My story about 9/11 starts quite similar to my colleague’s one from Pakistan. I had just returned home from school when I saw the plane hitting the tower on TV. After shock had passed, sympathy and solidarity toward with Americans were dominant feelings for my family, friends and generally for all Poles. But I do not want to write about the day. I would like to devote this post to the chapter opened by the 9/11.
I am a child of transition. After the collapse of the USSR, American culture spilled over to Poland without any restrictions. I grew up watching American cartoons and action films, listening to American music, and playing American computer games. And actually, I used to love them. I fell in love in American culture and foremost, the magnetic sense of freedom so desired in Polish culture after the 40 years of Soviet domination. The other thing is, in Poland we have always had much gratitude towards America. There are many points in the Polish history where Americans are considered as the “good guys.” The last example was the Cold war, in which US victory was very fortunate for our real independence. So the goodwill towards the USA in Poland was, I would say, very high. The sympathy was honest.
But after 9/11 something went wrong; something had started to rot. Obviously, it is not because of the tragedy. It was due rather to Americans’ conclusions after the 9/11 terrorist attack. When I saw US government using this act of terror to legitimize its incursion to Afghanistan I still could understand this move. But watching Colin Powell* persuading the United Nations Security Council that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, I was only disgusted. I couldn’t understand the conquest of Iraq. I was stunned hearing about ‘Patriot Act’ and its limitations of freedom. Reading about Guantanamo I couldn’t believe it was happening. Afghanistan, Iraq, Patriot Act, Guantanamo, unmanned planes used to kill people are equally unreal as this memorable day of 9/11. Thus, I am afraid America is losing this ‘War on Terror’. And it is not a military, but a cultural defeat.
My icon of freedom did all these things. I was a naive adolescent who believed that America would respect the highest standards of freedom, human rights and international law. I regret that the truth turned out so disappointing. I still have a lot of warm feelings towards America, and I want to believe that America can see humanity in every human being – even a terrorist. Only then we will be able to shorten distance between the victims and assailants in the ‘War on Terror.’
*In the end he became to be the only man of honour in Bush’s cabinet. Few years latter he resigned and stated openly on public televison that US should not have invaded Iraq.