September 12th, 2021

Harriet Vane

9/11 -- twenty years since: Springstein & Biden; 4 movies (Fahrenheit 9/11); Heather Cox & me

Dear readers and friends,

An update: better than any of the four movies is Fintan O'Toole's essay which is both Afghanistan, and US politics and social world over the last 20 and more years . Fintan O'Toole has written a description and analysis of what happened in Afghanistan, why the US presence, its war in Afghanistan turned out such a dismal expensive failure. I've not come across anything as cogent, convincing, and he includes emphases and details you don't find elsewhere. "The lie of nation building:'



Notice the story about the kidnapping and chattel enslaving of young Afghan boys as imprisoned sexual objects for soldiers -- this is included in Turning Point but it is not made as important an indication of what was actually happening in Afghanistan as O'Toole sees this.

A quotation by O'Toole of Sarah Chayes:
I have often been asked whether we in the West have the right to “impose democracy” on people who “just might not want it,” or might not be “ready for it.” I think, concerning Afghanistan at least, this question is exactly backward…. I have found that Afghans know precisely what democracy is—even if they might not be able to define the term. And they are crying out for it. They want from their government what most Americans and Europeans want from theirs: roads they can drive on, schools for their kids, doctors with certified qualifications…, a minimum of public accountability, and security…. And they want to participate in some real way in the fashioning of their nation’s destiny….
But Afghans were getting precious little of any of that…. American policy in Afghanistan was not imposing or even encouraging democracy, as the US government claimed it was. Instead, it was standing in the way of democracy. It was institutionalizing violence

He argues we must think about what happened in Afghanistan as about ourselves and for our own sakes: The war was not just a projection of American power into a troubled part of Asia. It was a test of the nature of that power. It showed that if war is the continuation of politics by other means, what was continued over twenty years in Afghanistan was a dangerous American nonchalance about the difficulty and fragility of democracy. The prevailing assumption over those years was that a stable democracy could be created and sustained without a commitment to telling the truth, without controlling the distorting effects of money, without standing up to the avidity of the rich, without proper mechanisms for open scrutiny and rational deliberation, without a commitment to moral standards that apply as much to our allies as to our enemies. Democracy without those values and systems has no substance. It will fall—and not just in Afghanistan.
The Americans running the show there were never convinced by the performance. They just could not stir themselves to do much about it. They watched the notion of a democratic republic they had conjured for a suffering people slip away bit by bit until it collapsed catastrophically. They settled into a strange pattern of dazed powerlessness. Successive American administrations, Republican and Democratic, became spectators at a drama in which the follies and dangers of their own domestic polity were played out in exotic foreign costumes. They failed to see that this story was also about themselves.

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Yesterday was a day of remembrance of those who died in the thousands either directly and quickly from the attack of the four planes and their destruction, or its short and long aftermath of sickness and maiming. It should also have been a day of acknowledgement of what happened thoroughly (there has never been a  public investigation and the records of what was found out remains sealed), including two long useless cruel wars (except to arms manufacturers and all those who make money on war, and from the oil that was sluiced away), with a vow of change US foreign policy utterly from imperialism, colonialism, militarism, ruthless capitalism. It was not in the public ceremonies,most of which were about coping with grief and loss.  Here's Bruce Springstein singing, ever so tenderly, "I'll see you in my dreams"



There have been many reports, stories, interviews of books over the last couple of weeks, ironically coinciding with all that's been said on the Afghanistan war, so many. There has been a pouring out of memories, on twitter, on News programs, emails, blogs, news-sites, newspapers. One powerful and poignant blog was written by the gentle author of Spitalfields.

