Showing posts with label september 11. Show all posts
Showing posts with label september 11. Show all posts


what i'm reading: wild by cheryl strayed, zeitoun by dave eggers

I've just finished two truly excellent works of nonfiction: Wild and Zeitoun. Both books read like fiction, with clean, clear writing and page-turning suspense. Both document almost unbelievable, out-sized events, in one case likely unique, in the other - horribly - anything but. I highly recommend both books.

I didn't expect to like Wild. Something about the phrase "best-selling memoir" just turns me off. But when the book was chosen as one of my Library's "Raves and Faves," I was intrigued. Those are always excellent books. (I'm quite proud that all five of my Raves and Faves suggestions made the list!)

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Coast Trail is a story of perseverance and redemption. Her life unhinged, battered by loss and confusion, the author decides to undertake a wilderness backpacking expedition. This is no casual walk in the woods; she's chosen a trail for which experienced backpackers may spend a year in training and research. Strayed is completely inexperienced and almost comically unprepared - comic, that is, if the consequences of failure weren't potentially life-threatening. At several points in the book, I thought, "Well, she must survive, because she wrote this book...".

Wild is suspenseful, moving, sad, uplifting, heartrending, and joyous. I was filled with wonder at this woman's strength, tenacity, and resilience. Wild left me contemplating that potential in all of us.

Zeitoun is also a nonfiction page-turner. It's almost impossible to write about Zeitoun without spoiling it, and the way in which the story unfolds gives it tremendous power. Perhaps most people reading this review already know the terrible punchline.

Zeitoun is the story of one man's, and one family's, ordeal during and after Hurricane Katrina. It is a story that sits at the intersection of two American nightmares: Katrina and the post-9/11 police state.

It is an answer to every person who feels "police state" and "fascism" are hyperbole when applied to the United States. In truth, that depends on your zip code, your skin colour, and your last name.

Considering I last visited New Orleans in 1992, I have a strangely personal relationship with Hurricane Katrina. August 30, 2005, the day Katrina hit New Orleans, was one of the most momentous days of my life: the day my partner and I moved to Canada. As with any move of this magnitude, we were unplugged from the world - no TV, no internet - for a couple of days before, and at least two days after. When we were back online, I struggled to take in the magnitude of what had happened. No matter how much we read, I felt like I never caught up.

In the 10 years since, in any story about the Katrina disaster, the dates jump out at me. I คาสิโนออนไลน์ แจกเครดิตฟรี 2019can picture us clearly, driving The World's Fullest Minivan, my beloved Buster between us, Cody hunkered in a cave in the back, starting our new life. Right at those moments, tens of thousands of lives were shattered, ruined, or ended.

The Zeitouns' story is compelling, heroic, and deeply frightening. If you've ever been inclined to think, "That wouldn't happen here," or "But they would never do that", know that it did, and they already have.

As with What Is The What, Dave Eggers is using proceeds from this book to fund many very important and worthwhile causes. I highly recommend picking up a copy.


kevin vickers, nathan cirillo, and canada's response to recent acts of violence

I've been thinking a lot about Kevin Vickers. By now the world knows Vickers' name: he is the sergeant-at-arms of the Parliament of Canada, and his quick thinking and courage undoubtedly saved lives. Vickers shot killed Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, who had already killed one person and appeared intent on killing others.

Vickers is a hero. But my thoughts of him are filled not with adulation, but with sorrow. Imagine going to work one day, a day like any other, and by the time the day is done, you have taken a human life. You have killed a man at close range. What could that be like? It would not be surprising if Vickers will grapple with flashbacks, night terrors, or other forms of PTSD. Despite Vickers' courage and his new celebrity, I'd bet that few of us would want to stand in his shoes.

I've also been thinking of Nathan Cirillo, because it's impossible not to. Although I consume very little mainstream media, a short dip into my Facebook feed is enough: the dog Cirillo left behind, the outpouring of public grief, the obligatory "Highway of Heroes" photos.

Cirillo was a victim, and he did nothing to deserve such a fate. I feel for those who knew and loved him. But what makes Cirillo a hero? Guarding a war memorial surely is not an act of heroism. Is simply putting on a uniform a heroic act? Cirillo's death was senseless and tragic, but it was not heroic.

Of course, hero is a word that's lost all meaning, joining ironic, obviously, and traumatized on the ever-growing list of words that are used so carelessly and so often as to lose all meaning. Hero just might claim pride of place at the very top of that list. But the hero-worship of anyone in uniform is part of the creeping militarization of our society.

I've also been thinking about violence, and how we choose to respond to violence. After the attacks of September 11, 2001, the US government constantly invoked fear in order to advance its agenda: war on people who had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks, repression of domestic dissent, spying on US citizens.

That response also included the widespread use of torture, and a concentration camp that, more than a decade later, still exists. Even if one believes, despite all facts and evidence, that the people of Iraq and Afghanistan were somehow responsible for the 9/11 attacks, the US's response was something like killing a mosquito with a hand grenade. By now it should be clear that the US government had its own agenda, and 9/11 provided the excuse.

Norway, on the other hand, chose a different path: it answered hate with love. After 77 people were massacred on Ut?ya island, the Norwegian government affirmed the open nature of Norwegian society and pursued charges against the perpetrator within the boundaries of Norwegian law.
These are the originals for the memorials which, from the 22 July anniversary, will be sent out to more than 50 counties across Norway, to commemorate the 77 people massacred by Anders Breivik, the far-right extremist who goes on trial this week.

On each of them, words have been carved from a poem by the Norwegian writer Laes Saabye Christensen that was recited at the memorial concert for the victims. This poem, with its message of peace, followed the tone set by prime minister Jens Stoltenberg in his address at the memorial service in Oslo cathedral two days after the tragedy.

"We are still shocked by what has happened, but we will never give up our values," Stoltenberg said. "Our response is more democracy, more openness, and more humanity." Norway, he suggested, would not seek vengeance as America had done after the 9/11 attacks." We will answer hatred with love," he said.

"It's a clear case where a politician strikes a chord," said Frank Aarebrot, a professor of politics at the University of Bergen. "The prime minister struck almost a Churchillian note in that speech. People were jubilant."

Norway has granted every legal right to Breivik, despite hearing in gruesome detail of how he coldly executed 56 of his victims with shots to the head, after attacking a Labour party youth camp on the island of Ut?ya, near Oslo.
Canada has a choice.

On one side stands fear, suspicion, bigotry, and repression, a society where people are feared and attacked because of their appearance and surnames, where people are afraid to exercise their right to criticize the government. On that side, too, stands war: the death and destruction of innocent people, citizens turned into shells of themselves because of what they've witnessed and what they've been asked to do.

On the other side stands democracy, freedom of expression, pluralism, inclusion, human rights, and peace.

What kind of country do we want Canada to be?

Do we want the Harper Government to decide that for us?


wmtc trolls are alive and as insane as ever

I haven't been writing much lately, so it's good to know loyal wmtc readers are still reading every post. Well, one is, anyway.

Yes folks, a full seven years after first appearing in comments on this blog in the guise of a female fan, the freak we call Mags is still spewing his bile on a regular basis. We delete most of the comments without reading, but once in a while, it's good to share.

For the record, I regard every one of those (nearly) 3,000 victims of September 11, 2001, and their loved ones, among the extremely long list of victims of US imperialism. I have mourned them all. Not a one deserved their fate.

I merely recognize that their numbers are dwarfed by the millions of unacknowledged victims of US imperialism and other wars the world over. And I've had my fill (and then some) of the US exceptionalism and UScentrism that fetishizes the event.

I know you all know that. But some things just need to be said, even if it brings attention to the class clown that we normally ignore.

September 12, 2001: a view from new york.

September 11, 2010: it is so time to be over 9.11

September 11, 2011: 9.11.11: an anti-remembrance

It appears that in 2012 I ignored the day completely!

And on the endlessly fascinating, maddeningly inscrutable topic of trolls, I am still wondering, why, why, why???

Scrolling through the "wingnuts" wmtc category, I notice that I also mentioned Mags when we returned from Spain in late May. I must be running out of material!*

* Not really.


the other september 11, why "they" might hate "us", and the right to live in peace

For many people in the world, especially people in South America, the date September 11 was significant long before 2001. On that date in 1973, Augusto Pinochet, with the help of the United States government, overthrew the democratically elected, socialist government of Salvador Allende. Allende was either murdered or forced into suicide. Pinochet then installed a military dictatorship that ruled Chile until 1990, and was responsible for tens of thousands of deaths, tortures, and disappearances, along with right-wing economic policies that were equally brutal.

I often think of the Chilean overthrow, as I do about another CIA overthrow 12 years earlier, of the equally democratically-elected and similarly leftist government of Patrice Lumumba, of the Republic of Congo. Lumumba was also assassinated. I think about the blinding frustration, the anger - no, the rage - I would feel if this had happened in my own country. If a people's candidate, a champion of the working class, had risen up through popular means and had been popularly elected... only to see a foreign power with great amounts of money and military power swoop in, kill that leader, and install a government more friendly to their own interests - a murderous dictatorship.

