As we witness the end of our 20 year war in Afghanistan and the barrage of media coverage swirling around this upcoming 20th anniversary of that war’s trigger (9/11), a growing body of evidence is emerging linking these events to issues of energy and climate, of central concern to NESEA members. A recently updated Brown University study has calculated the human toll to be now over 800,000 dead (with millions more wounded) and over $8 trillion in costs to the American taxpayer, factoring in long term veteran care. According to international climate correspondent Somini Sengupta, these two decades of middle east wars embody “a new breed of international crisis, where the hazards of war collide with the hazards of climate change, creating a nightmarish feedback loop that punishes some of the world’s most vulnerable people and destroys their countries’ ability to cope.”
Military analysts refer to the effects of warming as threat multipliers, amplifying conflicts over access to water, increasing unemployment for agrarian population while over 50% of national budgets are consumed with war. As reported by Professor of hydrology at Kabul University Noor Ahmad Akhundzadah. “Now there is no government, and the future is unclear. Our current situation today is completely hopeless.” This is all happening to a country who’s contribution to global warming is minimal. The average Afghan produces 0.2 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year, compared to nearly 16 metric tons for the average American.
The war in Afghanistan alone has cost $2.3 trillion, or $300 million each day for 7,300 days (two decades) as shared by President Biden citing the Brown study last week. To put this in perspective, the entire budget for US renewable energy in 2001 was about $70 million per day, growing to $233/day by 2021 as renewable energy in the US has increased from 6% to 20%. Five years ago the UN reported the number of refugees from these middle east wars surpassed the numbers displaced in WWII, with over 65 million from combined wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and 6 other countries. In his book Climate Wars Harold Welzer outlines how the new conflicts of the 21st century “no longer hinge on ideological rivalries between great powers but rather on issues of class, religion and resources.”
Most Americans understand that we lost these wars, yet clearly the people of the Middle East did not win either. Some of the answers on who benefitted can be found in commentator Rachel Maddow’s book Blowout: Corrupted Democracy, Rogue State Russia and the Richest, Most Destructive Industry on Earth. She outlines the rationale behind how the oil and gas industry became “ the most consequential, the most lucrative, the most powerful, and the least-well-governed major industry in the history of mankind.” This tale of two countries spells out how the United States and Russia, individually and together, were warped by a fossil fuel industry, and how the industry became the “key ingredient in the global chaos and democratic downturn we’re now living through” ….The industry is “ so intertwined with every aspect of our lives and the lives of everyone on Earth that, if you follow the dots, it explains how almost everything in the world works —and left alone, could “fatally injure” the whole planet.”
Veteran marine captain Lucas Kunce (US Senate candidate in Missouri) deployed twice to Afghanistan on Special Ops Task Forces, believes getting the truth out about this war to the American people starts with the following 2 sentences. “1. For 20 years, politicians, elites and D.C. military leaders lied to us about Afghanistan. 2. What happened with the pull out last month was inevitable, and anyone saying differently is still lying to you.” He passionately calls out these systematic institutional lies in his excellent MSNBC interview w/ Lawrence O’Donnell last month.
A recent Politics Today article goes further in describing how these PMC’s (Private Military Companies) continue to thrive in the battlefields and cities of Iraq and Afghanistan, despite numerous national laws forbidding mercenary activity in the militarily advanced Western world. Meanwhile, US companies account for almost 60% of total arms sales by the world’s 100 largest defense contractors, making us the world’s largest defense spender by a wide margin. Nearly $5 trillion spent on the wars in both Afghanistan and Iraq was transferred to military contractors who outnumbered soldiers in Afghanistan three to one. In his recent NY Magazine article, America’s Greatest Existential Threat Wasn’t Terrorism, Frank Rich points out that at least 80 % of Americans supported “America’s New War” in 2001, while 20 years later “two-thirds of Americans thought it had not been worth fighting.” He also reminds us that “Many of the loudest voices in the media and in Washington decrying our inept and catastrophic exit —are the same voices that helped grease the skids for disaster in Afghanistan by promoting a second new war in Iraq on manufactured intelligence in the months after 9/11.”
