War: September 2003 Archives

We New Yorkers have been saying, "not in our name," for over two years. After completing a study begun only a week after the 9/11 attacks, psychoanalyst and historian Charles B. Strozier, the Director of the Center on Terrorism and Public Safety at the city's John Jay College of Criminal Justice, suggests an explanation.

But what he found in his study [including repeated interviews with people in and outside of New York] surprised him. "You cannot underestimate the difference between the experience and the image of the experience," Dr. Strozier said.

"Those who lived in Lower Manhattan breathed in the smell of the dead for weeks, like those at Auschwitz. We all knew what the smell was even if we did not speak about it. The dust settled over huge sections of the city, from Brooklyn to the Upper West Side.

"The chaos and fear were real to New Yorkers. This made the experience authentic. New Yorkers were much closer to the suffering. It was harder to become numb to it. And while they may have been angry, they were less filled with rage," the professor said. "It was much harder to get those of us who were there to believe in the notion that killing others would somehow make us safer."

Some of our friends seem to think that the story about the White House betrayal of a CIA operative just broke in the media. There must be many more so mistaken, so take a look at this post in early July and this one, two weeks later. Both link to early reports in the press.

Knowing this to be the case, another appropriate question has to be asked, and I do. Why was the significance of this crime ignored until now? Well, the Republicans have been working very hard since Watergate and that subsequent little speed bump, Iran-Contra, and everyone else has been asleep, as we now know to our shame.

Besides, it's not about sex.

View of the UN from 47th Street and 1st Avenue on Tuesday

Only about two dozen people found their way to the designated free speech zone a block from the United Nations yesterday. From where we stood we had a view of the tops of the buildings and a number of media vans and mammoth, rock-filled dump trucks some distance away. Exciting.

I'd like to think that everyone who wasn't there knows that Bush's days are now numbered, but it may also be that the administration's strategy has succeeded: Dissent is wrong, but if you insist on pursuing your little perversions you may do it where you will only be shouting at the cops and other security types.

The few (10?) anti-regime boobies gathered in the rain in Dag Hammarskjold Park were even slightly outnumbered and clearly out-shouted - ok, rather shamed - by the organization and enthusiasm of a group of Indonesians demonstrating for justice, human rights and a free Aceh.

Maybe America will survive if even with our own civil rights so threatened and compromised it can still inspire such courage and hope in her youngest sons and daughters, or her newest visitors. Many of these people may have much to lose with their activism - one modelled on our own best traditions. I hope we will remain worthy of such tributes.

The media yesterday? I only saw a Telemundo crew in almost two hours, but they lingered in front of us for quite a while, especially in front of the young Indonesians. There was some interest in my own waterproofed sign, which read, intending to direct an indictable Bush, "THE HAGUE, NOT THE UN." The few diplomat-types which walked by kept straight faces, unless they made eye contact, which broke the facade and the response was then a warm smile.


And these are only the Americans.

[image from "Counting the Body Bags" on nyc indymedia center]

I had to skip yesterday; just couldn't take the scenes. Here's why:

As a nation, we’re swimming in self-pity, we’re shaking in fear, and we’re reveling in revenge.

But were being really, really stupid. Pity, fear and revenge do not make good policy for individuals or nations.

We talk incessantly about what was done to us, but no one is asking why; we’re sure it’ll happen again, but we haven’t done much to prevent that; and we want to beat the shit out of “them,” even though “they” didn’t do it.

I don’t want to hear about September 11. I want to hear about September 10 and September 12. We need a serious investigation of how this thing happened, and a serious policy which might prevent it happening again.

What we are getting is ignorance and violence, an ignorance and a violence which can only produce greater ignorance and violence, as have already seen and as we can expect to see so long as we are committed to it.

The most truly horrifying take on why we are not getting what we really need is the argument that our de facto government is using September 11 for its own political purpose and for its plain money greed. You don’t have to believe that this administration had any part in or knew in advance about the devastating blows we suffered that day to be able to say it has done everything that it could to profit from it, and that so far its efforts have been very successful.

The first step in our recovery has not yet been taken. That step will be the removal of this evil regime.

