How has the world changed since Sept. 11? For one thing, Europeans no longer aspire to be Americans.
Who would, given how that country moves steadily and inexorably toward dictatorship? The American people, in a scant 12 months, have had their once-enviable civil liberties outrageously eroded in the name of patriotism. The ideals of freedom and democracy which America pledges to export across the globe have been perverted so spectacularly at home that America's admirers hardly recognise her anymore.
Where once Americans reveled in their uniquely American right and willingness to criticize their government, they are now told that those who dissent are no better than terrorists, or terrorists themselves. They have had their pride of country, their patriotism, hijacked by a self-interested and short-sighted government which steals freedoms from its own people and gives riches to corporations and "security" infrastructures such as the military, FBI, and CIA, all of which which have proven, in the past 12 months, to be either fatally incompetent and totally corrupt.
Those Americans who would question their government are told to "watch what they say." The FBI has been given broad reign to spy on citizens with phone taps and email snoops. Long-held ideals of fair and speedy trials are thrown out the window as suspected terrorists and sympathizers are "disappeared" like the enemies of Pinochet 20 years ago in Chile.
In exchange for their freedoms, Americans are not safer now than they were a year ago; in fact, they are probably less so. Their government is a rogue state, rejecting international consensus on every front and threatening first-strike nuclear attacks and politically expedient invasions of sovereign nations. America has more nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons that any other country, and it is the only nation to have used such a weapon against another. And still it stubbornly refuses any international effort or treaty to regulate, minimise, or eliminate such weapons, even as it uses Iraq's suspected possession of (or mere desire for) them as reason for wholesale attack.
America's us-against-the-world mentality has managed to wear away almost all of the remarkable international sympathy it built up just after Sept. 11. Bush & Co. has slapped the international community in the face as the it tried to embrace and console the United States. Now the enmity has left America alone, more reviled and isolated internationally than before.
The scars of Ground Zero will heal, the grief at the loss of so many innocents will ease, but the damage the United States has inflicted on itself will last far longer. To hell with George Bush; God save America.
A version of this article appeared in the London Independent on Sept. 11, 2002