September 11th…1973…..2001…..2013

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… 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…

The people.

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… 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.


40 thoughts on “September 11th…1973…..2001…..2013”

  1. “In Britain, the distractions of the fakery of image and identity politics have not quite succeeded.”

    You are quite correct in your view, it is one that I also wholeheartedly agree with.

  2. Pilger nailed it perfectly I thought, even quoting Jonathan Rugman’s excellent report on the reaction of the British people’s overwhelming hostility to possible intervention.
    It takes guts to stand up against the opinion of tide, even more so when it is force fed via a red top media ever linked to the governments chequebook.
    Good for you Britain. Vote with your feet in the next election!

    1. There’s the weak pojnt…who the blazes is there to vote for who isn’t in the pockets of the money men?
      Political parties are bankrupt – I have grave doubts whether the Labour Party’s involvement with community groups will survive their central control system when it comes to candidate selection.

  3. Succinct, true reflection of how ‘it is.’ Makes me sad, but as you point out ‘we’ are allowing it and continue to allow it with our wallets and fear that’s been engendered by those who are keeping ‘us’ enthralled through the media.

  4. All so right, all so depressing. It feels so vast a mountain. I remember discovering the might of the US military industrial complex years ago, as a student ( of American history ! )…and being horrified and frightened. Nothing has changed, and so much that has happened has been forgotten, or never really acknowledged. I’m not sure its about having forgotten how to question, and act, more feeling so powerless, being at a complete loss.

    1. Exactly what the buggers want…raise your head in print – you’re a sympathiser of terrorists. Raise it in the street and get kettled by the Met.
      Our not so remote ancestors were a bit tougher…or we would not have had the freedoms we now risk losing again.
      We need to discuss this, to raise it with friends, make it an issue more important than the (declining) bread and circuses laid out before us by our masters.

  5. Obama has been the greatest disappointment, far greater even than Blair was.
    When I read blogposts by American (US) bloggers praising their land of freedom and plenty, justice and benevolence to all mankind, I wonder if these seemingly intelligent people perhaps live in a parallel universe.

    I trawl European News reports; not every country on the continent follows US dictats as slavishly as we do here in Britain. In discussion programmes it is still possible to hear dissenting voices which do not get shouted down for sedition and hate-mongering.

    Helen, dear lady, you are one brave woman. There are too few of you. (A friend of mine is in Brazil at the moment, stirring against huge commercial enterprises and finding herself in very hot water – I hope she makes it back to the UK in one piece).

    1. Your friend is doing a lot more than I can…good luck to her and her efforts and you are right to be worried about her safety.

      Obama gets away with his evil simply by being the first black president….in the euphoria of that event people look no further. But it doesn’t suffice to be the first black, the first woman, the first whatever, if you let down the hopes of those who voted for you and kill the innocent across the globe.
      He had a chance to break the mould…he subsided lucratively into it.

      I firmly believe that most people are decent and good hearted; but we all need a bit of steel in the backbone to lift our heads out of the fog and start to examine what is happening behind the clouds issuing from the financial – political – media complex.

  6. Powerful summation citing the Judges at Nuremberg. Politics is like watching the ending of the Wizard of Oz, euphemistically speaking. I don’t know if I’m more cynical, or it’s age or what, but I am no longer swayed by any, I repeat, any of the lip moving to trust in any of it. Actions–over time with consistency to words spoken–is what speaks to me. Thank you, Helen.

  7. Pilger can set up a good argument…and we shouldn’t forget that despite Nuremberg being largely victors’ justice it still has something to say to us – in particular the phrase quoted by Pilger.

    Yes, with you all the way.
    Actions, not words are what counts.

  8. I have to agree. The tragedy of America is that is has betrayed its own aspirations, betrayed the dream it promised to hold dear and threatens peace and stability wherever it flings the long arm of its military and its money grabbing corporations. It acts like the worst kind of parent; thinks it knows best when it knows nothing, bullies and enforces control under the guise of ensuring safety and punishes and forgives when the mood suits it.

