September 2010, Week 2


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Mon, 13 Sep 2010 22:28:10 -0400
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Robert Fisk: Nine years, two wars, hundreds of
thousands dead - and nothing learnt

Did 9/11 make us all mad? Our memorial to the innocents
who died nine years ago has been a holocaust of fire
and blood . . .

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Independent [London]

Did 9/11 make us all go mad? How fitting, in a weird,
crazed way, that the apotheosis of that firestorm nine
years ago should turn out to be a crackpot preacher
threatening another firestorm with a Nazi-style book
burning of the Koran. Or a would-be mosque two blocks
from "ground zero" - as if 9/11 was an onslaught on
Jesus-worshipping Christians, rather than on the
atheist West.

But why should we be surprised? Just look at all the
other crackpots spawned in the aftermath of those
international crimes against humanity: the half-crazed
Ahmadinejad, the smarmy post-nuclear Gaddafi, Blair
with his crazed right eye and George W Bush with his
black prisons and torture and lunatic "war on terror".
And that wretched man who lived - or lives still - in
an Afghan cave and the hundreds of al-Qa'idas whom he
created, and the one-eyed mullah - not to mention all
the lunatic cops and intelligence agencies and CIA
thugs who failed us all - utterly - on 9/11 because
they were too idle or too stupid to identify 19 men who
were going to attack the United States. And remember
one thing: even if the Rev Terry Jones sticks with his
decision to back down, another of our cranks will be
ready to take his place.

Indeed, on this grim ninth anniversary - and heaven
spare us next year from the 10th - 9/11 appears to have
produced not peace or justice or democracy or human
rights, but monsters. They have prowled Iraq - both the
Western and the local variety - and slaughtered 100,000
souls, or 500,000, or a million; and who cares? They
have killed tens of thousands in Afghanistan; and who
cares? And as the sickness has spread across the Middle
East and then the globe, they - the air force pilots
and the insurgents, the Marines and the suicide
bombers, the al-Qa'idas of the Maghreb and of the
Khalij and of the Caliphate of Iraq and the special
forces and the close air support boys and the
throat-cutters - have torn the heads off women and
children and the old and the sick and the young and
healthy, from the Indus to the Mediterranean, from Bali
to the London Tube; quite a memorial to the 2,966
innocents who were killed nine years ago. All in their
name, it seems, has been our holocaust of fire and
blood, enshrined now in the crazed pastor of

This is the loss, of course. But who's made the profit?
Well, the arms dealers, naturally, and Boeing and
Lockheed Martin and all the missile lads and the drone
manufacturers and F-16 spare parts outfits and the
ruthless mercenaries who stalk the Muslim lands on our
behalf now that we have created 100,000 more enemies
for each of the 19 murderers of 9/11. Torturers have
had a good time, honing their sadism in America's black
prisons - it was appropriate that the US torture centre
in Poland should be revealed on this ninth anniversary
- as have the men (and women, I fear) who perfect the
shackles and water-drowning techniques with which we
now fight our wars. And - let us not forget - every
religious raver in the world, be they of the Bin Laden
variety, the bearded groupies in the Taliban, the
suicide executioners, the hook-in the arm preachers, or
our very own pastor of Gainesville.

And God? Where does he fit in? An archive of quotations
suggests that just about every monster created in or
after 9/11 is a follower of this quixotic redeemer. Bin
Laden prays to God - "to turn America into a shadow of
itself", as he told me in 1997 - and Bush prayed to God
and Blair prayed - and prays - to God, and all the
Muslim killers and an awful lot of Western soldiers and
Dr (honorary) Pastor Terry Jones and his 30 (or it may
be 50, since all statistics are hard to come by in the
"war on terror") pray to God. And poor old God, of
course, has had to listen to these prayers as he always
sits through them during our mad wars. Recall the words
attributed to him by a poet of another generation: "God
this, God that, and God the other thing. 'Good God,'
said God, 'I've got my work cut out'." And that was
just the First World War...

Just five years ago - on the fourth anniversary of the
twin towers/Pentagon/Pennsylvania attacks - a
schoolgirl asked me at a lecture in a Belfast church
whether the Middle East would benefit from more
religion. No - less religion! - I howled back. God is
good for contemplation, not for war. But - and here we
are driven on to the reefs and hidden rocks which our
leaders wish us to ignore, forget and cast aside - this
whole bloody mess involves the Middle East; it is about
a Muslim people who have kept their faith while those
Westerners who dominate them - militarily,
economically, culturally, socially - have lost theirs.
How can this be, Muslims ask? Indeed, it is a superb
irony that the Rev Jones is a believer while the rest
of us - by and large - are not. Hence our books and our
documentaries never refer to Muslims vs Christians, but
Muslims versus "The West".

And of course, the one taboo subject of which we must
not speak - Israel's relationship with America, and
America's unconditional support for Israel's theft of
land from Muslim Arabs - also lies at the heart of this
terrible crisis in our lives. In yesterday's edition of
The Independent, there was a photograph of Afghan
demonstrators chanting "death to America". But in the
background, these same demonstrators were carrying a
black banner with a message in Dari written upon it in
white paint. What it actually said was: "The
bloodsucking Zionist government regime and the Western
leaders who are indifferent [to suffering] and have no
conscience are again celebrating the new year by
spilling the red blood of the Palestinians."

The message is as extreme as it is vicious - but it
proves, yet again, that the war in which we are engaged
is also about Israel and "Palestine". We may prefer to
ignore this in "the West" - where Muslims supposedly
"hate us for what we are" or "hate our democracy" (see:
Bush, Blair and a host of other mendacious politicians)
- but this great conflict lies at the heart of the "war
on terror". That is why the equally vicious Benjamin
Netanyahu reacted to the atrocities of 9/11 by claiming
that the event would be good for Israel. Israel would
now be able to claim that it, too, was fighting the
"war on terror", that Arafat - this was the
now-comatose Ariel Sharon's claim - is "our Bin Laden".
And thus Israelis had the gall to claim that Sderot,
under its cascade of tin-pot missiles from Hamas, was
"our ground zero".

