Saturday, September 8, 2012

Eleventh Nine Eleven

What with all the hoopla of the campaigns and party conventions, September 11th kind of snuck up on me. I am ashamed to admit that before President Obama reminded me about the looming celebration of mass murder, glorious Americana style, it had totally slipped my mind. After all, didn't the event reach its orgiastic zenith last year in the wake of the bin Laden assassination? Some irrational part of me just assumed that from then on out, it would just sort of tastefully lurk beneath the surface of our collective super-ego.

No such luck. Obama dusted off his earnest Keeping Fear Alive and Loving It screed again today. Forget about his fiscal scold of an acceptance speech the other night, when he insisted we elected him to tell us the unvarnished truth instead of what we want to hear.  Because it's that time of year again, when politicians let their cynical patriotic fervor go hog wild. It's the time of year when any sense of shame or adherence to the truth goes right out the window. It's the time of year when I really, really cringe in embarrassment. Anyway, here is the transcript of Barry's latest Very Special Sept.11th Retrospective. (he has promised to shut up on the day itself, even though he and the Mittster plan to be there for the usual solemn, touchy feely let's all get along for one day, photo op.)
This week, we mark the eleventh anniversary of the September 11th attacks. It’s a time to remember the nearly 3,000 innocent men, women and children we lost, and the families they left behind. It’s a chance to honor the courage of the first responders who risked their lives – on that day, and every day since. And it’s an opportunity to give thanks for our men and women in uniform who have served and sacrificed, sometimes far from home, to keep our country safe.
This anniversary is about them. It’s also a time to reflect on just how far we’ve come as a nation these past eleven years.
On that clear September morning, as America watched the towers fall, and the Pentagon burn, and the wreckage smoldering in a Pennsylvania field, we were filled with questions. Where had the attacks come from, and how would America respond? Would they fundamentally weaken the country we love? Would they change who we are?
(The very first question that entered my mind when the first plane hit the tower was "Wow, someone must sure hate the Americans in general and our predacious capitalist system in particular. What outrage could we have perpetrated that could have brought them to this extremity?" Also, where is the president's outrage that so many of our first responders have been laid off due to government austerity, and have been unable to access medical care thanks to no universal health insurance?)

The last decade has been a difficult one, but together, we have answered those questions and come back stronger as a nation.

(We started two wars costing over a trillion dollars and at least 50  times more lives than were lost in the 9/11 attacks -- and we're still counting. We will be in Afghanistan for at least another decade. This last decade has been a very profitable one for Wall Street and the Military Industrial Complex.)
We took the fight to al Qaeda, decimated their leadership, and put them on a path to defeat. And thanks to the courage and skill of our intelligence personnel and armed forces, Osama bin Laden will never threaten America again.
(We put them on a path of blowback against the United States that is exponentially increasing with every secret Drone attack that kills innocent people in countries with which we are not even at war. America is in more peril than ever before. With every bombing that kills somebody's innocent mother, father, brother or sister, we create future generations of countless bin Ladens. Our moral standing in the world has taken a huge hit since 9/11. The initial good will and sympathy expressed by the international community has been plummeting ever since. Our very own Nobel Laureate president is no longer viewed favorably by much of the world. )
Instead of pulling back from the world, we’ve strengthened our alliances while improving our security here at home. As Americans, we refuse to live in fear. Today, a new tower rises above the New York skyline. And our country is stronger, safer and more respected in the world.
We are fighting terrorism with terrorism. Far from strengthening our alliances, American bellicosity is creating more enemies. As Americans, we live in a state of manufactured fear every single day. We are patted down and x-rayed at airports. People protesting economic inequality in Occupy encampments and at closed partisan conventions are arrested and put on Terror watch lists. The president has declared that he can extra-judicially arrest or kill anyone, anywhere in the world. The National Security agency is building a brand new repository in the Utah desert in which to store the email and Google searches and data trails and  cell phone conversations of every man, woman and child on the planet. Never before have our civil rights been more jeopardized and trampled upon.)

Instead of turning on each other, we’ve resisted the temptation to give in to mistrust and suspicion. I have always said that America is at war with al Qaeda and its affiliates – and we will never be at war with Islam or any other religion. We are the United States of America. Our freedom and diversity make us unique, and they will always be central to who we are as a nation.

