New Internationalist

Unending ‘9/11s’: A sad kind of freedom

Web exclusive

A day of remembering – but also of not forgetting others who suffered, and continue to suffer, from the fall-out of the ‘war on terror’. Felicity Arbuthnot considers the evidence.

Photo by Francisco Diez under a CC Licence
Photo by Francisco Diez under a CC Licence

You love your country
as the nearest, most precious thing to you.
But one day, for example,
they may endorse it over to America,
and you, too, with your great freedom –
you have the freedom to become an air-base.

From ‘A Sad Kind Of Freedom’ by Nazim Hickmet (1902-1963) courtesy Rick Rozoff, Stop NATO

It is instructive to look at the plethora of 9/11 tenth-anniversary pullouts in newspapers, to note the commemorative programmes, interviews, memories. The heartbreak, the broken and lost lives; the 10 year old, now 20, who realized, horror-struck, that her father was in the building she watched flaming and falling on television. There are spreads of other 10 years olds, children unborn when their pregnant mother was widowed, by a terrible atrocity, on a sunlit day in a city turned dark by smoke and ash. Pregnant survivors, say ‘experts’, passed their trauma to their children.

‘Share your memories of 9/11 ten years on!’ invite newspapers. Photographers have recalled ‘the day of horror’.

With all this comes the suggestion that this tragedy of enormity – 2,751 lost souls, in an event which exceeded the deaths of Pearl Harbour, according to the 9/11 Commission Report – is unique.

9/11 x 303

Yet carnage across the world has been wrought in subsequent US-driven bloodshed. One assessment, using data to August 2010 and a more conservative death toll figure than some, is that there has been the equivalent of three hundred and three 9/11s in Iraq and Afghanistan alone in the ongoing post-September 2001 assaults.

Photo by DVIDSHUB under a CC Licence
Photo by DVIDSHUB under a CC Licence

This toll, however, is seemingly inconsequential. The lives of others, in numbers beyond comprehension, are not tragedy, searing loss, unimaginable grief, but ‘collateral damage’.

Yes, the acres of coverage of the ‘orphans of 9/11’ are poignant; heart-rending. But in Afghanistan, that first post-9/11 onslaught victim, there are two million orphans, of which over 600,000 sleep on the streets. Over 400,000 are maimed from land mines – and over a million children suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. One in ten Afghan children are severely malnourished, more than half suffer from stunted growth, and one in every four children dies before age five – the fourth highest level in the world, according to UNICEF.

Fifty per cent of the Afghan population is less than 18 years of age, with almost no education.

The acres of coverage of the ‘orphans of 9/11’ are poignant; heart-rending. But in Afghanistan, that first post-9/11 onslaught victim, there are two million orphans

Iraq’s figures since the 2003 invasion dwarf even Afghanistan’s appalling plight. Five million orphans, one million widows, nearly five million exiled.

By April 2011, just six weeks in to the ‘humanitarian’ bombardment of Libya, the death toll there was already being estimated as high as 30,000. If correct, an average of over two 9/11s, in human toll, a week.

On 7 July, the Jordan Times recorded 800 deaths in just one graveyard in Misrata. The paper also noted: ‘There is no trace of hatred or resentment on the part of the gravediggers in charge of burying their enemies. “It’s a tragedy. They are our brothers. We did not want all this to happen. I’m sorry for all this,” murmurs Jetlawi. Colleague Derateia too is sad. “I wish God saved the lives of everyone. We are used to this, to see the dead, but we are appalled to see Muslims killing each other. It’s pathetic,” he adds.’

Others bleed, suffer, grieve

What a contrast to the encapsulation of what seems to be the Western political and military concept of the peoples and cultures we are decimating.

