The media call these perpetrators terrorists. Given that we don't really know exactly who they were and what belief systems they were slaves to, we cannot know whether they called themselves holy warriors, freedom fighters, or something else. I doubt they call themselves terrorists for using unconventional tactics, no more than the American colonists who used unconventional tactics that the British found morally repugnant called themselves terrorists.
But what we do know about these people is that they were educated. They were pilots. They were equipped to survive in modern American culture. Minus their hate, they could have been prosperous and successful here. With their hate, because of their hate, they were willing to throw their education, their prosperity, their futures, and their lives away in a blinding flash as aluminum ploughed into concrete with hundreds of innocent lives following just a few feet behind.
How could anyone hate America enough to throw their own lives away in their attacks on the symbols of our nation's economic and military power? I mean it's not like someone just wakes up one morning and decides to hijack a jet passenger liner and use it to knock down a skyscraper and is willing to die in the process because there's nothing good to watch on TV. Nobody wakes up and says, "Gee the baseball game got rained out, let's go blow up a building." Anyone willing to commit such a crime as we have seen this week is seriously pissed off about something, and in order to stop more attacks we need to face up to what that something is.
We're not talking "lone nuts", but entire teams of people willing to die in their attacks on our buildings and against our citizens. What makes these people so hate us that they would sacrifice their lives in their eagerness to strike at us?
Maybe it's because America, despite lovely speeches about bringing freedom and democracy to the world, has a record of backing some of the worst dictators to be found. The US Government, for reasons of commercial interest, backed men like Batista, Pinochet, and the Shah of Iran, despots who drove their people into poverty to enrich American corporations until their people rebelled. Then we befuddled Americans scratch our heads and wonder why those people don't seem to like us very much.
Maybe people hate us because what we call Peacekeepers still looks and feels like an invading army to those who stop the bullets, step on the land mines, and catch the bombs.
Maybe it's because the US Government has executed its foreign policy by tricking nations into fighting each other. Saddam was our buddy once, when he was useful to our policy towards Iran. We The People paid for the Supergun. Our government sold Saddam the first of his biological weapons. Then our government decided they didn't need him any more, told him it would be okay if he invaded Kuwait and declared war on him, blowing up the Supergun and the biological weapons (we hope). Think maybe Saddam carries a grudge? I sure would if I was double crossed like that.
We played the same double cross with Osama Bin Laden, our ally and a CIA contract agent in Afghanistan, funded with $6 billion of YOUR tax dollars, now branded a supervillian worthy of a comic book. Remember the last time our government decided to "take care of Osama?" We blew up an aspirin factory in Sudan. Big joke, that was. You, the taxpayers, not only got to pay for the million-a-shot cruise missiles, you also got to pay to rebuild the aspirin factory when the owners sued the USA, with Vernon Jordan as their attorney! Think the people who worked in that factory (the ones who survived at any rate) like us? I doubt it.
Maybe the reason people in the middle east are willing to conduct holy wars against us is because so many holy wars were conducted against them in the past, going back to the so-called "Holy" Crusades.
Jerusalem was conquered on 7/15/1099 and 60,000 non-Christians were killed. Bodies were slit open to search for gold coins they might have swallowed. Jews who had taken refuge in the city's synagogue were burned alive, thousands of muslims were chopped to death in Al-Aqsa mosque. According to the Archbishop of Tyre, who was an eye-witness, "It was impossible to look upon the vast numbers of the slain without horror; everywhere lay fragments of human bodies, and the very ground was covered with the blood of the slain. It was not alone the spectacle of headless bodies and mutilated limbs strewn in all directions that roused the horror of all who looked upon them. Still more dreadful was it to gaze upon the victors themselves, dripping with blood from head to foot, an ominous sight which brought terror to all who met them. It is reported that within the Temple enclosure alone about ten thousand infidels perished." Christian chronicler Eckehard of Aura noted that "even the following summer in all of Palestine the air was polluted by the stench of decomposition".
After rude behavior like that, nobody would be welcome again.