  9. I’m afraid once I realised it was Pilger having a pop at Gareth Evans I found it impossible to entirely ignore the personalities involved here. Pilger writes powerfully, and in this article makes some excellent points well delivered. Unfortunately he is also just as capable of being a self-righteous prig, so I always have difficulty with him as the messenger.

    I have a soft spot for Gareth. He’s a blast from a very exciting piece of Australia’s political past, and more recent revelations about his private life have made him an even more intriguing and complex figure.

    1. I only came across Edwards in respect of East Timor…and not just through Pilger who has a horrible habit of being holier than thou which dilutes his message..
      I’m not a great fan of his either, but in this case he makes an interesting argument.

      1. I figure that if Jose Ramos Horta can forgive Gareth Evans, then Pilger can stop going on about it like a scratched record. Especially as Evans has done far more on a practical level to improve the Aboriginal situation than Pilger will ever achieve with his thundering articles on that subject.

        By one of those amazing coincidences of life, my client on Thursday grew up with Gareth Evans. We discussed this article, and it was clear my client admires GE greatly. I reckon if the people you went to school with still admire you, you can’t be all bad.

        1. Making ad hominem arguments rarely helps your case….a pity someone with Pilger’s ability can’t resist the temptation to bear grudges and lash out.
          He’s not a favourite of mine….but sometimes you just have to look through the bombast and read the message.

  10. Well, that’s a helluva start to my day! Thank you.
    No, not sarcasm, genuine thanks. You have said it more clearly than I could.
    I was born at the end of the Second World War…and my entire life has seen Western, American-led aggression mounting.
    I have wept and cursed for friends lost in many of the skirmishes (such a cute word for heavy-handed interference!) in recent years.
    But most of all, I weep for Americans.For those good people who are being dragged, again, into an oil-fuelled nightmare, with no apparent way to stop their behemoth.
    Or perhaps they don’t care?

    1. I think an awful lot of Americans do care…but like the citizens of other countries run by power mad dictators – whether individuals or political parties – just do not know where to start to put things straight.

  11. I am probably the lone American responding to this post. I would like to say to Dinahmaw above and your other commenters that many of us do care and find American aggression abroad objectionable, particularly when other avenues of resolve have not been fully attempted. As a Jew, I worry about all such conflict in the middle east as it seems never-ending…

    And I too find Obama a disappointment though the only other choices we had when voting were far scarier than he. Please do not confuse good people with bad governance.

    And to Steve, who says we’ve tragically betrayed our own ideals…there have been EU nations who have done the same. I think, quite sadly that the western nations all now have widening gulfs between those in power and the average person.

    I ask what we can do if anything other than casting votes and hoping for the best of the worst…

    1. I hope it is all right if I reply to both your comments here.
      I don’t think people do confuse Americans with their government…any more than they confuse the people of the U.K. or France, for example, with their governments – as you say there is a divorce between the governing and the governed.
      I agree with you too about the choice facing people at election time…one or other face of greed is all that is available.

      What to do? I don’t have any short term answers, only the answer of the reformers throughout the nineteenth century…do the thing that the powerful hate and fear, talk to each other, tell people how you feel and start to rely on each other rather than a corrupted system.
      It doesn’t sound very exciting, but we have to regain confidence in our values and in our power to help ourselves by helping others.

  12. “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.”

    This is what gets me. The political caste have, little by little, tightened things up so that it’s nigh on impossible to get the buggers out and have a real change. IMO, it’s going to take nothing less than a revolution because no one who has power is going to relinquish it without a fight. The only problem with revolutions though is that what follows could be even worse than what went before.

    1. It worries me too but I have a feeling that that is what we are going to get as repression tightens.
      One of the lessons of history is that if you keep people down they stay down….but let them have even an illusory taste of the good things of life and then deprive them and you have problems.

