20 years since 9/11 – what did we learn?


20 years ago late at night there was a hammering on my door.

It was my best friend.

He had heard news on the radio that one of the Twin Towers had been hit by a plane.

He knew I had sky with CNN and had raced over to wake me up and watch it happening.

We both sat on my couch watching the live coverage of the gaping hole billowing grim black midnight smoke like the heat emanating from a portal that has torn asunder the fabric of space time.

Into that yawning maw we argued ideas as to what had happened. A lost pilot? A grand gesture suicide? Plane malfunction?

As we debated what had caused this visual impossibility the second plane like an architectural dagger thrown by a terrible God sliced through our rapid hot takes and plowed into the other tower.

I still remember the punch to the stomach visceral impact watching it live caused.

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You so rarely witness the start of a war live in real time while knowing every other waking individual on earth is witnessing it too.

I was hosting talkback on Channel Z at the time and everyone turned up watching the madness unfold on the big screen studio TV.

We decided to run news reports all day on what was occurring in front of us because music seemed unholy in the face of what was happening.

I did the afternoon/evening shift after the towers had fallen and we crossed live to Kiwis living in New York who could see the destruction from their apartments and talked to a young guy who had seen the damage and was smoking a joint in Central Park to calm down his recollection of the sense of fear.

We all were shocked and in shock.

I remember trying to sum up the day for final words in a desperate attempt to find meaning in what the hell we had all just watched and I remember saying that we had witnessed history and that nothing will be as it was, because  America’s vengeance against whomever had violated their sense of normal in such a perverse manner would redefine everything.

Everything changes after this.

And it did.

While the day itself and the loss of life and economic damage fades into insignificance in light of global world wars or paramilitary funded coups, its universality of audience in real time left a psychological scar upon everyone who witnessed it.

9/11 was a global bonding moment of an event whose reverberations damaged and robbed the first 2 decades of enormous global potential for us as a species.


The brutality of America’s vengeance was almost immediate.

We bombed Afghanistan from a Bronze Age culture into the Stone Age. Taliban leaders who a year earlier Washington was feting to gain an oil pipeline deal, were suddenly Satan incarnate.

After destroying most Government buildings, we rounded up vast numbers and tortured them mercilessly.

So much torture.

An obscene level of torture.

And when Osama was about to be captured, America eased off and allowed him to slip through their fingers so that the vengeance for 9/11 wasn’t sated by his death.

The Bush Administration so convinced of its own exceptionalism took that frisson for justice and manipulatively turned it on former CIA client state stooge, Saddam Hussein.

Sensing an opportunity to expand the Military Industrial Complex’s Corporate Empire by annexing a geopolitical status symbol like Iraq to show the corridors of history what Pax Americana looks like appealed to the Bush Administration the way evangelical Christians pray for the rapture.

The civilised worldview acted in astonished shock that any response to a mostly Saudi team of terrorists committing a terrorist act was to attack Iraq was immoral & demonstrably wrong.

Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11 and we staged the largest anti war demonstrations on the planet against the Iraq war.

The mainstream media fed us the lie of weapons of mass destruction over and over and over again to a planet still in shock from witnessing 9/11.

When it turned out that there were no WMDs, just as the Left had predicted, alongside the appalling break down of law and order and terrible civilian carnage, our faith was amputated.

We saw the election of Obama as a redemption of America, but his foreign policy only differed in that he killed remotely via drone.

The rise of ISIS from the ranks of former Iraqi military that the Americans tortured, the impact of cheap pure heroin warlords use to finance their operations to the eventual fall of Afghanistan after 20 years of pointless war.

The West continually managed to fuck up a clusterfuck that was already fucked.

The Trillions spent, the millions displaced, the hundreds of thousands dead.

All for what?


The cultural reverberations from 9/11 still echo through the DNA of the present.

The corporate war machine made obscene profits.

For every bomb we dropped we made 5 new radicals.

When Trump used ‘fake news’ it linked to the betrayal we all felt over the WMD lie.

