It is with a heavy heart that we commemorate the 18th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on the United States.
Those attacks led us, seduced us, into almost two decades of unending wars and they continue to serve as the justification for a massive increase in military spending in the United States, and around the world.
This new reign of “terror” came at precisely the moment that we should have committed all of our attention, all our resources and all our imagination to combat climate change, and to rebuild our shattered society.
The entire concept of “terror” has evolved into a strategy for foreign relations, and it has become a means of governance in the United States.
The scientific method, diplomacy and common goals other than preparing for war, or encouraging trade and finance, have vanished.
We reached this sad state because the “War on Terror” became the “rule of terror,” because ultimately the war on terror was a war on the truth.
We have not been able to seek out the truth since then; the scientific method has vanished from governance.
But there is plenty of terror in America, ubiquitous, free-floating, undefined terror. Terror is the reason why we see a massive military buildup, the construction of concentration camps for immigrants. That terror is why it is possible to ignore the climate catastrophe.
It would be wrong to say that 9/11 was the cause, but it was the inflection point.
Now, on the 18th anniversary, we have reached a new inflection point. Will we start to think scientifically about our future, or will we dive even deeper into irrationality and tribal thinking?
Of course millions have died in the military conquests unleashed, but what about the terror?
The prospect today is grim. American intellectuals cannot even discuss 9/11. There has never been an international investigation of that horror, or of the terror behind it. The vast majority of Americans act as if those who continue to demand a scientific investigation do not exist.
The result? All Americans talk about with regards to security is their opinion. Republicans have this opinion. Democrats have that opinion. But all those opinions are merely a matter of emotions, associations, or distorted memories.
But our country and the international community cannot be run on the basis of opinions. We cannot plan for the future, or evaluate the past, based on opinions. The fundamental issue in policy and in politics must be the search for the truth.
The Book of John gets it right: “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32). But what exactly does John mean by knowing the truth? John is not suggesting that truth will make us wealthy, or healthy or even that knowing the truth will make us feel good about ourselves.
He hints, rather, that at the deepest spiritual level only the truth can free us from the restrictive barriers to our thinking and our actions that result from denying the truth.
There are plenty of opinions about 9/11, and plenty of explanations, floating around out there. None of them are scientific, and few bother to explain how 9/11 is tied to the radical fragmentation of our world due to the emergence of new technologies that connect likes with likes around the world.
We have lost all freedom and allowed our emotions to be manipulated by dark forces. We permit our society to be run by technological systems rather than by people.
Imagine you have eaten a spoiled egg. The terrible feeling in the stomach is never going to go away. The idea of vomiting up the egg is repulsive, and that act will be deeply humiliating in the best case. The vomit will cover your clothes, and spread over the floor. Finally, you will have to admit that you ate the rotten egg.
But if you refuse to vomit that spoiled egg up, if you pretend that you never ate anything, those stomach pains will only get worse. Eventually, you will fall gravely ill and, in time, you will witness the cold face of death.
Similarly, many Americans, and wealthy people around the world, live comfortable lives. They are not interested in 9/11. They want to forget it.
While we had our eyes closed, terrorism took control. There is no part of our precious Earth that is free from terrorism. We must muster the bravery to uncover the global networks that feed terror. Those networks will be in very inconvenient places.
But no newspapers or news broadcasts have even started to investigate the manner in which terror is fattened and encouraged.
Terrorism has become invisible. Of course, things called terrorism are shown to us on television, often described as random acts by extremists. But terrorism’s true nature, its logic, remains obscured, concealed.
Terrorism is carried out, organized and financed by people who look normal, very ordinary. Experts have tried to convince us that terrorism is a product of the Middle East, or of South Asia. But that clearly was not the case.
When President George W. Bush declared the “War on Terror” after 9/11, it was a stunt for television. He falsely accused Islam of being the source of all evil. But when he spoke of a “War on Terror” he was not entirely wrong. There was a real terror lurking somewhere in the background, and it is still there.
The struggle for a decent and transparent government, here and around the world, has gotten harder since then. It most certainly seems as if we are engaged in some sort of a war, but we cannot tell exactly what we are fighting against. It must be terror.
Emanuel Pastreich is the director of the Asia Institute, Washington, D.C. The views expressed are not necessarily the views of Inside Politics.