On BBC Radio 5 (9 September) David Buik, an executive with Cantor Fitzgerald, which lost over 600 employees in the Twin Towers, told listeners of his understandable fury, yet with little concept that others bleed, suffer, grieve in tragedy. The dominant emotion still, he said, was: ‘The abuse of life – to us in the West, so precious, and to terrorists and religious fanatics so cheap.’ Does he not reflect how what is being done in George W Bush’s declared ‘Crusade’, in the name of this sacred West, is being viewed across the world? On a scale equalling some of history’s greatest atrocities, Libya, another painstakingly developed country, is fast becoming another Iraq, in every way, from ethnic cleansing, especially of those with a darker skin, to factions brought in to ensure there will never be reconciliation, and historical and archeological treasures and heritage looted, bombed, destroyed.

In Bani Walid, with its university campus and population of just over 46,000, the NATO-backed National Transitional Council’s ‘rebels’ have deliberately cut off water and electricity supplies. An indisputable war crime.

Libya, another painstakingly developed country, is fast becoming another Iraq, in every way

But as bodies mount, buildings fall and dreams die, make no mistake, Libya is another looming occupation. With its oil, frozen overseas financial assets possibly as high as $150 billion – with NATO countries estimated holding possibly $99 billion – near inestimable water wealth and a strategic geographic location to dream of for invaders with eyes on others’ regional assets and natural resources, the ‘liberators’ will not be planning on leaving any time soon.

Little America on the shores of the Mediterranean

By 1 March, there were already reports of the US, Britain and France having established bases in Benghazi and Tobruk. Ironically, Tobruk was site of the 240-day siege of allied forces by Lieutenant General Erwin Rommel during the Second World War. The pinned-down troops were finally rescued by the (British) 8th Army in Operation Crusader.

Tripoli, of course was the site of the vast US Air Force base, appropriated in 1943, when Libya was ruled by the British-backed King Idris. The then US Ambassador to Libya called it ‘a little America on the sparkling shores of the Mediterranean’.

The base, renamed ‘Wheelus’, remained American until Qadafi overthrew Idris’s regime in 1969 and closed all foreign bases.

The base became Tripoli international Airport, now bombed. The liberators will surely award themselves the rebuilding contracts, and planning for the re-opening of the base is, equally surely, underway.

The US had, of course, under the project of AFRICOM, offered African governments money to ‘host’ American bases. Qadafi reportedly offered them twice as much not to, resulting in a formal rejection of AFRICOM by the African Union in 2008.

It was a prescient Tripoli taxi driver who told the LA Times: ‘I have a fear that one day we will be like Iraq, wishing for the days of Muammar Qadafi.’

Afghanistan, bombed and invaded less than a month after 9/11 to free it from a ‘repressive’ and ‘tyrannical’ regime, now has 400 US and ‘coalition’ bases. Iraq, freed from the ‘Butcher of Baghdad’ by US-led largesse based on a pack of lies, now has 14 city-sized bases and a list of others, near inexhaustible. (viii) The ‘coalition’ is there to stay.

General Wesley Clarke was told by a Pentagon official that the US planned to attack seven countries in five years. They were: ‘Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Iran’

In an interview this week, Middle East ‘Peace’ Envoy, former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair (still not in the International Criminal Court in the Hague in spite of the best efforts of some towering legal minds) made it clear that Syria and Iran were next, firmly in US/British sights.

General Wesley Clarke, of course, told Democracy Now (2 March 2007) that in 2001, after 9/11, he was told by a Pentagon official that the US planned to attack seven countries in five years. They were: ‘Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Iran.’ Bombing Afghanistan was already underway.

On this 10th anniversary of 9/11, Abdul Hakim Belhadji, allegedly formerly on US and British terrorist lists, moved to Tripoli to be Libya’s new leader, backed by the same US and Britain. This as his ‘rebel forces’ are reported to have entirely ethnically cleansed Tawarga, a town of 10,000 people, which now lies empty.

After 9/11, ‘the US enjoyed an outpouring of global sympathy. Within a couple of years, that sympathy had been squandered,’ wrote Rupert Cornwell in the Independent this week.

A friend who has spent every waking hour since 2003 trying to put back together the lives of Iraqi refugees who fled the invasion, perhaps said it all:
‘Dear USA, Your 9/11 is our 24/7.’

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