OCT 2001

OCT 2001


by Eric Lormand

On September 11th, an apparent gang of nineteen people set to work, equipped with the little tools you use to unseal the tape on cardboard boxes. About an hour later, they destroyed several giant buildings and four jumbo airplanes, murdering several thousand people from all over the world and from all walks of life.

Nobody has words to express our grief and our anger. Hell, that’s what wailing and gnashing of teeth are for.

All nineteen people died in the process, but this was according to their plan, and they are not alone. There are thousands and maybe tens of thousands of others worldwide who are to various degrees and for various grievances inclined to take their places. There is no shortage of others who may become so inclined, depending on where the grief and anger leads. And there is no shortage of box-cutting tools and no shortage of targets and no shortage of time.

So this is also a time for careful acting, and a time for active caring.

For most people, the required kind of action and care don’t fit well with the necessary kind of grief and anger. It’s hard to say what needs to be said—about history, and morality, and politics—and even harder to hear it. But there is also one space in the hearts of each person on the planet, one opportunity to connect …

Everyone—and perhaps for the first time in a few thousand years, literally everyone—needs and wants to rethink how to defend themselves.

So this article is an attempt to see what can be said just on the basis of principles of self defense. Principles of morality (justice, law) are equally or even more vital, but let’s set them aside for other occasions (see Agenda, Apr 1986-Sep 2001, also Nov 2001 ff.). We can excuse this strategy because, and only because it’s clear, after the mass murders, that thinking seriously about self-defense leads us in the same direction as would thinking hard about morality and law.

Let’s begin with three relevant principles of self-defense, that apply both to individual people acting on a local scale and to nations of people acting on a global scale. We need to coin names for future reference, but hopefully they seem fairly familiar and even obvious, once stated:

(1) Principle of Isolating: It makes sense to isolate the threat (i.e., identify and expose it), if you can do so without thereby isolating yourself.

(2) Principle of Strengthening: It makes sense to strengthen your defenses, if you can do so without thereby strengthening the source of the threat.

(3) Principle of Weakening: It makes sense to weaken the source of the threat, if you can do so without thereby weakening your defenses.

So much for starters. Let’s see where each of these principles leads, in turn.

(1) Isolating the Threat
without Isolating Yourself

Local scapegoating

The first half of the Isolating Principle basically says that you need to correctly identify the perpetrators, rather than distracting yourself by herding scapegoats. The nineteen mass murderers were all male—and this is a predictable pattern—but even putting morality aside it would be a stupid waste of vital resources to scapegoat males in general. There are way too many of them for that—around 3.5 billion. It seems that many of the mass murderers had skin of certain colors or flags of certain colors, but it would be stupid and self-defeating to judge others by the color of their skin or flag. There are also billions of brown people and billions of Middle Eastern people and over a billion Muslim people. Racists of the world, GET REAL! Here we all are in a very serious emergency situation … and you’re out stupidly wasting your time!??

Even setting aside considerations of basic decency, the same waste-of-ammo argument obviously applies to Fundamentalist Christians like Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson who scapegoat Americans they think offensive to their deity.

Local safety in numbers

The second half of the Isolating Principle basically says that there is safety in numbers. This applies most clearly when there is a discriminating threat, when potential perpetrators are particularly trying to get you (or some particular group you belong to). In that case, where possible, it is wise to mix yourself up with others (or others not in the targeted group), reducing your share of the total risk. Numbers can also increase the chance of early warning, or make a potential perpetrator worry about increased chance of being foiled or captured.

Now in one sense the mass murderers (and their potential followers) are indiscriminant. They do not seem to have been aiming for any particular person, and certainly not for you yourself (unless you happen to be George W … but then even the early reports that there were coded threats to Air Force One turn out to have been fabricated). So on an individual scale, for each of us, there is not safety in numbers. Home feels safer than stadiums and skyscrapers. (Of course, there is relative safety in numbers for those facing the parasitic threat of local-level scapegoaters,)

Global safety in numbers

But on a national scale, the situation is different. Although people of many nationalities were murdered, it is very important that the mass murders took place in the United States, and not in Canada, or Mexico, or Denmark, or Palestine, or Israel. Even in other countries, the target of choice tends to be US embassies, not Dutch or Korean ones. Worldwide, ships and bases of the US military are hit, rather than British or Russian bases. Even with no further evidence, this is a sign that the current threat is aimed particularly at things "American".

So the Principle of Isolation counsels that for America’s own self-defense, even leaving aside the clear requirements of international law, it should act as far as possible by mixing itself with international institutions. Actions it takes in concert with the United Nations, for example, are less likely to bring reprisals specifically to America, and more likely to result in early warnings and capture of potential perpetrators. So any Americans who think you should act unilaterally and not through the UN, GET REAL! Whatever objections you may have to international entanglements and commitments, whatever prideful us-against-the-world feelings you may have—here we are in an emergency situation, where there is safety in numbers … and you’re openly increasing the risk to yourself and your fellow Americans!??

Evidence and international action

Also, if the UN is really to help provide cover for the US, international agreement has to be reached not by having the US coerce or bribe other countries, for then potential perpetrators would see that their aim has to remain focused on the American Godfather. Instead, the international community needs to act freely, so any US pressure must take the form of rational persuasion. This means that if the US really does have evidence of who’s "behind" the mass murders, it needs to present this evidecne to the world. So any of you politicians and spooks who are reluctant to divulge what information you have or what toys you use to gather it, GET REAL! Your job is to protect Americans, not to protect your "sources and methods" and gadgetry. If you do have evidence, withholding it is endangering us all. Here we are in an emergency situation and either you don’t have the evidence you’ve been touting … or you aren’t serious about your job of protecting us!??

The NATO commander, Lord Robertson, has said that he’s seen "conclusive proof" of bin Laden’s involvement … but this was only one day after he said that NATO "needs no proof from an ally". Not to be outdone, Russian president Putin said he "needs no proof" to go after bin Laden, and presumably the rebellious Chechen people in general. But the nations that can really help with bin Laden, especially Afghanistan and Pakistan and Iran and China, and third-world nations generally, are rightly demanding evidence.

