Here are some thoughts that have occurred
to me since September 11, 2001 c.e.. Parts of this originally
appeared in A Call to Arms elsewhere
on my website. This essay contains very little religious discussion
and a great deal of politically incorrect opinion about matters
that most Americans would prefer not to think about.
The drumbeat for a war of some
sort has been loud and unstoppable ever since the day America
lost her innocence. Despite the fact that no one seems to know
exactly how to track down and kill the surviving terrorists responsible,
the overwhelming majority of Americans (including myself) and
many citizens of other nations certainly want to do so. Previously
I said that if this war against terrorism were to
follow the usual pattern of the last few American wars, everyone
in the general vicinity except the guilty parties would
be killed and victory would be proclaimed far too early. Well,
it looks like the generals and the spin doctors have learned
that lesson, just as they learned from Vietnam never to
let American citizens see corpses (especially American ones)
on television. Phase One of the never-to-be-ended new war was
actually concluded fairly successfully in terms of overthrowing
the Taliban government and keeping casualities among Afghan women
and children down to a few hundred and American soldiers down
to far less than that (half of whom have been killed in accidents
apparently). Of course, they still havent caught Osama
bin Laden... He may (like Saddam Hussein was for quite some time)
be of more value alive and uncaptured than dead, as a useful
supervillain to distract American attention towards. This war,
however, is being carefully promoted as one that will be long
and costly, with fronts around the globe, giving the Administration
and the Pentagon (and police states around the world) permission
to do anything they wish as long as it is done in the name of
I did correctly predict in 2001 that among
the many casualties will be basic constitutional rights and simple
human decency, all in the name of stopping terrorism, exactly
as happened in the war against Communism
and the war against drugs, for that matter. Bush
and Ashcroft have been gleefully promoting one unconstitutional
scheme after another and Congress has been rolling over and giving
them whatever they ask for, for fear of looking unpatriotic.
And somehow, winning the war against terrorism always
seems to involve giving billion dollar tax gifts to the rich
and drilling for oil in the Alaska wilderness.
Over the summer of 2002, as it became clear
that Osama bin Laden was not going to be found and that his head
was not going to wind up on a pike on the White House lawn, our
unelected President tried to distract attention away from the
failed search and onto a new war with Saddam Hussein. In his
efforts to overcome his and his fathers wimp factor,
he painted Hussein as another Hitler being appeased by those
who dont want to recognize Americas right
to overthrow any government we want to. There are already nations
in the Middle East who dont like us very much and who already
have weapons of mass destruction some of whom are supposedly
our allies. What made Hussein so special, other than Mr. Bushs
psychological needs? Could it be all that oil he was sitting
on and which he didnt want to sell us as cheaply as we
wanted? We now know that only days after he was sworn into office,
Mr. Bush was planning the conquest of Iraq.
So Phase Two of The Endless War was begun
early in 2003, when knowingly distorted intelligence and several
outright lies were sold to the American people through a multibillion
dollar public relations campaign (see Weapons
of Mass Deception, by Sheldon Rampton and John C.
Stauber for details). The United Nations was told to get with
the program or get out of the way, a handful of small nations
desperate for U.S. approval joined a coalition of the willing,
and the Pentagon organized a successful invasion and conquest.
Now they, and we, are stuck with the results. But who really
cares if American kids are being blown up every day by people
who hate us as much as they hated Saddam? Halliburton, Texaco,
and other friends of the Bush administration are raking in multibillion
dollar contracts! All those dead soldiers and civilians are just
the cost of doing business...
Why Do They Hate Us So Much?
Were the attacks of 9/11 nothing else than
acts of war against America, as the American mass
media repeatedly tells us, or were they also (or primarily) acts
of revenge? I would say both, though we Americans dont
like to consider the second possibility, as it implies that the
horrific acts of that day were, at least in the minds of the
perpetrators and those who cheered them around the world, deserved
in some fashion. That implication clashes dramatically with our
self-image of America as the worlds superpower superhero,
always defending freedom and goodness.
Most Americans simply ignore the hundreds
of thousands of innocent men, women, and children killed by American
weapons wielded by official and unofficial representatives of
our country over the last fifty years. We see video of screaming
victims running from the falling buildings of the World Trade
Center in New York, but we do not see images of terrified civilians
running from American bombs in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, or the other
200+ military interventions around the world since
World War II. On the contrary, those images are carefully kept
away from the American people.
