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Posts Tagged ‘September 11 attacks’

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“The flag flying over the courthouse
Means certain things are set in stone
Who we are, what we’ll do and what we won’t.”
Long Walk Home, Bruce Springsteen.

 

The words in the song above mean a lot to me. I grew up believing in the best that America has to offer. The fifties were over, the illegal and immoral witch-hunts that were known as the McCarthy Trials under the guise of the U.S. House Un-American Activities Committee were finally shut down and Kennedy was in the White House. Things were younger, more intelligent and wiser than before, the Oval Office was filled with “The Best and the Brightest” and I felt that I was growing up in a country that I could trust. A country that would look out for me as I grew older, that I would never think of leaving, that would somehow find a way past it’s racist history and divisiveness and we would all grow old together in the soft warmth of freedom and equality and peace. I was a patriot in the truest sense of the word. One that would never wear it on his sleeve, one that didn’t need a flag waving on his porch to prove anything, In fact, I still am that same type of patriot. That’s what has me so very sad. It isn’t that I love my country less, but that I hate what it’s doing even more.

The song, Long Walk Home, isn’t about a guy whose car is broken down. It’s a very moving song about how far America has fallen off the ideals it was founded upon. The lofty ambitious promises we learned to love and almost to recite proverbial word for proverbial word as children. America loves to make big promises. It was based upon them, in a sense. Give us your tired, your poor, your hungry, your oppressed, the old saying went.

People around the world once believed these promises because the government was one they felt they could trust. People flocked to America from every corner of the world to try their fates there, some to escape oppression at home, others not in the hopes of striking it rich quick, but simply searching for a life they could be proud of. A chance to hold their heads high and provide a decent living for their families, some found what they searched for, some did not. But those promises were only for some. Racism still grew unchecked. The lines between rich and poor grew, especially after the beginning of the Iron Age and the spread of the railroads across the continent.

We were promised our individual right to the pursuit of our own versions of happiness. Our rights to free speech and privacy were pre-eminent in those rights. What we did in the privacy of our own homes was all but sacred. Americans would fight to the death for the liberties promised in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution because they thought the government believed in them and practised them as well. But lately something has changed.

Now it spies on its own people both inside its borders and outside, on foreign citizens both in allied lands and hostile, and their leaders as well, almost at whim, in a way that it seems to feel not that we are all citizens of the planet earth together, but that they have the patent of human rights, the lock on the truth, and are the final word on everything that happens both inside and outside its borders. America has become the biggest bully on the playground and if you don’t play by their rules, then they will come after you either economically or if need be, militarily. The torture of prisoners is no longer limited to only dictatorships. Abu Ghraib is not an isolated example, I’m sure.

In the 10 years since 9\11 the US Government has grown less and less concerned with our rights while totally ignoring or circumventing both the Geneva Convention and International Law. They’ve lied their way into an illegal war in Iraq, does ANYONE, still believe that Hussein, albeit a dreadful dictator, had weapons of mass destruction? I didn’t believe it to begin with, so no surprise that none were ever found. In an article from Salon.com there is a timeline based on the findings of the US Senate. The next two paragraphs highlight what I found from the article below, (this is the link  http://www.salon.com/2008/06/18/interrogation/ ).

“According to an investigation conducted by the US Senate Armed Services Committee, there was a series of memos and documents in which the Bush Administration detailed plans for teaching special troops to “withstand torture”, more likely they were taught how to induce torture. They wanted us to believe that CIA enhanced interrogation techniques such as waterboarding did not add up to torture. But the documents show that it is increasingly clear that the administration sought from early on to implement techniques whose basis was torture. Soon after the attacks of September 11, 2001, the Pentagon and the CIA began an orchestrated effort to tap expertise from the military’s Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape School for use in the interrogation of terrorist suspects.

The US Military’s SERE training is designed to inoculate soldiers, sailors and airmen to torture in the event of capture by an enemy that would violate the Geneva Conventions. The Bush administration wanted to use the training as a method of teaching how to deal out torture instead.  As the plan rolled forward, military and law enforcement officials repeatedly sent up red flags that this wasn’t just wrong, but probably illegal. The Bush administration ignored their protests and questioned their loyalty and patriotism, sometimes publicly. The use of torture continued for two years until it was leaked to the news in April 2004. “

Supposedly the torture of prisoners has stopped, but the detaining of foreign nationals for years without due process still continues. This alone is illegal.

