Bagpipes skirled mournfully and the names of the dead were read solemnly. Presidents visited the “sacred ground” of the twin towers. The New York Philharmonic played Mahler’s Symphony No. 2, the “Resurrection,” for airing on PBS.
Full page ads were displayed with U.S. flags at half-staff next to the words “IN REMEMBRANCE.” The New York Times issued a special section on “THE RECKONING” with “portraits of grief” about some of those who died in 9/11. Tom Engelhardt of the online Tom Dispatch would have none of it. He seemed to shout: “Enough already.”
He asked: “Haven’t we had enough of ourselves?”
He demanded: “No more invocation of those attacks to explain inexplicable wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. No more invocations of 9/11 to keep the Pentagon flooded with money. No more invocations of 9/11 to justify every encroachment on liberty, keeping fear high and the homeland security state afloat.”
Engelhardt noted other truths: “It was not a nuclear attack. It was not apocalyptic. It was not civilization-ending. It did not endanger the existence of America.”
And he reminded Americans of the “many towers’ worth of dead in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere whose blood is on our hands.”
Few Americans know the often sordid history of their own country. They have no memory and no empathy for the death and destruction America has hurled at other nations.
The late historian Howard Zinn wrote: “We must face our record of imperial conquest … our shameful wars … Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq. And the lingering memory of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.”
Writer Noam Chomsky added: “The U.S. conquered half of Mexico…conquered Hawaii and the Philippines (killing hundreds of thousands of Filipinos)…The number of victims is colossal.”
The 2,977 American deaths in 9/11 pale in comparison with the deaths America has dealt out globally for more than a century.
America has spread its worldwide military tentacles over the globe, becoming an uglier ugly American. It has engaged in more than 100 wars and invasions since the American Revolution, nearly all unjustified.
Today it has 900 bases around the world located in 130 countries. America madly dashes off to wars that are illegal and immoral.
As Justice Robert Jackson, U.S. counsel at the Nuremberg trials, said: war crimes are crimes whether Germany of the United States commits them. “We are not prepared to lay down a rule of criminal conduct against others that we would not be willing to have invoked against us.”
The U.S. hypocrisy is enormous. The Obama White House issued a white paper in 2002 extolling the American ideals of “freedom and democracy” as “the single sustainable model for national success.”
But those are just words. Historic U.S. policy in practice has never meant freedom from U.S. attacks or its historic support of dictators.
Rep. Ron Paul of Texas asks: “What would we do if another country, say China, did to us what we do to all other countries?
Good question. The unvarnished truth is that America reaped the 9/11 whirlwind it sowed in Arab lands. (“For they have sown the wind and they shall reap the whirlwind.” Hosea 8:7)
America was attacked in 9/11 because of the vast U.S. presence in Arab lands in the Mideast, its unquestioning support of Israel and Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian land. Other reasons: U.S. backing of Arab dictators blocking democracy and U.S. meddling in Iraq with sanctions and no-fly zones.
Even before the illegal and unconstitutional invasion of Iraq, America was bombing and killing hundreds of thousands of Iraqis for 10 years.
Yet U.S. hubris and its calloused indifference to the lives of other nationals is manifest. Madeleine Albright, former secretary of state, asked how she felt about 500,000 Iraqi children dying because of a U.S. economic boycott, replied: “We think the price is worth it.”
Arabs today are justifiably bitter and resentiful to see American soldiers occupying their land, to see American deeply involved in the Muslim world.
No wonder they hate us. Yet President Bush’s obtuse answer to the why question was: “They hate our freedoms.”
The Nation recently observed astutely: “Weighing on our collectfve conscience are hundreds of thousands of dead Iraqis, tens of thousands of dead Afghans, millions displaced--the overwhelming majority of whom had nothing to do with al-Qaida’s heinous crimes on 9/11.”
Still the nation has the chutzpah to linger over it. Nine-eleven is hardly an event that should be marked in perpetuity.
Jake Highton teaches journalism parttime at the University of Nevada, Reno.