The date, 9/11, led him to believe it was a group of Chileans, since that was the date the duly-elected President Salvador Allende was overthrown in 1973 with our government's help. But he also thought that other victims of American empire might well have been the culprits: Okinawans, Greeks, Nicaraguans, Salvadorans, Palestinians, Congolese, and the list went on and on.
But Al-Queda it was. Then ensued an awful decade when the US with great expense of personnel, money, materials, and international reputation fought Al-Queda. By the end of 2011, most of Al-Queda's leadership were arrested or assassinated. But if you think we are now safe, think again.
The US with its more than 500 military bases around the world is a global empire, and that very fact not only drains our treasury, it creates enemies. And not only do we have the above list of potential terrorists, what I would call the ghosts of imperialist adventures past, but over the past ten years we've made even more enemies with a foreign policy so mind-bogglingly thoughtless that to paraphrase the under-appreciated American poet Edwin Arlington Robinson, our centers of power are "a kind of spiritual kindergarten where bewildered infants are trying to spell" peace "with the wrong blocks."
In the past decade, we invaded Afghanistan and Iraq, killing thousands (many of whom were innocent civilians whose only crime was being in the wrong place at the wrong time), while displacing hundreds of thousands. The Obama administration's use of drones in Afghanistan and Pakistan has killed hundreds of civilians. And this we blithely call collateral damage?
The US has also dropped bombs in other parts of the globe, Somalia and Sudan, for example. Most Americans wouldn't know about those little factoids with the constant drumbeat of "news" of the Kardashians and the latest sexting scandals. (Whose body part is that really?) Most don't even realize that we are now engaged in a so-called low-level conflict with Iran that includes assassinations, sabotage (unleashing computer viruses), and bombings, what the old fashioned amongst us would call acts of war.
I sincerely wish this list was complete, but it's not, not even close. It could go on and on. Every year our government makes more and more enemies. And one very understandable reason that people turn into enemies is because, go figure, no one likes to see their relatives and friends killed. Plus, when you are grieving, the idea of vengeance makes pretty good sense. Think about it. If our relatives and friends were being murdered by a foreign power as they were driving to the store for a six pack or attending a wedding, we'd feel the same way. We'd want revenge, too. We would demand it.
And the only way most people hit on to get revenge is what our military calls asymmetrical warfare, or, if it's done to us, we call terrorism. Since the US military is too big to fight face to face, the idea is that you make those in the US pay for what our leaders did. These terrorists do not hate us or our way of life. They hate our political elite's cruel hubris, its heedless foreign policy.
Our 9/11, Madrid 2004, and London 2005 are examples of asymmetrical warfare. And, up to now, we have been very fortunate that no huge terrorist attack has occurred in the US since 9/11, but the chance exists that in 2012 our luck might just run out.
Let me be clear on three points. One, I don't defend those who commit mass murder. The killing of civilians by us or others is wrong. To understand why they commit terrorism, does not absolve them, but it does not absolve us either.
Two, I am no prognosticator, no seer with a crystal ball or even a Mayan calendar up my sleeve. I have no inside information. But it seems to me commonsensical that every year that we bully one group or another is another year we need to understand in the deepest way that we might soon face another possible terrorist attack.
Three, of course, I hope with all my heart that I am wrong, and 2012 turns into a banner year of world peace and dialogue. Really.
So will 2012 be our year of living dangerously? My answer is that with an empire, every year is a year of living dangerously. And if we continue this empire, our children and grandchildren will also very likely be at risk.
My greatest wish for the new year is that the US will finally and completely reject empire and be a normal country. We really cannot be both a democracy and an empire. We have to choose before the decision is made for us. But the grains of sand are falling in the hourglass. Our time is running out.