I think of this often when I hear that USians wonder, Why do they hate us? Of course, most Americans know very little about their country's foreign policy, and have even less control over it. Still, I think of Chile, and of the former Republic of Congo, when I read liberal journalists contemplating that "America may no longer be a force for good in the world".

I think of this when USians take offense that September 11 is not a day of mourning all over the world.

* * * *

The US's role in the 1973 Chilean coup d'etat is undisputed. Canada's response, however, is typically less obvious and a bit more ambiguous. David Heap writes at
Aerial bombings, tanks in the streets, widespread terrorizing of civilians by soldiers and secret police: this was the horror unleashed on September 11, 1973 by the military coup d’état in Chile. Led by Augusto Pinochet and other generals with U.S. backing, the coup overthrew President Salvador Allende's democratically elected Popular Unity government, and brought in a brutal military dictatorship that lasted for 17 years.

Canada's official attitude towards the coup might be politely called 'ambivalent.' Some Canadian banks and mining interests openly supported the military take-over as a good investment opportunity. Our ambassador to Chile's rather sympathetic attitude toward the generals led to a rapid recognition of the military junta.

When embassy officials Mark Dolgin and David Adam allowed a handful of asylum-seekers to take refuge at our Santiago embassy, Foreign Affairs tried to shut the door on any more. The ambassador's classified cables, which called asylum-seekers 'riff-raff' and the military killings 'abhorrent but understandable,' were leaked by Bob Thomson, a federal CIDA employee in Ottawa.

Those leaks cost Thomson his job but helped build a public clamour in favour of offering refuge to those who needed it. At the time, Canada's lack of a formal refugee policy left these life-and-death decisions to ministerial discretion. Questions were raised in Parliament, church groups and unions called for more asylum, the media picked up the story, and solidarity activists occupied federal offices in four cities across the country: this growing groundswell in the fall of 1973 eventually led to 'Special Movement Chile' opening the doors for thousands of Chilean refugees fleeing Pinochet's terror to find safety in Canada.

That historic example of citizen action underscores the importance conscientious dissent. Whether high-profile whistleblowers like Manning and Snowden or rank-and-file war resisters who refuse to participate in war crimes, conscientious dissenters deserve honour and protection, rather than vilification and prosecution. Though their individual circumstances may be less dramatic, the same lesson applies to many conscientious scientists and researchers whose work is threatened or suppressed by the Harper government's ideological preference for evidence-free policy-making.

Many victims of military repression never reach asylum of course, but those who remember the tortured, murdered and 'disappeared' can take some comfort in the knowledge that there is no statute of limitations for war crimes and crimes against humanity. The renowned Chilean folk-singer Victor Jara was among those tortured and killed in the early days of the coup, and this year several military officers deemed responsible for his death are finally coming to trial. Some of the accused trained at the infamous School of the Americas (aka School of Assassins: they put Pinochet’s ceremonial sword on display) at Fort Benning Georgia, where human rights vigils continue to call for closure every year.

. . . .The poignant title of one of Jara's most famous songs and albums (El derecho de vivir en paz, 1971) is still relevant today as it sums up the deepest wishes of so many people. A film about his life and an exhibit of rare historic materials from the Chilean resistance against the coup both bear the name of the same song, inviting us to remember and reflect on those ideals for today and tomorrow: 'The right to live in peace.'
Read this eye-opening story here.


never forget, onion style

I think The Onion has outdone itself this time.
From the Structural Steel Melt on Tower 7–Grain bread to the Twin Chowers cold cut combo with Ground Zero–Carb vinaigrette on a Let’s Whole Wheat Roll, we’ve got something for everybody this Subtember 11.
Click here.


cantabria to gernika and bilbao, part 1

I almost forgot to mention, we had some interesting news from home. Everything is fine now, but Essie had her hands full for a while!

I warned Essie about the danger of skunks in our backyard after dark: absolutely never, ever let the dogs run out into the backyard after dark!! I've lost track of how many times our dogs have been skunked, and I'm determined to make sure it never happens again.

But there's no accounting for early-morning skunks!

Maybe this skunk was an early riser or maybe he was staggering home from an all-nighter, but either way, a skunk and our dogs greeted each other at around 7:00 in the morning. I won't go into details, but Essie handled it heroically. Luckily I caught up with her by text and phone before she went to too much unnecessary effort.

Then Essie took the dogs to the dogpark. When she went to leave, our car wouldn't start! Some nice people at the park had booster cables and helped her out. That has never happened to us, ever.

Apparently canines and cars have been normal since then. But wow!

* * * *

We left Santillana del Mar early in the morning and headed west, towards the region of Basque Country, Euskadi in Basque, Pais Vasco in Spanish. It was a pretty drive through the country, and when we got towards the Basque region, the road was more mountainous and close to the sea.

I had a bit of concern going there without being able to speak a word of Euskara. Many Basques do not like to speak Spanish, as they seek to be independent of Spain. But their own language is barely spoken outside of their province: it is a language with no known family. So Spanish would be the language of tourism and general currency. But still, I don't want to be rude or offensive.

We drove first to Gernika, to see the Gernika Peace Museum. Gernika is the Basque name for Guernica, the town that on April 26, 1937, Hitler and Franco tried to bomb into submission, the atrocity commemorated in Picasso's famous painting. The bombing of Gernika marked the first time a civilian population was intentionally targetted by aerial weaponry as a method of breaking the people and their movement. Gernika was specifically chosen because the Basque people were strongly represented in the Spanish Republican (anti-fascist) movement.

We drove into the town and parked, then asked a passerby for direction, then later on another, naturally speaking Spanish. They were both so friendly and helpful that I immediately had a good feeling about being there.

The museum is divided into three main parts: reflections on the meaning of peace, what happened to Gernika in the absence of peace, and what about peace in the world today? (If you are interested, this link has some of the many subcategories of each part.)

I found the reflections on the meaning of peace very significant. Peace is more than the absence of war. An oppressive government can enforce an absence of armed conflict. A grossly unequal society may appear to be at peace. But if people are forced into submission, can peace be said to exist? There is also personal peace, peace of mind and of heart. But even that can be the illusion of peace, of living in a personal bubble of denial. By inviting you to contemplate these ideas, the museum prepares you for what happens in the absence of peace. You move from the general (peace) to the specific (Gernika) and back to the general (truth and reconciliation, human rights).

One multimedia section puts you in a typical Gernika home, listening to a survivor speak (translated), then you hear the bombing, and the scene changes; you see destruction all around you. Another video looks at reconciliation efforts: Ireland, Guatemala, South Africa, Australia.
On May 12, 1999, the New York Times reported that, after sixty-one years, in a declaration adopted on April 24, 1999, the German Parliament formally apologized to the citizens of Guernica for the role the Condor Legion played in bombing the town. The German government also agreed to change the names of some German military barracks named after members of the Condor Legion. By contrast, no formal apology to the city has ever been offered by the Spanish government for whatever role it may have played in the bombing.
The final section of the museum reflects on universal human rights. Without them, there can be no real peace.

In all, the Gernika Peace Museum is a very special place. If you ever go to this part of Spain, perhaps to visit the Bilbao Guggenheim, I highly recommend spending a few hours in this wonderful museum. The signage is in Euskara and Spanish, but on admission, you receive printed information - an entire book that walks you through every exhibit - in the language of your choice.

There is a copy of Picasso's painting in the museum, and a ceramic tile version on a wall in town. The museum itself occupies pride of place in the centre of town. I would be so proud to live in a town that, despite its suffering, places a peace museum in the heart of its community.

* * * *

We drove from Gernika to Bilbao with no problem, but the moment we left the highway, we were lost. What else is new. Once in town, off the highway, our directions from Google Maps rarely correspond to reality on the ground.

Rather than waste any time driving around blindly, I asked Allan to park, then we asked for directions at a newsstand. The newsstand person put on her glasses, took out a map, looked in the index for the street name, and gave us general directions in slow, clear Spanish, even telling me a couple of key words in Euskara to help me navigate.

Because of one-way streets and general confusion, we had to stop again, this time near a lively pedestrian area where people were eating and drinking with their families. (It was Sunday.) A bunch of people were looking at a map of the city, and I kind of crept up until they noticed me. I said in Spanish, "We are lost..." and they all gave us the map and discussed our directions. And this is the biggest city in the Basque Country province. So by now my fears about language were put to rest.

From there, we had a general idea where to go, but nothing too specific. We drove over a bridge with the Guggenheim right next to us! Then around to another bridge going in the opposite direction. I saw a parking lot and implored Allan to go right in.

