Sept 11 & The War On 'Terror'

The Die Hard trilogy merged with True Lies, and a bit of The Medusa Touch. Except this was horribly real, played out on live TV as we stopped work (mid-afternoon here in Britain) and watched people decide to jump to their deaths or stay and burn or be crushed, and then the towers fell in a series of unforgettable tableaux. Neither film nor video game, and with the stark absence of a lone hero to save the day, nearly everyone looked to the skies and wondered 'why?'

Operation Everlasting Revenge… um, Infinite Justice… er, Enduring Freedom… no, I've got it now: You're Either With Us Or Against Us, which actually means "You're either with (the) U.S. or against (the) U.S." This kind of 'reasoning' demonstrates perfectly the utterly false and politically expedient black-or-white dichotomy and heavy-handed our-way-is-the-only-way attitude that is no different from 'their' assertion that people are either Muslims or Infidels, which given the totalitarian nature of their religion is as correct and far more rigid. It certainly makes both sides believe they are right and, best of all, that "God is on my side", but such an outlook only establishes how much they have in common, especially when their Gods are judged on their actions as described in the Qur'an and the Bible. (What's that, I can't judge your God? Why not, when his records of slaughter and intolerance are there for all to see in so-called 'infallible' documents.)

As for 'us', the people in whom these actions are performed… What we don't know, we can't question, or protest about. As soon as anyone raises a voice in dissent or even tries to prevent knee-jerk reactions, they are at best dismissed as pacifists or more usually derided as unpatriotic (a sad diversionary tactic on a par with Bush senior's pathetic dismissal of atheists as not being citizens) and appeasers of the kind who wanted to give Hitler a chance. Don't forget the apologists either, for just as they tutted and shook their sage-like heads during the Salman Rushdie affair, the ultra-PC types trot out the same tired phrases of "we mustn't criticise lest we offend" and how Islam is really a religion of 'peace and tolerance', and anyone who has a contrary opinion is judged to be Islamophobic (a new thought-crime of which everyone is automatically deemed guilty until proven otherwise by acting with positive discrimination). So much for freedom of speech and thought, of being able to voice one's own opinion… what was it we claimed to be fighting for?

No, of course I am not trying to justify or even excuse the attacks on the World Trade Centre, for despite being devastatingly brilliant in their planning and execution the response was predictable and perhaps even desired by the perpetrators. However, neither was and is there any justification for all the foreign policies of mass slaughter of civilians to prop up dictatorships which claim democracy, all because the local population have decided to try a system of their own choosing and (gasp, shock, horror!), look to their own welfare and economic stability rather than pander to the demands of multi-national companies who, if they were truly independent and (as most claim to be) caring, would not need any help in establishing their presence and so could afford to pay living wages to their contracted workers, instead of sub-subsistence levels to slaves locked into Export Processing Zones, or ask their governments to apply pressure via subversion and guerilla warfare to undermine the governments of countries that do not want those companies.

