The magnitude of the September 11 attack was such that the American media-the serious or passably serious segments-were obliged to delve into areas they normally do not visit. A number of mainstream newspapers, magazines and radio stations, in their quest to understand Why? , suddenly-or so it seemed-discovered that the United States had been engaged in actions like the ones listed above and countless other interventions in foreign lands over the decades that could indeed produce a great degree of anti-American feeling.
This was one positive outcome of the tragedy. This revelation , however, appeared to escape the mass of the American people, the great majority of whom get their snatches of foreign news from tabloid newspapers, lowest-common-denominator radio programs, and laughably superficial TV newscasts.
Thus it was that instead of an outpouring of reflection upon what the United States does to the world to make it so hated, there was an outpouring of patriotism of the narrowest kind: Congress members stood on the steps of the Capitol and sang God Bless America , stores quickly sold out their stocks of American flags, which fluttered high and low in whatever direction one looked, callers to radio shows spat out venom and bloodlust, at entertainment and sporting events it became de rigueur to begin with a military and/or patriotic ceremony, one could scarcely pick up a newspaper or turn on the radio or TV without some tribute to American courage, and everyone and his cousin were made into heroes . This phenomenon continued, hardly abated, into the year 2002.
And the serious American media soon returned to normal mode; i.e., one could regularly find more significant and revealing informa-tion concerning US foreign policy in the London papers, the Guardian and the Independent, than in the New York Times and Washington Post.
Most Americans find it difficult in the extreme to accept the proposition that terrorist acts against the United States can be viewed as revenge for Washingtons policies abroad. They believe that the US is targeted because of its freedom, its democracy, its wealth. The Bush administration, like its predecessors following other terrorist acts, has pushed this as the official line ever since the attacks. The American Council of Trustees and Alumni, a conservative watchdog group founded by Lynne Cheney, wife of the vice-president, and Senator Joseph Lieberman, announced in November the formation of the Defense of Civilization Fund, declaring that It was not only America that was attacked on September 11, but civilization. We were attacked not for our vices, but for our virtues. 1
But government officials know better. A Department of Defense study in 1997 concluded that: Historical data show a strong correla-tion between US involvement in international situations and an increase in terrorist attacks against the United States, 2
Former president Jimmy Carter, some years after he left the White House, was unambiguous in his agreement with this:
We sent Marines into Lebanon and you only have to go to Lebanon, to Syria or to Jordan to witness first-hand the intense hatred among many people for the United States because we bombed and shelled and unmercifully killed totally innocent villagers-women and children and farmers and housewives-in those villages around Beirut...As a result of that...we became kind of a Satan in tbe minds of those who are deeply resentful. That is what precipitated the taking of our hostages [in Iran] and that is wbat has precipitated some of the terrorist attacks-which were totally unjustified and criminal.3
The terrorists responsible for the original bombing of the World Trade Center back in 1993 sent a letter to the New York Times which stated, in part: We declare our responsibility for the explosion on the mentioned building. This action was done in response for the American political, economical, and military support to Israel the state of terrorism and to the rest of the dictator countries in the region. 4
Further evidence of government and media awareness of the connection between anti-US terrorism and American policies is offered in chapter one of this book.
For two and a half months following September 11 the most powerful nation in history rained down a daily storm of missiles upon Afghanistan, one of the poorest and most backward countries in the world. Eventually, this question pressed itself onto the worlds stage: Who killed more innocent, defenseless people? The terrorists in the United States on September 11 with their flying bombs? Or the Americans in Afghanistan with their AGM-86D cruise missiles, their AGM-130 missiles, their 15,000-pound daisy cutter bombs, their depleted uranium and their cluster bombs?
By years end, the count of the terrorists victims in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania stood at about 3,000. The total count of civilian dead in Afghanistan as a result of American bombing was essentially ignored by US officials and just about everyone else, but a painstaking compilation of numerous individual reports from the American and international media and human rights organizations by an American professor arrived at considerably more than 3,500 Afghan dead through early December, and still counting.5
This figure does not include those who died later of bomb injuries, or those who died from cold and hunger due to their homes being destroyed by bombs, or the deaths from exposure or hunger among the hundreds of thousands of internal refugees fleeing the bombing. Neither does it include the thousands of military deaths or the hundreds of prisoners who were executed or otherwise slaughtered by Washingtons new freedom fighter allies in conjunction with American military and intelligence operatives. In the final analysis, the body count will also be missing the inevitable victims of cluster bombs-turned-landmines and those who perish more slowly from depleted-uranium-caused sicknesses.
There will be no minutes of silence for the Afghan dead, no memorial services attended by high American officials and entertain-ment celebrities, no messages of condolence sent by heads of state, no millions of dollars raised for the victims families. Yet, all in all, it was a bloodbath that more than rivals that of September 11.
And of the thousands dead in Afghanistan, how many, can it be said with any certainty, had played a conscious role in the American catastrophe?
According to the video of Osama bin Laden presented to the world by the US government, he himself didnt find out the exact date of the terrorist act until five days before it took place, and most of the hijackers did not know they were part of a suicide mission until they prepared to board the planes. (The FBI reportedly came to the latter conclusion long before the video was made public.6) Given that, it appears eminently safe to say that exceedingly few other people in the world were knowingly in on the plot, perhaps a number that can be counted on the fingers of one hand. Consequently, if the American bombing campaign in Afghanistan was designed to kill the actual perpetrators, it was a fools mission; a violent fool.
If Timothy McVeigh, perpetrator of the terrible bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995, had not been quickly caught, would the United States have bombed the state of Michigan or any of the other places he called home? No, they would have instituted a mammoth manhunt until they found him and punished him. But in Afghanistan, the United States proceeded virtually on the assumption that everyone who supported the Taliban government, native or foreigner, was 1) a terrorist and 2) morally, if not legally, stained with the blood of September 11-or perhaps one or another anti-US terrorist action of the past-and was thus fair game.
However, when the shoe is on the other foot, even American officials can perceive which is the honorable path to walk. Speaking of Russias problem with Chechnya in 1999, the US State Departments second in command, Strobe Talbott, urged Moscow to show restraint and wisdom . Restraint, he said, means taking action against real ter-rorists, but not using indiscriminate force that endangers innocents. 7
Suggesting a moral equivalency between the United States and terrorists (or, during the cold war, with communists) never fails to inflame American anger. The terrorists purposely aimed to kill civil-ians, we are told, while any non-combatant victims of the American bombings were completely accidental.
Whenever the United States goes into one of its periodic bombing frenzies and its missiles take the lives of numerous civilians, this is called collateral damage -inflicted by the Fates of War-for the real targets, we are invariably told, were military.
But if day after day, in one country after another, the same scenario takes place- dropping prodigious quantities of powerfully lethal ordnance from very high altitudes with the full knowledge that large numbers of civilians will perish or be maimed, even without missiles going astray -what can one say about the intentions of the American
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