MODULE 9: Before and After 9/11

One Night In Greece (2001)

On the evening of September 10th, 2001, a Libyan university student named Osama climbed on top of a flag pole on a yacht, pulled down a large US flag, and swam back ashore. And he was not charged with terrorism or shot on sight.

“One Night in Greece”

Dying Firefighters (2001)

Hijacked commercial airliners loaded with jet fuel aborted their cross-country flights and diverted to downtown Manhattan and elsewhere on the east coast, plowing into two of the world’s tallest buildings, the twin towers of the World Trade Center. Rescue workers marched into the burning, crumbling buildings, risking and losing their many lives. Thousands died. Hundreds of undocumented workers probably died, and we’ll never know the total dead.

This kind of extreme violence being brought down upon people going about their daily lives in downtown Manhattan shocked a lot of people. Especially people in the US, who had all grown up in a country that regularly made wars elsewhere, but had very little experience with war coming to them.

Propagandists in the media immediately started talking about the anti-capitalist movement in reference to Al-Qaeda. “Last week they were protesting the World Trade Organization, and now they’re bombing the World Trade Center.”

“The Dying Firefighter”

If You Bomb Somebody (2001)

Around the world, as soon as people got over the shock of realizing what had just happened, next they were asking the question, “why did this take so long to happen?” The US, as most people in the world are aware, has been bombing much of the world at one time or another for generations. Millions had already been killed by bombs dropped by planes from the US already, only in my own lifetime.

Occasionally, someone strikes the empire back. With its bipartisan “War On Terror,” the US seems to be making sure there will continue to be more terrorist attacks – they’re very convenient, since every empire needs enemies to justify its military spending. (That the spending is necessary for maintaining the empire doesn’t sell well to the tax-paying public. If we’re defending ourselves from scary, bearded enemies, then it’s OK.)

“If You Bomb Somebody”

Barbara Lee (2001)

In the wake of 9/11, President Bush asked for increased powers to make war against whoever, wherever, whenever. The only member of Congress who voted against the act was Barbara Lee.

And what about all the other members of Congress, of both parties? As with most wars they come across, they voted for it.

“Barbara Lee”

Hang A Flag In The Window (2001)

The spontaneous thing that so many people did after 9/11 was to put candles in their windows, commemorating the dead. Politicians and the corporate and “public” media, however, turned into a unified army of hyper-patriotic zombies and urged the public in the direction of ever more servile displays of nationalistic fervor.

Years later some of these journalists, such as Dan Rather, emerged from their war haze and apologized for losing their minds. The damage had been done, however, so their mea culpas were far too little, far too late, in terms of being able to save any Iraqi or Afghan lives.

“Hang A Flag In The Window”

Guantanamo Bay (2001)

The one piece of Cuban territory that the US never gave up since Cuba was a US colony is known as Guantanamo Bay. In the past it was used as temporary housing for Haitian refugees that the US government didn’t want to have on actual US soil, lest they run the risk of having their human rights respected. Soon after 9/11, Guantanamo Bay became a concentration camp for Muslims.

The damage done by the US so completely rejecting international law and any concept of a legal process, let alone a speedy trial or any of that other stuff, is impossible to calculate. To whatever small extent dictators in the world may have been held back by the notion that the US might care what norms they violated, they now no longer had any need to worry.

“Guantanamo Bay”

The Village Where Nothing Happened (2001)

Most of Afghanistan was already in ruins when the US invaded in 2001, so the Air Force quickly ran out of anything that looked like a legitimate target to bomb. They quickly began bombing wedding parties. In many countries, firing into the air during a wedding is standard celebratory procedure. The US Air Force’s ability to discern between a terrorist attack and celebratory wedding fire has proven to be very poor.

When the village of Kama Ado was bombed and completely destroyed, most of its inhabitants killed, the Defense Department spokesperson claimed “nothing happened” in Kama Ado. Perhaps needless to say, this is exactly the kind of massacre that creates terrorists. It certainly doesn’t do anything to stop terrorism – it is, in fact, terrorism.

Note: in the line “some with no shoes on their feet,” the word “some” should have been omitted.

“The Village Where Nothing Happened”

Who Would Jesus Bomb? (2001)

Two of the men with more blood on their hands than anyone since Richard Nixon or Pol Pot, George W Bush and Tony Blair, both consider themselves to be religious Christians. Bush even talked about a “crusade” against terrorism, before his advisers advised him to use less offensive language when he’s referring to predominantly Christian countries attacking predominantly Muslim ones.

“Who Would Jesus Bomb?”

Ana Belen Montes (2001)

Ana Belen Montes certainly had nothing to do with 9/11, aside from the fact that it happened to be soon after 9/11 that she had a lapse in taking care of her security protocols one night, which happened to be the night the FBI went to visit her apartment to look at her hard drive.

In her capacity as a high-ranking official at the Department of Defense, Ana had been secretly spying for Cuba for decades. She received a very long sentence, and is currently still serving it at a women’s prison in Texas.

“Song for Ana Belen Montes”

Coke: Drink of the Death Squads (2002)

The rightwing paramilitary men walked onto the factory floor in broad daylight and executed two union organizers. They then camped out in front of the factory for weeks afterwards, to prove that they were completely above the law. The factory was a Coca-Cola bottling plant.

Coke has a long anti-union history, and has been widely boycotted internationally, and banned from various college campuses and other institutions as a result.

