Nine years have passed since America was attacked, yet ceremonies in New York and Pennsylvania commemorating those who died on September 11, 2001, are as poignant as ever. Nobody can deny that 9/11 shook the United States to its very core or that its memory still has the capacity to bring Americans to tears.
Indeed, sensitivities in the US are still so raw that some 70 per cent of the population is reluctant to see an Islamic cultural centre two blocks from where the World Trade Centre Twin Towers once touched the sky.
Few would deny that the Bush administration’s response to the tragedy changed the world. When Washington realized how vulnerable the country was, and in response to calls for revenge, it launched the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, initiated the ‘War on Terror’, opened gulags to detain terror suspects, engaged in the liberal use of torture, rode roughshod over the Geneva conventions and subjected ordinary citizens to gross invasions of privacy and abuses of civil liberties.
The point is 9/11 and its ramifications were — and still are — no small matter. Almost everyone on the planet has been affected by that day in one way or the other; not least thousands of fallen coalition and Nato soldiers and up to a million Afghan and Iraqi civilians. Yet, for some strange reason, there has never been a thorough and impartial investigation of that day and the events that led up to it.
Even more intriguing is the collective apathy displayed by the American people towards discovering what really happened and especially when there are so many anomalies contradicting the official accounts that have been recorded in countless reports, books and documentaries by scholars who are invariably written-off as lunatic conspiracy theorists.
The disbelievers may or may not be on the lunatic fringe. But the fact remains that many of the still unanswered questions are perfectly valid because, unfortunately, the 9/11 Commission set up to “prepare a full and complete account of the circumstances surrounding the September 11th 2001 attacks” did not do its job and issued a report with more holes than Swiss cheese.
For instance, I would love to know why the North American Aerospace Defence Command (Norad) and Andrews Air Force Base failed to intercept the wayward aircraft; how passengers were able to call family members on cell phones from 30,000 feet; why the usually scrupulous BBC reported that several of the alleged hijackers were alive and well after the event; and, most crucially, what was it that brought down WTC 7, a tower block that had not been hit? Also, why was forensic evidence hurriedly shipped off to China for conversion into cutlery?
When former US Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney dared to challenge the official line in 2002, she was branded unpatriotic and lost her seat that same year.
Passions cool in nine years and time douses raw emotion yet there is nobody in high authority bashing on the door of the Obama White House for answers. Such seeming disinterest could be caused by fear of being seen as un-American. Alternatively, it may be that Americans just can’t conceive of possible skullduggery within government, while those who can would prefer not to know.
However, because the repercussions of 9/11 impinged upon so many lives it should not be viewed in an exclusively American context and should be investigated by a respected international body such as the International Criminal Court in The Hague or the United Nations, which has set up tribunals to delve into war crimes committed in Sierra Leone, violations of humanitarian law in former Yugoslavia and the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri.
It seems to me that if the UN is involved in bringing the killer(s) of one Lebanese individual to book, there should be no bar to its launching an inquiry into 9/11. In the same way that the tribunal into Hariri’s murder has still not ascertained who was behind it, no one knows for sure who instigated 9/11.
Everyone assumes it was Osama Bin Laden but although his name appears on the FBI website in connection with other crimes, he is not wanted for 9/11, which the FBI says is due to an absence of proof. That in itself is shocking when the Afghanistan war was waged to root him out of his cave. Surely, the best way to respect the souls of the 2,976 victims would be for the international community to come together to silence the conspiracy theorists — or otherwise — with hard facts and convincing explanations.
If the American government has nothing to hide it should prove it by, firstly, blessing a UN tribunal and, secondly, affording its prosecutors full cooperation in terms of witnesses and documentation
But will Americans ever remove their rose-coloured spectacles long enough to demand the truth about 9/11? Perhaps not! As the great American philosopher and poet Ralph Waldo Emerson once said: “God offers to every mind its choice between truth and repose. Take which you please; you can never have both.”
Linda S. Heard is a specialist writer on Middle East affairs. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org