It was not. Israel's battle with the Palestinians is a
ghastly caricature of our "war on terror", in which we
are supposed to support the last colonial project on
earth - and accept its thousands of victims - because
the twin towers and the Pentagon and United Flight 93
were attacked by 19 Arab murderers nine years ago.
There is a supreme irony in the fact that one direct
result of 9/11 has been the stream of Western policemen
and spooks who have travelled to Israel to improve
their "anti-terrorist expertise" with the help of
Israeli officers who may - according to the United
Nations - be war criminals. It was no surprise to find
that the heroes who gunned down poor old Jean Charles
de Menezes on the London Tube in 2005 had been
receiving "anti-terrorist" advice from the Israelis.

And yes, I know the arguments. We cannot compare the
actions of evil terrorists with the courage of our
young men and women, defending our lives - and
sacrificing theirs - on the front lines of the 'war on
terror". There can be no "equivalence". "They" kill
innocents because "they" are evil. "We" kill innocents
by mistake. But we know we are going to kill innocents
- we willingly accept that we are going to kill
innocents, that our actions are going to create mass
graves of families, of the poor and the weak and the

This is why we created the obscene definition of
"collateral damage". For if "collateral" means that
these victims are innocent, then "collateral" also
means that we are innocent of killing them. It was not
our wish to kill them - even if we knew it was
inevitable that we would. "Collateral" is our
exoneration. This one word is the difference between
"them" and "us", between our God-given right to kill
and Bin Laden's God-given right to murder. The victims,
hidden away as "collateral" corpses, don't count any
more because they were slaughtered by us. Maybe it
wasn't so painful. Maybe death by drone is a more
gentle departure from this earth, evisceration by an
AGM-114C Boeing-Lockheed air-to-ground missile less
painful, than death by shards from a roadside bomb or a
cruel suicider with an explosive belt.

That's why we know how many died on 9/11 - 2,966,
although the figure may be higher - and why we don't
"do body counts" on those whom we kill. Because they -
"our" victims - must have no identities, no innocence,
no personality, no cause or belief or feelings; and
because we have killed far, far more human beings than
Bin Laden and the Taliban and al-Qa'ida.

Anniversaries are newspaper and television events. And
they can have an eerie habit of coalescing together to
create an unhappy memorial framework. Thus do we
commemorate the Battle of Britain - a chivalric episode
in our history - and the Blitz, a progenitor of mass
murder, to be sure, but a symbol of innocent courage -
as we remember the start of a war that has torn our
morality apart, turned our politicians into war
criminals, our soldiers into killers and our ruthless
enemies into heroes of the anti-Western cause. And
while on this gloomy anniversary the Rev Jones wanted
to burn a book called the Koran, Tony Blair tried to
sell a book called A Journey. Jones said the Koran was
"evil"; Britons have asked whether the Blair book
should be classified as "crime". Certainly, 9/11 has
moved into fantasy when the Rev Jones can command the
attention of the Obamas and the Clintons and the Holy
Father and the even more Holy United Nations. Whom the
gods would destroy...

11 Sep 2001

The World Trade Centre and the Pentagon are hit by
aeroplanes hijacked by al-Qa'ida terrorists. George
Bush says that America will stand with "all those who
want peace and security in the world".

7 Oct 2001

The US and Britain launch air strikes against

13 Nov 2001

The Northern Alliance liberates Kabul from the rule of
the Taliban.

11 Jan 2002

The first prisoners arrive at Camp X-Ray at Guantanamo
Bay in Cuba.

9 Jan 2003

Top UN weapons inspector Hans Blix tells reporters that
"we have now been in [Iraq] for some two months and? we
haven't found any smoking guns".

15 Feb 2003

Protests are held across the world against impending
war in Iraq.

20 Mar 2003

US-led coalition launches invasion of Iraq.

9 Oct 2003

Toppling of statue of Saddam Hussein in Baghdad is
taken as symbol of coalition triumph.

11 Mar 2004

A series of bombs explode within minutes of each other
on four commuter trains in Madrid, killing 191 people
and wounding a further 1,841.

29 Apr 2004

Photographs emerge showing the abuse of Iraqi prisoners
by US soldiers at Abu Ghraib, inflaming anti-US

2 Oct 2004

Video footage appears of British hostage Kenneth Bigley
being beheaded by Iraqi militants.

2 Nov 2004

Dutch film-maker Theo van Gogh is murdered after making
a film about violence against women in Islamic

7 Jul 2005

Four suicide bombers kill 52 passengers and injure
almost 800 others in a series of attacks on London's
transport network.

30 Sep 2005

A series of cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohamed are
published in a Danish newspaper. The pictures are
reprinted elsewhere amid widespread outrage and violent
protests in the Muslim world.

30 Dec 2006

Saddam Hussein is hanged in northern Baghdad for crimes
against humanity.

21 Sep 2009

A leaked report by Gen Stanley McChrystal, commander of
US forces, suggests that the war against the Taliban in
Afghanistan could be lost within a year unless there
are significant increases in troops.

29 Nov 2009

A ban on building minarets is voted in by the Swiss
public, reflecting a hostile attitude to the country's
rising Muslim minority.

21 Jan 2010

43 per cent of Americans say they feel some negative
prejudice towards Muslims, according to a poll by

1 Sep 2010

At the end of a month in which 295 civilians were
killed by violence, Barack Obama declares that the US
combat mission in Iraq is at an end. 


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