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More 9/11 Recollections

"There is no doubt the world has changed as a result of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. On that day nearly 3,000 people, including 24 Canadians, were killed in a series of barbaric acts." - Stephen Harper

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More 9/11 Recollections

Stephen Harper
Prime Minister of Canada
by Christopher Guly

There is no doubt the world has changed as a result of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. On that day nearly 3,000 people, including 24 Canadians, were killed in a series of barbaric acts. Their families still mourn their loss. Sept. 11 taught Canadians that our commitment to freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law must remain unwavering. After all, the greatest threat to global terrorism is our steadfast belief in our values, and our ability to defend them and to promote them around the world. Ten years on, Canada is standing taller on the world stage because we have made the investments in both our military and our foreign aid levels to help promote our values around the world. In Afghanistan, where 9/11 was conceived and planned, our brave men and women in the Canadian Armed Forces have helped to bring stability and security. Thanks to their efforts thousands of young girls are now going to school and Afghanistan is no longer for terrorist training. Canada is making a difference. And the world is better for it.

Tarek Fatah
Author of Chasing a Mirage: The Tragic Illusion of an Islamic State, and founder of the Muslim Canadian Congress
By Jordan Himelfarb

I would argue that things have not yet turned for the better, because we’ve not yet understood the ideology we are fighting. In fact, I would argue, we wasted 10 years. Even now the West cannot understand the threat that it faces. It was clear how to combat Communism or Nazism, but the concept of jihad and the war on western civilization – we don’t have the courage to face it. I thought the world would declare war on Islamism, that we would not hesitate to say that we would defeat the ideology of jihad, but there was a fear of speaking the truth. We feel guilty. No one wants to appear to be harkening back to the colonial period. In the House of Commons the opposition is more interested in speaking about the torture the Taliban faces at the hands of Pakistan’s army. We are too frightened and too ignorant about this ideology; we are dealing with an enemy that doesn’t need life to sustain itself. The enemy wants to die to begin; it’s a death cult that we can’t begin to understand.

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Jayne Stoyles
Executive Director, Canadian Centre for International Justice
By Jordan Himelfarb

I believe since September 11 there is more awareness in North America of how dramatic and horrifying it is to live through violent situations of this magnitude, whether acts of terrorism, crimes against humanity or war crimes. There is also more awareness of the need to enforce the international laws that prohibit these crimes, through justice mechanisms and not simply through military means. The International Criminal Court came into existence after 9/11, and increasingly there are trials of international crimes in national courts around the world. These mechanisms hold significant promise for the deterrence of atrocities that was not possible a decade ago. Barbara J. Falk Associate Professor of Defence Studies, Canadian Forces College By Jordan Himelfarb But for 9/11, the situation of women in Afghanistan would be much worse than it is now. Improving the lives of girls and women is not why the U.S. invaded to overthrow the Taliban government in the fall of 9/11 but it was certainly a rogue state that deserved to be toppled, particularly given its massive violation of human rights and general reputation for misogyny. And I suppose that, both for better and for worse, we have a much broader notion of what constitutes a security threat. This can lead to a kind of over-securitization and over-reaction to criminal events (remember the anthrax letters? conspiracy theories about the disappearance of honeybees?). But at the same time some things should be considered as security issues that historically have not been, e.g. HIV/AIDS. And recall that, in comparison with either war or terrorism, HIV is the big killer of the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Over 35 million infected, last time I checked, and more than 20 million dead. The biggest global “killer” since World War II.

Michel Juneau-Katsuya
CEO, The Northgate Group Corp.; former CSIS operative
By Jordan Himelfarb

There is a lot to say about how the world has changed for worse since September 11, 2001, of course. Overall, we are probably not in a better place (thanks in great part to George W. Bush who, in my opinion, did more for the cause of al Qaeda than al Qaeda itself). But if I were to identify one good consequence, it would be that more people came to understand the issues of security simply by virtue of the increased media coverage and discussion. Does it mean that security has necessarily improved? No. But at least now the conversation is more informed. People are finally beginning to understand that if we want to get rid of terrorism, we need to tackle the root causes, the motivations. To understand terrorism, we now see, we must first understand the discourse in the Middle East, the situation in Palestine and South Lebanon, the dictatorships in the Muslim world (Syria, Iran, etc.), corruption in oil-producing countries, etc. Once you understand that it becomes clear that the solutions are economic, political and even legal. Every time we catch a terrorist cell, we are only treating the symptom, not the cause of the disease. Of course, as the recent events in Norway illustrated, terrorism is by no means the exclusive domain of the Muslim world. In fact, terrorism from elsewhere has been on the rise since 9/11, but we did not want to talk about it. Now we must address it. We must address the causes – the justice and social issues we ignored for too long. We still have a long way to go, but at least now the discussion is in the open.

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Gabe Roder
Captain, Vancouver Fire and Rescue
By Jordan Himelfarb

What happened on 9/11 changed the way we view security and the way we view terrorism, and it certainly changed how we do firefighting. This might be especially true in Vancouver because we had the Olympics here last year and of course we took terrorism very seriously. It was no holds barred in making sure the city would be as safe as possible. We looked at what happened on September 11, what could be fixed. For instance, high-rise awareness. Vancouver has a lot of high-rises downtown and so we looked at what happened in New York and we learned and reassessed our guidelines to ensure that they would better deal with any emergency in a high-rise situation. Our firefighting has definitely improved. In the aftermath of 9/11, we learned that we needed more accountability and better communication between services. We realized how important it is not to fly by the seat of your pants. Have you seen Backdraft? It just doesn’t work like that anymore. Running into a building without any clear direction of what you’re doing is going to get people killed. As firefighters, the day is etched into our memory. 343 firefighters died. That’s nearly half as many firefighters as there are in Vancouver. It’s mind-boggling. We had several of our firefighters going to New York to assist with funerals on that day and it made a lasting impression on them. And the stories they brought home had lessons for all of us as firefighters and created a stronger bond among us and between fire services across North America. Firefighting is like no other profession. We are truly a brotherhood and a sisterhood. And after 9/11, that became even stronger.

Robert Huish
Assistant Professor of International Development Studies, Dalhousie University
By Jordan Himelfarb

Since the attacks on the United States in September 2001, the world still seems to be engulfed by policies that lead to war, fear and mistrust. Internationally, nations have contributed billions more to war than they have to health. Domestically the heightened security alerts and the hyper-vigilant screening at airports have inched us closer to Orwell’s “big brother” state. Yet, despite 10 violent and militarized years there are still those who demand something better, by exercising their right to protest the actions of our governments. There are those who continue to monitor human rights abuses, and others who speak for the needs of veterans coming home from war. Others call for better policies that favour peace over war, and cooperation rather than rivalry between nations. For me the fact that those activists are still there demanding accountability and a better future is something to be proud of. They remind us that a century of war and fear is not the only road that lies ahead.