Maybe people are willing to use terror attacks against us because we use terror attacks against them. In 1985, authorized by William Casey, the CIA planted a car bomb near a mosque in Beirut to kill Sheik Mohammed Hossein Fadlallah, a muslim cleric. The bomb missed the Sheik but killed 80 people, including children. Is it really okay for us to use tactics we condemn in others? No, it isn't. If they are morally wrong to use car bombs that kill innocent people, then so are we.
Or maybe the reason so many people hate us enough to die attacking us is something as simple as growing up watching your playmates blown to bloody bits before your eyes, and picking up a piece of shrapnel stamped, "Made in the USA". It is silly to think that anyone could endure a childhood like that and remain entirely positive about the USA. Because for all its public talk of peace, the United States remains the largest exporter of mechanized death in the world. And if it is acceptable for the victims of guns to blame the gun makers for their injuries, it must be equally acceptable for the victims of bombs, missiles, and mines, to blame the weapons makers as well.
It is far less than clear just who is behind the attacks in New York and Washington DC. Fingers have been pointed at Saddam Hussein, Arafat, and ex CIA agent Osama Bin Laden. It may be any one of them. It may be all three. It may be none of them. It could be the work of a third party, unknown and unseen, with the goal of triggering yet another war where the blood of innocents will be bartered for greater wealth and influence. We do know that those who hijacked the planes went to a great deal of effort to steal identities of Middle Eastern Arabs and use them on their forged identifications.
What also know is that wars are often started with deceptions. Sun Tzu states in "The Art Of War" that all warfare is based on deception, and that rulers must cultivate the appearance of moral rightness in order to persuade their nations to fight.
When Hitler needed the support of the German people to invade Poland, he got it by staging a phony attack complete with dead bodies in Polish uniforms on the German side of the border. Recently declassified documents prove that Pearl Harbor wasn't quite the total surprise it was claimed to be. And the story about stolen incubators that angered America into support of Desert Storm turned out to be a complete fiction created by a public relations firm that has grown rich lying to people on behalf of governments, ANY governments, and whose executives have bragged, &ldquoWe would represent Satan, if he paid us.&rdquo
Forget for a moment who was hurt in these attacks, and study who benefited.
A few weeks ago the USA was factionalized, her people justly critical of the policies of the government, questioning even if that government's taxes were legal, questioning the support of Israel, questioning the handling of the Condit case, questioning Waco, questioning a self-critical nation demanding answers to some tough questions; answers the government did not have.
Now, the United States has been transformed. All criticism is gone, Criticism itself is now deemed to be, instead of the right of the people, an act of treason.
In the blink of an eye our nation has gone from being 266 million thinking citizens wanting to know if the government is right to 266 million conscripts willing to follow the government into war even if it is wrong. In the blink of an eye the people have stopped blaming the government for the worsening economy and shifted that blame to the &ldquoterrorists&rdquo.
The government of the United States has reasserted its power over the people. It is stronger, much stronger, because if this attack. And any educated student of history would know ahead of time that this strengthening of the US government's power would be the result of horrendous attacks such as we have seen..
Israel, criticized by the world for its treatment of displaced Palestinians, now finds that criticism silenced. For the foreseeable future, Israel can do what it will with the Palestinians, immune from the censure of the world's press, burying the Palestinian cause under the rubble of the World Trade Towers.
Unless he is still working for the CIA, Osama Bin Laden would not have wanted to cause any of the changes which have resulted from the horrific attacks on New York and Washington DC. The attacks made the US government stronger. Who benefits from that? That stronger US Government is now ready to wage war against the Arabs. Who benefits from that?
Who really gained from the attacks in New York and Washington DC? Whose political agendas were advanced by the attacks? That is where to look for the planners of the World Trade Towers attacks.
That we have been attacked is certain. But before we send out the cruise missiles to prove how big our national dick is, we had better make sure we are aimed at the right party, and not just being suckered into bombing someone that the real planners and perpetrators of the World Trade Center attack want to trick us into bombing. Because if, in the heat of the moment and the lust for vengeance we surrender our basic American principles such as demand for proof beyond a reasonable doubt, then we ourselves will have damaged America and what it stands for far more than those who attacked the World Trade Center could ever do themselves. What the hijackers could not knock down, we will have thrown down ourselves. If we do that, then those who planned and carried out the attacks against the World Trade Towers and the Pentagon will have won, even if we hunt them down and kill them.
