11 September 2001: War, Terror and Judgement

By Bulent Gokay; R. B.J.Walker | Go to book overview

11

On Pharmacotic War

LARRY GEORGE

Memory is contested space. The conscious remembrance of things past, whether by individuals or communities, always takes the form of an imprecise and contested sedimentation of signs, images, and representations-the product of a continual psychological and political struggle over what to highlight and what to repress. Memory is also, paradoxically, oriented towards the future. While we normally think of memories as artefacts, as more or less straightforward recollections of things past, actual memories are renewed and re-constructed at the moment with the future in mind. Lewis Carroll, as usual, put it best: 'It's a poor sort of memory that only works backwards'.

Nowhere is this more evident than with official remembrances-ceremonial public recollections and recallings of past events whose continuing importance and historical status is signalled by the fact that they are not just remembered, but memorialised or commemorated, and their anniversaries ceremonially revisited by future generations. The constructed character of remembrances is particularly obvious during those periods when certain memories, and the images and symbolic resonances connoted by them, are continuing to serve as political instruments-as tools or tactical weapons available for ideologically or politically defined ends-and in which no settled, uncontested, official narrative or standard historical interpretation of the events that provide the raw materials for those memories has coalesced. The question of how to memorialise or commemorate the events of 11 September 2001 illustrates this point well. '9/11' continues to engage the attention of American political leaders, partisan activists, media commentators, and others seeking to ensure that their own interpretations of the events of that day, and the political meanings that they wish to attach to them, will become or remain part of an historical narrative available for deployment in future domestic and international political contests. This will remain the case at least so long as the remembrances of those events, and of the 'War on (and of) Terrorism' that followed in their wake, continue to play a central role in the unfolding historical struggle to determine whether the current

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