Madinat al-Muslimeen Islamic Message Board
|Leading academics reactions:,chomsky,,|
|09/19/01 at 11:35:10|
|Bismillah and salam,|
check out http://www.zmag.org/weluser.htm for some interesting reactions as well Fisk is there too
On the Bombings
The terrorist attacks were major atrocities. In scale they may not reach the level of many others, for example, Clinton's bombing of the Sudan with no credible pretext, destroying half its pharmaceutical supplies and killing unknown numbers of people (no one knows, because the US blocked an inquiry at the UN and no one cares to pursue it). Not to speak of much worse cases, which easily come to mind. But that this was a horrendous crime is not in doubt. The primary victims, as usual, were working people: janitors, secretaries, firemen, etc. It is likely to prove to be a crushing blow to Palestinians and other poor and oppressed people. It is also likely to lead to harsh security controls, with many possible ramifications for undermining civil liberties and internal freedom.
The events reveal, dramatically, the foolishness of the project of "missile defense." As has been obvious all along, and pointed out repeatedly by strategic analysts, if anyone wants to cause immense damage in the US, including weapons of mass destruction, they are highly unlikely to launch a missile attack, thus guaranteeing their immediate destruction. There are innumerable easier ways that are basically unstoppable. But today's events will, very likely, be exploited to increase the pressure to develop these systems and put them into place. "Defense" is a thin cover for plans for militarization of space, and with good PR, even the flimsiest arguments will carry some weight among a frightened public.
In short, the crime is a gift to the hard jingoist right, those who hope to use force to control their domains. That is even putting aside the likely US actions, and what they will trigger -- possibly more attacks like this one, or worse. The prospects ahead are even more ominous than they appeared to be before the latest atrocities.
As to how to react, we have a choice. We can express justified horror; we can seek to understand what may have led to the crimes, which means making an effort to enter the minds of the likely perpetrators. If we choose the latter course, we can do no better, I think, than to listen to the words of Robert Fisk, whose direct knowledge and insight into affairs of the region is unmatched after many years of distinguished reporting. Describing "The wickedness and awesome cruelty of a crushed and humiliated people," he writes that "this is not the war of democracy versus terror that the world will be asked to believe in the coming days. It is also about American missiles smashing into Palestinian homes and US helicopters firing missiles into a Lebanese ambulance in 1996 and American shells crashing into a village called Qana and about a Lebanese militia paid and uniformed by America's Israeli ally hacking and raping and murdering their way through refugee camps." And much more. Again, we have a choice: we may try to understand, or refuse to do so, contributing to the likelihood that much worse lies ahead.
|Re: chomsky reaction|
|09/19/01 at 11:26:42|
|Bismillah and salam,|
Here is short article and then intervie with Noam C. run by middle east realities
CHOMSKY WARNS OF POSSIBLE OVERTHROW OF PAKISTAN GOVERNMENT
LEADING TO A NUCLEAR-ARMED RADICAL MUSLIM STATE
"The US virtually exterminated the indigenous population,
conquered half of Mexico, intervened violently in the
surrounding region, conquered Hawaii and the Philippines
(killing hundreds of thousands of Filipinos), and in the
half century particularly, extended its resort to force
throughout much of the world. The number of victims
is colossal. For the first time, the guns have been
the other way."
Professor Noam Chomsky
MID-EAST REALITIES © - www.MiddleEast.Org - Washington - 9/18/2001:
Asked "Do you expect U.S. to profoundly change their policy to the rest of the
world?" Professor Noam Chomsky replied today: "The initial response was to call
for intensifying the policies that led to the fury and resentment that provides
the background of support for the terrorist attack, and to pursue more
intensively the agenda of the most hard line elements of the leadership:
increased militarization, domestic regimentation, attack on social programs...
Terror attacks, and the escalating cycle of violence they often engender, tend
to reinforce the authority and prestige of the most harsh and repressive
elements of a society." This is the complete interview as broadcast today in
INTERVIEW WITH NOAM CHOMSKY
By Radio B92 in Belgrade
Q: : Why do you think these attacks happened?
Chomksy: To answer the question we must first identify the perpetrators of the
crimes. It is generally assumed, plausibly, that their origin is the Middle East
region, and that the attacks probably trace back to the Osama Bin Laden network,
a widespread and complex organization, doubtless inspired by Bin Laden but not
necessarily acting under his control. Let us assume that this is true. Then to
answer your question a sensible person would try to ascertain Bin Laden's views,
and the sentiments of the large reservoir of supporters he has throughout the
region. About all of this, we have a great deal of information. Bin Laden has
been interviewed extensively over the years by highly reliable Middle East
specialists, notably the most eminent correspondent in the region, Robert Fisk
(London _Independent_), who has intimate knowledge of the entire region and
direct experience over decades. A Saudi Arabian millionaire, Bin Laden became a
militant Islamic leader in the war to driv!
e the Russians out of Afghanistan. He was one of the many religious
fundamentalist extremists recruited, armed, and financed by the CIA and their
allies in Pakistani intelligence to cause maximal harm to the Russians -- quite
possibly delaying their withdrawal, many analysts suspect -- though whether he
personally happened to have direct contact with the CIA is unclear, and not
particularly important. Not surprisingly, the CIA preferred the most fanatic and
cruel fighters they could mobilize. The end result was to "destroy a moderate
regime and create a fanatical one, from groups recklessly financed by the
Americans" (_London Times_ correspondent Simon Jenkins, also a specialist on the
region). These "Afghanis" as they are called (many, like Bin Laden, not from
Afghanistan) carried out terror operations across the border in Russia, but they
terminated these after Russia withdrew. Their war was not against Russia, which
they despise, but against the Russian occupation and Rus!
sia's crimes against Muslims.
The "Afghanis" did not terminate their activities, however. They joined Bosnian
Muslim forces in the Balkan Wars; the US did not object, just as it tolerated
Iranian support for them, for complex reasons that we need not pursue here,
apart from noting that concern for the grim fate of the Bosnians was not
prominent among them. The "Afghanis" are also fighting the Russians in Chechnya,
and, quite possibly, are involved in carrying out terrorist attacks in Moscow
and elsewhere in Russian territory. Bin Laden and his "Afghanis" turned against
the US in 1990 when they established permanent bases in Saudi Arabia -- from his
point of view, a counterpart to the Russian occupation of Afghanistan, but far
more significant because of Saudi Arabia's special status as the guardian of the
Bin Laden is also bitterly opposed to the corrupt and repressive regimes of the
region, which he regards as "un-Islamic," including the Saudi Arabian regime,
the most extreme Islamic fundamentalist regime in the world, apart from the
Taliban, and a close US ally since its origins. Bin Laden despises the US for
its support of these regimes. Like others in the region, he is also outraged by
long-standing US support for Israel's brutal military occupation, now in its
35th year: Washington's decisive diplomatic, military, and economic intervention
in support of the killings, the harsh and destructive siege over many years, the
daily humiliation to which Palestinians are subjected, the expanding settlements
designed to break the occupied territories into Bantustan-like cantons and take
control of the resources, the gross violation of the Geneva Conventions, and
other actions that are recognized as crimes throughout most of the world, apart
from the US, which has prime responsibi!
