It’s a couple days old, but I’ve missed it until now: Christopher Hitchens has a superb piece in Slate explaining why we should commemorate tomorrow’s second anniversary of the 9/11 attacks by not commemorating it.

A couple of representative snippets and then you’re on your own:

I tried to anticipate this two years ago. I didn’t at all mind what some critics loftily dismissed as “flag-waving.” Indeed I was surprised that there wasn’t more of it than there was. But I never displayed a flag myself and argued quietly against putting one up over the entrance to the building where I live. This was for a simple reason: How will it look when the effort tapers off?


What is required is a steady, unostentatious stoicism, made up out of absolute, cold hatred and contempt for the aggressors, and complete determination that their defeat will be utter and shameful. This doesn’t require drum rolls or bagpipes or banners. The French had a saying during the period when the provinces of Alsace and Lorraine were lost to them: “Always think of it. Never speak of it.” (Yes, Virginia, we can learn things from the French, even if not from Monsieur Chirac.)

Indeed. Go read the rest.

FILED UNDER: Terrorism, ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. melvin toast says:

    Seems to me, based on history, that jingoism is usually
    necessary if you’re going to win a war. Since the
    WTC was bombed the first time, we acted like nothing
    happened. We were at war but we didn’t know it.

    I’ve always hated the discussion that, “if I don’t go to the park today, then the terrorists have won.” The terrorists win when they kill people! And if we don’t keep reminding everyone that the terrorists are trying to kill people, we’ll forget about it like we did in the 90s and it won’t be long till more innocent people are dead.

  2. James Joyner says:

    Hitchens doesn’t argue otherwise. Just that flag-waving for its own sake winds up being self-defeating in that it quickly gets boring. You fight terrorism by attacking, not by putting decals on the car.

  3. melvin toast says:

    I don’t see how decals inhibit our ability to attack terrorism. If anything it may serve as a reminder, “Oh yeah… there’s a war on.”

    Certainly it’s been the case that air crews decorate their
    planes with teeth and adorn hangars with war cries and declarations of complete determination that the enemie’s defeat will be utter and shameful. Doesn’t seem like too many people get confused and forget to train for battle.

    Why shouldn’t we show our support too?

  4. Cam says:

    Wow… I finally disagree with you, James.

    If Christopher Hitchens was already thinking of today on 9/11/01, then he’s a cold hearted bastard. I know I didn’t think of anything besides my family, my country, and the attacks themselves that day.

    To say we shouldn’t remember on September 11th seems like such a pointless exercise. Just because I celebrate my anniversary doesn’t mean I don’t love my wife every other day of the year. Just because I celebrate my children’s birthdays doesn’t mean I don’t celebrate their life every other day.

  5. James Joyner says:


    Hitchens was being facetious that he was thinking two years ahead. It’s just that, for similar reasons, he didn’t attend the special memorial service or support putting the flag up.

    Anniversaries of weddings are celebrations. I’m just not sure what the point of syrupy commemorations of terrorist attacks are. For one thing, as Hitchens points out, most of the people who died that day just happened to die. Aside from the rescue crews, they’re merely victims, not heroes. More importantly, this is already less potent than it was a year ago. Three years from now, this will have all the punch of Decoration Day.