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Death, Downtown

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 6:40 a.m. 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 happenedto 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.

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!

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

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 commits 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 A-rabs 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 eight 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 (mmflint@aol.com). This article appears as Mike's Message of September 12, 2001, on MichaelMoore.com.  

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A Call to Dialogue

As the calls for war in the mainstream media and the halls of power grow louder, with Senator John McCain speaking for many when he said, “God may have mercy on them, but we won’t,” a different kind of response has been building as well.

The peace community, from established groups like Peace Action and the Fellowship of Reconciliation to grassroots activists across the country, has united in a strong, consistent, and deeply heartfelt response. Reading the statements being put out, one sees clearly that the entire community joins wholeheartedly the nation in condemning the brutal attack of two days ago, and in the fear, grief, and sense of loss it has occasioned.

There is also widespread agreement that there should be no rush to judgment and no massive “retaliation” that would target the innocent civilians of any country. Noting that international law does not recognize any right of retaliation or vengeance (Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, which governs the use of force, requires that any action be taken only with the permission, and under the auspices of, the Security Council, the only exception being self-defense against imminent attack which does not include vengeance for past attacks), Peace Action and others are calling clearly for any remaining perpetrators to be brought to justice through legal channels, with international cooperation.

Very similar sentiments were expressed in a community discussion last night, organized by Austin’s progressive activist community. Two hundred and fifty people came together, to express their emotions and their experiences, to share ideas and information, and to plan future actions.

From the beginning, it was clear that people really needed to talk. There was no good way to cope with the flurry of hands that was raised at every pause.

One young man tearfully expressed his fear that, with all the talk of America going to war, the draft would be reinstated and that he would have to kill or die in an effort he opposed. Several were afraid of the loss of our civil liberties. Others shared their fear for friends, relatives, and friends of friends who worked near the World Trade Centers, and who had not been heard from. Everyone felt grief and anger that so many innocent people were killed.

Many, however, expressed strong emotions of a different kind. Deep disquiet with their friends and acquaintances caught up in a vortex of fury, often racist in tone. Anger at the mainstream media, almost universally perceived to be even worse than government officials in their constant calls for blood — somebody’s, anybody’s. Guilt, pain, and sorrow on contemplating the seemingly inevitable killing of innocent civilians being planned by our government.

And, far and away the most common feeling, isolation. Many expressed their heartfelt gratitude that the discussion had been organized, because they had been feeling, “Nobody else thinks the way I do.”

After talking through their feelings, many who had been sunk in despair felt newly energized to do what they could to head off war, and the discussion ended in a massive organizing meeting.

The lesson is clear. There are many, many people in this country who see clearly that one killing of innocents will not be requited by another, that a radically different path is needed to assure our security and that of people in other parts of the world.

In the days to come, if those people rely only on the television and the big daily newspapers, they will feel isolated and beleaguered, deprived of their voices and their democratic right to help shape the public dialogue.

That will be a tremendous tragedy. Even though this is an incredibly difficult time to speak up, and voices against war will inevitably be branded as apologists for terror, this is also a very important time to speak up. Americans have seen up close the tangible effects of our foreign policy, and they are interested as they have not been since the nuclear freeze movement, maybe even since the Vietnam war.

pjhspectator.jpg (17778 bytes)Let us call, then, for communities across the country to have similar dialogues, to work through feelings of pain, fear, and grief and begin to fashion a coherent response to warmongering before the war is upon us. We who favor peace must create our own national dialogue before we can hope to influence the larger one.

Austin could have such a large meeting on such short notice because of a multi-year sustained effort , centering on antiwar work, that has built up a very large (4,000) e-mail announcement and rapid response list. Localities without that kind of infrastructure may take a little longer, but the need for timely action is great.

Rahul Mahajan is an antiwar activist, and serves on the Coordinating Committee of the National Network to End the War Against Iraq and the Board of Directors of Peace Action (ID only).

Photo by Peter Holderness, courtesy of New York City IMC.