My comment to him was as follows (he didn't let it appear - not the first time I've been censored):


It is untrue that the world was changed by this single event. It was and remains an incident on an on-going cruel capitalist world, however scary and unusual on who was killed; a circus symbolic spectacular stunt pulled off by people who loathed the US for its imperialist and colonialist policies and actions; it was a horrific tragedy for those who died and all those connected to them; for those who became terribly injured and sickened working on the site in the days that followed -- and were often refused decent health care because that would make it obvious that that NYC, and the stock market should have shut down for weeks. It made manifest what was and still is the underlying realities of US political policies.
The world did not change even if some of the policies of these gov'ts did. The Internet has changed some aspects of the world in this time of the pandemic but by no means the basic attitudes of the right wing capitalists who seem to hold the real power in any situation..
After 9/11, many corporations and individuals went on to make a lot of money in Iraq and Afghanistan and the real individual particular states who were involved (Bin Laden could not have done it just with with his Al-Quaeda -- Saudi Arabian groups were part of this) were never exposed.

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But there has also been much serious talk and acknowledgement about how 9/11 happened: the causes, what led to it.  So much that I thought best to bring together tonight  four movies made which do tell important truths about what happened and continues to happen, with implications and direct comments on what needs change for real


Last night I re-watched a candid history for a second time, with informed (insofar as he could) and perceptive and humane analysis, Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11. He streamed it from his corner of YouTube. In my judgement it should be required watching for everyone. The Wikipedia article offers a precise accurate summary.

I want to call attention especially to the unknown and uninvestigated business and political connections between Bush and the Saudi Arabian ambassador and gov't leaders, to how most of the "terrorists" were Egyptian or Saudi Muslims, to the creation of an atmosphere of fear and dread around the US by Bush's gov't for two years in order to attack Iraq, which had nothing to do with 9/11 but has vast oil fields and Saddam Hussein, who disdained Bush senior. The years of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan where the US built up the origins of the Taliban (to defeat "communist" Russia). The lying forms of recruitment, the horrific treatment of Afghans. One scene stays with me that flashes through: a beheading of a man in Saudi Arabia. The legless young men in Veteran's hospitals whose funds Bush was cutting.

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Three other films to be watched in order to learn what happened and what the war in Afghanistan is rooted in.





9/11's Unsettled, is second in importance because of its perspective: the first responders. Alas, apparently not being distributed anywhere I can find. This is about the thousands of people who grew very sick, and developed serious diseases in the time after 9/11 when they worked at ground zero with inadequate protection, and within days Wall Street was opened again, a local high school, Stuyvesant, because what was wanted was to be seen to be carrying on making money. And to make money. From Rudi Giuliani to Christine Todd Whitman, ironically the head of the EPA, what was then wanted was a cover-up and not only did the US health insurance companies fight back and refuse to pay for people's treatments and injuries, refuse to acknowledge they were the result of 9/11, those who protested were maligned and punished. Read the story of Joe Zadroga, after whom one of the bills to provide for compensation was named, his wife, his father. One of the important reporters on the stories was Juan Gonzalez.

The third is a Netflix serial, Turning Point: 9/11 and the War on Terror, directed by Brian Knappenberger. This is an unflinching look at what was done by three administrations, but especially Bush, where the incident was used to extend surveillance, legitimize torture (Black sites), the nature of the Patriot Act, what came from it, Guantanomo, and again Drones.

There is a fourth, a Frontline series on PBS too: America After 9/11, directed by Michael Kirk. There is no reason anyone in the US should be ignorant of what happened, how it relates to what came before, and how it relates to how the GOP went extreme and is following Donald Trump (if it can and it's going far) into destroying the US democracy, such as it still is (very oligarchic) and was (thoroughly racist, punitive in outlook, deeply anti-social individualism promoted).

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This might all lead to my reader wondering why I insist 9/11 didn't change the world. It happened as a result of all the US gov't had done since 1947, and the reaction to it was to intensify what led to it. I'm now thinking of the GOP efforts (thus far successful) of stifling the vote, and on that you can read Heather Cox Richardson and listen and watch over many days and weeks. Here is just one


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Like most people here in the US -- as it was on the day Kennedy was assassinated and as it may come to be about the day Trump and the GOP and their followers attempted to overthrow the US democacy, by attacking the Congress to stop the validation of the election of Joe Biden --, I remember the day too.

