Remembering All The Dead
For much of the week there have been documentaries on all of the major television stations in the run-up to the first anniversary of the September 11 terrorist bombings in the USA. All of them were heart-rending, especially the interviews with relatives of the dead.
One of the most harrowing was that filmed by two French brothers, Jules and Gideon Naudet, who had been making a documentary about a rookie fireman. On September 11 they go out with his crew to investigate a reported gas leak not far from the World Trade Centre when a plane is heard overhead. Jules pans up and catches the shot of the first plane hitting the North Tower. The documentary is about what happens next.
However, also shown on Channel Four was a bizarre documentary based on a book published in France last May, ‘The Frightening Fraud’ by French author Thierry Meyssan, and which was selling 100,000 copies a week. He claimed that American Airlines Flight 77, which killed 189 people when it crashed into the Pentagon, didn’t exist because there had been no eye-witnesses. According to Meyssan, the damage was caused by a rocket fired by an ultra-right wing faction of the US government, aimed at justifying the creation of a police state. Once again, it was absolute rubbish.
After the bombings there were many conspiracy theories. A common one was that the attacks were carried out by the Israeli Mossad Secret Service to divert attention from the Israeli crackdown in the West Bank and Gaza, create a backlash against Arabs in general and the Palestinian cause in particular. It was also claimed that Jews who worked in the World Trade Centre had been warned not to go in that day. The theory was, of course, complete nonsense, and the enthusiasm with which it was greeted by people who consider themselves progressive (I received it at least a half dozen times from comrades) is disturbing and should make radicals never forget or lose the distinction between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism.
For the majority of US citizens, most of those in Europe, and probably most Arab leaders, there is little doubt - there has certainly been no denial - that the bombings were carried out by al-Qaida, led by Osama bin Laden who was being hosted in Afghanistan by the Taleban fundamentalist government (made up of mainly ethnic Pashtuns). To contest that orthodoxy or to query the evidence is to certainly run the risk of being tarred ‘a terrorist sympathiser and apologist’, of being considered callous and anti-American.
Yet, the only reason for arguing that the US should only respond in a measured way, with the consensus of nations in the region and within the context of international law, was to ensure that more innocent people - disenfranchised, powerless, poor people - did not die to satisfy a demand for revenge, in a war which had objectives far beyond the defensive, pre-emptive ones outlined.
And that is exactly what happened. The richest, most developed superpower bombed one of the poorest nations in the world and killed more civilians than died in the bombings on 9/11. What was accomplished? The Taliban government in Kabul has been replaced by the Northern Alliance (which is dominated by one tribe, the Tajiks), al Qaida has been scattered (probably, temporarily) and Osama bin Laden may have been killed or may not. Has it reduced the terrorist threat to the USA or its allies? It is doubtful.
Religious conviction, fanaticism, call it what you will, motivates al Qaida fighters. They - and other Islamic fundamentalists - despise the West, but particularly the USA because of its ‘defiling’ presence on the soil of Mecca. They despise the hypocrisy of the West. In Algeria, ten years ago, when it looked like the non-violent Islamic Salvation Front (FSI) was going to win the elections the government - supported by the USA and the EU - banned the elections. The FSI transformed into the Armed Islamic Group and Algeria has experienced a civil war since, with the loss of over 50,000 lives.
They view they West’s boast of respecting democracy as hollow and hypocritical. They quote American support for Israeli repression, its murder of Palestinians, its expansionism, as one of the reasons for their jihad or holy war.
We have to listen to their arguments - if you can find them in a media largely dominated by one-side - if only to reject or accept them in whole or part. I have no time for fundamentalism and would like to think that I would die to defend a pluralist society, or for many of the cultural values I share with the people of North America and Europe. But there is something seriously sick about our world.
Who will be remembering on 9/11 that other September 11 in 1973 when the USA inspired a coup in Chile against the democratically elected government of Salvador Allende, and replaced him with the military dictatorship of General Pinochet? Tens of thousands of Chileans were subsequently tortured, murdered, fell out of windows, disappeared.
Who will remember this September that this is the twentieth anniversary of the massacre of defenceless Palestinian children, women and men in the Sabra and Chatila refugee camps in Beirut by right-wing Phalangists, coordinated by the war criminal Ariel Sharon, then Israeli Defence Minister, now its Prime Minister? How could you shake hands with, sip tea with, bear to be in the same room as the terrorist responsible for killing over 3,500 people in an act described by the United Nations as an act of genocide?
Yet George Bush does. He and Tony Blair want to go to war. The pathetic little generals. They want to go to war against Iraq, a war which will kill thousands more civilians. Have the two governments really no choice? Is there no other way? Are they telling us the truth? Has Saddam Hussein got weapons of mass destruction? If he has, on whom is he going to use them? Me and you? Israel? The USA? Britain? If he has these weapons why is he going to use them? Because he wants to? Because he’s nuts? Because he has a death wish? Few dictators have.
In honouring the dead of 9/11 in the USA we have a responsibility to tell the truth. It isn’t being anti-American. I would love the people of North America to elect a government which would present a beacon of hope to the world and to defend freedom. Real freedom. Freedom from poverty, inequality, injustice and repression. Because that is the only way that fundamentalism and terrorism can be defeated.
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© 2007 Irish Author and Journalist - Danny Morrison