Richard Falk writes:
There is unacknowledged freedom associated with whatever becomes inscribed in our individual and collective experience of transformative events. For many older Americans the events most vividly remembered are likely to be Pearl Harbour, the assassination of JFK, and the 9/11 attacks, each coming as a shock to societal expectations.
I doubt that other societies would have a comparable hierarchy of recollections about these three days that are so significant for an understanding of American political identity over the course of the last seventy years.
To make my point clearer, most Japanese would almost certainly single out Hiroshima, and possibly the more recent disaster that followed the 3/11/11 earthquake and tsunami that led to the Fukushima meltdown. Germans, and many Europeans, are likely to be inclined to remember the fall of the Berlin Wall, while most citizens of former colonies are undoubtedly moved by the day on which their national independence was finally achieved.
Because American responses to such transformative events are likely to be global in their effect, there is a greater tendency to share American preoccupations, but this is misleading because interpretations diverge depending on place and time. This diversity amid universality is probably truer for 9/11 than any other recent transformative event, not because of the drama of the attacks, but as a result of the connections with surges of violence unleashed both prior to the attacks and in their aftermath, what I would identify as the perspectives of 9/10 and 9/12.
Shifting ever so slightly the perspective of the observer radically alters our sense of the event’s significance. Just as 9/12 places emphasis on the American response – the launching of “the global war on terror”, 9/10 calls our attention to the mood of imperial complacency that preceded the attacks.
This national mood was (and remains) completely oblivious to the legitimate grievances that pervaded the Arab world.
These grievances were associated with Western appropriations of the region’s resources, Western support lent to cruel and oppressive tyrants throughout the Middle East, lethal and indiscriminate sanctions imposed for an entire decade on the people of Iraq after the first Gulf War, deployment of massive numbers of American troops close to Muslim sacred sites in Saudi Arabia, and America’s role in Israel’s oppressive dispossession of Palestinians and subsequent occupation.
From these perspectives, the crimes of 9/11 were an outgrowth of the wrongs of 9/10 and unreflectively led to the crimes and strategic mistakes made since 9/12.