(The United States is attacking and killing Muslims abroad and spying on them here at home. Obama's national security advisor has gone out of his way to praise the New York City police department's illegal anti-Muslim surveillance. The Obama administration has deported more undocumented immigrants than any previous regime and has prosecuted a record number of whistleblowers exposing government waste and corruption. The Department of Homeland Security had turned a blind eye to the growing right wing terror threat in these United States out of a sense of not wanting to offend right wing politicians. This country has not been this deeply divided against itself since the Civil War. Just take a look at the theatrical presidential sweepstakes: mistrust and suspicion are the rule, vicious money-fueled attack ads are poisoning the discourse.) 
Instead of changing who we are, the attacks have brought out the best in the American people. More than 5 million members of the 9/11 Generation have worn America’s uniform over the past decade, and we’ve seen an outpouring of goodwill towards our military, veterans, and their families. Together, they’ve done everything we’ve asked of them. We’ve ended the war in Iraq and brought our troops home. We brought an end to the Taliban regime. We’ve trained Afghan Security Forces, and forged a partnership with a new Afghan Government. And by the end 2014, the transition in Afghanistan will be complete and our war there will be over.
This entire paragraph is a bald-faced lie. The reaction to the attacks bankrupted this country and eviscerated the Bill of Rights. Since only one percent of our population has joined the all-volunteer armed forces, the vast majority of us have no real clue about the horrors the government is subjecting them to: endless deployments, drugging them to keep them awake and alert, irreversible brain damage and mental illness and an increase in suicides, an epidemic of sexual assaults against female troops that is going unaddressed and unpunished. The Afghan Security Forces are turning against us and killing our troops in the field. The transition in Afghanistan will not be anywhere near complete by 2014. The United States has promised a presence there at least through the next decade. Americans are trying retain indefinite control of the military prison on Afghan soil. We will continue to launch drone attacks from our bases in Afghanistan.)
And finally, instead of turning inward with grief, we’ve honored the memory of those we lost by giving back to our communities, serving those in need, and reaffirming the values at the heart of who we are as a people. That’s why we mark September 11th as a National Day of Service and Remembrance. Because we are one American family. And we look out for each other – not just on the difficult days, but every day.
(Instead of turning inward with grief, we have neglected the people here at home and directed our voracious military machine ever outward, with close to 1000 bases worldwide. We have expanded our power and machinery in new narco-wars in Africa and Latin America. We look out for our defense contractors and war profiteers every single day, because we are now in a permanent state of war. There will be no more normal days.) 
Eleven years later, that’s the legacy of 9/11 – the ability to say with confidence that no adversary and no act of terrorism can change who we are. We are Americans, and we will protect and preserve this country we love. On this solemn anniversary, let’s remember those we lost, let us reaffirm the values they stood for, and let us keep moving forward as one nation and one people.
(Oh, would he please just shut the hell up.)


Elizabeth Adams said...

Thank you for this. You put my feelings into words better than I ever could.

My vote for word/phrase of the year is "cognitive dissonance".

Denis Neville said...

9/11 is not a day that should ever be politicized. If 9/11 taught us anything, it was that we need to remember that we have so much more in common as human beings than we have differences.

W.H. Auden recognized it:

“About suffering they were never wrong,
The Old Masters; how well, they understood
Its human position; how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along…

"In Breughel's Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away
Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may
Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,
But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone
As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green
Water; and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen
Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,
had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.”
- W.H. Auden, "Musée des Beaux Arts",_Pieter_de_Oude_-_De_val_van_icarus_-_hi_res.jpg

2,819 people died on 9/11, the photo of the falling man capturing the final features of death that tragic day.

Yet 42,196 people died in 2001 in the United States, including my wife. Her death was a tragedy for me and our two boys.

I am struck by the apathy with which humans view individual suffering.

Yet it is amazing how much time and energy we devote to something that in the grand scheme of things is comparatively small.

America has failed to learn any deep lessons from that tragic day, to change or reform as a nation. Our political culture and sensationalist media will continue the dominance of 9/11 as a defining moment of human atrocity while other human tragedies will be forgotten. The deaths and suffering of 9/11 have been superseded countless times in history. Let us remember that we have much in common with humanity.

d12345 said...

Denis....that post is moving.

and accept my condolences for the death of your wife.

I didn't know the Auden poem....did William Carlos Williams know it? His reflection on the same painting is amazingly close in mood.

Landscape With The Fall of Icarus
by William Carlos Williams

According to Brueghel
when Icarus fell
it was spring

a farmer was ploughing
his field
the whole pageantry

of the year was
awake tingling

the edge of the sea
with itself

sweating in the sun
that melted
the wings' wax

off the coast
there was

a splash quite unnoticed
this was
Icarus drowning

Valerie said...

