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Oct 2001 • Vol 1, No. 5 •

Responses to September 11

Susan Sontag

International Opinion Poll

Jacob Levich

Michael Moore

Durham, North Carolina NAACP

Charles Walker

Dennis Rivera

San Francisco Labor Council, AFL-CIO

The World Trade Center Attack
September 11, 2001

by Susan Sontag

The disconnect between last Tuesday’s monstrous dose of reality and the self-righteous drivel and outright deceptions being peddled by public figures and TV commentators is startling, depressing. The voices licensed to follow the event seem to have joined together in a campaign to infantilize the public. Where is the acknowledgment that this was not a “cowardly” attack on “civilization” or “liberty” or “humanity” or “the free world” but an attack on the world’s self-proclaimed superpower, undertaken as a consequence of specific American alliances and actions? How many citizens are aware of the ongoing American bombing of Iraq? And if the word “cowardly” is to be used, it might be more aptly applied to those who kill from beyond the range of retaliation, high in the sky, than to those willing to die themselves in order to kill others. In the matter of courage (a morally neutral virtue): whatever may be said of the perpetrators of Tuesday’s slaughter, they were not cowards.

Our leaders are bent on convincing us that everything is O.K. America is not afraid. Our spirit is unbroken, although this was a day that will live in infamy and America is now at war. But everything is not O.K. And this was not Pearl Harbor. We have a robotic President who assures us that America still stands tall. A wide spectrum of public figures, in and out of office, who are strongly opposed to the policies being pursued abroad by this Administration apparently feel free to say nothing more than that they stand united behind President Bush. A lot of thinking needs to be done, and perhaps is being done in Washington and elsewhere, about the ineptitude of American intelligence and counter-intelligence, about options available to American foreign policy, particularly in the Middle East, and about what constitutes a smart program of military defense.

But the public is not being asked to bear much of the burden of reality. The unanimously applauded, self-congratulatory bromides of a Soviet Party Congress seemed contemptible. The unanimity of the sanctimonious, reality-concealing rhetoric spouted by American officials and media commentators in recent days seems, well, unworthy of a mature democracy.

Those in public office have let us know that they consider their task to be a manipulative one: confidence-building and grief management. Politics, the politics of a democracy—which entails disagreement, which promotes candor—has been replaced by psychotherapy. Let’s by all means grieve together. But let’s not be stupid together. A few shreds of historical awareness might help us understand what has just happened, and what may continue to happen. “Our country is strong,” we are told again and again. I for one don’t find this entirely consoling. Who doubts that America is strong? But that’s not all America has to be.

Reprinted from the Internet copy of the Susan Sontag contribution to Commentary and Analysis in The New Yorker.

International opinion poll opposes U.S. military strike

ZURICH, Sept 21 (Reuters) International public opinion opposes a massive U.S. military strike to retaliate for suicide attacks on America by hijacked aircraft, according to a Gallup poll in 31 countries whose results were released on Friday.

Only in Israel and the United States did a majority favor a military response against states shown to harbor terrorists, the survey found. People questioned elsewhere preferred to see suspected terrorists extradited and put on trial.

“Around 80 percent of Europeans and around 90 percent of South Americans favor extradition and a court verdict. By European comparison, calls for a tough military response were above average among the French (29 percent) and the Dutch (28 percent),” said Swiss polling firm Isopublic, which conducted the survey in Switzerland.

Seventy-seven percent of Israelis backed military action, while 54 percent of Americans were in favor, it said.

The surveys were done between September 17 and 19, around a week after the September 11 suicide attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington killed more than 6,000 people.

U.S. officials have named Saudi-born dissident Osama bin Laden the prime suspect and have threatened military action if Afghanistan, where bin Laden lives, does not hand him over.

Clear majorities of between 70 and 80 percent supported limiting any strike to military rather than civilian targets, the survey found.

Asked if their own country should support a U.S. military assault, people in NATO countries other than Greece tended to agree.

Four out of five Danes backed the idea, followed by 79 percent in Britain and 73 percent in France. Greeks were the least enthusiastic with only 29 percent, below 53 percent in Germany and 58 percent in Norway and Spain.

The survey was done in Argentina, Austria, Bosnia, Britain, Bulgaria, Croatia, Denmark, Ecuador, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Israel, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Mexico, the Netherlands, Norway, Pakistan, Peru, Portugal, Romania, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Switzerland, the United States and Zimbabwe.

