on 9-11-2001 (this is the printer-friendly version)
Many of you have written
to ask what are my "thoughts" on the 9-11 attacks on New
York and Washington and when will I post something on my web site.
I have been so overwhelmed by "feelings" that it has been
impossible to write a complete and coherent analysis. So here are
some fragmented "thoughts."
I had been working very hard on my book and fine-tuning the period
of the 1930s when the disaster occurred. Possibly because of this,
one of my first thoughts was a comparison to the Reichstag
fire. Let me hasten to say that I am not accusing the Bush II administration
of any part in planning this disaster (although I have seen some
irresponsible, no-evidence remarks along that line on the internet).
Rather, I immediately feared that this administration would take
advantage of the calamity to cement the power of the unelected resident
of the White House and enact legislation that would erase our constitutionally-guaranteed
freedoms. And it is happening.
It took Hitler two months
after the fire to get his Enabling Act and dictatorial powers. On
September 14, only three days after Black Tuesday, Congress with
only one dissenting vote gave Bush II a blank check to "use
all necessary and appropriate force against nations, organizations,
or persons he (emphasis added) determines planned,
authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred
on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons,
in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against
the United States by such nations, organizations or persons."
Hooray for Representative
Barbara Lee who voted "Nay," saying, "However difficult
this vote may be, some of us must urge the use of restraint....
Let us ... think through the implications of our actions today so
that this does not spiral out of control."
And it does seem to be spiraling out of control. Bush's latest speech
has divided the world in two either you are "with us"
or you are a hostile regime. No middle ground. The poverty-stricken
people of rubble-strewn Afghanistan are fleeing the cities in fear
of our bombers. Pakistan is on the verge of civil war in response
to their leader's compliance with Bush's demands.
I am appalled at the bellicose reaction of some of our citizens.
My corner grocery has posted a picture of the Statue of Liberty.
In her outstretched arm she is holding-- not the usual Torch of
Freedom but the decapitated blood-dripping head of Usama bin Laden.
When I asked the owner if he was willing to trade the Bill of Rights
for a John-the-Baptist-type end for bin Laden, he responded with
"an eye for an eye." I answered with Gandhi's remark that
if that were the standard practice, we would all be blind. I hold
Bush's Wild West-macho "Dead or Alive" remarks as well
as the rhetoric of some of the TV commentators as responsible for
this escalation of animosity.
And what does the Bush II administration plan to do with this blank
check? Carpet-bomb Afghanistan? Send in Delta Force for a surgical
strike ostensibly to remove Usama bin Laden? How do they expect
to locate him and his current camp without decent human intelligence?
Does that matter to them? Is he still in Afghanistan or did he join
the line of refugees? Will they decide that it was people from Iraq?
(Good possibility, Saddam Hussein might just be getting tired of
our near-daily bombing of Iraq.) So, more bombings of Iraq? Syria?
Libya? Whatever they do, no matter how good the intelligence and
how well planned the operation, there are bound to be many civilian
casualties. And this will only fuel more terrorist attacks.
Perhaps they are planning
a massive invasion of Afghanistan? Before or after the snows begin?
Any plans for avoiding the several million land mines left over
from the 1979-1989 war? How many US soldiers and marines are they
prepared to sacrifice in such a venture? As many as in the VietnamWar?
As many as the Russians lost in their ill-fated invasion? Or as
many as the British lost in their two fruitless wars against Afghanistan?
(See Afghan Chronology.)
And what's with this proliferation of American
flags? Are the wavers expressing their grief over the loss of life
on 9-11 and their concern for the survivors of the dead? Or are
they saying that they are behind Bush II no matter what he does
to avenge Black Tuesday? Because it feels more like the latter,
I am not flying a flag (unless it is the UN flag or a peace flag.)
And this does not mean that I am not just as angry or do not grieve
as much as any at what happened ten days ago.
I am reminded a bit
of the campaign during the Nixon administration for people to wear
bracelets signifying their distress about MIA combatants in the
Vietnam War. If you wore one, you were subtly supporting the hateful
Nixon administration. If you didn't, you could be immediately identified
as a Nixon-hater and a callous person who didn't give a fig about
our poor MIAs. In both cases our normal human compassion for our
fellow man is subverted into public support for an administration
which is committing actions which may be against our principles
Some self-appointed spokespeople have been calling the 9-11 attacks
"another Pearl Harbor" which only displays their lack
of historical knowledge. OK, both events took the nation by surprise,
both had a shocking toll of life. But in 1941 we knew immediately
who did it.
