Random Thoughts: World remains changed by 9-11


By Travis Mounts, managing editor

The events of Sept. 11, 2001, remain very vivid in my mind. They are as vivid as the day the Challenger shuttle exploded, when I was in high school.
My perspective for 9-11 was much different, as I was a parent with two young boys.
My first indication that anything wrong had happened was when I dropped off my youngest at daycare before heading into my software job in Wichita. At that time, the first tower had been hit. It seemed like a terrible accident. We were completely unaware of what was still to come.
I was not following any news on my drive to work. When I walked into the office, the second tower had been struck, and we knew without a doubt that we were being attacked.
The events continued to unfold. We learned that the Pentagon had been hit. One tower and then the other crashed to the ground. The fourth plane crashed in a Pennsylvania field.
At the time, there were fears that as many as 50,000 people could be dead. The entire World Trade Center complex, with multiple buildings, often had 70,000 or more people there working, shopping and sightseeing.
I remember the horror like it was yesterday. I remember the images – people jumping from 90 stories up, choosing one type of imminent death over another. I remember how quiet the world was without a single airplane in the sky.
In a short amount of time, we went to war in Afghanistan, going after Al-Qaeda for carrying out the attacks and the Taliban government for harboring the terrorists.
Now, 20 years later, we have left and the Taliban are back. We are left to question why we went there and if it was worth it.
To point the finger at one president or one administration is to ignore the past 20 years. Blame for how things turned out belongs to George W. Bush, Barack Obama, Donald Trump and Joe Biden, and to many, many others in their administrations and in the larger federal government.
The Biden administration bungled the recent exit plan, which was drawn up by the Trump administration with the Taliban – and without the Afghan government.
Trump’s plan gave us an exit date, which so many people argued against, and that agreement weakened the existing government by leaving it out of the negotiations. Biden’s White House then completely underestimated the situation, and was unprepared for the pullout.
The Pentagon has blame, because for years officials there misled one administration after another about the readiness of Afghan military forces. Collateral damage during drone strikes under Obama created more anti-American sentiment. Bush dropped the ball completely when he led us into Iraq with an argument built on lies.
Trump and Biden were both right on one thing – we needed to leave. However, there was no good way to do that. We should have been out before Bush even left office.
We stayed too long, and we erred in trying to build a nation in our likeness. We failed to see the folly of the Soviet Union’s invasion, and during that time we gave money and weapons to the people who would eventually become our enemies. The U.S., for all intents and purposes, created Al-Qaeda.
We also missed the message of Vietnam, which is that other nations simply do not want us – or any other power – on their soil. Many would prefer their own bad government to anything propped up by foreign powers.
That said, many people left behind will miss U.S. and coalition troops. I cannot imagine the fear among Afghani people who assisted U.S. forces, or for the women and girls whose freedoms are disappearing by the minute.
Afghan girls have to be the single-most scared group of people on Earth right now, and I do not blame them. With our exit from Afghanistan, their future has evaporated.
Will the Taliban be like before? Indications are yes, but they may have more trouble ruling than before. In the 1990s, they took over a nation that was demolished after a decade of fighting the Soviets and then more years of civil war.
The Afghanistan that we have departed has women working many jobs, girls going to school, an entertainment industry, and cell phone communications and the internet. There were freedoms that are hard to put back in the bottle, and an entire generation has been born since the Taliban last held power.
As the 20-year anniversary of 9-11 approaches, I am conflicted and sad over what has happened the past two decades. I will spend more time thinking about the lives lost on 9-11, and for the innocence we lost that day in 2001.
I also will spend time in appreciation of the people who served in Afghanistan and Iraq. Regardless of where things stand now, they and their families made huge sacrifices for us and for the people of the countries they served in. The contributions they made were not in vain, but a lot that was gained has been lost. It will take another generation to fully see the impact of their service.
I do not have any words of wisdom or suggestions on what to do. I hope, as a country, that we do better on many fronts – that we adopt foreign policies that do not feed anti-American sentiment, that we do better in taking care of those who serve, that we open our eyes to how our actions as a nation ripple across the globe.
I hope we do better. We owe it to the lives lost and impacted on 9-11, and we owe it to the lives lost and impacted since then because of 9-11.