Likewise, this safety in numbers can only come if the UN remains in control of bringing any remaining perpetrators to justice, rather than merely having the Security Council issue US authorities a blank check to act as they like. And the US must immediately pay its outstanding dues to the UN—for a change, in the name of self-defense, let’s have some "bipartisanship" where the Congressional antiDemocrats bend a little, instead of only the Congressional antiRepublicans.

Double standards

Finally, to forge international unity (and so increase US safety) the US must overcome the widespread international view that the US is not serious about eradicating "terrorism", but only about fighting against terrorism from official US enemies rather than official US friends, and from the US itself. Shorn of double standards that only serve to undermine international consensus, "terrorism" means deliberately harming or threatening innocents to achieve political ends. When Ann Arbor’s own Madeleine Albright said on 60 Minutes that the US government made a "hard choice" that the death of half a million Iraqi children should die because the US isn’t happy with Saddam Hussein, and that the price was "worth it", she is confessing that the killing is deliberate. When former UN representative Bill Richardson says that the sanctions will remain as long as Hussein is in power, this is a confession that the deaths have nothing to do with whether Saddam Hussein builds "palaces" or makes life breezy for UN arms inspectors.

US politicians have for years blocked the formation of an International Criminal Court, officially objecting that US personnel might be tried for international crimes. In effect, our government has ruined the international ability to prosecute the Pinochets and Husseins and Sankohs and bin Ladens of the world in order to protect the Kissingers and Bushes and Albrights and Clintons of the country. This endangers us further. Is shielding Kissinger or Albright from prosecution worth your family’s life? If we really want the Taliban to extradite bin Laden to international authorities, perhaps we should arrange a swap?

Global scapegoating

With this self-defense argument for reaching an international consensus and international action by presenting evidence, let’s return to the first half of the Isolating Principle, that which counsels us to find the Real Killers. Whodunnit? The nineteen people in the FBI photographs, unless we’re being incredibly misled. We may not know their real names in all cases, but at least we know their faces. And we know they’re all dead. If you’re into capital punishment, that’s already a measure of "justice" comparable to the Oklahoma City bombing … roughly one dead perpetrator for every 300 people murdered, which is comparable to one dead Timothy McVeigh for his 150+ murders. While the FBI carefully ignored and "lost" signs of a wider conspiracy in the Oklahoma City case, the authorities are going all out to find signs of a wider conspiracy in the Box-Cutter case.

The loudest claim of the authorities is that this is all the indirect doing of Osama bin Laden, who lives from cave to tent to hut in Afghanistan. But little or no evidence has been offered. It’s all put in terms of "links" to bin Laden, basically of this form: one hijacker may have ridden in a cab driven by a fellow student of someone who is thought to have trained in Afghanistan (maybe during the Soviet war), etc. TV talking heads have named some governments such as Iraq as suspects, with even less evidence. If you’re interested in your own self-defense, and so in not wasting resources (such as your taxes, or your lives) on scapegoats, these claims have to be considered very skeptically [see Box #1 at right]. None of the nineteen mass murderers was Afghani. Most recently they lived in places like Florida and New England. While your head is turned toward one invisible shy dude in Afghanistan, what’s happening behind your back?

BOX #1. Is bin Laden Capable of It?
Robert Fisk (the best connected Western reporter in the Middle East)

Interviewed on Radio New Zealand, 9/19

FISK: Look, I’ll give you one tiny example. The second time I met [bin Laden] in Afghanistan, four years ago, at the top of a mountain, it was cold. And in the morning when I woke in the camp tent, I had frost in my hair. He walked into the tent I was sitting in and sat down opposite me, cross-legged on the floor and noticed (in the school bag I usually carry in rough country to keep things in) some Arabic-language newspapers. And he seized upon these and went to the corner of the tent with a sputtering oil lamp and devoured the contents.

For 20 minutes, he ignored us, he ignored the gunman sitting in the tent, he ignored me. And he didn’t even know, for example, that it was stated in one of the stories in the newspaper that the Iranian foreign minister had just visited Riyadh, his own country, Saudi Arabia--well, his until he lost his citizenship. So he seemed to me at the time to be very isolated, a cut off man, not the sort of person who would press a button on a mobile phone and say, "Put Plan B into action".

So I don’t think you can see this as a person who actually participates in the sense of planning, step-by-step, what happens in a nefarious attack. In other words, I doubt very much if he said, "Well, four airplanes, five hijackers, etc.". But he is a person that has a very large following, particularly in the rather sinister Jihadi community or culture of Pakistan. And there is such anger in the Middle East at the moment about American policies here. And whether it be the deaths of tens of thousands of children in Iraq, which Osama Bin Laden has spoken about, whether it be continued occupation and expansion of Jewish settlements in Arab land which he’s also spoken about, whether it be about the continued dictatorships, Arab dictatorships, which are supported in large part by the West, especially in the Gulf area, which Osama Ben Laden has spoken about and condemned, I think you find in this region, enough people who admire what he says, almost to conspire amongst themselves without involving him, in the kind of bombing attacks that we’ve seen in Saudi Arabia and, I suppose it’s conceivable, in the atrocities in the United States.


(2) Strengthen Defense
without Strengthening Threat

Shooting yourself in the foot

Our second principle of self-defense, the Strengthening Principle, says you need to strengthen your defenses if you can do so without thereby strengthening the source of the threat. Strengthening defenses means finding ways to reduce the chances that the perpetrators will harm you even if they try. But it’s important that gains in defense not be cancelled out by increasing the chance that perpetrators will try. And it’s also important that gains in defense against one threat not be cancelled out by losses in defense against other independent threats.

Here are a few examples of cancelling out gains in defense. Since the mass murders, handgun sales are way up around the country. GET REAL! This doesn’t help prevent airplane hijackings one bit, assuming—assuming—you can’t get the guns on board. But it does make it less likely that a bin Laden operative will successfully sneak into your garage and make off with your box cutter. Unfortunately, it makes it more likely that you will shoot off your foot or that your toddler will shoot your infant—and this is by far the bigger threat. Second, many people are trying to defend themselves by driving rather than flying, even though—GET REAL!—driving is statistically far more dangerous than flying, even when all the hijackings in history are factored in.