Millennials grew up in a culture of distrust towards the establishment from a society who had opposed the war and maybe robbed them of the power to act in solidarity for change in favour of micro aggression policing what they could control.

Snowden and Assange gave testimony to the abuse of our 9/11 vengeance and alerted us to a mass surveillance state who had taken our fear and caged us in it.

What did we learn?

Last week an ISIS inspired broken person committed violence in the hope of causing more violence, the exact same malice as the White supremacy terrorist attempted in Christchurch.

If 9/11 has taught us anything, surely it must be to oppose the bitter harvest of violent revenge. That we must not allow our anger and fear to determine our hand lest we feed the hail of divided tears on barren soil that is the cold comfort of the lynch mob.

The watchful eye of the lidless State above us like a jealous God is no security.

Love, justice and forgiveness are our only armour against hate.


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  1. Absolutely nothing.

    The same type of puritan ideology that drove US imperialism in the 90’s and early 00’s is being undertaken by the woke, the corporate elite, the tribal elite and the bureaucracy today. It’s an us vs them ideology immortalized by the most stupid president ever, George W Bush “You are either with us or against us”.

    The Blairite’s lasting legacy is going to be the partisanship of New Zealand. There will be a New Zealand – primarily rural/suburban, aged, trade based and white in nature verses an Aotearoa – urban, young, multicultural and corporate in nature. It won’t be a nice fight and you only have to look to the US in regards to our trajectory.

    This will likely be during a period of great economic upheaval and recession despite what all the feckless economic reporters are saying. This won’t be pretty…….Jacinda’s lasting legacy as she sits on a pile of bones in New York.

  2. And Bin Laden won. They threw every resource at Afghanistan, Iraq and that profligated endless war for 2 decades+.

    Janet Yellen announced to Pelosi. “We’re broke in October, November if we cant raise the debt limit by at least $6.5 trillion.”

    Bin Laden’s plan was to do what the US had done to the Soviet Union. Which was to bankrupt them. He’s almost there.

    • Denny there is no evidence that Bin Laden had anything to do with the towers being attacked and demolished. The FBI has none and if you take Bush’s rant then just look at it carefully for there is nothing he said that was based on evidence.
      For example the UN inspectors said Saddam had no WMDs but Bush claimed he did.
      There was none and Bush is a criminal liar.
      He lied about 911 when it has been clearly shown the demolitions were made with explosives not planes. They were just a spectacle for the simple minded public to fix their beliefs to plus many others.

    • Yes Jenny 100% i would bet on it. Just follow the money and their utter contempt to murder their own countrymen and women in order to articulate the next two invasions and war. There was no airplane crash at the pentagon only the American military striking their own building to maximise the carnage and prompt the government to wage war on this pretext.
      Where is the plane flight 77 and its passengers’ ?
      Also the destruction of the WTC served another sinister purpose to target certain business operations that had their head offices in WTC 1 and 2.
      This whole operation was supported and used to scare the American people and usher in new surveillance powers to curb personal freedoms i the wake of this new Islamic threat and to justify the need for military campaigns abroad and pump money into the military complex to fight this new threat.

    • Agree Green Bus and Martyn.
      How to get one’s head around this happening that cannot be encircled in some excessive adjective?
      The mind goes to Dr Strangelove or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. Perhaps a review from the New Yorker could provide an introduction to the real adventures of the USA in the Middle East.

      Or perhaps one could take a break from trying to apply intelligence and understanding to these arcane imperious adventures and just watch fun adventure films like Romancing the Stone and Jewel of the Nile.

  3. We learned that propaganda works.

    We learned the absolute bullshit narrative that defied the laws of physics and chemistry put out by the powers that be (and repeated over and over again) was believed by the ignorant masses. And in many cases that ridiculous narrative is still believed.

