JR'S Free Thought Pages
September 11 2008
Seven after 9-11
My Canadian born but thoroughly Americanized cousin Bob sent an article to my mother titled “Let’s Not Forget 9-11”. Bob, who is a couple of years older than I and a great childhood friend, has lived and worked in the US since he was a young man. He’s a great guy and I love him dearly but the article he sent out is predictable Americana: “we’re #1”, we can do no wrong and the Lord is surely on our side”. My mother responded to the article with about as much vitriol as you will ever get from such a sweet person. I have included her response at the end of my own polemic.
The title of the article, “Let’s not forget 9-11” is a carbon copy of a hundred others with the same theme. My first reaction to it was: “How in hell can we forget 9-11”? The flag waving hyper-patriotic Americans remind themselves and the rest of the world of it every day. Frankly, we’re all getting a little sick and tired of it – and that includes my dear mother. Isn’t it nauseating enough that we have to listen to “God Bless America” and lengthy eulogies on 9-11 at every minor and professional sporting event? Last night while watching bits and pieces of the Toronto Blue Jays play the Chicago White Socks, during the middle of the seventh inning, the flags and the marching military appeared as they played “God Bless America” whilst the crowd like automatons put their hands over their hearts. I had to switch the channel before I became ill. Whatever happened to the traditional seventh inning stretch and a rendition of “Take me out to the Ball Game”? One of the commentators for the game remarked, “All I can say is thank you to our troops for protecting our freedoms”. Hello!? That statement about sums up the problem with the United States today and underscores most of their problems since at least 1945. Does anyone even in the US believe that empty platitude anymore? It’s scary.
Christians incessantly peddle the message of forgiveness and that no one is beyond redemption, in my view one of the few genuinely endearing aspects of their religion. But like the United States government’s reaction to 9-11, their actions invariably reflect the morally bankrupt Old Testament adage of “an eye for an eye”, a law of the jungle revenge mentality. This is how the present American government, dominated by vengeful uncompromising evangelicals like their intellectually challenged president George W Bush, reacted to 9-11: Someone must pay for the 3000 people who perished in the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001. Incidentally 2001 was also a year in which 30,662 Americans committed suicide and 700,142 died of heart disease. The United States ought to focus on its own problems of violence, inequality and injustice at home, a country where more blacks are in prisons than in universities and colleges (it has the highest incarceration rate in the world, with well over 2 million of its citizens in prisons), where a woman is raped every six minutes, which has the highest incidence of child poverty in the industrialized world (1 in 6 children) and ranks near the bottom in literacy and mathematical skills. The money they have squandered killing hundreds of thousands of innocent people in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan alone would have enabled them to solve most of their systemic social and economic problems, have universal health care and likely the best education system in the world.
So someone has to pay for 9-11 and it didn’t seem to matter to the Bush Administration or many Americans who pays – and as we now know, it was a huge price. Let’s not think it through rationally and calmly, but apply a knee jerk revenge mentality, vent our spleen and satisfy our implacable vengeance by bombing Afghanistan into oblivion and then occupy the country militarily in our search for one man, Osama bin Laden, who we believe to be responsible – in addition to Al Qaeda, and the Taliban. Bin Laden and the two aforementioned fanatical Islamic organizations were essentially created by those same Americans during the Soviet War against Afghanistan during the 1980s.
But that wasn’t enough to satisfy Washington, the Pentagon and the chicken hawks Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld. In 2003 the American military invaded Iraq, a country that for anyone with even a cursory understanding of history and international politics, clearly had nothing to do with 9-11 but manages to convince its credulous populace that it does, with the invaluable help of an obsequious right wing media. This, in spite of the objections of the United Nations and every other country in the world except Great Britain and their duped leader Tony Blair who mysteriously fell victim to a severe brain malfunction. Then, following the invasion, it executes its president Saddam Hussein by public hanging after a disgusting show trial and kangaroo court. They called the invasion “Shock and Awe” and after watching the horrific demolition of Baghdad which the complicit Pentagon dupes, CNN and Fox, who referred to the slaughter by employing the distinctly Orwellian phrase “Operation Iraqi Freedom”. This mantra was splashed across the screen at every news update of the hideous affair. It was like watching a violent video game and I was literally sickened by the whole affair, especially the goose stepping American television coverage.
The Americans have now bombed 25 countries since 1945, most of them multiple times. The US government justifies the trashing and subsequent occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq as “promoting democracy” (does anyone other than credulous Americans believe that worn out vacuous rhetoric?) and liberating women from the oppression of the Taliban. Here’s a factoid that flies in the face of the latter claim: The only member countries in the world that have not ratified the United Nations treaty named ‘Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women” are: Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Afghanistan and, yeah you guessed it, the United States of America!