Third, people are calling for draconian restrictions on Americans who share skin color or flag with the nineteen, including unlimited detention of immigrants, and special spying on students. I could and should rail against this morally, but I promised to stick to thinking about self-defense. Okay, how about this … GET REAL! Are a bunch of blond Finns from the Upper Peninsula, or a bunch of drawling rednecks, supposed to infiltrate bin Laden’s network? Can enough monolingual English speakers pass enough Berlitz Arabic-language courses quickly enough to translate all those intercepted communications? Self-defense for all Americans requires the goodwill of its Arab and Central-Asian citizens and residents.

Don’t count on High Tech

Some limited self-defense measures do not have such self-cancelling tradeoffs. Passageways between airplane cockpits and passenger cabins can be eliminated, over time. This is an inconvenience for potential hijackers, who would then have to learn how to take off as well as how to steer, or would have to hijack planes from Canada or Mexico, or would have to stick to cropdusters or cargo planes or Ryder trucks, or would have to remain undercover longer in order to get employed as commercial pilots. Stricter use of metal detectors at airports—though initial breaches are discouraging—could also be an inconvenience to potential hijackers, devaluing their heavy investment in box cutters and forcing them to use, say, ceramic knives. Fancy new face-scanning technology could be an inconvenience to potential perpetrators as long as they don’t diverge from their mug shots too much via age or plastic surgery. But—GET REAL!—nobody believes any fairy stories about such security fixes being reliable.

Another concern is that "next time" a hijacker might point his plane at a nuclear power plant, such as the plants south of Detroit, a short hop from Canada. It would not take a large commercial aircraft to cause a massive flood of radioactive poison. If we were to GET REAL about self-defense, we would quickly phase out the use of these plants. No terrorist dreams of crashing a plane into a field of windmills. And this would also make us safer in other ways unrelated to terrorism.

Noam Chomsky registers this Star Wars Warning: "The events reveal, dramatically, the foolishness of the project of ‘missile defense’. As has been obvious all along, and pointed out repeatedly by strategic analysts, if anyone wants to cause immense damage in the US, including weapons of mass destruction, they are highly unlikely to launch a missile attack, thus guaranteeing their immediate destruction. There are innumerable easier ways that are basically unstoppable. But [the current] events will, very likely, be exploited to increase the pressure to develop these systems and put them into place. "Defense" is a thin cover for plans for militarization of space, and with good PR, even the flimsiest arguments will carry some weight among a frightened public."

Don’t count on Big Biz

Similarly, there are many threats to our health and life that are unrelated to terrorism of the sort that struck September 11th. Groups that criticize administration policy with respect to these issues should not relent, least of all in the name of national security. The Sierra Club halted all ads and removed web material critical of Bush policies. The International Rivers Network has called off protests against a major dam(age) in China because one of the banks backing it (Morgan Stanley) had space in the World Trade Center. The Ruckus Society cancelled its training camp. Oxfam revised a petition drive to "put health before wealth" in medicine patent laws, muting criticism of the US. Some groups backed out of protests against the World Bank and IMF, not citing justified fear of police violence, but citing a loose sense of inappropriateness.

But virtually all the people who would criticize the "timing" of these dissenting actions would be critical anyway. Notice: when people who are most eager for war criticize Bush for not moving fast enough, they aren’t considered "unpatriotic". And meanwhile, the government and the business lobbyists are moving full steam ahead, almost completely unchecked. Alaska’s Senator Murkowski urges that this national emergency requires us to use up the oil in the National Wildlife Refuge—but we’d be a lot more secure and healthy, and for a much longer time, if we invested in renewable energy sources. Business lobbyists bray that more tax cuts for the rich, or shutting down debate on trade agreements via fast track, are needed to "spur the economy" for the "war effort"—despite the fact that the manufacturing base that would be mobilized for war has mostly already moved overseas. So watchdog groups need to STAY REAL in the name of defending the public.

Nationally syndicated investigative reporter (and UM grad) Martin Lee imagines asking Bush this question: "Terrorists finance their operations by laundering money through offshore banks and other hot money outlets. Yet your administration has undermined international efforts to crack down on tax havens … [by mandating] greater transparency in tax and banking practices. In the wake of the September 11 massacre, will you reassess this decision … even if it means displeasing wealthy Americans and campaign contributors who avoid paying taxes by hiding money in offshore accounts?"

Finally for now, the security failures of the airlines also show that we can’t rely on profit-driven companies for self-defense. And don’t think that they’ve learned their lesson and will do better next time, to protect their stock price … the taxpayer-funded "bailout" of the airlines rewards them for endangering us.

For your own self-defense, don’t trust the boss. At a minimum, for your own good, when the building next door has been hit by a plane, and the boss tells you to get back to work, please, don’t listen. GET LOST!

Don’t count on Big Bro

The Strengthening Principle warns against security tradeoffs globally as well as locally. The CIA and FBI routinely claim credit for squelching terrorist threats, but they seem to do this mainly through periodic mass closing of embassies around the globe. Where are all the arrested perpetrators (arrested before the deed, that is, and tried for attempted murder)? Potentially, increasing the power of the CIA could block some threats, but the CIA has a long history of substituting big threats for little or merely imaginary threats. To take just the most relevant of dozens of examples, one day there’s an attempt to lure the Soviet Union into a "trap" in Afghanistan, so we can put them through their own "Vietnam" (in the words of Carter’s "National Security" Advisor), and the next day the CIA is giving arms and training to bin Laden and company.

The CIA also has a long history of missing the biggest threats, worldwide. To take only one example relevant to this case, the Observer (UK) newspaper reports that for the last six years Sudan has repeatedly offered the US thick files on al Qaida, offers which were simply ignored. A "senior CIA source" told the paper "had we had this data we may have had a better chance of preventing the attacks." When Clinton pressured Sudan to expel bin Laden in 1996, "Sudanese intelligence believed this to be a great mistake. ‘There we could keep track of him, read his mail. Once we kicked him out and he went underground in Afghanistan, he couldn’t be tracked anywhere." The only intelligence service with even minimal ground-level information about Afghanistan is the Pakistani ISI, but it is rife with Taliban sympathizers, and is as likely to foil as to help the CIA.

