Eight hours after the collapse of the World Trade Center towers, I found
myself, a bit shell shocked, joining an American Legion Commander as talking
heads on local Buffalo television. It
was a busy day for the media. The new century’s biggest story was unfolding
faster than they could report, or even comprehend.
With every TV and radio station scrambling to fill a 24-hour news hole,
talking heads were in short supply. When
my phone rang I knew they were down to their B or C list.
The episode opened with a ravenous diatribe by the Commander, calling for
an immediate increase in military spending.
He laid out the specifics: More ships.
Better ships. More planes.
He laid out a shopping list fit for a sustained air and ground war
against a superpower. We needed the Big Boy Boomeroo.
Later in the day we’d learn our enemies were armed with box cutters.
Then came my turn. Like so
many other people on September 11th, I just started talking about my
day. Earlier, I had turned on the
television for the first time since May. It
was May when TVland was shaken by the Mulder/Scully kiss. It was also May when the Bush administration, under the guise
of the war on drugs, gave Afghanistan’s Brutal Taliban “government” a $10
million grant. May seems so long
I recounted my emotions to the cameras.
I then glanced over to the Commander.
The bodies of the victims were still warm.
No doubt some were gasping their last breaths amidst the rubble. I
didn’t yet know if I had family or friends among the dead.
Yet, I protested, people were already using our tragedy to push their own
political agendas. It’s now over a month later and despite effectively
there’s no sign of them letting up.
They were playing on our emotions in this time of national crisis, promoting a
political agenda that was unthinkable just hours earlier. These aren’t patriots, I argued, but cold-blooded political
opportunists. Like the bombing of
the Reichstag that set off a political domino effect leading to a Nazi takeover
of Germany, the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center can potentially open
the door wide for an anti-democratic anti-American political movement to take
root. Fascism never sleeps.
The images of September 11th are new for Americans. And they’re horrifying.
But for the rest of the world, unfortunately, they’re familiar.
They saw them during the U.S. bombing of Belgrade, during the U.S.
bombing of Baghdad, and during the incineration of the El Chorillo neighborhood
in Panama City during the U.S. invasion of Panama, to name a few places.
The reality is that this is a violent world where civilians are often
killed -- sometime in mass -- both by state terrorism and individual acts of
ABC, CBS, NBC and CIA Spooks
that these images never graced American TV speaks reams about the U.S. corporate
media and its relationship with our government.
John Alpert, for example, an award winning freelance cameraperson, risked
his life behind enemy lines photographing the aftereffects of “smart bombs”
that flew amiss into Baghdad’s residential neighborhoods.
The networks, which in the past regularly broadcast Alpert’s work, all
refused to air his footage. It was
powerful footage and it had the potential to turn U.S. public opinion against
the Gulf War. The recent history of
journalism is ripe with the names of other such heroes who documented U.S.
government atrocities against civilian populations only to have their work
censored and their careers short-circuited.
With a new sort of war on the horizon we have to once
again be aware as the corporate media steps up its jingoistic hype.
Immediately following the collapse of the twin towers, ABC News, for
example, put their news analyst, Vincent Cannistraro, on the air.
What they never told us is that prior to joining the ABC team,
Cannistraro served as a high-ranking CIA official in charge of coordinating the
terrorist Contra attacks against Nicaragua during the early 1980s.
In 1984 he joined the National Security Council where he supervised aid
to the Mujahideen guerillas in Afghanistan, the forbearers of the al Qaida
organization suspected in the attack on the twin towers.
In other words, ABC’s analyst, unbeknownst to viewers, actually helped
organize the very terrorist movement he was now calling for retribution against.
We can’t expect any better reportage from NBC or CBS, both of whom are
owned by corporations with large military contracts who stand to gain billions
of dollars each in the event of a military buildup such as the one we are about
reality, the U.S. is a violent player in a turbulent global political arena.
Our foreign policy routinely uses acts that can arguably be called
“terrorism,” throughout the world. The
bombing of Belgrade, for example, purposely targeted civilian infrastructure in
an effort to disrupt life as usual in Serbia.
The Serb government for their part certainly committed their share of
atrocities, but I’d like to think of America as being stronger then to sink to
the level of attacks on civilian infrastructure.