Paul Krugman recounts its history of exploitation, and warns that, since those who directed it are finally in very serious trouble on all fronts, removing them will be very, very messy.

. . . Where once the administration was motivated by greed, now it's driven by fear.

In the first months after 9/11, the administration's ruthless exploitation of the atrocity was a choice, not a necessity.

. . . .

Now it has all gone wrong. The deficit is about to go above half a trillion dollars, the economy is still losing jobs, the triumph in Iraq has turned to dust and ashes, and Mr. Bush's poll numbers are at or below their pre-9/11 levels.

Nor can the members of this administration simply lose like gentlemen. For one thing, that's not how they operate. Furthermore, everything suggests that there are major scandals - involving energy policy, environmental policy, Iraq contracts and cooked intelligence - that would burst into the light of day if the current management lost its grip on power. So these people must win, at any cost.

The result, clearly, will be an ugly, bitter campaign - probably the nastiest of modern American history.

They will be wrapped in bibles and flags, and you and I will be accused of immorality and treason.

New York patriot: and nobody's stooge

Go here for a gallery of images from today's demonstration at Federal Hall.

Years ago most of us would not have thought we’d ever find ourselves in a police barricade pen next to the Stock Exchange on Broad and Wall Streets demonstrating against U.S. fascism. But there we were this afternoon, and the real terror is that I don’t think this stuff surprises us now.

For two hours of a gorgeous late summer day in New York, a serious community of between two and three thousand people yelled, chanted and listened closely to dozens of speakers addressing them and, in absentia, the scary man who was lunching across the street.

John Ashcroft, the appointee of an appointed president, was addressing a closed-door meeting of invited high-level New York-area law enforcement officials as part of a national “tour” for his police state apparatus. The trips were designed to sell the administration’s extraordinary Justice Department agenda as it’s described in the original "Patriot" Act, in the terms of its expansive but still only proposed sequel, dubbed "Patriot" II, or in something called the "Victory" Act.

Ashcroft was speaking just a few blocks from the site of the World Trade Center, and the New York speech, delivered two days prior to the anniversary of its destruction, is supposedly the last in the series.

Not the least disturbing part of this affront to all republican and democratic decency and true patriotism was the fact that it took place in Federal Hall, the site of George Washington’s inauguration. It was on this plot that the United States Congress first met, and where it wrote and passed the Bill of Rights.

Like most everything done by this administration, everything about Ashcroft’s sales-trip visits, including the time, the location and the guest lists, are supposed to be kept secret from the American people. And yet, with only two days notice secured through irregular means, some 60 organizations were able to bring a very large and enthusiastic crowd of outraged New Yorkers to confront on their own turf this arrogant rogue government and its continuing and unprecedented attacks on civil liberties.

The reason for it was sobering enough for today’s oddly cheerful assembly, but the most chilling evidence of that necessity was the insult of so many machine-guns and attack-dogs held by so many of the armored special in our immediate vicinity, on the streets and sidewalks, on subway entrances, next to the heroic bronze of George Washinton on the steps of his place, and especially the stairs and the roof of the Memorial itself. The real terrorist was inside Federal Hall this afternoon.

Another country.

The unelected vice president, Dick Cheney, arrives here on Thursday to help us celebrate his party’s great day, and less than one year from now the big monkey himself will be accepting that gang’s nomination for a second appointment to misrule – in poor old, wounded, grieving but oh so grateful New York.

Well, serving them is not our agenda, and the Republicrats have to know that.

September 11 is nothing more than a political tool for these people, as is all of New York City itself, a place more removed from their world than any other part of the country.

We have to do something by which they will remember us elsewise – and if not fondly, well. "Well" will do very nicely.

It's all laid out here, in a compact piece from the Toronto Star, via Common Dreams, by the paper's own Haroon Siddiqui.

I wrote late last night about Ashcroft's marketing visit to New York next week, and I titled the post, "talk to Ashcroft Tuesday." While I was at it, I might also have mentioned that although he has declined to grace us with the Chief Monkey's presence at "ground zero" on Thursday, Dick Cheney himself will be coming instead.

