Frontline’s Interactive Library Grows: Voices on America Post-9/11

The PBS Frontline library of interactive transcript source interviews has gotten bigger – we added 35 interviews from the Frontline documentary America Screenshot of the Frontline panel that you click on to get to the source interview page for the Frontline documentary America After 9/11 documentaryafter 9/11, which aired on September 7.

As usual, every sentence of every interview transcript has a unique URL so you can select an excerpt, then get the URL that points directly to the excerpt in context.

Four of the interviews got the full video transcript treatment, so you can both see and hear the excerpt in context. If you want to dive a little deeper into a sobering but important topic, there’s plenty to see. Here are some interesting bits from each of them. Click on a link below, then click play to see that quote in the context of the full transcript and video.

Rasha Aqeedi is an analyst and writer who grew up in America and Iraq.

It just felt like the social fabric of the country was really falling apart, not just geographically. North, south, even within the same province, within the same city, it was almost like an instant us-versus-them narrative.

Yeah, Abu Ghraib was—that was—it was heartbreaking. It was shocking. I wanted to believe very—I so wanted to believe those pictures were not real. I didn’t want to think that Americans could do this to Iraqis.

After the interviewer asked about unintended consequences, Aqeedi told about something she’d seen, then elegantly tied the story to a much larger picture. It starts with this:

I guess the figures that come to my mind as you ask this question was seeing one of the large Stryker Army tanks. They came into Mosul; I believe it was sometime in 2004. I think they were—the Stryker was just in a hurry, and it crossed a red light…

Rajiv Chandrasekaran is a journalist and author who has written books about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

And what the enhanced interrogation program did was it did more to attack American values than anything that was done on the day of 9/11.

For Donald Trump, the candidate and then the president, 9/11 is something very different than it was for George W. Bush or Barack Obama. 9/11 is not an event that is used to create unity. It’s not an awful, awful moment that calls on us to come together. 9/11, for Donald Trump, becomes a wedge issue. It becomes something he can exploit to further division and distrust in our society.

Ben Rhodes was deputy national security advisor and speechwriter for President Barack Obama.

…Bush set up this idea, “It’s Us versus Them.” I mean, it’s literally what he said: “It’s Us versus Them.” In his mind, the “Them” at the time was, you know, Al Qaeda, radical Islam, whatever you want to call it. But he had created an Other, you know, and when you create an Other, that is easily portable.

Trump marshaled his half of the country to think of itself as literally in an existential war against the other half of the country.

All this rhetoric, it’s the same rhetoric as post-9/11 America. It’s the same enemy that so many Americans in Trump’s base had consumed night after night after night on Fox News. It’s just, instead of it being Al Qaeda, it’s immigrants or refugees or Black people or anything, trans people, you know, as long as it’s an Other, you know. n

Emma Sky has written books on Iraq and the Middle East and is a former military advisor to US generals Raymond Odierno and David Petraeus.

…the attitude that all it takes, all that we need to do is kill the bad guys until there are no more bad guys just is just not effective. At the end of the day, people will take up arms to avenge the deaths of their loved ones. Kids will be born without fathers who will take some sense of pride in taking forward the struggle of their parents.

In previous times, you could have imagined an America would have been bringing the world together, to come up with some communique that would be making sure there were enough vaccines not only for Americans, but for the rest of the world. That was what a world with America’s leadership would have looked like pre-9/11.