To that end we bombed electric stations, water treatment plants, civilian
TV stations and buildings in densely populated cities throughout that nation.
Though none of these images alone could compare to the devastation of
September 11th, the bombing campaign against Serbian cities went on
for days, then weeks, until most of Serbia’s population was living in the cold
and dark, unable to sleep for fear of further attack.
Sudan we lobbed 13 Cruise Missiles the Al Shifa pharmaceutical plant, leading to
medicine shortages in that nation responsible for over 10,000 deaths.
Allegations made by the Clinton administration that the plant was
producing chemical weapons later proved false.
The Sudanese government, who by all accounts is up there with the Taliban
as the worse human rights abusers in the world (there’s still an active slave
trade there), is still in power. And
as of press time, they’re now our friends.
Orwell couldn’t have written a better script.
attempts to bomb Iraq “into the stone age” have yielded, by conservative
estimates, hundreds of thousands of Iraqi casualties. The lack of functioning water treatment plants in Iraq, due
to both the U.S. bombing during the Persian Gulf War and to the embargo on the
parts and chemicals needed to run and repair them, is responsible for the deaths
of as many as 500,000 Iraqi children. Our
war was against Saddam but in the end it was the Iraqi people who bore the brunt
of the pain and suffering.
The U.S. has also sponsored terrorism against popular democratically elected governments. As a journalist working in Central America in the late 1980s, for example, I saw first hand the effects of the U.S. orchestrated Contra War against Nicaragua. Nicaragua, at that time, posed what American dissident Noam Chomsky called, “The threat of a good example,” showing their neighbors that it was possible to dispense with a dictatorship and improve their day-to-day lives. To defeat this threat we had to destroy all the gains of the Sandinista revolution. The destruction our Contras reigned upon Nicaragua, bombing schools and health clinics as well as buses and power stations has been well documented before the World Court. Nicaragua became hell on earth, with refugees scattering throughout Europe and the Americas. Their economy suffered a 16,000% inflation rate. Eventually the Nicaraguan people cried uncle and voted the Sandinistas out of office.
elected government of Chile suffered a quicker fate, falling to a CIA engineered
coup. The people of Chile were then
subjected to two decades of brutal military rule under General Pinochet.
the past few decades, similar covert and overt U.S. government operations
ranging from assassinations and bombings to outright invasions have taken place
in 67 countries. Amnesty International reported in 1996, “Throughout the
world, on any given day, a man, woman or child is likely to be displaced,
tortured, killed or disappeared, at the hands of governments or armed political
groups. More often than not, the
United States is to blame.” Each
such action has the potential to create legions of orphans who will grow up
hating the U.S. and seeking revenge. In
light of this history, the post September 11th congressional action
giving the President unlimited powers to act in unspecified counties as part of
the “war on terrorism” is ominous.
emerging consensus among Western nations points to Osama [Usama] bin Laden’s
al Qaida organization as being responsible for the attacks against the World
Trade Center and the Pentagon. The
same fingers are also pointing to Afghanistan’s Taliban regime as sharing
responsibility by giving refuge to bin Laden and hosting his training camps.
these are in fact the people responsible for the attacks, what we are looking
at, at best, is a monumental example of “blowback.”
The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) had a strong hand in both
creating bin Laden as a leader, and in creating the Taliban as a political
movement. During the waning days of
the cold war when a Soviet allied government ran Afghanistan, the CIA used our
tax dollars to help organize, train and arm an international fundamentalist
movement, the Mujahideen, as a 25,000 member strong guerilla army to fight the
Soviets in Afghanistan. With a
price tag of over 2.5 billion dollars, this still stands as the most expensive
CIA intervention in history.
among the CIA’s Mujahideen contacts was bin Laden, whose group the CIA both
trained and armed with sophisticated weapons.
The CIA also worked to united warring and bickering Afghani tribal
factions into a united front of resistance -- the Taliban.
agency’s motive was twofold: The
Sunni Muslim Taliban would both fight the Soviets and provide a few headaches
for their rival Shi’ite Muslim neighbors in Iran.
The rest is history. After
losing more than 15,000 soldiers, the Soviets pulled out of Afghanistan.
