18 November 2001 |
Conspiracy and Terrorism
911+ Questions in Seeking UnCommon Ground (Part 6)
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Part 6 of 911+ Questions in Seeking UnCommon Ground and protecting the Middle Way from Binary Thinking (2001)
Dangerous factoids and conspiracy theories
In a world of secret terrorist organizations, and secret counter-intelligence
operations, is there not great danger that "facts" will be systematically
presented, fabricated and spun according to need by all parties -- and especially
those who benefit from conspiracy theories? How are genuine facts to be recognized
and who is to be trusted to present them?
Who promoted the internet rumour concerning the use by CNN of video footage,
supposedly from another context, of Palestinians dancing for joy at the attack?
Who promoted the internet rumour that no Israelis died in the WTC attack --
because they had been warned not to go to work that morning? Who promoted the
internet rumour that a group of 5 Israelis were arrested for "peculiar
behaviour" -- dancing with glee -- whilst filming the burning WTC from
a neighbouring building?
Why is there a widespread belief in the Middle East of Mossad involvement in
the WTC attack?
Why the routine anti-Semitism of the much repeated Islamic slander that "the
Jews" arranged the hits on the WTC and the Pentagon -- arguing that Muslims
could not have the technological knowhow or organizational sophistication to
do so? (Salman Rushdie, Guardian, 3 November 2001)
To what extent does biased media coverage, excluding alternative perspectives,
inhibit balanced response to any crisis, encourage rumours and conspiracy theorists,
and augment the credibility of dangerous factoids?
According to Tony Blair's spokesperson regarding successful communications
from Kabul: "I think you have to treat evrything with scepticism as there
can be no independent verification of anything that comes out of there. It is
important that everybody is alive to the propaganda techniques that they will
use. You can't trust them in any way, shape or form" (Independent,
14 October 2001). How much "independent verification" is there of
the news managed pronouncements of the coalition? With how much scepticism is
it appropriate to appreciate the declarations of the UK and US spokespersons
-- given their concern that they are losing the propaganda war?
It is being reported that the key "Islamic" hijacker was drinking
vodka before boarding the aeroplane. Another highjacker was frequenting nightclubs
in Hamburg? Is this not rather unusual behaviour for "Islamic fundamentalists"?
Tracking the Put Options on United Airlines and American Airlines stock on the days preceding Sept. 11, shows an abnormal situation. Did some some U.S. intelligence agencies profit by selling these stocks short? (Mark Elsis, Questioning September 11th)
It is reported (CNN, 25 Sept 2001) that investigators in the USA have grounded
all crop duster planes because of indications that they might be used for dissemination
of bio-chemical products by terrorists. How are people to distinguish between
genuine facts and those planted in order to reinforce public anxiety in support
of restrictive governmental measures -- as has always been a tendency of military
and other agencies seeking budget enlargement?
Through widespread dissemination of such factoids, to what extent is the crisis
also characterized by what amounts to a massive attack of "conceptual viruses"?
Combined with "spin", what does this imply for future relations between
governance and public opinion?
What is the probability that CIA-trained Osama bin Laden is being used a propaganda
device to polarize society and justify a military response? In whose interests?
What irrefutable evidence is there that claims purporting to come from him do
in fact do so -- especially given the media clampdown on his declarations?
When the psy-ops forces beam down Afghan music from overflying planes, is that
to disguise the infra-sound beamed with it -- to terrorize them?
After the fall of the Taliban, what about all the evidence filmed in houses
in Kabul -- just lying around -- passports, manuals and organization charts
of "no interest" to the security services? Remember the criteria for
proof of criminal activity : motivation, opportunity, means! It may indeed be
evidence -- but how is the world to know it had indeed been planted, if it served
the interests of a coalition that has claimed it is prepared to use "any means"?
If the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is seen by the Islamic world as a proxy
war, fought by the west through Israel, does it not become difficult for the
US-coalition to claim that its operation against Afghanistan is not against
Islam -- and that it is merely another front in the war between the west and
Islam? (Justin Cartwright, Guardian, 3 November 2001)
NORAD had almost an hour and half to scramble F-16 jets from Langley AFB to protect Washington DC and the Pentagon, but incredibly failed to do so. Their excuse was that they didn't have enough time. Isn't 90 minutes enough time to protect Washington D.C.? Isn't 30 minutes enough time to protect New York City? Why did they then flying at less than 1/3 of their top speed? (Mark Elsis, Questioning September 11th)
An acrimonious argument reportedly erupted during an Israeli cabinet weekly
session between Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and his Foreign Minister
Shimon Peres. Sharon is alleged to have turned toward Peres, saying "every time
we do something you tell me Americans will do this and will do that. I want
to tell you something very clear, don't worry about American pressure on Israel,
we, the Jewish people control America, and the Americans know it." (Independent
Palestinian Information Network News, 3 October 2001; also reported on Israeli
radio Kol Yisrael) Do they -- and who else?
