File spoon-archives/lyotard.archive/lyotard_2001/lyotard.0109, message 120

Subject: Re: [P_F_P] Sontag on the current crisis
Date: Sun, 23 Sep 2001 20:35:46 +0100

> I am curious how this is being depicted by the media in the U.K. Is it
> any more insightful?

The short answer here Eric is - no. Non-insight. Eye for an eye stuff (i.e.
everyone is blind).

Hi to the list by the way, this is my first posting though I've been
listening in for ages. I'm sure most of you are looking there already but by
far the best coverage I've found on recent events has been emanating from
ZNet, and in particular their daily updates to Sustainers. Required reading,
go sign-up. . . quick! As a sample I've included below the two pieces that
came through today. . .





Here are two more powerful essays, from Robert Fisk and John Gerassi.

Other materials are on the ZNet Site, of course...

Top Page:
Crisis Page:

Many ZNet interactive facilities are still offline due to reconstruction
after the virus fallout -- they should return on Monday and Tuesday,
with the exception of forums, which will take somewhat longer. All
crisis coverage is in place and easily accessible.

How can the US bomb this tragic people?
By Robert Fisk

We are witnessing this weekend one of the most epic events since the
Second World War, certainly since Vietnam. I am not talking about the
ruins of the World Trade Centre in New York and the grotesque physical
scenes which we watched on 11 September, an atrocity which I described
last week as a crime against humanity (of which more later). No, I am
referring to the extraordinary, almost unbelievable preparations now
under way for the most powerful nation ever to have existed on God's
Earth to bomb the most devastated, ravaged, starvation-haunted and
tragic country in the world. Afghanistan, raped and eviscerated by the
Russian army for 10 years, abandoned by its friends - us, of course -
once the Russians had fled, is about to be attacked by the surviving

I watch these events with incredulity, not least because I was a witness
to the Russian invasion and occupation. How they fought for us, those
Afghans, how they believed our word. How they trusted President Carter
when he promised the West's support. I even met the CIA spook in
Peshawar, brandishing the identity papers of a Soviet pilot, shot down
with one of our missiles - which had been scooped from the wreckage of
his Mig. "Poor guy," the CIA man said, before showing us a movie about
GIs zapping the Vietcong in his private cinema. And yes, I remember what
the Soviet officers told me after arresting me at Salang. They were
performing their international duty in Afghanistan, they told me. They
were "punishing the terrorists" who wished to overthrow the (communist)
Afghan government and destroy its people. Sound familiar?

I was working for The Times in 1980, and just south of Kabul I picked up
a very disturbing story. A group of religious mujahedin fighters had
attacked a school because the communist regime had forced girls to be
educated alongside boys. So they had bombed the school, murdered the
head teacher's wife and cut off her husband's head. It was all true. But
when The Times ran the story, the Foreign Office complained to the
foreign desk that my report gave support to the Russians. Of course.
Because the Afghan fighters were the good guys. Because Osama bin Laden
was a good guy. Charles Douglas-Home, then editor of The Times would
always insist that Afghan guerrillas were called "freedom fighters" in
the headline. There was nothing you couldn't do with words.

And so it is today. President Bush now threatens the obscurantist,
ignorant, super-conservative Taliban with the same punishment as he
intends to mete out to bin Laden. Bush originally talked about "justice
and punishment" and about "bringing to justice" the perpetrators of the
atrocities. But he's not sending policemen to the Middle East; he's
sending B-52s. And F-16s and AWACS planes and Apache helicopters. We are
not going to arrest bin Laden. We are going to destroy him. And that's
fine if he's the guilty man. But B-52s don't discriminate between men
wearing turbans, or between men and women or women and children.

I wrote last week about the culture of censorship which is now to
smother us, and of the personal attacks which any journalist questioning
the roots of this crisis endures. Last week, in a national European
newspaper, I got a new and revealing example of what this means. I was
accused of being anti-American and then informed that anti-Americanism
was akin to anti-Semitism. You get the point, of course. I'm not really
sure what anti-Americanism is. But criticising the United States is now
to be the moral equivalent of Jew-hating. It's OK to write headlines
about "Islamic terror" or my favourite French example "God's madmen",
but it's definitely out of bounds to ask why the United States is
loathed by so many Arab Muslims in the Middle East. We can give the
murderers a Muslim identity: we can finger the Middle East for the crime
- but we may not suggest any reasons for the crime.

