Wednesday, July 27, 2005

24. Deja vu

There's no denying that the whole London bombing incident has undoubtedly brought up the unwanted spectre of 911 once again in our lives. Even those staying and observing from afar can't help but to feel caught up in the pain and anguish suffered by the victims' families. It seems perverse that in this day and age there's still room for this sort of barbarism. And ain't nobody gonna tell me that it can be justified and what not. When you feel like you're fighting for a just cause, whatever moral right you had with you gets thrown out the window when you start blowing innocent people up.

You know, in a time where hundreds of thousands of people can die from starvation everyday, it's mindboggling to see people resort to this sort of actions to justify their cause. I think so far this year we've seen the best of humanity (the world's reaction to the tsunami disaster) and the worst (the continued acts of terrorism, and I mean this from both sides).

Ok, enough about that now. So last night I was rummaging through my hard drive, trying to get rid of some old files to free up some memory when I stumbled upon an old folder containing some essays I wrote some time back. Curiousity perked, I couldn't help but read through some of 'em, and quickly realised to my horror that I was an even worse writer then than I am now (there goes the excuse of blaming old age for the dimming of my writing abilities).

Ah right, anyway there was this one essay, American Pie that struck me as the most interesting amidst the blandness of the rest (mostly because of the lame title). K, the piece was written way back, just a few weeks after 911 and brought about merely as an observation of the events that transpired after (geez, that sounds so important, ooohhhh, an observation...come off it already!). Ok, so after re-reading it last night, I have to say that it's not the most objective essay ever written. You can pretty much guess which side of the fence I was pitching my tent in if you read it through. Can't say that I still have the same sentiments as I did then.

Heck, I think everybody's just plain sick of all this suicide bombing shit, I have no idea of what it'll accomplish, fuck do these guys think that America would sit up and say: "Geez, they're blowing up a load of people, mostly non-American, in Europe and other 3rd world countries we don't give a shit about. Heck let's just abandon our lucrative oil fields in Iraq so they won't do it no more!". And I'm pretty much sure everybody will be sick off the predictably overzealous witch hunt that'd follow (look no further than the execution of that poor innocent Brazilian dude).

Anyway, here it is in it's entirety below. Pretty strong worded methinks, and pretty much too naive in it's conclusions I guess. But I find it quite interesting to see how I felt then and how I felt now. I think then I was just quite fed up with all the events that transpired after 911, mainly the high handed manner the American government carried itself and the way it felt like it had the moral right to suddenly govern what's right or wrong in the world. Now, well now I'm just plain fed up. Proceed at your own peril.

American Pie

In the aftermath of the September 11 terror attacks against America, perhaps it is time for the world to evaluate whether the strong reactions, be it the outpouring of grief or the desire to seek retribution, can be so easily justifiable.

The unprecedented sympathy and support for the United States could be seen as commendable. E-mails were circulated widely across the globe, even in Malaysia, urging the reader to add their names to a long list of those who offered sympathy and support for America. Those who sent the mails condemned the acts as being unspeakable and barbaric, which they undoubtedly were. They screamed at its injustice and demanded that vengeance was begot.

But is it reasonable to say that if the attacks had befallen any other nation save the ones that had been most vocal, would the worldwide reaction have been the same? If it happened in an obscure Asian country or one that existed outside the predominantly Western definition of a civilized nation, would the world have been so swift to offer sympathy and demand justice be meted out to those responsible? The answer is a resounding no.

By any means can there be any possible justification for the murder of 6,000 innocent people, it is an act to would go down in history as one of the darkest crimes against humanity. But it must be remembered that these acts were carried out by often well educated and well to do men, people who can be looked upon on the surface as being rationale and religious. What could have prompted these seemingly normal men to take such an extraordinary course of action?

