Pretty much impossible to avoid blogging about the anniversary of the events of 11/9/01.
As a subject it’s so fraught with the possibility of being misunderstood in your appraisal of its legacy, to sound callous by attempting to frame the deaths in the context of the many tens of thousands more deaths that have followed based on the lies that the UK/US governments formulated about those responsible as an excuse for invading Iraq…
So I’ll start with my sadness for New Yorkers, for those who knew people involved. I really feel for the American people, the confusion it must’ve caused – the US has been pretty much impervious to attack on its own soil for ever, and all of a sudden, a few guys of indeterminate origin or affiliation managed to hijack planes and fly them into buildings. Thank God the media’s initial insane assessment of the death toll was wildly over exaggerated. Two and a half thousand people dying is an enormous tragedy. One person dying is an enormous tragedy when it’s your dad/husband/son/brother/friend. That’s two and a half thousand individuals with circles of influence whose lives were shattered.
And it’s utterly vital that we rethink the way we view those who’ve died in the middle east to see them in the same way. Because they have families, friends, colleagues whose lives are torn apart in exactly the same way. Because your country has a history of war doesn’t mean that its people are laid back about losing their family members. Because people are inspired to fight against the occupying forces, doesn’t mean that their families aren’t torn apart when they are killed.
Sept 11th 2001 was one day in a continuum that stretches back decades, that takes in the whole Israel/Palestine problem, the Suez crisis, the Iran/Iraq war, the Soviet invasion and repulsion from Afghanistan, and even further back Britains colonial meddlings and pointless wars in the region. Relations between the Arab world and ‘the west’ have been fraught for decades, occasionally flaring up into wars, but often being held in tension for the sake of the oil. Now the two have come together – it’s flared up into a war for the sake of oil.
Sept 11th 2001 stands out because a) it was utterly unexpected by the public (though apparently not by the security peoples) b) it was americans who were killed and c) the killing all happened on one day, not stretched out over a few weeks or months. It was a heartbreaking event, perpetrated by evil people that wreaked massive destruction on the city and struck right at the heart of America’s sense of invincibility at home.
But it was also used as a catalyst/excuse/fountain of lies for our governments to then go and bomb Iraq, making up all kinds of shit about links to Bin Laden, WMDs etc. etc. We all know what’s happened. We know the numbers involved in how many have died, don’t we? – Well, most estimates put it at hundreds of thousands, but here’s the rub – WE DON’T ACTUALLY KNOW. As Tommy Franks said ‘we don’t do body-counts’. We know exactly how many died in the World Trade Centre. We know their names, can see their pictures in memorial books, hear recordings of their last phone calls. The iraqis killed are collateral damage, civilian casualties, a regrettable byproduct of a war that needs to be fought…. Bollocks. They are people, with families and friends and hobbies. They are internet junkies and news-hounds, footballers and model train enthusiasts, people who grow the own food and people who resent paying over the odds for supermarket food. People in poverty and people who are doing quite well thanks. People who love their cars, people who take pride in their new sofa. Just normal people, not saints, not heroes, just people needlessly killed. Exactly the same as the people in New York. They weren’t heroes, they weren’t saints. They were people who worked for multinationals, paying the bills and feeding their families. Just normal people who were phenomenally unlucky, in the grand scheme of things. Unlucky to work in the WTC or unlucky to born in Tekrit or Basra. It’s the same shit. Same death, same grief. The numbers who died on a particular day don’t change that.
So what’s the anniversary/memorial stuff all about? Should we mark it? Of course we should, but we should mark it by vowing to stop provoking mad nutters into bombing, to stop killing, to do what we can to end the pain of loss that families round the world are feeling, the families of civilians and the families of servicemen on all sides. We should put an end to it, and put pressure on military states to end it, put pressure on Hezbollah and on the Israeli government, on the Burmese government and on the Chinese illegal occupation of Tibet. On Mugabe in Zimbabwe and on the Sudanese government. If only the big economies of the world understood the notion of being ‘wise stewards’ of what they’ve been entrusted with looking after.
The fucking nerve of our governments going to war against the Iraqis is so infuriating given all the things they ignore. The barefaced self-interest of it, couched in such transparently bull-shit-laden ‘moral’ terms. Winning the war of hearts and minds requires consistency, transparency, honesty, humility, and a level playing field.
We need peace, we’ve been dragged to war. We need to negotiate and discuss, we instead use threats and bombs. We need fair trade, instead we offer sanctions and political weighted ‘inducements’. We need to empower, instead we enslave. We need to respect and celebrate diversity, instead we talk of tolerance and ‘Britishness’. Wrong at every turn, good swapped for evil, peace for war, doves for bombs.
The long term tragedy of 11/9/01 is that instead of learning lessons for peace, our elected officials have told lies to create war. The worst possible memorial to the people who died there is the fact that a war was started and still goes on as a result of their deaths being opportunistically cited as a reason for an invasion.
Fair is foul and foul is fair.
So we should indeed never forget, but I’m buggered if I can think of any more ways of telling the governments that.by