Thoughts : Politics (911) : Is America Totally Innocent?

The recent events have shocked me and I would like to share some of my feelings here…

When I heard about what happened a few days back, I took leave from work the next day and spent time praying – for the victims, for President Bush…etc. Eventhough I live in Singapore, my heart is still very heavy because of the events. I’ve always been one who is interested in the things happening in America. I love the country and the people.

First of all, let me say that I am really saddened to see many Americans die like that. At this moment, I’m against these kind of terroristic acts. I say “at this moment” not because I will change my views in future (I may, who knows?), but because it’s saddening to see innocent victims die. But on the other hand, I’m open to try and understand why the terrorists have been doing the things they are doing and have done already.

And one reason I believe they did what they did is because they themselves have been victims of injustice and horror from America – the same kind of horror that the Americans faced on September 11, if not greater horror. And I believe they feel the only way to seek revenge is to use violence. I don’t think using violence is good of course! But coming from their perspective, I understand a bit more of why they resorted to the kind of horrible terrorism they did a few days back. Perhaps it’s because they feel so angry due to what they have been receiving. And nobody in the world seems to care. Violence would shake the world up (Martin Luther King, Jr. said that “a riot is the language of the unheard.” I believe the same can be said for terrorism). Violence is also a form of revenge. So I understand why they did it – not that I agree with their resort to violence.

The overwhelming feeling has been of sympathy for the Americans. That is no doubt the right and compassionate response. I do feel for the victims a lot. Words can’t express how I feel. It’s such a horrible act and so many lives were lost. I felt anger also initially towards those responsible. I still feel anger now, but I’m trying to understand them a bit better. Again, I don’t condone their acts, but i do symphatize with them (maybe not them, but at least what’s happening to many of their people)

Do they deserve our total condemnation and not a ear to hear the reasons behind their attacks? Is America totally innocent in this whole matter?

Let me quote excerpts from articles by 3 authors who I think pose tough questions we all need to face:

The terrorist attacks were major atrocities. In scale, they may not reach the level of many others–for example, Clinton’s 1998 bombing of the Sudan with no credible pretext, destroying half its pharmaceutical supplies and killing unknown numbers of people (no one knows, because the U.S. blocked an inquiry at the UN, and no one cares to pursue it). And this is not to speak of much worse cases, which easily come to mind.

But that this was a horrendous crime is not in doubt…

As to how to react, we have a choice. We can express justified horror; we can seek to understand what may have led to the crimes, which means making an effort to enter the minds of the likely perpetrators. If we choose the latter course, we can do no better, I think, than to listen to the words of Robert Fisk, whose direct knowledge and insight into affairs of the region is unmatched after many years of distinguished reporting.

Describing “the wickedness and awesome cruelty of a crushed and humiliated people,” he writes, “This is not the war of democracy versus terror that the world will be asked to believe in the coming days. It is also about American missiles smashing into Palestinian homes and U.S. helicopters firing missiles into a Lebanese ambulance in 1996, and American shells crashing into a village called Qana, and about a Lebanese militia – paid and uniformed by America’s Israeli ally – hacking and raping and murdering their way through refugee camps.”

And much more. Again, we have a choice: we may try to understand–or refuse to do so, contributing to the likelihood that much worse lies ahead. (Noam Chomsky)

Nearly two days after the horrific suicide attacks on civilian workers in New York and Washington, it has become painfully clear that most Americans simply don’t get it. From the president to passersby on the streets, the message seems to be the same: this is an inexplicable assault on freedom and democracy, which must be answered with overwhelming force – just as soon as someone can construct a credible account of who was actually responsible.

Shock, rage and grief there has been aplenty. But any glimmer of recognition of why people might have been driven to carry out such atrocities, sacrificing their own lives in the process – or why the United States is hated with such bitterness, not only in Arab and Muslim countries, but across the developing world – seems almost entirely absent. Perhaps it is too much to hope that, as rescue workers struggle to pull firefighters from the rubble, any but a small minority might make the connection between what has been visited upon them and what their government has visited upon large parts of the world.

