Ten years after 9/11, the terrorists have not won

“. . . or the terrorists win.”

In the weeks after That Day — if you’re aware enough to be reading this blog, you know which day I mean — that became the standard by which we judged any action even tangentially tinged by terrorism.

The premise was simple. Given enough time and national will, our military would defeat the Taliban and al-Qaida. A succession of attacks, even on a smaller scale than those of 9/11, seemed possible — but unlikely to bring our nation to its knees. So the thing to guard against was subtle submission to fear.

By Thanksgiving 2001, the Los Angeles Times was lamenting the overuse of “or they win”: from the Temecula Valley International Film and Music Festival (in a plea against canceling events due to fears of an attack) to Martha Stewart (”To me,” she wrote in a memo concerning employee Christmas parties, “the terrorists have certainly succeeded if so few of you participate in a companywide effort to ‘get together.’ “).

By New Year’s Eve 2002 in New Orleans, the phrase was the stuff of posterboard signs displayed from French Quarter balconies, advising female passers-by: “Show us your [breasts] or the terrorists win.” Mercifully, that may be the last time I saw the phrase.

But 10 years into our long, hard slog, with Osama bin Laden in a body bag on the sea floor and al-Qaida in disarray, it’s still worth asking: Did they?

Did those 19 hijackers and the fear they inspired change us and our way of life for the worse? Did they win after all?

In some respects, it’s a silly question. Few of us today, I’d guess, stay away from a shopping mall or large sporting event — and certainly not any “companywide effort to ‘get together’ ” — because there might be a madman with a bomb.

Then again, there are such reports as the one Tuesday — nine years, 11 months and 26 days after the Twin Towers fell — that some day, in the not-too-distant future, one just might be able to wear shoes for an entire trip through a U.S. airport.

“We are moving towards an intelligence and risk-based approach to how we screen,” said Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, as reported by Politico. “I think one of the first things you will see over time is the ability to keep your shoes on. One of the last things you will [see changed] is the … limitation on liquids.”

How ridiculous it would have seemed 10 years and a day ago to hear a statement about restoring “the ability to keep your shoes on.” Yet, while there was an outcry this spring (”don’t touch my junk, man”) over the Transportation Security Administration’s more invasive screening procedures, I don’t know of anyone who’s won an election promising to reduce security measures.

Wars, waterboarding and warrantless wiretaps were supported by those with genuine concerns for safety, and opposed by those with genuine concerns for civil liberties. The debate over whether it was patriotic to question a (Republican) president’s efforts at security was ugly, and only became less ugly once his (Democratic) successor maintained many of those policies.

But for me, the answer to “did they win?” ultimately lies in the debate itself. It was imperfect and often unsatisfying, but it was carried out by free men and women mindful of protecting their freedom.

To fear danger is universal. To face it with reason and a determination to balance the interests of freedom with those of security is not. That we are still working at it tells me that we’re still winning.

(Note: I’m on vacation starting today, so all comments will have to go through moderation and will be posted when I get back on Monday, Sept. 19.)

– By Kyle Wingfield

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29 comments Add your comment

Joe the Plutocrat

September 9th, 2011
7:08 pm

KW, sorry for the re-run, but dial up the American Conservative and read Pat Buchanan’s screed about the “War on Terrorism” (”China won”), or Tom Englehardt’s piece on why we should forget 9/11. Terrorism is not a contest or a game; there are no “winners” or “losers”.


September 9th, 2011
9:43 pm

Bush saved us from another attack.

Obama saved us from another Great Depression.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Chief Media Urologist

September 9th, 2011
9:55 pm

We all lost Kyle. We all lost.


September 9th, 2011
9:56 pm

Ten years after 9/11 the terrorists have not won, however, in the larger sense we have to consider, have they lost? They are still sending out threats of more chaos. In order to claim victory we have to eliminate the causes and prevent the repetition of the barbaric events of 9/11. We are still aways from success. No peace treaty has been signed or are there signs that those who seek to undermine our democracy have turned towards a more peaceful coexistence. Our success lies in that we are” governed by laws and not by men”.


September 9th, 2011
11:50 pm

For once, I agree with you. It must be snowing now!!

Political Mongrel

September 10th, 2011
3:02 am

Of course they didn’t win. But they changed our political discourse, they changed the way government and the people interact much for the worse, they changed the way we see the world and the way the world sees us, they changed our relationship with the law and law enforcement, and they made America suspect itself. They darkened our world and made many of us withdraw into ourselves. They hurt us more than many people realize in ways that we haven’t understood until recently.

Still, we’re still going. We’re struggling internally, but we’re very, very far from down. We’re far removed from the hellholes than many other nations are. We’re struggling with internal and external conflicts that are draining, but we still have what it takes to fight back. And we won’t give up.