At this point across the breakfast table the Barry reminds me that it was Cheney's Halliburton which, right up to Cheney's appointment as vice president, did big business with Saddam Hussein, who of course was responsible for 9/11, according to Cheney. Sublime.

[The Fort Wayne paper begins its news story on Bush's no-show with, "Wait till next year," reminding us that in 2004 Bush "will accept his party's nomination for reelection at the GOP convention in New York City nine days before the third anniversary." Later the article frankly discusses the virtual certainty that Bush would now have gotten booed in New York. Wait till next year.]

Were I not sufficiently awed and affrighted by the terms of their "Patriot Act," I would have written not about talking to Ashcroft, and now Cheney two days later, but rather about driving them both out of our city and back to their war bunkers, which should then be sealed forever.

But I didn't say that. Nope.

[image from The Upsidedown Culture Collective]

Over 3000 people are killed in one day in a vicious terrorist attack on our own shores, frightening most of the rest of the country absolutely out of their wits, and directing them toward an enthusiasm for domestic and foreign violence remarkable even by their own unhappy standards, both consequences from which the country has not recovered to this day.

In one of its first responses to the events, the White House immediately arranges for seven score foreign residents, VIPs from just one nation, to flee the country on special flights, this well before the Oval Office had allowed flight restrictions to be lifted for the general public, and before much was known (publicly) about those who had planned them.

We already knew about the flight(s) of the 140 Saudis and their families. The real news today is a report about the direct involvement of the White House. What’s still not part of the news is why it was done, and why those people in particular were spirited out of the country in secret.

Richard Clarke, who ran the White House crisis team after the attacks, but has since left the administration, said today, “The White House feared that the Saudis could face ‘retribution’ for the hijackings if they remained in the United States.”

The NYTimes article, which only appears on page A19 of today's edition, does not explain why or even point out that in the days immediately after the attacks, the White House was apparently only concerned for the safety of certain wealthy Saudi citizens, even to the exclusion of all other nationals, regardless of their origin. Of course this was happening while the same Bush team was busy rounding up people from every Middle Eastern or Central and South Asian country but Israel. None of these people were given plane tickets that week.

Interesting that – and on both counts. I’m referring to the White House’s interesting decision two years ago and the Times decision to focus their report today so narrowly.

The story appears in an article in Vanity Fair out today. I haven't seen it yet, but perhaps there’s more in that notorious, lefty political style mag than the oh-so-responsible Times found fit to print. In any event, I think the fallout from this story has only begun.

Illustration by David Olére, a Sonderkommando who survived nearly two years at Auschwitz

Anybody feel funny about this announcement?

The Israeli Embassy in Warsaw said three Israeli jets piloted by descendants of Holocaust survivors would fly over the former [Auschwitz death] camp at noon on Thursday. They were to be joined by two Polish MIG-29 jets.
Well, the authorities of the museum there do.
"It's a cemetery, a place of silence and concentration," a museum spokesman, Jaroslaw Mensfelt, said. He called the planned flyover "a demonstration of military might which is an entirely inappropriate way to commemorate the victims."

[image from The Danish Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies]

It's too delicious. Today there's more from Daily Kos on the embarassment of what passes for the American government. He's done his homework, citing the reaction of several sources around the world to the administration's call this week for other nations to contribute money and blood to its own disaster in Iraq.

First, here's part of his own excerpt from a Guardian guest piece by Richard Perle which appeared the day after the "war" began:

Saddam Hussein's reign of terror is about to end. He will go quickly, but not alone: in a parting irony, he will take the UN down with him. Well, not the whole UN. The "good works" part will survive, the low-risk peacekeeping bureaucracies will remain, the chatterbox on the Hudson will continue to bleat. What will die is the fantasy of the UN as the foundation of a new world order. As we sift the debris, it will be important to preserve, the better to understand, the intellectual wreckage of the liberal conceit of safety through international law administered by international institutions [...]
Salon, snappier than some media sites, contributes these lines, among many more:
In other words, the rest of the world is to send its troops to get killed so that a U.S. president it fears and despises can take the credit for an invasion it bitterly opposed.

The rest of the world may be crazy, but it ain't stupid.

