Eleven years out, it’s getting harder for some people to remember 9/11. The only reason some will do so today is because President Barack Obama – and others at the Democratic National Convention – last week talked a lot about the killing of Osama bin Laden.
Bin Laden was behind the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in which more than 3,000 people were killed in the worst attack on U.S. soil since Pearl Harbor. Last March, after 10 years of trying, U.S. Navy SEALs killed bin Laden in a raid in Pakistan. Obama gave the order, in what many consider a gutsy move, and he and others are now touting it as a critical accomplishment during his reelection bid.
But on this 9/11 anniversary, Americans should remember not only what happened on 9/11 but what happened after as well. We continue to pay those costs. Consider:
A month after 9/11 a U.S.-led war was launched in Afghanistan to root out al-Qaida, the terrorist organization bin Laden headed that was based in Afghanistan; in 2003, a U.S.-led war was launched in Iraq to further root out terrorism. The Bush administration used erroneous information that despotic leader Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction he planned to use on the U.S.
More than 6,500 in the U.S. military, most under 30 years old, have been killed or injured in those two wars. Every state in the union can tally sons and daughters who’ve died in the conflicts. Thousands of families have felt the pain of loved ones dead or hurt.
Brown University researchers last year calculated the financial cost of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq plus spillover conflicts in Pakistan at close to $4 trillion – costs that have been financed entirely through debt which economists say has had a negative impact on the U.S. economy. The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities has estimated that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, together with the Bush tax cuts, will account for almost half of the projected $20 trillion debt in 2019.
Sadly, the death toll continues for those associated with the 2001 attacks. There have been an estimated 1,000-plus deaths from 9/11-related illnesses to those who did rescue and recovery work at Ground Zero where the World Trade Center towers in New York were hit. In recent weeks, three New York City cops, two firefighters and a construction union worker who toiled at Ground Zero have died of cancer or respiratory illnesses, one nonprofit that monitors Ground Zero health care issues said. These health issues add to the human and financial costs of 9/11.
President Obama in a radio address Saturday urged Americans “on this solemn anniversary” to “remember those we lost … reaffirm the values they stood for, and … keep moving forward as one nation and one people.”
But remembering is not enough. We must remain committed to helping those who’ve been harmed as a result of those horrific terrorist acts. We can’t afford to forget what happened on Sept. 11. We’re still learning the lessons of those terrorist events – and U.S. actions afterward – and we’re still paying the costs.