WASHINGTON, United States | America commemorates on Saturday the jihadist attacks of September 11 around a Joe Biden weakened by the chaotic end of the war in Afghanistan, unleashed in 2001 in retaliation for these Al-Qaeda attacks which upset the beginning of the 21st century.
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A 20th anniversary in which the pain, the emotion of the survivors, families of victims and witnesses of the time remain extremely keen. But, in the space of two decades and a generation, this cataclysm is also now history and young Americans in 2021 are sometimes only partially aware of it, experts say.
Joe Biden and his wife Jill are expected Saturday morning in New York, at the very impressive memorial built where the twin towers of the World Trade Center fell on Tuesday September 11, 2001; as every year, for three hours, the some 3,000 names of people killed will be read there. Huge vertical beams of light are already rising this week from the two huge black pools that have replaced the base of the towers.
The presidential couple must also travel to Pennsylvania where a plane hijacked by four of the 19 jihadists crashed and on the edge of Washington, where the Pentagon was attacked.
Joe Biden won’t be speaking all day. Only a video message should be broadcast, the White House said.
This painful commemoration, no doubt that the Democrat of 78 years has prepared it many times since his victory in November against Donald Trump, he who presents himself as the reconciler of a fractured America.
But Mr. Biden is weakened by the debacle of the end of the military intervention in Afghanistan (from October 2001 to August 31) when the Pentagon and the State Department were taken aback by the meteoric advance of Taliban.
The United States, which lost 2,500 troops and spent around $ 2 trillion in Afghanistan, left the country to Islamist fundamentalists they had driven out of Kabul 20 years ago, accusing them of harboring the leader of ‘Al-Qaeda Osama bin Laden, killed in May 2011 in Pakistan.
And the attack of August 26, claimed by the Afghan branch of the Islamic State group, which killed 13 American soldiers at Kabul airport (in the midst of an evacuation operation) shocked public opinion. Most of these young women and men in uniform were barely born when the Afghan conflict broke out.
Their death is a reminder that America is at a caesura: between the memory still alive for tens of millions of Americans and a historical and institutional memory for the young generation who did not experience September 11 and sometimes evokes it. with family, at school, in the media.
“Centenary of September 11”
Stephen Walt, professor of international relations at Harvard, wonders in Foreign Policy magazine “how September 11 will be commemorated on its centenary” in 2101.
The generations to come “will they see it as a spectacular tragedy, but ultimately minor, or as a fundamental turning point in the trajectory of the United States and international politics”, asks Mr. Walt, answering that “the significance” of a historical fact “depends on those who interpret it (…) Americans, Afghans, Iraqis, Saudis or Europeans”.
The New Yorker magazine also unearths this week articles that it had published a few days after the attacks: in particular that of Roger Angell, an author of 80 years at the time, old enough to be able to compare September 111 to his memories of youth of Pearl Harbor, Hiroshima or the death of Kennedy.
“The attack on the World Trade Center is unprecedented,” he wrote in 2001. “History is advancing at an unrelenting pace and we will always be faced with new cataclysms,” he lamented.
The pain of September 11 obviously remains very strong for the families of the missing: “I have the impression that this has just happened”, notes Monica Iken-Murphy, widow of a 37-year-old broker who worked on the 84th floor of the south tower.
She is keen on this remembrance ceremony.
For young people born after September 11, it is “important that they know what happened that day, because there is a whole generation that does not really understand it”. It is necessary “that the memory and the History remain very alive”, she told AFP.
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