Progressive Politics Research and Commentary by Janette Rainwater

Some Thoughts on 9-11-2001 (this is the printer-friendly version)

posted 9-21-2001

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."

1.  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."

2.  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.

3.  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.

4.  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.)

5.  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 and beliefs.

6.  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%.

Another difference: 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?

7.  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 resolutions.

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 weapons.

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---- would help.

8.  "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.)

9.  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 trial.

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-- ---- There you can sign on to their "war is not the answer" petition.

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 daily lives.

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?


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