On September 11th 2001 the first news I had of the destruction of the World Trade Centre came from the two young men employed by my Turkish builder.
They were cock a hoop!
America had been attacked!
Their boss brought them down to earth immediately…the people killed and injured in that attack weren’t, for the greater part, involved in the governing of America or determining its policies…they were ordinary people, secretaries, cooks, cleaners, security guards….people like them, like their families.
They took his point…..felt for the victims and their families….. sobered down…but when news of the attack on the Pentagon came in they cheered up again.
Surely that’s a legitimate target! That’s military!
Now these two young men, sunny, kind and helpful, good sons and brothers, were hardly fundamentalists.
They were Turks, brought up in the secular state founded by Kemal Ataturk after the downfall of the Ottoman empire…and would describe themselves as Muslims in the same way that most English people would put down Cof E if asked about religion, while actually being what used to be described as wheelbarrow Christians – attending church for christenings, marriages and burials.
The imam of their mosque was not a backwoodsman from Bangladesh, but a man keen to help his ‘flock’ find their feet in France while preserving their own culture….the emphasis was on making the most of the new life in a different land.
So why were these two decent young men so delighted that America had been attacked?
We talked about it in the succeeding days.
They were as about as political as they were fundamentalist….all politicians were crooked, all governments cheated their peoples…that was about the limit of it…..so why the delight?
What it came down to was their view of America as a bully state…..imposing its will on other countries, exploiting the poor and helpless, while secure from attack itself.
Thus the delight.
Some one had struck back.
I remembered another September 11th…that of 1973.
The day that a free Chile awoke to the bombardments of the American backed fascists mounting a coup d’etat against the government of Salvador Allende.
No one could say that the Allende government was perfect…far from it, though it would have had more chance of succeeding if the ‘middle ground’ Christian Democrats had stayed with it as a moderating force rather than taking to opposition….but it was Chile’s government and it was not for America to back the coup, as Kissinger admitted that they did.
Over the years, America’s meddling in the affairs of sovereign states to support its commercial empire has been responsible for appalling levels of repression, of poverty, of lack of education, of torture and death.
It’s backing of Bin Laden in Afghanistan gave him the money and influence to start a movement to free the Islamic ‘Holy Land’ from the contamination of the American presence.
Successive American governments have sown the wind…and the whirlwind has struck us all.
None of this is the ‘fault’ of the people in the World Trade Centre….they, like all of us, had no way of controlling their government.
Had you asked them if they wanted to see people kept in poverty and threatened with gaol or death for resistance as a result of their country’s politics then they would surely have said ‘no’.
As we would, I hope, say ‘no’.
The problem, it seems to me, is that there is no longer a workable link between people and their governments.
The governing ‘caste’ is self perpetuating and its interests and values are not those of the people.
The ‘differing’ parties are but different faces of the same phenomenon, whose rule is ‘validated’ by elections.
In exchange for freedom and decision making this caste has given the people ‘purchasing power’….a vicious illusion of freedom of choice, masking the very real lack of actual power.
It strikes me that the best memorial to those who have died in New York and in succeeding terrorist attacks throughout the world would be for people to lift their heads from the mire in which they have been kept by the ruling castes of our ‘democracies’.
To start to examine the reality of their situation as a preliminary to action to restore power to its rightful holders…
In 2001, as ‘planes crashed and towers crumbled, some of those about to die were able to leave last messages for their families.
In 1973, as the bombs fell and troops invaded his palace, President Allende left a last message to the people of Chile……
Liberty does not die.
But if we want to keep its candle flame bright we have to take responsibility…to be aware of what governments do in our name…..to question and to act.
Here is an article by John Pilger, published in ‘The Guardian’ on Tuesday September 10th 2013 19.15 BST, which gives an analysis worth attention:
‘On my wall is the Daily Express front page of September 5 1945 and the words: “I write this as a warning to the world.” So began Wilfred Burchett’s report from Hiroshima. It was the scoop of the century. For his lone, perilous journey that defied the US occupation authorities, Burchett was pilloried, not least by his embedded colleagues. He warned that an act of premeditated mass murder on an epic scale had launched a new era of terror.
Almost every day now, he is vindicated. The intrinsic criminality of the atomic bombing is borne out in the US National Archives and by the subsequent decades of militarism camouflaged as democracy. The Syria psychodrama exemplifies this. Yet again we are held hostage by the prospect of a terrorism whose nature and history even the most liberal critics still deny. The great unmentionable is that humanity’s most dangerous enemy resides across the Atlantic.