Throwing money at the problem is very unlikely to help. In "The Counterterrorism Myth" written by nine-year CIA Middle East operative Reuel Marc Gerecht, the situation is summed up this way: "The CIA probably doesn’t have a single truly qualified Arabic-speaking officer of Middle Eastern background who can play a believable Muslim fundamentalist who would volunteer to spend years of his life with shitty food and no women in the mountains of Afghanistan. For Christ’s sake, most case officers live in the suburbs of Virginia. We don’t do that kind of thing. … Operations that include diarrhea as a way of life don’t happen."

(3) Weakening the Threat
without Weakening Yourself

Brute force, appeasement, and win-win situations

Finally let’s consider the third self-defense principle, Weakening, which counsels you to find ways to keep potential perpetrators from even trying to harm you. There are basically two ways to try this.

One way to try weakening a threat is to find out what the perpetrators want, and give it to them in hopes that they will cease trying to harm you. When doing what the perpetrators want is something likely to weaken you, or likely not to weaken the threat, it is called "appeasement" and is simply inconsistent with the Weakening Principle. But with some threats you get lucky. Sometimes there’s a "win-win" situation—what the perpetrators want is a strategically good idea for you, anyway. Then so long as you have good reason to believe the perpetrators are sincere about what they want, going for a win-win is not "appeasement" or "capitulation" or anything unmacho like that.

The alternative is to use brute force, trying to kill or capture or otherwise incapacitate any potential perpetrators before they have a chance to try anything. There are many important moral and legal objections to using brute force, but I’ve promised, nudge-nudge, to say no more about that kind of thing here. Unless the brute force activity is likely to weaken you, or strengthen the threat, it’s ok as far as self-defense alone is concerned. But we do have to think about whether brute force is likely to have these unwanted side-effects. And to do that, it is smart to try to figure out what makes potential perpetrators tick.

Criminal pssychology

So in either case, the basic thing the Weakening Principle says you need to do is to find out the real motives of potential perpetrators, if possible. And of course if you’re serious about self-defense this means not guessing but observing: paying careful attention to the demands they actually articulate, and checking to see whether what they say is in keeping with what they actually do.

In the case of the hijackers, you’re likely to be familiar with the convenient diagnosis offered by most leaders and TV pundits: that the hijackers acted out of hatred for freedom, democracy, and prosperity. GET REAL! This is a complete fairy story, that fits with neither what the hijackers do nor with what they earnestly say. First, several countries equal or exceed America’s degrees of freedom, democracy, and (per capita) properity: e.g., Canada, Holland, Sweden, Denmark, etc. But they are not being attacked. Second, these same hijackers seem to have relentlessly and fervently fought the Soviet Union, which was hardly a shining beacon of freedom, democracy, or (average) prosperity. The real motive of the hijackers has got to be based on something the US shares with the Soviet Union and doesn’t share with Canada. And everyone knows what that feature is, even George W and even Bill O’Reilly.

But just to avoid any guessing games, let’s hear what Osama bin Laden himself has to say about his motives. Look at Sections 1-4 of bin Laden’s words on the next page. I’ll wait here. … … Back? Good. According to bin Laden (and backed up by much independent evidence), the Soviet Union was violently persecuting and killing Muslims, so they fought back. Holland tends not to do very much of that, so they haven’t fought Holland. And according to bin Laden (and backed up by much independent evidence), the US has been persecuting and killing Muslims on a grander scale for a longer time. So they fight back.

It’s true that the Taliban rulers of Afghanistan do hate what we (but not they) call freedom, democracy, and prosperity. But notice: the Taliban are not among the hijackers, and the hijackers are not part of the Taliban. The Taliban can barely control their own country, and are nowhere near trying to export their system to Michigan or even to their own neighboring countries. Even if bin Laden shares the Taliban’s harshest views—though no westerner who has encountered him concludes this—notice again: bin Laden is not among the hijackers. What matters is not what someone like bin Laden or the Taliban themselves think, but what the actual hijackers think. And whatever bin Laden’s deepest motives may be, there is no doubt that the words of his you have just read are the overwhelming means by which potential perpetrators become recruited to fight against the superpowers. Video and audio recordings of bin Laden’s words circle the globe, together with images of torn Palestinian and Iraqi children, and images of revenge against the US.

The cycle of violence

Now what does this all mean for the brute force option? It means it is massively unlikely to work. It means that bin Laden doesn’t even have to be alive to recruit and inspire new recruits. It means that his death will be considered his martyrdom, which will also inspire new recruits and new leaders. Another of Martin Lee‘s imagined questions for Bush seems unanswerable: "What will you accomplish if you bomb Afghanistan? Wouldn’t this galvanize Islamic fundamentalist movements that are already powerful in Algeria, Egypt, Pakistan, Sudan, the oil-rich Arab monarchies, and the Balkans? Wouldn’t a US-led military onslaught against Afghanistan be the fastest way to create a new generation of terrorists? Adept at manipulating real grievances, terrorist networks breed on poverty, despair, and social injustice. Do you think you can wipe out or even reduce this scourge, Mr. President, without seriously and systematically addressing the root causes of terrorism?"

The same goes for any attack on Afghanistan, bombs or not. And the same goes for even the threat to make war on Afghanistan. For one thing, the threat of death can’t have a deterring effect against suicide squads bent on securing everlasting treasures in the afterlife. (There’s an idea … maybe we’d get more deterrence by threatening to capture perpetrators and make them watch FOX News for the rest of their long, boring lives.) For another thing, the threats of the Bush administration already amount to a murderous attack on innocent Afghani families, by preventing famine relief efforts from proceeding [see Box #2]. And every child who starves has brothers, fathers, uncles, cousins who will swear revenge. So without a single shot being fired, we’re already strengthening the source of the threat, and undermining our own self-defense.

