America’s own fault.
    They bought it on themselves.
    By pissing of a lot of people off whose countries they had a military presence in.

    “In Blowback, I set out to explain why we are hated around the world. The concept “blowback” does not just mean retaliation for things our government has done to and in foreign countries. It refers to retaliation for the numerous illegal operations we have carried out abroad that were kept totally secret from the American public. This means that when the retaliation comes – as it did so spectacularly on September 11, 2001 – the American public is unable to put the events in context. So they tend to support acts intended to lash out against the perpetrators, thereby most commonly preparing the ground for yet another cycle of blowback”
    — Chalmers Johnson, Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic (2006)


  10. See in todays ICH posts

    Al Qaeda perpetrated the 9/11 attacks because the U.S. was deeply involved as an occupying military force in the Middle East.

    A 1998 declaration of war by Osama bin Laden cites three issues: the occupation of Saudi Arabia as a military base, the “devastation” of Iraq by U.S. sanctions including the alleged deaths of 1 million Iraqis, and the effort by the U.S. to “fragment” Arab nations so as to insure the survival of Israel.


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