…Since George Bush’s father inaugurated his new world order a decade ago, the US, supported by its British ally, bestrides the world like a colossus. Unconstrained by any superpower rival or system of global governance, the US giant has rewritten the global financial and trading system in its own interest; ripped up a string of treaties it finds inconvenient; sent troops to every corner of the globe; bombed Afghanistan, Sudan, Yugoslavia and Iraq without troubling the United Nations; maintained a string of murderous embargos against recalcitrant regimes; and recklessly thrown its weight behind Israel’s 34-year illegal military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza as the Palestinian intifada rages.

…All this must doubtless seem remote to Americans desperately searching the debris of what is expected to be the largest-ever massacre on US soil – as must the killings of yet more Palestinians in the West Bank yesterday, or even the 2m estimated to have died in Congo’s wars since the overthrow of the US-backed Mobutu regime. “What could some political thing have to do with blowing up office buildings during working hours?” one bewildered New Yorker asked yesterday.

Already, the Bush administration is assembling an international coalition for an Israeli-style war against terrorism, as if such counter-productive acts of outrage had an existence separate from the social conditions out of which they arise. But for every “terror network” that is rooted out, another will emerge – until the injustices and inequalities that produce them are addressed. (Seumas Milne Thursday September 13, 2001, The Guardian)

The terrorist attacks against America comprise a horrible tragedy. But they shouldn’t be a surprise.

It is well known that in war, the first casualty is truth – that during any war truth is forsaken for propaganda. But sanity was a prior casualty: it was the loss of sanity that led to war in the firstplace.

Our foreign policy has been insane for decades. It was only a matter of time until Americans would have to suffer personally for it. It is a terrible tragedy of life that the innocent so often have to suffer for the sins of the guilty.

When will we learn that we can’t allow our politicians to bully the world without someone bullying back eventually?

President Bush has authorized continued bombing of innocent people in Iraq. President Clinton bombed innocent people in the Sudan, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Serbia. President Bush Senior invaded Iraq and Panama. President Reagan bombed innocent people in Libya and invaded Grenada. And on and on it goes.

Did we think the people who lost their families and friends and property in all that destruction would love America for what happened?

When will we learn that violence always begets violence?

How many times on Tuesday did we hear someone describe the terrorist attacks as “cowardly acts”? But as misguided and despicable as they were, they were anything but cowardly. The people who committed them knowingly gave their lives for whatever stupid beliefs they held.

But what about the American presidents who order bombings of innocent people – while the presidents remain completely insulated from any danger? What would you call their acts? (Harry Browne)

I’m concerned with the American’s government’s response. I know how angry they feel and how much they want to retaliate. America is a big great nation – the greatest in the world. Americans are proud of their nation. And maybe it’s this pride that will cause them to retaliate ruthlessly. Their pride is at stake. They have been humiliated and they want to jump right back and destroy the people who have caused this tragedy. And I fear the consequences. World War III? I dunno.

But I don’t see America in a very good position. The country is there for the taking by terrorists. But terrorists group can always hide. Does America think that in future they can prevent terrorism 100%? I hope they know it’s impossible to do so! Does America think that by destroying whichever group is responsible, that there will be no terrorists in future? I don’t think so. Ruthless killings and retaliation will only cause a greater response from those who think America a big bully. Whether America is truly bullying other nations is NOT the point here. Even if America is totally innocent – which i doubt – terrorists groups don’t think so and they will continue to scheme to bring down America. So I find it hard to see it as a winning situation for America. They want to respond, but whatever response they give, you’re not going to stop future terrorists attack. Maybe jar them a couple of years before an even greater tragedy eventually strikes America.

I am writing about all this and quoted the above authors because I’m very uncomfortable with the one-sided response. Most seem to be overwhelmingly angry with those responsible (whom I assume are from the Middle East), but have we considered what America has been doing to many countries in the Middle East? Most Americans think that the terrorists were out of their minds, but are they aware of the widespread anti-American sentiments around the world? And have we considered the fact that so many people are anti-American for good reasons – because they have suffered much under American policies?

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