Ten years ago this day, I woke early. It was a little after 5 a.m. West Coast time. I turned on the TV, as I do when I wake earlier than usual, and would have commenced flipping through the channels had it not been for the dramatic image in front of me. One of the World Trade Center buildings was on fire.
I watched live as the second plane hit the second tower. Stunned. Horrified.
I remember hearing someone from the Pentagon call in to say a bomb had gone off there. When there was no follow-up to that, I finally started flipping through the channels. How could a bomb have gone off but no one else was reporting it? It was about 20 minutes from the time of that report to the time that we heard a plane had flown into the Pentagon. That was so weird, to me. I would have thought the Pentagon would be better protected than the White House. It still seems bizarre to me that a plane could have gotten that close. But then, everything about that day was bizarre.
I remember a call from someone. "Bush did it," she asserted. I said hey, wait, we don't know anything yet.
I never believed that "Bush did it." Unlike most, I was keenly aware of all the evil the United States had done around the planet. At work, I said to a couple of people, who looked back at me blankly, "the chickens have come home to roost." We taught others how to be terrorists against those who threatened American business interests. It was only a matter of time before some of those we armed and taught pointed the weapons back in our direction. That the WTC was the point of attack showed the sophistication of our enemy. They understood, better than most Americans did (do?) that business interests drive our foreign policy.
Don't believe that? Why did we overthrow Arbenz in Guatemala, a democratically elected leader? Because United Fruit and other business interests weren't happy that there land was being appropriated there. Never mind that those companies had been ripping off the people there. It was our right to rip off people poorer, weaker, less educated, more gullible than us, right?
We did it again in Iran. We overthrew the democratically elected Mossadegh and installed the right-wing fascist Shah, who treated his people so abominably he gave birth to a radical fundamentalist wing that eventually threw him out and came to power, threatening us ever since. Was it worth it? We helped the company that became BP secure their oil. But the price was high, and we're still paying it. Would Iran have been a threat had we left it alone? I don't think so.
Again and again, we did the same thing. We helped turn out the wildly popular Lumumba in the Congo so our business interests could obtain rare earth minerals there. We helped Suharto overthrow the popular Sukarno in Indonesia so we could gain access to oil, rubber, and what has turned out to be the world's largest gold mine. We sponsored dictators all over Latin America to help this or that special interest. We armed and trained the mujahadeen in Afghanistan so they'd draw the Soviets into war with Afghanistan, a war which weakened both parties, which suited American interests just fine.
But all these short-term actions just bred a deep-seated hatred of America in many lands. They didn't call us the Great Satan for nothing. Our actions, however well intentioned they may have been by some at the time, had deep and long-lasting consequences. 9/11 was not an initiation of aggression. It was a response to our past aggressions.
A lot of innocent people died on 9/11. But we continue to kill indiscriminately with drones that take out a few hundred innocents while trying to target specific enemies. We have killed many more innocents over time than were killed on 9/11. Millions have had to die to pay for the sins of a few. We initiated a war against the Iraqi people when they had absolutely NOTHING to do with 9/11. We killed innocent Iraqis in our bloodlust.
I fear America has only just begun to pay for the past century of sins against other countries. I fear we have much more atonement to do than we have yet done.
Predictably, the media is all about how wounded we were, how heroic our people had been, and what a tragedy it was. But to me, there's another side of that story that still needs to be told. 9/11 was not so much an attack as it was payback, and until we realize that, we're not really owning up to our own responsibility for 9/11. Had we taken the live-and-let-live philosophy of Kennedy rather than the "submit or die" philosophy the CIA took against Castro, Lumumba, Sukarno and others, there might never have been a 9/11.
So yes, I mourn the innocents. But I mourn ALL the innocents all over the globe, not just the ones in New York, in DC, in Pennsylvania who died that day. I mourn the Iraqis who had to pay for something they had not done for the next many years. I mourn the deaths of Afghanis who never attacked us, who never had any intention of attacking us. I mourn for the Muslims that saw themselves overnight become almost noncitizens, threatened by ignorance and racism that was hyped by an ever meaner media.
I don't mourn the death of my own naivete on these matters. Ignorance was not bliss. I was still responsible, whether I knew and supported my government's actions or not. I'd rather know. I know you feel the same or you wouldn't be here reading this.
So yes, let's mourn the loss of life on 9/11 and beyond. But let's not limit it by race, color, religion or nationality. Let's mourn all lives lost because of the greed, hate, and blindness of others.
Thanks for listening. I've been wanting to say that for ten years now.