A few years later the Afghani government collapsed leaving the country
mired in chaos. The Taliban
eventually rose to control the majority of what was left of Afghanistan,
tormenting their own people on a level comparable to the Pol Pot regime in
Cambodia or the Nazis in Germany. Osama
bin Laden returned to his native Saudi Arabia as a national hero.
came the Gulf war.
biographers of bin Laden explain how he witnessed up close what we, as
Americans, never saw: the brutal dismembership of civil society in Iraq by U.S.
military strikes. He saw the
wholesale deaths of fellow Muslims and Arabs dismissed in the American media as
“collateral damage.” He saw a
callous, possibly racist disregard for that loss of life as Americans joyously
celebrated the “end” of the Gulf War. These
images began the process of turning our intelligence “asset,” our operative,
the U.S. presence in his native Saudi Arabia, the theory goes, he saw what he
felt was an American imperialist presence in the heart of Islam’s sacred holy
lands. His movement views the
U.S.’s blind unwavering support over the years for Israel and our involvement
with a host of brutal client states in Algeria, Chad, Egypt, Iran, Pakistan and
Saudi Arabia as acts of war against Islam.
certainly have no sympathy for bin Laden. He
epitomizes the worst that humanity has to offer.
He’s a xenophobic misogynistic cold-blooded mass murderer.
If bin Laden is our enemy, however, we need to understand how his mind
works. We have the difficult task
of trying to empathize with a psychotic mass murderer.
Bin Laden doesn’t see himself as declaring war on America per se.
He sees himself fighting to protect his beloved Islam from America.
That is his fatwa and if we are to defend our country and our way of life
we need to understand it.
need to understand that a military defense does not work against a terrorist
threat. The murderers who destroyed
the World Trade Center accomplished their morbid goals armed only with box
cutters. Quite possibly they could
have accomplished similar ends using only their bare hands.
They turned our planes into weapons against us.
This tactic is no longer unthinkable and we’ll defend against it from
here on in. But once the human mind
is bent to the goal of fratricide, of killing our fellow humans, history has
shown there is no limit to its creativity.
Terrorists threaten all forms of civil life ranging from mass
transportation to cultural events. They
don’t need weapons or poisons to kill, maim and terrorize.
They need only to be empowered with hatred.
why a massive military response is futile.
It feeds the cycle of violence and hatred that brought down the twin
towers. It will fuel a war that
will last for generations. It will
ignite and empower a culture of suicide bombers.
This war could be the legacy we create for our great great-grandchildren.
peace, social justice and democracy activists in America, Armageddon is upon us.
Americans, for the first time in over a century, are seeing first hand
the violence of war as it tears at our homeland.
We’re sensing our own vulnerability.
Suddenly war is more than Ted Koppel explaining a series of attack
animations. It’s real.
We’re dying. And a violent
response will only scar the earth with more death. The now much lauded Israeli model of revenge attacks, if
anything, should demonstrate that to us. Their
war knows no end as each day new martyrs are born as old hatreds are rekindled
with the flames of revenge. As Gandhi tried to point out, an eye for an eye will
leave the world blind.
the arguments of Martin Luther King, Gandhi, Thoreau and the peace movement make
sense to run of the mill flag waiving Americans. “You mean if we kill people other people might want to kill
us?” Gee. In my life I’ve never had an easier time convincing people
to change their minds. George
Bush’s early saber rattling and talk of war is created an opportunity for a
national dialog on America’s role in the world.
we are, in a unique political space. For
the first time in 50 odd years, the world is looking at the U.S. as a victim.
Hands outreached in friendship are coming from around the globe.
People both feel for us and fear that, like a wounded animal, we’ll go
berserk. How we as a nation react
to this situation will determine the world’s geo-political landscape for the
21st Century. But if the peace movement fails to move the country
toward a sensible response, we may sink into a militaristic abyss politically
unprecedented in modern times. We
have been handed an unexpected opportunity to enter into a new relationship with
the rest of the world – we shouldn’t pass it up.
As I write we have not yet launched a large scale military strike.
To the contrary, we’re sending food to the starving Afghanis.
