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After 20 years, &c.

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President George W. Bush with firefighter Bob Beckwith (right) at Ground Zero, September 14, 2001 (Win McNamee / Reuters) On the Afghan War; the War on Terror; commercialism in college football; encountering bananas; and more

The United States marked the 20th anniversary of 9/11 immediately after withdrawing from Afghanistan. I would put that in a different way, as well: immediately after losing, and choosing to lose, to the Taliban, with whom we went to war in October 2001. This gave the anniversary commemorations a certain bitterness, I would say.

Rumsfeld used to say that we did not go to war in Afghanistan out of retaliation, retribution, or revenge. There was nothing we could do to bring the 3,000 dead of 9/11 back. No, we went to war because our enemies had pledged to do it to us — attack us — again and again and again. We had to defend ourselves.

Our enemies have not changed an iota. Will we need to return to Afghanistan? We may. People speak of “forever wars” — but there are forever threats, forever dangers, forever interests.

You know the deal (and don’t shoot the messenger) . . .

• On Twitter, Whit Stillman, the filmmaker, said something very blunt — unvarnished. I thought he made an important point: “Twenty years seems like a long time if you have the mental age of a five-year-old.”


• In the days leading up to the 20th anniversary, I looked up some old writings. One was this: a speech I gave on the first anniversary, i.e., September 11, 2002. It was at a conference in Salonika, Greece — a conference headed “September 11: Media and Terrorism.”

I began by saying what it was like to be in New York on 9/11 — what it was like for me, at least. I went on to other issues. Maybe I could paste one paragraph:

Above all, I think that covering and commenting on this war has meant an end to pretending — an end to pretending that everyone’s a friend, or potential friend, that every grievance is just,

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