lity for them. And like others, he contrasts Washington's dedicated support for
these crimes with the decade-long US-British assault against the civilian
population of Iraq, which has devastated the society and caused hundreds of
thousands of deaths while strengthening Saddam Hussein -- who was a favored
friend and ally of the US and Britain right through his worst atrocities,
including the gassing of the Kurds, as people of the region also remember well,
even if Westerners prefer to forget the facts. These sentiments are very widely
shared. The _Wall Street Journal_ (Sept. 14) published a survey of opinions of
wealthy and privileged Muslims in the Gulf region (bankers, professionals,
businessmen with close links to the U.S.). They expressed much the same views:
resentment of the U.S. policies of supporting Israeli crimes and blocking the
international consensus on a diplomatic settlement for many years while
devastating Iraqi civilian society, supporting harsh and repressiv!
e anti-democratic regimes throughout the region, and imposing barriers
gainst economic development by "propping up oppressive regimes." Among the great
majority of people suffering deep poverty and oppression, similar sentiments are
far more bitter, and are the source of the fury and despair that has led to
suicide bombings, as commonly understood by those who are interested in the
The U.S., and much of the West, prefers a more comforting story. To quote the
lead analysis in the _New York Times_ (Sept. 16), the perpetrators acted out of
"hatred for the values cherished in the West as freedom, tolerance, prosperity,
religious pluralism and universal suffrage." U.S. actions are irrelevant, and
therefore need not even be mentioned (Serge Schmemann). This is a convenient
picture, and the general stance is not unfamiliar in intellectual history; in
fact, it is close to the norm. It happens to be completely at variance with
everything we know, but has all the merits of self-adulation and uncritical
support for power.
It is also widely recognized that Bin Laden and others like him are praying for
"a great assault on Muslim states," which will cause "fanatics to flock to his
cause" (Jenkins, and many others.). That too is familiar. The escalating cycle
of violence is typically welcomed by the harshest and most brutal elements on
both sides, a fact evident enough from the recent history of the Balkans, to
cite only one of many cases.
Q: What consequences will they have on US inner policy and to the American self
Chomsky: US policy has already been officially announced. The world is being
offered a "stark choice": join us, or "face the certain prospect of death and
destruction." Congress has authorized the use of force against any individuals
or countries the President determines to be involved in the attacks, a doctrine
that every supporter regards as ultra-criminal. That is easily demonstrated.
Simply ask how the same people would have reacted if Nicaragua had adopted this
doctrine after the U.S. had rejected the orders of the World Court to terminate
its "unlawful use of force" against Nicaragua and had vetoed a Security Council
resolution calling on all states to observe international law. And that
terrorist attack was far more severe and destructive even than this atrocity.
As for how these matters are perceived here, that is far more complex. One
should bear in mind that the media and the intellectual elites generally have
their particular agendas. Furthermore, the answer to this question is, in
significant measure, a matter of decision: as in many other cases, with
sufficient dedication and energy, efforts to stimulate fanaticism, blind hatred,
and submission to authority can be reversed. We all know that very well.
Q: Do you expect U.S. to profoundly change their policy to the rest of the
Chomsky: The initial response was to call for intensifying the policies that led
to the fury and resentment that provides the background of support for the
terrorist attack, and to pursue more intensively the agenda of the most hard
line elements of the leadership: increased militarization, domestic
regimentation, attack on social programs. That is all to be expected. Again,
terror attacks, and the escalating cycle of violence they often engender, tend
to reinforce the authority and prestige of the most harsh and repressive
elements of a society. But there is nothing inevitable about submission to this
Q: After the first shock, came fear of what the U.S. answer is going to be. Are
you afraid, too?
Chomsky: Every sane person should be afraid of the likely reaction -- the one
that has already been announced, the one that probably answers Bin Laden's
prayers. It is highly likely to escalate the cycle of violence, in the familiar
way, but in this case on a far greater scale.
The U.S. has already demanded that Pakistan terminate the food and other
supplies that are keeping at least some of the starving and suffering people of
Afghanistan alive. If that demand is implemented, unknown numbers of people who
have not the remotest connection to terrorism will die, possibly millions. Let
me repeat: the U.S. has demanded that Pakistan kill possibly millions of people
who are themselves victims of the Taliban. This has nothing to do even with
revenge. It is at a far lower moral level even than that. The significance is
heightened by the fact that this is mentioned in passing, with no comment, and
probably will hardly be noticed. We can learn a great deal about the moral level
of the reigning intellectual culture of the West by observing the reaction to
this demand. I think we can be reasonably confident that if the American
population had the slightest idea of what is being done in their name, they
would be utterly appalled. It would be instructive to se!
ek historical precedents.
If Pakistan does not agree to this and other U.S. demands, it may come under
direct attack as well -- with unknown consequences. If Pakistan does submit to
U.S. demands, it is not impossible that the government will be overthrown by
forces much like the Taliban -- who in this case will have nuclear weapons. That
could have an effect throughout the region, including the oil producing states.
At this point we are considering the possibility of a war that may destroy much
of human society.
Even without pursuing such possibilities, the likelihood is that an attack on
Afghans will have pretty much the effect that most analysts expect: it will
enlist great numbers of others to support of Bin Laden, as he hopes. Even if he
is killed, it will make little difference. His voice will be heard on cassettes
that are distributed throughout the Islamic world, and he is likely to be
revered as a martyr, inspiring others. It is worth bearing in mind that one
suicide bombing -- a truck driven into a U.S. military base -- drove the world's
major military force out of Lebanon 20 years ago. The opportunities for such
attacks are endless. And suicide attacks are very hard to prevent.
Q: "The world will never be the same after 11.09.01". Do you think so?
Chomsky: The horrendous terrorist attacks on Tuesday are something quite new in
world affairs, not in their scale and character, but in the target. For the US,
this is the first time since the War of 1812 that its national territory has
been under attack, even threat. Its colonies have been attacked, but not the
national territory itself. During these years the US virtually exterminated the
indigenous population, conquered half of Mexico, intervened violently in the
surrounding region, conquered Hawaii and the Philippines (killing hundreds of
thousands of Filipinos), and in the past half century particularly, extended its
resort to force throughout much of the world. The number of victims is colossal.
For the first time, the guns have been directed the other way. The same is true,
even more dramatically, of Europe. Europe has suffered murderous destruction,
but from internal wars, meanwhile conquering much of the world with extreme
brutality. It has not been under attack by !
its victims outside, with rare exceptions (the IRA in England, for example). It
is therefore natural that NATO should rally to the support of the US; hundreds
of years of imperial violence have an enormous impact on the
intellectual and moral culture.
