On the morning of September 11th, 2001, four commercial airliners departing from Massachusetts, Virginia, and New Jersey were hijacked mid-flight by 19 al-Qaeda terrorists who planned to crash each plane into a prominent building within the United States’ borders, causing mass casualties and property damage. At 8:46am, American Airlines Flight 11 was flown into the North Tower of the World Trade Center. Seventeen minutes later, the World Trade Center’s South Tower was hit by United Airlines Flight 175, and both buildings collapsed, along with the nearby Building 7, in under 2 hours. A third flight, American Airlines Flight 77, crashed into the west side of the Pentagon in Arlington County, Virginia. Passengers attempted to regain control of the last flight, United Airlines Flight 93, which was intended to target Washington D.C., instead crashing it in a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania at 10:03 am.
Citizens of occupied Turtle Island were in collective shock, doing their best to band together to rescue as many as they could from the wreckage and treat the survivors. The attacks resulted in an estimated 2,977 deaths, over 25,000 injuries, and substantial longterm health consequences for many survivors, first responders, and volunteer relief workers which are still felt to this day. In response, the occupying US government formally launched the War on Terror and invaded Afghanistan due to the Taliban harboring al-Qaeda members, including their leader Osama bin Laden, who claimed responsibility for the attacks. Bin Laden cited continued US military involvement in the middle east; including installing puppet governments, economic sanctions against Iraq, and support of Israel as his motives.
Of course, there was questioning of the official story from the beginning. Many architects, survivors, families of survivors, and politicians called for an independent investigation into the attacks, questioning how buildings designed in the manner of the Twin Towers could have collapsed in the manner they did. Questions were also raised as to how exactly Building 7 collapsed so completely without even being hit, and why the footage of the Pentagon attack was seized by the FBI and remained unreleased until 2006, 2 years after a FOIA request was filed by the right-wing group Judicial Watch. While many of these questions could absolutely be explained without cherry-picking facts and falling into a conspiratorial mindset, other pieces of the official story did indeed get exposed to be half-truths at best. Michael Moore exposed the past relationship between the Bush and bin Laden families, the fact that members of the bin Laden family were flown out of the country without proper questioning, the US government’s direct hand in training and funding al-Qaeda in order to help them fight against communism, and also that the US government had evidence and forewarning of an attack but that intelligence reports were ignored instead of properly acted upon. And of course the extent of Saudi Arabia’s involvement was also obscured by the US government until 2016 when the 28 redacted pages of the 9/11 Commission Report were finally released.
20 years later bin Laden is long dead, the War in Afghanistan has finally come to a recent end, and yet we haven’t really solved the situation. Bin Laden might be dead but his grievances remain unaddressed and are still held by many others who are just as inspired to take violent action in response to the dismissal of those grievances by the US government. The War in Afghanistan is over but the Taliban is stronger than ever, now serving as the de facto government in Afghanistan, threatening the lives and livelihoods of all anti-Taliban activists, especially those who aided the US military and those most marginalized in Afghani society (women, LGBTQ+ folks, religious minorities, etc.). Not to mention the fact that the War on Terror is still alive and well domestically with the continued existence of the Homeland Security Act, Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the Aviation and Transportation Security Act, Transportation Security Agency (TSA), Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the USA PATRIOT Act, the Protect America Act, and the National Security Agency’s PRISM program.
So where do we go from here? Even 20 years later, there is still a call for an independent investigation into the attacks, but as we get further and further out, it seems increasingly less likely, relevant, or even effective. Instead, we should focus on the aftermath of the War in Afghanistan. Despite everyone from Fox News to John Oliver being extremely critical of the US’ withdrawal from Afghanistan, reporter Beau of the Fifth Column has broken down in detail across multiple recent videos how well this withdrawal actually went considering the actual situation, claiming that most of the criticism is coming from those with no actual experience in that field. But even with the withdrawal going as well as it did, there are still many Afghanis who have been left behind to potentially die at the hands of the Taliban.
We absolutely need to focus on immigration reform and pressure United States representatives to take in more refugees fleeing from the crisis we left behind, in addition to supporting mutual aid and community defense groups on the ground in Afghanistan. You can donate to the Workers Solidarity Federation, an anarchist group helping to aid refugees looking for safety in Afghanistan. Of course, reforming immigration has to come with the abolition of ICE, which was also created in response to 9/11 as part of the DHS. There is still a call for individuals, banks, companies, universities, and other institutions to #DivestfromICE. Most notably this campaign is still boycotting all Amazon products, including Twitch, IMDb, Comixology, Audible, Alexa, and Ring, until they break their contracts with ICE. But abolishing ICE is not enough, we must also fight to repeal the Homeland Security Act which created the DHS.
Additionally, we must still repeal the USA PATRIOT Act, the Protect America Act, and the Aviation and Transportation Security Act, and close down Guantanamo Bay. Thankfully, the vote to expand the sunset provisions of the Patriot Act failed in 2020, leaving us one step closer to repealing the rest. While we continue to fight against the Protect America Act which authorized the NSA’s PRISM program which was later exposed to the public by whistleblower Edward Snowden, we must continue to obscure state surveillance efforts by utilizing tools from comrades at PRISM Break, Reset the Net, and Riseup.net among others. Even though there is debate over the best manner to go about closing Guantanamo Bay, it is still a worthy goal to pursue.
And of course we should still actually address the grievances that are causing so many to radicalize against the US to such a degree. We should continue to pressure the Israeli government to end their violent occupation of Palestine by supporting the BDS movement’s use of boycotts and divestments against the Israeli state and Israeli companies. However, state sanctions can be extremely harmful to a large number of innocent people and shouldn’t even be utilized alongside boycotts and divestments in the way that the BDS movement advocates, especially when responding to a situation in which sanctions are directly cited as a motive for the attacks. We must fight for an end to all government sanctions, whether against Israel, Iran, or elsewhere. We must also continue to pressure the US government to end all foreign occupations and abolish their standing military.
Finally, we must continue to work to dispel Islamophobia and protect the safety of Muslim communities (and those mistaken for Muslims by bigots) through education and antifascist activism. And we should help provide continued aid and medical support to 9/11 rescue workers, victims, families, and others who live with chronic health conditions due to the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks by donating to one of many charities which have been created to help (as always, research before donating!).
The US military may be out of Afghanistan, but we still have a long struggle ahead of us before we truly end this War on Terror and the causes that led to it.