The Great Debate

The case for letting Khalid Sheikh Mohammed live

By Nicholas Wapshott
April 13, 2012

What should be done with Khalid Sheikh Mohammed? If the Defense Department is to be believed, the chief planner of the 9/11 attacks on America is guilty of mass murder and crimes against humanity. Even if the evidence elicited by waterboarding him 183 times is void, his declaration in 2002 that “I was responsible for the 9/11 Operation from A to Z” should ensure conviction.

Learning the wrong lessons from 9/11

By Michael Ignatieff
September 11, 2011

By Michael Ignatieff
The opinions expressed are his own.

One of the tasks we ask government to perform is to think the unthinkable.

Before 9/11, we may have allowed ourselves to be cynical about Western governments and their leaders, but we took it for granted that, faced with rising terrorist threats, they were not just hoping for the best but planning for the worst.

Rebuilding America

By Guest Contributor
September 11, 2011

By Stephen Flynn and Eddie Rosenstein
The opinions expressed are their own.

In the ten years since 9/11, the nation’s response to the terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon have been dissected and debated constantly. But one thing that hasn’t received enough attention is the effort we have taken in the intervening years to build a stronger, more resilient America for future generations.

The danger of symbols

By Peter Baumann
September 9, 2011

By Peter Baumann and Michael W. Taft
The opinions expressed are their own.

Ten years ago this Sunday, 19 madmen used commercial airliners as guided missiles to perpetrate what became the most influential act of terrorism in world history, generating mass fear, confusion, sorrow and rage on a scale that will not be forgotten. With the passing of a decade the reality of the attack—the smoke and the flames, the blood and the destruction—have receded into memory. Now the September 11th attack has become a concept, a symbol of the apex of terrorism in the new millennium.

from Katharine Herrup:

Boatlifters: The unknown story of 9/11

September 9, 2011

By Katharine Herrup
The opinions expressed are her own.

Much has been written and said about September 11, 2001, on the occasion of its 10th anniversary, but one story much less known is the one about the band of boats that came together to rescue nearly 500,000 New Yorkers from the World Trade Center site on the day the towers collapsed.

9/11 in history: chapter or footnote?

By Dominic Streatfeild
September 9, 2011
By Dominic Streatfeild
The opinions expressed are his own. 

Historians like to break up human progress into bite-sized pieces. It’s a useful technique: segregated and labelled, historical eras offer prisms through which to view the past, making it easier to comprehend. Typically, they’re bookmarked by inventions: the wheel, the steam engine, the atom bomb. Intellectual movements fit nicely, too: the Reformation, the Enlightenment, Modernism. Each innovation provides a paradigm shift, ushering in a way of thinking previously inconceivable but, after its emergence, unignorable.

How movies explained the lone unrecorded event of 9/11

By John Markert
September 8, 2011
By John Markert
The opinions expressed are his own. 

Certain events are seared into the collective memory of those who lived at the time the event occurred. Those most affected are those who experienced the event during their critical ages of adolescence and early adulthood; those least affected are those who are born after the event occurred because of their psychological distance from the event. The attack on Pearl Harbor and the assassination of John F. Kennedy may be historical footnotes for those born after the event, but few that heard of the tragedy at the time fail to remember where they were or what they were doing when they first learned of its occurrence.

The 9/11 generation

By David Rohde
September 8, 2011

By David Rohde
The opinions expressed are his own.

In a speech last week at the American Legion convention in Minneapolis, President Obama rightly hailed what he called “the 9/11 generation,” the five million Americans who served in the military over the last decade.

The cost of killing Osama bin Laden

By John Yoo
September 7, 2011
By John Yoo
The opinions expressed are his own. In the space of forty minutes on May 1, 2011, two Navy SEAL teams descended on a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, and killed Osama bin Laden. They brought a rough measure of justice to the man responsible for the killing of 3,000 Americans on September 11, 2001, and thousands of others in countries from Spain to Iraq. President Obama’s greatest victory to date in the war on terror vindicated the intelligence architecture—put into place by his predecessor—that marked the path to bin Laden’s door. According to current and former administration officials, CIA interrogators gathered the initial information that ultimately led to bin Laden’s death. The United States located al-Qaeda’s leader by learning the identity of a trusted courier from the tough interrogations of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the architect of the 9/11 attacks, and his successor, Abu Faraj al-Libi. Armed with the courier’s nom de guerre, American intelligence agencies later found him thanks to his phone call to a contact already under electronic surveillance. Last August, the courier traveled to bin Laden’s compound, but it took another eight months before the CIA became certain that the al-Qaeda leader was hiding inside.

The successful operation to kill bin Laden followed in the steps of earlier victories in the war on terror made possible by the enhanced interrogation program. Interrogation of Abu Zubaydah, thought at the time to be al-Qaeda’s operations planner, in the spring of 2002 led to the capture of much of al-Qaeda’s top leadership at the time.

The case for torture warrants

By Alan Dershowitz
September 7, 2011
By Alan Dershowitz
The opinions expressed are his own. One goal of terrorism directed against democracies is to provoke overreaction and repression. In the wake of the 9/11 attacks, many Americans did in fact overreact, and although the actions of the government did not approach “repression,” there were some overreactions that seemed to play into the hands of the terrorists. Perhaps the most egregious were the acts of humiliation and torture that were captured by cell phone photographs at Abu Ghraib prison. These disturbing photographs went viral throughout the world and showed the ugly face of American torture. Surprisingly, the events of 9/11 also stimulated a debate within Western democracies: Is torture ever justified in the war against terrorism?

Rational discussion of this and other questions relating to torture proved difficult, because the issues are so emotional. Indeed, to many absolutists, the very idea of a “rational” discussion of torture is an oxymoron. To them, the issue is simple and clear-cut: torture should never be employed or even considered, because it never works; it is incompatible with democratic values; it is barbaric; it will always lead to more barbaric practices; it is worse than any evils it may prevent; it will provoke even more terrorism; it strips any democracy employing it of the moral standing to object to human rights violations by other nations or groups; and it unleashes the “law of unintended consequences.”