September 10th, 2011
5:49 am

Pass some of that blind kool-aid Kyle.

Since 9/11 we have dug ourselves trillions in debt over wars, we’ve destroyed our 4th amendment and civil liberties with the Patriotic Act and the TSA, we’ve engaged in torture, unlawful holdings and a total disregard for due process of Law, we now consider drone attacks as “not acts of war” thus they don’t require the Congress or Senate’s approval to continue funding, so we’ve totally changed the rules of war and made it where declaring and continuing war is done more dictator style, our Federal government is less transparent than Russia under Stalin………shall I continue Kyle Wingfield ???

In the last 10 years we’ve become a nation where the military and White House triumphs the people with zero regard to any concept of freedom or civil liberties that this country was founded on.

This was all part of Bin Laden’s plan. To bankrupt the US and force it into a situation where it’s paranoia would destroy everything it was built upon and stood for.

Keep drinking that juice Kyle Wingfield, keep ignoring that scorecard pal,

Bin Laden won.


September 10th, 2011
7:04 am

Are we as a country better off now than on the day before the attack? Looks like they won to me.

Tyler Durden

September 10th, 2011
8:25 am

It’s interesting that you’re attempting to re-frame the stock GOP reply to anyone who questioned their rush to force thru any number of ill-fated proposals after 9/11. I distinctly remember W claiming the supporting the 9/11 Commission was akin to letting the terrorists win and not being a patriot. And god forbid those millions who protested the GOP’s deceptive attempts to tie 9/11 to Iraq. Does the Tea Party have a stance on that? Oh that’s right, to them, nothing ever existed or happened before January 2009

If it’s a day that ends in ‘y’, it must be time for dittohead revisionism :-)


September 10th, 2011
9:20 am

What separates us from our enemy? What makes us right and them wrong? Hopefully it is character. Part of character is to do the right thing. Our enemies think they are doing the right thing. Our definitions of the right thing are different from our enemies. If we compromise our standards we are no different than our enemies. We become what made them our enemies in the first place, and then they have won. I believe this country wants to do the right thing but ambitious men lead us the wrong direction some times. They use our desire to do good against us to get what they want. We need to always be examining our motives to make sure that we have not fooled ourselves into believing we are something we are not. The practice itself in what we call democracy and it truly is the only manmade hope we have in this world.

interested observeer

September 10th, 2011
9:38 am

No, the terrorists did not win. They never win.

Just the same, America lost a lot on 9/11, more even than the lives and property. We lost the moral high ground (if we ever had it) with our invasion of Iraq, our treatment of detainees and gutting of our Constitution. We became more nationalistic and more divided. We became so fearful that anyone who is Moslem or even looks like they might be is subject to haltered and discrimination.

We’ve become a nation easy to exploit by fear. Just say “national security” and you can strip away Constitutional protections. I hate to see what Congress and the national security apparatus might do if – or rather when – there is another large terrorist attack.

Probably NOT connected, we’ve got a political system driven by the fringe elements of both parties that makes our government dysfunctional. No, the terrorists did not win, but America has been disintegrating more rapidly since Sept. 11, 2011, and there do not seem to be any prospects for reversing that trajectory.


September 10th, 2011
10:20 am

The terrorists have ABSOLUTELY WON. OBL said that his goal was to drag us into wars in the middle east, bankrupt us, and destroy our empire. That is exactly the response the neocons led by Bush gave to him. There are now more terrorists in the world who have been motivated by our actions over the past 10 years and virtually every country on the planet hates us for what we have done to the innocent citizens of the countries we have invaded and continue to occupy. Additionally instead of using the moment to reinforce the great traditions of liberty and freedom that made this country great (oh, and supposedly the reasons ‘they hate us’), Bush set out to completely destroy liberty and freedom and with the help of the congress (both parties) and the current administration, they have done just that.

Now we are a police state. We are sexually assaulted or irradiated not just at airports but anywhere the TSA chooses to violate the constitution. We have cameras on every street corner of every major city in america. Every email, phone call, financial transaction and who knows what else is monitored, captured, stored, scanned, and saved to be used against any citizen at random at the whim of the imperial government. Illegal and immoral torture continues unabated despite federal and international laws against it, the president now reserves the right to imprison anyone he wishes for any amount of time without trial or due process and he now even reserves the right to assassinate even US citizens anywhere in the world without trial or due process.

This blog space isn’t long enough to allow a full coverage of every horrible thing that has now been put in place since 9-11.

I suppose if you are one of the mindless flag-waving drones that actually believe that “they hate us because we are free” then the actions Bush and Obama and the congress (with the exception of Ron Paul and a few others) have taken has clearly taken away their motivation – for we certainly are no longer free.

