On the morning that I will always remember as 911, my phone started ringing about 9 A.M. I had just gone to bed at 8 A.M., so I was annoyed. I turned the phone off in my room and tried to go back to sleep but the phones in the other rooms were ringing, so finally I picked up the phone and in a very annoyed and slightly hostile voice I said, "WHAT!" On the other end was Linda Pollini, a very special friend of mine, and co-chair of the Alachua County Green Party. She said "The World Trade Center and the Pentagon were both blown up by planes." I said "Bull Shit!", she said, "Just turn on the TV." In my mind I was seeing planes, I wasn't sure whose, bombing the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
I turned on the TV and there was the World Trade Center enveloped in smoke and flames. I was stunned and then all of a sudden I saw a plane and it crashed into the World Trade Center south building. My niece works in that building as a graphics artist for the City of New York. She had been there the last time it was attacked. My children called me-my daughter at P.K. Yonge was very upset and this time Dad didn't have a bunch of answers. I sat glued to the TV and the next ten days were kind of a blur.
I didn't have the courage to call my aunt and uncle until Wednesday to see if my niece Sheila was OK. They said Sheila was OK and that she was stuck in New York. She told them that when the first plane struck, she said "I am out of here" and she went down the stairs from the 75th floor and was out of her building before it was struck. I was relieved, at least for our family.
As the events unfolded, there arose a struggle inside of me between the Marine Sergeant that I had been in Viet Nam and the anti-war leader I had become when I returned from Nam. I am a moderator for the 1st Battalion 1st Marine Regiment 1st Marine Division list serve, the unit that I spent 20 months in Nam with. The former Marines were understandably very angry and wanted the US to kick ass. I personally have no problem with identifying, finding and punishing those responsible. I have a very big problem with killing anyone just so we can feel good. Unfortunately, the thirst for blood revenge seems to be much stronger than the search for justice.
I learned some very important lessons in Viet Nam. One of them is that the side with the most technology is not guaranteed to win. Another one is that indiscriminate killing of whoever you can find because you don't really know who it was that planted that mine that killed your buddy only makes more people hate you and want to get their revenge or justice. This tit-for-tat policy creates a spiral of hate and revenge that never ends. This is how the Israelis and the Palestinians deal with their differences and all it creates is pain and suffering on both sides.
What can we do? What should we do? I certainly don't have all of the answers, but I can Identify some things that I believe we should look at and think about.
Let me first say that this article is an attempt to understand what happened and is in no way an attempt to justify what happened, which in my mind is totally unjustifiable.
1) Before I take action I think about what my goal is. I identify the steps that I believe will accomplish that goal and then I complete the steps.
What is our goal? Punish those who did this to us? Well, they died in the attacks. Find those who helped so that it won't happen again? That's fine if you can Identify them and catch them. Does that guarantee that it won't happen again? Not at all. It only guarantees that those particular people won't do it again. The only way to really stop terrorism is to identify the causes. What would make people be willing to take on missions that guarantee their death? I personally don't know anyone willing to take on such a mission. The human desire to live is very strong.
One time in Nam a grenade landed next to us in a fire fight. I picked it up and threw it. Everyone thought I was a hero. Not true, I just wanted to live. I had nowhere to run, staring at it wouldn't help, I sure wasn't going to jump on it. The only chance I had to live was to pick it up and toss it. The point is that it seems to me that those who did this either thought that they had nothing to lose or live for and this sacrifice might help solve the problems that led them to this, or that they had been blinded by religious fundamentalism.
2) What is terrorism ?
I don't buy the argument that the terrorists were crazy or cowards. As a former Combat Marine NCO, I see a well-planned mission by a reinforced squad of men who were very innovative and resourceful, being able to utilize tools of their target country and cause a devastating blow to their enemy that killed over 5000 humans, destroyed billions of dollars worth of property, caused the loss of over 130,000 jobs in the airline industry alone and the ripple effect continues to destroy jobs. They caused the stock market to take a huge loss and permanently scared the psyche of of the citizens of this country by destroying the illusion that we were safe from the problems of terror on our land that the rest of the world has had to live with. No reinforced squad that I ever served with in Nam had that kind of impact on the enemy.
