EYEWITNESS: Nine-eleven …20 years on


Well, what a difference twenty years make!! Your Eyewitness remembers distinctly where he was on Sept 11, 2001. How could he forget?? He was in an insurance office discussing some mundane matter when on the TV in the lounge, to keep clients distracted, leapt those images of the planes plunging into the Twin Towers. He could distinctly see bodies falling as the smoke bellowed into the skies. No business was done in THAT office later that day. It was just a while after 9:30am.

Not long afterwards we would discover that of the 3000 odds persons who perished on that fateful day, 25 were of Guyanese descent. That’s right! Imagine, a small country like ours, without even 3/4 million persons, suffering such a loss in a city of 8.4 million people from every nationality in the world!

But then, it’s also a metaphor for Guyana’s destruction, which exiled as many Guyanese living in here to “foreign”. We’re the fifth-largest immigrant group in New York City!! So maybe the 25 fatalities reflect our numbers in NYC?

In Guyana, the PPP had been bludgeoned by the PNC and their street protests, which segued into violence and arson in Georgetown, into holding elections in March 2001. But after they lost again, they returned violently into the streets again and demanded “dialogue” with the Government! This continued desultorily through the year, and on 9/11 recriminations, we’re flying about who were and who weren’t “keeping their word”.

So, while there was tension in America after 9/11, the tension had been building here since Jan 12, 1998. That’s when the PNC protests led to hundreds of Indian Guyanese citizens being beaten in Georgetown simply for PRESUMABLY voting for the PPP in the Dec 1997 elections. Thereby committing the sin of being “PPP supporters”. In Guyana, just five months later, there would be the Mash Day Jailbreak that would lead to the killing fields of Guyana – with its epicentre in Buxton.

9/11 would also lead to America vowing revenge on the perpetrators of the attack and all their allies and enablers. A War on Terror!! There followed the invasion of Iraq in 2003 to destroy Saddam Hussein’s “Weapons of Mass Destruction”. These were never found, but 469,000 persons were killed – mostly civilians – and there were 4 million refugees. The war continued through the Middle East from Syria in the west (600,000 dead in the decade 2011-2021 with 6 million refugees) to Afghanistan in the east (250,000 killed, mostly civilians). As almost an afterthought, Osama bin Laden, the mastermind of the WTC attack, was killed in 2011.

Yes, 9/11 was a very significant date for many!!

…and democracy

While the “War on Terror” was waged in retaliation for 9/11, it also was accompanied by a parallel effort to “win the hearts and minds” of the societies being bombed by promising to bring them into the 21st century with “democratic” governments. Each of the target countries were Islamic, and analysts couldn’t help concluding that America was enmeshed with the “Clash of Civilizations” predicted by Huntington a decade before. The US, of course, was representing “modernity” that was unilinearly following the arc created by Europe after the defeat of the Ottoman Empire after WWI.

So, with the end of the War on Terror (has it really ended? Could such an open-ended goal ever be achieved?) has the battle for democracy also ended? And that begs the question as to whether democracy can ever come out of the barrel of guns in the hands of invaders.

The colonial empires – the Spanish, British, Dutch and French etc – had tried it once before.

But they’d convinced us we were “savages” who needed “civilisation”. Ain’t gonna work now!!

…and the Taliban

After the Afghan war, the Taliban have been accused of taking their country back into “medieval times”.

But they’ll be doing it with one of the most modern-equipped armies in the world today.