But much of the world, including many in this country, while welcoming the comeuppance of the Bushites, has no wish to see Iraq suffer. We will have to hold our own evil-doers responsible, through our voices, our feet, the media, our votes, and definitely through impeachment and trial.

But there is no agreement about an alternative to the current U.S. involvement in Iraq, and in fact I haven't seen any real alternatives proposed. Like so much else wrought in domestic and foreign policy by this stolen White House, the move was so unprecedented, the violence done was so great, resolution cannot be accomplished simply through interdiction.

We may never recover ourselves. How can we expect Iraq to do so?

but Halliburton is still in charge."

Daily Kos gets it right - as usual. [We should all be reading him regularly.] The entire post:

US tells UN to screw off, but give us money and troops first

I can't be too surprised about this, but it's still shocking:

The United States went to the United Nations Wednesday to seek help with troops and money for Iraq, but said it would not give up command of military operations or its dominant role in the country.
Translation: Give us your money and blood, but Halliburton is still in charge.

Germany is unlikely to be swayed, as they want the UN to take control of the operations. And France wants a hard deadline for ending the occupation (which to be honest is a silly requirement). Russia seems to be sitting back enjoying the castration of the mighty US military.

We suddenly don't look so tough anymore, huh?

Don't do it UN'uns!

Kalandia crossing

"I have been thinking a lot about the separation, the general ignorance between average Palestinians and Israelis, and while the gap is indeed large, the ignorance is a choice that functions as an excuse to do less. This is also one of the reasons so many Israelis support the wall/fence, not for security reasons, but just because it will allow them not to have to deal with the Palestinians; while they hardly see them now, you can't see through walls."

Before ending her working and activist summer in the Middle East, Ellen writes another report.

Hi friends,

I finished filming with my cameraman, Chris Romeike, yesterday and I will just follow-up this week with a few bits and pieces. It was very intensive, lots of interviews, lots of locations, lots of travel. Chris was great to work with though, very helpful and really into the surroundings and soaking-it-all-up. I am exhausted at this point, looking forward to returning home for a bit and putting all the pieces together again, mentally and otherwise.

Yesterday Chris and I were at the Kalandia crossing near Ramallah and it seems the soldiers were particularly nasty and brutal. They were harassing some woman and her 15 year old son as he did not have the proper permit to cross the checkpoint, Chris and I went to see what was happening and as we came with the camera, they left them and swarmed around us, yelling “no camera, no filming.” I told Chris to keep rolling as we worked-out whether or not they had the right to tell us not to film. I argued (of course!) and they were pretty unfriendly. One young soldier told me he could arrest me, bring me in for questioning blah, blah. I have learned from Ezra, not to let them intimidate. They talk a lot of bullshit, without a lot of authority behind them. Of course this is how they function daily to the Palestinians, but without any monitoring, they run lawlessly to some degree. They make threats, they invent rules and then they do as they please to the population. It is actually amazing to watch democratic principles be thrown out the window at will.

I have been witnessing a great deal of this occurring within both Israel and Palestine of late. The use of the excuse “the situation” and “for security” seems to supersede all, and not just at the high court levels where decisions are made daily in relation to “security concerns” overriding civil rights, but in the street, in these meetings with soldiers or anyone wearing a security badge. I was working on an interview, following one of my subjects to her workplace, and it so happens that as we were filming her walking, we passed the back of the American Embassy, to get where we were going. An Israeli security guard comes racing over demanding our ID's, practically our tape, what we are doing etc. I just said, “what are you talking about? This has nothing to do with you, or the embassy. And, if the embassy has a problem with anyone with cameras in the vicinity, it should have a sign saying no filming, not that we were filming anything related to you anyway” This seemed to be of no consequence to this guy who continued to demand out ID's. Chris and I handed him our Canadian passports and he turned and said “I'll be back in a few minutes.” I said “No way, you're not going anywhere with my passport and I don't have time for your issues.” I told him to give me the passports back right away, he looked at them, hesitated and handed them back, after a five second “check.” But if I wasn't aggressive, who knows how long we would have waited. We were talking about it afterwards in relation to the US's Homeland Security regulations overriding civil rights as well. I suppose what feels significant is how one experiences these things here daily, it is quite blatant and the Middle East's “only democracy” is quite far from that in so many ways.