My story is all too ordinary: as has been true for most of these catastrophic world-as-village events, seen at one time on TV, and now this PC computer, I was at or near home, leaving a dentist's office a little after 9:30.   I had felt suddenly & seen a commotion, excitement among the other people waiting, and asked the reception what was happening. I was told airplanes were hitting the World Trade Center!  I am ashamed to say I dismissed this as typical of this gullible receptionist. Could not be.

I went out to my car and found myself in a mounting traffic jam, so instead of 5 minutes to get home, it was 20. The phone was ringing as I reached the door, and I ran in and picked up, and it was Jim, in a drawn voice, "Not to worry. I'm just fine. I'm in the basement of the Australian embassy where we were all told to go, and scary huge men armed heavily are filling the building." He had to get off his flip phone, but said quickly "put on the TV, CNN." I did and I saw the first of the two tall buildings sliding down. Horror, shock, as I saw the fire line in the middle, and the camera switching way below to see a man shrugging intensely.
Soon from CNN I knew a story of  these two planes and that there was a third that hit the Pentagon. As it happened the library was hit -- since rebuilt as a small annex where Izzy works today. I went onto the Internet, queried friends at C18-l and read the name of Osama Bin Laden as the perpetrator for the first time. I had never heard this name before.
The rest is quickly told. A phone call from T.C.Williams telling me the school was in "lockdown" and of course "not to worry," as the young adults would probable be let out at the usual time. Another from Laura, frightened; she surprised me by coming over about two hours later with Wally (with whom she was living at the time, and whom she would marry the following year). She needed to see me and Jim and the house and that all was the same, as it ever was. The news shows had less news as time went on.
Two friends called for the first time in years to express anxiety over Jim.  I said he was not in the Pentagon that day, and my cousin contacted me.  The next day I did have bad pains in my chest, suggesting I was experiencing more stress that I admitted to myself.
I did think to myself what Susan Sontag wrote in a newspaper and was castigated for: "well, what do people expect -- the US for decades stops social democracies, foments civil wars, pulls off coups, creates situations where no young native men can get a good job and itself bombs, strafes, this is the afflicted world hitting back. But astonishment at the audacity and effectiveness of this plan to take down the center of capitalism (Wall Street has no such hubristic building), of the US military (the magically numbered Pentagon), and a fourth plane (never hit) to set on fire and destroy the central imperialist house in classical style, painted white ... "
Now 20 years on, two horrible wars later, instigated by George W Bush and his cronies and associates in crime (making oodles of money as unscrupulous oil and other corporations), carried on to no reasonable purpose (at least in aims originally by this crew), hundreds of thousands of people killed, untold billions spent, with "surges" by Barack Obama as president in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Then the institution of these inhumane murderous drones aka killing people without trial and often getting "the wrong target" so even the last day in Afghanistan a whole family was murdered, the US support of an utterly corrupt puppet regime in Afghanistan, laying waste a country and sending to their deaths or life-long psychological maiming young adult Americans.

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What is terrible now is the newspapers and much of the establishment which makes money and finds prestige in continuous wars are attacking Biden. They are attacking him for his attempt to make vaccination work and bring the US back to health and safety. They are attacking his compromised but huge and important plans for infastructure.  The GOP, together with colluding democrats, are working to limit the vote to stop all but middle class white people, centrist, from voting insofar as they can. Or deny and throw away enough votes of those who want a social democracy never to have anything like it again.

Maybe more graver than usual. But it's appropriate. Not to say anything would be deeply wrong, reprehensible to me who does care about what happens to myself, my family and friends, all the people I know, the thousands and thousands inside the US whose destinies are intertwined with mine, and by extrapolation (since especially since the pandemic) our connection to all those vulnerable and powerless people who are not making oodles of money but at risk or suffering badly because of the people in these gov'ts, their allies, their donors, and parties' behavior.

Not all speeches were about personal pain or courage or hurt, Biden gave an impassioned one on how we now need unity to move ahead to improve all our lives together:



Miss Drake