11 September 2001: War, Terror and Judgement

By Bulent Gokay; R. B.J.Walker | Go to book overview
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Reflections on 11 September


'Just about every crime-whether a robbery in the streets or colossal atrocities-has reasons, and commonly we find that some of them are serious and should be addressed'.1

'But the mourning had barely begun, when the highest leaders of the land unleashed a spirit of revenge. They put out a simplistic script of “good versus evil” that was taken up by a pliant and intimidated media. They told us that asking why these terrible events had happened verged on treason'.2

I presented a paper on the events of 11 September at an Open Forum organised by my colleagues at Keele about a month after the incident. Titled simply 'Comments on the Attack on America', the paper summarised my immediate reactions to the events and my thoughts on the matter over the previous month. I prefaced my presentation by remarking that I did not usually comment, in public, on current affairs. They are, by definition, current, the future was uncertain; I liked certainties, and therefore comments on current affairs were not my kind of thing. But here, I said, was an exception-because I was deeply worried about the way the United States appeared to be responding to the incident at that time. Most of my concerns were shared by the other Open Forum speakers, Rob Walker and Patrick Thornberry, and, to a great extent, it appeared, by the audience-although one member of the audience felt that I was, with the other members of the panel, underestimating the need to deter future terrorist attacks by the use of force proportionate to that end.

It turns out that at least some of my immediate worries were exaggerated, although, I hasten to add, there was no way of knowing at that time, for anything like certain, that any of my views would turn out to have been overly pessimistic. 3 And, in any case, the worst of my worries-mutual intensification, in scale and frequency, of terrorist/anti-terrorist attacks and


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