I thought we were in walking distance from the museum, so I thought, rather than drive around looking for the hotel, let's park, see the museum, and we'll deal with the rest later. We have a reservation and I've asked the hotel to hold it til late. I can write down the name of the street where we're parked, call the hotel, and get directions from there. (If this seems too detailed, I'm recording this for a reason.)

With the car safely tucked away, we walked down a lovely pedestrian esplanade, with the river on one side and tram tracks on the other. People were out walking, many with dogs, children were playing, the sun was shining. It was lovely.

A large group of people walking Greyhound dogs appeared. It was a Greyhound parade! Many of the dogs wore sweaters saying "Adopta Un Galgo," sweaters perfectly tailored to the Greyhounds' svelte physique. The dogs were lovely. Seeing the dog rescue group, I remembered that earlier in the day, we had heard frantic barking but saw no dog. We saw a car pulling a trailer, a small, low trailer like you'd use to transport tools, and realized in horror that a dog must be inside. Believe me, this did not look like a humane way to transport a living creature. Now I realized that must have been a racing dog inside.

We took a flyer, and I've since learned that Spain has a huge dog-racing business. Galgo is the Spanish word for racing dogs. The Galgo rescue group meets on the last Sunday of every month at Puppy, better known as El Poop, the giant begonia-covered sculpture of a dog by Jeff Koons that stands in front of the Bilbao Guggenheim. (Begonias are a Basque symbol.) Check out the Galgo rescue group's lovely logo.

We walked a short while, and soon the Bilbao Guggenheim appeared. Like most art, it's even more impressive in person than in photos. We walked all around it taking pictures, crossing the pedestrian bridge to get the famous view you always see.

After this, we walked around to the front of the museum. (What you usually see is the back. The Puppy sculpture is the other side.) As we were coming around, I saw the giant "i" symbol for tourist information. I said to Allan, it's Sunday afternoon, what are the odds that it's open. But we saw someone inside, and went in.

I said, "We have a hotel reservation, but we cannot find the hotel." The info desk person asked for the name of the hotel. I said, "Hostal Bego?a. We are parked at Pio Baroja." She took out a map and showed me Hostal Bego?a... around the corner from Pio Baroja. We had parked around the corner from the hotel!

She gave us the map... and then locked the door behind us! We found them a few moments before they closed!

Photos of the Gernika Peace Museum and the Guernica reproduction are here.


it is so time to be over 9.11

Enough about September 11.

Not for those who lost loved ones that day. Not for those who suffered serious trauma and need to mark the anniversary for emotional and spiritual reasons. That's a personal matter.

But for the US. For the world. Enough already.

On September 11, 2001, the people of the United States got a small taste of the terror and pain that so much of the world has lived with for so long, and continues to live with. The people of the United States got a small sample of what their own country has done to dozens of nation-states over decades and centuries of its history. That includes "its own people," as some are so fond of saying.

There are, and may always be, very real and unanswered questions about why the several official stories of what happened that day make absolutely no sense. (If you think "conspiracy theorists" are nuts, you should hear what the government says!) If you are interested in my thoughts and feelings about that, these posts might be a good start: part one, part two, part three, part four. See comments in those posts for more links. The search for truth should never end.

But as some kind of iconic day of remembrance, some touchstone of world history, September 11 is a teardrop in an ocean.

September 11, 2001 was one day. About 3,000 people were killed.

The United States invaded Iraq seven years ago. About 100,000 Iraqis and 4,700 occupying troops have been killed.

And that's just Iraq. How about this list?

As a New Yorker, I lived through September 11 in a way many Americans did not. Not the way people working in the World Trade Center that day did, or the people on the planes. Not the firefighters and their families. Not my co-worker whose uncle was a window-washer, working the moment the plane hit. Or the classmate of my niece who left for school that sunny morning and never saw her parents again. Despite my good fortune, the memory of the event feels deep and personal to me. I understand the gravity of the day; I witnessed the aftermath.

But what business do I have publicly commemorating the day, nine years later? And even more so, what business do I have expecting the rest of the world to do so?

On September 11, 2001 the people of the United States learned that war isn't only something that happens in faraway places. Then their government - predictably, inevitably - used that lesson as an excuse to advance a police state at home, and conquest and occupation abroad.

It is a symbol of United States arrogance and Americentrism that the US government, the media and so many Americans continue to mark the day.


chris hedges: we are what we loathe

Although the big 9/11 anniversary was weeks ago, Chris Hedges' observations are relevant every day.

This is a truly excellent piece. This excerpt is not the lede. The beginning of this essay may be triggering for some, as Hedges was at the World Trade Center on the morning of September 11, and recounts part of what he witnessed.
I returned that night to the newsroom hacking from the fumes released by the burning asbestos, jet fuel, lead, mercury, cellulose and construction debris. I sat at my computer, my thin paper mask still hanging from my neck, trying to write and catch my breath. All who had been at the site that day were noticeable in the newsroom because they were struggling for air. Most of us were convulsed by shock and grief.

There would soon, however, be another reaction. Those of us who were close to the epicenters of the 9/11 attacks would primarily grieve and mourn. Those who had some distance would indulge in the growing nationalist cant and calls for blood that would soon triumph over reason and sanity. Nationalism was a disease I knew intimately as a war correspondent. It is anti-thought. It is primarily about self-exaltation. The flip side of nationalism is always racism, the dehumanization of the enemy and all who appear to question the cause. The plague of nationalism began almost immediately.

. . . .

The dead in the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania were used to sanctify the state’s lust for war. To question the rush to war became to dishonor our martyrs. Those of us who knew that the attacks were rooted in the long night of humiliation and suffering inflicted by Israel on the Palestinians, the imposition of our military bases in the Middle East and in the brutal Arab dictatorships that we funded and supported became apostates. We became defenders of the indefensible. We were apologists, as Christopher Hitchens shouted at me on a stage in Berkeley, “for suicide bombers.”

Because few cared to examine our activities in the Muslim world, the attacks became certified as incomprehensible by the state and its lap dogs, the press. Those who carried out the attacks were branded as rising out of a culture and religion that was at best primitive and probably evil. The Quran—although it forbids suicide as well as the murder of women and children—was painted as a manual for fanaticism and terror. The attackers embodied the titanic clash of civilizations, the cosmic battle under way between good and evil, the forces of light and darkness. . . .

What was played out in the weeks after the attacks was the old, familiar battle between force and human imagination, between the crude instruments of violence and the capacity for empathy and understanding. Human imagination lost. Coldblooded reason, which does not speak the language of the imagination, won. We began to speak and think in the empty, mindless nationalist clichés about terror that the state handed to us. We became what we abhorred. The deaths were used to justify pre-emptive war, invasion, Shock and Awe, prolonged occupation, targeted assassinations, torture, offshore penal colonies, gunning down families at checkpoints, massive aerial bombardments, drone attacks, missile strikes and the killing of dozens and soon hundreds and then thousands and later tens of thousands and finally hundreds of thousands of innocent people. We produced piles of corpses in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan, and extended the reach of our killing machine to Yemen and Somalia. And by beatifying our dead, by cementing into the national psyche fear and the imperative of permanent war, and by stoking our collective humiliation, the state carried out crimes, atrocities and killings that dwarfed anything carried out against us on 9/11. The best that force can do is impose order. It can never elicit harmony. And force was justified, and is still justified, by the first dead. Ten years later these dead haunt us like Banquo’s ghost.
Read it here.


9.11.11: an anti-remembrance

Ten years on.

Ten years of Islamophobia, endless war, the open rationalization of torture and massacre.

Ten years of surveillance, insidiously creeping police state, witch hunts, shredding of personal freedoms.

Nine years of torture, medical experiments, indefinite, illegal detention, and massive human rights abuses in the US-run concentration camp known as Guantanamo Bay.

Ten years of the escalation of a brutal sleight of hand that advances western corporate interests above the basic human rights of millions while pretending to be a force for world peace and security, known as the War on Terror.

I'm not reading one single reflection, not watching one commemoration, not answering one "where were you" question, and certainly not listening to anyone else's boring, inconsequential story of where they were when they heard the news.

It makes me want to shout: Go away! Go the fuck away! All of you fixating on this one event, the whole world expected to stand in hushed silence because a bad thing happened to Americans. How many war crimes have been committed since then, excused away because of 9/11? How many unrelated massacres and acts of terrorism and personal tragedies? Get over yourselves!

Some earlier wmtc 9/11-related posts:

2010: it is so time to be over 9.11.

Who is responsible for the attacks of September 11, 2001, and why do you think you know the answer to that question? A 9/11 discussion part one, part two, part three, part four. If you're interested, don't miss the comments.

Thoughts and conversation on the expression "conspiracy theory": part one, part two.

My thoughts on some great 9/11-related art: In the Shadow of No Tower by Art Spiegelman.


survivor of hate crime fighting to save assailant's life: join his mission for a world without hate

In Texas, the survivor of a vicious hate crime is campaigning to spare the life of his assailant, who murdered two other people and is scheduled to be executed today.

