A DUTCH PERSPECTIVE Thoughts About the Suicidal Crash Bombings Are We Asking The Right Questions? [Archives:2001/43/Focus]
18 September 2001
1-The first shock
A sense of horror crossed each individual’s thoughts and resonated around the world in the immediate aftermath of these tragic events. At a first glance, we cannot grasp the full implications of the crash bombings we have witnessed. As the smoke clears up, so should our thoughts. Influenced by the wise discourses of moral and intellectual leaders and by our own rational faculties, we must get the pieces of this puzzle into the right spots.
The great danger is that we shall be carried away by our emotions.
Anger and fear are the worst councilors of human affairs. Instead, we should be gathering facts and turning our attention towards real world circumstances, by asking ourselves the following questions: Why this happened? What must we do now?
2- Wealth and freedom
President Bush’s comments do not seem very helpful. He claimed several times that terrorists (whom he calls “terris”) hate America of her “wealth and freedom”. This simplistic explanation just serves to delude Americans by making them believe that their nation is an innocent victim and that nothing they done wrong can have contributed to this tragedy.
3-Cowardly ‘hit and run’ attack
Bush also said that these “hit and run terrorists” have committed a “cowardly attack”. These comments are equally foolish. Regarding of our sense of horror, we must acknowledge instead the bravery of those who carried out these acts of terror, as they gave their lives!
Let us imagine how difficult that must have been. Very few Japanese Kamikaze pilots hit targets during the second World War. The instincts of self-preservation rise with such force that the conscious decision to commit suicidal acts are confounded in ways that overwhelm the rational (or perhaps irrational) decisions of the individuals.
Yet, these pilots did not fluke.
The second aircraft which went into the Twin Towers made course corrections during the last seconds before and up to impact. The individuals who carried out these acts were not running anywhere. We may hate them for what they did, but ignoring their bravery and idealism can be perilous.
You must know your enemies…not reduce them to caricatures of evil.
The USpresident also characterized the hijackers as “immoral men.” The morality issue used to describe the terrorists is a fraught with a profound philosophical problem: how to deal with terrorists struggling against crushing oppression? Perhaps their willingness to give their lives for their cause elevates them to moral heights unfamiliar to us comfortably seated in our middle class homes.
We cannot call anyone immoral because his conceptual framework of values is different form ours; for the mistaken and fanatical, perhaps, but that is another issue. The fundamentalist interpretation of Islam may be evil but that tells nothing about the individuals themselves.
President Bush Jr. has failed in his first test by leading the nation in self-congratulory delusion by failing to address the essential question of why this happened. Searching introspection and a desire to understand the reasons behind the terrorists’ motivations have not yet been worked out. We must hope that, before the rumbles would be cleared away, this process shall indeed have taken place. Otherwise, America may commit tragic mistakes in its decision on what to do next.
5-Is America partially responsible?
Within the contemporary western paradigm, slaughter of non-combatant civilians is considered a war crime. However, the line between combatants and non-combatants may not be unambiguous. In a dictatorship, civilians cannot be held responsible for the acts of their government. Is this so clear in a democracy? Perhaps, every American citizen should recognize a share of responsibility for the acts of state sponsored terror committed by their government.
An estimated two million South East Asian non-combatants were slaughtered during US military operation “Rolling Thunder” in the end of the sixties and the subsequent bombings of Laos and Cambodia.
It should also be remember that this was part of a war against democracy, as America’s leaders understood that free elections would have swept Ho Chi Min to power. How ironic for the champions of democracy which America aspire to be. This pattern has been present a pattern in many periods of American foreign policy.
The Nixon/ Kissinger thugs have the blood of many innocent people on their hands, including democratically elected and popular heads of foreign states with whom America was not at war at the time of their assassinations. At the same time, pragmatic alliances with repressive non-democratic regimes, some of whom should be viewed as occupying powers in their countries, are still widely practiced.
Can America with a clear conscience claim no responsibility for the activity of their leaders?
All across the United States candles are being lit for the victims of the crash bombings. Who is mourning for the estimated 200,000 Iraqi conscripts who had no other choice but being enrolled in the army and who died during Operation Desert Storm and its lengthy intensive carpet bombing campaign?
In a grotesque display of self-centered hubris, Presented Bush Sr. declared that the war had been ended “without any casualties,” revealing how deep was his disregard for non-American humanity.
Furthermore, the protracted ineffective action against Iraq, including the sanctions, have played a enormous role in the ongoing death of tens of thousands of Iraqi children and a growing widespread disrespect towards America. This come not only because of the disregard it shows for the plight of the civilian people trapped in their nation, but also because of a military operation that was brought to a premature end. That was a job not well done!
Every time I hear an American president declaring that actions are to be taken to protect American interests, with an underlying message saying that actions are to be solely taken to protect American interest, I cringe with vicarious embarrassment at the complete disregard for non-American interests.
Americans should be appalled too. Bush’s rejection for the Kyoto agreement is another example of American offense against the world community, and even against America’s traditional allies.
Contrary to Bush’s foolish claims, Americans are NOT admired for their wealth and freedom. They are despised in many regions for their perceived indifference from the aspirations and rights of others.
6- Primary causes
America’s contribution to injustices against the various nations of the Islamic world figure in our answer on why. America’s proxy state in the Middle East, Israel, commits serial crimes against humanity with impunity, such as ethnic cleansing (which is the basis of Israel’s existence; see “The Iron Wall”), shooting children for the crime of throwing stones, executing raids of retorsion during which they bulldoze Palestinian homes, and confiscate more land for Jewish settlements. As long as these actions continue, the United States shall increasingly become the focus of hatred from the dispossessed people of Palestine who rightly see themselves as victims.