Bush’s Orwellian Address:
Happy New Year: It’s 1984

By Jacob Levich

Seventeen years later than expected, 1984 has arrived. In his address to Congress Thursday, George Bush effectively declared permanent war—war without temporal or geographic limits; war without clear goals; war against a vaguely defined and constantly shifting enemy. Today it's Al-Qaeda; tomorrow it may be Afghanistan; next year, it could be Iraq or Cuba or Chechnya.

No one who was forced to read “1984” in high school could fail to hear a faint bell tinkling. In George Orwell's dreary classic, the totalitarian state of Oceania is perpetually at war with either Eurasia or Eastasia. Although the enemy changes periodically, the war is permanent; its true purpose is to control dissent and sustain dictatorship by nurturing popular fear and hatred. The permanent war undergirds every aspect of Big Brother's authoritarian program, excusing censorship, propaganda, secret police, and privation. In other words, it's terribly convenient. And conveniently terrible. Bush's alarming speech pointed to a shadowy enemy that lurks in more than 60 countries, including the US.

He announced a policy of using maximum force against any individuals or nations he designates as our enemies, without color of international law, due process, or democratic debate. He explicitly warned that much of the war will be conducted in secret. He rejected negotiation as a tool of diplomacy. He announced starkly that any country that doesn't knuckle under to US demands will be regarded as an enemy. He heralded the creation of a powerful new cabinet-level police agency called the “Office of Homeland Security.”

Orwell couldn't have named it better. By turns folksy (“Ya know what?”) and chillingly bellicose (“Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists”), Bush stepped comfortably into the role of Big Brother, who needs to be loved as well as feared. Meanwhile, his administration acted swiftly to realize the governing principles of Oceania:

WAR IS PEACE. A reckless war that will likely bring about a deadly cycle of retaliation is being sold to us as the means to guarantee our safety. Meanwhile, we've been instructed to accept the permanent war as a fact of daily life. As the inevitable slaughter of innocents unfolds overseas, we are to “live our lives and hug our children.”

FREEDOM IS SLAVERY. “Freedom itself is under attack,” Bush said, and he's right. Americans are about to lose many of their most cherished liberties in a frenzy of paranoid legislation. The government proposes to tap our phones, read our email and seize our credit card records without court order. It seeks authority to detain and deport immigrants without cause or trial. It proposes to use foreign agents to spy on American citizens. To save freedom, the warmongers intend to destroy it.

IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH. America's “new war” against terrorism will be fought with unprecedented secrecy, including heavy press restrictions not seen for years, the Pentagon has advised. Meanwhile, the sorry history of American imperialism—collaboration with terrorists, bloody proxy wars against civilians, forcible replacement of democratic governments with corrupt dictatorship is strictly off-limits to mainstream media. Lest it weaken our resolve, we are not to be allowed to understand the reasons underlying the horrifying crimes of September 11.

The defining speech of Bush's presidency points toward an Orwellian future of endless war, expedient lies, and ubiquitous social control. But unlike 1984's doomed protagonist, we've still got plenty of space to maneuver and plenty of ways to resist. It's time to speak and to act. It falls on us now to take to the streets, bearing a clear message for the warmongers: We don't love Big Brother.

Jacob Levich is a writer, editor, and activist living in Queens, New York.

It Doesn’t Have to be Like This

A message from Michael Moore

Dear friends,

I was supposed to fly today on the 4:30 PM American Airlines flight from LAX to JFK. But tonight I find myself stuck in L.A. with an incredible range of emotions over what has happened on the island where I work and live in New York City.

My wife and I spent the first hours of the day—after being awakened by phone calls from our parents at 6:40am PT—trying to contact our daughter at school in New York and our friend JoAnn who works near the World Trade Center.

I called JoAnn at her office. As someone picked up, the first tower imploded, and the person answering the phone screamed and ran out, leaving me no clue as to whether or not she or JoAnn would live.

It was a sick, horrible, frightening day.

On December 27, 1985 I found myself caught in the middle of a terrorist incident at the Vienna airport—which left 30 people dead, both there and at the Rome airport. (The machine-gunning of passengers in each city was timed to occur at the same moment.)

I do not feel like discussing that event tonight because it still brings up too much despair and confusion as to how and why I got to live; a fluke, a mistake, a few feet on the tarmac, and I am still here, there but for the grace of.