I collect these kinds of stories, and one day I'd like to write more about why I find them so incredibly powerful. But with my Friday deadline looming and much still to do, I will add this to the "blog about someday" list, and just pass this story to you.

Rais Bhuiyan's website is here: World Without Hate. After reading this story below, I hope you will sign his petition to try to save Mark Stroman's life.
Mark Anthony Stroman, 41, a stonecutter from Dallas, shot people he believed were Arabs, saying he was enraged by the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. He killed at least two: Vasudev Patel, an Indian immigrant who was Hindu, and Waqar Hasan, a Muslim born in Pakistan.

A third shooting victim, Rais Bhuiyan, 37, a former Air Force pilot from Bangladesh, survived after Mr. Stroman shot him in the face at close range. Mr. Stroman admitted to the shootings. He is scheduled to be executed on Wednesday.

Mr. Bhuiyan, despite being partly blinded in his right eye, has spent the past several months creating a Web site with a petition and meeting with officials in Texas to try to persuade the state to spare Mr. Stroman.

Mr. Bhuiyan was interviewed over the phone. Mr. Stroman responded to questions in a typewritten letter dated June 26 that included a photograph of the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001: smoke is seen billowing out of the North Tower and United Airlines Flight 175 is moments away from striking the South Tower. The ellipses in his answers are his.

Q. Mr. Bhuiyan, you were working as a clerk at a friend’s service station on Sept. 21, 2001. What do you remember?

A. I was robbed a couple of times. It was a dangerous neighborhood. People would come into the store to sell televisions and computers. One time a man came with a gun and I thought he wanted to sell it to make money. He said, “If you don’t give me money I will blow your head off.” On Sept. 21, it was Friday around 12:30 in the afternoon. Business was slow. It was raining cats and dogs. The neighbor from the barber shop had come in and brought chips and drinks. Then there’s a guy coming into the store with a hat and sunglasses and a bandanna and a gun in his hand. I thought it was a robbery. I said, “Don’t shoot me please. Take all the money.” He said, “Where are you from?” He was four or five feet away from me. I felt cold air in my spine. I said, “Excuse me?” It was a double-barrel gun. I felt a million bee stings on my face at the same time. Then I heard an explosion. I saw images of my parents, my siblings and my fiancée and then a graveyard and I thought, “Am I dying today?” I looked down and saw blood was pouring from my head. I placed both my hands on my head to get my brains in and I screamed, “Mom!” I looked and he was still staring at me and I thought he might shoot me again if I don’t fall and he doesn’t think I’m dead. The floor was getting wet with my blood. Then he left the store. I could not believe he shot me. I thought I was dreaming, going through a hallucination. I didn’t do anything wrong. I was not a threat to him. I couldn’t believe someone would just shoot you like that.

Q What happened next?

A I wanted to go outside. I went to the barber shop and they ran away. They saw me full of blood running like a slaughtered chicken and they thought the guy was behind me. I saw my face in the barbershop mirror and I couldn’t believe it was me. (He begins to cry). A few minutes before, I had been a young guy in a T-shirt and shorts and tennis shoes. (He begins to cry more forcefully). Sorry, I haven’t cried for the past nine years. I was lucky because there was an ambulance in the area. I was asking God, asking for forgiveness, saying I would do my best. Reciting verses from the Koran. I said I would dedicate my life to the poor. I felt my eyes were closing and it felt like my brain was shutting down slowly.

Q What was the extent of your injuries?

A There were 38 pellets in my face. I couldn’t open my eyes or talk or open my jaw. I couldn’t even eat or drink anything. It was very painful to even swallow because I was shot in my throat. After a few hours in the hospital I could open my left eye. My face was heavily swollen. There were gunshot wounds. My face was horrible. I couldn’t believe it was my face. I prayed, “Please God, give me my face back.” (Mr. Bhuiyan was discharged the day after being treated; he was told he did not have health insurance. For the next several months, he slept on people’s couches and had to rely on physicians’ samples for medication, including painkillers and eye drops. He had several operations on his right eye; he now has only limited vision in it.)

Q. Mr. Stroman has admitted trying to kill you. Why are you trying to save his life?

A. I was raised very well by my parents and teachers. They raised me with good morals and strong faith. They taught me to put yourself in others’ shoes. Even if they hurt you, don’t take revenge. Forgive them. Move on. It will bring something good to you and them. My Islamic faith teaches me this too. He said he did this as an act of war and a lot of Americans wanted to do it but he had the courage to do it — to shoot Muslims. After it happened I was just simply struggling to survive in this country. I decided that forgiveness was not enough. That what he did was out of ignorance. I decided I had to do something to save this person’s life. That killing someone in Dallas is not an answer for what happened on Sept. 11.

Q. If you had the chance to meet Mr. Stroman, what would you say to him?

A. I requested a meeting with Mr. Stroman. I’m eagerly awaiting to see him in person and exchange ideas. I would talk about love and compassion. We all make mistakes. He’s another human being, like me. Hate the sin, not the sinner. It’s very important that I meet him to tell him I feel for him and I strongly believe he should get a second chance. That I never hated the U.S. He could educate a lot of people. Thinking about what is going to happen makes me very emotional. I can’t sleep. Once I go to bed I feel there is another person that I know who is in his bed thinking about what is going to happen to him — that he is going to be tied to a bed and killed. It makes me very emotional and very sad and makes me want to do more.

• • •

Q How are you doing, Mr. Stroman?

A “i’ve only 25 days left until Texas Straps Me to a Gurney and pumps me full of toxic bug juice, But then again, we all face an Ending at some time or another. All is well, Spirits are high, i sit here with a Cup of Coffee and some Good ole Classic Rock playing on My radio, how Ironic, the song ‘Free Bird’ by Lynyrd Skynyrd...”

Q What do you think of Rais Bhuiyan’s efforts to keep you from being executed?

A “Yes, Mr Rais Bhuiyan, what an inspiring soul...for him to come forward after what ive done speaks Volume’s...and has really Touched My heart and the heart of Many others World Wide...Especially since for the last 10 years all we have heard about is How Evil the Islamic faith Can be...its proof that all are Not bad nor Evil.”

Q Tell me what you are thinking now, a few weeks before your scheduled execution.

A “Not only do I have all My friends and supporters trying to Save my Life, but now i have The Islamic Community Joining in...Spearheaded by one Very Remarkable man Named Rais Bhuiyan, Who is a Survivor of My Hate. His deep Islamic Beliefs Have gave him the strength to Forgive the Un-forgiveable...that is truly Inspiring to me, and should be an Example for us all. The Hate, has to stop, we are all in this world together. My jesus Faith & Texas Roots have Deepened My Understanding as well. Its almost been 10 years since The world stopped Turning, and we as a nation will never be able to forget what we felt that day, I surely wont, but I can tell you what im feeling Today, and that’s very grateful for Rais Bhuiyan’s Efforts to save my life after I tried to end His. A lot of people out There are still hurt and full of hate, and as I Sit here On Texas Death watch counting down to my Own Death, I have been given the chance to openly Express whats inside this Texas Mind and heart, and hopefully that something good will come of this. We need More Forgiveness and Understanding and less hate.” Mr. Stroman signed off, “Texas Loud & Texas proud...TRUE AMERICAN.... Living to Die – Dying to Live.”
Just a reminder: this blog is not a forum for debate about the morality of capital punishment.


bin laden, security theatre and the lying lies of stephen harper

I've avoided any mention of the sickening spectacle of the GNOTFOTE thumping its collective chest because it (supposedly) took 10 years to assassinate one middle aged man with failing kidneys. Talk about security theatre! Surely this must be The Office of Security Theatre's Greatest Show on Earth.

I do want to share a few items, though, related to this nonsense.

One, Joy of Sox: The National Anthem and the Idea Of Respect.

And two, Chomsky: We might ask ourselves how we would be reacting if Iraqi commandos landed at George W. Bush's compound, assassinated him, and dumped his body in the Atlantic.

Each coming from a different angle, and both well worth reading.

Plus a bonus, in case you missed it, or didn't see proof: Fox "News".

The only positive is that bin Laden's death gives us all an opening to talk about getting the hell out of Afghanistan. Which Canada was supposed to do this year, a pledge the Conservatives had no intentions of honouring. In the words of Ralph Kramden, oooooh, what a surprise!


out of context: 9/11, homoerotica and the not-heroic dead

Finding words that do justice to a momentous event is always difficult — especially so, perhaps, in the age of Internet trawling, when a wary eye needs to be kept for the bothersome baggage that may be attached to the perfect-sounding expression. There is an easy mechanism, also time-hallowed, for winnowing out what may be right from what is clearly wrong: it’s called reading.
What do a 9/11 memorial, The Aeneid and gay ancient Greeks* have in common? Find out: "Out of Context".