Who was responsible for the attack? Islamic radicals? Or a home-grown Dr Strangelove -- for whom the collateral damage in New York was as acceptable as that in Afghanistan?
Is it the case that some European intelligence experts (such as Eckehardt Werthebach, former president of Germany's domestic intelligence service, Verfassungsschutz)are now dismissing the Bush "war on terrorism" as deception and revealing the Realpolitik behind the aggression against Afghanistan? How does this relate to the arguments of Andreas von Bülow (who served on the parliamentary commission which oversees the three branches of the German secret service while a member of the Bundestag from 1969 to 1994), and wrote a book titled Im Namen des Staates on the criminal activities of secret services, including the CIA? Do those at the "planning level" within the intelligence agencies use corrupt "guns for hire" to organize terror attacks using dedicated people, for example Palestinian and Arab "freedom fighters"? Are the "working level" terrorists who actually commit the crimes, such as the 19 Arabs who allegedly hijacked the planes on September 11, simply part of the deception? (Christopher Bollyn, American Free Press)
The 'conspiracy theories' Bush is referring to similarly have three basic premises and many divergent subsets. The first is that the attack was known about (and possibly, planned) by various elements of the U.S. government before 9/11 and was allowed to take place in order to bring about certain conditions, including the suspension of our guaranteed civil liberties. The second premise is that even if bin Laden and the al Queda network based in Afghanistan were immediately responsible for the attack that those supporting, funding and protecting them are not for the most part based in Afghanistan but are in fact closely connected to the Bush administration and to the allies President Bush has taken such efforts to rally to our side. The third premise is that a U.S. built oil pipeline through Afghanistan which has been in the planning stages for more than a decade is the real goal of the war and that a U.S. invasion of Afghanistan was in the works long before September 11th. (Robert Lederman, 23 November 2001) What makes these alternative viewpoints, 'conspiracy theories' -- if it certainly is not for lack of evidence?
The combined passenger lists for the 4 flights on September 11 totals 264 dead.
Yet when you count the passenger names on their own published lists, the flights
are missing 6, 8, 9 and 12 passengers. Somehow, 35 people are mysteriously missing,
including every one of the 19 alleged hijackers. How could this possibly be?
(Mark Elsis, Questioning September 11th)
[For more links on unresolved questions, see for example: A]
Why is it that the declaration of war by the USA came just at the time when
it was recognized that the US economy was moving into recession?
Is it possible that the escalating popular opposition to globalization prior
to the attacks had reinforced to a critical threshold legitimate doubts concerning
the sustainability of the global economic system? Has the response to the attacks
been opportunistically designed to disguise the failure of that system -- most
notably in the case of the airline industry as exemplifying "globalization"?
In recent years, prior to the crisis, commentators noted the challenge for
the USA, and especially its military forces, in the absence of any enemy to
match its superpower status. Many recognized the need for an enemy. Is it not
curious that a new "enemy" has been evoked as a worthy challenge to
If Osama bin Laden had not existed, would Americans have had to invent him
-- which is effectively what they did through training him from 1979, as was
the case with Noriega in Panama. Is it not more curious that he corresponds
to the American mythological need for a "bad man in the bad lands"
to be hunted by heroes -- and frequently created by Hollywood?
Why is it that the recent Bush appointee as US Ambassador to the UN, has such
a questionable human rights record (according to US critics) in relation to
US covert wars (and training of Contra terrorists) against the leftist Sandinista
government in Nicaragua and the FMLN rebels in El Salvador?
After failing to support important human rights initiatives of the UN Commission
on Human Rights, most notably with respect to UN resolutions relating to the
Middle East conflict, the USA was voted off that body on 3 May 2001 -- for the
first time in its history. Does this suggest that the USA is increasingly isolated
in its understanding of human rights, "democracy" and "freedom"
in the rest of the world -- even though, as the "centre of western civilization",
it claims to be the "home" of those universal values?
