20 years on, we need to see 9/11 in context

photo by Andrea Booher, Wiki commons

Victims of 9/11 should direct their anger at both the terrorists and the US Foreign Policy Establishment.

By Phil Hall

Now, 20 years later the time has come when the USA has to face up to its history and put 9/11 into context. Adam Curtis, the intellectual detective, suggested that when things are not properly explained and contextualized, nothing changes and all we can do is throw up our hands in sorrow and say: Oh dear!

 To discuss the attack on two huge buildings in New York 20 years after those attacks, a couple of days after the commemoration mourning the deaths of almost 3,000 people, is necessary and salient. Frankly, with everything else that’s happening and has happened in the world since then, discussions on the historical significance of the terrorist attack only surface to the globe’s attention on the few days on which the event is remembered.

One must be honest and look the horror in the face; that is, if it is bearable. For many traumatised New Yorkers, the attack is probably still extremely loud and incredibly close.

For the rest of the world, however, 9/11, tragic as it was, has a very different meaning. The rest of the world saw the USA use the attack on the 11th of September as a pretext to go on a decades long killing spree. Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden showed us the reality of the behaviour of the US military in Iraq. The USA’s corporations leveraged the emotion and anger generated by the tragedy in order to loot a whole country. The US arms industry and US military and civilian contractors made a packet of money. US crony capitalism, with George Bush at the head, filled its boots!

with peace in Israel/Palestine, there would be no global rallying cry for fascistically inclined Salafist Muslims and, most probably, the Twin Towers wouldn’t have been reduced to rubble

The fact that the sadness after the death of so many workers in the financial district of New York should provide justification for a war for oil in Iraq cannot be edited out from the commemoration of the event. As an excuse for bellicose patriotism, 9/11 is to be treated as an event in history, not just as a hushed moment when the mainstream media gulps and genuflects silently in support for Atlanticist solidarity.

A violent attack was carried out by a group of fanatical individuals which led to the death of nearly 3,000 people. This was an incredibly bold and daring act of senseless, mad terrorism by a group of very bad people. We can all agree that killing thousands of people in such a melodramatic and horrifying way was mass murder, without any real transcendent political meaning. There was no victory to be gained by doing something so pointlessly cruel.

The terrorists – fascists, in my view – justified their actions in the light of US foreign policy. Most of us are aware that US foreign policy in the Middle East has been extremely dangerous and questionable over many decades. There is no need to go into the whys and wherefores right now.

When the Twin Towers were hit, a minister in the government of Mexico called me to get my version of events. This is what I said to him. Would you have said something different?

I cannot explain to you why this horrific attack has happened, but as a reasonably well informed and educated global citizen I can say this much with confidence: with peace in Israel/Palestine there would be no global rallying cry for fascistically inclined Salafist Muslims and, probably, the Twin Towers wouldn’t have been reduced to rubble and the good people inside them wouldn’t have been murdered.

The US should reduce its support for Israel and force it to the negotiating table. Arafat was Nelson Mandela and the assassinated Rabin was his counterpart.

If there is anger that people feel along with the sadness, then where is that anger to be directed accurately? The victims should direct their anger both at the terrorists and the US Foreign Policy Establishment. The victims that came after 9/11 should do the same.


Phil Hall is a university lecturer. He is a committed socialist and humanitarian. Phil was born in South Africa where his parents were in the ANC. There, his mother was imprisoned and his father was the first journalist from a national paper to be banned. Phil grew up in East Africa and settled in Kingston-upon-Thames. He has also lived and worked in the Ukraine, Spain, Mexico, Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi. Phil has blogged for the Guardian, the Morning Star and several other publications and he has written stories for The London Magazine. He started Ars Notoria in May 2020.