On Tuesday 11 September 2001, French brothers Jules Clément Naudet and Thomas Gédéon Naudet were shooting documentary footage of routine checks performed by the New York City Fire Department in Lower Manhattan. Little did Jules know, the trivial nature of his footage would embody global significance. At 8:46am, he captured the clearest footage of American Airlines’ hijacked Flight 11 collide with the World Trade Centre’s north tower. It was the first in a series of tragic attacks.
Today, it is exactly 20 years since those tragic attacks occurred yet the scenes still send a chill down my spine. I vividly recall paper falling from the sky, tragic images of people throwing themselves from buildings and grey plumes of smoke tearing through Lower Manhattan after the towers fell. The south tower collapsed at 9.59am, only 56 minutes after being struck, and one CNN reporter soberingly and simply said: “Look at that. That is about as frightening a scene as you will ever see.”
In the aftermath, US Marine Dave Karnes waded through rubble seeking for signs of life. His heroism is depicted in Oliver Stone’s 2006 movie on the attacks in which he discovers two New York City police officers. Sadly, only 18 others were found alive. Looking on the debris, Karnes is portrayed as saying: “We’re gonna need some good people to avenge this.” This line captures much of the fury which fuelled political discourse in the years that followed. Karnes later served two tours of duty in Iraq.
In a televised address on the evening of the attacks, then US President George W. Bush spoke of a “quiet unyielding anger”. He said: “These acts shattered steel but they cannot dent the steel of American resolve.” Five days later, in a CNN interview, UK Prime Minister Tony Blair said: “We are at war with terrorism” before setting out a two-pronged “response” which first involved bringing the terrorists in question to account and then dismantling “the machinery of international terrorism.”
Blair was a compelling cheerleader for intervention as he magnified the threat of non-existent weapons from his “dodgy dossier”. The “war on terror” in Afghanistan, as it was erroneously dubbed, has exacted a heavy cost. Two decades on and combined US and UK military spending amounts to over $2,3 trillion, 22,869 troops were injured and 2,899 troops lost their lives, which is ironically almost the exact number who died on September 11 2001 and our prize is the Taliban back in control.
It is also precisely this Taliban which our UK Government is now forced to negotiate with to emancipate remaining Britons from Kabul. An organisation funded by the illegal production and trafficking of narcotics, illegal mining of minerals, extortion, kidnap, ransom and rape. After retaking control of government buildings in Kabul, it was chilling listening to a press conference with one of their spokesmen describing the mandatory wearing of the hijab in Afghanistan as an example of human rights.
On behalf of Restore Scotland, I recently attended a ‘No More War’ demonstration in Glasgow with my six-year-old daughter. One speaker, Dave Moxham, said: “We need to end Western intervention because peace and democracy cannot be achieved by violence.” Restore Scotland is a party committed to national sovereignty and opposes intervention in the affairs of other countries. We do not believe peace can be achieved by the sword and hope and pray for future leaders who think differently.
Ewan Gurr, National Organiser, Restore Scotland