* Actually Troy, but "gay Trojans" was just too much! The accepted archaeological site of ancient Troy is found in modern-day Turkey; the Troy of Homer and Virgil was Greek.


a view from new york city on 9.11

You may have seen some coverage of the vigil held in lower Manhattan on Friday night, in support of peace and religious tolerance. I thought you might like to read a first-hand report from a friend of mine who was there. NN writes:
I attended with M, her 70+ year-old neighbor (a veteran of many civil rights protests), and L. The crowd number between 1000-2000, depending on reports, and filled a penned-in area about two blocks long. The tone of the speeches was a little too religious for my tastes, but I was happy that among those present were a rabbi, an imam, an Episcopal minister and a few other clergy. Keith Ellison, a U.S. Rep (the first Muslim) from Minnesota spoke, and a few local elected officials were present as well or sent messages. Bloomberg’s support was cited, although I’m sure he had few friends in the crowd.

The entire event was completely peaceful. I saw no counter-protesters and the police seemed relatively low key with this group of mostly white, middle-class (looking) crowd. On returning home I checked the local news for coverage; surprisingly, Fox had it on as their first story and said nothing denigrating. Of course, they didn’t show the man who stood opposite the penned-in crowd, who quietly held a sign that said. “Don’t let Fox make you afraid.”

On a personal note, I thought the organizers left too much time for the event, 2+ hours, as numbers dwindled significantly as the evening went on and the weather grew cool and windy. A few forced feeling sing-alongs were part of the evening’s agenda-- also not my cup of protest. I was glad to be in the company of like-minded people, but as M summed it up, there should have been 10,000 people there instead of our one or two.

Organizing a protest is no easy job, and perhaps a turnout of 2,000 can be deemed a success. Then again, in a city of 8 million - and so many of them with personal experience of bigotry and intolerance - maybe not.

Here are two more views on September 11th and US Islamophobia, from New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof.

First, in "The Healers of 9/11," Kristof writes about Susan Retik and Patti Quigley, two women who lost husbands in the September 11th attacks. Both women were pregnant at the time. Now they are working together to combat hunger and illiteracy among women and girls in Afghanistan. Their organization is called Beyond the 11th.

Naturally I disagree with Kristof's characterization of Afghanistan as "the very country that had incubated a plot that had pulverized" these women's husbands, but that's less important than his very good column on this worthwhile organization. Perhaps most importantly, Retik's and Quigley's work highlights a simple truth: anger and hatred are not inevitable. They are choices. We can choose peace.

In "Is this America?", Kristof calls out Martin Peretz, editor-in-chief of The New Republic, a once-progressive, now ultra-right-wing rag, for his blatant and shameful Islamophobia. Kristof gathers some evidence to show Peretz has plenty of company.
For a glimpse of how venomous and debased the discourse about Islam has become, consider a blog post in The New Republic this month. Written by Martin Peretz, the magazine’s editor in chief, it asserted: “Frankly, Muslim life is cheap, most notably to Muslims.”

Mr. Peretz added: “I wonder whether I need honor these people and pretend that they are worthy of the privileges of the First Amendment, which I have in my gut the sense that they will abuse.”

Thus a prominent American commentator, in a magazine long associated with tolerance, ponders whether Muslims should be afforded constitutional freedoms. Is it possible to imagine the same kind of casual slur tossed off about blacks or Jews? How do America’s nearly seven million American Muslims feel when their faith is denounced as barbaric?

This is one of those times that test our values, a bit like the shameful interning of Japanese-Americans during World War II, or the disgraceful refusal to accept Jewish refugees from Nazi Europe.

It would have been natural for this test to have come right after 9/11, but it was forestalled because President George W. Bush pushed back at his conservative ranks and repeatedly warned Americans not to confuse Al Qaeda with Islam.

Now that Mr. Bush is no longer in the White House, nativists are back on the warpath. Some opponents of President Obama are circulating bald-faced lies about him that are also scurrilous attacks on Islam itself. One e-mail bouncing around falsely accuses Mr. Obama of lying and adds, “His Muslim faith says it’s okay to lie.”

Or there’s the e-mail I received the other day from a relative, declaring: “President Obama has directed the United States Postal Service to remember and honor the Eid Muslim holiday season with a new commemorative 44 cent first class holiday postage stamp.” In fact, it was President Bush’s administration that first issued the Eid stamp in 2001 and that issued new versions after that.

Astonishingly, a Newsweek poll finds that 52 percent of Republicans believe that it is “definitely true” or “probably true” that “Barack Obama sympathizes with the goals of Islamic fundamentalists who want to impose Islamic law around the world.” So a majority of Republicans think that our president wants to impose Islamic law worldwide.

That kind of extremism undermines our democracy, risks violence and empowers jihadis.

Newsweek quoted a Taliban operative, Zabihullah, about opposition to the mosque near ground zero: “By preventing this mosque from being built, America is doing us a big favor. It’s providing us with more recruits, donations and popular support.” Mr. Zabihullah added, “The more mosques you stop, the more jihadis we will get.”

In America, bigoted comments about Islam often seem to come from people who have never visited a mosque and know few if any Muslims. In their ignorance, they mirror the anti-Semitism that I hear in Muslim countries from people who have never met a Jew.

One American university professor wrote to me that “every Muslim in the world” believes that the proposed Manhattan Islamic center would symbolize triumph over America. That reminded me of Pakistanis who used to tell me that “every Jew” knew of 9/11 in advance, so that none died in the World Trade Center.

It is perfectly reasonable for critics to point to the shortcomings of Islam or any other religion. There should be more outrage, for example, about the mistreatment of women in many Islamic countries, or the oppression of religious minorities like Christians and Ahmadis in Pakistan.

Europe is alarmed that Muslim immigrants have not assimilated well, resulting in tolerance of intolerance, and pockets of wife-beating, forced marriage, homophobia and female genital mutilation. Those are legitimate concerns, but sweeping denunciations of any religious group constitute dangerous bigotry.

If this is a testing time, then some have passed with flying colors. Hats off to a rabbinical student in Massachusetts, Rachel Barenblat, who raised money to replace prayer rugs that a drunken intruder had urinated on at a mosque. She told me that she quickly raised more than $1,100 from Jews and Christians alike.

Above all, bravo to those Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders who jointly denounced what they called “the anti-Muslim frenzy.”

“We know what it is like when people have attacked us physically, have attacked us verbally, and others have remained silent,” said Rabbi David Saperstein. “It cannot happen here in America in 2010.”

Cardinal Theodore McCarrick put it this way: “This is not America. America was not built on hate.”

“Shame on you,” the Rev. Richard Cizik, a leading evangelical Christian, said to those castigating Islam. “You bring dishonor to the name of Jesus Christ. You directly disobey his commandment to love your neighbor.”


Excuse me, Cardinal McCarrick. You might want to check your history books. I believe you'll find that's exactly what America was built on.


message of peace and solidarity from codepink to afghan women

A message from CODEPINK, Women Say No To War:

+ + + +

September 10, 2010

Won't you join me in wishing the women in Afghanistan a happy Eid to mark the end of Ramadan and letting them know your commitment to building a more peaceful, tolerant world? We will send the greetings tomorrow, 9/11, to the Coalition of Afghan Women--a wonderful network of Afghan groups working to improve the lives of women and their families. You can simply sign our message or send a personal note.

I am the head of CODEPINK in Gainesville, Florida, now known as the home of the infamous Terry Jones who has threatened to burn the Qur'an. We are ashamed that he was become the face of Gainesville and we are using this debacle as an opportunity to counter the dangerous explosion of Islamophobia in this country.

This week, we have joined with the local Muslim community to organize a Read a Qur'an Day and to serve dinner to the homeless. Campus CODEPINK, University of Florida, has been educating themselves and others about Islam. Their faculty advisor is a professor of Islamic Studies, and all of them have taken an Introduction to Islam course.

We are raising $12,000 to build a girl's school in Afghanistan and even before the Qur'an-burning threat, we had approached our wonderful mayor Craig Lowe about creating a sister city with a town in Afghanistan. He was all for it--150 percent--and now we're even more determined to move forward on this.

We have also created a Peace Ribbon composed of over 300 panels that pay tribute to the soldiers and civilians victims of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The display has travelled throughout the United States, and is currently being shown in towns across Arizona, another focal point of racism and hatred in our country. Let me know if you would like to bring the Peace Ribbon to your community.

I joined CODEPINK precisely because of its commitment to honoring the sanctity of all lives. Let us mark the sad anniversary of September 11 by recommitting ourselves to ending violence and by sending a message of peace to our Afghan sisters.

With love,
Jacque Betz
CODEPINK Gainesville, Florida

+ + + +

Add your name to the statement of support.


pact with devil caused earthquake, like gays, lesbians, aclu and feminists caused 9/11

I'm sure you've heard that fundamentalist fanatic Pat Robertson blamed the earthquake in Haiti on Haitians "pact with Satan".
On the Christian Broadcasting Network's "700 Club" today, after a lengthy interview with a missionary who talked about helping the victims earthquake in Haiti, Rev. Pat Robertson had some interesting thoughts as to why the earthquake struck the impoverished nation: "And you know, Kristi, something happened a long time ago in Haiti, and people might not want to talk about it. They were under the heel of the French, uh, you know Napoleon the 3rd and whatever, and they got together and swore a pact to the Devil. They said, 'We will serve you if you'll get us free from the French.'"

