Thursday, September 11, 2008

To whom do we owe...?

This is the seventh anniversary of September 11th, 2001, when four planes were hijacked by terrorists bent on the destruction of financial, military and political symbols of our nation.

Three of them succeeded, one was crashed into a field (how, we still don't know), and 2,999 people died as a result, along with the nineteen hijackers, the "suicide pilots."

I wasn't sure if I was going to write about this, as my take on it upset people at the time, and I think it would upset them still. To the families of the people who died, the only thing I can offer is bottomless sympathy for their losses. To the American public, I'm sorry, but the only thing I can give you is heaps of scorn for not recognizing how we all contributed to this event, and on the day, my first thought upon hearing and seeing what was going on was, "they finally had enough of us."

For as a nation, we have thought of ourselves as a beacon of democracy, of hope, of justice, and by our principles (as enshrined by such documents as the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights) we deserve to be thought of as a possibility for a better world. And as a nation, we have blindly sat by while our leaders have secretly (and not so secretly) subverted those ideals in smaller countries around the world, in order to improve the chances of American corporations, and the indigenous population's rights be damned.

1953, we overthrew the democractically elected Mohammad Mossadegh of Iran, and replaced him with our puppet, the Shah of Iran, after Mossadegh demanded a greater share of the oil revenues for the people of Iran in order to improve their lives. The Shah was the recipient of hundreds of millions of dollars worth of American military equipment, and used some of this technoogy to repress and brutalize the people of Iran, living a life of luxury while his people starved.

1959, we propped up Ngo Dinh Diem, a member of the Catholic minority in South Vietnam, in order to maintain control of that country in the face of the popular uprising that wanted the South reunited with the North. Ho Chi Minh had written to President Truman after WWII, begging that we assist in their democratic efforts to remove the French, and quoting both the Declaration of Independence and the French Rights of Man. The response we gave him was to fund the French against the people of Vietnam. When we finally left Vietnam in 1975, over fifty thousand Americans had given their lives, and approximately two million Vietnamese, Cambodians and Loatians were dead.

1965, we supported a coup against Sukarno of Indonesia, and threw our weight behind Suharto, who proceeded to slaughter every Indonesian Communist he could find. Deaths were counted at somewhere between 700,000 and 1.2 million.

1975, we supported Suharto in the invasion and occupation of E. Timor. With a population of a little over a million people, in the years between 1975 and 1999, seventeen thousand people lost their lives in fighting against the occupation, while another eighty-four thousand died from disease and starvation.

1989, we invaded Panama to ensure that America would retain control of the Panama Canal, under the cover of capturing the "drug dealing" head of the country, General Manuel Noriega, a former associate of President George Herbert Walker Bush, who ordered the illegal invasion. Twenty-three American soldiers lost their lives, and somewhere between three and five thousand Panamians were killed. The entire neighborhood of El Chorillo (also known as the poor/black section of Panama City) was burned to the ground. The World Court condemned our action, calling it "genocide." And after the invasion, drug traffic through Panama doubled.

These are some small examples of the terror we have wrought around the world in the name of promoting democracy, or protecting our way of life. Did we think we could do these things and no one would notice? That no one would get upset?

While I disapprove of the tactics used by Al Qaeda, and deplore the loss of life, why do we think that, as a nation, we could ever expect to be treated by the world differently than we have treated it?

If we don't wake up and start holding our government accountable for its past misdeeds, and do everything we can to prevent future misdeeds, then we deserve what we get.

We have to stop forgetting our own past.

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