Jonathan Freedland thinks it’s time we all put 9/11 behind us:
When the artist Art Spiegelman told his story of 9/11 in a graphic novel, he called it In the Shadow of No Towers. It was an arresting thought, the gloom cast not by the twin peaks of the World Trade Centre but by their absence. We have been living in that shadow for the last 10 years – but it’s time we escaped it. We need to declare the end of the post-9/11 era.
Well, of course you do. It’s politically inconvenient for you, isn’t it?
Of course that will be impossible for those directly affected. No one expects – and no one would ask – those still grieving for a wife or son, a husband or sister, to put the September 11 attacks behind them just because an anniversary with a round number is looming.
So, you ‘feel their pain’, Jonathan?
What deepens their tragedy is that it continues.
Ahhhh, I see. You’re doing it for them, aren’t you? How selfless. How noble.
They don’t know what they want, after all. You can show them, though, since you know far, far better than they…
The television documentaries, newspaper testimonies and eloquent reminiscences that have been flowing for days leave no doubt that for those directly affected, 9/11 will never let them go.
Yes, it’s the media. These shows don’t find an audience, no-one watches. Do they?
But if grief and art will necessarily stay fixated, the realm of politics needs to move on. Osama bin Laden is dead; George Bush and Tony Blair are long gone from office. The two 9/11 wars, in Iraq and Afghanistan, are not over, but both now have a timetable for troops to come home. The phrase of the age – “the war on terror” – has been retired.
Has it? Or has it been shelved, ready to be dusted off and reused?
Even Jonathan isn’t entirely sure the future’s as rosy as he’s trying to convince you it is:
Of course no wants to tempt fate with complacency. For that reason one aspect of the post-9/11 landscape will and should remain in place: vigilance. Police and intelligence agencies charged with protecting the public cannot revert to September 10 pretending that 9/11 – or, for that matter, Bali, Madrid and London – did not happen.
What sort of ‘vigilance’? This sort?
But it’s the mindset that has to go. In those dazed days after the attacks, a new foreign policy doctrine was hastily assembled. It said that the world faced a single, overarching and paramount threat in the form of violent jihadism. Every other battle had to be subordinated to, or subsumed into, that one. And the call went beyond foreign policy. Culture, too, was to be enlisted in a clash of civilisations between Islamism and the west that would rank alongside the great 20th century struggles against communism and fascism.
Well now, why would we want to do that, anyway, eh Jonathan?
I mean, who can really say whether their culture is any worse than ours, right?