Sunday, July 03, 2011


Roger Cohen, in a New York Times op-ed today, discussing 9/11:

New York has won again. It has come back. America has not....

The city has asserted its ability to come together. The "homeland," awful post-9/11 neologism, has not. America struggles still to rediscover its bearings and sense of direction. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, with their more than 6,000 U.S. dead, still take their toll. The "banksters," salvaged by tax dollars, get richer. Ordinary folk get poorer. Youth unemployment is at 24 percent. Corporations sit on their cash piles.

If New York is doing better than America, that's not because (as Cohen says elsewhere) it has habitually exhibited a "refusal to succumb." If New York is thriving, it's because we in New York have all your money. Or rather, they do -- the banksters.

Many people have said that 9/11 was a victory for Al Qaeda because America did precisely what Al Qaeda's leaders hoped America would do in reaction to the attacks. There's a lot of truth in that. But Al Qaeda attacked the World Trade Center in the hopes of doing serious harm to America's financial system -- and serious harm wasn't done to it. That's what won, to use Cohen's word.

And of course it won. For twenty years prior to 9/11, the plutocrats of America were hard at work establishing the premise that they should never pay for the consequences of their actions, and that in hard times of any kind they should never share any of the necessary sacrifices.

So Al Qaeda attacked the financial system, hoping to bring it and the rest of America down, and what happened instead was that the attacks helped to bring down America without bringing down the financial system. And when a weakened America faced an economic crisis a decade later, the country saved its financial system, and its rich people and rich corporations, and threw everyone else to the wolves.

So it's fair to say that Al Qaeda hit the financial system but sank only non-financial America, the way in pool you might hit the cueball into one ball and sink another, while the first one stays on the table. It's not quite what Al Qaeda had in mind, but it's an Al Qaeda victory. And if New York endures nonetheless -- or at least one rarefied part of New York -- that's at everyone else's expense.

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