BOX #2. Afghan Famine
Noam Chomsky, 9/01

On Sept. 16, the New York Times reported that "Washington has also demanded [from Pakistan] a cutoff of fuel supplies,...and the elimination of truck convoys that provide much of the food and other supplies to Afghanistan’s civilian population." … In the following days, those demands were implemented. On Sept. 27, the same NYT correspondent reported that officials in Pakistan "said today that they would not relent in their decision to seal off the country’s 1,400- mile border with Afghanistan, a move requested by the Bush administration because, the officials said, they wanted to be sure that none of Mr. bin Laden’s men were hiding among the huge tide of refugees" (John Burns, Islamabad). According to the world’s leading newspaper, then, Washington demanded that Pakistan slaughter massive numbers of Afghans, millions of them already on the brink of starvation, by cutting off the limited sustenance that was keeping them alive. Almost all aid missions withdrew or were expelled under the threat of bombing. Huge numbers of miserable people have been fleeing to the borders in terror, after Washington’s threat to bomb the shreds of existence remaining in Afghanistan, and to convert the Northern Alliance into a heavily armed military force that will, perhaps, be unleashed to renew the atrocities that tore the country apart and led much of the population to welcome the Taliban when they drove out the murderous warring factions that Washington and Moscow now hope to exploit for their own purposes. When they reach the sealed borders, refugees are trapped to die in silence. Only a trickle can escape through remote mountain passes. How many have already succumbed we cannot guess …. Within a few weeks the harsh winter will arrive. There are some reporters and aid workers in the refugee camps across the borders. What they describe is horrifying enough, but they know, and we know, that they are seeing the lucky ones, the few who were able to escape—and who express their hopes that ‘’even the cruel Americans must feel some pity for our ruined country,’’ and relent in this savage silent genocide (Boston Globe, Sept. 27, p. 1). Perhaps the most apt description was given by the wonderful and courageous Indian writer and activist Arundhati Roy, referring to Operation Infinite Justice proclaimed by the Bush Administration: "Witness the infinite justice of the new century. Civilians starving to death while they’re waiting to be killed" (Guardian, Sept. 29).

Condemning mass murder

Self-defeatingly, some Americans seem not to care how many innocents we kill with bombs or troops or threats. Or if they do care, it’s because they think "the more the merrier". But the only way you can morally condemn the mass murders of September 11th is if you also condemn the mass murder of Afghani innocents. Morals apply to everybody alike. Tastes don’t. So if you’re ok with murdering Afghani innocents, the most you can honestly say is that the mass murders of September 11th aren’t to your taste, just as george Bush the First didn’t happen to have a taste for broccoli. It’s interesting to compare the American war-mongerers’ rhetoric to bin Laden’s own rhetoric about terrorism and the killing of civilians [See section 5 of bin Laden’s words on the next page].

Well, ok, the stuff in the previous paragraph about morals and tastes may seem to stray from the self-defense rubric, so let me bring it back home. The Weakening Principle of self-defense requires us to find out the motives of the hijackers. War-mongering censors in the media and on the streets have charged that doing this amounts to "justifying" or "rationalizing" the mass murders. You can fully and morally condemn the mass murders while wishing—e.g., for reasons of self-defense—to know what makes the perpetrators tick. That’s the whole business of criminal psychology, after all. But it’s the war-mongers who in the end cannot universally, and so morally, condemn any mass murders. All they can do is vacillate between "Boo for September 11th" and "Hurray for what comes next" and "Boo for what that sparks" and "Hooray for what sparked September 11th". They cannot say that September 11th is wrong because it is mass murder. So you can, but they can’t, condemn the hijackings. If you seek an alternative to war and war-mongering.

Instinctively, we know this. The closer you get to New York’s "ground zero", the less you hear people clamoring for war. And not because New Yorkers are known for being laid back, either. This is the home of the ticker-tape parade celebrating war. But when the "ticker tape" falling from the skyscrapers is flaming office paper mixed with body parts, the thought of war is sickening, and sick.

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The ordinary man [in Saudi Arabia] knows that it is the largest oil producer in the world, yet at the same time he is suffering from taxes and bad services. Now the people understand the speeches of the ulemas in the mosques—that our country has become an American colony. They act decisively with every action to kick the Americans out of Saudi Arabia. What happened in Riyadh and [Dhahran] when 24 Americans were killed in two bombings is clear evidence of the huge anger of Saudi people against America. The Saudis now know their real enemy is America. (7/96)

Muslims burn with anger at America. For its own good, America should leave [Saudi Arabia.] ... There is no more important duty than pushing the American enemy out of the holy land. ... (8/96)

The call to wage war against America was made because America has spear-headed the crusade against the Islamic nation, sending tens of thousands of its troops to the land of the two Holy Mosques over and above its meddling in its affairs and its politics, and its support of the oppressive, corrupt and tyrannical regime that is in control. These are the reasons behind the singling out of America as a target. And not exempt of responsibility are those Western regimes whose presence in the region offers support to the American troops there. (5/98)


For over half a century, Muslims

in Palestine have been slaughtered and assaulted and robbed of their honor and of their property. Their houses have been blasted, their crops destroyed. And the strange thing is that any act on their part to avenge themselves or to lift the injustice befalling them causes great agitation in the United Nations which hastens to call for an emergency meeting only to convict the victim and to censure the wronged and the tyrannized whose children have been killed and whose crops have been destroyed and whose farms have been pulverized. ... (5/98)

American presence in the Gulf provides support to the Jews and protects their rear. (5/98)


Q: Describe the situation when your men took down the American forces in Somalia.