It is correct to say that this is a novel event in world history, not because of
the scale of the atrocity -- regrettably -- but because of the target. How the
West chooses to react is a matter of supreme importance. If the rich and
powerful choose to keep to their traditions of hundreds of years and resort to
extreme violence, they will contribute to the escalation of a cycle of violence,
in a familiar dynamic, with long-term consequences that could be awesome. Of
course, that is by no means inevitable. An aroused public within the more free
and democratic societies can direct policies towards a much more humane and
|Re: Leading academics reactions:,chomsky,,|
|09/19/01 at 11:36:00|
|Bismillah and salam,|
Here is an leading American academic who examines the why's of the attack on the United States. It is a clear expression of the American geopolitical interest in maintaining the Saud family in power in Arabia. Solid analysis even though it doesn't question why the Americans claim such a right.
[A preliminary analysis of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack on New York and Washington, and its implications for U.S. foreign & military policy. Based on a talk given by Michael Klare, Five College Professor of Peace and World Security Studies, at Smith College, Northampton, Mass., on September 13, 2001.]
Ever since Tuesday, Sept. 11, I have been asking myself “why?” --Why did they do it? What could possibly drive a dozen or so people to such a fever pitch of rage and anger that they would not only kill thousands of ordinary American people but also kill themselves in the process? Consider that the perpetrators of the attack (about 20 or so) got up that day and said to themselves, today we will die. I think its almost impossible for us in this country to conceive of what would drive people to this state of rage. And we are certainly getting no help on this from government officials or the usual crowd of pundits, who seem to be avoiding this very question. Instead, all we hear is talk of unidentified “terrorists” and “enemies.” But we have to understand these people, if we are to protect ourselves and the world from this type of slaughter.
Simply on the basis of what we witnessed on September 11 and what is known of the likely perpetrators, I believe that the people who took over the planes were (from THEIR point of view) engaged in a holy war to drive the United States out of the Persian Gulf area. This is a war, as they see of it, of the strong and resolute in spirit but weak in military power against those who are weak or corrupt in spirit but strong in military power. Throughout history, the weapon of those who see themselves as strong in spirit but weak in power has been what we call terrorism. Terrorism is the warfare of the weak against the strong: if you have an army, you wage war; if you lack an army, you engage in suicide bombings and other acts of terrorism. (Remember: this is exactly what the American Revolution looked like to the British, the strong force in 1775.)
So what is it they seek? What are the goals of this war against the United States?
To understand their goals, we have to look at the Middle East, and particularly at the U.S. role and presence in the region - especially in the Persian Gulf area. From the point of the United States, the Persian Gulf - or more specifically, Persian Gulf oil - is essential to the security of the United States. This was made explicit in the “Carter Doctrine” speech of January 23, 1980, issued just after the Iranian Revolution. Carter declared: “An attempt by any outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf region will be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the United States of America [and] sill be repelled by any means necessary, including military force.” This was the basis upon which President Bush senior launched Operation Desert Storm in 1991, and upon which President Clinton vastly expanded the U.S. military presence in the Gulf area over the past eight years.
In examining the U.S. military role in the Gulf, special attention has to be paid to the U.S. relationship with Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia is not just another oil country - it alone possesses one-fourth of the world’s known oil reserves. No other country comes even close to Saudi Arabia in terms of total oil reserves. The Western world would not be able to enjoy the level of growth and prosperity we have seen over the past few decades without the cheap and abundant oil of Saudi Arabia, and we will be even less able to do so in the future, as other supplies run out. For this reason, U.S. policy in the Gulf has always centered on Saudi Arabia, with which the United States maintains a very special relationship.
This relationship was first forged in 1945, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt met with King Abdel-Aziz ibn Saud, the founder of the modern Saudi regime. In that meeting, President Roosevelt concluded an extraordinary bargain with ibn Saud: in return for unlimited and perpetual U.S. access to Saudi oil, the United States would protect the Saudi Royal family against its enemies, both external and internal.
This bargain has shaped U.S. foreign and military policy ever since. At first, we relied principally on the British (the original hegemon in the region) to protect our interests, but, since 1972 (when the British departed), we have assumed direct responsibility for the protection of the Saudi regime. This was most evident in August 1990, when the Iraqis invaded Kuwait: it was not the occupation of Kuwait that drove the original Bush Administration (meeting at Camp David on August 3-4, 1990) to decide to intervene in the Gulf, but the fear that Saddam Hussein was aiming to take over Saudi Arabia. All of the original plans for Operation Desert Shield - the prelude to Operation Desert Storm - were aimed at inserting a protective force between Iraqi forces in Kuwait and the major oilfields in Saudi Arabia. Since then, the United States has maintained (and steadily expanded) a military presence in the Gulf whose primary purpose is to prevent any future attack on Saudi Arabia, whether from Iraq or Iran.
But while such actions, focused on EXTERNAL threats to Saudi Arabia, have been the most visible expression of U.S. involvement, the United States has also gone to great lengths to defend the Saudi regime against its INTERNAL enemies. The primary instrument of Saudi internal security is the Saudi Arabian National Guard (SANG), which is almost entirely armed, trained, and managed by the United States (largely through a network of military contractors). When anti-regime elements in Saudi Arabia staged a brief revolt in 1981, SANG was sent in to crush the rebellion. When asked about this incident, then President Ronald Reagan told reporters: “I will not permit [Saudi Arabia] to be an Iran,” meaning the U.S. would not stand by and permit the overthrow of the Saudi regime, as it had in Iran in 1979.
This remains the basis of U.S. policy in Saudi Arabia. And this is where our current troubles begin. The government we back in Saudi Arabia, the Saudi royal family, is an autocratic, totalitarian regime that allows no public expressions of dissent. There is no constitution, no Bill of Rights, no political parties, no freedom of the press or assembly, no parliament. Those who express any forms of dissent are arrested and put in jail, exiled (as in the case of Osama bin Laden), or executed. In this environment, any form of opposition to the regime, whatever its orientation, must operate underground, and in secrecy.
It was in this environment of repression and secrecy that the milieu of Osama bin Laden and his followers emerged. From what we know of their beliefs, these rebels believe that the Saudi regime is fundamentally corrupt and evil - corrupt both in the economic sense, that it has squandered the wealth of the Arab nation on palaces and other forms of conspicuous consumption (thereby denying the Arab world of essential resources), and in the moral sense, that it has allied itself with the United States (which is the primary backer of the anti-Islamic regime in Israel) and allowed infidels (American soldiers) into the holy land of Islam. Because it is corrupt and evil in this way, they believe, it is anti-Islamic. Because it is anti-Islamic, it must be swept away by a jihad, a holy war. Because the United States is the primary protective force of the Saudi regime, it must be driven out of the region so that the true Islamists can clear out the corrupt Saudi regime and establish an authentic Islamic state (like that of the Taliban in Afghanistan). And because the soldiers in this holy struggle to oust the American military are very weak (in the military sense), they must rely on terrorism to accomplish their objectives.
