September 11, Santiago, Sarin, and Syria

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What kind of world will we live in if the United States of America sees a dictator brazenly violate international law with poison gas, and we choose to look the other way? – President Obama

If only this rhetorical question were truly a contrafactual. In fact, not only do we know a world in which the US government looks the other way from dictators using chemical weapons, we live in a world shaped partly by the US government’s long history of actively supporting such dictators. For President Obama to make some of these claims about the exceptional moral authority of the United States on the eve of the 40th anniversary of the coup against President Allende in Chile struck me as especially hypocritical.

More thoughts on President Obama’s take on Syria from an article entitled “Hypocrite in Chief:”

Of the numberless hypocrisies of the administration, this one is particularly crude. The White House claims to need to punish Syria’s Bashar al-Assad regime for the unproven use of chemical weapons (sarin) in Ghouta. Not only does this atrocity, committed by unidentified actors in a civil, ethnic, sectarian, and proxy conflict within Syria, somehow make Syria a national security threat to the United States, but it also suggests we deplore the use of chemical weapons. Neither is remotely true.

During the Pinochet Dictatorship in Chile, paid CIA contacts and graduates of the School of the Americas led DINA, the Chilean National Intelligence Directorate notorious for kidnapping and torture. In my trips to Chile, I have visited a number of the secret detention centers where DINA tortured and killed thousands during the dictatorship. In addition to perpetrating gruesome acts of torture, DINA agents also oversaw the manufacture and use of sarin, botulism, and other chemical agents.
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Ten Years Later

World Trade Center, 2011

World Trade Center, 2011

Various thoughts that have resonated with me over the past few days:

Patrick Smith on security theater:

The tragic irony being that the success of the 2001 conspiracy had nothing to do with airport security in the first place. This was a failure of intelligence at the FBI and CIA levels, not at the concourse checkpoint. As I’ve pointed out many times in the past, the hijackers were not exploiting a weakness in airport security, but rather a weakness in our mind-set — our presumptions, based on years of precedent, as to what a hijacking was, and how it would unfold. What weapons the men used was irrelevant. Ballpoint pens would have sufficed, for the strategy relied not on hardware, but on the element of surprise. So long as the hijackers didn’t chicken out, their plan was all but guaranteed to succeed.

I will otherwise spare my regular readers any further rehashing as to what, since then, has made our airport security apparatus so farcical and ineffective. The topic has granted more than ample coverage in this column over the past eight years. For those of you who are unfamiliar, the points are neatly summarized here. [Read full post]

James Wall on the manipulation of the day’s meaning:

Murderous crime scenes in New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania, became spiritual staging grounds for an international war against what Time’s Tony Karon describes as “a tiny network of transnational extremists, founded on the remnants of the Arab volunteers who’d fought in the U.S.-backed Afghan jihad against the Soviet Union.”

It did not need to come to this. [Read full post]

A call to action for young people from Be2021 and Americans for Informed Democracy:

Ten years later, we remain stunned by losses that we incurred on that day and in the years to follow; we have lost service men and women and civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan, personal freedoms in the name of national security, and tolerance for those of the Islamic faith. We remember these losses on the 10th anniversary. However, September 11th should not be solely about remembrance, it needs to be about looking forward. Young people are inheriting a world that has been created as a result of September 11th. It is therefore the responsibility of youth to ensure that the world becomes the one we need it to be. In the next decade, young people will remember, but we will no longer remain stunned. [Read full post]

And finally, a reflection from Paige Eaves and Progressive Christians Uniting:

I wish we could call this 10th anniversary year a sort of Jubilee Year, like the tradition cited in Leviticus, which calls for everyone to say “I’m sorry” and be universally pardoned. The prisoners would be freed, and all debts forgiven, mostly because we need God’s mercy and a new start more than anything else. In Leviticus, Jubilee is supposed to be every 50 years, but I’m not sure we can make it another 40 without letting up.

Sorry to the 9-11 victims’ families still grieving. It’s not fair. It’s never been fair. We all pray your freedom from despair and anger.

Sorry to the 9-11 responders who had to wait 9.5 years for assistance with debilitating and life-threatening health issues. Breathe freely.

Sorry to the families of 7494 American, British, and “Other” soldiers for the loss of your spouse/child/parent in wars that our leaders used 9/11 to start. It is a debt that can only be forgiven, never repaid.

Sorry to the innumerable Iraqi and Afghani families for the loss of your spouse/child/parent. We didn’t know you, so we have found it hard to count you. Is there pardon for that?

Sorry to the innocent “illegal enemy combatants” who have been tortured in Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, Bagram, and who knows how many other U.S.-run prisons. Go free.

Sorry to all of us for $3.7 trillion spent on war instead of education, housing, food, infrastructure, or health care.

Sorry to our Muslim-American neighbors for the assumptions made about your allegiances, and that you have had to tell us so many times that 29 Muslims died in the Twin Towers.

Sorry that this train barrels on with no Jubilee in sight. Ground is broken on a $3.4 billion Department of Homeland Security building to house the huge and sprawling intelligence network that no one is quite managing or coordinating.

Sorry that we will watch the Twin Towers collapse again and again, knowing that people died, and some part of our national soul died, and that nothing will make it all right again, except God’s mercy and resurrection-fueled repentance, forgiveness, neighbor-love and new starts. God bless America.