  13. I live in a country run by a dictator who thinks nothing of ordering his police force to attack and kill peaceful demonstrators. Ordinary people who have been let down by this bully, and those who still insist on supporting him are doing it either because they have been brainwashed or out of fear. What choice is there? Vote in another party who may well be worse?

    Governments everywhere are completely out of touch with the people who put them there. They no longer represent the ordinary man or woman. US governments have always interfered in what’s happening in other countries, resulting in dreadful loss of innocent lives. When will it stop? Will it ever end?

    Brilliant post Helen, This all needed to be said and you were brave enough to say it.

    1. It won’t end until we make it end….governments only need ordinary people as cash cows and cannon fodder.
      It’s a slow way, but we have to talk to each other, encourage each other, gradually form communities that will gather strength to become a real alternative – but I think we’re likely to have violent protests before long, put down with even more violence.

      1. Well said Ayak – I was thinking the same thoughts as I read Pilger’s words. Not much chance for us here to follow the Nuremburg judges’ advice, as all those in jail or coffins here will testify

  14. Hmmm So many words, my short term memory failure means I forget the beginning by the time I reach the end!

    Again I am no fan of PIlger, but his item was interesting. The money men look after themselves and governments aid them for their own reasons, often personal.
    However it was ever thus!
    The leaders on occasion care for their people, all to often their position, or that of their relatives takes precedence. Today the governing classes wish to keep power, few in the UK have seen real war, most were young during the ‘Punk’ era, and almost all were Oxbridge types, London based, middle class and liberal, whatever their party. Opposition to them is not only difficult it is not understood by them, they cannot see beyond their limited lives.

    However the recent ‘Private Eye’ cover ‘Cameron Bombs’ does indicate sometime the nation can speak. In this case sufficient made it clear to their MPs that this was not wanted, keep out of Syria remains the public view, and with an election in the offing it will carry weight. Their seat comes first in their thoughts.
    The problem is all to often the nation prefers ‘Bread & Circus’s’ to important matters. Soap operas and simple pleasures are more important. The intricacies of half truths and the feeling that your voice carries no weight limits involvement.
    Only when great moments arise will the nation speak, not just those who protest. Mostly we don’t care as long as we are all right.

    What was this all about again……?

    1. You’re right, the post was too long but i couldn’t think of a way to precis Pilger.
      Vicious circle really, isn’t it…we feel we don’t count so we get less and less involved.

  15. What I find so sad is that I really don’t think most Western politicians go into politics with no ideals other than self-interest and self-aggrandisement. I think they mostly start out believing that they can make a difference, but are corrupted by the overwhelming vested interests and the glittering prizes of influence and power.

    What can we do about it? Well. keep voting for one thing. If we opt out from that we let the politicians have power without the will of the majority behind them. Keep talking and writing and thinking for ourselves instead of uncritically lapping up what the press and other media offer us. It seems so little, but to stop doing it is to despair and i won;’t do that.

    1. I’d feel a bit more like nil desperandum if the leaders on offer resembled Horace’s Teucer….
      What I saw inside the Labour Party shocked me….local people, who knew their areas and the needs of the people, excluded from becpming candidates in favour of those who would vote ‘on message’…control from the top, not local representation at all, dating from the days of Kinnock.
      I have always voted when legally entitled to do so, but I’m not validating political parties whose leadership betrays the interests of people trying to bring up families and improve their prospects in life.
      I agree…talk write, think, communicate.. vote for an honest local person who will doubtless have flaws but who will keep in mind where they come from and whom they represent – but that means non party candidates and overcoming the financial hurdles to become an independent candidate is a big ask.

  16. This is really powerful stuff, Helen. And I wanted to hit ‘like’ and ‘share’ to make sure more people read it. If you don’t mind, I’d like to do that – you write it so well, so clearly and it’s so important that people read it. It’s very hard to know what to do but putting the situation in such a crystal clear spotlight has to help. More power to your pen. You really are something!
    Please let me know if it’s OK to put a link from my Facebook page to this piece.