The president of Iraq, as most of us already knew, is an oppressive dictator and US puppet originally put in power by those same Americans and supported military in the war with Iran which included chemical weapons supplied by those same Americans. Sound familiar? Millions on both sides perished in the Iran-Iraq war as psychopaths such as Donald Rumsfeld, then a member of the Reagan administration, rubbed his hands with joy. There’s a great photo op from the Reagan era with Rumsfeld embracing his pal Saddam. This is the same obtuse man who, when asked why the US military was not protecting the museums that were being looted in Baghdad following the US bombardment, glibly declared “shit happens.” But they made sure the precious oil fields were protected. Then they proceed with what now has amounted to a five year terrorism binge with well over one million innocent Iraqis dead so far, with hundreds of thousands injured, millions leaving the country pouring into Jordan and Syria and a land totally scarred beyond all recognition. And a vicious sectarian civil war is raging. But George Bush explains that God instructed him to invade Iraq (which he foolishly referred to as a “crusade” in one of his incoherent speeches). Since the invasion is endorsed by God (not Allah of course) that makes it all well and good.
So let’s drop the arrogant self-deception and face a painful truth: The troops in Afghanistan and Iraq are not promoting democracy nor fighting for peace and justice or our freedoms. Whatever the primarily working class young men who serve in the military believe or do -- and I realize that many believe they are defending us, and I know that many regularly act in compassionate and humane ways in the field -- the U.S. military, their cohorts and highly paid mercenaries are not a defensive force or humanitarian organizations. They are an offensive force that destroys vulnerable people in other third world countries to entrench reinforce the power of a small U.S. elite and deliver the short-term material benefits that come to middle- and working-class people in the empire.
May I now introduce you to my mother?
My mother has been by far the biggest influence in my life and without her, our family would not have survived, let alone flourished. In spite of the volumes of ethical theory and moral philosophy I have read, any moral sensibilities and compassion I have for my fellow earthlings, I have learned from her. I don’t believe my mother is any longer a Christian, although she had been instilled with enough fear about not being one by having her eldest son, me, baptized in the Anglican Church, feeling at the time that without the baptism I would burn in hell for eternity. Because she got older and wiser, observing the huge disconnect between Christian rhetoric and action, myth and reality, as did my four siblings and I, she became more cynical and skeptical of all religious claims. None of my brothers and sisters is at all religious and I know that at least four of us have been religious skeptics since our high school days.
My mother quite simply does not have a mean bone in her body and I have never heard her say an unkind thing about anyone. The unconditional love, sympathy and compassion she has is ascribed to the strong influence of her Swedish born father, my grandfather Grandpa Bill. Her Norwegian born mother unfortunately died when she was a young girl of only seven.
My Mom on 9-11
I agree we should not ever forget 9/11 and the loss of lives; but I cannot be convinced that by taking more and more innocent lives it will solve anything. After World War 2 we said "Never Again!" over and over and over but it hasn't helped solve wars and loss of lives. There is just too much greed and the need of power that seems to reach down to our very beings. We never seem to learn and I have given up hope. Mankind just doesn't have it in them to forgive (Maybe we should not forget) but to "GET OVER IT" and get on with preparing a better place for our children and grandchildren (and beyond; if there is to be a BEYOND) MY FATHER and Your Grandfather ; Grandpa Strom taught me to be tolerant and to care about the less fortunate. I think He was truly "Color Blind" when it came to people. I never in my years with him saw him turn away anyone in need: (whatever their race or color of their skin) and there were many in need and much worse off than we were during the depression of the 30s.He always seemed to find work and we were one of the very few families in Willow River who never had to accept welfare (or RELIEF as it was called then) More than anyone my Dad has shaped my life and the way I have lived it. I think it has been in a respectable way. I don't hate ANYONE though I may not like a person as much as another. Dad always said" You are not any better than anyone else--But always know that you are just as good." Yes: we were teased as children because of our Swedish and Norwegian backgrounds (You know: immigrant parents and worse; they were not British)!) But he always told us to be proud of our heritage and that if we weren't, we could never become whole as human beings. I believed him and have taught the same to my children. I can only hope it sunk in and I think it did. I have been thinking about this for a long time (9/11 that is) and we have to get beyond this tragedy and get on with building a better place for everyone on this great planet.
AMEN. Sept 8 2008