We are calling them terrorists but I am not really sure what that means. Does that mean that if they used an aircraft carrier and cruise missiles that then it wouldn't be terrorism, it would just be war? Isn't war terrorism? Isn't the threat of war terrorism? I would like to see a definition of terrorism based on definable actions, not on who does them or how they carry them out. When Bin Laden was fighting the Soviets for us, he was a freedom fighter. Now he is a terrorist. His actions haven't changed, just who he is fighting has changed.
In 1985 The World Court found the United States guilty of terrorism for its creation and sponsorship of the contras in Nicaragua. According to Noam Chomsky, "The United States, of course, dismissed the court judgment with total contempt and announced that it would not accept the jurisdiction of the court henceforth. Then Nicaragua then went to the UN Security Council which considered a resolution calling on all states to observe international law. No one was mentioned but everyone understood. The United States vetoed the resolution."*
3) Why hasn't the UN or other world bodies done something about crimes against humanity?
The main reason is that every time there is an attempt to set up rules and a world court that has the jurisdiction to go after those who commit crimes against humanity anywhere in the world, we, the United States, cripple and veto that effort. Why? Because we want the right to punish others who commit crimes against humanity but we will not allow any jurisdiction to punish us, we as a nation remain above the law.
The United States "stands as the only state on record which has both been condemned by the World Court for international terrorism and has vetoed a Security Council resolution calling on states to observe international law."* So that leaves those who may have legitimate gripes against us nowhere to go. They can't match our technology so they have to be innovative and resourceful.
In 1990, I went on a fact finding tour to the Middle East with Veterans for Peace. We were able to interview members of the Israeli Foreign Ministry. They informed us that "the cold war is over" and "the new war is to be fought against Islamic Fundamentalism, the real threat to western values and the Judeo- Christian ethic."
We then went to Jordan and interviewed members of the PLO Executive Committee. When we asked about airline hijackings and bombings, they said, "When we blow up an airliner it is not because we have anything against planes or the people in them, it is because our people are suffering unimaginably. We blow up planes because we need to get the world's attention". Well, some individuals have gotten the world's attention, and they are serious.
I believe that those who were involved in this were motivated by both religious fundamentalism and anger over the arrogance of the United States, the amount of pain and suffering around the world that we cause others. I believe that if we were not causing all of that human suffering and death that it would be much harder for the religious zealots to recruit their soldiers.
4) Osama Bin Laden has been Identified as the chief suspect by President Bush.
I have so many problems with this. Why should I believe Bush? Where is the proof? Oh, they don't want to give up their sources or methods of intelligence. Well, where were those sources and methods before we got hit, how come they're just telling us after the fact?
On 911, while the brave firemen were giving their lives, the public wondered where was the President ? We were told that his plane had been targeted and that the caller had given the secret code for Air Force One. So they put the President in Air Force One and flew him everywhere but Washington, where he belonged. When we ask how did the terrorists get that secret code, only known to the White House and the Secret Service, we are now told it was all a mistake. It was spin to cover for a president who was in hiding. Now they want us to believe the rest of what they say.
In 1986, a bomb went off in a disco in Berlin. 230 people were killed including Americans. The United States claimed that there were "very clear indications" of Libyan involvement. We were told that intercepted communications showed a Libyan role in the bombing. We were told that evidence of the Libyan leader's complicity was "indisputable".
In retaliation for the disco bombing the United States bombed Libya and targeted its leader Muammar El Qaddafi, killing his adopted baby daughter and wounding 2 of his sons.
According to Manfred Ganschow, director of the Staatsschutz, (the West Berlin equivalent of the FBI) there was and still is No Evidence that Libya was connected to the bombing.