A: After our victory in Afghanistan and the defeat of the oppressors who had killed millions of Muslims, the legend about the invincibility of the superpowers vanished. Our boys no longer viewed America as a superpower. So, when they left Afghanistan, they went to Somalia and prepared themselves carefully for a long war. They had thought that the Americans were like the Russians, so they trained and prepared. They were stunned when they discovered how low was the morale of the American soldier. America had entered with 30,000 soldiers in addition to thousands of soldiers from different countries in the world. ... As I said, our boys were shocked by the low morale of the American soldier and they realized that the American soldier was just a paper tiger. He was unable to endure the strikes that were dealt to his army, so he fled, and America had to stop all its bragging and all that noise it was making in the press after the Gulf War in which it destroyed the infrastructure and the milk and dairy industry that was vital for the infants and the children and the civilians and blew up dams which were necessary for the crops people grew to feed their families. Proud of this destruction, America assumed the titles of world leader and master of the new world order. After a few blows, it forgot all about those titles and rushed out of Somalia in shame and disgrace, dragging the bodies of its soldiers. America stopped calling itself world leader and master of the new world order, and its politicians realized that those titles were too big for them and that they were unworthy of them. I was in Sudan when this happened. I was very happy to learn of that great defeat that America suffered, so was every Muslim. ... (5/98)


As for their accusations of terrorizing the innocent, the children, and the women, these are in the category of ‘accusing others with their own affliction in order to fool the masses.’ The evidence overwhelmingly shows America and Israel killing the weaker men, women and children in the Muslim world and elsewhere. A few examples of this are seen in the recent Qana massacre in Lebanon, and the death of more than 600,000 Iraqi children because of the shortage of food and medicine which resulted from the boycotts and sanctions against the Muslim Iraqi people, also their withholding of arms from the Muslims of Bosnia-Herzegovina leaving them prey to the Christian Serbians who massacred and raped in a manner not seen in contemporary history. Not to forget the dropping of the H-bombs on cities with their entire populations of children, elderly, and women, on purpose, and in a premeditated manner as was the case with Hiroshima and Nagasaki. (10/96)

After World War II, the Americans grew more unfair and more oppressive towards people in general and Muslims in particular. ... The Americans started it and retaliation and punishment should be carried out following the principle of reciprocity, especially when women and children are involved. Through history, American has not been known to differentiate between the military and the civilians or between men and women or adults and children. Those who threw atomic bombs and used the weapons of mass destruction against Nagasaki and Hiroshima were the Americans. Can the bombs differentiate between military and women and infants and children? America has no religion that can deter her from exterminating whole peoples. Your position against Muslims in Palestine is despicable and disgraceful. America has no shame. ... We believe that the worst thieves in the world today and the worst terrorists are the Americans. Nothing could stop you except perhaps retaliation in kind. We do not have to differentiate between military or civilian. As far as we are concerned, they are all targets, and this is what the fatwah says ... . The fatwah is general (comprehensive) and it includes all those who participate in, or help the Jewish occupiers in killing Muslims. (5/98)


Q: Many Americans believe that fighting army to army like what happened in Afghanistan is heroic for either army. But sending off bombs, killing civilians like in the World Trade Center [referring to 1993, not 2001] is terrorism.

A: ... After our victory over the Russians in Afghanistan, the international and the American mass media conducted fierce campaigns against us .... They called us terrorists even before the mujahedeen had committed any act of terrorism against the real terrorists who are the Americans. On the other hand, we say that American politics and their religion do not believe in differentiating between civilians and military, between infants and animals, or among any human groups. ...

Our mothers and daughters and sons are slaughtered every day with the approval of America and its support. And, while America blocks the entry of weapons into Islamic countries, it provides the Israelis with a continuous supply of arms allowing them thus to kill and massacre more Muslims. Your religion does not forbid you from committing such acts, so you have no right to object to any response or retaliation that reciprocates your own actions. But, and in spite of this, our retaliation is directed primarily against the soldiers only and against those standing by them. Our religion forbids us from killing innocent people such as women and children. This, however, does not apply to women fighters. A woman who puts herself in the same trench with men, gets what they get. ... (5/98)

In today’s wars, there are no morals, and it is clear that mankind has descended to the lowest degrees of decadence and oppression. They rip us of our wealth and of our resources and of our oil. Our religion is under attack. They kill and murder our brothers. They compromise our honor and our dignity and dare we utter a single word of protest against the injustice, we are called terrorists. This is compounded injustice. ... (5/98)

The truth is that the whole Muslim world is the victim of international terrorism, engineered by America at the United Nations. We are a nation whose sacred symbols have been looted and whose wealth and resources have been plundered. It is normal for us to react against the forces that invade our land and occupy it .... (5/98)

[T]errorism can be commendable and it can be reprehensible. Terrifying an innocent person and terrorizing him is objectionable and unjust, also unjustly terrorizing people is not right. Whereas, terrorizing oppressors and criminals and thieves and robbers is necessary for the safety of people and for the protection of their property. There is no doubt in this. Every state and every civilization and culture has to resort to terrorism under certain circumstances for the purpose of abolishing tyranny and corruption. Every country in the world has its own security system and its own security forces, its own police and its own army. They are all designed to terrorize whoever even contemplates attacking that country or its citizens. The terrorism we practice is of the commendable kind for it is directed at the tyrants and the aggressors and the enemies of Allah, the tyrants, the traitors who commit acts of treason against their own countries and their own faith and their own prophet and their own nation. Terrorizing those and punishing them are necessary measures to straighten things and to make them right. Tyrants and oppressors who subject the Arab nation to aggression ought to be punished. The wrongs and the crimes committed against the Muslim nation are far greater than can be covered by this interview. America heads the list of aggressors against Muslims. The recurrence of aggression against Muslims everywhere is proof enough. (5/98)


The two explosions that took place in Riyadh and in Khobar recently were but a clear and powerful signal to the governments of the countries which willingly participated in the aggression against our countries and our lives and our sacrosanct symbols. It might be beneficial to mention that some of those countries have begun to move towards independence from the American government with respect to the enmity that it continues to show towards the Muslim people. We only hope that they will continue to move in that direction, away from the oppressive forces that are fighting against our countries.

And while millions of Americans are homeless and destitute and live in abject poverty, their government is busy occupying our land and building new settlements and helping Israel build new settlements in the point of departure for our Prophet’s midnight journey to the seven heavens. America throws her own sons in the land of the two Holy Mosques for the sake of protecting Jewish interests. ...

The American government is leading the country towards hell. ... We say to the Americans as people and to American mothers, if they cherish their lives and if they cherish their sons, they must elect an American patriotic government that caters to their interests not the interests of the Jews. If the present injustice continues with the wave of national consciousness, it will inevitably move the battle to American soil, just as Ramzi Yousef and others have done. This is my message to the American people. I urge them to find a serious administration that acts in their interest and does not attack people and violate their honor and pilfer their wealth. ...

