What didn't get enough attention was the things we should remember that were either thrown out in the wake of the attacks or things that just weren't given much attention to begin with. Examples of the former have been talked about in the years since. But they weren't talked about yesterday, and that is part of why many people just don't care about civil liberties and the other things that were done.
Dave Weigel talks about Paul Krugman's reflections and the criticisms that came from it:
Early on Sunday morning, as the rest of NYTimes.com was turned over to 9/11 anniversary, Paul Krugman vented his spleen. Years of columns were condensed into a few pithy lines. "What happened after 9/11 — and I think even people on the right know this, whether they admit it or not — was deeply shameful," he wrote. "The atrocity should have been a unifying event, but instead it became a wedge issue. Fake heroes like Bernie Kerik, Rudy Giuliani, and, yes, George W. Bush raced to cash in on the horror. And then the attack was used to justify an unrelated war the neocons wanted to fight, for all the wrong reasons."
On a day when everyone else was flashing back to 9/11/2001, I was flashing back to the days and months later, when criticism of the Bush administration returned, and the practioners of it became, briefly, Emmanuel Goldsteins. Remember Susan Sontag? Remember the Dixie Chicks? Remember the campaign to "revoke the Oscar" from Michael Moore? There hasn't been much criticism of the substance of Krugman's remarks; denying that 9/11 and counterterrorism strategy became "wedge issues" is denying a few years of political history. The criticism is of Krugman for expressing it. He brushes the criticism right off.
"I'm not saying anything in that post that I wasn't saying back in 2002, when people like him were riding high," says Krugman. "And isn't Rumsfeld 'sweep everything up, related and not' the poster child for 9/11 exploitation?"
If you've forgotten the "sweep everything up" reference, there's a refresher here.
I know that's true because I participated in it. I was a very young adult who was acting based off pure emotion. I didn't give anything more than an initial gut reaction. Here is Glenn Greenwald on another emotion that took hold, fear:
Earlier this year, the Obama White House reversed the Attorney General's decision to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed for his alleged crimes in a federal court in New York, and Congress prohibited Guantanamo detainees generally from being tried on U.S. soil, due to fears that the Terrorists would use their heat-vision to melt their shackles and escape or would summon their Terrorist friends to attack the courthouse and free them into the community -- even though none of that has ever happened, and even though almost every other country on the planet that suffered similar Terrorist attacks (Britain, Spain, India, Indonesia) tried the perpetrators in their regular courts in the cities where the attacks occurred. In 2009, President Obama demanded the power to abolish the most basic right -- not to be imprisoned without having been convicted of a crime -- by "preventively detaining" people who, in his words, "cannot be prosecuted yet  pose a clear danger." During the Bush years, The Washington Post quoted a military official warning Americans that the most extreme security measures are needed against Guantanamo detainees because these are "people who would chew through a hydraulic cable to bring a C-17 down."
This isn't to say that these fearful reactions or one time memorials where all we do is remember instead of taking action are completely unfounded reactions. They are just that, reactions. Most people spend a few minutes thinking about this stuff and move on to living their lives. So while I'd like for the American people to remember these other important things beyond the lives lost that day, I can't blame them too much for not doing so.
Who I do blame a lot are the people who make policy, like Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney. These people are the ones who are supposed to be beyond the instant gut reactions that lead to bad policies that we are still dealing with. Given their actions I think we should do more to remember what they did so that we can avoid making those mistakes again and so the people who lost their lives didn't do so in vane.