September 11, 2007

September 11th


Lord Nazh who often frequents these parts, has just put up a post in remembrance of the events of September 11th 2001. I agree with him that the people who died on that day deserve remembrance- but I am not sure about the status of September 11th in the popular mind at the moment. I have severe doubts about whether that day should be remembered as avidly as it is: in language that is almost religious. What happened was horrifying but compared to other things that the last hundred years have allowed humanity to witness, its horror diminishes- America ultimately was attacked but is not a victim as a nation generally.

To put it in context on September 11th 2001, an unjustified, unwarrented attack was carried out on American soil. Osama Bin Laden and his allies were and are mass murderers who veil their murders behind the shield of a religious extremist obsession. His lordship considers that this event changed the nature of the world- it didn't. During the last ten years almost 4 million people have died in the Congo, since the invasion of Iraq 100,000 civilians have died, over that period hundreds of thousands have died in areas of the world that noone covers- from Chechnya to Tibet, from Darfur to Columbia. Whatever happened on September 11th pales when compared with this gory record- and furthermore with the gorier record of the last fifty years which has seen tyrants like Stalin, Kruschev, Mao, Pol Pot, Mugabe, and we could go on to mention even American allies like Pinochet and Suharto who murdered in some cases millions, in some cases thousands.

None of this excuses what happened on September 11th- but it does put it in context. The world changed possibly for Americans in that for the first time they realised that they too might come under attack- but for millions outside the United States the even was merely one of several bloody assaults on human dignity- some conducted with the approval of the United States. Obviously we should remember and regret those events- but lest we forget let them not obscure continuing genocides in other parts of the world- let them not obscure the fact that the United States is no unique victim in this world, indeed has done rather well- and let them not obscure the situations whether in Africa or Asia that are happening now- the slaughter in Darfur, Iraq, Zimbabwe and many other parts of the world. We can indeed as his lordship wishes use September 11th for a political reason- I'd suggest the best way to think about it is to think of New York on that day, as Sudan every day, Iraq every month etc- it can extend our humanity to understand other's sufferings. September 11th can be something that becomes a barrier between the west and the world, or it can become a bridge- enabling us to understand a little of the suffering of others through the suffering of the United States on that day.

And so personally I'd like to extend my sympathy to everyone who lost anyone from that vile mass murder- and also to anyone living where death and disaster aren't news but part of every day life.

10 comments:

Lord Nazh© said...

I never said the world changed Gracchi, I said that the world was 'somewhere else and rarely intruded' (on us).

CalumCarr said...

An excellent post - thanks.

Also your comment at Lord Nazh's was very pertinent.

Gracchi said...

Milord no problem I slightly misinterpreted you then- and apologise

Calum cheers

Political Umpire said...

Fine post, just the right tone.

Jane Henry said...

I agree. What happens in places like the Congo and Darfur is shameful. We should remember those people daily and be grateful.

Andrew Baker said...

As the wheel of history turns we should perhaps reflect on how we in the west through our ideology and culture have contributed to the polarisation of political Islam. Events have obscured our need to focus on working with multiple interests in the regions of the world. Our role should be to listen and engage with countries who may hold the uncomfortable view that the west does impose its self interest under the guise of spreading democracy

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

I am the last one to defend American foreign policy and the argument you make here is the same as that put forward by my Muslim students: "But people are killed all the time in our countries" but that does not make these deaths any the less terrible. And 9/11 did change the world politically, forever.

Gracchi said...

Welshcakes I think it changed people's perceptions of the world indeed and you are right but I think its right to get away from the idea that it was a unique event it wasn't. Doesn't mean it wasn't wrong horrible and that Osama Bin Laden shouldn't be put away for as long as the law allows or executed- but it wasn't a unique event- and we shouldn't be so unwise to think it was. That perception that it was is what has made it so politically important.

Ruthie said...

It was a unique event in that it was deliberately and purposely carried out as a very public sort of PR campaign for global terrorism. Six years later, bin Laden is still releasing videos— this is a new sort of terrorism, a very savvy, subversive terrorism for the digital age.

It was intended to make a splash, to be high-profile, to set the West on edge— and in that sense, it succeeded.

But as you said, it's also important to remember atrocities carried out everywhere in the world, not just in the West.

Gracchi said...

I agree Ruthie entirely. One of the biggest issues is that if we allow ourselves to be terrorised we also carry out Bin Laden's intentions. Something that stuck with me very much on July 7th was that being a Londoner I couldn't fight back against the terrorists in any meaningful way- but I could fight back by getting back on the tube on July 8th. We shouldn't go as far as to say that the world changed because it didn't- it maybe made us realise about a new threat- but Bin Laden shouldn't stop any of us doing anything and we shouldn't be petrified.