(They had those circles on the wings of their planes.) We still
don't know who the intellectual authors of 9-11 are. (And the operation
seems amazingly sophisticated and well-planned for
a guy sitting in a desert cave with a laptop.)
Other congruencies are
in the making: As part of the country's hysterical reaction to 12-7-41,
thousands of Japanese-Americans who lived on the West Coast (but
not those in Hawaii!) were interned in concentration camps for much
of the war. As part of the recently-passed emergency legislation
the country is holding 120 Middle Easterners and searching for another
190. The Justice Department says that non-citizens will be subject
to indefinite detention. How large will the final list be? Who will
ultimately be eligible for this incarceration? Maybe dissidents
as during World War I?
One clear difference
that no commentator has thought to mention: There were no tax cuts
or tax refunds in 1941. Rather, taxes were substantially increased
to pay for defense (and then war) with the rich bearing a large
share and not getting a special rebate. The Revenue Act of 1941
lowered the top income tax bracket from $5 million to $200,000 and
increased the rate from 81% to 88%.
Our intelligence-gathering capabilities are far better now than
in 1941, so how did 9-11 happen? Especially when there had been
warnings from the French CIA and from Mossad?
I'm not going to use the phrases "chickens coming home to roost"
or "what goes around, comes around" as people could infer
that I think this country deserved what happened on 9-11. No way!
No country, no group of people deserves that. But I do think we
as a nation must examine what we have done in the past to cause
so many people to hate us that much.
In Iran in the 1950s
we took out a progressive government and restored the Pahlavi regime.
Then we equipped the savage SAVAK secret police and turned our backs
on the Shah's repression of his people in order to have a military
base in the area and installations for eavesdropping on the Soviet
Union. Then in the 1970s we were surprised by the revolution and
indignant at the capture of our embassy!
We have supported and
financed Israel despite its terrible repression of the Palestinian
population and increasing Jewish settlements in the West Bank in
violation of the UN's initial agreement and numerous subsequent
Our sanctions against
Iraq since the Gulf War are responsible for the deaths of a million
and a half Iraqi citizens. Our frequent follow-up bombings of Iraq
are seldom mentioned in our newspapers.
We bombed Libya in 1986
in an attempt to assassinate Gadaffi under the mistaken assumption
that he was responsible for the airport bombings in Rome and Vienna---
at a time when Italy and Austria acknowledged that the perpetrators
were Palestinians trained in Syria.
We destroyed the major
pharmaceutical plant in Sudan under the mistaken assumption that
it was a factory owned by bin Laden that was manufacturing chemical
And so on. Each of these
attacks spawned new reprisals and an escalation of the violence
done to us.
Our foreign policy needs
a complete overhaul. The application of the Golden Rule---- treat
other people and other nations as we wish they would treat us----
"America's New War" is CNN's current news title. I am
opposed to characterizing whatever actions the US takes against
terrorists as a "war." War is the armed conflict
between two nations or sets of nations. What happened on 9-11 was
a crime. Criminals need to be identified with evidence linking them
to the crime, arrested or apprehended, and then tried in a court
of law. If found guilty, sentenced and imprisoned. (I'm also opposed
to the phrase, " the war on drugs" which has been used
as a cover to take military action against groups and governments
that this government does not favor.)
So what can we do? We are still a democracy, thank goodness.
We can write and telephone
our representatives demanding no "war," and no actions
against individuals until there is good evidence, and then a fair
We can go to peace vigils.
(Numbers count! Remember that the increasing numbers of people at
demonstrations helped end the Vietnam War.)
We can attempt to keep
abreast of news developments. In addition to the internet sources
listed in my "Some Corporate-Independent
Sources of Information" there is a Quaker site that I'd
like to recommend-- www.fcnl.org
---- There you can sign on to their "war is not the answer"
We can continue to appreciate
and applaud the heroism shown by so many in this catastrophe and
resolve to cherish and respect one another more than ever in our
P.S. A story just in
from the UK's Guardian says that bin Laden and the Taliban
received word from Pakistan over two months ago that the US was
planning military strikes against Afghanistan if bin Laden was not
delivered. This information came from a "track two" meeting
in Berlin attended by "senior Americans, Russians, Iranians
and Pakistanis." So could 9-11 have been pre-emptive strikes
And lastly, any connection
with the Caspian Sea oil?