Safe. Secure. I’m an American, living in America. I like my illusions. I walk through a metal detector, I put my carry-ons through an x-ray machine, and I know all will be well.

Here’s a short list of my experiences lately with airport security:

  • At the Newark Airport, the plane is late at boarding everyone. The counter can’t find my seat. So I am told to just “go ahead and get on”—without a ticket!

  • At Detroit Metro Airport, I don’t want to put the lunch I just bought at the deli through the x-ray machine so, as I pass through the metal detector, I hand the sack to the guard through the space between the detector and the x-ray machine. I tell him “It’s just a sandwich.” He believes me and doesn’t bother to check. The sack has gone through neither security device.

  • At LaGuardia in New York, I check a piece of luggage, but decide to catch a later plane. The first plane leaves without me, but with my bag—no one knowing what is in it.

  • Back in Detroit, I take my time getting off the commuter plane. By the time I have come down its stairs, the bus that takes the passengers to the terminal has left—without me. I am alone on the tarmac, free to wander wherever I want. So I do. Eventually, I flag down a pick-up truck and an airplane mechanic gives me a ride the rest of the way to the terminal.

  • I have brought knives, razors; and once, my traveling companion brought a hammer and chisel. No one stopped us.

Of course, I have gotten away with all of this because the airlines consider my safety SO important, they pay rent-a-cops $5.75 an hour to make sure the bad guys don’t get on my plane. That is what my life is worth—less than the cost of an oil change.

Too harsh, you say?

Well, chew on this: a first-year pilot on American Eagle (the commuter arm of American Airlines) receives around $15,000 a year in annual pay.

That’s right—$15,000 for the person who has your life in his hands. Until recently, Continental Express paid a little over $13,000 a year. There was one guy, an American Eagle pilot, who had four kids so he went down to the welfare office and applied for food stamps—and he was eligible!

Someone on welfare is flying my plane? Is this for real? Yes, it is.

So spare me the talk about all the precautions the airlines and the FAA is taking. They, like all businesses, are concerned about one thing—the bottom line and the profit margin.

Four teams of 3-5 people were all able to penetrate airport security on the same morning at 3 different airports and pull off this heinous act? My only response is—that’s all?

Well, the pundits are in full diarrhea mode, gushing on about the “terrorist threat” and today’s scariest dude on planet earth—Osama bin Laden. Hey, who knows, maybe he did it. But, something just doesn’t add up.

Am I being asked to believe that this guy who sleeps in a tent in a desert has been training pilots to fly our most modern, sophisticated jumbo jets with such pinpoint accuracy that they are able to hit these three targets without anyone wondering why these planes were so far off path?

Or am I being asked to believe that there were four religious/political fanatics who JUST HAPPENED to be skilled airline pilots who JUST HAPPENED to want to kill themselves today?

Maybe you can find one jumbo jet pilot willing to die for the cause—but FOUR? Ok, maybe you can—I don’t know.

Where did he go to terrorist school? At the CIA!

What I do know is that all day long I have heard everything about this bin Laden guy except this one fact—WE created the monster known as Osama bin Laden!

Don’t take my word for it—I saw a piece on MSNBC last year that laid it all out. When the Soviet Union occupied Afghanistan, the CIA trained him and his buddies in how to commit acts of terrorism against the Soviet forces. It worked! The Soviets turned and ran. Bin Laden was grateful for what we taught him and thought it might be fun to use those same techniques against us.

We abhor terrorism—unless we’re the ones doing the terrorizing.

We paid and trained and armed a group of terrorists in Nicaragua in the 1980s who killed over 30,000 civilians. That was OUR work. You and me. Thirty thousand murdered civilians and who the hell even remembers!

We fund a lot of oppressive regimes that have killed a lot of innocent people, and we never let the human suffering THAT causes to interrupt our day one single bit.

We have orphaned so many children, tens of thousands around the world, with our taxpayer-funded terrorism (in Chile, in Vietnam, in Gaza, in Salvador) that I suppose we shouldn’t be too surprised when those orphans grow up and are a little whacked in the head from the horror we have helped cause.

Yet, our recent domestic terrorism bombings have not been conducted by a guy from the desert but rather by our own citizens: a couple of ex-military guys who hated the federal government.

From the first minutes of today’s events, I never heard that possibility suggested. Why is that?

