We all knew at that moment that the world would never be the same again; that the shadows of that event would haunt us for at least the rest of a century that was just beginning. You didn’t have to be an adult to understand that, nor a political analyst. It has been said many times, but it bears repeating: that attack was not on New York, nor on the United States; it was an attack on the free, on a way of living and understanding the world.
“We, from that time, are no longer the same,” reads the Poem XX, and that is certainly so. However, twenty years later, after multiple invasions and retreats, beyond the alliances that were and those that were not, and above all, after so much innocent blood shed, the fallen heroes, the collateral victims, we seem to be stuck in the fears of two decades ago: international terrorism and Islamic fundamentalism have torn entire continents apart, directly through the cowardice of attacks, indirectly through unimaginable migratory crises.
The bitter feeling that, airport security and loss of digital privacy aside, we are not far from where we were before 9/11 is unavoidable. After the precipitous withdrawal from Afghanistan (which is, by the way, the sole responsibility of the most powerful person in the world, Joe Biden), when it became clear that the Taliban would take back what they lost for a mere twenty years, Afghans and the world fell back into the hands of obscurantism.
It is wrong to think that the Taliban affects only 38 million Afghans in a remote corner of the world. The fact that Mullah Hasan Akhund, who is on the UN blacklist, has been appointed Prime Minister, is very eloquent. The same goes for Sirajuddin Haqqani, newly appointed Minister of the Interior, who is among the FBI’s most wanted for various attacks (among which an American citizen was killed) and for his links to Al-Qaeda, the terrorist organization behind the attacks of September 11 in the United States, March 11, 2004 in Spain and July 7, 2005 in the United Kingdom.
A child of this same terror is Daesh or ISIS, which counts more than 140 attacks around the world and was originally an ally of Al-Qaeda (ISIS participated in the Iraqi insurgency of 2003, where it carried out a bloody ethnic cleansing). In fact, as these lines are being written, Salah Abdeslam testifies before the French justice for the attacks of November 13, 2015 in which 131 people were brutally murdered. Abdeslam began his statement by saying “I would like to testify that there is no god but Allah. And that Muhammad is his servant and messenger.”
That September 11 began to spawn an indomitable monster that torments the West to this day, and that, in the face of the fall of Afghanistan, will feed on the weakness and lack of coherence of its enemies.
We are no longer the same. We are a generation marked by terror and ignominy. But they, from that time, remain immovable in their cusp of horror and death. Defeating them remains our most urgent challenge.