Saturday, September 10, 2011
I sometimes don't like the columns of NYT's Roger Cohen, but he has written a very thoughtful and thought-provoking one just ahead of the tenth anniversary of the 9-11 attacks. I recommend it.
On September 11, 2001, I was in Kyiv, Ukraine, teaching at the EERC Masters Program in Economics. I had gone downstairs to the office of our director to discuss some matter. When I entered his office, he looked up from his computer screen "My God, an airplane has just struck the World Trade center in New York. I was checking some share prices on the Paris Bourse, and it just came across the news ticker."
"Was it an accident? Intentional? An attack?"
"It doesn't say. No other details at all."
He stared at his screen a moment. "My God, a second plane just hit. That answers it."
I've never paid that much attention to architecture, but the twin towers of the World Trade Center were my favorite manmade object to look at. When I was in grad school at NYU, I could see it from the shower in my apartment in Queens. I used to study til 4:00 or 5:00 AM, have a shot of Jack Daniels, and stand in a hot shower gazing it, and then go to bed. To me, it symbolized what human reason can accomplish when set free, and made feel the world is good. The last time I saw the WTC was the end of August, 2001. We were in NYC, just south of NYU (Washington Square), at night. We went to a Brazilian restaurant and then wandered around, with the towers looking like they were almost overhead, all lit up, even though they were a couple of miles away. I was utterly shocked when it was destroyed -- I confess it stunned me more than hearing about the people who died, but then I'd seen, touched, and entered the WTC many times.
So far as I know, no one I knew died on 9-11. One of my close friends lost some of her economics students, but I think there are at least two degrees of separation between me and those who were murdered. I mourn them, regardless, and am sorry they were murdered.
Are we really supposed to have a theory about what happened? My theory comes from a couple of articles in Foreign Affairs, written by people who would know. Bin Laden was outraged when the Saudis chose the U.S. coalition to expel Saddam Hussein from Kuwait instead of choosing Al Qaeda (he'd offered) and declared the U.S. presence the greatest offense to Islam ever. He attacked because of this offense, but his real goal was to provoke a war that would lead to a schism in Islam and cause Muslims everywhere to rally to his side and his theology, so he could establish a new caliphate. He failed.
And for all the terrible problems that ensued from his destructive and irrational doctrines, and the often also destructive and irrational responses to him, the world remains good.