  4. “20 years since 9/11 – what did we learn?”
    We learned that those whom have power over us and harvest us like bees in a hive can continue to do so because under the current psychiatric illness that’s known as ‘capitalism’ we have absolutely no control over what they would want to do to us.
    “…The Trillions spent, the millions displaced, the hundreds of thousands dead.
    All for what?…”
    Well, for money which equals power of course.
    I found this in this morning’s The Guardian.
    I might write that this is a ‘must-read’ but the words “must-read” hardly do justice to an outstanding piece of writing highlighting a frightening creature which I’m now, more than ever, convinced is a real and actual fucking alien.
    Warning! Don’t read before bedtime.
    The Guardian.
    Jeff Bezos.
    ‘A managerial Mephistopheles’: inside the mind of Jeff Bezos.
    “The Amazon founder’s relentless quest for ‘customer ecstasy’ made him one of the world’s richest people – now he’s looking to the unlimited resources of space. Is he the genius our age of consumerism deserves?”
    It’s been my opinion for some time now that we’re effectively financing and building a petard we’re about to hoist ourselves up by. I think bezos (and others) are about to exit Earth to leave a virus behind to clean up after them. I do hope I’m completely bonkers.
    Space, as such, is about 200 km ‘out’. That’s the distance between Christchurch and Ashburton stood on end. All bezos would have to do is wait until our carcasses rotted into the ground then he could come back ‘in’ and reclaim the spoils. Albeit with a can of air freshener and some fly spray.
    The actual practicalities of wintering out the morbid effects of a deliberately released, genetically manufactured and lethal virus is NOT impossible and should be enough of an incentive to tax amazon and other like minded hyper corporations into oblivion to make sure the fuckers can never, ever leave us to it again. Ever.
    I’m proud to say I’ve never knowingly or directly bought anything off amazon so don’t blame me when we start dropping like flies.
    Aye Jeff?
    Jeff says

  5. Not many people learn from History. I know a school where a History teacher was standing with a group of teachers in school the first day after the event. All were rather shocked. He said, ‘Yes, and a lot of people are going to die now.”
    The others went silent in surprise. He added, “And they will probably be the wrong ones.”
    Given hindsight, how well did he do?

  6. We also learnt that governments do not get punished for allowing terrorist atrocities to happen under their watch if they can manipulate it correctly.

    It seemed ludicrous to me that they (the American public) re-elected Bush after 9/11 happened under his watch…but to be fair their appointments of Presidents since then had taught me now not to be surprised at all.

    A govts first role should be to protect the people, and in it that they failed. Yet through, as Martin pointed out, manipulated propaganda they removed all blame from themselves and created a boogie man for the public to pour their hate on. I’ll leave the analogy there.

    • Sorry, you’ve got it all wrong.

      The prime role of western governments is to facilitate the agendas of bank’s, corporations and opportunists. That is why we are subjected to phony narratives the whole time. Whether it be ‘security’ or the economy or finance or the environment, it’s all bollocks.

      What the government HAS TO DO is keep the masses from recognising they are lie d to on a continuos basis.

      With everything falling apart, that aspect -of keeping the masses believing in the system- is getting a lot harder for the play actors.in psrliament and the corporate media.

    • Yes. And if you see the leadership as a puppet of big business, the biggest one being the Military Industrial Complex it all makes sense. A perfect opportunity to manipulate heart and minds.

  7. When September 11 happened for the first tower you thought it was an accident. When the 2nd plane hit, you knew it was a terror attack.

    At the time, I remember thinking, I just hope this was a domestic terrorist and not an international terrorist, because you knew life was going to change and revenge extracted if it was an international terrorist.

    As for the US, my memory is different. Bush did not want to go into Afghanistan and tried to get the Taliban to give up Mullar Omar. My memory is that Bush and others were reluctant to go in, because Afghanistan is an extremely difficult place to invade and the Russians had tried and failed (ironically the US helped the Taliban to defeat the Russians).

    Faced with losing face if the US did nothing, and pushed by Rumsfeld and Cheney, the US went in, and appeared to gain an easy but ultimately false victory in Afghanistan, which pushed them to use that to make a bogus case for war in Iraq. The rest is history, trillions of dollars, corruption and division within the west, terror attacks across the west, while the non democratic countries took their advantage from the distraction. Last month the Taliban were able to take back Afghanistan within days, making the US and their allies look like fools who pursued a fool’s war.