9/11 was politicised and has been sold to the public in order to enrich the Military Industrial Complex and to give the Bush Cheney machine a vessel through with to steal our Constitutional rights. It gave Bush/Cheney the excuse they wanted to invade an oil rich country for an energy agenda that had nothing to do with justice or doing the right thing for the world. There is nothing glorious about 9/11 - only the publicity and hype it has been given.

My own response - while horrified at the violence of the deaths - was to think, "This is what happens when America tinkers around with the politics of other countries for self-gain. Eventually, someone has enough and strikes back." We have messed around with the politics of the Middle East - knocking back politicians who were actually democrats who wanted the best for ALL the people of their country – shocking to think those oil revenues should actually go to the citizens of those countries - in favour of puppets we could bribe and thought we could control. The truth is: 9/11 was blowback.

That is the reason the politicians have no concern for people like Denis' wife and her family. There is no political motive or gain in helping an individual who is suffering. It isn’t about people at all – it is about making money.

I can only say that we, individuals, who understand what is important - not politically expedient - must be there for each other. The country is going to hell in a hand-basket – the whole world is – all we can to is speak the truth and do what we can to ease the suffering of our fellows. We certainly can’t count on our government to do anything meaningful.

Karen, Once again you have outdone yourself. Thanks for going out there on a limb and speaking truth to power. You enlighten us all and give us a venue to find the few sane amongst us.

Pearl said...

Denis: Today I responded to a columnist who was in awe of Michelle's speech, emphasizing the importance of having a father in a family as a role model and being able to prove he is a man by supporting his children.

My response in the comment section indicated that supporting the military as well as her husband in his upgrading of the senseless war in Afghanistan with so much loss of young life, did not provide one's survivors with a father and husband in their future. As well, men who could not find jobs, especially among minorities, cannot, through no fault of their own, provide for their their families. I found Michelle's speech as unthinking and callous as she is.

I am truly sorry to learn that you lost your wife in 2001 and recalled the loss of my mother in my childhood and the loving and caring presence of my father that kept me on my brother on even keel. I know that you are a wonderful example to your sons not only as a father figure but as an example of how best to wrestle with the struggles caring people have to deal with honestly in our society. They have much to learn from you.

Best to you, Pearl

Karen Garcia said...

Denis & All,
Thanks for sharing your personal stories of loss and the poetry too. My own husband died when my children were quite small, and I have to say it galls me whenever politicians and others lecture us about the sanctity of the two-parent family. Like we even have a choice most of the time!
But to elaborate on how we choose to honor (use for political purposes) a group of people who died horrifically in a mass murder, yet as a country ignore how many people die needlessly simply for lack of medical coverage, here is a study showing that"amenable" mortality of Americans actually starts to slow down, compared with other countries, after age 65 when Medicare finally kicks in:

We spend the most money on health care of any other "wealthy" country and have some of the worst outcomes. Sounds like malpractice to me, of the political kind.

Zee said...

On September 11, 2001, my oldest and best friend was on a two-year assignment at the Pentagon. But by luck or by grace, he was on the opposite side of the building when the plane struck.

We could not get through to Washington, DC for days, and all that was running through our panicked minds during those awful days was that our friend’s wife and three children—also dear friends all—might now be widowed and fatherless, respectively; or, worse yet, might be targets themselves in the days to come, if the attack was not over.

I felt fear and rage and deep sadness and yes, I dearly wanted to personally hunt down and kill whomever was responsible--both for my friends and for my dead countrymen. Though a few days later we were able to contact my friend and his family and the sadness turned to muted joy, the fear and anger persist to this day.

@Karen and @All, I can't disagree with your conclusions as to why 9/11 occurred—they hate us not for who we are, but for what we have done to them in the Middle East—and what we have allowed ourselves to become in the wake of the attack.

We have surrendered our freedom in the name of “safety,” foolishly continued our so-called “global war on terror” by means that have cost "them" the lives of innocents and, us our international reputation and standing, and spent unnecessary billions increasing our already-indomitable military strength at the expense of our neediest citizens. And the list goes on...

Yet, my flag will be out on September 11, just as it has been out on every September 11 since 2002:

» In memory of the almost-3000 people who died that day in a vicious act of terrorism;

» As a gesture of solidarity with my friend, who could have died that day;

» And in memory of the brave souls aboard American Airlines Flight 77, who may have saved my friend's life—and many others—had Flight 77 been intended for the Pentagon, too.

