Controversial conversations: Tough issues linger 20 years after 9/11

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In this Aug. 30, 2021, photo provided by the U.S. Air Force, a Air Force aircrew, assigned to the 816th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron, prepares to receive soldiers, assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division, to board a U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III aircraft in support of the final noncombatant evacuation operation missions at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul Afghanistan. (Senior Airman Taylor Crul/U.S. Air Force via AP)

(KTAL/KMSS) – The 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks is not without controversy. President Biden is planning to attend the ceremony to be held at the 9/11 Memorial Museum in New York. However, a statement by family members of the victims, first reported by NBC, is telling him not to come if he won’t release classified documents showing Saudi Arabian support for the attack.

There is also mounting criticism over his decision to withdraw from Afghanistan amid the subsequent takeover by the Taliban. Although the military personnel has been extracted there are still Americans that have not been evacuated.

This leaves questions about how the U.S. relationships with Afghanistan, Iraq, and the Taliban will change. What will future generations learn about Patriot Day and the events that shaped the next 20 years?

In a statement Wednesday Army Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the United States may coordinate with the Taliban in their efforts against ISIS. He has also expressed that the possibility of future cooperation “remains to be seen.”

Milley encouraged troops expressing discontent that their efforts were valued and acknowledged their frustration.

“War is hard. It’s vicious. It’s brutal. It’s unforgiving,” Milley said. “Yes, we all have pain and anger. When we see what has unfolded over the last 20 years and over the last 20 days, that creates pain and anger.”

President Joe Biden defended his decision to leave Afghanistan, saying, “I was not going to extend this forever war, and I was not going to extend a forever exit.”

Because of the significance of the 20th anniversary, the National Terrorism Advisory System issued a bulletin warning of the possibility of “acts of targeted violence.”

They caution that, “leading up to the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, Al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula recently released its first English-language copy of Inspire magazine in over four years, which demonstrates that foreign terrorist organizations continue efforts to inspire U.S.-based individuals susceptible to violent extremist influences.”

There are many documentaries that have been released over the last 20 years. Some, like Losing Iraq and The Rise of Isis, highlight military developments in the wake of the war on terror. The Man Who Knew and In the Shadow of 9/11 both highlight consequences and actions, or non-actions, of intelligence agencies leading up to and after the attack. The upcoming America After 9/11 is set to trace the U.S. response to the attacks and its effects on our modern political climate. What information has been available and what actions have been taken as a result has been a controversial topic of debate since the events of 9/11.

The experiences of Muslim Americans have also changed over the last 20 years in reaction to those events. Following 9/11, there was an immediate spike in anti-Muslim hate crimes in the US. The Federal Bureau of Investigations reported a 1617.86% increase in incidents in 2001.

Following years have fluctuated in the number of incidents, improving since 2001, but they have remained higher than their levels prior to 9/11. In 2021 the Council of American-Islamic Relations, the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights organization, reported in a news release there was rise in hate crimes against Muslims in America throughout May and June during the war in Gaza. This includes vandalism and attempted stabbing, as well as physical assaults targeting Muslim women wearing hijab (religious head covering). School incidents include a student being called a “terrorist” by their teacher and other hate speech. The mid-year summary report of anti-muslim bias “highlights 38 anti-Muslim bias incidents from the hundreds of cases CAIR has documented, which include hate crimes, harassment, school bullying, discrimination, hate speech, and anti-mosque incidents” and hopes to “serve as a resource for lawmakers, the press, academics, and the general public to help better understand the threat of Islamaphobia in the United States and North America”.

While this continues to be a challenge organizations such as CAIR and the Pillars Fund, an organization that focuses on the arts, philanthropy, and leadership, have begun to work towards advancing opportunities and empowerment for Muslim Americans. The Department of Justice and the 9/11 Memorial Museum also offer resources on confronting discrimination and continuing to face these challenges.

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