Don't be a slave to your beliefs about what a government could or could not do. History is full of governments that perpetrated monumental frauds upon their own people to trigger a war. Governments HAVE to commit fraud to start a war because most people, especially Americans, refuse to initiate a war of conquest. They have to have the illusion they have been attacked first.
5,000 lives are a lot. But to a government, ours or anyone else's, it's a tiny fraction of a percent to sacrifice to bring 100% of the nation under control, isn't it? And if we go into a protracted war in Afghanistan, a region that has resisted invasion for the last 2000 years, we will soon long for the days when our dead could be counted in mere thousands.
The World Trade Towers cost a billion dollars. That's 1/10th of a percent of what the Department Of Defense misplaced last year, and a drop in the barrel compared to the worth of the oil sitting under the lands the US is about to attack.
Are you really so sure you have been told the truth about what is going on?
Writers who contributed their thoughts after the Sept. 11, 2001 tragedy look back at what they wrote then and reflect on it from the vantage point of today.
Those of us who were alive that day will always dread the annual alignment of those two numbers — nine, eleven -- the blue September sky; our thoughts will return to the ashes. Let that be the way of it. There is no moratorium on grief.
The dreadful mnemonic date has formed a seal over our minds. Something is wrong. It will not be fixed.
In generations past, America used wounds to form armies. Remember the Alamo! Remember the Maine! After the attack on Pearl Harbor, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt bore witness to December 7, "a date which will live in infamy."
In the decade since the attacks of September 11th, Americans have turned inward. We have become a nation obsessed with guarding our borders, particularly the Mexican border, even as ghostly TSA images of our naked bodies reach upward, as though under arrest.
We eschew the international, except for the deserts from which the terrorists came. Under the banner of 9/11, President George W. Bush sent Americans to war against Iraq. We were crazed. Osama bin Laden was the leering genie within the explosions. We toppled Saddam Hussein. We ended up fighting Taliban tribesmen in Kandahar.
When American special forces killed Osama bin Laden in May (we do not remember the date), there was no pervading sense in America that the era of 9/11 was finished. Some Americans danced in the street, waved flags, honked their horns. The fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan went on.
What is maddening us is that the wars of 9/11 can have no ending, because we have no clear purpose, because they have no clear adversary. We are not fighting nations; we are fighting peasants and mercenaries and religious ideologues and millionaires. In the war against terrorism, there will never be an "eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month"; it will always be 9/11.
But an America that only guards against a dangerous world diminishes its power in the world. In the last ten years, China has usurped the noun Americans thought we held the patent to—the "future."
While we have deployed troops backward, into the Bible, China has built dams in Africa and made trade agreements with South America. The Chinese have welcomed young men and women from the Third World to Chinese universities. While U.S. troops are killed building roads between tribal villages in Afghanistan, the Chinese sign mineral contracts in Kabul.
The "Arab spring" that began in Tunisia and spread throughout the Middle East has toppled dictators with whom our government maintained "relationships." We want to feel encouraged by the youthful rebellions. We want to conflate rebellion with American democracy in the designs of the crowd. All the while, we worry the stage is being set for a coming Islamist revival.
Some in our national media have advanced the hope that American technology is liberating the young of the Middle East. Are Apple, Facebook and Twitter democratizing the region? My suspicion is that Americans are confusing conveyance with content. We credit the iPhone with ideological apps that the rest of the world does not necessarily buy.
Hemmed in by an adversarial world, we turn on each other: President Bush was, in the eyes of his critics on the left, a fool wound up by big business. President Barack Obama, according to his critics on the right, is a socialist and a Muslim. Our Congress has become an international scandal. Conservatives versus progressives.
About the only thing that Washington and the nation can seem to manage these days are monuments—we are monument mad, anniversary obsessed. Which leads us to Ground Zero, the tenth anniversary.
This year, put your hand on your heart for all who were lost, for all we have lost, then turn from this place and look at it no more, and see what our nation has become.
Geraldine Brooks, former Mideast correspondent and author, most recently, of the novel Caleb's Crossing.