Outside Agitator (2002)

In 2002 I was turned away from the Canadian border, along with many other people who were attempting to cross the border to attend a protest in Alberta against the G8. What was especially noteworthy about being turned away on this particular occasion was that the Canadian immigration agent showed me that I was on a watch list, and that he was under instructions specifically to find an excuse to turn me away from the border.

He wasn’t supposed to show me this, but he did. He was clearly conflicted about what he was being asked by his government to do.

Generally, when you’re on a watch list, nobody tells you. You just have to guess why it might be that some people never seem to get your emails, or your phone works in strange ways, or you always have an empty seat next to you on the plane. Occasionally, someone tells you, and it helps explain some things.

I think most people think they’re not important enough to be on a watch list. But the thing is, with secret police agencies with the size and budget of the FBI, CIA, NSA, etc., who do you think they’re watching? Us, that’s who.

“Outside Agitator”

Somali Pirates (2002)

Around this time was what could be called the golden age of piracy in the Gulf of Aden. It became routine for a time for ships to have a few thousand dollars in cash on hand in case they ran into pirates, and those who didn’t and got caught paid a much heavier price.

Contrary to many accounts from various governments and media outlets, however, the Somali pirates during this period behaved with professionalism, treating hostages well, as these things go. There were accounts of pirates trying to feed crew members the kind of food they were used to, cooking borsht for some Ukrainian hostages. A manual on pirate etiquette was found by members of the French Navy, in which it discouraged sexual harassment of female hostages, among other good advice.

Although the pirates were after (much-needed) hard currency, they also played the role of being the closest thing to a coast guard that Somalia had at the time. Before the pirates were on the scene, western corporations were found to have been dumping nuclear waste in Somalia’s harbors. This was only discovered after the 2004 tsunami washed some of it ashore.

“Pirates of Somalia”

The Green Scare (2002)

Much of the extra border security that many people associate with being part of the post-9/11 era actually began prior to the WTO protests in Seattle in 1999, and were put into place to discourage people from crossing borders to join protests, not out of any fear of international terrorism. Similarly, what became known to many as the Green Scare.

Laws passed in the late 90’s made penalties for all sorts of things worse, if it was something related to the environment or animal rights. After 9/11, more laws made things even worse. Pretty soon, you had people convicted of the kinds of property destruction directed against corporations that would have gotten someone put away for several years back in the 80’s, but now they were facing (and in many cases are currently serving) decades in prison. In some cases, the crimes were committed before 9/11, but the court case happened after.

A number of people, including Rod Coronado, were threatened with 25-year prison sentences for the crime of giving a speech in which they were thought to be encouraging people to destroy property, essentially. After a hung jury, Rod did what others threatened with this law have done so far, and taken a plea bargain, serving one year in prison rather than 25 – for a speech given to a small audience at a university in California.

Questions/thoughts for further exploration…

One Night In Greece (2001)

From one day to the next. What many people in the US might have found funny one day, they would be afraid to laugh at the next. Some external events change the whole equation.

The Dying Firefighter (2001)

Everyone has seen the iconic imagery of the first responders rushing into the burning buildings in New York City. How many people have seen the same imagery of the first responders in Iraq or Afghanistan doing exactly the same thing?

If You Bomb Somebody (2001)

If you bomb somebody, they might just bomb you back. A basic concept that everybody understands. One question is, do the imperialists not only understand this, but expect it and welcome it? Do we need terrorism to justify imperialism?

Barbara Lee (2001)

Out of 535 people in the US Congress, only California representative Barbara Lee voted against giving Bush vastly increased powers to make war on anyone, just after 9/11. What does that say about the other 534 lawmakers?

Hang A Flag In the Window (2001)

Hyper-patriotism was the most welcome response to 9/11 as far as the Bush administration was concerned. How was nationalism fomented and used to serve the government’s agenda after 9/11? What role did the media play?

Guantanamo Bay (2001)

After 9/11, the US justice system was effectively suspended, at least for Muslims. If the country that tends to bill itself as the greatest in the world can hold people in indefinite detention without trial in a prison camp and systematically torture them, what message does this send to the rest of the world?

The Village Where Nothing Happened (2001)

The USAF bombed a village, killing 115 people – almost everyone in it. Then they lied about it, saying it didn’t happen. Is this the way to win the “War On Terror”?

Who Would Jesus Bomb? (2001)

Many Christians identify their religion with pacifism due to commandments like “thou shalt not kill.” But Bush, Blair and others saw no contradiction between their religious convictions and killing hundreds of thousands of people. Why?

Ana Belen Montes (2001)

Ana Belen Montes was a DoD official who got a 25-year sentence for spying for Cuba. Would she have gotten such a long sentence prior to 9/11?

Drink of the Death Squads (2002)

The Coca-Cola Corporation did nothing when two union organizers were shot dead on the floor of a bottling plant in Colombia one day by rightwing paramilitary forces, other than to give cases of Coke away to them. Does this make the corporation anti-union?

Outside Agitator (2002)

I discovered I was on an international watch list when I was turned away from the Canadian border in 2002. Should democracies be keeping watch lists on citizens with no serious criminal records, that prevent them from crossing borders?

Pirates of Somalia (2002)

Somali pirates, like their 18th-century antecedents, have generally gotten very negative press. But how deserving is this press? What positive role have Somali pirates played in recent history?

Burn It Down (2002)

Should democracies have laws banning forms of speech, such as the law aimed at “eco-terrorism” supporters that got Rod Coronado imprisoned again circa 2003?