The first nine anniversaries of the 9/11 attacks have come and gone, leaving Americans remembering what they were doing that fateful Tuesday in 2001--I was at work, and walked home to Virginia from D.C.--as well as considering how much has changed since then. But it's also remarkable how LITTLE has changed since the first anniversary of the attacks--the anniversary being September 11, 2002. Let's recap:
1) One year after the attacks, we had passed dubious anti-terrorist legislation (USA PATRIOT Act, which you couldn't oppose unless you hate patriotism, comrade), created the Department of Homeland Security, and given the government additional powers to identify and act on terrorist threats. Government still pretty much has all that power.
2) One year after the attacks, we had invaded Afghanistan to ensure that country would no longer be a safe haven for Al Quaeda. Today, we still have significant forces there, conducting anti-Taliban operations.
3) In 2002, former NYC Mayor Rudolf Guiliani had been so popular he had even been able to get his annointed GOP successor, Michael Bloomberg, elected to succeed him. Bloomberg is still there, passing soda rules and banning smoking. Amazingly, the Democrats have not won a mayoral election in that city since 1989.
4) George W Bush, who was also enormously popular at the first anniversary of 9/11, is out of office and saw his popularity take a nosedive in his second term. His successor, Barack Obama, has kept Guantanamo Bay open for indefinite suspected terrorist detentions, vastly increased aerial drone strikes at suspected terrorist targets, and kept most of the antiterrorism policies in place. We have still not suffered a followup attack near the magnitude of the original, and whether these policies are the reason for it or not is still the subject of the same debate we've been having for eleven years.
5) Bill Clinton is still a treacherous scumbag. This has nothing to do with 9/11, but it holds true eleven years later.
6) September 11, 2002 we were still very slowly recovering from a recession. Today, we're very slowly recovering from another, albeit more painful, recession. Like ten years ago, people are starting to see housing as a good thing to put their money into.
7) Iraq in 2002 had nothing to do with the attacks that were launched the previous year. Today, Iran has still not attacked us, but there's a strong contingent on the right that thinks attacking that country would be a great idea.
The biggest point, though, as noted in 4), is that we've managed eleven years without another big attack. Whatever the reason for this, we ought to be thankful for this even while mourning the losses from the original September 11th.