As the September 11 attacks so clearly illustrated, mass violence is ugly. Horrific. Every day the US press now carries page after page of photographs of those killed, with short biographies of the lives so brutally snuffed out. With over 6,000 killed, it will take years to eulogize all of those killed. If you stop to read these biographies, it’s hard not to cry. The newlywed couple, now separated forever. The fireman with four children at home. The environmental lawyer who loved to camp in the redwoods.
We’ve lived in the United States never expecting such slaughter on our own soil. That happens somewhere else, and we’re safe here at home. The emotional potency of our loss of innocence and security is hard to assimilate.
The reaction so far has been anger and rage – the impulse to fight back against those who robbed us of our safety. This has been encouraged by the government response and the media, both pushing a military response.
After being touched by the uglyness of violence, the urge to more violence is curious. The history of most every other country on Earth includes the type of violence seen on September 11. The ugliness, the brutality, the fear is no stranger in the rest of the world. The United States, generally spared such violence, is the exception.
Many other nations around the world have known such violence at the hands of the United States Government. While we mourn 6,000 people killed September 11, imagine how much greater must have been the sorrow at the 200,000 Iraqis killed during the Gulf War. Or the over 1,000,000 children who have died in Iraq since that war as a result of US sanctions which prevented repair of sanitation, water and health infrastructure. Those victims were generally as “innocent” as those killed at the World Trade Center – just people trying to live their lives who got in the way of violence.
The victims of US military or CIA adventures is a shameful pile a mile high: 3 million killed in Vietnam, thousands in Nicaragua and El Salvador, how many in Columbia, Panama, Chile, Granada, Sudan, where else? The CIA has funded and encouraged conflict around the globe. Osama bin Laden, now the chief suspect in the September 11 attacks, was amongst the CIA funded rebels encouraged to reduce Afghanistan to rubble in a decade of war against a Soviet invasion. That war alone killed tens of thousands, forcing millions to flee.
The United States government has acted for decades as if violence had no consequences. The violence has always been used against “other people” living “elsewhere” – US soil was safe. That the US government violence may have created millions of enemies across the globe could be conveniently ignored, because they couldn’t strike at US interests. At worst, US citizens traveling abroad might be in danger.
On September 11, the United States’ isolation from the rest of the world lifted. The new reality is that US violence employed abroad can and may come back to US soil.
The Bush administration’s proposed response to the September 11 outrage is a war against all terrorist and all states that “harbor” them. The proposed war is broad, perhaps against many governments and many people across the globe, and perhaps permanent. It almost appears Bush doesn’t care who the war is against, just so long as the military can punish someone for the September 11 disaster.
More violence, more suffering, more mourning and crying for loved ones butchered by the machines of war – this cannot bring back any of the September 11 victims. This won’t make the US safer or return us to the security we felt before September 11. Such violence makes us less safe by increasing violence and hate everywhere.