Did 9/11 “change everything”?

Current 9/11 commentaries frequently recall that “everything changed” on
that day, but ten years ago the everything-has-changed mantra didn’t so  much describe a new reality as it fed the view that extraordinary times justified extraordinary measures – established values and the rule of law, was the implication, had become inadequate guidelines for action against terrorism.
[i] Published as a letter in Sept 12/11 Globe and Mail.

So it was no surprise that the ensuing decade produced a surfeit of extraordinary
measures, especially in the US but also in Canada: arrests without trial and security certificate detentions, violations of privacy through wiretap programs, illegal deportations, renditions, abuses of prisoners, and of course renewed warfare.

It’s worth recalling, however, that the early official reaction in Canada resisted this everything-has-changed-so-now-anything-goes mentality. The Prime Minister at the time, Mr. Chrétien, told the House of Commons that Canada would not give in to the temptation to pursue security at the expense of “the values we cherish” and that our response to terrorism should be “guided by our values and our way of life.”[ii]

It is an alternative mantra worth invoking – namely, that the struggle against terrorism requires not only that we defend our way of life, but that we depend on it.

eregehr@uwaterloo.ca

Notes

[i] In 2003 then Vice President Dick Cheney was still staying that “the
theme that comes through repeatedly for me is that 9/11 changed everything.
September 14, 2003 interview with Tim Russert of NBC. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/3080244/ns/meet_the_press/t/trancript-sept/

[ii] Hansard, Government Orders, attack on the United States,” September
17, 2001.

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