We have seen thousands of pictures of the
rubble in New York City and at the Pentagon, but we have seen
only a tiny percentage of the rubble of the hospitals, water
treatment plants, office buildings, factories, schools, and homes
destroyed by America (and its mostly the people who watch
foreign TV networks who saw the little that was shown). That
destruction directly and indirectly caused the deaths of hundreds
of thousands of men, women, children, and old people who had
no hostility towards America and no control over their governments
actions governments we usually did not even manage to
overthrow as we said we were going to. We do not see pictures
of the people killed by American- and European-trained death
squads excuse me, security forces in
South and Central America, Indonesia, the Phillipines, Africa,
Yes, we were at war, at least
some of those times (including the war on drugs-that-compete-with-alcohol-and-tobacco).
The justifications and excuses make no difference to the casualties
or the survivors. To millions of Muslims around the world,
the First Gulf War was just Americans killing yet more Muslims
in order to keep oil prices low (as the Second Gulf War was).
Americas actions are seen as a continuation of 150 years
of Western meddling and murder in Middle Eastern affairs, of
the installation of puppet dictatorships, the sabotage of democratic
movements, and the assassination of inconvenient leaders. Now
add into this historical mess the existence of Israel, seen by
most Muslims as yet another Western invasion and conquest of
Arab land, as well as the nearly universal Muslim
perception of America as Israels unquestioning ally. Is
it any real wonder that a handful of Muslims who happened to
have the resources to strike back at their tormentors
choose to do so?
The same sick minds that came up with suicide
bombing as a sneaky way to deliver explosives against a hated
enemy that out-gunned and out-armored them figured out that civilian
airliners could be used as giant suicide bombs that, like individual
civilians carrying sticks of dynamite, would not be seen as threats
until it was too late to stop them. As for the involuntary participants
on board the airliners, they were additional American targets
for revenge. Or perhaps the hijackers thought of them as collateral
damage, to use the traditional American military term.
The terrorists of 9/11 were actually more
selective than the U.S. armed forces usually are. The Pentagon
was a strictly military target, as the White House or Capitol
Building would have been. Apparently Osama bin Laden and his
minions thought the World Trade Center was full of Americas
economic rulers which would have made it a legitimate
military target as well rather than the second and third
level agents of those rulers. They hoped for a shockingly high
body count from their targets and indeed, if the attacks had
happened a few hours later, tens of thousands of Americans might
have died instead of only 3,000 or so.
Make no mistake here. I have no admiration
for the evil men who committed mass murder on 9/11. But I understand
at least a bit of their motivations. And I can see why there
is no foreseeable end to future such attacks, for the legacy
of American violence throughout the Third World is horrific indeed,
with hundreds of millions of people wishing and hoping for vengeance
against us. So far, we have heard only from the Middle Easterners
who hate us.
Just as suicide bombers are a logical
explosives delivery system for people who cant afford B-52s,
attack helicopters, or automatic rifles like their enemies have,
terrorism is a perfectly logical if horrific strategy for people
who cant afford to buy or build armies, navies, and air
forces. It becomes more evil when innocent civilians are the
targets. The real distinction between terrorists
and freedom fighters is whether the victims are genuinely
guilty evil-doers or relatively innocent folks who are themselves
powerless to change the behavior of the evil ones who rule them.
Terrorism itself is just another way of waging war. Fighting
a war against terrorism is like fighting a war against navel
manuevers or a war against poison gas or even a war against violence.
The war against terrorism is
a war against our own past. The American
Empire may conquer the world (though I suspect the Chinese Empire
might give us some competition in that department) and enforce
a Pax Americana, but unless we manage to turn the entire planet
into a corporate police state, violating every one of our American
ideals in the process, we will never be able to stop every single
person who wants revenge against us for the real or perceived
crimes of one or ten or a hundred years ago.
Those crimes were not committed by the average
American or the average member of other Western democracies,
but by the people we allowed to be elected to public office (often
by simply not voting) and by their puppet-masters the
wealthy and private Power
Elite whose families have run Americas major
corporations, governments, and military forces for generations.
Despite the actual powerlessness of most American citizens, it
is we who will pay the price for our unwillingness to take control
of our own government and its military and espionage services.
The USA is a huge country with literally tens of thousands of
attractive targets. We cant successfully guard them all
(although hiring some of the millions of people Bush put out
of work to be security guards might help some). There will
be more 9/11s, some even more horrific, for the simple mathematical
reason that those who hate us outnumber our security forces a
thousand to one.