As a number of you have said, 9/11 should never be politicized. But neither should it ever be forgotten. It certainly won't be by me.

Zee said...


American Airlines Flight 77 was the airplane that was crashed into the Pentagon.

It was the courageous passengers aboard United Airlines Flight 93 who resisted the hijackers and brought the plane down in an empty field before it could be used to murder even more Americans, perhaps at the White House, the Pentagon, or yet some other target.

Patricia said...

Denis, I am so sorry for your loss. I too was a victim of tragedy in 2001. My husband passed away suddenly, but not on 9/11. People assumed that he died on that day, when I told them he did not, it was such a strange reaction, after the overwhelming tragedy of that day, my grief was dismissed like it didn't count. It was really strange.
This is the best thing I have seen written about 9/11. The senseless wars we started makes me really angry. More people had to die, as if we didn't lose enough that day. I am tired of being force-fed the patriotic bullshit, that we all know is a lie. We are not safer, if anything, I feel even more unsafe from my own country. This was a really great post. By the way Elizabeth, "cognitive dissonance" is one of the hallmarks of a psychopath. Which explains the behavior of our politicians.

Will said...

I agree with Elizabeth and Patricia: this IS a really great post, Karen. Only someone with your extraordinary talents could perfectly synopsize the slow-motion train wreck we've experienced the last 11 years in just a few paragraphs. (And to back it all up with enough links to make even Denis dizzy? No small feat!)

P.S. Valerie's pull-no-punches "blowback" comment was also spot-on. The truth--the REAL truth, not the untrue Truther truth--about 9/11 isn't pleasant, but we must be honest with ourselves if we ever plan on learning anything from it.

Stev-o said...

On 9/11 I had just returned from walking my dog @ Rocky Ridge Park that lovely September morning, turned on the TV to get redress for work and ended up watching the TV for the next hours ad nauseum. I remember thinking what an amazing feat these terrorists had perpetrated on the Usof......A. It is the ultimate example of blowback. And I am firmly convinced it was an inside-job. We have learned nothing this past decade as we as a country continue sleep walking into the new century, firmly convinced that our exceptionalism will succeed allow us to prevail.

Denis Neville said...

The Other Infamous 9/11

"That September 11, that lethal Tuesday morning, I awoke with dread to the sound of planes flying above my house. When, an hour later, I saw smoke billowing from the center of the city, I knew that life had changed for me, for my country, forever." - Ariel Dorfman, “Epitaph for Another September 11”

September 11th is also the anniversary of another horrendous event. On 9/11/1973 the radical right-wing army general Augusto Pinochet led a USA/CIA-backed military coup against the democratically elected Chilean government of President Salvador Allende. Political terror and the brutal Chicago School economic policies, which punished millions through planned misery, followed.

On 9/11/2001, “every citizen of the United States was forced to look into the chasm of what it means to be “desaparecido,” with no certainty or funeral possible for those who are missing.”

Ariel Dorfman’s message to the citizens of America, “Call it a gift from Chile to the nation that did so much to destroy our democracy, the nation that was also mine, the America where I thrive…”

“Chile and the United States offer, in effect, contrasting models of how to react to a collective trauma,” writes Dorfman.

“Every nation that has been subjected to great harm is faced with a fundamental series of questions that probe its deepest values. How to pursue justice for the dead and reparation for the living? Can the balance of a broken world be restored by giving in to the understandable thirst for revenge against our enemies? Are we not in danger of becoming like them, in danger of turning into their perverse shadow—do we not risk being governed by our rage?”

“If 9/11 can be understood as a test, it seems to me, alas, that the United States failed it. The fear generated by a small band of terrorists led to a series of devastating actions that far exceeded the damage occasioned by the original ordeal…”

“Chile, for all its imperfections and failures, found a way of responding to the terror inflicted on us (yes, us, we Chileans), a path of peace rather than war, a path of understanding rather than retribution.”

“One of the ways for Americans to go beyond the insecurity that has been swallowing us since 9/11 is to admit that our suffering is neither unique nor exclusive. If we are willing to look at ourselves in the vast mirror of our common humanity, we may find ourselves connected with many apparently faraway men and women who have trekked through similar situations of injury and fury…Unless you’re willing to understand that one child who dies in Minneapolis is as valuable as one child who dies in Santiago de Chile. And that makes us one humanity. We’re connected to one another.”