Web Watch

The internet has spun a veritable web of informed analysis and opinion to supplement the positions emanating from Washington and the mainstream media. Here is what a few cyber-commentators are saying:

Terrorism, television, and the rage for vengeance 

We stare at TV screens and try to comprehend the suffering in the aftermath of terrorism. Much of what we see is ghastly and all too real; terrible anguish and sorrow.

At the same time, we’re witnessing an onslaught of media deception. “The greatest triumphs of propaganda have been accomplished, not by doing something, but by refraining from doing,” Aldous Huxley observed long ago. “Great is truth, but still greater, from a practical point of view, is silence about truth.”

Silence, rigorously selective, pervades the media coverage of recent days. For policy-makers in Washington, the practical utility of that silence is enormous. In response to the mass murder committed by hijackers, the righteousness of U.S. military action is clear — as long as double standards go unmentioned….

Norman Solomon. Solomon’s latest book is “The Habits of Highly Deceptive Media.” His syndicated column focuses on media and politics.

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The enemy with a thousand faces

While Bush administration officials refuse to state with certainty who was responsible for this week’s terrorist offensive against the U.S., Osama bin Laden, the millionaire Saudi exile who is based in Afghanistan, is clearly their top suspect. His terrorist organization, Al Qaeda, is one of the only ones in the world, if not the only one, with the resources, experience and sophistication to carry out such an attack, experts say.

There is some evidence, though sketchy, linking bin Laden to the attack. Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said U.S. officials learned of an intercepted telephone conversation between two bin Laden associates “who acknowledged a couple of targets were hit.” Bin Laden’s followers also warned an Arab-language newspaper by telephone three weeks ago that a major attack on the West was coming soon, according to a London-based Arab journalist….

Gary Kamiya, Salon. Kamiya is executive editor of Salon.

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The end of video game wars

Now is the time in the game of war when we dehumanize our enemies.

They are utterly incomprehensible, their acts unimaginable, their motivations senseless. They are “madmen” and their states are “rogue.” Now is not the time for more understanding — just better intelligence.

These are the rules of the war game.

Feeling people will no doubt object to this characterization: war is not a game. It is real lives ripped in half; it is lost sons, daughters, mothers, and fathers, each with a dignified story. Tuesday’s act of terror was reality of the harshest kind, an act that makes all other acts seem suddenly frivolous, game-like. ...

Naomi Klein, AlterNet

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Terror strikes America’s working families  

The terrorist attacks Sept. 11 took a massive toll on America’s working families. Among the deaths resulting from the airliner crashes into New York’s World Trade Center buildings and the Pentagon outside Washington, D.C., were unprecedented losses of emergency services workers and others. The fate of hundreds of workers remains unknown. Thousands more workers and their unions are rescuing and providing aid to victims and cleaning up tons of rubble.



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Not vengeance but compassion

The images on television have been heartbreaking. People on fire leaping to their deaths from a hundred stories up. People in panic and fear racing from the scene in clouds of dust and smoke. We knew that there must be thousands of human beings buried alive, but soon dead under a mountain of debris. We can only imagine the terror among the passengers of the hijacked planes as they contemplated the crash, the fire, the end. Those scenes horrified and sickened me.

Then our political leaders came on television, and I was horrified and sickened again. They spoke of retaliation, of vengeance, of punishment. We are at war they said. And I thought: they have learned nothing, absolutely nothing, from the history of the twentieth century, from a hundred years of retaliation, vengeance, war, a hundred years of terrorism and counter-terrorism, of violence met with violence in an unending cycle of stupidity….

Howard Zinn, TomPaine.com.Zinn is a historian and author of A People’s History of the United States.

On the bombings

The terrorist attacks were major atrocities. In scale they may not reach the level of many others, for example, Clinton’s bombing of the Sudan with no credible pretext, destroying half its pharmaceutical supplies and killing unknown numbers of people (no one knows, because the US blocked an inquiry at the UN and no one cares to pursue it). Not to speak of much worse cases, which easily come to mind. But that this was a horrendous crime is not in doubt. The primary victims, as usual, were working people: janitors, secretaries, firemen, etc. It is likely to prove to be a crushing blow to Palestinians and other poor and oppressed people. It is also likely to lead to harsh security controls, with many possible ramifications for undermining civil liberties and internal freedom….

Noam Chomsky.