Current propaganda tells us that people elsewhere
in the world who hate America do so because we are free.
Well, many of the Fundamentalists among them may hate us for
that reason, because Fundamentalists find it easy to hate any
group of people who believe and live differently from themselves.
The American lifestyles they see on television and read about
in their newspapers and magazines are much freer than the oppressive
cultural restrictions that they live under (see my Call
to Arms essay for details on the religious motivations of
But most of those who hate us do so because
it was an American plane that bombed their local sewage treatment
plant, destroying their villages source of clean water,
leading to dysentery and death for their children. They hate
us because a member of the U.S. military trained the death squad
that took their husband away in the middle of the night and tortured
him to death (even though the American training was supposedly
only for security purposes). They hate us because
the C.I.A. murdered the leader of a pro-democracy movement that
was threatening the stability of an American-backed
dictatorship. They hate us because an American corporation turned
their local environment into a toxic waste dump, or murdered
their union leaders, or bribed their politicians to let them
ignore worker safety in the sweatshops they opened.
9/11 taught Americans that
we are no longer immune to the long-term effects of our rulers
activities in other countries. That terrifies us, and rightly
so. Will it change the behavior of our rulers any time soon?
Of course not! With their typical shortsightedness, they will
simply crank up the security levels another few notches, trashing
any civil liberties or human rights that happen to get in the
way, just as they have always done. Things will only get worse
until Americans go into the voting booths and elect relatively
honest men and women to office with such overwhelming numbers
that the vote counts cannot be rigged and the winners will have
a real mandate to change business as usual. Of course,
that could easily lead to a military coup and civil war, as our
puppet-masters struggle to stay in power.
By and large, however, Americans are simply
too unaware, too (deliberately) badly educated to see what is
going on in the world around us, and too shortsighted and distractible
to take any sort of effective action to change things. So things
are going to get a great deal worse before they get better.
As long as prosperous nations (and the corporations
who rule them) continue to engage in political and economic policies
that victimize millions of people in poor nations, demogogues
will have little difficulty raising new generations of terrorists
who will attack the innocent citizens of those rich nations.
They dont hate us just because were rich and free,
as our politicians keep insisting; they hate us because people
acting in our names have done horrible things to them, and their
ancestors, and their fellow believers. Adding the dualistic
fantasies of religious fanatics to the situation makes solutions
even harder to find.
Save a Little Anger
Us spiritual folks arent supposed to
get angry, or so we are told. Yet, those of us on the Religious
Left should all be very, very angry at those people who
committed such horrific mass murder on September 11, 2001. All
those who belong to terrorist networks, the governments that
hide and support them, and those who profit financially and politically
from terror, deserve to be punished for the crimes they commit,
no matter what their supposed justification or their social and
But wait perhaps we should save some
of our anger, just a small bit, for their carefully unmentioned
Save a little anger
for Americas Central Intelligence Agency, who gave a bunch
of Afghan thugs (and some Saudi Arabian friends, including a
guy named Bin Laden) weapons and extensive training in how to
be terrorists, back when they were fighting the Russians for
us. You know, the same folks who trained South and Central American
death squads, and who have now gotten any remaining ethical constraints
they might have had left removed?
Save a little anger
for Americas Federal Bureau of Investigation, whom we now
know was repeatedly tipped off (along with the C.I.A.) for years
before 9/11 that terrorists were thinking about using airliners
as weapons, but who couldnt be bothered to investigate
them or to set up procedures to thwart them.
Save a little anger
for those corporations, mostly American, who have made hundreds
of millions of dollars selling jet fighters, attack helicopters,
explosives, automatic rifles, and other deadly devices to all
sides in the eternal stewpot of hate that is the Middle East.
Could it be that the reason Britains Prime Minister was
the only major international leader who supported Bushs
jihad against Iraq was the fact that his country is the largest
manufacturer of land mines in the world?
Save a little anger
for those politicians and billionaires who have callously played
the Islamic nations off against each other for over 150 years,
always backing the fascists most likely to increase profits while
ignoring or destroying democratic movements.
Save a little anger
for our supposed allies, such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United
Arab Emirates, and other Islamic states, whose Western-installed
and protected dictators have been funding terrorist groups and
individuals for decades, but whom we havent the gonads
to challenge, lest they cut off our oil supplies.