      • Partly for the oil and perceived economic reasons and partly because Rumsfeld and Cheney gave Suddam Hussain arms, precursor chemical weapons and money to arm Iraq against Iran, but Suddam Hussain wouldn’t do what they told him, thus needed to be replaced.

        The good news is with solar and other power the US probably doesn’t have to worry as much about where their next oil barrel is coming from.

        The US might have an appalling history of meddling in other countries and it going wrong, but what is the alternative type of government for superpower? Most people would still prefer to live in the US, than China or Russia.

        ironically it is internal disruption that will be the US downfall, aka the rise of the white woke desperate for white decline at all costs, and the rise of the puppet, celebrity politician who isn’t very capable of understanding policy and government policy makers are not that smart anymore, but self interested.

        Cancel culture isn’t that good at looking at replacement governments and pros and cons, they just want to destroy what they have. At the same time, policy is influenced by individuals for business, not for the good of people. (Xi has already removed this threat to himself by taking over billionaire businesses and disappearing the founders).

        Time to peddle back all the woke policy, destroying from the inside. They might have some critique right, but their remedy and future under them, is bonkers.

  8. Our hard right and Blairite Govts have learned to hone “shock docterine ,,,, where they use disasters , terror attacks , covid etc ,,,,to push through laws and actions that they would normally not get away with.

    “The Shock Doctrine: How Vulnerability and Fear Allows the Government to Control Its People”.

    And we should not lose sight of the fact the “Austerity” which starves funds to things like our public health sector,,,, resulting in dangerous and disgracefully low number of ICU beds etc .,,,

    ,,,,,,,,,,,This Austerity is artificial and generated by right wing Governments like our last National one ,,,, Passing ‘loophole laws’,,,, that enable tax havens,,, where the ultra rich and corporations opt out of paying their share .,,,

    And then the righties claim TINA ,,, there is no alternative ,,,, we must cut funding for ever thing apart from war ,,,,

    The only socialist spending they ever support ,,, is money for the military ,,, and ‘private sector’.


    “Imagine if the world’s deadliest terrorist group got their hands on drones and cruise missiles and nuclear warheads and aircraft carriers and circled the planet with hundreds of military bases and began waging wars and destroying any country which disobeyed their dictates.” — Usa Usa


    “Modern gods are corporations and banks, faceless inhuman entities whose agendas of growth and conquest supercede even the wishes of their own executives. Our gods are insatiable devourers controlled by no one. Our gods have no heads.

    At a time when our species is hurtling toward its own demise we ought to be coming together and working in unison to avert disaster, and it says so much about the power of propaganda that we are instead doing the exact opposite.

    All of humanity’s problems are ultimately due to a misperception of the way things are.

    Propaganda causes us to misperceive reality in a way that benefits establishment power structures, so we don’t rise up and use the power of our numbers to put an end to the ecocidal, omnicidal status quo which oppresses and exploits us.” https://caitlinjohnstone.com/2021/09/09/the-worlds-deadliest-terrorist-group-notes-from-the-edge-of-the-narrative-matrix/

    • Maybe it was because of all the contracts that were in place to provide munitions and paramilitary support intended for Afghanistan. With that scene being apparently over too soon they had to invent another one. Hence Iraq?

  9. We learned there are more irrational konspiracy freaks out there than we ever thought possible – and then Q arrived and we’re going through a similar experience again.

  10. The biggest terrorist in the world fly B52s & drop bombs (daisy cutters/cluster bombs/napalm) on totally innocent humans in revenge attacks on their perceived (manufactured) enemy’s & the MIC laugh all the way to the bank.
    Meanwhile back in Sepo land people have no food to eat & no where to live, but we chant 4 more years, 4 more years or USA, USA etc etc.

  11. Fuck! The nutjobs are on fire!
    Didn’t they get there latest update(s) from Wei Wei’s latest downloads?
    Is the G5 network down or have they forgotten to take off their tinfoil hat to let the download proceed?


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