If by that measure, then I suppose the terrorists did not win – but we lost this battle more than they did.


September 10th, 2011
10:27 am

“To fear danger is universal. To face it with reason and a determination to balance the interests of freedom with those of security is not. That we are still working at it tells me that we’re still winning.”

Well, finally you have said something which I can enthusiastically agree with. I look forward to each and every day we can celebrate the preservation, and eventual restoration, of our civil rights.

Rafe Hollister

September 10th, 2011
10:55 am

I think it has been a mixed bag, we are winning, but not convincingly. We have surrendered many of our liberties and are treated like criminals when we go through the airport. We have killed many of those responsible, but don’t seem to have the will to deal with those left in GITMO. I am afraid that the more threats there are that nevef materialize, the less vigilant we become. Seems to me we need to reevaluate our strategy, hopefully, finding some way to end this war without end. We seem stuck on preparedness and defense, with no prospect of victory.


September 10th, 2011
1:44 pm

53 lines (or thereabouts) and you go on vacation too. Shoddy journalism. At least you aren’t cutting and pasting 3/4 of your article from another source like most of the time. This maybe required a bit of work, but this and the past ‘blogs’ don’t merit a vacation. Moreover… it’s a blog. That is suppose to be a back and forth thing.


September 10th, 2011
2:22 pm

Then why do we continue the “stupid”?
Drug kingpin’s son: U.S. gave me immunity to run drugs if I gave info on other cartels
Last updated at 7:51 PM on 9th September2011

The dashing young man held in isolation in a Chicago jail doesn’t deny he was a top lieutenant in his father’s Mexican drug cartel.
But instead has offered a novel defence for his drug-trafficking.
Vicente Zambada’s lawyers claim he and other cartel leaders were granted immunity by U.S. agents — and carte blanche to smuggle cocaine over the border — in exchange for intelligence about rival cartels engaged in bloody turf wars in Mexico………..

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2035658/Drug-kingpins-son-U-S-gave-immunity-run-drugs-I-gave-info-cartels.html#ixzz1XZaKEGhO

common sense

September 10th, 2011
3:22 pm

well, I think they did win. In NY over the past few days, police have been stopping trucks and cars, and ILLEGALLY searching them, because they received a tip that we were going to be attacked. We gave up our freedoms for the sake of safety.


September 10th, 2011
4:33 pm

Yes they have won. Because they helped in transforming our Nation”s civil liberals and laws by making us more of a police state. They helped create the false need for a nazi type organization that we call Homeland Security and the perverts and child molesters of the TSA. Also they make us spend and waste billions of dollars on these nazis government agenices. One more note they also put a false fear in the minds of so many people in America.


September 10th, 2011
9:21 pm

Wow. A blog specifically related to the anniversary of 9-11 and you won’t even be looking at the responses until you return on 9-19. Boy the mainstream media is getting father and farther out of touch with the moment.

Saul Good

September 11th, 2011
6:37 am

Actually the terrorists HAVE won. There is a segment of our society here (I’ll refer to them as the talibangelicals) who have become SO fearful of Muslims, that they refuse to allow them to build houses of worship. They make up phony stories about them implementing Sharia law here, yet they can’t name one court case, or one judge who has side stepped one of our nations laws in favor of Sharia law. They (the terrorists) have made people bigots. By that very means…. it equates to them winning. When people live in fear of others… that is what terrorism is all about.

Come on haters…show me your true colors and bigotry/rasicm today!


September 11th, 2011
9:16 am

Did the terrorists win?

Ask Sarah Palin who made the distasteful comments during the last presidential campaign- that Barack Obama was “palling around with terrorists.” Ask Dick Cheney and George W. Bush who thought it was a great idea to start listening to the private conversations of American citizens who picked up a telephone.

Ask those Americans who make it a “patriotic” duty to point out that Barack Obama’s middle name in Hussein to engender the notion that he is Arab or Muslin and so must be evil enough to be distrusted, scorned and reviled.

Ask, those Americans who are up in arms all over the country about the construction of mosques and other Muslim establishments of congregation. Ask those Americans who are threatened
by the Muslim right to free speech, to assemble, to be secure in their homes and businesses,
and to be free to travel on all instrumentality of national progress. Ask those Americans who now believe that that patriotic Muslim is an oxymoron. Ask those Americans who believe that Muslims should not be allowed to wear their traditional dress on airplanes. Ask those Americans who believe that Barack Obama is “soft on terrorists” and that he has made the country “less secure” from

Ask a half a million dead Iraqis and 4,792 dead Coalition troops about their sacrifices on behalf of 9/11 victims. Surely, we can bring out bomb sniffing dogs, and check tractor trailer on highways, and we can scan through people’s clothes a airports, but we can not let the dogs into our minds to find and remove the hate, fear and the reactionary spirit of intolerance and our exotic new prejudices
against Arabs and Muslims and people with strange dark skinned names.