Save a little anger
for the oil companies themselves, who have not just been major
players in manipulating Middle Eastern economies and politics,
but who have carefully managed to sabotage every form of competing
energy technology of the last fifty years, ensuring that Americans
are vulnerable to economic blackmail by oil producing nations
Save a little anger
for the airlines who improved their profit margins by using overworked,
underpaid, and barely trained security personnel,
rather than hiring real professionals to screen passengers or
ride on the planes.
Finally, lets save just a little
bit of anger for ourselves. Ordinary American citizens have
let all these people get away with creating a world in which
terrorism is not just possible but damned near inevitable
and we have paid a terrible price for our unwillingness to stop
them. That price will only get higher until we stop treating
the symptoms of worldwide terrorism and start attacking the root
causes of the disease: irresponsible, greedy, power-hungry people
who consider us all terrorists and victims alike
as tools in their insane competition for world-domination. Make
no mistake about it: while Jewish Fundamentalists may only want
to rule the territory their genocidal predecessors conquered
2700 years ago, the Christian, Muslim, Marxist and Capitalist
Fundamentalists do want to rule the entire planet and
eliminate all competing worldviews.
What Will Stop Terrorism?
In the long term, its way past time
to put a permanent stop to all terrorist organizations. Yet,
terrorism will continue as long as there are ignorant, unhappy,
and impoverished people nursing legitimate grudges against rich
and powerful nations. To permanently stop terrorism, we will
have to create a world in which every nation is genuinely democratic
and every individual feels that his or her voice will be heard
without needing a gun or bomb to get attention. So we need to
use all our knowledge, skill and power to subvert, influence
and eventually overthrow every Fundamentalist, secular, or tribal
dictatorship on the planet and then take the necessary steps
to prevent any new ones from getting started. Ive been
told that this is some strange kind of imperialism,
that we shouldnt force our values on others. Well, if our
values are going to save lives, promote justice and strengthen
freedom (as distinct from just maximizing corporate profits),
then the use of our power and our wits to help remove criminals
and lunatics from ruling impoverished nations is a good idea.
It might be wise to avoid volating international law while were
doing it, however. It is the contempt that America exhibits towards
international law, and our leaders blithe assumption that
Were America, we can do whatever we want! that
gives us zero moral authority in world politics today. Of course
this liberal imperialism argument ignores the genuine
imperialism of an administration that thinks it can invade and
conquer any nation it wishes, any time it wants, and stay as
long as it likes.
Lets not neglect all the home grown,
domestic terrorist groups, either. The mass media should be clear
that Christian Militia groups are just as un-American as Islamic
ones are. The fact that the anthrax letters mailed after 9/11
were sent to liberal politicians and media people is, in fact,
a strong pointer towards domestic Christian terrorists.
So why isnt the Office of Homeland Security arresting members
of the KKK and the American Nazi Party?
Foreign based terrorism cannot be stopped
without a massive campaign to educate Third World peoples about
science, technology, and pluralistic, democratic values (the
same holds for eliminating domestic terrorism). To that end,
we need a popular wave of enthusiasm to spend a few billion dollars
to revive and deploy the Peace Corps and to send food, medicine,
tools, and (non-GMO) seeds with them. This is something for which
I would be willing to see a national draft in America and other
industrial nations. Continue to write letters to your political
representatives; they influenced Bush to suggest just such a
policy (though he made sure it wasnt funded properly).
We also need a long-term grassroots campaign
to get Congress to pass laws and the Executive Branch to enforce
them, forbidding the U.S. government and American corporations
from ever again training and equipping terrorists or insurgents,
as they did in the Middle East, Southeast Asia and Central America,
or providing chemical and biological weapons technology to dictators
(as we did with Saddam Hussein during his war wih Iran). We have
had an unforgettable lesson about the dangers of training rabid
dogs sooner or later they turn on their supposed masters.
Write more letters to your political representatives. Ask them
why they havent done it yet.
A real war against terrorism will take
decades, will cost Western economies trillions of dollars, and
will require a lowering of our obscenely wealthy standard of
living but weve already
seen the deadly alternative. Will Americans and other Westerners
be willing to do it? Probably not. We will have to lose a few
cities first, which will most likely lead to military coups disguised
as temporary states of emergency and the descent
of most western democracies into fascist police states. Once
several nukes have gone off, the environment will flip into a
nuclear winter, which will kill a significant portion of the
planets population and stimulate civil wars among the surviving
Or we could try to remember two important
rules: Regime change begins at home and Democracy
use it or lose it.