And so: to accomplish their ultimate goal, the bin Laden network (and others with which it is linked) must make war against the United States, so as to drive them out of the region. Initially, this war effort focused on U.S. military assets within Saudi Arabia itself. This was the genesis of the November 1995 bombing of the SANG headquarters in Riyadh (in which five U.S. servicemen attached to SANG were killed) and the June 1996 attack on the Khobar Towers in Dhahran, which killed 19 U.S. military personnel. When this failed to drive out the United States, they attacked U.S. facilities outside the region, such as the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. And because this didn’t produce the desired effect, they have brought the war to the United States. In all cases, however, the goal is the same: to drive the United States out of Saudi Arabia. By attacking the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, I believe, they hope to diminish America’s will to retain its forces in Saudi Arabia. I do not think that they will succeed at that, but I do think that this was the intended aim of the attacks on September 11.
What does all this mean? There are no quick and easy answers. I do think that the people behind the September 11 attacks will strike again and again, until they achieve their ultimate objective. So we cannot expect the attacks to stop (though, no doubt, the form of the attacks will change). And so we will have to take action to protect people against further outbreaks of violence.
Does this mean conducting a war in the Middle East, as proposed by the current Bush Administration? No doubt such action will severely impede the operations of bin Laden’s networks, but I doubt very much that it will eliminate his capacity to attack, in that his forces are widely dispersed and demonstrably capable of operating independently from multiple locations. Much more serious, a war of this sort will produce enormous numbers of Muslim casualties, further discrediting the conservative monarchies aligned with Washington and producing thousands of fresh volunteers for bin Laden’s jihad against the United States.
So I think that we have to take a different approach, based on coordinated, unrelenting international police work aimed at identifying bin Laden’s cells and eradicating them one by one. To gain international support for this effort and to give it widespread legitimacy, such an effort should be conducted in the context of a U.N.-mandated war crimes tribunal, such as that now operating in The Hague to try perpetrators of war crimes in Bosnia and Kosovo.
At the same time, we will have to conduct a moral crusade against bin Laden, portraying HIM as the enemy of Islam, on the grounds that no TRUE believer in the Islamic tradition could take innocent human lives in this manner. To succeed at this, however, we will have to reassess U.S. policy in the Persian Gulf, showing more sympathy for the Arab Muslim masses and calling on the Saudi regime to announce a timetable for democratization and the provision of basic human rights. Only when Saudi citizens are allowed to express their grievances in a lawful, peaceful manner will it be possible to eliminate the threat of anti-American jihad.
[Michael Klare is a professor of peace and world security studies at Hampshire College and author of Resource Wars: The New Landscape of Global Conflict (Metropolitan Books, 2001).]
|Re: Leading academics reactions:,chomsky,,|
|09/20/01 at 12:30:25|
|Bismillah and salam,|
OK this article taught me something! It cannot be called "act of war". see red text.
"Here is an excellent commentary on the response to the attack on the World Trade Centre from Professor William Schabas, formerly of Montreal and author of International Human Rights Law and the canadian Charter. He has done some excellent work on Israeli's violations of international law with its settlement policies in the Occupied Territories.
Human Rights and the Reaction to Terrorism
The terrorist acts of September 11 may well have been an attack on
democracy, as George Bush, Tony Blair and others asserted, but they were no
threat to democracy. Democratic regimes have survived far worse. It is the
reaction to terrorism that destroys democracies.
Modern democracies have perfectly adequate justice systems for dealing with
terrorists. We track them down, catch them, bring them to trial and impose
fit punishment. That is what the US and the UK did with those responsible
for the Lockerbie crash, and for the embassy bombings in Nairobi and Dar es
Salaam. It is what the UN is doing for those accused of genocide and crimes
against humanity in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda.
How much more healthy it is for democracy that Milosevic be judged by an
international court rather than murdered by a cruise missile aimed at his
home. As for the two Lockerbie defendants, one was acquitted by Scottish
judges earlier this year. Had the advocates of assassination and summary
execution prevailed in that case, an innocent man would have been killed in
the name of democracy's war on terrorism.
[color=red]Some American politicians now argue that criminal justice is inadequate
because the events of September 11 were an "act of war". But according to
international law, we must know what State committed it. A group of
individuals, even numbering in the hundreds, cannot commit an "act of war". [/color]
Perhaps those who harbour terrorists may themselves be accomplices in an
"act of war". But let us remember the last time this bold claim was made,
in 1914, when Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia because a Serb
nationalist had assassinated its archduke. It unleashed a cascade of
belligerent declarations justified by an earlier equivalent of article 5 of
the NATO treaty.
We now look back in horror and bewilderment at how an overreaction to
terrorism, in the name of punishment and retribution, provoked a chain of
events that ultimately slaughtered an entire generation of European youth.
The anger and even the thirst for vengeance of the victims and their
families can well be understood. But any act of reprisal that takes
civilian casualties or is directed against civilian objects is quite simply
forbidden by international law. It is a war crime. To the extent reprisals
are allowed at all, they must target purely military objectives.
The US seeks sympathy for the thousands of innocent victims of this tragedy,
and they have it. Our hearts have been broken to see the agony of the
bereaved relatives, and an unbearably sad hole in a beloved skyline. But
international solidarity should not become a pretext for promoting a US
political agenda that has little to do with catching the perpetrators and
preventing future crimes.
Above all, if measures are to be taken in the name of protecting democracy,
there can be no room for double standards. Only two years ago, in another
context, the US argued that a civilian office building in Belgrade was a
legitimate military target because it housed a television station. The US
justified the resulting deaths of civilian office workers as "collateral
damage". If those responsible for attacking the World Trade Centre are ever
brought to court, they may invoke this precedent. The scale of the killings
was different in Belgrade, but the principle is barely distinguishable.
Let us recall, again and again, that civilians must be spared in any
conflict. The right to life is the most fundamental of all human rights.
The right to life of thousands of innocent civilians in New York City and
Washington has been egregiously violated. But that same right also belongs
without exception to civilians in Belgrade, Baghdad and Kabul.
Professor William A. Schabas, director, Irish Centre for Human Rights,
|Re: Leading academics reactions:,chomsky,,|
|09/20/01 at 15:48:01|
|bismillah and salam,|
By Edward Said
20 - 26 September 2001
Can the voice of rationality be heard over the war drums? Edward Said hopes so
Spectacular horror of the sort that struck New York (and to a lesser degree Washington) has ushered in a new world of unseen, unknown assailants, terror missions without political message, senseless destruction. For the residents of this wounded city, the consternation, fear, and sustained sense of outrage and shock will certainly continue for a long time, as will the genuine sorrow and affliction that such carnage has cruelly imposed on so many. New Yorkers have been fortunate that Mayor Rudy Giuliani, a normally rebarbative and unpleasantly combative, even retrograde figure, known for his virulently Zionist views, has rapidly attained Churchillian status. Calmly, unsentimentally, and with extraordinary compassion he has marshaled the city's heroic police, fire and emergency services to admirable effect and, alas, with huge loss of life. Giuliani's was the first voice to caution against panic and jingoistic attacks on the city's large Arab and Muslim communities, the first to express the common sense of anguish, the first to press everyone to try to resume life after the shattering blows.