In her Sept-Oct piece, From 9/11 to 1/6: The War on Terror supercharged the Far Right, Cynthia Miller-Idriss explains how the US led War on Terror focused so intensely on the Islamic Threat after 9/11 has directly led to the unfettered growth of those groups that stormed the capital on January 6, 2021. She also reminds us how everything shifted on 9/11/2001. “As the country reeled from the attacks, far-right groups saw an opportunity and grabbed it, quickly and easily adapting their messages to the new landscape….the shock of 9/11 was so overblown that it blinded policymakers, security officials, and the broader public to the faster growth of what became, in the United States especially, a much larger threat from far-right extremism.”
The unprecedented migration crisis in Europe also energized the far right. “The politics of fear practiced by many officials and leaders in Western countries in the post 9/11 era clearly contributed to right-wing radicalization. By encouraging people to feel they lacked control over their own lives, to see themselves as vulnerable, and to fear outsiders, this style of politics opened a door for extremists who marched right through it.” Editor David Mastio of USA Today states it more starkly. After ousting Liz Cheney, Republicans prove they're a bigger threat than 9/11 hijackers "Not in two centuries has an American president tried to overturn an election he had lost. As surely as the terrorists of 9/11 wanted to tear down American democracy in 2001, the terrorists of Jan. 6 want to tear down our democracy as well, even as they pose as its defenders. And unlike the Sept. 11 attackers, they are going to get another chance.”
Mary Trump In her most recent Book, The Reckoning: America's trauma and finding a way to heal, asks the question, “How did we get to the point of so much unraveling in such a short time?” She sees her uncle Donald as much more of a symptom supported by 74 million Americans duped by misinformation and trauma. She claims that these messages of hate, rooted in our history from reconstruction on, were dramatically exacerbated by the Trump administration’s corrupt and immoral policies. “Our failure to acknowledge this trauma, let alone root it out, has allowed it to metastasize. Whether it manifests itself in rising levels of rage and hatred, or hopelessness and apathy, the stress of living in a country we no longer recognize has affected all of us. America is suffering from PTSD―a new leader alone cannot fix us.”
Mary outlines how the Republican Party has turned racist with policies subjugating common democratic rights of justice for voting, minorities, women and environmental care, including bogus anti science memes that have needlessly extended a pandemic the majority of Americans had been responsibly managing. She stresses that Donald, like many powerful white men, has yet to be held accountable for his actions, and consequently, a reckoning is overdue as an enormous amount of healing must be done to rebuild our faith in leadership and hope for this nation. For the past 6 years, on the Community Blog, I’ve been advocating for this reckoning or new judgement. Specifically, on the prime event that triggered these 20 years of mid-east wars that have so shaken and altered our world.
The trauma of 9/11 was also followed by a mistrust in leadership in developing the official 911 Commission inquiry itself, as shared by co chairmen Thomas Keane and Lee Hamilton themselves. This 2006 NBC article outlines their deep frustration and inability to get to critical facts obscured by the likes of Mayor Rudy Giuliani and the Pentagon's NORAD. “Fog of war could explain why some people were confused on the day of 9/11, but it could not explain why all of the after-action reports, accident investigations and public testimony by FAA and NORAD officials advanced an account of 9/11 that was untrue.” In their book Without Precedent: The Inside Story of the 9/11 Commission they considered their questioning of Giuliani “a low point” in those hearings. “We did not ask tough questions, nor did we get all of the information we needed to put on the public record,” they wrote of the same now disbarred lawyer who stood side by side Trump, imposing another big lie on Americans on 1/6.
Along with 3,500 other architects and engineers (several of them NESEA and BSA colleagues) who cosigned the AE911Truth petition for a new investigation, we've been heartened to see the new 2021 movie Seven (from director Dylan Avery) now streaming on Amazon Prime. This is the story of how the 3rd 47 story WTC Tower fell at freefall, at 5:20 in the afternoon on 9/11. Not hit by an airplane, it suffered damage from several smaller fires that were eventually extinguished. The movie features Dr. Leroy Hulsey and his team's Universty of Alaska Fairbanks 2020 four-year study, UAF Structural Reevaluation of the Collapse of Building 7. The two principal conclusions are that:" 1.fire did not cause the collapse of WTC 7 on 9/11, contrary to the conclusions of NIST (National Institute of Standards and Techniology) and private engineering firms that studied the collapse and, 2. the collapse of WTC 7 was a global failure involving the near-simultaneous failure of every column in the building.” We were honored to welcome Dr. Hulsey to Boston for a December 2016 BSA Event along with AE911Truth’s founder and former CEO, Richard Gage AIA. Taking pride in our role as responsible building professionals, we hold an enduring responsibility to track the entire story of What Science Says About the Destruction of World Trade Center Buildings 1, 2, and 7.
