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September 13, 2011

What about the other victims?


September 13, 2011

In its preoccupation with its pain, America remains oblivious to the suffering it has visited on others after 9/11. Given the grand ceremonies to mark the 10th anniversary of 9/11 and over-the-top, overwhelming media coverage, you would think it’s the end of the world. There had been a deluge of anticipatory special reports and commentary weeks and days before the anniversary. Newspapers and television networks have been going on and on about the events that we have heard and read about ad nauseam over the past 10 years – every year.
Every pundit and columnist worth his/her share of audience had to come up with his/her own take to mark the occasion. In the end, most of them ended up churning out the same predictable arguments that we have heard before. And it’s not just the media that goes through this ritual every year. There’s a complete industry out there catering to this market, regularly peddling tomes claiming to offer “new light” on the attacks.
What distinguishes these ostensible attempts to understand “Islamic terrorism” though it is their pathological hatred of the ‘other’ and an incredible ignorance or wilful misrepresentation of Islam, Arabs, and Muslims? Bernard Lewis’ The Crisis of Islam, Daniel Pipes’ Militant Islam Reaches America, David Horowitz’s Unholy Alliance: Radical Islam and the American Left and Efraim Karsh’s Islamic Imperialism: A History are only some of the most ‘respectable’ names that exploit the heightened curiosity about Islam in the West.
In the immediate aftermath of the attacks, many horrified Americans had understandably asked: Why do they hate us? So even as most of us were as outraged by the horror of 9/11, as most westerners had been, we nurtured a faint, innocent hope that perhaps now the US would see reason and review its absurd policies and actions all these years. Many hoped that 9/11, totally reprehensible as it was, would make the US pause and ponder the cause of this corrosive

anger and source of this conflict. Of course, we were wrong – and how!
Whoever carried out those attacks, they turned out to be the greatest enemies of Islam and Muslims. They have managed to visit the greatest catastrophe on Muslim lands since the Mongols’ invasion eight centuries ago. The Mongols raped and pillaged Baghdad, the capital of the Abbasid caliphate, and virtually every Muslim city. When the Mongols left, they had left behind two million dead, including the caliph and his sons who were bundled in a carpet and trampled to death by Mongol horses.
What Baghdad has witnessed under the ‘coalition of the willing’ hasn’t been much different. And if anyone thought 9/11 would prompt America to mend its ways and policies in the Middle East, well, they need to think again. Clearly, America – the militant global superpower that we get to see and experience far beyond its borders and not American people – doesn’t seem to care one way or another. It remains far from repentant.
According to a new poll by the Pew Research Centre, Americans today are more willing to believe that US policies in the Middle East might have motivated the 9/11 terror attacks on New York and Washington. Reflecting a remarkable shift in US public opinion over the past decade, today, 43 percent of Americans feel the attacks may have been motivated by something “the US did wrong in its dealings with other countries”.
Clearly, all is not lost yet. There’s still hope for America; that is, people’s America, the nation of Lincoln, Jefferson, Mark Twain and Martin Luther King that once inspired and beckoned dreamers from around the world. The land of opportunities where it’s possible for a black man with a Muslim father to pursue his ‘audacity of hope’.
That America, however, seems to have lost its way in a wasteland where no morals, no justice, and no principles exist. Some of my fellow travellers have convinced themselves that the land of the free has been hijacked by a lunatic fringe. I wouldn’t know the truth. After the betrayal at the hands of our change-we-can messiah, I am not sure about anything anymore.
Coming back to the issue at hand, all of us share the pain of those who lost their loved ones that cold morning in September 2001. Most of us remember where we were that day and how our hearts went out to those trapped inside the World Trade Centre. Those who perished in that awful tragedy were innocent folks like you and me.
Representing the rich diversity of the nation, there were also many Muslims among the victims, just as there had been people from all faiths and ethnicities. It was no jihad, if it was indeed carried out by Al-Qaeda, a premise now increasingly challenged by independent researchers and experts like Dr Alan Sabrosky, a Vietnam and US Navy veteran. It was murder, pure and simple. And you know what the Quran says about murder? Taking one innocent life is equal to killing the entire humanity. Whoever perpetrated that outrage deserves severest punishment in this life – and next.
That said, one must ask: How long will America remain handcuffed to history and stuck in this time warp? Isn’t it about time it moved on? It has already turned the world upside down, without achieving anything visible or concrete. Indeed, its overwhelming response to the terror attack has given birth to more extremists and has acted as a recruiting agent for groups like Al-Qaeda.
Even the Washington Post, the voice of the US establishment, admits, “in the name of the war on terror, we have invaded and occupied a country that had nothing to do with the attacks of 9/11, we have emboldened our enemies, we have lost and taken many lives, we have spent trillions of dollars, we have sacrificed civil liberties, and we have jettisoned our commitment to human dignity.”
More important, in its preoccupation with its own loss, America remains oblivious to the catastrophic suffering it has visited on others. Amid this anniversary brouhaha, does anyone remember the innocent victims of US wars? What about the hundreds of thousands of innocent lives America and its allies have expended – and continue to – in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and elsewhere since 9/11?
Comparisons are odious but unavoidable. To avenge the killing of 2,751 people, the US and its allies have ravaged Afghanistan and killed more than a million in Iraq alone. And this war is far from over, although the bible-thumping crusader in White House has been replaced by someone who never tires of singing paeans to peace and has already been feted with a Peace Nobel. So, dear America, while shedding tears for 9/11 victims, spare a thought for the million plus victims of your wars. And if it’s not too much to ask for, ask yourself who and what started it all.
The writer is based in the Gulf. Email: [email protected]

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