Would that that were all. The national television reporting has of course brought the horror of those dreadful winged juggernauts into every household, unremittingly, insistently, not always edifyingly. Most commentary has stressed, indeed magnified the expected and the predictable in what most Americans feel: terrible loss, anger, outrage, a sense of violated vulnerability, a desire for vengeance and unrestrained retribution. There has been nothing to speak of on all the major television channels but repeated reminders of what happened, of who the terrorists were (as yet nothing proven, which hasn't prevented the accusations being reiterated hour after hour), of how America has been attacked, and so on. Beyond formulaic expressions of grief and patriotism, every politician and accredited pundit or expert has dutifully repeated how we shall not be defeated, not be deterred, not stop until terrorism is exterminated. This is a war against terrorism, everyone says, but where, on what fronts, for what concrete ends? No answers are provided, except the vague suggestion that the Middle East and Islam are what "we" are up against, and that terrorism must be destroyed.
What is most depressing, however, is how little time is spent trying to understand America's role in the world and its direct involvement in the complex reality beyond the two coasts that have for so long kept the rest of the world extremely distant and virtually out of the average American's mind. You'd think that "America" was a sleeping giant rather than a superpower almost constantly at war, or in some sort of conflict, all over the Islamic domains. Osama Bin Laden's name and face have become so numbingly familiar to Americans as in effect to obliterate any history he and his shadowy followers may have had (e.g. as useful conscripts in the jihad raised 20 years ago by the US against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan) before they became stock symbols of everything loathsome and hateful to the collective imagination. Inevitably then, collective passions are being funnelled into a drive for war that uncannily resembles Captain Ahab in pursuit of Moby Dick, rather than what is in fact going on: an imperial power injured at home for the first time, pursuing its interests systematically in what has become a suddenly reconfigured geography of conflict, without clear borders, or visible actors. Manichean symbols and apocalyptic scenarios are bandied about, with future consequences and rhetorical restraint thrown to the winds.
Rational understanding of the situation is what is needed now, not more drum-beating. George Bush and his team clearly want the latter, not the former. Yet to most people in the Islamic and Arab worlds, the official US is synonymous with arrogant power, known mainly for its sanctimoniously munificent support not only of Israel but of numerous repressive Arab regimes, and its inattentiveness even to the possibility of dialogue with secular movements and people who have real grievances. Anti-Americanism in this context is not based on a hatred of modernity or technology-envy as accredited pundits like Thomas Friedman keep repeating; it is based on a narrative of concrete interventions, specific depredations and, in the cases of the Iraqi people's suffering under US-imposed sanctions and US support for the 34-year-old Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories, cruel and inhumane policies administered with a stony coldness.
Israel is now cynically exploiting the American catastrophe by intensifying its military occupation and oppression of the Palestinians. Since 11 September, Israeli military forces have invaded Jenin and Jericho and have repeatedly bombed Gaza, Ramallah, Beit Sahour and Beit Jala, exacting great civilian casualties and enormous material damage. All of this, of course, is done brazenly with US weaponry and the usual lying cant about fighting terrorism. Israel's supporters in the US have resorted to hysterical cries like "we are all Israelis now," making the connection between the World Trade Center and Pentagon bombings and Palestinian attacks on Israel an absolute conjunction of "world terrorism," in which Ben Laden and Arafat are interchangeable entities. What might have been a moment for Americans to reflect on the probable causes of what took place, which many Palestinians, Muslims and Arabs have condemned, has been turned into a huge propaganda triumph for Sharon; Palestinians are simply not equipped to defend themselves against both Israeli occupation in its ugliest and most violent forms and the vicious defamation of their national struggle for liberation.
Political rhetoric in the US has overridden these things by flinging about words like "terrorism" and "freedom" whereas, of course, such large abstractions have mostly hidden sordid material interests, the efficacy of the oil, defence and Zionist lobbies now consolidating their hold on the entire Middle East and an age-old religious hostility to (and ignorance of) "Islam" that takes new forms every day. The commonest thing is to get TV commentary, run stories, hold forums, or announce studies on Islam and violence or on Arab terrorism, or any such thing, using the predictable experts (the likes of Judith Miller, Fouad Ajami, and Steven Emerson) to pontificate and throw around generalities without context or real history. Why no one thinks of holding seminars on Christianity (or Judaism for that matter) and violence is probably too obvious to ask.
It is important to remember (although this is not at all mentioned) that China will soon catch up with the US in oil consumption, and it has become even more urgent for the US to control both Persian Gulf and Caspian Sea oil supplies more tightly: an attack on Afghanistan, including the use of former Soviet Central Asian republics as staging grounds, therefore, consolidates a strategic arc for the US from the Gulf to the northern oil fields that will be very difficult for anyone in the future to pry loose. As pressure on Pakistan mounts daily, we can be certain that a great deal of local instability and unrest will follow in the wake of the events of 11 September.
Intellectual responsibility, however, requires a still more critical sense of the actuality. There has been terror, of course, and nearly every struggling modern movement at some stage has relied on terror. This was as true of Mandela's ANC as it was of all the others, Zionism included. And yet, bombing defenceless civilians with F-16s and helicopter gunships has the same structure and effect as more conventional nationalist terror. What is especially bad about all terror is when it is attached to religious and political abstractions and reductive myths that keep veering away from history and sense. This is where the secular consciousness has to step forward and try to make itself felt, whether in the US or in the Middle East. No cause, no God, no abstract idea can justify the mass slaughter of innocents, most particularly when only a small group of people are in charge of such actions and feel themselves to represent the cause without having been elected or having a real mandate to do so.
Besides, much as it has been quarrelled over by Muslims, there isn't a single Islam: there are Islams, just as there are Americas. This diversity is true of all traditions, religions or nations, even though some of their adherents have futilely tried to draw boundaries around themselves and pin their creeds down neatly. Yet history is far more complex and contradictory than to be represented by demagogues who are much less representative than either their followers or opponents claim. The trouble with religious or moral fundamentalists is that today, their primitive ideas of revolution and resistance, including a willingness to kill and be killed, seem all too easily attached to technological sophistication and what appear to be gratifying acts of horrifying symbolic savagery. (With astonishing prescience in 1907, Joseph Conrad drew the portrait of the archetypal terrorist, whom he calls laconically "the Professor" in his novel The Secret Agent; this is a man whose sole concern is to perfect a detonator that will work under any circumstances and whose handiwork results in a bomb exploded by a poor boy sent, unknowingly, to destroy the Greenwich Observatory as a strike against "pure science.") The New York and Washington suicide bombers seem to have been middle-class, educated men, not poor refugees. Instead of getting a wise leadership that stresses education, mass mobilisation and patient organisation in the service of a cause, the poor and the desperate are often conned into the magical thinking and quick bloody solutions that such appalling models provide, wrapped in lying religious claptrap. This remains true in the Middle East generally, Palestine in particular, but also in the United States, surely the most religious of all countries. It is also a major failure of the class of secular intellectuals not to have redoubled their efforts to provide analysis and models to offset the undoubted sufferings of the large mass of their people, immiserated and impoverished by globalism and an unyielding militarism with scarcely anything to turn to except blind violence and vague promises of future salvation.
