This Sunday is the tenth anniversary of the
terrorist attacks now known simply as “9-11.”
I remember absolutely everything about that
day. We were putting the finishing
touches on the simultaneous release in press conferences in Halifax,
Toronto, and Vancouver of a Sierra Club and Greenpeace
report on biotechnology. I was absorbed
at my desk when I noticed that the staff was drifting into the board room. I
asked my co-worker Angela what was going on.
She said, “Who knows? A plane
crash or something. It’s all over the
I left my desk, joined the rest of the team
in the board room to watch the cable TV.
As I did, the second plane crashed into the twin towers. I went back to my desk, picked up the phone
and cancelled all the press conferences.
And then I returned to the board room as the towers collapsed. I phoned to make sure my step son was
safe. His office was a few blocks away
from the WTC. He was uninjured, but
devastated, having seen the disaster from his office window.
I lost the rest of the week watching the
horror on television. I wept and prayed
and kept waiting to see the rescue of survivors. Five days later, my ten year old daughter
came into the living room at home and turned off the television. She told me I had to stop watching. That it
was not helping me and no one would be saved.
Since that dreadful day I have come to know
the brave Maureen Basnicki whose husband Ken was one of the Canadians killed in
the attack. The Green Party supports her
efforts to see passage of legislation to allow the extra-territorial
prosecution of terrorists for damages.
Meanwhile, in the last ten years, in the
name of “security,” the United
States and its allies have spent hundreds of
billions in enhanced security and wars against “terror.” The lives lost include a 100,000 civilians in
an illegal war in Iraq, tens
of thousands more in Afghanistan.
We also sacrificed long held values and
commitments. The Geneva Convention. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
These documents do not hold up well against Guantanamo Bay,
Abu Ghraib, extraordinary rendition, water-boarding. Torture as a defensible
government practice. And now Stephen
Harper wants to bring back those Charter-busting provisions of anti-terrorist
legislation. Let’s be done with Habeas
corpus, the right to counsel and the right to know the charges against
And we have spent in Canada an enormous
amount of money. A recent report
estimates that Canada
alone has spent $92 billion in the last ten years to improve security. (Rideau
Ironic, isn’t it? We have bridges that are unsafe to be
used. Shut down in Montreal
and Saskatoon. Too dangerous for cars to continue to drive
across – or under. All our
infrastructure could have been made safe with what we spent on “security.” First Nations communities have water that is
unsafe to drink. A fraction of the $92 billion could have improved the lives of
so many Canadians.
In the National Post, columnist Chris
Selley wrote what few are willing to say out loud -- that the security expenditures represented
“staggering opportunity costs.” He
suggested that “if Western nations had used the money to pay down debt or cut
taxes, their citizens would have been considerably better off.” (Sept 9, 2011)
The biggest security threat, the one that
imperils our survival as a civilized world, the climate crisis, has worsened
year after year as emissions rise. The
wars fought in the name of 9-11 had the uncanny tendency to also involve oil
rich countries, with many interesting linkages made in Gore Vidal’s book Dreaming
War: Blood for Oil and the Cheney-Bush Junta.
The climate crisis is recognized by many in
the military around the world as a clear and present danger that exceeds that
of terrorism by a significant margin. (see Gwynne Dyer’s Climate Wars). Yet, the security threat posed by greenhouse
gas emissions is never mentioned by the Harper government.
We need balance between sensible
precautions against people willing to kill others for crazed political ends -- whether fundamentalists (Jewish, Christian
or Muslim) or those bearing deluded grudges. And we need police action,
coordinated and global, to find and prosecute people who commit crimes.
After ten years, it is time to start setting
some realistic costs and benefit tests before continuing to pour money into the
unending new requirements of the for-profit security industry.
It is time to stop the insanity. Apparently every country around the world
thinks that we cannot risk stopping the increased expenditure of money to fight
terrorists. It has taken over like a
mania. It reminds me of nothing so much
as the 1950s red-baiting of the McCarthy era.
To stand against it is to make one subject of suspicion. Are you “soft on terrorism?” Are you giving
aid and comfort to Taliban or Al Qaeda to point out that the ice caps are
melting and the farm fields are flooded and we need to address the climate
threat more urgently?
Ten years on, it is time to mourn those who
died so cruelly. On September 11 -- and
ever since. Whether from further
terrorist actions in Bali or Oslo. Or from the bombs that fell on Iraq and Afghanistan.
And ten years on, it is time to say
We need reasonable precautions, but we do
not need to feed an unreasonable fear that denies us our civil liberties,
crowds out more pressing problems and which bankrupts the public purse.