Having said that, do not think I am also an apologetic, for I know 'the West' is not to blame for everything that occurs in the Middle east, and certainly not for all the internal massacres by, for example, Hussein or the Taliban, or those in Iran, or for frenzied mobs attacking people who dropped a book (yes, a book is all the Qur'an is, get over it), or who commit the victimless 'crime' of blasphemy (conveniently used in Pakistan as a means of getting rid of people you don't like, or for being found not guilty of rape), or who have acid thrown in their faces or are stoned to death (but it has to be the right-sized stone, neither too big nor too small), for starving refugees already existed in countries whose governments could afford but refused to feed them yet cried 'poverty' as they propped up their latest military dictatorship and updated their armaments. The U.S.-supported Taliban is itself only a small theocratic step away from its neighbours who treat their women less than cattle and deny the most basic civil rights to others, yet believers in other countries readily make use of more lenient laws to spread their intolerance (if they don't like it, why are they here… oh that's right, they have a God-given duty, for our own good of course), all the while claiming a freedom of speech which they are terrified of allowing others lest questions be asked and their authority challenged (the real reason for all the suppression); they have even drawn up their own sub-set of Human Rights because the global ones were too liberal for their tastes. Question their motives and history? No, because that is, thanks to all the bleaters, now officially Islamophobic, just as anyone criticising Israel is automatically anti-semitic and deemed a Nazi by the equally fanatical ADL, and protesting against globalisation is now classed in the same league as the September terrorists. How very convenient the bombing was, allowing legislation to be rushed through on knee-jerk reactions so everyone who disagrees with the 'official' way of doing things is deemed an Enemy Of The State. Just because someone criticises something doesn't automatically mean they want to violently overthrow it, just point out there is an alternative, but now such voices are drowned in the officially designated War Against Terrorism. As for existing civil liberties, the phrase is now little more than a sick joke, with the U.K. Govermnent giving itself powers with the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (at least publically, as they've always done it privately, originally for anti-terrorist investigations but now for anyone and everyone, just in case) to intercept and record every email and every log-on at every site of every net-user and their ISP, as well as tracking people through their mobile phones, all in the name of 'freedom'. But what about the Data Protection Act and the Human Rights Act? Sorry, did you say something? I can't hear you.

Note that if you're merely suspected of anything 'criminal' (I use quote-marks because the definition is broadening to include dissenters and activists of all kinds), and you use any form of encryption (e.g., PGP or GPG), then by law the key must be handed over so they can snoop on your files. In other words, you have to demonstrate your innocence — guilty until proven otherwise — all in the name of tyranny… er, I mean democracy.

Given that people cannot make decisions if information is withheld from them, it's more than ironic that in a war which is being fought elsewhere for 'freedom' and 'democracy', the first domestic casualties are freedom of choice and access to reliable information. Every time 'they' show what may be evidence of destruction of non-military targets and civilian deaths, it's casually dismissed with "no independent verification" as if everything coming from the U.S. / U.K is by default true and reliable, when in actuality we are being shown just enough to make the majority toe the party line and not ask embarrassing questions (a Delta Force operation which was deemed a success was only a few days later admitted as being a total fiasco). Strange how no one mentions there could be third-party corroboration: Ikonos is a commercial terrestrial-imaging satellite with resolutions down to 1 meter (less than a fifth of existing military surveillance satellites), but all images from the war-zone have been purchased (that is, censored by omission) by the U.S. government, so where it might be possible to see that yes, an aid supply depot was hit or a line of refugees rather than foreign militia had been strafed, first the incident is denied as a matter of course and then, a few days later, a formally trite apology is broadcast and bland expressions such as "collateral damage" used. Everyone on the planet is connected, becoming ever-more dependent on a decreasing number of resources for both everyday and luxury items, information, food, and health., but rather than being shared and better informed we are being restricted, and like the dictionary in Alphaville the repertoire gets more limited with every edition.

Then there's the ultimate hypocrisy, of conveniently ignoring all the faults in other counties such as China and Saudi Arabia who only a few months ago were being rightly lambasted for their horrendous human-rights records; now everyone is cuddling together in the global War Against Terrorism ® © ™, as long as the war is waged in other countries, not one's own, where it is used as an excuse for further curtailment of civil liberties. Even sadder is that the vast majority of Muslims are then accused of not being 'true' because they do not want to impose their way of living upon everyone else (are none of them even a little embarrassed by their leaders proudly stating they will not rest until the whole planet is subjugated country by country under their theocratic rule?), but because of their faith being basically fundamental, they are afraid of speaking out, and unlike the schisms that are now fortunately tearing apart the Christian churches even more as they argue about such pathetically irrelevant concerns as 'sin' and 'homosexuality', Islam has even more of a binary attitude, which leads be straight back to "you're either with us or against us," and they are now turning on their own who are not deemed strict enough in their observance of Islam's tenets.