Gage and team have kept a steadfast focus on this effort for over 14 years now and continue to make headway. This September 2021 cover story in the Atlantic featuring the story of Bobby McIlvaine and his family has further propelled the work of AE911Truth further into the mainstream spotlight. The story is focused on Bobby McIlvaine and what his life was leading to before his untimely death on 9/11. Bobby's dad Bob Sr. became an early and outspoken voice in support of the work of AE911Truth as a surviving parent. Sadly, author Jennifer Senior is reluctant to take Bob's references to the work of AE911Truth seriously, just as NIST has continued to sidestep these questions, choosing instead to add weight to these 20 year old lies with more obfuscation and denial. Jennifer and her audience might also learn much more about the McIlvaines and surviving family members of 3 other families in this upcoming film, The Unspeakable.
Spike Lee took a big gamble jumping into this discussion with his 4 part series NYC Epicenters 9/11-2021½. In it he covers 20 years of pain the Big Apple has endured, from 9/11 to being a hotspot for the Pandemic, with ongoing struggles for democracy with Black Lives Matter, women’s and voting rights. On August 25th the New York Times announced that Spike's final 30 minutes of the series would be dedicated to theories about how the WTC towers collapsed on 9/11, including extensive interviews with representatives of AE911Truth and NIST. Yet 2 days later, the Times announced that Spike was pressured to remove this section despite his expressed hope that the legacy of his documentary might lead to a new “congressional hearing about 9/11.” , the central aim of AE 911Truth and the sentiment of over 50% of americans since this 2016 poll.
In establishing AE911Truth as a 501C3, Gage was originally inspired by the grace and insight of theologian David Ray Griffin, who has written extensively on 9/11. Griffen points out that “Even though this proof has existed in plain sight for all these years, the fact that 9/11 was an inside job, and hence a State Crime Against Democracy, has remained a hidden fact.” In addition to his theological and philosophical writings, Griffin focuses on political and social issues, including his 2015 treatise, Unprecedented, Can Civilization Survive the C02 Crisis. He has stated that the theologian’s task is to look at the world from “what we would imagine the divine perspective, one that would care about the good of the whole and would love all the parts." His lecture 9/11- The Myth and the Reality is also playing on Prime.
When the truth comes out about a large national or global lie, it tends to ripple across society on many fronts at once, holistically. In response to these converging issues, sparked with the free fall destruction of those 3 towers on 9/11, the reckoning is indeed underway. In his 1982 book The Turning Point, Science, Society, and the Rising Culture, Fritjof Capra focused in on the flaws of outmoded paradigms that no longer fit or suit human behavior, including policies of modern technology that fail to respect ecological thinking. He argues that society needs holistic concepts and insights to solve its complex problems.
We are now at that inflection or turning point on several fronts as we face global destabilization with the recent updated Code Red warning from the IPCC, fully exacerbated by a 20 year detour to war. Yet, despite some irreversible effects, the worst can still be avoided if we act fast. Along with our comrades in multiple fields, NESEA members have helped inspire investment for the 330% increase in clean energy over this same two decade period. Cimate measures included in the now pending $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill and Democratic $3.5 trillion bill, are geared to reach emission reductions of 45% by 2030.
While we can’t undo the tragic crime of 9/11 and all that unfolded from it, we also can’t pretend that democracy is not on trial, or that 1/6 did not happen. Linked as bookends to this chapter of the longest war in our history, Congress needs to investigate the full truth behind both events and the connected trails between them. Science and truth can unmask the big lies behind both events, help heal the deep devisions in this country, and secure the transition to clean energy and a manageable planet for future generations.
NESEA advances sustainability practices in the built environment by cultivating a cross-disciplinary community where practitioners are encouraged to share, collaborate and learn.