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With the 9/11 anniversary behind us, can America wake up from its 20-year nightmare?

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After 20 dreadful years of war, the American people are ready for a new path. We must force our leaders to take it
Looking back on it now, the 1990s was an age of innocence for America. The Cold War was over and our leaders promised us a "peace dividend." There was no TSA to make us take off our shoes at airports. (How many bombs have they found in those billions of shoes?) The government could not legally tap a U.S. phone or read private emails without a warrant from a judge. And the national debt was only $5 trillion — compared with more than $28 trillion today.

We have been told that the criminal attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 — whose terrible anniversary was observed last week — "changed everything." But what really changed everything was the U.S. government's disastrous response to them.

That response was not preordained or inevitable, but the result of decisions and choices made by politicians, bureaucrats and generals who fueled and exploited our fears, unleashed wars of reprehensible vengeance and built a secretive security state, all thinly disguised behind Orwellian myths of American greatness.

Most Americans believe in democracy and many regard the United States as a democratic country. But the U.S. response to 9/11 laid bare the extent to which American leaders are willing to manipulate the public into accepting illegal wars, torture, the Guantánamo gulag and sweeping civil rights abuses — all of which have undermined the very meaning of democracy.

Former Nuremberg prosecutor Ben Ferencz said in a 2011 speech that "a democracy can only work if its people are being told the truth." But America's leaders exploited the public's fears in the wake of 9/11 to justify wars that have killed and maimed millions of people who had nothing to do with those crimes. Ferencz compared this to the actions of the German leaders he prosecuted at Nuremberg, who also justified their invasions of other countries as "preemptive first strikes."

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"You cannot run a…
Medea Benjamin, Nicolas J.S. Davies
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