Eight years after the tragedy of 9/11, I am reposting my introduction to “A Just Response,” a collection of The Nation‘s writings on terrorism, democracy, 9/11 and its aftermath.
As we extricate ourselves from Iraq, and escalate in Afghanistan, it is time to think hard about lessons learned — and not learned. Why do we have a bloated war budget which could be redeployed, wisely, to fund the rebuilding of our economy and society? Why do we continue to use conventional — and now counterinsurgency — warfighting when the lessons of history tell us terrorism is a tactic best combated through common-sense counterterrorism measures, including policing, intelligence, and tough diplomacy. How is is that after some extraordinary media reporting, and brilliant work by CCR and the ACLU, we still debate terrorism’s “efficacy”? How do we reclaim our moral compass after years of militarization and degraded discourse? How do too many in our political class justify spending trillions on war, yet balk at spending $900 billion, over ten years, on reforming a dysfunctional healthcare system?
These, and other questions, have and will inform The Nation‘s reporting, analysis and work. After all, as our esteemed editorial board member Eric Foner writes below, “In times of crisis, the most patriotic act of all is the unyielding defense of civil liberties, the right to dissent.”
“A Just Response” by Katrina vanden Heuvel
“On Tuesday morning, a piece was torn out of our world. A patch of blue sky that should not have been there opened up in the New York skyline…. the heavens were raining human beings. Our city was changed forever. Our country was changed forever. Our world was changed forever.” So wrote Jonathan Schell in the first issue of The Nation following September 11, 2001.
At The Nation‘s office, in the aftermath of the attacks on the World Trade Center towers, like everyone else in America we watched television — horrified, saddened, angry. People wept, and at the same time took notes and got on the phones. For we had an issue closing the next day. We quickly learned that our communications links to the outer world were severed — our phone lines had run under World Trade Center 7. So, in those first days, we had no incoming calls and the office computer links to the Internet were down. The facts were sketchy and causes of the attack shrouded in a pall of uncertainty thick as the smog rising from the demolished World Trade Center.