I also have a big problem with that all-powerful word Suspect. The word has a negative connotation that implies guilt. I first learned this in Nam. In the bush, there were 3 kinds of Vietnamese people, North Vietnamese Army ( NVA ), Viet Cong ( VC ) and Suspected Viet Cong ( SVC ). The SVC were treated as the enemy because we could not always easily Identify the enemy. Here at home when someone is arrested, he or she called the Suspect and automatically people think the Suspect did it.
5) Who is Bin Laden and where did he come from?
It turns out that during the cold war, the CIA, in an attempt to undermine the Soviet Union, recruited and empowered Bin Laden to fight the Soviets. At that time Pakistan's then head of state, Benazir Bhutto, told then President Bush, " You are creating a Frankenstein." Bin Laden accomplished that and in the process became much stronger and was able to create a world-wide base of supporters. I wonder if those in the Reagan Administration who empowered this man have any remorse over the "Frankenstein" they helped create. We planted the seeds and these are some of the consequences.
I also wonder when we will stop causing harm all over the globe by destabilizing other governments and empowering other CIA buddies like the Shah of Iran which caused the Ayatollah Khomeini to come to power, Noriega of Panama, Saddam of Iraq, Diem in Nam and others ad nauseum.
I also think about all of the weapons we supplied Bin Loden and the Taliban, among them a few thousand Stinger missiles. These missiles are credited with turning the tide against the Soviets. I find the thought that some of our children may be killed in Afghanistan by weapons made in the USA by their parents appalling and sickening. We must address the problems caused all over the world by the international trade in weapons that the US plays a major role in..
6) What are some of the other Unintended Consequences (current politically correct buzz words)?
Pakistan was the major country that helped us set Bin Laden up in business. Now their government, in exchange for lifting the sanctions we imposed because of their nuclear testing, is going to let us use their country to attack Afghanistan. How about the fact that all of those Islamic Pakistanis who helped the Taliban get in power may not agree with their government. Many of them see this as a crusade to destroy Islam. Will this cause a civil war in Pakistan? Who controls their nukes? What will happen if the Fundamentalist gain control of those nukes? Israel bombed Iraq and destroyed it's attempt to have a nuclear reactor does anyone think that Israel will allow Fundamentalist to control nuclear weapons within striking distance of Israel ?
What guarantees do we have that India won't see an opportunity to latch on to Kashmir while Pakistan is fighting Afghanistan and a civil war? What about their nukes?
Pakistan is the only country in the world that recognizes the Taliban as the legitimate government of Afghanistan.
7) What should we do as a nation and here locally?
None of the hijackers were Afghani and we have already made refugees out of over two million of them. They sleep out in the cold night without shelter and then spend the hot days with little food or water and winter snows are only a few weeks away after which it will be impossible to get food and shelter to all of those in need. I wonder when those children grow up if they will also hate us.
The Bush administration is using this issue as an excuse to take away some of our liberties, civil rights and constitutional rights. This is wrong and is an attempt to shift the blame for this unpreparedness away from our leaders and our intelligence community where it firmly belongs.
It is not that we didn't know anything. When terrorists have their name on a terrorist watch list, come into this country, get drivers' licenses, credit cards and plane tickets in their own name and we do nothing, that's dereliction of duty. Why do I believe that if these terrorists would have been on a list of suspected marijuana dealers we would have kept a better eye on them? I guess it's called priorities. The NSA (National Security Administration) monitors all phone calls and electronic data from all over the world. They don't have the ability to sift through it all and yet they want to be able to collect more without restriction. We are told to trust them, yeah right. Congress has passed an anti-terrorism bill that taken away due process, allows guilt by association, gives the government access to our computer records, allows more liberal wire taps, allows groups and individuals to be labeled and punished as supporters of terrorism or terrorist organizations with NO proof.
It may well turn out that the most long range damage done to the citizens of United States by the attacks on 911, will be done by the government as it undermines the Constitution and destroys the protections guaranteed by the Bill of Rights. This has already begun.
* The quoted text is from a speech by Noam Chomsky, "The New War Against Terror," October 18, 2001. Transcribed from audio recorded at The Technology & Culture Forum at MIT.
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