No More War

September 11th, 2016 Leave a comment Go to comments

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What I am about to write will no doubt be found offensive by many. It is not my intention to offend, but I do hope that, presented with facts, the reader might pause to consider a point of view not driven by the establishment media/entertainment machine (and in this I include not only what we call the “mainstream” media, but much of the alternative media as well).

The events of September 11, 2001 had a profound influence on the United States and the world. Anyone who was alive and aware on that morning can well remember the shock. The coordinated attacks on the Twin Towers, the Pentagon, and the failed attempt to destroy the White House left the nation groping for answers. For a brief moment much of the discord of American life and politics was silenced, replaced by a sense of brotherhood and unity not felt since December 8, 1941. Throughout the country people stood in solidarity with New York, political wrangling in Washington ceased, and we even rallied around a President who on any other day would be detested by a large part of the population.

We had been attacked, but we were strong. We would survive. We would overcome the attacks, gain our revenge, punish the evildoers, and emerge triumphant, just as we had against Japan in World War II. The only problem was, unlike in 1941, nobody really knew who had attacked us. When shock and sadness turned to anger and cries for vengeance we were ready to kill somebody; we just didn’t know who. This cartoon by Breen captured the national mood well.

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But American unity is not always a pretty thing. In the aftermath of Pearl Harbor the nation generalized the enemy to be all who looked Japanese and subsequently engaged in a wholesale internment of people of Japanese descent, regardless of their citizenship, patriotism, or innocence; an episode that is embarrassing to admit even today. Similarly, after 9/11 many Americans concluded that the enemy was Islam; anyone who even looked Muslim was an enemy. I have a Sikh friend who wears the traditional beard and turban, whose property was vandalized after 9/11 because he was mistakenly identified as a Muslim.

Between 1941 and 2001 the country had officially internalized the lessons of World War II and subsequent events so that the President quickly affirmed that while the United States would diligently pursue whoever had attacked, our enemy was not Islam, and that there are many loyal Muslims in the United States and its military forces. Six days after the attacks President Bush visited an Islamic Center where he spoke eloquently against the harassment of Arabs and Muslims living in the United States and about the need to respect Islam.[1]

Sadly, this is a battle in the War on Terror the enemy has won. The goal of terrorist organizations has been to assume the mantle of representing Islam and to characterize American response to their attacks as a holy war against Islam. Their propaganda strategy, I think, was for local consumption, but it has succeeded probably beyond what they could have dreamed among Americans. This is not universally true but a large and vocal group in the United States continues to associate terrorism with Islam and counts all Muslims as enemies, in spite of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. This sentiment can be demonstrated by a sample from social media,

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Images like this reflect the success of terrorists in hijacking Islam in the Western imagination.

In one sense it is understandable. In the aftermath of an unprovoked attack the victim is not likely to try to reason out the situation. If someone who is close to you suffers innocently at the hands of another, it is only human to lash out, whether the target of our wrath is guilty or not. And I’m not going to try to convince anyone that the generalization of 1.7 billion people as terrorists all intent on killing Americans is absurd, for the simple reason that anyone who can be convinced by logic already knows it is absurd, and the rest will remain unmoved.

Instead, what I want to do is to turn the tables. If we can generalize our enemy to be Islam, even though the real perpetrators are tiny cabals claiming to represent Islam, and in that we can find justification for waging war against any and all Muslims wherever they may be found, then how much more will it be possible for Muslims to view all Americans as their enemies? About three thousand people died in the 9/11 attacks and perhaps as many have succumbed to health conditions related to dust and smoke in the aftermath.[2] In contrast, in US wars after 9/11 in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan, civilian casualties are conservatively estimated at approximately 1.3 million people.[3]

That is a staggering number. It is so enormous it fits into the category Stalin referred to when he remarked “one death is a tragedy; one million is a statistic.” But the statistic represents in reality single tragic deaths multiplied in number by millions. Over a million tragedies. And if we in the United States can remain angry fifteen years later at the tragic death of someone we never knew and are unable even to name, how can we expect people in the Middle East and Central Asia not to be angry at those who rained death from the sky on their children, their parents, their brothers and sisters, their friends and sweethearts? If we can blame the deaths of three thousand and more innocent civilians on 1.7 billion Muslims, is it unreasonable for innocent victims of American military action to blame three hundred million Americans?

The lifeless bodies of Afghan children lay on the ground before their funeral ceremony, after a NATO airstrike killed several Afghan civilians, including ten children during a fierce gun battle with Taliban militants in Shultan, Shigal district, Kunar, eastern Afghanistan, Sunday, April 7, 2013. The U.S.-led coalition confirms that airstrikes were called in by international forces during the Afghan-led operation in a remote area of Kunar province near the Pakistan border. (AP Photo/Naimatullah Karyab)

If your kids were among these victims of American bombing, do you think your first reaction would be to say, calmly, “Well I know this was done with American weapons by Americans but they are only responding to 9/11 and so it’s ok they killed my kid — he was just in the wrong place at the wrong time?” I don’t think so.

I think you would react the way you did react after 9/11 and curse America and all Americans and begin to nurse a cancerous resentment that would blossom into irrepressible hatred. And just as the 9/11 attacks caused American wrath to rain on the just and the unjust alike in many corners of the world, so America’s response causes unending blind hatred against us. We cannot excuse ourselves by saying I’m not the one doing the bombing. The bombing is being done in our name, and when we don’t speak against it, when we allow it, we are complicit.

The candidates for President of the United States for the two major parties are committed to continuing America’s reign of terror in the Middle East. One of them sounds relatively reasonable and prudent and the other foams at the mouth, but they are both counseling policies that would either directly or indirectly result in the deaths of more innocent people, with the very predictable result of creating more mortal enemies. It may be unpopular to suggest on a day devoted to chest beating patriotism that we ought to strive for peace through peaceful action rather than “peace through strength” (translation: aggression), but I feel obligated to do it all the same. I’m not suggesting devoting ourselves to peace is an easy thing to do in a world of provocations, but I am affirming it is the only moral thing to do.

No more war.

[1] George Bush, “Islam Is Peace” (Speech, Islamic Center of Washington D.C., Washington, DC, September 17, 2001), accessed September 11, 2016, http://georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov/news/releases/2001/09/20010917-11.html.

[2] Joanna Walters, “9/11 Health Crisis: Death Toll from Illness Nears Number Killed On Day of Attacks,” Guardian US (New York), September 11, 2016, accessed September 11, 2016, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/sep/11/9-11-illnesses-death-toll.

[3] Body Count: Casualty Figures After 10 Years of The (Washington, D.C.: Physicians for Social Responsibility, March 2015), 15.

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