9/11: A legacy of errors
Published: September 14, 2011
One of the more remarkable stories I heard during my time on the border (Alpine is still an hour north of the Rio Grande, but we considered ourselves part of la frontera) was told to me by a former lover of Ojinaga, Mexico, drug lord Pablo Acosta. Back in the ‘80s the U.S. intelligence community was hunting Libyans (much like those chasing potential 9/11 anniversary bombers last weekend, there was “credible information” in play), and the Mexican federales asked Acosta to keep his eyes open. On the U.S. side, a Customs agent asked Mimi Webb Miller, a border resident and niece of the late U.S. Senator John Tower, to speak to Acosta about it.
Even this crack-addicted drug runner pushing heroin into the States wanted to help. He told Webb Miller simply, “This is our home, too.”
Early next year, the traditional river crossing inside Big Bend National Park to the small Mexican town of Boquillas is expected to reopen. Of course, the many similar crossings all across the territory that joined families for thousands of years before they were shut down after 9/11 under the shadow of military helicopters and a corresponding immigration sweep will remain closed. That despite the fact that the bulk of narcotics continues to enter the country through our official ports of entry.
It’s hard to say when we all agreed to put away our “We’re All New Yorkers” T-shirts and start scapegoating immigrants. Certainly the global recession put the screws on a bit, but just as Amnesty International predicted, our national war response stirred anti-immigrant activity nationwide. More than ignorant rednecks beating on Sufis, though, we’ve seen discrimination adopted as the law of the land as our Real ID Act made it harder for asylum seekers reaching the Land of the Free and deportations and detentions reached record levels.
And yet NYC went another direction entirely.
“Far from representing a dire threat for poor and minority populations of the city, Bloomberg created a social climate of civility and fairness in the overall crime rate fell to levels not seen since the 1950s and racial tensions greatly diminished. Until the Crash of September 18, 2008, Gotham boomed,” writes Garrett of post-9/11 New York City.
Yes, another world is possible. It just doesn’t carry the cathartic release of a 500-pound bomb. And while most of us have been willing to admit we were manipulated into a war that shouldn’t have been, a survey of our presidential candidates’ opinions on preemptive military action, for instance, suggests we’ve done very little to ensure such a thing never happens again.
Until we do that we will continue to dishonor our nation’s heroes, those who volunteered their lives for country. •
> Email Greg Harman