independent thinker

September 11th, 2011
10:43 am

We have yet to learn the lessons of appeasement of Muslim terrorists learned on 9-11, We empowered Muslim jihadists including Ben Laden to fight the Soviets – why? Was the Soviet takeover of Afghanistan really a theat to our national security? We also made Pakistan a partner in the war in Afghanistan and helped them enable the Taliban as their ally without seeing the danger of enabling radical Muslims who learn all day in Madrasas to hate America. They harbored and protected our chief enemy for ten years due to our appeasement and coddling of Pakistan. And now we learn that the no. 1 terrorist- Ghadaffi who first sanctioned the destruction of an American passenger airline over Scottland was appeased and made a partner in the war on terror with US military aid and CIA collaberation before his own people rose up against the tyrant. Similarly Sadaam was on our “good boy ;ist” for years in the war against Iran. Have we learned that appeasement does not work and that consorting with radical Muslims and Middle Eastern tyrants who support any form of terrorism will lead to our destruction? Why was this threat not prioirity one before 9-11? Will protection of oil production in the Middle east continue to be our top priority or dow e have a principled approach now based on human rights, containment of radical Islam and protection of our citizens from any form of terrism as the guiding force?

Kyle Wingfield

September 11th, 2011
11:02 am

Folks, as mentioned above, I’m going to be away this week and will not be checking comments while I’m gone. I’ve published the comments made up to this point (minus the ones asking why their first comment wasn’t published) but don’t expect any more to be published till next weekend. I’m sorry there’s no one available to handle this in my absence.


September 11th, 2011
4:00 pm

Perot Vindicated as NAFTA Causes Mass Outsourcing of Jobs

Written by Kelly Holt
Monday, 14 February 2011 17:18
During his 1992 presidential campaign, Texan Ross Perot was maligned for his warning that the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) would cause many American jobs to be outsourced. But it turns out he was right about that “giant sucking sound.” NAFTA went into effect January 1, 1994, and the resultant suction of American jobs to points south — and ultimately west — has seemed almost audible.

According to the analysis of Global Economic Intersection (GEI), the goods balance of trade for the U.S. with Mexico has been negative and growing since the adoption of NAFTA. GEI, an economics-based website, focuses on the effects of economics on finance, investing, social interactions, politics, and public policy, and also features analysis of economic indicators.

GEI reported that in 2010, the negative balance of trade for the U.S. was $61.6 billion, 9.5 percent of the total goods trade deficit last year. The group’s analysis also noted that almost 29 million American jobs had been lost between 1992 and the end of 2010.
The “expanded free trade” that Perot’s 1992 opponents George Bush and Bill Clinton argued would create U.S. jobs has backfired. Cheap labor markets in Mexico, and ultimately China, have resulted in many American manufacturers opting to outsource jobs and factories. Just as Perot opined, the “free trade” would not be a two-way street……



September 11th, 2011
5:14 pm

Right Kyle, WE won by bleeding our economy and several thousand of our young men dry in Iraq and Afghanistan. Some of your most moronic blather ever.


September 11th, 2011
11:42 pm

They won. They caused us to destroy our own democracy by building the surveilance state.
We turned to a life of fear, where our government works at keeping us frightened. Our rule of law is gone. We were morally debased to the point that our nation tortured people, and the perpetrators go unpunished. Under the pretense of war on terror, our government has taken us into more wars than they admit to, with no useful results.
Let us not forget that Bin Ladin was trained and armed by the CIA to fight the Russians in Afghanistan, and his family were sitting with Dick Cheney when the 9/11 attack commenced. Who are the real terrorists? We do not know.


September 12th, 2011
8:06 am

This is a wimpy blog statement, celebrating the ability to wake up every morning and sticking one’s head in the sand as a victory against terrorism. Terrorism has not killed us, but it has made a cultural shift in the US from a country justifiably proud of itself to a country desperate to prove it is still a major world player. When we are able to recognize our gift to the world without hubris, without fear, without desperation, but with an offer of peaceful integration into the global community and the ability to sustain that peace, then terrorism will have lost.


September 12th, 2011
8:52 am

There is no win or lose in this instance, and our lives will never be the same. We were careless, and let our guards down, because nothing had happened to cause us not to trust people from other countries. But now that something has happened, we are fearful of everything. We went from being afraid to fly, to watching who was getting on our plane. Our lives will never be the same.


September 12th, 2011
9:04 pm

Did Kyle mean to leave the lights on? The door open? With leftists lurking, this isn’t a safe neighborhood.