Maybe it’s because the Arabs are much better foils. A key ingredient in getting Americans whipped into a frenzy against a new enemy is the all-important race card. It’s much easier to get us to hate when the object of our hatred doesn’t look like us.

Congressmen and Senators spent the day calling for more money for the military; one Senator on CNN even said he didn’t want to hear any more talk about more money for education or health care—we should have only one ,priority: our self-defense.

Will we ever get to the point that we realize we will be more secure when the rest of the world isn’t living in poverty so we can have nice running shoes?

In just 8 months, Bush gets the whole world back to hating us again. He withdraws from the Kyoto agreement, walks us out of the Durban conference on racism, insists on restarting the arms race—you name it, and Baby Bush has blown it all.

The Senators and Congressmen tonight broke out in a spontaneous version of “God Bless America.” They’re not a bad group of singers!

Yes, God, please do bless us.

Many families have been devastated tonight. This just is not right. They did not deserve to die. If someone did this to get back at Bush, then they did so by killing thousands of people who DID NOT VOTE for him! Boston, New York, DC, and the planes’ destination of California—these were places that voted AGAINST Bush!

Why kill them? Why kill anyone? Such insanity.

Let’s mourn, let’s grieve, and when it’s appropriate let’s examine our contribution to the unsafe world we live in. It doesn’t have to be like this.


Michael Moore

Durham, North Carolina NAACP President Opposes War

Curtis Gatewood, a Durham, North Carolina minister, and president of the local branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) said at a Sept. 15 monthly meeting that African-Americans should not have to fight in any military action, and that a violent US counterattack would be wrong. “Black males can no longer afford to be used as sacrificial lambs at the time of war,” he said in his three-page statement. “Those black males who make it back home alive from war are likely to come home and be discriminated against by the people whose businesses were headquartered in the World Trade Center.”

Gatewood went on to say that the NAACP supports the victims’ families and is praying for the country. Stressing the fact that his group is nonviolent, he noted that the US government has oppressed Africans, Middle Easterners and other people of color worldwide. Because Bush was “selected” president by a “right-wing Supreme Court,” the attacks were “not an attack on freedom.”

A few days later, Kweisi Mfume sharply criticized Gatewood for choosing the fourth day after the Sept. 11 attacks to point fingers about the flaws in American democracy. But despite Mfume’s criticism, members who attended a forum the following day with City Council candidates, voted to back their local NAACP leader’s remarks. Gatewood said later that although he still believes what he said, he will no longer say it as the head of the Durham NAACP. Although the group is bowing to its national leadership, its members still fiercely defend Gatewood’s sentiments.

Anita Keith-Foust, a member of the Durham NAACP, said, “We are 100 percent agreed with his statement, each and every single word. There was lots of applause and ‘amens,’” she said. “This country is built upon terrorism. We have been terrorized since we were in this country. Anytime anyone can come and bomb your church...that’s terrorism. Do you remember Medgar Evers?” she asked, referring to the Mississippi civil rights leader who was shot to death in 1963.

—October 1, 2001

This report is based on a story by Rah Bickley, Staff Writer for The News & Observer.

Notes on the Skyjackings:
It’s The Oil, Isn’t It?

By Charles Walker

Make no mistake the major link in the chain of events that culminated in the September 11 skyjackings was the imperial lust for oil that has cursed the peoples and cultures of the Middle East for nearly a hundred years. The biological and geological processes that eons ago deposited more than half of the world’s known oil reserves beneath the Middle East also blindly set the stage for the colonial oppression of the peoples who stood in the way of the rapacious looting of nature’s bounty primarily by British, French and American corporations and governments. British Petroleum, Compagnie Française de Petroles, Shell, Exxon and Standard Oil—and their respective governments—supplemented their drilling rigs, pipelines and refineries with bribery, extortion, and extermination to secure their seizure of the region’s black gold.

It should surprise no one that a century of domination, deprivation and defeat would breed contempt for the colonial oppressors and widespread, popular support for the declared enemies of the masses’ imperialist enemies, no matter how fanatical their delusions and despicable their methods.

Bush’s international coalition likely means the end of Osama bin Laden, along with the lives of many noncombatants. But it certainly does not mean that the peoples of the Middle East will halt their decades-long struggles. For the end of bin Laden will not end the despair and resentment of the masses of Iran, Iraq, Palestine, Syria, Pakistan, Afghanistan and elsewhere who have yet to enjoy much of 19th Century progress, let alone the scientific and cultural advances since then.

