Saturday, September 10, 2011

10 More Years Of This?

I remember the moment very well. I suppose we all do.  I was chairing a business meeting and someone was checking their phone for an incoming text. "A plane has just crashed into the World Trade Centre" he said. I guess most of us assumed it was a light aircraft and we didn't think to much more about it. Not long after he said that another plane had crashed. We then knew that something awful was happening. Three thousand people died in the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington. Three hundred of these were non-American, including the terrorists. I went home that evening and was transfixed by what I saw on TV. There was something truly awe inspiring and terrible happening. The next day someone said to me that the world had changed as a result and things would never be the same again. Little did we know.......

Since 2001 we have seen saturation coverage of the events of that day. It is kept to the forefront of our minds through the mainstream populist media.  The graphic images are replayed constantly. The planes hitting the towers, the Falling Man, the terrified citizens of New York. The dominant narrative, which is rarely questioned, is that we are under a continuous and ongoing threat of terrorist attack. We are told that we must be ever vigilant and that we must sacrifice our freedoms. 

Iraq Body Count web counter One thing is for sure, over the next few days very little will be said about the human cost outside of the US as a direct result of September 11, 2001. It is estimated that over 130,000 civilians have been killed (not injured..... killed) in Iraq and Afghanistan since the Wars of "Enduring Freedom" and "Iraqi Freedom" started. That's more than 40 times the number of deaths which occurred as as direct result of September 11, 2011.

The cost of the war is estimated in the US to be now close to $1.25 trillion. Let me write that down for you: $1,250,000,000,000. It is estimated that both wars has cost the British taxpayer close to £20 billion. Let me write that down for you as well: £20,000,000,000.

And as a result of all this death and money spent, is the world any safer? Are we any closer to resolving the Palestinian/Israeli conflict? Is the secular and non-secular world more unified? Has the world become more free and peaceful? Well we know the answer to these questions so let's move on. Who then, has benefitted from all this destruction?

In 1961, one of the greatest US Presidents, Dwight D. Eisenhower gave his farewell speech as he was leaving office. He spoke about his grave concern about the emergence of an unaccountable military establishment and large arms industry. This is what he said:

"This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience........ Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications..........."

"In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together" 

Now, Eisenhower was a respected five star general and the Supreme Allied Commander during World War II. A military man. Not a pinko liberal. And when he looked to the future, he was worried. He has been proven to be right.

The rest, as they say, is history, our history. Vietnam, Nicaragua, Iraq (twice); Afghanistan, Libya......Today, we are dominated by an unaccountable, global military machine which has no interest in securing peace or, for that matter, finding an accommodation with "terrorism".  We are more afraid today than ever before and that's the way they like it.

So why don't we use the occasion of the 10th anniversary to divert our gaze from the ruins of the World Trade Centre and to ask some searching questions. Should we not try to build a real legacy for the 133,000 (and counting) civilians and the 8,000 soldiers who have died for nothing?

"Sky of love, sky of tears (dream of life)
Sky of blackness and sorrow (dream of life)
Sky of glory and sadness (dream of life)
Sky of mercy, sky of fear (dream of life)
Sky of memory and shadow (dream of life)"

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