I bring this up not to demean the Bush administration, that’s far to easy to do, but to show an example of why it’s necessary to blow the whistle when the government is doing something so blatantly illegal. This is NOT the America I grew up to love. This is not the America from a Norman Rockwell painting. This is not Bruce Jenner waving the flag at the Olympics. This is the America that hated the then Cassius Clay when he adopted the Muslim faith, changed his name to Muhammad Ali and refused to serve in the armed forces. This is the America that ruined hundreds of lives in the 1950s during the McCarthy witch-hunts. This is the America that still allows Ku Klux Klan meetings in “secret”. This is the America that now holds international law under water without air. As a Turkish professor put it in a conversation with the newspaper The Financial Times the other day, “Obama talks like the head of the American Civil Liberties Union but he acts like Dick Cheney”. A very sad comparison since I supported him when he was first elected, but I have to admit it is blood-chillingly accurate. For a current example, consider the dreadful relentless way they are treating one of their own, former NSA agent Edward Snowden, speaking of whistle blowing He made what I’m sure was an extremely painful decision to make public the NSA illegally wiretapping millions of emails and mobile phone calls of Americans within the US and abroad without judicial process. He also made public the inexcusable surveillance of the offices and officials of the EU by the American Government. From what I’ve read I’ll admit he’s far from perfect. But I also have to admire him greatly. This is a man who, like me, and many other Americans, loves his country dearly. He wants to believe in the ideals he was raised with. He makes me think of my youth growing up in the shadow of the 1950s. I want to believe that as Superman once again fills the movie screens around the world, that he is still representing, “Truth, Justice, and the American Way” as the announcer of the 1960s television Superman series said. And the American way is supposed to be something WORTH standing up for. I know I’m going to anger a number of people, least of all some members of my family back home with this. They believe, I’m sure, that America has the right to tap my phone, read my email, check my banking transactions, photograph me when I’m not aware, and if they’re not satisfied then they can always arrest me without a warrant, deport me, hold me in a small unlit cell without water, toilet or sufficient room to stand or move, beat me, threaten to harm my wife, take my belongings, and never ever give me anything remotely resembling due process of law. THIS is what Mr. Snowden is bravely standing up against. THIS is NOT America and if you believe that it is, then I suggest you read up on the true meaning of freedom, beginning with the Magna Carta, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States and leave the Ron Paul trash in the dustbin where it belongs.

I hope you had a wonderful Fourth of July, Thank you for reading this. God Bless America, it needs it.

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Today marks the 10th year anniversary of the attacks of September 11, 2001. There are so many others writing about it, I almost didn’t want to, but I feel compelled to write SOMETHING! So here it goes….

I decided that I should examine my own feelings about 9/11 and my own memories of that dreadful day and the days that followed.

I was still in bed, trying to ignore my alarm clock. Actually, it wasn’t my alarm, it was my phone ringing, a rare occurrence, and I of course had to find out who would dare ring me so bloody early or what the earth shattering event was or who had just died. It was, in fact, a friend, sounding very shook up. She asked me if I was watching the news because the U.S. was being attacked. I immediately turned on the news just in time to see the second plane hit. The images of that day, the planes hitting the buildings, the people jumping out from the buildings and then the buildings falling down are burned into my memory forever.

I remember the total shock, the disbelief, and the horror of the moment. What was I watching? How could this happen? Who on earth could do this? I felt like someone had stomped on my stomach, for a moment my mind was totally shut off, I couldn’t think, my emotions were ripped inside out from my depths to my skin and everyone could see them.

I stumbled, quite literally, to the bathroom and began, only on instinct, to get ready for work. How I longed for it to be April fool’s day. How I wished it were just a bad movie I was watching, or a trick, something like Orson Welles performance of War of the Worlds a few decades earlier.

Like a drunk without a memory, I had almost no idea how I made it to work, but I will always remember the feeling that day. The town and in fact the whole world felt like death. This was a death you couldn’t bargain with, couldn’t escape, couldn’t cheat or trick in a game of chess. This was ruthless, cruel and complete in its brutality.

There was an enormous hole in the world and it pulled me and everyone else in the world into it. It ripped my insides out. I couldn’t and wouldn’t believe that anyone could be so cruel, but the evidence was inescapable. I thought of my maternal grandmother who was from Brooklyn, and my many friends who had lived or still do, in New York City, I thought of the families of those who died, of the overwhelming sense of loss.

It seemed that everyone I came into contact with felt a similar grief. I also remember there were so many questions. The ones that journalists are trained to ask, I would suppose, who what when were why etc. but no answers.

Over the next few days, the Bush administration started to “explain” who did it, and started the war of words and propaganda to support its’ position and intentions to invade Afghanistan and then Iraq without support of the international community or the United Nations, setting off a sequence of events that I will, and it hurts me deeply to say this, never forgive my country for. (I will write more on this in another blog, dear reader, so if you’re curious stay tuned.)

Of course I felt tremendous anger about those events. There will never be a place in the civilized world for such brutality, but I also realized that it was a huge protest against much more than the United States. I will always believe that.  It saddened me that so many of my countrymen didn’t see that. I realized that people from all over the world, INCLUDING PEOPLE OF THE MUSLIM FAITH died on that day.

I thought then, and still do, that we need to figure out the true reasons why they felt it necessary to do this and what they felt they could gain. We need to take steps to deny them their power, to change the way we relate to the issues facing the Middle East so that they have no basis for recruitment. The United States needs to ensure that its actions in the Middle East are based solely on humanitarian purposes, without the intention of profit or the furtherance of imperialism.

I can say that I certainly feel I’ve changed from that day, as have so many. My view of the world around me has grown, my awareness of prejudice in America against Muslims has definitely heightened, and that prejudice saddens me deeply, especially when I realize that this anniversary will almost certainly fan those fires again.

When my Swedish friends ask me if I might want to move back to the States, I say, “No, it’s not in my plans”, then I smile and walk away. What I don’t say is that due to the dreadful actions of the Bush administration, the continued illegal holding of people in Guantanamo, the torture of prisoners of war, the rise of such idiots as Sarah Pahlin and the neo religious fascist Tea Party, and most of all the environment of hate and fear that the attacks have brewed in the U.S. I don’t want to live there.  I can’t be a part of that any longer because I no longer believe in the dream.

That is what I lost on that day, 10 years ago. Perhaps I’ll find it again. It would be nice.

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