By Brigitte L. Nacos
Just in time for the sixth anniversary of 9/11 and the by now familiar display of collective grief and political exploitation at the Ground Zero site and elsewhere, the leaders of the targeted society and the architects of those horrific terror attacks have intensified their propaganda campaigns. This morning, Eric Schmitt reports on the New York Times web site that the “nation’s top counterterrorism officials are warning today that the United States will face a persistent threat from Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups for years to come, but they plan to offer no specific evidence of any imminent plots against targets on American soil.” And the Associated Press and its members carry a dispatch informing us, “Al-Qaida said Monday that it will release a new video of Osama bin Laden presenting the last testament of one of the Sept. 11 suicide hijackers, marking the sixth anniversary of the attacks.” While mass-mediated terrorism threat warnings from administration officials and from al-Qaeda Central have been plentiful in the six years after the events of 9/11, they come in bunches at this time of the year because they assure their issuers even more attention than usual.
Since this heightened attention makes the public stage just before and on 9/11 especially attractive, it can’t be a coincidence that the long advertised Iraq "progress" report by General David Petraeus was scheduled for today. With the 9/11 anniversary looming large in the media, even Oprah gets into the act with a special show from New York City on “The Children of September 11,” the general shouldn’t have too a hard a time selling what has been publicized well in advance of his appearance—regardless of the noise from MoveOn.org and a few Democrats. Cued by the president’s assurances that the military knows best when it comes to Iraq, the public now trusts the generals more than the president and the congress. Never mind that neither the White House nor anyone else in the administration listened to the generals before the Iraq invasion.
The 9/11 anniversary hype works also in favor of bin Laden, al-Qaeda
Central and like-minded groups in that they receive even more attention than
usual when they make public appeals. Last week’s bin Laden video tape was not
only over-covered before it was released and pitched as seemingly unending
“breaking news” after it became available for public consumption, it drew
immediate and direct comments from President Bush and other legitimate
government leaders and official spokespersons. The same is happening now with
the mere announcement of a new 9/11 anniversary tape.
Just as al-Qaeda’s leaders exploit 9/11 anniversaries to
rally supporters and potential recruits, our own leaders exploit the date and
the events marking it for their own political gains and in support of their
policies—especially as they figure into the so-called “war on terrorism.”
Reasons enough to ask how long these organized
commemorations should continue in the present form and size? How long should
TV-stations be pressured into airing the reading of the long list of 9/11
victims? How long should the periodic displays of public grief and the demands
of a small number of activist 9/11 families concerning the future of the Ground
Zero memorial and of this site in general overshadow the needs of ailing first
responders and their families as well as other community needs and interests?
These are uncomfortable questions—especially on the
eve of another 9/11 anniversary. But they need to be pondered and answered.