“We citizens will have to share, whether we wish to or not, the precariousness and uncertainty that is the daily lot of the majority of this planet’s other inhabitants. A crisis of this magnitude is one of those opportunities for regeneration and self-knowledge that are granted, from time to time, to certain nations. It can lead to renewal or destruction, used for aggression or for reconciliation, for vengeance or for justice, for the militarization of a society or its humanization.”

“I would hope that the right epitaph for all those September 11s would be the everlasting words of Gandhi: “Violence will prevail over violence, only when someone can prove to me that darkness can be dispelled by darkness.”

- Ariel Dorfman, Feeding on Dreams

ibygeorge said...

Great post. I can not stand today's keeping 9/11 fear alive. Teach your children, do not enlist in the military.

Anonymous said...

I am always a reader. My only comment is to say what a wonderful bit of writing by all today. Thank you Karen and commentators!

Each of us must not let the fear live on. Shortly after 9-11 I asked a dear friend what she thought and her measured comment was, "I don't think we were as safe as we thought we were before, and we are not in as much danger as we think we are in now." It takes a very strong willed and brave person to level out the thought process and calmly and deliberately make policy decisions when confronted with fear which create peace. We did not get that from Bush and his neo-cons. I don't think we are getting that from President Obama and his policy wonks who are using drones to kill with all the collateral damage of innocents which occurs.

Peace to all!


Pearl said...

When I was told to turn on my TV that fateful morning 11 years ago, I
watched in shocked horror as the planes flew into the trade center
buildings. Without knowing yet who was responsible or from where, my mind
immediately raced with images of the U.S. military attacking some country
back and shivered at my thoughts. That worried me even more than what I had
witnessed but it was nowhere near the ugly events that have actually
followed since.

In one of the many videos being shown about 9/11 yesterday and today,
several people interviewed said they had signed up for service in Iraq as a
result. I believe the majority of Americans still believe that was the
proper response among many others, and is the reason for the anger many of us
feel about 9/11 reporting. Several families who lost loved ones that day
have come forward to state that their lost ones would not have condoned the
kind of retaliation their country chose and called for peaceful means to
prevent further massacres.

I appreciate Karen's column and all your comments which one doesn't get a
chance to see in the mainstream press. That is the reason that these
problems never get resolved and as someone wrote, she feels more unsafe
among her own countrymen today than ever before.

The New York Times had a highly critical article in the paper today, "The Deafness Before the Storm", well worth reading. The deafness still continues.

James F Traynor said...

I've lost my patience (not that I'm noted for it). I'm voting for Jill Stein. Screw it. Reforming the Democratic Party is hopeless.

Decided to beat my drum for the particulars. I'm starting with a guy called Sun Ming Scheu, the former 'Sunny' Scheu. He was found dead three days after being warned by detectives of the NYPD, 109th Precinct in Queens to lay off investigating a judge Mr. Scheu charged had helped steal his house.

It began with my reading about it in The Naked Capitalist (Yves Smith) and then further checking in Black Star News. Pretty compelling stuff. If half of it is true, it's dynamite.

spreadoption said...

When those airliners hit the twin towers, I was reminded that way back in 1973 I had attended a briefing on terrorism, as part of the orientation for a newly-minted Air Force dental officer. The lasting message I took away was that if a terrorist wants to act, there is no way we can stop him. That must be less so today, what with our super high-tech surveillance capabilities, yet I believe it remains true, at least for small scale jobs. But an operation with the enormous complexity of 9/11? Come on!! And indeed we do know that there were plenty of warning signs beforehand.

Then some years ago, as independent investigations unfolded, it became clear to me that no aspect of 9/11 could possibly have happened the way we've been told it did. Three WTC buildings collapsing straight down into piles of dust after contained fires? Utterly impossible by the laws of physics and thermodynamics. Rank amateurs flying massive airliners into narrow targeted buildings? Utterly impossible by the laws of aerodynamics. One small hole in the side of the Pentagon? What about holes for the wings and engines? Why no bits of luggage or human parts found there? The questions go on and on.

Paul Craig Roberts offers an excellent summary today of all the questions outstanding.

The only thing of which I am certain is that some people within the Bush administration and our national security institutions know exactly what happened and why.

And that means, the mess we're in is far, far worse than we think it is.

And then there's the final question, which applies equally to our political disaster: How can the American people be so naive, so disinterested, and so accepting of nonsense? Have we been bred (brainwashed) to be serfs?