But let's go back to that word justice. Re-watching that pornography of
mass-murder in New York, there must be many people who share my view
that this was a crime against humanity. More than 6,000 dead; that's a
Srebrenica of a slaughter. Even the Serbs spared most of the women and
children when they killed their menfolk. The dead of Srebrenica deserve
- and are getting - international justice at the Hague. So surely what
we need is an International Criminal Court to deal with the sorts of
killer who devastated New York on 11 September. Yet "crime against
humanity" is not a phrase we are hearing from the Americans. They prefer
"terrorist atrocity", which is slightly less powerful. Why, I wonder?
Because to speak of a terrorist crime against humanity would be a
tautology. Or because the US is against international justice. Or
because it specifically opposed the creation of an international court
on the grounds that its own citizens may one day be arraigned in front
of it.

The problem is that America wants its own version of justice, a concept
rooted, it seems, in the Wild West and Hollywood's version of the Second
World War. President Bush speaks of smoking them out, of the old posters
that once graced Dodge City: "Wanted, Dead or Alive". Tony Blair now
tells us that we must stand by America as America stood by us in the
Second World War. Yes, it's true that America helped us liberate Western
Europe. But in both world wars, the US chose to intervene after only a
long and - in the case of the Second World War - very profitable period
of neutrality.

Don't the dead of Manhattan deserve better than this? It's less than
three years since we launched a 200-Cruise missile attack on Iraq for
throwing out the UN arms inspectors. Needless to say, nothing was
achieved. More Iraqis were killed, and the UN inspectors never got back,
and sanctions continued, and Iraqi children continued to die. No policy,
no perspective. Action, not words.

And that's where we are today. Instead of helping Afghanistan, instead
of pouring our aid into that country 10 years ago, rebuilding its cities
and culture and creating a new political centre that would go beyond
tribalism, we left it to rot. Sarajevo would be rebuilt. Not Kabul.
Democracy, of a kind, could be set up in Bosnia. Not in Afghanistan.
Schools could be reopened in Tuzla and Travnik. Not in Jaladabad. When
the Taliban arrived, stringing up every opponent, chopping off the arms
of thieves, stoning women for adultery, the United States regarded this
dreadful outfit as a force for stability after the years of anarchy.

Bush's threats have effectively forced the evacuation of every Western
aid worker. Already, Afghans are dying because of their absence. Drought
and starvation go on killing millions - I mean millions - and between 20
and 25 Afghans are blown up every day by the 10 million mines the
Russians left behind. Of course, the Russians never went back to clear
the mines. I suppose those B-52 bombs will explode a few of them. But
that'll be the only humanitarian work we're likely to see in the near

Look at the most startling image of all this past week. Pakistan has
closed its border with Afghanistan. So has Iran. The Afghans are to stay
in their prison. Unless they make it through Pakistan and wash up on the
beaches of France or the waters of Australia or climb through the
Channel Tunnel or hijack a plane to Britain to face the wrath of our
Home Secretary. In which case, they must be sent back, returned, refused
entry. It's a truly terrible irony that the only man we would be
interested in receiving from Afghanistan is the man we are told is the
evil genius behind the greatest mass-murder in American history: bin
Laden. The others can stay at home and die.


Will Tears Ever Stop?
By John Gerassi

I can't help crying. As soon as I see a person on TV telling the
heart-rendering story of the tragic fate of their loved-one in the World
Trade Center disaster, I can't control my tears. But then I wonder why
didn't I cry when our troops wiped out some 5,000 poor people in
Panama's El Chorillo neighborhood on the excuse of looking for Noriega.
Our leaders knew he was hiding elsewhere but we destroyed El Chorillo
because the folks living there were nationalists who wanted the U.S. out
of Panama completely.

Worse still, why didn't I cry when we killed two million Vietnamese,
mostly innocent peasants, in a war which its main architect, Defense
Secretary Robert McNamara, knew we could not win? When I went to give
blood the other day, I spotted a Cambodian doing the same, three up in
the line, and that reminded me: Why didn't I cry when we helped Pol Pot
butcher another million by giving him arms and money, because he was
opposed to "our enemy" (who eventually stopped the killing fields)?