Israel is a regional superpower because of the financial and military aid received from the United States. Americans cannot therefore wash their hands of the ongoing horrible situation in the Palestinian Occupied Territories.
The current Israeli Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, is a war criminal. In case readers have any doubts about this, they should know that second World War “war criminals” were tried and executed on the basis of thinner evidence than the ones at hand to tie Sharon to the genocidal killings committed in Sabra and Chatila refugees camps in the beginning of the eighties.
He has so far used the American crisis to cancel planned resumption of peace negotiations and to send Israeli tanks once again into the gulag of Palestinian settlements.
America’s proxy wars against Communism have left many third world countries in shambles which may have the potential to become breeding grounds for terrorism. The Mujahideen and the Islamic revival of jihad in Afghanistan were fostered by the CIA. In cooperation with Saudi and Pakistani intelligence, the seeds of fundamentalist violence were planted in schools of hate during the Cold War thanks to American tax payers who paid hundreds of millions of dollars. It was a success, as the Soviet Army was forced to pull out from Afghanistan in 1989. However, the legacy of this covert war is a land awash with weapons, religious zealotry, injecting its systemic poison into Islamic world on all sides (See The Economist, Sep. 15, pg.19).
After the Soviet withdrawal, the backing Americans lost interest and left the country, imagining that by ignoring Afghanistan the problem would go away.
The future of ordinary Afghanis, after all, was not an American problem.
Now, the apprentice became his own master and has taken the holy war into the corrupt and repressive regimes of the Gulf States, the Eastern and Southern Mediterranean regions, and even into its sorcerer, the United States. Americans would do justice to history by recognizing that they are reaping the bitter harvest of their own doing.
7- The second question
The United States of America is a great nation. The world would have been a very different place if the Cold War had been won by the Soviet Union or the People’s Republic of China. Hope for the future of all mankind flows from the example given by the American open society.
Indeed, it is American citizens who brought the atrocities of the Vietnam War to an end by using protests and civil disobedience. An equivalent self- correcting moral compass is absent in Russia where the Kremlin is pretty much insulated from domestic protest against its war in Chechnya.
It was by the exercise of checks and balances of power that the gangsters of the Nixon era were finally exposed and sent to jail.
A recent BBC documentary presented interviews with American citizens living in small towns. Some of them were asking, “Why do they hate us so much?” in a tone one might expect from a surprised and hurt child. There is a sense of innocence and goodwill about many ordinary Americans, some of whom do not seem to understand how nasty the world can be and to be aware of the degree to which their own government has at time contributed to this resentment. At least these people are asking the right question.
On the other hand, a survey made one week after the bombings revealed that 79% of Americans wanted to strike back “even if that means killing innocent civilians” on the other side.
Apparently, the majority of Americans are willing to become terrorists themselves. Indeed, the word “terrorists” is the only acceptable generic definition.
It is good that people are drawn together in times of national emergency to a singular purpose. However, the psychology of a collective group does not always promote subtle thinking.
With growing alarm, I detect a mood of bellicose jingoism rising in the United States. On the vote to authorize the use of force, only one dissenting voice was heard. Too few.
We should not loose sight of the danger coming from those who decided to combat evil themselves until death.
Sadly, Americans have an unfortunate inclination to choose simplistic paths to solve complex problems.
The war on drugs is an example of such an ill-conceived national crusade:
-It distorts the American way of life by robbing freedom that was once taken for granted.
-It has resulted in the destabilization of Colombia and Panama and has corrupted the governmental operations throughout the region.
-It has driven up the price of drugs and increased the association of drug traders who, ironically, are contributing to the funding of Osama Bin Laden.
-It is draining the US treasury into overt and covert wars against civil liberties in South American and must be given a more dismal prognosis for success.
The reflex to declare another UN-war, that can won, should be opposed by all Americans.
The Ancient Greek word “idiot” means “one who does not participate actively in politics.”
Have Americans become a nation of idiots? Let us hope that this is not the case.
It is a civic duty, perhaps a moral obligation, of each citizen in democratic nations to keep informed, to think critically, and act rationally and proactively in order to influence the affairs of their governments.
This is especially important in the United States led today by an incoherent president routinely making statements full of stunning foolishness.
The best of America must be called upon to deal smartly and smoothly with this crisis.
A military operation alone may be transformed into another exercise of state sponsored terrorism. If the dispossessed of the Middle East find that hope and all means of achieving their objectives are taken from them, they shall increasingly resort to desperate measures.
Destabilization of Pakistan could result in nuclear weapons falling in the hands of the terrorists.
United States and her allies may get involved into a protracted conflict across hostile territories and against the will of numerous people that has never being seen before.
Shall America occupy the entire Arab world and place armed marines at every street corner in the same way that Britain did in Northern Ireland but unsuccessfully?
Perhaps, the generals and those responsible at the Pentagon will choose to arm the Afghan insurgents of the northern parts and make the same errors than in the past.
The war against terrorism must become in the first place a crusade against international injustice, poverty and oppression. It must become a campaign of meaningful words and effective deeds to win the hearts and minds of the Islamic world.
If not the nation shall find itself bleeding is strength away in hopeless conflicts and we will see our cities suffering from new and more terrible suicidal crash bombings than those seen lately.