Respect and context.
Those are the two key things to bear in mind on September 11th.
The events of September 11th 2001 were shocking and tragic. Three thousand lives were ended, countless more lost loved ones, and thirty-seven thousand contracted health complications which have defined their lives since. Whatever anyone thinks of the wider context of American foreign policy, those who died were, on an individual level, innocent.
On the fifteenth anniversary of their deaths, it is correct to pay tribute to them.
But it is also an opportunity to draw attention to the wider context.
On September 11th 1973, Chile’s General Pinochet overthrew his nation’s democratically elected government, almost certainly with the support of the CIA. Pinochet’s terrorism did not last just one day, but for decades, killing tens of thousands. It is correct to use the anniversary to pay respect to the victims of 2001, but that is an anniversary few in the US or UK will forget. Many in those countries will not be aware of the actions of 1973, or their consequences. The anniversary of the better known tragedy is an opportunity to provide context.
Although it’s not linked by date, it’s also an opportunity to draw attention to the wider cost of the ‘War on Terror’. Afghanistan has been repeatedly bombed. Iraq has descended from dictatorship into anarchy. The ‘War on Terror’ has claimed at least 1.3 million victims, and over 4424 soldiers’ lives in Iraq alone.
September 11th 2001 was a tragedy, but the wider context is more tragic.
1.3 million is a larger number than three thousand. Four thousand, four hundred and twenty-four is a larger number than three thousand. Those lives are worthy of respect, every bit as much as those who died in 2001.
Is it morally correct to focus in on the tragedy that everyone remembers, to pay tribute to the innocent lives which were prematurely ended, as London Mayor Sadiq Khan did? Or to broaden the context of public mourning, as Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn did?
In our view, both are legitimate choices.
There is no correct answer. There is no incorrect answer. There is only tragedy.