This is not the first time a pronouncement of this nature by Robertson and his fellow professional haters has made headlines. You may remember this exchange between Robertson and Jerry Falwell, also on "The 700 Club". It took place on September 13, 2001.
JERRY FALWELL: And I agree totally with you that the Lord has protected us so wonderfully these 225 years. And since 1812, this is the first time that we've been attacked on our soil and by far the worst results. And I fear, as Donald Rumsfeld, the Secretary of Defense, said yesterday, that this is only the beginning. And with biological warfare available to these monsters -- the Husseins, the Bin Ladens, the Arafats -- what we saw on Tuesday, as terrible as it is, could be miniscule if, in fact -- if, in fact -- God continues to lift the curtain and allow the enemies of America to give us probably what we deserve.

PAT ROBERTSON: Jerry, that's my feeling. I think we've just seen the antechamber to terror. We haven't even begun to see what they can do to the major population.

JERRY FALWELL: The ACLU's got to take a lot of blame for this.


JERRY FALWELL: And, I know that I'll hear from them for this. But, throwing God out successfully with the help of the federal court system, throwing God out of the public square, out of the schools. The abortionists have got to bear some burden for this because God will not be mocked. And when we destroy 40 million little innocent babies, we make God mad. I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People For the American Way -- all of them who have tried to secularize America -- I point the finger in their face and say "you helped this happen."

Partial transcript from "700 Club" found here, video here.


rudy "9/11" giuliani forgets how he got his middle name

From the How Quickly They Forget Department, Rudolph L. Giuliani, the former mayor of New York City who tried to build an entire national political career based on his lies about September 11, 2001, seems to have forgotten some basic facts.

Either Rudy doesn't remember 9/11, or he has forgotten who was the Resident of the White House on that fateful Tuesday. First this from ABC News:
What he [Obama] should be doing is following the right things that Bush did -- one of the right things he did was treat this as a war on terror. We had no domestic attacks under Bush. We've had one under Obama. Number two, he should correct the things that Bush didn't do right. Sending people to Yemen was wrong, not getting this whole intelligence thing corrected."

It's good to know at least a few people in the US mainstream media do remember 9/11, because they called Rudy on it, at which point he was forced to go on CNN and announce, yes, I do remember 9/11. From TPM:
Rudy Giuliani appeared on CNN this afternoon in an attempt to explain what he meant when he claimed that no domestic terrorist attacks happened under President George W. Bush.

"I usually say, 'We had no major domestic attacks under President Bush since September 11,'" he told Wolf Blitzer.

"I did omit the words, 'since September 11,' and I apologize for that," he went on. "I do remember September 11. In fact, Wolf, I remember it every single day and usually, frequently during the day."

. . .

Giuliani told Blitzer that he meant the Fort Hood shootings as that one attack that happened under Obama.

"Fort Hood was clearly an Islamic terrorist attack," he said. "He was clearly under the influence of Islamic terrorism."

He also said the anthrax attacks of 2001 don't count, because they never proven to be done in the name of "Islamic terrorism."

Video at TPM.

When Allan told me about this, my first thought was that Rudy would not be called out on this. It was quite commonplace in the US, at least when I still lived there, to hear that Bush had made the country so much safer than it was under Clinton. I distinctly recall reminding people who was in the White House when 9/11 happened, and hearing the reply, "Hmm, you're right, that's a good point," as if they had never thought of it.


max cleland: the forever war of the mind

I understand that many people question the idea that the Nidal Hasan, who opened fire at Fort Hood last week, could have had PTSD, since he was never deployed. These aren't people who are freaked out over the man's name or his ethnic background. These are good people on the side of justice, who feel we're using the expression "post-traumatic" too lightly.

When I heard this, I immediately thought of my friend Dean, a former marine now living in Canada, one of the many war resisters at risk for deportation by the Harper government. I've written about Dean a few times, most recently here. Dean deployed to Iraq twice. In between those two tours, he was stationed at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, a US military hospital in Stuttgart, Germany.

The rate of severe depression and suicide at the hospital was so high that military brass became concerned. Soldiers were assigned to act as go-betweens for patients and visiting families, and Dean was one of them. He had no medical or social work experience, and was given no training.

Many of the patients were dying. Many were burn victims, so not only were they dying, but in constant, agonizing pain. Families were flown in to say goodbye. Other patients would survive, but with permanent, life-changing disabilities, and adjustment was a long way off.

It was there - not in Iraq, but in the hospital base in Germany - where Dean developed symptoms of severe depression and PTSD. The hospital personnel told him, Don't worry, we all go through that.

This was not from fighting the war, but from seeing its aftermath, up close, all day, every day.

Max Cleland knows something about PTSD. For those not familiar with Cleland, he was a US Senator from Georgia. He is also a Vietnam War veteran, who lost both legs and one arm in that useless war.

Despite succumbing to intense pressure to vote for the Iraq War authorization, Cleland became an outspoken critic of the Cheney Administration. In his 2002 re-election campaign, Cleland's Republican opponent, Saxby Chambliss, resorted to unthinkable tactics, often politely referred to as "questioned his patriotism". Questioned his patriotism? They ran doctored photos of Cleland with Osama Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein! (Where was Saxby Chambliss while Max Cleland was being blown to bits? Gathering student deferrments.)

The campaign defeat re-triggered Cleland's depression. His life came unglued; he feared he wouldn't survive. That's how he ended up at Walter Reed Hospital, surrounded by veterans wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan. (I've blogged about the disgraceful conditions at Walter Reed several times: see here and here.) That's where the shooter was stationed, too. Here's Cleland, writing on Veterans Day, or Remembrance Day in Canada.
The Forever War of the Mind
By Max Cleland

“EVERY day I was in Vietnam, I thought about home. And, every day I’ve been home, I’ve thought about Vietnam.” So said one of the millions of soldiers who fought there as I did. Change the name of the battlefield and it could have been said by one of the American servicemen coming home from Iraq or Afghanistan today. Wars are not over when the shooting stops. They live on in the lives of those who fight them. That is the curse of the soldier. He never forgets.

While the authorities say they cannot yet tell us why an Army psychiatrist would go on a shooting rampage at Fort Hood in Texas, we do know the sorts of stories he had been dealing with as he tried to help those returning from Iraq and Afghanistan readjust to life outside the war zone. A soldier’s mind can be just as dangerous to himself, and to those around him, as wars fought on traditional battlefields.

War is haunting. Death. Pain. Blood. Dismemberment. A buddy dying in your arms. Imagine trying to get over the memory of a bomb splitting a Humvee apart beneath your feet and taking your leg with it. The first time I saw the stilled bodies of American soldiers dead on the battlefield is as stark and brutal a memory as the one of the grenade that ripped off my right arm and both legs.

No, the soldier never forgets. But neither should the rest of us.

Veterans returning today represent the first real influx of combat-wounded soldiers in a generation. They are returning to a nation unprepared for what war does to the soul. Those new veterans will need all of our help. After America’s wars, the used-up fighters are too often left to fend for themselves. Many of the hoboes in the Depression were veterans of World War I. When they came home, they were labeled shell-shocked and discharged from the Army too broken to make it during the economic cataclysm.

So it is again, with too many stories about veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan ending up unemployed and homeless. Figures from the Department of Veterans Affairs show that 131,000 of the nation’s 24 million veterans are homeless each night, and about twice that many will spend part of this year homeless.

We know of the recent failures at Walter Reed Medical Center, where soldiers were stranded in substandard barracks infested with rats while awaiting treatment. I was in Walter Reed myself at that time seeking counseling for post-traumatic stress disorder, which, ignited by a barrage of Iraq headlines and the loss of my United States Senate seat, had simply consumed me.

I never saw it coming. Forty years after I had left the battlefield, my memories of death and wounding were suddenly as fresh and present as they had been in 1968. I thought I was past that. I learned that none of us are ever past it. Were it not for the surgeons and nurses at Walter Reed, I never would have survived those first months back from Vietnam. Were it not for the counselors there today, I do not think I would have survived what I’ve come to call my second Vietnam, the one that played out entirely in my mind.

When I was wounded, post-traumatic stress disorder did not officially exist. It was recognized as a legitimate illness only in 1978, during my tenure as head of the Veterans Administration under President Jimmy Carter. Today, it is not only recognized, but the Army and the V.A. know how to treat it. I can offer no better testament than my own recovery.

Weeks before the troubles at Walter Reed became public in 2007, my counselor put it to me simply. “We are drowning in war,” she said. The problems at Walter Reed had nothing to do with the dedicated doctors and nurses there. The problems had to do with the White House and Congress and the Department of Defense. The problems had to do with money.