John Kerry’s farce and Barack Obama’s pirouettes are temporary. Russia’s peace deal over chemical weapons will, in time, be treated with the contempt that all militarists reserve for diplomacy. With al-Qaida now among its allies, and US-armed coupmasters secure in Cairo, the US intends to crush the last independent states in the Middle East: Syria first, then Iran. “This operation [in Syria],” said the former French foreign minister Roland Dumas in June, “goes way back. It was prepared, pre-conceived and planned.”
When the public is “psychologically scarred”, as the Channel 4 reporter Jonathan Rugman described the British people’s overwhelming hostility to an attack on Syria, suppressing the truth is made urgent. Whether or not Bashar al-Assad or the “rebels” used gas in the suburbs of Damascus, it is the US, not Syria, that is the world’s most prolific user of these terrible weapons.
In 1970 the Senate reported: “The US has dumped on Vietnam a quantity of toxic chemical (dioxin) amounting to six pounds per head of population.” This was Operation Hades, later renamed the friendlier Operation Ranch Hand – the source of what Vietnamese doctors call a “cycle of foetal catastrophe”. I have seen generations of children with their familiar, monstrous deformities. John Kerry, with his own blood-soaked war record, will remember them. I have seen them in Iraq too, where the US used depleted uranium and white phosphorus, as did the Israelis in Gaza. No Obama “red line” for them. No showdown psychodrama for them.
The sterile repetitive debate about whether “we” should “take action” against selected dictators (ie cheer on the US and its acolytes in yet another aerial killing spree) is part of our brainwashing. Richard Falk, professor emeritus of international law and UN special rapporteur on Palestine, describes it as “a self-righteous, one-way, legal/moral screen [with] positive images of western values and innocence portrayed as threatened, validating a campaign of unrestricted political violence”. This “is so widely accepted as to be virtually unchallengeable”.
It is the biggest lie: the product of “liberal realists” in Anglo-American politics, scholarship and media who ordain themselves as the world’s crisis managers, rather than the cause of a crisis. Stripping humanity from the study of nations and congealing it with jargon that serves western power designs, they mark “failed”, “rogue” or “evil” states for “humanitarian intervention”.
An attack on Syria or Iran or any other US “demon” would draw on a fashionable variant, “Responsibility to Protect”, or R2P – whose lectern-trotting zealot is the former Australian foreign minister Gareth Evans, co-chair of a “global centre” based in New York. Evans and his generously funded lobbyists play a vital propaganda role in urging the “international community” to attack countries where “the security council rejects a proposal or fails to deal with it in a reasonable time”.
Evans has form. He appeared in my 1994 film Death of a Nation, which revealed the scale of genocide in East Timor. Canberra’s smiling man is raising his champagne glass in a toast to his Indonesian equivalent as they fly over East Timor in an Australian aircraft, having signed a treaty to pirate the oil and gas of the stricken country where the tyrant Suharto killed or starved a third of the population.
Under the “weak” Obama, militarism has risen perhaps as never before. With not a single tank on the White House lawn, a military coup has taken place in Washington. In 2008, while his liberal devotees dried their eyes, Obama accepted the entire Pentagon of his predecessor, George Bush: its wars and war crimes. As the constitution is replaced by an emerging police state, those who destroyed Iraq with shock and awe, piled up the rubble in Afghanistan and reduced Libya to a Hobbesian nightmare, are ascendant across the US administration. Behind their beribboned facade, more former US soldiers are killing themselves than are dying on battlefields. Last year 6,500 veterans took their own lives. Put out more flags.
The historian Norman Pollack calls this “liberal fascism”: “For goose-steppers substitute the seemingly more innocuous militarisation of the total culture. And for the bombastic leader, we have the reformer manqué, blithely at work, planning and executing assassination, smiling all the while.” Every Tuesday the “humanitarian” Obama personally oversees a worldwide terror network of drones that “bugsplat” people, their rescuers and mourners. In the west’s comfort zones, the first black leader of the land of slavery still feels good, as if his very existence represents a social advance, regardless of his trail of blood. This obeisance to a symbol has all but destroyed the US anti-war movement – Obama’s singular achievement.
In Britain, the distractions of the fakery of image and identity politics have not quite succeeded. A stirring has begun, though people of conscience should hurry. The judges at Nuremberg were succinct: “Individual citizens have the duty to violate domestic laws to prevent crimes against peace and humanity.” The ordinary people of Syria, and countless others, and our own self-respect, deserve nothing less now.’
Americans who may chance to read this may not like it…may feel offended. I hope not: if we are to restore values we once held then we have to take back power from those who hold it – not just the politicians, but those who control and pay them.
The Great Generation went to war to overthrow tyranny…..not to perpetuate it.