Monday, September 11, 2006

9-11+5 = Bin Laden beats Bush

When the first plane hit the World Trade Center, the bang interrupted the article I was writing on the impending downfall of the US dollar. I was living in downtown Manhattan and not only did I report from close to the burning stumps of the twin towers all day I lived by tithe smoldering gate of Hell for months afterwards.

Some hours afterwards I was one block away from the WTC, where the streets were cloaked in several feet of ash, through which snaked the hoses from the Hudson River to the fire trucks. The firemen had crowbarred a convenience store open and were treating it as a supply depot. One of them came out, caked in dust and sweat voraciously stuffing a banana into his mouth in between gulps of water.

He looked around with a sort of pugnacious puzzlement at ash, the debris, the mud, and the smoke. "Can you believe it?" he asked me, "I'm looking for a fucking garbage can!" He threw the banana peel defiantly into the white ashen fallout in the street as if he were having a one-man demonstration against the lack of civilization in the neighborhood.

On the weary back home walking round the tip of Manhattan, I got a foretaste of police powers and the fate of the freedom of press in the new era. A gang of thuggish NYPD detectives refused to let me carry on, and offered me the choice of climbing on a tugboat to New Jersey - or being thrown onto it. And when, many weary hours later that night we trudged back to downtown Manhattan, it was in time to watch from the apartment window as army convoys trundled down the East River Drive. It was a sign of things to come: the response to the tragedy was going to be military, no matter how inappropriate.

"Foreign Policy" was something the US had inflicted on other nations, and for the first few days, I began to see a possible silver lining to the smelly dark cloud at the end of Fulton Street. This was the first time foreign policy had happened to the American homeland since Admiral Cochrane had burnt the White House two centuries before. Would it make them take more notice of what their nation was doing to others? I watched carefully for any admission that American ways of waging proxy war against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan had been responsible for nurturing Al-Qaeda and the Taliban and their allies in Pakistan. But instead, the airwaves of America increasingly relayed the administration's war drums beating up fervor about Iraq.

Only last week, it was still considered news in the US that a Senate Committee could find not find any trace of links between Saddam Hussein and Iraq even though to the rest of the world this was about as novel as news of the Pope's Catholicism. And even that did not stop Condoleezza Rice invoking the "War on Terror" in Iraq as making the US safer from repeat attacks.

In fact, in retrospect, the carnage on September 11 was a spectacularly successful terrorist attack. In so far as indiscriminate mass murder can be rational, its logic is that it provokes a foolish and unequal reaction from the powers the terrorists are struggling to overthrow, provoking support for their ideology.

If Bin Laden had indeed had such rationality behind his eschatological visions, he was indeed vindicated in his planning. Just like the fireman, but with much less excuse, the Bush administration has decided that the normal rules no longer apply. Bush’s and Blair's attack on Iraq, their uncritical support for Israel, their threats against Iran, combined with their wholesale abandonment of constitutional and international legal protections for suspects at home and abroad, have all put truth in the rumors that Osama Bin Laden was spreading about a Western anti-Muslim crusade.

Within a day of September 11, the UN Security Council had unanimously declared support for the US, and implicitly authorized the attack against the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. Did Bin Laden know that the Bush administration would blow it all within two years and move to a position of almost complete diplomatic isolation - apart, of course, from the unwavering support of Tony "Yo" Blair, who is now paying the price for it?

Ironically, while Bin Laden may delight in how effectively Bush and Blair are propagating his creed, he should have some regrets. Some of his worst enemies, from the Iranians to the Iraqi and Syrian Ba'athists, have stolen the spotlight from him and cheated him of the martyrdom he preaches. Five years after September 11, the US has effectively pulled out of oil-less Afghanistan and left it to NATO, and last week it was that reported that it has been over two years since the US snatch squad detailed to catch him has had any credible intelligence leads about him.

Meantime, thousands of Muslims, or people of Muslim origin, from cab drivers to professors, have been deported from the US for reasons as various and vacuous as donating to Palestinian causes down to traveling while being called Mohammed. So desperate is the FBI for terrorists against whom to wage a war that they pay agents to start "plots" that they can then "foil."

And then the UK jumps on the bandwagon, trying to sell us a hi-jacking plot in which the principals appeared to have no passports or airline tickets -- but may have helped launch an assisted take-off for the political ambitions of the Home Secretary.

Five years on I think of that fireman with his banana, and also of one of his colleagues, who with less nuance had told me, in the literal furnace-heat of the moment, "I don’t want to offend anyone, but we just gotta go in and nuke the whole fucking Middle East now."

Without his apologetic nuance, he seems to have had an apocalyptic hotline into the White House - thou hast conquered, Bin Laden.

1 comment:

Phoenix Woman said...

As Doug "Pericles" Muder states here, Bush couldn't have made Osama happier if Osama had been whispering instructions into his ear for the past five years.

To just mention one of the many -- and by no means the worst -- of the Bush blunders: Describing the Bush Junta's actions as a "crusade". The Crusades, for the average Muslim, mean one thing: Christians come in, kill you, and steal your land.