When we are at war, America spends billions on missiles, tanks, attack helicopters and such. But the wounded warriors who will never fight again tend to be put on the back burner.

This is inexcusable, and it comes with frightening moral costs. There are estimates that 35 percent of the soldiers who fought in Iraq will suffer post-traumatic stress disorder. I’m sure the numbers for Afghanistan are similar. Researchers have found that nearly half of those returning with the disorder have suicidal thoughts. Suicide among active-duty soldiers is on pace to hit a record total this year. More than 1.7 million soldiers have served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Imagine that some 600,000 of them will have crippling memories, trapped in a vivid and horrible past from which they can’t seem to escape.

We have a family Army today, unlike the Army seen in any generation before. We have fought these wars with the Reserves and the National Guard. Fathers, mothers, soccer coaches and teachers are the soldiers coming home. Whether they like it or not, they will bring their war experiences home to their families and communities.

In his poem “The Dead Young Soldiers,” Archibald MacLeish, whose younger brother died in World War I, has the soldiers in the poem tell us: “We leave you our deaths. Give them their meaning.” Until we help our returning soldiers get their lives back when they come home, the promise of restoring that meaning will go unfulfilled.

Max Cleland, the secretary of the American Battle Monuments Commission, was a Democratic senator from Georgia from 1997 to 2003. He is the author, with Ben Raines, of “Heart of a Patriot: How I Found the Courage to Survive Vietnam, Walter Reed and Karl Rove.”

Another note about Cleland. He was a member of the Kean Commission, the official 9/11 "investigation" (if anything ever deserves scare quotes, is that one). Cleland resigned from the Commission after becoming hopelessly frustrated with the Cheney Administration's stonewalling and cover-ups. Here's an interview with Cleland by PBS's Frank Sesno.


tom ridge reveals more u.s. lies

From Huffington Post:
In a new book, former Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge reveals new details on politicization under President Bush, reports US News & World Report's Paul Bedard. Among other things, Ridge admits that he was pressured to raise the terror alert to help Bush win re-election in 2004.

Ridge was never invited to sit in on National Security Council meetings; was "blindsided" by the FBI in morning Oval Office meetings because the agency withheld critical information from him; found his urgings to block Michael Brown from being named head of the emergency agency blamed for the Hurricane Katrina disaster ignored; and was pushed to raise the security alert on the eve of President Bush's re-election, something he saw as politically motivated and worth resigning over.

Dave Weigel, writing for the Washington Independent, notes that in the past, Ridge has denied manipulating security information for political reasons. In 2004, for example, he said, "We don't do politics in the Department of Homeland Security."

The Bush administration was forced to admit in the days after the 2004 alert that it was based on intelligence three or four years old. Officials then claimed there was a previously unmentioned "separate stream of intelligence" that justified the warning -- but offered little tangible information to support their new story..

ThinkProgress recalls, the AP reported that "even 'some senior Republicans' privately questioned Ridge's timing of a terror alert that came just three days after the Democratic National Convention."

Go here for links.

Recently one of my anti-war posts was noticed and belittled by a pro-war Canadian blogger - not a Conservative, but a Green voter. (Underscoring that the Greens are not necessarily progressive.) When I succumbed to the temptation to comment, he asked (paraphrasing), "If we didn't invade Afghanistan, then how would we retaliate for 9/11?"

There was obviously no question in his mind that the US and Canada should retaliate, that they must retaliate. The only question was how best to retaliate. He called the idea of not retaliating "masochistic". I believe he said masochistic didn't come close to describing such an idea. He was flabbergasted at the idea that the attacks of September 11th might themselves have been retaliation.

The same blogger was also aghast to hear that the war in Afghanistan has nothing to do with democracy or women's rights.

So here is Tom Ridge with some new information - only unsurprising as to its source - about the phony terror alerts. Every day we learn more about the lies and propaganda that were used to sell the invasion of Iraq, the so-called War on Terror, the unlawful imprisonment of Afghans and Iraqis, the clampdown on civil liberties at home.

Yet people cling to the simplistic fantasy that 19 guys with a couple of box cutters caught the mighty United States napping, and that the current wars - in coincidentally oil-rich and pipeline-laden countries - are saving Western civilization.


a 9/11 discussion, part four, final

Here are part one, part two and part three of this conversation.

* * * *

EMF: What I meant when I said it was different to infer that the higher ups knew is that based on what I have read so far, it is harder to make that inference than to infer that there were those at the FBI and CIA who knew what was going to happen. Meaning I have seen nothing yet that directly links Cheney or Rumsfeld or Bush to that information, although the fact that Ashcroft was warned is some indication that cabinet level officials knew that there were warnings. I am only saying this based on what I have read, not that there isn't other information out there that would link them to this information.

I am not sure how to tell you which links didn't work on the Coincidence site since they didn't work, other than to say two of them were those that related to Palast and Wright. (There were many bad links there - too many for me to list.) Do you have links for those two sources?

The quote about the security tapes does not surprise me, given the fact that I am already inclined to believe that the FBI knew these guys and knew what they were going to do. Of course, that's still different than saying they assisted the terrorists, but morally not enough different for me.

* * * *

RS: I meant to say earlier that David Ray Griffin, the guy whose books I was recommending, also started out laughing at the "tinfoil" types who talked about US complicity - until he started looking at Paul Thompson's Timeline.

You can check out a PDF of his "New Pearl Harbor" book here. In the introduction to the book (page 8), he discusses his evolution. Again, I would not side with all of his opinions, but it's a good opening.

EMF: I read through Griffin's introduction, and it looks like a good place for me to continue reading (since he claims to synthesize what was in the two major books that preceded his). I am curious where you disagree with him - I think you said in an earlier email that it had to do with theories about the implosions and the Pentagon attack. You know I am already inclined to dismiss that stuff as both incredible and irrelevant. Does that then undermine Griffin's credibility otherwise? I want to see what I can learn of his background also.

I did like his 8 levels of complicity because it helps me map out my own questions about what the government knew, who knew it, and when they knew it. Is that the entire book on PDF? I hate reading on line, but it is pretty convenient (and cheap!) to do so. Perhaps once I have read the book, I will have a more clear sense of where I am.

* * * *

I am curious where you disagree with him - I think you said in an earlier email that it had to do with theories about the implosions and the Pentagon attack. You know I am already inclined to dismiss that stuff as both incredible and irrelevant.

Yeah, thinking of what issues should be highlighted, it's more of a disagreement with his emphasis than his theories. Controlled demolition might be completely silly or it might be the only logical possibility. I don't know. When I read stuff from each side, it all seems plausible, plus I tend to glaze over. The fact that the official reports cannot explain the collapses is interesting (by the way, they long ago disavowed the pancake theory that was talked about right after the attacks).

Does that then undermine Griffin's credibility otherwise? I want to see what I can learn of his background also.

Some people think so. I don't. If he makes a solid, thought-provoking point about A, but also wants to spend his time on B, that doesn't necessarily make A invalid. Now, if he was promoting some of what I think are the more idiotic theories - like there were no planes used and it was all special-effects and faked video - then I might tend to ignore him completely.

* * * *

EMF: I have not given up exploring the 9/11 issue, but have been rather overwhelmed with work and family matters and the regular news and so have not had much change to look at Griffin's book until today. I have not read every word, but focused on the matters that are most credible and important to me.

Thus, I focused on the first chapter regarding the failure of NORAD to intercept the planes and on the attempts to frustrate FBI investigations in one of the later chapters. I also looked at a piece by Chip Bertel criticising Griffin's book, but which focused primarily on the claim that the Pentagon was hit by a missile, not a commercial jet. Bertel, however, also pointed out something that bothered me about the other parts of Griffin's book that I focused on. Griffin does not fully discuss the arguments and evidence that have been presented by the government or others to explain these matters. Thus, as a reader, I am left feeling like I am not hearing the whole story. Hearing only one side leaves me wondering what I am missing.

I felt this most strongly in reading a bit of the chapter on why the buildings fell. I do not know anything about the science of this, so why should I believe the scientific claims of Griffin and those he cites any more than the scientific claims of those who say the buildings fell as a result of fire and impact from the planes? Thus, I just dismissed (and stopped reading) those chapters.

So where I am today on all this? I am fairly well persuaded that the government failed to act in accordance with its SOP with respect to the hijacked planes and that there were those within the government who were blocking full investigations of some of the individuals who later were implicated in the attacks. I remain undecided on the question of what Bush knew and whether those high in the government - Cheney/Rumsfeld in particular - knew this was going to happen and wanted it to happen. And I doubt we will ever know for sure, so I am willing to accept that possibility without saying that I am convinced of it for sure.