On the other hand, immense military and economic power such as the US possesses is no guarantee of wisdom or moral vision, particularly when obduracy is thought of as a virtue and exceptionalism believed to be the national destiny. Sceptical and humane voices have been largely unheard in the present crisis, as "America" girds itself for a long war to be fought somewhere out there, along with allies who have been pressed into service on very uncertain grounds and for imprecise ends. We need to step back from the imaginary thresholds that supposedly separate people from each other into supposedly clashing civilisations and re-examine the labels, reconsider the limited resources available, decide somehow to share our fates with each other as in fact cultures mostly have done, despite the bellicose cries and creeds.
"Islam" and "the West" are simply inadequate as banners to follow blindly. Some will run behind them, of course, but for future generations to condemn themselves to prolonged war and suffering without so much as a critical pause, without looking at interdependent histories of injustice and oppression, without trying for common emancipation and mutual enlightenment seems far more willful than necessary. Demonisation of the Other is not a sufficient basis for any kind of decent politics -- certainly not now, when the roots of terror in injustice and misery can be addressed and the terrorists themselves easily isolated, deterred or otherwise put out of business. It takes patience and education, but is more worth the investment than still greater levels of large-scale violence and suffering. The immediate prospects are for destruction and suffering on a very large scale, with US policymakers milking the apprehensions and anxieties of their constituencies with cynical assurance that few will attempt a counter- campaign against the inflamed patriotism and belligerent war-mongering that has for a time postponed reflection, understanding, even common sense. Nevertheless, those of us with a possibility for reaching people who are willing to listen -- and there are many such people, in the US, Europe, and the Middle East, at least -- must try to do so as rationally and as patiently as possible.
|Re: Leading academics reactions:,chomsky,,|
|09/20/01 at 17:19:44|
|My only question ? how many people know about the truth in this document ????|
|Re: Leading academics reactions:,chomsky,,|
|09/27/01 at 22:04:27|
|Bismillah and salam,|
Here is a very interesting article on "Homeland Terrorism" and a Jewish lawyer named Stanley Cohen who has offered to defend Bin Laden if he is arrested. Cohen has been threatened with death by the Jewish Defence Organization, very evil organization.
The Village Voice: Features: Homeland Terrorism by Peter Noel
Wed, 26 Sep 2001 14:35:43 -0400
Week of September 26 -
October 2, 2001
How Arabs and Muslims Should Combat It— Despite What the
Defense Organization Says
by Peter Noel
I for one do not really think the "new war" will be
overseas. . . . I feel the real war is gonna be at
[hear] language about "finding their supporters and
organization.". . . I fear that the government is
use this as a pretext—and I'm going to say the
go after those groups and individuals who have
against the Israeli lobby in this country. They
will use this
as an opportunity to empanel grand juries, to go
financial records, to do everything they can to
friends in the Middle East. And we know who their
are. . . .
—Radical attorney Stanley Cohen, speaking to
Passaic County, September 22
This is the kind of Israel bashing that infuriates the
Organization, a band of anti-Arab and anti-black
extremists who once
called for the assassination of the Reverend Al
Sharpton. But because
it is illegal for the JDO to openly sanction the murder
of people like
Cohen, it has spewed the type of incendiary rhetoric
that could get him
killed in the wake of the outrage over the terrorist
attack on America.
Last week, after the Voice first reported that Cohen
Saudi Islamic extremist Osama bin Laden—if he is
captured and brought
to justice for the massacre at the World Trade Center
Pentagon—the JDO left a threatening outgoing message
on the group's answering machine. Although the message
of calling on supporters to exact "infinite
justice"—what the Bush
administration has promised to deliver to the terrorists
it suspects are
behind the suicide bombings—it makes plain the fate the
would befall Cohen.
This is what callers will hear on the two-minute-long
A vicious bombing by Arab and Muslim terrorists
America, the same Arab and Muslim terrorists that
destroy Israel and also want to destroy America.
an attorney by the name of Stanley Cohen, a
Jew, may become the lawyer, and offering to be the
lawyer for Bin Laden, the Arab terrorist. Stanley
defended Hamas terrorists and now is defending Bin
Stanley Cohen's office, for your information, is
[address deleted], and that's in Manhattan. His
number is [deleted]. Stanley Cohen is a traitor to
Jews. He is a traitor to America and all the
victims of the
World Trade Center bombing, all those innocent
all different backgrounds. Their fingers point at
pig, Cohen, and they scream out for justice.
Boycott! Don't ever use Stanley Cohen as an
Spread the word about what he is. Give his phone
to all your friends. . . . Stanley Cohen,
Stanley Cohen, traitor to America. Stanley Cohen,
to Israel. Stanley Cohen, garbage that needs to be
into the bag and run out of town, permanently,
effectively. Stanley Cohen must be driven from New
legally and effectively. Jewish Defense
to do it.
The ponytailed Cohen, who believes that his detractor, a
member, is "in need of some major doses of Thorazine and
shrink," considered the threat serious enough to file a
the FBI. It mirrors a similar one that three Washington,
Muslim organizations lodged with U.S. Attorney General
alleging that the JDO's virulent criticism of Cohen
amounted to a hate
crime. "They, Jews themselves, are targeting me as a
Jew, in violation
of the law," asserts the 47-year-old Cohen, who has
the JDO before. In 1995, while Cohen was defending Hamas
leader Mousa Mohammed Abu Marzook, about six angry JDO
swooped down on the attorney's Lower East Side office.
recalls, "They basically were confronted by about 50 of
my clients from
the projects and they ran home quickly."
Cohen claims that after his picture appeared in the
Voice, and after the
JDO recorded the voice-mail message, he began "receiving
phone threats, including faxed threats from Israel." He
said that during
his defense of Mousa Mohammed Abu Marzook, he got about
faxed threats from Israel; this time he received half
that amount. The
venomous protests call for this "self-hating Jew" to be
"blown up" and
"thrown out with the rest of the Arab trash you
represent." Cohen has
hardened in the face of the threats. "If Osama bin Laden
arrived in the
United States today and asked me to represent him, sure
him," he vows.
Last Saturday, leaders at the Islamic Center of Passaic
County in New
Jersey introduced Stanley Cohen to about 300 bewildered
playing the JDO's wild threat to get rid of him. Cohen
tried to mask his
nervousness with humor. "I'm not sure what I can say
wonderful greeting by my friend on the phone," he says
referring to the
male voice on the JDO's answering machine. "I hope he
has a sister. I
can marry her and call him brother-in-law."