We traveled a lot with Ezra, to Hebron area again this week and the closures of Palestinian roads connecting villages to towns are endless. A farmer can't get to his field, and certainly not with a tractor, people can't get to medical centres, crossing the Jewish road results in fines and punishments. I saw all these people running across the road, one after the other, as if they were running from someone chasing them, lots of people. I asked Ezra what he thought was going on? He told me that they were simply running as they were not allowed to be crossing the road. Can you picture it? Working people of all ages, running across a highway, fleeing. They are indeed being “chased.”

And for a drastic contrast, Chris and I went from there to Tel Aviv (about an hour and a half drive). We had dinner at a Nouvelle Cuisine Yuppie restaurant and then off to a gay bar for some filming. What a contrast from sitting in a tent in the Hebron hills with a family that could barely afford to feed itself and are not allowed to graze there sheep in most of their old grazing lands as they are surrounded by hostile settlers and are cut off by the roads they are not allowed to cross. The shepherds seem to be walking in circles. These people shared their food with us, as we walked around looking at the destroyed caves that they used to live in. The army had come and blown the caves to bits because they represent a permanent residence, yes, a cave, and they are not allowed to “build” there. They tried to put some rudimentary housing together after that, but those have been destroyed too, permanent structures you see. They have been allowed to reside in tents although this has been a problem for them as in the winter it is too cold, unsheltered, and the snow leaks into the tents. The meal they prepared for us was much better than the one in Tel Aviv, honestly.

I won't bore you with the details of the gay bar, it looked like every gay bar in the Western world; lots of tank tops, lots of cruising etc. I met one young guy who was happy to talk to the camera as Chris behind it seemed to be of interest to him. He was a soldier he told me, and “Israelis just wanted peace and love, and that they would love the Arabs if only they could know which ones are good and which ones are not, so many are terrorists, so we cannot have peace.” Luckily, I met some more engaging guys across from him who were lawyers it turns out. We talked about gay marriage in Canada for a bit but the conversation of course turned to Israel Palestine. One stayed on to talk, the other left for another gay bar. The one who stayed was telling me that he was currently trying to get out of his upcoming reserve duty which was to be at an army prison (for Palestinians), in the North. He told me how horrible it is, how the reserve soldiers, as they tend to be nicer and more civilized, are forbidden to engage at all with the prisoners. He is to be kept in a guard tower. Tel Avivians may try to stay far mentally from the Occupation but it seems you can't really run too far in the end.

I have been thinking a lot about the separation, the general ignorance between average Palestinians and Israelis, and while the gap is indeed large, the ignorance is a choice that functions as an excuse to do less. This is also one of the reasons so many Israelis support the wall/fence, not for security reasons, but just because it will allow them not to have to deal with the Palestinians; while they hardly see them now, you can't see through walls.

Well, that's this week's update and my last. I should be home by Sept 8th. I suppose this means summer is officially over, I feel relieved this time.

Peace to you all,

[image from BBC news]

Steve, who returned last week from a summer in Palestine, will be speaking on Wednesday at 7 o'clock in Bluestockings Bookstore in the East Village.

It sounds like he will be with other activists from Jews Against the Occupation (JAtO), to report on the present situation in Palestine and their work with the International Solidarity Movement.

Bluestockings Books is a wonderful, spunky little independent bookstore on the east side of Allen Street, between Stanton and Rivington, just one and a half blocks south of Houston Street.

For those outside of New York who have been following his reports, or for anyone interested in the issues who would like to arrange a forum in their own community, Steve writes that he is more than anxious to speak, show slides and to provide other speakers as well.

"I'll speak at your church, synagogue, or mosque, in your living room, at your yoga center, or wherever you can gather a few people together.

If you're outside the New York area and would like ISMers [members of the International Solidarity Movement] to come speak, let me know. There may be folks in your area, or a speaking tour coming through."

You can contact him through JAtO: [email protected], voicemail (212) 539-6683, or by sending an email to me.

Bluestocking's phone number is 212-777-6028.

This page is an archive of entries in the War category from September 2003.

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