Sunday 5 September 2021

Nerd Church - The Long Reach of History, 20 Years After 9/11

Warning: this post contains discussions of terrorism, war, murder, and related themes.

The Long Reach of History,  20 Years After 9/11

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I have done my best with this post to be respectful to all lives lost and affected. Please do the same in any replies/comments you may leave, either here or on social media.

I've also spoken about historical events and truths that we in the West would rather not hear about - but it's important that we do. History does not stop being true simply because we refuse to look at it.

(Related Post: Nerd Church - I Watched Jojo Rabbit: Part 2, Facing History)

I've tried not to speak out of turn, and instead have stuck to the information I feel I have correctly understood. 

Much of these events are points of historical debate, and these are my interpretations based on the evidence available to me at time of writing.

If any information is incorrect, I welcome corrections from unbiased sources.

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Next Saturday is September the 11th, 2021.

20 years ago, on September the 11th, 2001, two planes crashed into the World Trade Center in New York. Another crashed into the Pentagon. A fourth plane came down in a field in Pennsylvania.

I was a kid, and I watched the pictures coming from the US on TV - both understanding and not understanding what I was watching.

2974 people - a staggeringly large amount of human beings, each with their own lives and hopes and families - died directly as a result of the 9/11 terror attacks.

But those who were injured or whose respiration was affected by those events continue to die as an indirect, or as a prolonged-direct, result of the attacks. 

Numbers on this vary, but Newsweek wrote this in-depth piece last year if you want more info.

I think, initially at least, we felt the affects of 9/11 less quickly here in the UK than they did in the US - it happened, it was awful, but it wasn't here and affecting us, y'know? 

Or at least, that's what it seemed like to me - but again, I was a kid, and things don't always hit kids the same way they hit everyone else.

I remember the TV pictures pretty damn clearly though, even now - the dust and the blood and the screaming.

And then came the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

And then came the terror attacks here, and in Europe.

And it didn't feel so far away any more.

But even I could tell - and yes, I was an extremely precocious smarta** kid, but I was a kid all the same - that the people in charge were, more often than not, letting themselves be ruled by fear and rage, rather than logic, reason, and insight.

9/11 and the subsequent war in Afghanistan was a link in a long chain of events, many (though not all) of which boil down to Western and/or European interference in a place where it was not welcome. 

Right back to the British Raj - the name of the Empire in India and other parts of Asia - the West and Russia have often used Afghanistan as some sort of deadly football game between world powers.

Of course, it's way more complex than simply the West being responsible for all the ills of the region - 

The Taliban were inarguably a brutal regime in the late 90s/early 00s, and while we can only hope that their lip-service to progress contains more depth, the rest of the world cannot and should not forget what this group is capable of, and must hold them to account for any actions moving forward.

Trust has to be earned - and they are far from earning anything but the worst of reputations.

Western forces did improve aspects of life in Afghanistan, especially regarding human rights for women, but that historic chain I was talking about, of which 9/11 was a link? 

Most of those links were forged by the West and by Russia fighting for their respective empires - so much so that Afghanistan literally gained the nickname of 'The Graveyard of Empires.'

People forget (or else never heard) that the US funded and armed the Mujahideen (the pre-cursor of the Taliban) in order to fight the USSR.

Yes, 200 years since Britain and Russia squabbled over Afghanistan at the beginning of 'The Great Game' (ugh, that name tells you everything you need to know about the prevailing attitudes,) and our current situation all stemmed from another case of a proxy war between the West and Russia. 

Because no-one learns, it seems.

There is a lot of misinformation and re-framing of the whole thing on the web and in the media, including clear efforts to distinguish between the Taliban and the Mujahideen.

These aren't inaccurate, the Mujahideen were not the Taliban - but often these efforts are disingenous and potentially misleading.

Without the Mujahideen, and its backing by the West, and the USA in particular, who knows whether the Taliban would currently exist or not? We don't live in that reality.

The Taliban grew from both the Mujahideen itself, and the power vacuum the US left behind, as this archived Guardian report from January 1999 (over 2 years before 9/11) shows:

'But according to one American official, concentrating on bin Laden is a mistake. 'The point is not the individuals,' he said last week. 'The point is that we created a whole cadre of trained and motivated people who turned against us. It's a classic Frankenstein's monster situation.''

The war in Iraq, which followed in 2003, is (or at least should be,) a stain on the reputations of the UK and the US.

The invasion itself was, in the opinion of many, a war crime - perpetrated by Blair and Bush and those who backed them.

That's all to say nothing of the atrocities which were often committed there, and in Afghanistan, by the armed forces - for which there is no excuse.

NONE of this excuses what was done on 9/11, or in any attacks that followed.

None of it excuses the actions of the Taliban, Al Qaeda, Daesh, or any other murderers, terrorists, and tyrants.

But neither does 9/11 excuse what Western powers did in its aftermath.

I think it's important that we remember that it's not just the people who were killed by those planes who died because of 9/11.

The loss of the lives of service people and civilians alike in the wars and attacks that followed is heartbreaking. Those lives deserve to be remembered.

9/11 was born of blood, and in turn it left a trail of blood that follows us to this day.

Ways to help Afghan refugees:

The Rainbow Railroad have been working hard to evacuate in-danger LGBTQ+ Afghans - you can donate to them here if you're in the UK or here if you're in the US or Canada here

Spread love, and truth, and hope. And take care 💖


  1. This was a very informative and powerful post, Cee. Being Pakistani, I often recognize that there was such a loss in 9/11, of American civilians, but also a loss of safety for anyone who was completely innocent, but also happened to have brown skin. My sister watched a documentary on 9/11 and said that something that stuck with her was a priest during the prayer services after the attack saying: let us not turn into the people who caused this terrorist attack. I think these words stay true.

    1. Thank you Em <3

      And yes the Islamophobia and racism that many people felt (wrongly) justified in after 9/11 is horrendous. It's not 'us' vs 'them' - we are all people, and we are all individuals; we need to treat people according their own actions, not those of others who may or may not have the same ethnicity or religion.


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