The Muslims—men, women, and boys—chuckled. But amid the
wide-ranging investigation of their community's
in the September 11 attacks, what the Muslims of Passaic
invited Cohen to talk to them about was no laughing
matter. The FBI
seems to be hauling in any Arab or Muslim with ties to
associates. Hundreds of people nationwide are being
questioned or held
on immigration charges. Many of the Passaic County
agents would be knocking on their doors next, and wanted
about specific rights they once enjoyed under the
told them they did not have to cooperate with the FBI,
prosecutors, or police. But if subpoenaed by a grand
jury, they must
According to Cohen, the typical FBI approach is, "This
is a horrible
crime. We know all of you are offended. We know all of
you want to
help us to rid America of terrorists, because terrorists
make you look
bad." Some Muslims tape-recorded Cohen's remarks; others
Even the most intense FBI probes, Cohen charged, never
sanctity of houses of worship. "They've never done that
Paddy's, they've never done it in my synagogue," he
said. "They do it
The bottom line, the lawyer emphasized, is to shut up.
"If you tell them
things that are inconsistent with information that
others provide, you
could end up not [being] charged with any other
underlying crime, but
arrested and indicted for perjury or obstruction of
justice," he warned.
"That's how many people in your community have been
singled out in
the last 10 years—not because they've committed crimes,
people forget things, people's memories fail."
If the agents persist, ask them to put their questions
in writing, Cohen
advised. "They don't do that, because there [would be] a
record of the
truth, and they don't want a record of the truth," he
alleged. Contact a
lawyer, the attorney added. "I suspect that once you see
questions, you're gonna realize this has very little to
do with these
horrible crimes but much more to do with spying on your
But the FBI has argued that its broad sweep of Arab and
communities yields crucial evidence. Agents in a Dallas
a Palestinian whose name turned up in the address book
of of Wadih el
Hage, a former personal secretary to Bin Laden. Ghassan
appealing an immigration court deportation ruling for
obtaining a work
visa through fraud, authorities said. Dahduli's name
surfaced in records
introduced at El Hage's trial earlier this year. El Hage
and three other
Bin Laden disciples were convicted of conspiring to
Cohen dredged up the case of El Hage and Moataz
illustrate his argument about guilt by association. He
prosecutors tried to suggest there was a
involving El Hage and Al-Hallak, a Texas-based imam whom
represented last week during questioning by a federal
"How were [El Hage and Al-Hallak] connected?" Cohen
asked with a hint
of sarcasm. "Really sinister." Cohen said that after El
Hage was involved
in a car accident several years ago, he won a $10,000
the insurance company. He decided to return to the Sudan
appointed Al-Hallak power of attorney. As requested,
accepted the check, put it in an account, wrote a check
out to El
Hage, and mailed it to him. "The story was that Moataz
money to Osama bin Laden," Cohen scoffed. "For a guy
who's got $300
million, he needed the $10,000 from an insurance
Cohen also told the story of the FBI's attempt to link
terrorists who may have tried to use a crop duster to
and biological warfare against the U.S. On Sunday, the
grounded crop-dusting planes across the country. It was
time that agricultural pilots had been told not to fly
since the attacks.
Responding to questions about the latest grounding, the
FBI said that it
was one of the steps the bureau has taken out of "an
caution" and "in reaction to every bit of information
received during the course of this investigation."
Three Middle Eastern men inquired about crop-duster
visits earlier this year to a single-runway airport in
Belle Glade, Florida,
The Washington Post reported Sunday night on its Web
site. One of the
men has since been identified as Mohamed Atta, believed
to be one of
the suicide hijackers in the terrorist attacks. The Post
that government investigators found a manual on crop
the possessions of Zacarias Moussaoui, who currently is
Cohen said that about three years ago someone approached
asking for his help in hiring a pilot to fly a crop
duster for an agricultural
project run by the then Sudan-based Bin Laden.
Al-Hallak, according to
Cohen, had no such contacts. But a few weeks later,
introduced to someone who had some pilot training. He
gave the pilot the name of the man who was spearheading
crop-dusting project. "Well, the two men got together,"
"They essentially turned this crop duster into a plane
made it across to the Middle East. Although it broke
down in Canada for
six weeks, and in Britain for six weeks, the plane,
eventually, with God
as my witness, crashed of its own weight crop-dusting in
That's the connection! The air force of Osama bin
In the aftermath of the attacks, a top FBI agent told
reporters that the
agency was looking for Moataz Al-Hallak for questioning.
speech to the Muslims in Passaic County, Cohen
agents knew all along where to find his client. "For
disseminated misinformation," he charged. After refusing
to allow the
FBI to interrogate Al-Hallak, Cohen spent six days
prosecutors to intervene.
"I said, 'Moataz wants to talk to you. This is a
horrible crime. He wants
to help,' " Cohen remembered. "I said, 'Gimme a
subpoena was issued. Everyone said, 'We'll get back to
you.' But no
one returned calls." Last week, Cohen took Al-Hallak to
presented the imam to the media and released a four-page
had written to Assistant U.S. Attorney James T. Jacks,
Al-Hallak's offer to be interviewed by prosecutors. On
his way back to
New York, Cohen received a call from Patrick Fitzgerald,
attorney who had grilled Al-Hallak before a grand jury
in connection to
the deadly embassy bombings in Africa.
Fitzgerald invited Cohen and Al-Hallak back to
Washington. "We spent
three hours, just sitting with prosecutors, no FBI, as
was his right,"
Cohen told the Muslims in Passaic. "As I had suspected,
95 percent of
the interrogation had nothing to do with this crime. It
intelligence information he wanted about the community,
organizations overseas. Yes, there were some questions
horrible crime, and yes, Moataz was shown 20 photographs
Did he know anyone? No. Had he ever spoken to anyone?
No." He said
that after viewing the pictures, Al-Hallak burst into
children," Cohen quoted the imam as saying. "They're
The feds, Cohen bragged, had nothing on Al-Hallak. "We
left," he said.
"The No. 1 terrorist that everyone in the country was
hot to find, and
to interrogate, and to jail, walked out—not arrested,
not charged, not
subpoenaed, back home with his family."
The JDO HAS a history of issuing vicious threats. In
1991, lawyers for
the Reverend Al Sharpton accused JDO leader Mordechai
Levy of calling
for the death of the civil rights activist. Levy had
Sharpton of inciting attacks on Hasidic Jews in Crown
Heights. At the
time, Levy's attorney denied the allegations. Now the
JDO wants to
strong-arm Stanley Cohen and run him out of town—a
should attract the attention of the new Office of
But Cohen, whose clientele includes accused cop-shooters
drug-dealing gangstas, has all the protection he needs.
where la familia watches Cohen's back, the JDO is
persona non grata.
The Village Voice's ongoing coverage of the World Trade
the victims, and the aftermath.
Tell us what you think. firstname.lastname@example.org
story to a
|Re: Leading academics reactions:,chomsky,,|
|09/27/01 at 22:24:29|
|Bismillah and salam,|
"Here is an exceptional piece written by media expert Edward Herman. He
compares the media treatment of the 9/11 events and actions of the media
and Western liberals (ouch!). Herman is of course the co-author, with
Noam Chomsky, of Manufacturing Consent, a classic analysis of the
propaganda system in the West. Please consider supporting Z Magazine
which has distributed this and many other useful articles.