We however, differentiate between the western government and the people of the West. If the people have elected those governments in the latest elections, it is because they have fallen prey to the Western media which portray things contrary to what they really are. And while the slogans raised by those regimes call for humanity, justice, and peace, the behavior of their governments is completely the opposite. It is not enough for their people to show pain when they see our children being killed in Israeli raids launched by American planes, nor does this serve the purpose. What they ought to do is change their governments which attack our countries. The hostility that America continues to express against the Muslim people has given rise to feelings of animosity on the part of Muslims against America and against the West in general. Those feelings of animosity have produced a change in the behavior of some crushed and subdued groups who, instead of fighting the Americans inside the Muslim countries, went on to fight them inside the United States of America itself.

The Western regimes and the government of the United States of America bear the blame for what might happen. If their people do not wish to be harmed inside their very own countries, they should seek to elect governments that are truly representative of them and that can protect their interests....

Appeasement or win-win?

If there is an alternative to brute force, it can only be found in addressing the grievances of the perpetrators. If this is mere appeasement, it could not be recommended on self-defense grounds (though maybe it could be defended on moral or legal grounds). But in fact we’re lucky to be in a win-win situation here; the aims of the perpetrators largely dovetail with what we should be doing anyway, in the interest of law, morality, and self-defense. Here, of course, I will limit myself to the self-defense considerations.

Bin Laden’s overriding concern seems to be removing US troops from Saudia Arabia. That shouldn’t be hard for us to do … they weren’t even there until the 1991 build-up after George Bush the First decided to go to war with Iraq, rather than accept a peaceful Iraqi withdrawal from illegally occupied Kuwait "linked" with a peaceful Israeli withdrawal from illegally occupied Palestine and Lebanon. The US government had long wanted an excuse to station troops near the Saudi oil riches, overcoming the objections of the Islamic government and population, and there is evidence that for this end the US duped its longstanding partner-in-crime Saddam Hussein into thinking it would be ok for him to invade Kuwait.

Now we see the unintended consequences of this policy in the NY/DC/PA rubble. Now suddenly "defense" means "homeland defense"—which should lead us to wonder what was meant all along by the Department of "Defense", more aptly known in the early 20th century as the "War Department". Wouldn’t the troops stationed in Saudi Arabia be better stationed at airports in the US, as far as our self-defense is concerned? American forces are highly mobile, and if for some reason they were needed back in the Gulf they could be moved there quickly. In case of a new Gulf conflict massive numbers of troops would need to be moved in anyway. Isn’t your family’s safety worth that small, hypothetical inconvenience on the part of your employees at the Pentagon? Bring the girls and boys home to their families, out of harm’s way. This is a win-win situation.

The second grievance is the steady military support, financial crutch, and diplomatic immunity the US gives to Israel for its globally condemned subjugation of Gaza, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem, and its ethnic cleansing within large chunks of that land. This occupation endangers both Israelis and Palestinians, and also the many foreigners (e.g., Americans) who travel or would like to travel to these lands. But throughout the 20th century, right up to this day, Israelis kill roughly ten times as many Palestinians as the number of Israelis who are killed by Palestinians. And nearly all with American weapons—billions and billions of dollars "worth" of helicopters, mortars, bullets, all free! free! free! to the dominant killers. If we stopped paying Israel to squash Palestine, we would instantly make it hugely harder for terrorist networks to recruit fighters against the US. And those billions of dollars in blood money could also buy a lot of homeland security. Another win-win situation.

The most obvious win-win situation is ending the sanctions on the Iraqi people. These sanctions have not done a thing to weaken Saddam Hussein’s grip on power in Iraq. They have only strengthened him by literally decimating—killing and otherwise incapacitating at least one tenth of—the population. Even the Iraqi opposition opposes the sanctions. Even Kuwait opposes the sanctions. And the sanctions are the precise reason that there are no longer UN weapons inspectors in Iraq. End the sanctions, and inspectors could return the next day. Even if you didn’t care one bit for the Iraqi children who die—each month a World Trade Center’s "worth" of corpses pile up—you would have strategic reasons to lift the sanctions.

The only reason they are in place is so that the US policy makers don’t have to admit to what the whole world knows has been a collosally stupid and pointless and evil policy. In their embarassment they sometimes try to say that the deaths are all Hussein’s fault—and no fault at all of the US—because Hussein doesn’t do what we say. But this is as crazy and vile as saying the NY/DC/PA deaths are all Bush’s fault—and no fault at all of the hijackers—because Bush doesn’t do what the hijackers say. The embarassment of our employees in the US foreign policy establishment is no reason to allow them to continue with starving and denying medicines to children in a policy that only wrecks our security. Ending the sanctions is the mother of all win-win situations.

Since the "demands" of potential perpetrators are things we should be and need to be doing anyway, none of this counts as "appeasement". It makes us stronger, not weaker. It would "drain the sea" of the motivations for terrorism. The only remaining potential "appeasement" worry is almost too bizarre to even mention. Maybe, it might be dreamed, stopping the systematic US murder of Muslim innocents would only addict the perpetrators to their methods, making them issue new demands without end. But this is another pure fairy story. These are among the most earnest people in the world, obviously. And unless their whole religion is some sort of self-conscious ruse, it functions as a brake. Not even the most extreme fundamentalist Muslim believes that Allah will reward him in heaven for martyrdom without a cause, or with an arbitrary cause.

Also, in part 6 of his words on the previous page, bin Laden explicitly marks Western (non-American) improvements in the treatment of Muslims. And he takes special care to describe to sympathize with Americans deceived by government and media, and hopes for the day when they can elect a government that defends their interests. He’s right about this. Stop voting for national-level Democrats and Republicans, in your own self-defense. Think about whether the trade towers would still be standing and all those families would still be intact, if (to take the most successful of many worthy third-party candidates) Ralph Nader had been elected and started a process of healing between the American people to whome he has devoted his life, and the Middle Eastern people of his ancestry.

If nothing else, for the foreseeable future—for the next century or three, at least—the US and its allies will remain militarily overwhelmingly stronger than any combination of terrorist forces. If their demands are some kind of distraction, which no one really believes, brute force is always an option later. All we are saying, is give the win-win situations a chance.

