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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 9/11/21

Hedges: The Evil We Do Is the Evil We Get

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From Scheerpost

The hijackers who carried out the attacks on 9/11, like all radical jihadist groups in the Middle East, spoke to us in the murderous language we taught them.


(Image by Mr. Fish/Scheer Post)   Details   DMCA

I was in Times Square in New York City shortly after the second plane banked and plowed into the South Tower. The crowd looking up at the Jumbotron gasped in dismay at the billowing black smoke and the fireball that erupted from the tower. There was no question now that the two attacks on the twin towers were acts of terrorism. The earlier supposition, that perhaps the pilot had a heart attack or lost control of the plane when it struck the North Tower 17earlier, vanished with the second attack. The city fell into a collective state of shock. Fear palpitated throughout the streets. Would they strike again? Where? Was my family safe? Should I go to work? Should I go home? What did it mean? Who would do this? Why?

The explosions and collapse of the towers, however, were, to me, intimately familiar. I had seen it before. This was the familiar language of empire. I had watched these incendiary messages dropped on southern Kuwait and Iraq during the first Persian Gulf War and descend with thundering concussions in Gaza and Bosnia. The calling card of empire, as was true in Vietnam, is tons of lethal ordnance dropped from the sky. The hijackers spoke to America in the idiom we taught them.

The ignorance, masquerading as innocence, of Americans, mostly white Americans, was nauseating. It was the worst attack on American soil since Pearl Harbor. It was the greatest act of terrorism in American history. It was an incomprehensible act of barbarity. The stunningly naïve rhetoric, which saturated the media, saw the blues artist Willie King sit up all night and write his song "Terrorized."

"Now you talk 'bout terror," he sang. "I been terrorized all my days."

But it was not only Black Americans who were familiar with the endemic terror built into the machinery of white supremacy, capitalism, and empire, but those overseas who the empire for decades sought to subdue, dominate, and destroy. They knew there is no moral difference between those who fire Hellfire and cruise missiles or pilot militarized drones, obliterating wedding parties, village gatherings or families, and suicide bombers. They knew there is no moral difference between those who carpet-bomb North Vietnam or southern Iraq and those who fly planes into buildings. In short, they knew the evil that spawned evil.

America was not attacked because the hijackers hated us for our values. America was not attacked because the hijackers followed the Quran which forbids suicide and the murder of women and children. America was not attacked because of a clash of civilizations. America was attacked because the virtues we espouse are a lie. We were attacked for our hypocrisy. We were attacked for the campaigns of industrial slaughter that are our primary way of speaking with the rest of the planet. Robert McNamara, the Secretary of Defense in the summer of 1965, called the bombing raids, which would eventually kill hundreds of thousands of civilians north of Saigon, a form of communication with the communist government in Hanoi.

We did not, and do not, grasp that we are the mirror image of those we seek to destroy. We too kill with an inchoate fury.

The lives of Iraqis, Afghanis, Syrians, Libyans, and Yemenis are as precious as the lives of those killed in the twin towers. But this understanding, this ability to see the world as the world saw us, eluded Americans who, refusing to acknowledge the blood on their own hands, instantly bifurcated the world into good and evil, us and them, the blessed and the damned. The country drank deep of the dark elixir of nationalism, the heady elevation of us as a noble and wronged people. The flip side of nationalism is always racism. And the poisons of racism and hate infected the American nation to propel it into the greatest strategic blunder in its history, one from which it will never recover.

We did not, and do not, grasp that we are the mirror image of those we seek to destroy. We too kill with an inchoate fury. Over the past two decades we have extinguished the lives of hundreds of thousands of people who never sought to harm the United States or were involved in the attacks on American soil. We too use religion, in our case the Christian faith, to mount a jihad or crusade. We too go to war to fight phantoms of our own creation.

I walked down the West Side Highway that morning to the moonscape the twin towers had become after they collapsed. Climbing over the rubble, hacking, and coughing because of the toxic fumes from the burning asbestos, jet fuel, lead, mercury, cellulose, and construction debris, I saw the tiny bits of human flesh and body parts that was all that remained from the towers' nearly 3,000 victims. It was obvious no one in the towers when they collapsed survived.

The manipulation of the images, however, had already begun. The scores of "jumpers," those who leapt to their deaths before the collapses, were censored from the live broadcasts. They seemed to wait for turns. They often fell singly or in pairs, sometimes with improvised parachutes made from drapes, sometimes replicating the motions of swimmers. They reached speeds of 150 miles an hour during the 10 seconds it took before they hit the pavement. The bodies made a sickening thud on impact. All who saw them fall spoke of this sound.

The mass suicide was one of the pivotal events of 9/11. But it was immediately expunged from public consciousness. The jumpers did not fit into the myth the nation demanded. The hopelessness and despair were too disturbing. It exposed our smallness and fragility. It illustrated that there are levels of suffering and fear that lead us to willingly embrace death. The "jumpers" reminded us that one day we will all face only one choice and that is how we will die, not how we will live.

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Chris Hedges spent nearly two decades as a foreign correspondent in Central America, the Middle East, Africa and the Balkans. He has reported from more than 50 countries and has worked for The Christian Science Monitor, National Public Radio, The Dallas Morning News and The New York Times, for which he was a foreign correspondent for 15 years.

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