This gives me hope. And
surprisingly, as of press time, it gives me cause to cautiously praise Bush’s
apparent restraint. I can’t help
but to think that Al Gore would have been lobbing missiles weeks ago.
also Armageddon for the peace movement since many forms of political resistance
are about to be criminalized. One
of the bills rushing through the House and Senate will give George Bush’s
government sweeping powers to conduct political surveillance and infiltrate
domestic political movements such as the peace, global justice and environmental
movements, which have long been a thorn in the side of corporate America.
The war against terrorism also allows for sweeping actions to be
conducted against “terrorist” organizations, and for due process to be
suspended when dealing with suspected “terrorists” and people supporting
“terrorist organizations.” At
this juncture it is important to remember back in the 1980s when the Reagan
Administration declared the Coalition in Solidarity with the People of El
Salvador (CISPES), a Peace Center affiliate organization protesting against the
U.S. covert war in El Salvador, to be an organization “supporting
thousands of American Quakers, Catholic Workers, and run of the mill pacifists
fell under the rubric of “terrorist.”
the right wing pundits who dominate the corporate airwaves are musing about how
Earth First!, Sea Shepherd and other environmental organizations employing
direct action tactics are, like bin Laden’s al Qaida movement,
“Terrorists.” Likewise, the
wide net cast for suspected terrorists will also no doubt be used to suppress
globalization protestors, especially those that employ civil disobedience as a
tactic. Yes, politically this is
Armageddon. Either the peace and
social justice movements will prevail and introduce a dialog of sanity, or they
will be criminalized. These are
dangerous times for democracy.
wake of the attacks of September 11th, the Bush administration moved
fast to reinvigorate it’s stalled radical agenda for restructuring American
government. The first political
victim of the attacks will be the social security “lockbox” as the Bush
administration raids the previously untouchable social security surplus to pay
for the ensuing war.
in charge of the money, Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neil, the former CEO of
Alcoa Aluminum, is already on record calling for the elimination of
social security, Medicare and all forms of government supported social services.
Up until this point, such a radical agenda was politically untenable.
A $40 billion plus war bill, coupled with the recently imposed Bush tax
restructuring plan, promises to lead the U.S. government in the direction of
bankruptcy. At that juncture, the
hard medicine we will be forced to take won’t be tax increases for
corporations and the rich. O’Neil
is also on record calling for the elimination of all corporate taxes.
The hard medicine we as patriots will be forced to endure will be more
cuts to education and social services, which was on the Bush agenda all along.
The new vision of government articulated by O’Neil may very well become
a reality, with government morphing into a massive military-police state
providing few other services.
result of the events of September 11th, we can also expect to see
renewed calls for drilling for oil in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge and in
the Gulf of Mexico, two items high on the Bush administration wish list that the
public recently declared off-limits. With
our new war on terrorism threatening to turn the heat up in the Middle East,
development of domestic oil reserves will no doubt become an issue of
the legislative agenda as a result of the attacks is a bill allowing the CIA and
other government agencies to assassinate foreign nationals at will and to hire
known human rights abusers as operatives. This
one really requires a pause for reflection.
This is a bill that in the name of fighting terrorism will allow the Bush
administration and all those who follow, to order the murder of individuals,
including elected leaders, at will. No
judge or jury, just summary execution at the whim of a bureaucrat or government
sponsored terrorist. The bill will
also allow the CIA to once again support the work of notorious human rights
abusers. This is exactly the
activity that, before it was banned, brought us the likes of Osama bin Laden,
Saddam Hussein, Manuel Noriega, and hundreds of other murderous madman
throughout the world. It’s the renewal of the very policy that led to the
destruction of the World Trade Center. It’s
unethical by every measure, it’s a threat to democracy and social justice
movements around the world, and it’s just plain stupid.
also only hours after the first plane hit the World Trade Center that government
spokespersons started to call for more funding for the CIA. And
politicians started echoing that call without any recognition of the fact that
it was excessive funding of the CIA back in the 1980s that created the terrorist
organizations that are now attacking us. How
stupid can we be?