It’s predictable that the wanton ‘collateral carnage’ that Bush and his imperial cohorts willingly embrace as they chase after bin Laden will surely fuel an ever-greater hatred by the exploited for the world’s super cop, its accomplices and its cheerleaders, including Israel. Bush and Co. should not think that the world’s masses would view the end of bin Laden as prelude to a better day. The world’s dispossessed cheered and took inspiration from the Cuban revolution’s ouster of the U.S. henchman, Col. Fulgencio Batista, but shrugged off the United States’ removal of Panama’s military despot and rumored one-time CIA operative, Gen. Manuel Noriega. Doesn’t that suggest that the world’s downtrodden know a real victory when they see it?

There’s an international outpouring of genuine sympathy for the many innocents that perished September 11 and that’s as it should be. But that sympathy would do the future generations much more good, if it were matched by an outcry of solidarity with the wretched of the Middle East—and a condemnation of their domestic and foreign oppressors and their lust for oil’s profits.

Health Workers Union, SEIU Local 1199, Opposes War

The following notice was posted on the Internet Sept. 21, 2001.

The President of Local 1199/SEIU, Dennis Rivera, with the support of the union's Delegate Assembly, announced the union's opposition to “launching a war against any nation because of the actions of a few,” as well as the union’s condemnation of terrorism and demand that the perpetrators of terrorist acts be brought to justice.

Local 1199 represents 220,000 members in the New York metropolitan area. Local 1199 was the first labor union to openly oppose the war in Vietnam. A union primarily of health care workers, many of its members worked to save lives following the attack on the World Trade Center.

On the Tragic Events of September 11, 2001

SF Labor Council Statement

The following statement was adopted by the SF Labor Council at its delegates meeting on Monday, September 24, 2001. The statement was submitted to the Labor Council by the Executive Board of Office and Professional Employees International Union, Local 3. It was adopted following one friendly amendment from the floor.

The San Francisco Labor Council (AFL-CIO) joins the nation and the world in mourning the devastating loss of life resulting from the vicious attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, as well as the crashed plane in Pennsylvania. We condemn the criminality of those attacks and those responsible.

Many of those killed were union members and other workers killed on the job. Our hearts go out to our sisters and brothers and their loved ones. We particularly honor the rescue workers who continue to risk their lives to save others.

No one, in this country or any other, should suffer the fate of the victims in these attacks. We demand that the perpetrators of these crimes be brought to justice. The United States has a responsibility to establish with irrefutable facts the identity of those who were behind these attacks. The tragic attacks of September 11 should be treated as a heinous crime rather than an act of war.

As we mourn this tremendous loss of life, we declare our resistance to efforts to use this tragedy to engage in military actions that can lead only to more carnage and senseless loss of life. We reject the idea that entire nations should be punished for the actions of a few. Bombing raids and military strikes will only fuel an endless cycle of revenge that can only bring the deaths of more innocent civilians, both here and around the world.

In the face of such sorrow, we urge all people, particularly members of the labor family, to stand united against prejudice, hatred and intolerance wherever it arises. Within our own borders, we call upon all in our communities to join us in immediately confronting any anti-Arab, anti-Muslim, anti-Sikh or other anti-immigrant hate speech or acts of violence, whether in our neighborhoods, our workplaces, or in the media. We strongly oppose efforts to curtail the rights of immigrants and refugees, including expulsion of suspect foreign nationals without due process.

We also declare our resistance to efforts to use this tragedy to curtail our civil liberties. Militarization of our society inevitably leads to erosion of civil liberties and workers’ rights. We must remain vigilant in the defense of our democratic principles, including the protection of our civil liberties. Already proposals have been put forward to allow increased federal surveillance of private activities, and there is a strong push for greater use of racial profiling. In the past, national security has often been used to justify interference with our rights to freedom of association, to organize, to strike and to picket. We must redouble our efforts to fight for justice, and must not allow those who oppose our goals to use a national crisis as an excuse to assault our civil and economic rights.

We encourage open discussion as to the origins of this crisis and the most appropriate response to the atrocities that have taken place—particularly about the need for a foreign policy that is based on economic and political justice.

A century ago, Samuel Gompers, first President of the American Federation of Labor, said that labor wants more justice and less revenge. Our greatest memorial to our fallen sisters and brothers will be a world of peace, justice, tolerance and understanding, underscored by the solidarity of working people.





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