To stay up but not cry that evening, I decided to go to a movie. I chose
Lumumba, at the Film Forum, and again I realized that I hadn't cried
when our government arranged for the murder of the Congo's only decent
leader, to be replaced by General Mobutu, a greedy, vicious, murdering
dictator. Nor did I cry when the CIA arranged for the overthrow of
Indonesia's Sukarno, who had fought the Japanese World War II invaders
and established a free independent country, and then replaced him by
another General, Suharto, who had collaborated with the Japanese and who
proceeded to execute at least half a million "Marxists" (in a country
where, if folks had ever heard of Marx, it was at best Groucho)?

I watched TV again last night and cried again at the picture of that
wonderful now-missing father playing with his two-month old child. Yet
when I remembered the slaughter of thousands of Salvadorans, so
graphically described in the Times by Ray Bonner, or the rape and murder
of those American nuns and lay sisters there, all perpetrated by CIA
trained and paid agents, I never shed a tear. I even cried when I heard
how brave had been Barbara Olson, wife of the Solicitor General, whose
political views I detested. But I didn't cry when the US invaded that
wonderful tiny Caribbean nation of Grenada and killed innocent citizens
who hoped to get a better life by building a tourist airfield, which my
government called proof of a Russian base, but then finished building
once the island was secure in the US camp again.

Why didn't I cry when Ariel Sharon, today Israel's prime minister,
planned, then ordered, the massacre of two thousand poor Palestinians in
the refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila, the same Sharon who, with such
other Irgun and Stern Gang terrorists become prime ministers as Begin
and Shamir, killed the wives and children of British officers by blowing
up the King David hotel where they were billeted?

I guess one only cries only for one's own. But is that a reason to
demand vengeance on anyone who might disagree with us? That's what
Americans seem to want. Certainly our government oes, and so too most of
our media. Do we really believe that we have a right to exploit the poor
folk of the world for our benefit, because we claim we are free and they
are not?

So now we're going to go to war. We are certainly entitled to go after
those who killed so many of our innocent brothers and sisters. And we'll
win, of course. Against Bin Laden. Against Taliban. Against Iraq.
Against whoever and whatever. In the process we'll kill a few innocent
children again. Children who have no clothes for the coming winter. No
houses to shelter them. And no schools to learn why they are guilty, at
two or four or six years old. Maybe Evangelists Falwell and Robertson
will claim their death is good because they weren't Christians, and
maybe some State Department spokesperson will tell the world that they
were so poor that they're now better off.

And then what? Will we now be able to run the world the way we want to?
With all the new legislation establishing massive surveillance of you
and me, our CEOs will certainly be pleased that the folks demonstrating
against globalization will now be cowed for ever. No more riots in
Seattle, Quebec or Genoa. Peace at last.

Until next time. Who will it be then? A child grown-up who survived our
massacre of his innocent parents in El Chorillo? A Nicaraguan girl who
learned that her doctor mother and father were murdered by a bunch of
gangsters we called democratic contras who read in the CIA handbook that
the best way to destroy the only government which was trying to give the
country's poor a better lot was to kill its teachers, health personnel,
and government farm workers? Or maybe it will be a bitter Chilean who is
convinced that his whole family was wiped out on order of Nixon's
Secretary of State Henry Kissinger who could never tell the difference
between a communist and a democratic socialist or even a nationalist.

When will we Americans learn that as long as we keep trying to run the
world for the sake of the bottom line, we will suffer someone's revenge?
No war will ever stop terrorism as long as we use terror to have our
way. So I stopped crying because I stopped watching TV. I went for a
walk. Just four houses from mine. There, a crowd had congregated to lay
flowers and lit candles in front of our local firehouse. It was closed.
It had been closed since Tuesday because the firemen, a wonderful bunch
of friendly guys who always greeted neighborhood folks with smiles and
good cheer, had rushed so fast to save the victims of the first tower
that they perished with them when it collapsed. And I cried again.

So I said to myself when I wrote this, don't send it; some of your
students, colleagues, neighbors will hate you, maybe even harm you. But
then I put on the TV again, and there was Secretary of State Powell
telling me that it will be okay to go to war against these children,
these poor folks, these US-haters, because we are civilized and they are
not. So I decided to risk it. Maybe, reading this, one more person will
ask: Why are so many people in the world ready to die to give us a taste
of what we give them?


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