Cut back to September 11, 2001, a day that would live on in infamy in American history. It was around 8.45 in the morning in Lower Manhattan, New York as around twenty thousand people were at work as usual in the World Trade Center. Some had meetings to attend, whilst others preferred to be early at work. After all, the week had just about begun, and there were important financial decisions to make. Across the street, Wall Street was abuzz with all the normal rigors and zest of daily trading. 8.45 a.m., on a busy day as usual in the World Trade Center, long the symbol of America’s financial might. The Twin Towers stood strong and proud, beacons to the world of the great American dream.

Then that dream turned into a nightmare. As the world watched in horror; the myth that was American invincibility disintegrated, in a flurry of flames and a cloud of ashes. Within moments, the mighty towers had been leveled, and thousands of lives lost. But that was not the end of what must have been almost surreal to most Americans, secure in their homes and the belief that they were untouchable. The Pentagon, another symbol of American might, too was attacked, albeit in less spectacular fashion than that of the catastrophe that had befallen New York.

The unthinkable had happened, and as the stunned world slowly came to grips with the reality of the terror that had played before their very eyes, so too came the inevitable anger. Osama bin Laden, Saudi Arabian millionaire and suspected terrorist became the prime suspect for the attacks, though he vehemently denied it. The thousands of lives extinguished in the attacks were mourned, and America’s tragedy was played out live on CNN for the world to see. Americans demanded justice and the world echoed it’s sentiment, after all they were victims of these unspeakable terror attacks and they had the moral right to seek retribution.

Thus the enemy was identified and dehumanized, they were fanatical Islamic extremists. They were filled with hatred and anger for all things that were American, which meant, to American eyes at least, that they were against all things good and true. They were the enemy, and they had to be eradicated. As Americans banded together amidst almost jingoistic fervor, the world was given a choice; either you’re with us, or you’re against us. It was as simple as that.

From the point of the hijackers, they deemed it was an attack against those who had invaded first, the infidels who had stepped upon sacred Islamic soil and imposed their presence in a region where they had no right to be in. Outsiders who claimed that they had a right to be there to protect their so called interests, which in reality was the oilfields of the Gulf.

Whilst the forced economic embargo on Iraq had caused tens and thousands of innocent lives to be lost, America easily justified it by saying that Iraq was the enemy, and that the blockade was necessary to quash its military strength and threat to the stability in the Middle East. While Palestinians have long suffered against a regime of invaders who had stolen their lands, American policy was to enter in endless negotiations that have served no purpose but to solidify Israel’s strength and marginalize those of the Palestinians. As the Serbs went on with the systematic murder of thousands in Bosnia, America was largely indifferent. What good is a war tribunal when the crimes could have been avoided in the first place and the innocent saved?

America came to be looked upon as a superpower that was lost and drunk in her own glory, a superpower that showed blatant disregard for the United Nations save it served to protect her interests. The United States’ foreign policy was such that they defined what was right and wrong, they were the judge, jury and unprejudiced executioner. They were untouchable and all powerful, all knowing. They had the right to mete out infinite justice. It is safe to say by this writer’s reckoning, that they were wrong, tragically wrong.

Americans have so long been cut off from the reality of the world and grown comfortable and almost arrogant in their perception that the world thought as highly of them as they did themselves that they had forgotten that in many parts of the world, there was suffering. People were dying and great injustices were done, and America was looked upon as the enemy.

It is too presumptuous and easy to assume that American foreign policy is solely to blame for the September 11 attacks, but it can be said that it did play a major role in it. Not everyone was willing to lie down and sit by while their traditional values and culture was replaced by McDonald’s fast food and MTV. Not everyone believed that America was the benchmark that all nations should look upon as a model of success, a triumph of innovation and that pioneering spirit that could conquer all adversity. For to some, America had come to symbolize all that was wrong and corrupt in Western civilization. That it is okay to lie, cheat and be ruthless in the pursuit of wealth; that extreme capitalism was healthy; and that the American dream was the dream to be exemplified by the world. Unfortunately, after September 11, the contrary has been proven, and it is time for America and most of the Western world to open their eyes once more.

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