I still think that all the focus in Griffin's book (and in other 9/11 Truth materials) on the implosion theory, the missile theory, etc., are distracting and damaging to the truly important issues about government knowledge and complicity. Like those who said it was a Jewish/Israeli plot, those theories are just so far fetched that they make the rest of the more credible claims less believable. Someone needs to write about the core matters and omit that material.

What troubles me (about myself) is that somehow I missed so much of this, even though most of what Griffin reports on NORAD, the FBI, etc., was in the mainstream press, although presented perhaps so piecemeal and scattered that the whole picture was never made clear. Was I just in denial? Did the press just not make enough of this at the time? I am a fairly well informed person and read the NY Times every day, watch the news media on TV, and yet I never saw the big picture. I am not only disappointed in the press and in the government, but more importantly, I am disappointed in myself.

* * * *

Griffin does not fully discuss the arguments and evidence that has been presented by the government or others to explain these matters. Thus, as a reader, I am left feeling like I am not hearing the whole story. Hearing only one side leaves me wondering what I am missing.

That's entirely fair. In his book on the Commission Report, however, he goes through the Report and tries to match it up with the ton of contradictory evidence. This first book is certainly weaker, but I did not go back and read any of it. Any specific spots where you really saw this flaw?

I felt this most strongly in reading a bit of the chapter on why the buildings fell. I do not know anything about the science of this, so why should I believe the scientific claims of Griffin and those he cites any more than the scientific claims of those who say the buildings fell as a result of fire and impact from the planes?

That's my problem, too, though the bomb people are starting to make more sense to me. Plus I think that people will shy away in general from the idea of preplanned bombs. I may be wrong though - the collapses do look a lot like demolitions.

I remain undecided on the question of what Bush knew and whether those high in the government - Cheney/Rumsfeld in particular - knew this was going to happen and wanted it to happen.

Well, they certainly wanted it - or were thrilled it happened. I don't think there's any doubt of that. Look at all they have been able to do because of it.

Like those who said it was a Jewish/Israeli plot, those theories are just so far fetched that they make the rest of the more credible claims less believable.

Israeli spies in the US were tracking the hijackers for months, if not years. That's clear. But so was the US. And the agencies of other countries followed them when they were outside the US (Germany, for example). And they were clearly being protected by higher-ups in the US govt, being able to come and go from the US with expired passports and outstanding arrest warrants and being photographed and bugged when they attended Al-Qaeda meetings abroad.

Right after the attack, it was reported that five hijackers had received training at US military bases and at least three of the hijackers listed US military bases as their main address on their drivers licenses. Evidence at the Moussaoui trial showed that the email address of one of the hijackers (Jarrah) was that of a US defense contractor. Many of Atta's email contacts were also defense contractors.

What troubles me (about myself) is that somehow I missed so much of this, even though most of what Griffin reports on NORAD, the FBI, etc., was in the mainstream press, although presented perhaps so piecemeal and scattered that the whole picture was never made clear. Was I just in denial? Did the press just not make enough of this at the time?

The media made no big deal out of any of this. Things were reported one day (often buried far away from the front page) and then dropped. More importantly, when another "dot" was reported, the press made every effort to not mention the other connections they had previously reported. Even if it happened only a few days later. Every story was told in isolation, with almost no context. It is only through something like Thompson's Timeline that you can see all of these thousands of bits of information and try to put it all together. (There are contradictory reports about some events/items, but that can be informative as well.)

* * * *

That's entirely fair. I know in his book on the Commission Report, he goes through the Report and tries to match it up with the ton of contradictory evidence. This first book is certainly weaker, but I did not go back and read any of it. Any specific spots where you really saw this flaw?

I would like to know how the government explains why the warnings were ignored and why NORAD did not follow SOP. Since these things seem to be undisputed or at least indisputable, I assume the government has given some explanation. Also, what is their response to the claims that FBI investigations were thwarted? And how do they explain giving "free passes" to the hijackers? Why aren't their explanations credible? I found Griffin's chapter on the timing of the hijackings and the failure to intercept the planes most compelling, and I am interested in how the government explained that tragic failure to act.

The chapter about Bush's day I also found quite fascinating (I know it was based on what you had written previously), and the inconsistencies in Bush's accounts are troubling. But couldn't they also be explained by the fact that he was trying to keep a calm exterior to keep the country relatively calm? I mean, the guy is a big enough jerk for me to believe that he thought (or was advised) that he could not communicate panic or the country would turn to panic and chaos. What is the government's explanation for those inconsistencies and for Bush's bizarre behavior?

Well, they certainly wanted it -- or were thrilled it happened. I don't think there's any doubt of that. Look at all the have been able to do because of it.

I agree that they used it to their every advantage, but that is different from planning it or sponsoring it or even sitting back and allowing it to happen.

Israeli spies in the US were tracking the hijackers for months, if not years. That's clear.

Tracking the hijackers is not necessarily suspicious in and of itself. But what I was referring to were those assholes who claimed Jews did not show up at work on 9/11 at the WTC because they were forewarned of the attacks. Those claims make my blood boil.

My current state of mind is that there is certainly enough evidence to suggest that the government, or those within the government, were aware that something was being planned and that they did not aggressively do what was necessary to stop it. There is also evidence that leaves open to question whether there were those in the government who actually participated in the attacks, at least to the extent that they let them happen intentionally.

But there is also the possibility that many people in the government were just incompetent or unwilling to believe that anyone could and would pull off an attack of this scale. After all, if someone had said to me on 9/10/01 that a group of terrorists was going to fly planes into the WTC and the Pentagon, I would have suggested an immediate trip to their psychiatrist to get their meds adjusted.

Having said that, I find it very disturbing that so little has been made of what is not even disputed: ignoring warnings, not following SOP, frustrating investigations, etc. In some ways this reminds me of Watergate, where it took over two years for the full story to even START to come out, two years after Nixon was re-elected. But now it is going on seven years since 9/11, and the consequences of that were obviously far worse than Nixon's re-election (as disastrous as that was), and yet the facts are still not being explored or investigated in any widespread way. I keep wondering why, especially in an election year, the Democrats aren't all over this story. Are they afraid of being portrayed as unpatriotic, as weak on terrorism, or are they also afraid of what would be uncovered once Pandora's box is opened?

* * * *

[This was not part of the original conversation.]


I would like to know how the government explains why the warnings were ignored and why NORAD did not follow SOP. Since these things seem to be undisputed or at least indisputable, I assume the government has given some explanation.... I am interested in how the government explained that tragic failure to act.

Bush/Cheney et al have offered only lame excuses and explanations, and the so-called liberal media [sic], along with the Democrats, have accepted those statements at face value. They contain obvious contradictions, but no one has bothered to follow-up. To my knowledge, no one has even pointed out the outright impossibility of something like Bush's statement that he watched the first crash on live television.

As I said earlier, the military and NORAD have offered six different accounts of the military's non-response on the morning of 9/11. The 9/11 Commission, in its final report, put forth a seventh account.

Think about it:

How is it possible that the most powerful military in human history allowed four hijacked planes to travel hundreds of miles off course, through the most crowded airspace in the world, and crash into three buildings (and not just any three buildings, but the two WTC towers and the Pentagon), without making one single attempt for roughly 90 minutes to investigate any of the planes?

It defies belief.

Each story they have advanced to explain their inaction has been an attempt to stuff the gaping holes in their previous excuse. Nothing they have said makes any sense. They just keep throwing stuff against the wall and hope it sticks - but no one seems to care.

The US government has also offered no proof that bin Laden or Al Qaeda had anything to do with the attacks. They've offered absolutely zero evidence that the 19 men they say are the hijackers have been positively identified.

All they have done is make statements and expect the public to accept them without any evidence. And sadly, for the most part, the American public has. But since we have been shown over and over and over again, that these people have lied about everything, why should we trust them when they attempt to explain what happened on September 11, 2001?


Earlier this year, I read the book War Is A Force That Gives Us Meaning, by Christopher Hedges. I blogged about it here, here, here and here.

Hedges studied and analyzed war, both historically and across different cultures. He writes about how governments whip populations into a war frenzy. In this almost (and sometimes literally) insane state, the people don't merely accept that war is necessary, they relish it. They have a blood lust. It's like a lynch mob on a grander scale. The normal social checks are ditched, all morality is put on hold, and they'll do or condone nearly anything in the name of their war.

Later, when the fog lifts, society hides the evidence and everyone pretends it didn't happen. Truth-telling of the kind seen in Winter Soldier is rare. Usually there is no healing, there is just a numb moving on.

Hedges writes that one of the necessary precursors to this war frenzy is the population perceiving themselves as weakened and threatened, either from without or within. But how could people in the US ever see themselves as weak or threatened? No known country would dare to attack the United States. It would be suicidal.

But without that perceived threat, how will the populace buy the war? The government can't force the war down the people's throats. There has to be a willing acceptance of it, at least from a large portion of the people.

Hedges never mentions September 11 in this context. But over and over, and in light of what I hope you've read here, I kept thinking, That's how they did it.