"The price is worth it"
By Edward S. Herman
Try to imagine how the mainstream U.S. media and intellectuals would
respond to the disclosure that at an early planning meeting of the
terrorists responsible for the attacks on the World Trade Center and
Pentagon, the question had come up about whether the "collateral damage"
of prospectively thousands of dead civilians wouldn't be excessive, but
that the matter had been settled with the top leader's response: "we
think the price is worth it"?
Suppose further that the terrorists' leaders then set out to make their
case to their followers, arguing that it was extremely important to show
the citizens of the Great Satan that they were not immune to attack on
their own land--that they could not continue to bomb others freely and
support the violent states of their choice without suffering some
retaliation themselves. The terrorists argued that, as the Great Satan
has been conducting low- (and often not so low) -intensity wars against
the Third World and Arab states for decades, the planned attacks would
be both just and legal under international law, justifiable under the UN
Charter's grant of the right of self-defense, which He has relied on so
often to excuse his own unilateral actions.
The leaders argued further that since the symbolic value of showing the
Great Satan's vulnerability by attacking the WTC and Pentagon would be
greatly enhanced by taking out several thousand civilians, this must be
regarded as acceptable collateral damage. Finally, imagine the
terrorists' leaders explaining to their followers that for the sake of
global peace and security, no less than the welfare of peoples the world
over, it is crucial to raise the costs of imperial violence, and help
persuade the Great Satan's population to ask Him to terminate His wars.
This, the terrorist leaders argued, would in the long run save far more
lives than those lost in the bombing of the WTC and Pentagon.
Wouldn't the mainstream media and intellectuals be wild with indignation
at the inhumanity of the terrorists' coldblooded calculus? Wouldn't they
respond in one voice that it is absolutely immoral, evil, and
indefensible per se to kill civilians on a massive scale to make a
political point? And as to the terrorists' underlying argument that the
attacks were justified both as retaliation for the Great Satan's ongoing
wars and as part of an effort to curb His imperial violence, wouldn't
this be rejected as outlandish? Wouldn't establishment spokespersons
rush to claim that despite occasional regrettable mistakes this country
has behaved well in international affairs, has intervened abroad only in
just causes, and is the victim of terrorism, not a terrorist state or
supporter of terrorism? And wouldn't it also be stressed that it is
immoral and outrageous to even SPEAK of a "just cause" or any give any
kind of legitimation for a terrorist action such as occurred in New York
and Washington? That the only question in such a case of violence is
"who," not "why"? (These last two sentences are a paraphrase of the
indignant argument of a U.S. liberal historian.) And in fact, across the
board the U.S. mainstreamers have refused to talk about "why" except for
superficial denunciations of an irrational enemy that hates democracy,
Turning now to the actual use of the phrase "the price is worth it," we
come to U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright's reply to Lesley
Stahl's question on "60 Minutes" on May 12, 1996:
Stahl: "We have heard that a half a million children have died [because
of sanctions against Iraq]. I mean that's more children than died in
Hiroshima. And--you know, is the price worth it?"
Albright: "I think this is a very hard choice, but the price--we think
the price is worth it."
In this case, however, although the numbers dead are mind- boggling--the
ratio of dead Iraqi children to deaths in the WTC/Pentagon bombings was
better than 80 to 1, using the now obsolete early 1996 number for Iraqi
children--the mainstream media and intellectuals have not found
Albright's rationalization of this mass killing of any interest
whatsoever. The phrase has been only rarely cited in the mainstream, and
there has been no indignation or suggestion that the mass killing of
children in order to satisfy some policy end was immoral and outrageous.
Since the morning hours of Tuesday, September 11, the civilian dead in
the WTC/Pentagon terrorist bombings have been the subject of the most
intense and detailed and humanizing attention, making the suffering
clear and dramatic and feeding in to the sense of outrage. In contrast,
the hundreds of thousands of children dead in Iraq are very close to
invisible, their suffering and dying are out of sight; and whereas the
ratio of Iraqi children killed by sanctions to WTC/Pentagon deaths was
better than 80 to 1, the ratio of media space devoted to the Iraqi
children and WTC/Pentagon deaths has surely been better than 500 to one
in favor of the smaller WTC/Pentagon casualties. Pictures of sufferers
and expressions of pain and indignation have been in a similar ratio.
The UN workers in Iraq like Dennis Halliday who have resigned in disgust
at the effects of the "sanctions of mass destruction" have been given
minimal space in the media to inform the public and express their
The "who" in the case of the Iraqi mass deaths is clear-- overwhelmingly
the U.S. and British leadership--but the "who" here is irrelevant
because of how the "why" is answered. This is done implicitly. Madeleine
Albright said that the deaths are worth it because U.S. policy finds
this to be so--and with Albright saying this is "why," that settles the
matter for the media. Their indignation at the immorality of killing
civilians as collateral damage to make a political point ends, because
the Iraqi children die by U.S. policy choice--and in this case the media
will not even allow the matter to be discussed. The per se
unreasonableness of killing civilians as collateral damage is quietly
set aside (reminding one of how the Soviet's shooting down of KAL 007 in
1983 was per se barbarian, but the U.S. shooting down of Iranian
airliner 655 in 1988 was a "tragic error.") The media focus on whether
Saddam Hussein will allow UN inspections to prevent him getting "weapons
of mass destruction," not on the mass death of children. (And of course
the media regularly fail to note that the United States and Britain had
helped Saddam Hussein obtain such weapons in the 1980s, and didn't
object to his using them, until he stopped following orders in August
Because the media make the suffering and death of 500,000 children
invisible, the outrage produced by the intense coverage of the
WTC/Pentagon bombing victims does not surface on their behalf. The
liberal historian who was so indignant at even asking "why" for the
WTC-Pentagon bombings and argued that only "who" was pertinent has said
nothing about the immorality of killing Iraqis; he is not interested in
"who" in this case, partly because he does not have to see dying Iraqi
children every day, and partly because his government has answered the
"why" to his satisfaction, justifying mass death. Is it not morally
chilling, even a bit frightening, that he, and the great mass of his
citizen compatriots, can focus with such anguish and indignation on
their own 6,000 dead, while ignorant of, or not caring about, or
approving his (their) own government's ongoing killing of scores of
times as many innocents abroad?
This reflects the work of a superb propaganda system. The U.S.
government finding the mass death of Iraqi children "worth it," the
media push the fate of these "unworthy victims" into the black hole,
thereby allowing that policy to be continued without impediment. With
the United States itself a victim of terrorism, here the reverse process
ensues: with these ultra-worthy victims, the media feature their
suffering and deaths intensively and are not interested in root causes,
but only in "who" did it; they beat the war drums incessantly and push
to the forefront the most regressive forces in the country, making
violence and repression the probable outcome of their efforts. But they
will sell papers, get larger audiences, support the "national interest,"
and prove to the rightwing that they are real Americans.
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