  17. Hello Helen, I am afraid that I am the voice of decent. I wasn’t going to respond but I then thought that in posting blogs you are inviting, perhaps hoping for, a variety on responses, including those that challenge your own views.
    I must firstly say that I am not an American. Secondly, that I accept the world is filled with corrupt, duplicitous and self serving governments, organisations and individuals. Indeed this has been the case throughout history.
    However, I do view this post with the same scepticism and cynicism that I view most political propaganda.
    I find it disappointing that a fundamental precept for the piece is to demonise a single nation, when so many are guilty of the same, or worse.
    Although there is an attempt to separate government from governed I am afraid circulating pieces such as this only serve to generate further anti American fervour- against a nation of people, not a government, or even individuals, which is what led to so many innocent people losing their lives on 9/11. It is sadly why people such as the young men in the piece think that such an atrocity is acceptable, even more perversley something to celebrate. I was in New York immediately following 9/11, it was a harrowing crime against humanity, the consequence of so much anti US propaganda.
    The US may be a super power, the actions of their government authorities may be questioned by many, but Satan does not live in the Whitehouse and there are equally and more questionable behaviours in other governments across the world- that also need to be challenged. The US is an easy and all too frequent, rather than a brave target. A balanced representation of poor governance (albeit as perceived by the author) would have provided a more accurate, rounded and courageous choice. Pilger, I’m afraid is a bit of a self righteous, pompous ass, much like so many politicians if truth be told.

    1. I’m glad you did decide to comment…it’s always a good exercise to have to justify what one says.
      I’m not a great fan of Pilger…but even pompous asses can come up with the goods from time to time, and it’s all too easy to appear pompous, holier than thou, when pointing out, as he frequently does, the misdemeanours of the governing caste.

      I had hoped that I had made it clear that it is the government of the U.S.A., not its people, whose behaviour is unacceptable and cannot see how pointing to the divergence of people and government is to demonise anyone.

      I am a great enthusiast for anecdotal evidence and can see how your experience in New York would affect you.
      In a similar way visiting the museums of the martyrs and heroes (their title, not mine) in rural Nicaragua has affected me, as has talking to people in Honduras about their sufferings in their struggle for access to land to feed their families – victims of governments supported by the U.S.A.
      Human misery, wherever found, does and should touch us.

      I agree…the government of the U.S.A is an easy target, but simply by the nature of its power it is a target that needs to be attacked.
      Change the culture there and a whole raft of poor people across the world might breathe more easily…..and a whole bunch of dictators might fall.
      The U.S.A. is not alone in the support of foul governments – France’s record in post colonial Africa doesn’t bear close inspection…. just think of the Rwanda massacres – but by the very nature of its power it is a keystone in the structure of exploitation that needs to be removed.

      I suppose too that I should make it clear that I mean removed by its own people – a privilege denied to the oppressed in so many countries by the support given to their governments by that of the U.S.A.

      I expect we shall have to agree to disagree…but I’m glad you made your comment.

  18. Helen, I bookmarked this in order to read it properly (I didn’t have time before). I checked out the statistic about veteran suicides and in fact more than 6,500 killed themselves in 2012. Link here. I will link to your post if I may. I will now try to post this. WordPress needs my password, which I honestly can’t remember. It promises to send me a forgotten password link, but never does. PS No, I could not post this comment, so I have emailed it to you instead. WordPress has not sent me the forgotten password and I doubt it will. It seems to think I am registered, but does not have an email address for me that works, if it has one at all, so whatever email address I put in, it tells me it is sending a password, and then doesn’t. I am afraid I have given up trying to comment on WordPress blogs these days! However i continue to read yours with great interest. It’s always worth reading.

    — Jenny Woolf

    1. Why these wretched systems can’t mesh I do not know! I have problems commenting on Blogger sometimes even though having a Google account and it is infuriating when someone has written something which makes you want to respond and you cannot.

      By all means do a link…most kind of you.

      Ypur post on Syria was very moving…we don’t have to be ‘political’ to care….

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