Contact Agenda (editor@agenda2.org, 734-657-6728) to find out about ongoing antiwar and antiscapegoating, pro-peace and pro-justice actions you can participate in. Fly the Earth Flag on the back cover, alongside or instead of your American flag.

And we end with a speech from Our Beloved Leader ...

[... author anonymous ...]

Tonight, we are a country awakened to danger. I thank the Congress for showing its leadership at such an important time by granting me the untrammelled right to imprison and destroy our designated demons du jour.

All who love America and who are uncommonly tolerant of shallow manipulation were touched on the evening of the tragedy to see Republicans and Democrats joined together on the steps of this Capitol singing ‘’God Bless America.’’

And you did more than sing. You acted, you signed over $40 billion to the military-industrial complex. Money that was nowhere to be seen earlier when desperate requests came in for better schools or teacher’s salaries or affordable housing.

On September the 11th, enemies of freedom committed an act of war against our country. Americans have known wars, but for the past 136 years they have been wars on foreign soil, except for one Sunday in 1941, which would have been on foreign soil, had we not annexed Hawaii and turned it into a fortress guarding our overbearing presence in Asia.

Americans have known the casualties of war, but not at the center of a great city on a peaceful morning. That knowledge, until now, has belonged almost exclusively to our adversaries.

All of this was brought upon us in a single day, and night fell on a different world, a world where freedom itself is under attack, and I am not referring to the repressive laws we are about to enact.

The evidence we have gathered all points to a collection of loosely affiliated terrorist organizations known as al Qaeda. You may have heard of them before. I hadn’t. Al Qaeda is to terror as the mafia is to crime or I as am to the inane phrase and malapropism. But its goal is not making money, something we might respect. Its goal is remaking the world and imposing its radical beliefs on people everywhere. What dad likes to call New World Order, only I don’t remember him giving permission to Al Qaeda or anyone else to try it.

The terrorists’ directive commands them to kill Christians and Jews, to kill all Americans and make no distinctions among military and civilians, including women and children. Why they don’t pick on Denmark or Australia beats the heck out of me.

They are recruited from their own nations and neighborhoods and brought to camps in places like Afghanistan where they are trained in the tactics of terror. They are sent back to their homes or sent to hide in countries around the world to plot evil and destruction. Everyone knows this, if they are familiar with the historical works of Stallone, or read Marvel publications.

The United States respects the people of Afghanistan—as we do all of our bombees and others we threaten with annihilation. After all, we are currently its largest source of er, humanitarian aid—but we condemn the Taliban regime who are now in our way.

Tonight the United States of America makes the following demands on the Taliban.

Deliver to United States authorities whomver we tell you to. And don’t keep nagging us for evidence. We don’t need no stinking evidence.

Release all foreign nationals, including American citizens you have unjustly imprisoned. Protect foreign journalists, diplomats and aid workers in your country and stop holding up their mail from Langley.

Give the United States full access to terrorist training camps. We need them. The people here are pressing us to shut down ours at The School of the Americas.

Inasmuch as you have no defense against our bombs, these demands are not open to negotiation or discussion.

Once you accede to our demands, we will resume financing your fundamentalism, as we do Saudi Arabia’s.

The enemy of America is not our many Muslim friends. It is not our many Arab friends. It is not our friends. It is our enemy. When we ask you to disembark a plane so that regular Americans can travel safely, do not take it personally. Get that chip off your shoulders.

Our war on terror begins with Al Qaeda, but it does not end there.

It will not end until all evil has been found, all evildoers stopped and defeated, including the ones they call the Joker and the Penguin.

Americans are asking ‘’Why do they hate us?’’

They hate what they see right here in this chamber: a democratically elected government. (LAUGHTER)

Their leaders are self-appointed. They hate our freedoms: our freedom of religion, our freedom of speech, our freedom to vote (LAUGHTER) and assemble and disagree with each other.

They want to overthrow existing governments in many Muslim countries including the Saudi Arabian democracy.

We’re not deceived by their pretenses to piety.

Americans are asking, ‘’How can America and its allies possibly defeat a man who is hiding in a cave in the poorest country on earth?"

We will direct every resource at our command — every means of diplomacy, every tool of intelligence (by the way, does anyone here know Farsi?), every instrument of law enforcement, every financial influence, and every necessary weapon of war.

Now, this war will not be like the war against Iraq a decade ago, when Americans laughed along with Stormin’ Norman at the sight of terrified Iraqis scurrying to escape our surgical bombs. We may not go back to the good old days of the Highway of Death, but I guarantee there will again be stragglers to strafe. And soon Americans will once more wake up to find themselves bombarding a country they cannot locate on a map.

It will not look like the air war above Kosovo two years ago, where not a single American was lost in combat. Think of that. We bombed a country for months, wreaked havoc on its infrastructure, killed and maimed thousands of its citizens, and we didn’t lose a single hero. And still some people hate us.

Our response involves far more than instant retaliation and isolated air strikes. Americans should not expect one battle, but a lengthy campaign unlike any other we have ever seen. It may include dramatic strikes visible on TV and covert operations, the details of which shall not be revealed until all of us are long dead.

We will starve terrorists of funding, turn them one against another, drive them from place to place until there is no refuge or no rest. And we will pursue nations that provide aid or safe haven to terrorism or, this time, draft dodgers. Every nation in every region now has a decision to make: Either serve our machine or be considered terrorists.

Today, dozens of federal departments and agencies, as well as state and local governments, have responsibilities affecting homeland security.

These efforts must be coordinated at the highest level. So tonight, I announce the creation of a Cabinet-level position reporting directly to me, I call it the General Emergency Section Tracking Anti-American Populist Opposition.

These measures are essential.

I ask your continued participation and confidence in the American economy as it plunges toward the abyss.

America is successful because of the hard work and creativity and enterprise of people who frequently cannot afford a roof over their heads. These were the true strengths of our economy before September 11, and they are our strengths today.

We will come together to promote stability and keep our airlines flying with direct assistance during this emergency. Ordinary people will have to fend for themselves.

In all that lies before us, may God grant us wisdom and may he watch uniquely over the United States of America, because we are the only country that truly honors the separation of church and state.

Thank you.




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