The best defense against terrorism is to stop creating
enemies so dedicated to our destruction that they are willing to sacrifice their
own lives to kill us. We need to recognize that the Islamic world is off limits to
our neo-colonial rule. This means
we will no longer be able to control the flow of oil coming from Persian Gulf
countries. In the simplest terms,
this is what it’s all about. Vice
President Dick Cheney is the former CEO of Halliburton Oil. Secretary of Commerce Donald Evans is the former CEO of a
Denver based oil and gas corporation.
White House Director of Legislative Affairs, Nicholas Calio is a former
lobbyist for Atlantic Richfield (ARCO). Chevron
actually named a tanker after National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice.
The list goes on and on. The
Bush family is all about oil. Daddy
Bush’s Persian Gulf War was all about oil.
The United States, with less than 5% of the world’s
population, currently consumes 40% of the world’s annual oil output.
Put simply, the current problem is the result of our need to control
Middle Eastern Politics. And we
control Middle Eastern Politics so we can control the supply of oil to feed our
gas guzzling SUVs as we cruise from jobs to shopping malls in and endless cycle
of working and consuming. If
we’re to live at peace with our global neighbors, this unsustainable behavior
must stop. We can’t hog nearly
half of the world’s oil. Likewise
we can’t keep buying cheap goods made in sweatshops around the world.
Go to the dollar store.
Go to Wal Mart. Look at what
things cost and think about how much labor went to produce them.
Think about how much oil fueled the ship to bring them across the globe.
The math doesn’t add up. Our
consumerist society is a vampire sucking the labor and resources from the world.
We’re blind to our own complicity in global exploitation.
One toy store chain, in a show of hypocrisy, is sponsoring an American
Flag making event for children. The
children, however, would have a difficult time finding American made products in
that store. Almost all toy
production is now ‘outsourced’ to low wage offshore factories and
sweatshops. We get cheap toys but
they’re often manufactured under hellish conditions. Even the American flags
we now proudly wave are more often than not produced under dismal conditions in
foreign plants, with “communist” China pumping out Old Glories by the
Our economic hegemony is backed up by a global military
presence. It’s a politically
untenable situation that invites resentment.
The events of September 11th are the end result of resentment
Unfortunately the attack on the World Trade Center will only exacerbate the
problem. As skyscrapers become
targets for terrorists, the concept of densely packed cities will begin to
unravel. The result, as we are now
seeing in the wake of the attacks, is more suburban sprawl as companies seek
safer scattered harbors from which to work.
This means more cars on more highways consuming more oil as businesses
move further from mass transit accessible urban centers.
The fact that a few firemen survived the collapse of the twin towers
inside the refuge of a SUV will ironically contribute to even more sales of
these ridiculous giant cars – now seen as terrorist-proof.
We’re at a juncture now.
In the rubble of the World Trade Center we can catch a glimpse of a bleak
future. There’s an eerie serenity in the air; the calm before the
storm. The media is telling us that
their polls show we want war. We
want to go down this dark path of endless destruction.
We want to avenge murder with murder.
We want to kill. But the
polls are a sham. The questions are
leading. They’re designed to
produce a given set of answers. These
are dangerous times. Believe
nothing. Talk to your neighbors,
your friends, your family. In my
heart I know we’re not a community of killers.
I want justice, but I don’t want war.
There’s no way to fight a physical war against an ideology.
Our weapons are obsolete. We’re
not prepared for this battle. Our
government tells us our war might be waged against Afghanistan.
But Afghanistan is already in rubble.
With some help from the former Soviet Union, the Afghanis have already,
during the past two decades of war, destroyed all the infrastructure in their
own country. Only 13% of the population has access to potable drinking water.
Only 12% has access to flush toilets.
Only 36% of Afghanis can read. Only
one in a thousand has a telephone. Seventy percent of the population is
malnourished and 22% are currently facing imminent starvation.
In Afghanistan death offers a respite from the horrors of life.
As rulers, the Taliban have failed.
Afghanistan is in ruins. They
invite this war. Only with an
American invasion can they have an external foe upon whom to blame their
failures. Only with the help of an American attack can they survive the
eventual wrath of their own people. Only in the spotlight of our own hatred can
the Taliban’s ideology of hate persist and spread. They welcome this war. The
terrorists invited this war. They
wrote the script. We must resist
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