Stop Erasing 9/11 | Opinion

Everyone who was old enough remembers where they were when they heard that a commercial airplane had crashed into the north tower of the World Trade Center on the morning of September 11, 2001. Everyone remembers how they felt when they saw the second plane pummel into the south tower live on television.

This flashbulb memory cemented in America's consciousness with the phrase "never forget," yet in the 20 years that have passed since that fateful Tuesday morning, many have forgotten. And they've forgotten for a malicious and divisive reason: partisanship.

Following the Capitol Hill riot on January 6, there was a concerted effort by some of President Trump's most fervent critics to manufacture a new 9/11. They tried to convince the public that the former president incited an insurrection when hundreds of his supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol building while Vice President Pence and Congress were certifying the results from the 2020 presidential election. And in so doing, many of the current President's supporters—as well as President Joe Biden himself—have taken the inglorious step of minimizing 9/11 in order to maximize January 6.

NBC News presidential historian Michael Beschloss, for example, appropriated the "never forget" mantra to suggest that the Capitol Hill riot was actually worse than the 9/11 terrorist attacks. "On both September 11, 2001, and January 6, 2021, terrorist haters of democracy tried to attack our Capitol and Congress. But on January 6, they actually managed to invade the building and put our leaders and our democracy in danger. We had a close call and must never forget," he tweeted.

On both September 11, 2001, and January 6, 2021, terrorist haters of democracy tried to attack our Capitol and Congress. But on January 6, they actually managed to invade the building and put our leaders and our democracy in danger. We had a close call and must never forget.

— Michael Beschloss (@BeschlossDC) February 3, 2021

This is gaslighting in the lowest form. There is no parallel between the September 11 terrorist attacks and the Capitol Hill riot in January. Nearly 3,000 Americans died at the hands of Al-Qaeda terrorists from a detailed and calculated plot 20 years ago, while the Capitol riot was a disorganized mess. It's true that five people died during the Capitol riot, which was an embarrassment to be sure. But the only person to be killed with lethal force was one of the rioters, Ashli Babbitt, who was shot by a Capitol Police officer.

Despite the disingenuousness, Beschloss was not alone in making the comparison. In July, MSNBC host Joy Reid tweeted from vacation that she would be "taking time today to watch and listen to the January 6 hearings — the most important Washington hearings in my lifetime, even counting Trump's two very necessary impeachments, the 9/11 probe and the Watergate hearings."

It was par for the course: Earlier that month, Reid had allowed MSNBC contributor Matthew Dowd ask about January 6, "What would happen if, after 9/11, we had done nothing?"

Equating January 6 with 9/11 is erasure of terrorism, pure and simple. And using 9/11 to score political points, to drum up outrage over an embarrassing episode for which hundreds of people have been arrested and are serving time, reflects how ugly our politics have gotten.

How far we've come since the post-9/11 unity we once were able to muster.

But President Biden went one step further than comparing 9/11 and January 6. He erased 9/11 altogether.

In late April, Biden told a joint session of Congress that the January 6 riot was "the worst attack on our democracy since the Civil War," as though terrorists hadn't murdered thousands of Americans 20 years ago in another attack on our democracy that Biden had apparently forgotten. (Beschloss of course was there to cheer on this sentiment.)

joe biden

But with his actions over this past month, Biden showed that he didn't need the Capitol riot to happen in order to "forget" what happened on 9/11.

When President Biden moved forward on his plan of withdrawing all U.S. troops from Afghanistan by the end of August—in time for the September 11 deadline, ironically—as the Afghan government collapsed and the country fell back into the hands of the Taliban, he opened old wounds many people were dealing with from September 11. Biden's decision proved catastrophic when an ISIS-K terrorist detonated a suicide belt at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, killing at least 182 people, including 169 Afghan civilians and 13 U.S. service members.

Not only did this put the United States once again in a vulnerable position, but the method in which the Biden administration chose to withdraw from Afghanistan emboldened America's enemies and alienated its allies. Talk about forgetting the lesson of 9/11; what does "never forget" mean if not that we will do whatever we can to defend America and its democracy? How does Biden intend to do that now, releasing Afghanistan to the same Taliban who once harbored Osama bin Laden?

And just like when the Bush administration ignored warnings that Osama bin Laden was determined to attack the United States prior to 9/11, it seems like the Biden administration is once again ignoring red flags coming from America's enemies.

It's times like these that create a sense of cynicism that our elected leaders are forgetting what 9/11 meant in order to serve a partisan agenda and to smear and punish their political rivals. It's imperative for every American to convey and tell the stories of the people who died on September 11 and never let it be dismissed for the sake of a political agenda.

They forgot. We never should.

Siraj Hashmi is the co-host of the Habibi Power Hour podcast and creator of the List.

The views in this article are the writer's own.