Lawfare's 9/11 10th Anniversary Project

By Benjamin Wittes
Friday, August 26, 2011, 11:35 AM

The 10th anniversary of September 11 is, as everyone knows, coming up soon, and it promises a veritable orgy of selective memory. America's debate over law and security is, in general, characterized by an overabundance of certainty; everyone is way too convinced that he or she is right about whatever the issue at hand happens to be at any given time. All the data seem to prove all the hypotheses, and it is quite rare for people to go back and offer their intellectual mea culpas for the things they get wrong.

The September 11 anniversary thus promises any number of earnest reflections from across the political spectrum of why the past ten years show that the speaker (whoever the speaker happens to be) was right all along. We will learn to our surprise from the political right that the post-9/11 era shows the need for toughness, for a war paradigm, and that waterboarding worked. We will learn from the human rights community that it was a grave error not to live our values. It all promises to be very tedious indeed.

Friends, readers, countrymen: Lawfare will stand as a bullwark against the tedium.

Not only will not a word of "See, I was right!" self-justification appear on this page, but we hereby announce that we will be soliciting and publishing reflections by folks who have worked in this area about the things they got wrong, the areas where the last 10 years have given rise to reevaluations on their part of things they once believed strongly but about which events have given rise to anxiety and doubt. We will also be publishing our own mea culpas. And we will be taking submissions from readers on the subject as well.

Here are the rules for such submissions:

1) Length is flexible, but please keep things reasonably short.

2) Only true mea culpas will be considered. We are not interested in apologias that are really self-justifications ("I never imagined that my political enemies would be quite as horrible as they turned out to be!" ). We want, rather, to hear from people for whom the last 10 years have created doubts about prior beliefs, rather than greater certainty, or have undone one certainty and generated a new one. We want to hear from readers about the things they really got wrong in a debate in which no side has monopolized truth.

3) Submissions should be sent to We will try to respond individually to each one, but depending on the volume, we do not promise that we will be able to--much less that we will publish every one.