Should it be forgotten that Henry Kissinger, Nobel Prize laureate, admitted that "oil is much too important a commodity to be left in the hands of the Arabs"? (Denis halliday and Hans von Sponeck, Guardian, 29 November 2001)
What are the implications of current concern -- notably on the part of Uzbekistan
-- about a new route for an oil pipeline from the Caspian Sea (of which 50 percent
is exploited by the Unocal consortium of 11 western oil companies) which would
preferably pass through Afghanistan if that country could be stabilized under
Soon after the Taliban took Kabul in September 1996 oil industry insiders within
the Unocal consortium said the dream of securing a pipeline across Afghanistan
was the main reason America acquiesced in the conquest of that country and invited
the Taliban to Houston to negotiate pipeline arrangements. Did US policy only
begin to change when feminists and greens started campaigning against Unocal's
plans and the US covert backing of Kabul? Given that the Bush administration
is dominated by former oil-industry executives, would it be foolish to suppose
that the original plans no longer figure in its strategic thinking? (George
Monbiot, Guardian, 23 October 2001)
The population of continental USA has not experienced a direct attack since
1812 -- by the UK. How come the UK is now its principal ally?
Curiously the 11th Sepember is the anniversary of the overthrow of the popularly
elected government of Salvador Allende in Chile in 1973 -- with US Navy ships
on alert offshore, and beneath a US-piloted airborne communications control
system, US-trained extremists in the Chilean military assassinated Allende and
several cabinet members as part of the war against the "international communist
conspiracy". Under the military junta headed by General Augusto Pinochet, torture
of dissidents becomes routine. More than 3,000 people were killed during Chile's
years of military government from 1973 to 1990; the bodies of more than 1,000
have yet to be found. Allende's "threat", in the eyes of the US, was neither
military nor economic, but purely ideological -- a "threat of a good example"
of a democratically-elected socialist continuing to honour its own constitution.
As national security adviser, Henry Kissinger had declared in 1970 in rsponse
to Richard Nixon's attempt to provoke a military coup: "I don't see why we need
to stand by and watch a country go communist because of the irresponsibility
of its own people." Are there to be echoes of the same pattern in response to
the "international terrorist conspiracy"?
Why is it that Henry Kissinger, awarded the Nobel peace prize for his role
in bringing the Vietnam war to an end, is only now under increased judicial
scrutiny (notably by Chileans) for his leading role in a number of controversial
US covert actions abroad, including the bombing of Cambodia and Washington's
support for authoritarian rightwing governments such as General Pinochet's?
Is the attack of 11th September a means of reversing the course of history
occasioned by the defeat of the Turkish Muslim army (by a Christian league formed
by King John III of Poland) during the decisive battle at the gates of Vienna
on 12 September 1683 -- finally halting the Turkish advance over the previous
three centuries that had been the most serious threat to Christendom in central
Whilst it is curious that 28 years separate the overthrow of Allende on 11th
September 1973 from the attacks of 11th September 2001, is it not more curious
that a further 28 years separate 1th September 1973 from 11th September 1945,
the day on which the preceding World War was formally named World War II ? [United
States, Department of State, Bulletin (Government Printing Office, Washington,
1945), XIII, 427-428.]
How is it that in the months prior to the declaration of "war", the
USA disassociated itself from a significant number of international treaties
that it no longer found to be in its strategic interest -- including those relating
to landmines, climate change, law of the sea, and the creation of an international
criminal court? What is its strategic interest? From what other treaties will
it dissociate itself in the execution of that "war" and in its aftermath?
How is it that just prior to the declaration of "war", the USA and
Israel were alone in walking out of the UN Conference against Racism, Racial
Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance at which their position was
highly criticized -- especially by ethnic groups now profiled as terrorist suspects?
How is it that the western world locates what it considers most abhorrent in
places most distant from its own territory -- apartheid, communism, drug production,
and terrorist nests? Does this reflect a pattern of avoidance of the roots of
such problems in its own culture -- racism, manipulative belief systems, existential
alienation, and injustice?
How is it that these events were so closely related in time to new initiatives
by the USA to establish a "Star Wars" Anti-Missile Defense System
in response to its belief in its own insecurity?
Is it not curious that George Bush and Tony Blair are unique among their western
contemporaries in advocating controversial faith-based social programmes --
and now find themselves as the principal instigators of a controversial faith-based
In the Arab world people marvel that westerners do not recall the destructive
colonial legacy their forbears bequeathed them. Why do westerners not understand
the damage that dysfunctional relationship still does now?
How is it that an estimate of the reconstruction, insurance and other costs
associated with the destruction of the towers has been estimated at $40 billion,
and the allocation of funds by the US government for the war against terrorism
is estimated at $40 billion?
How is it that prior to the crisis the Republicans in the USA were endeavouring
by every means to obtain access to the funds reserved for social security (in
the social security "lock-box") and that this "social security"
crisis will now discredit any arguments by Democrats preventing them from doing
so? What are the implications of meeting immediate security needs from funds
deliberately set aside for long-term security needs, notably of the retired?
As a result of the CIA's covert operation in Afghanistan against the Russians,
hundreds of heroin laboratories were set up there; the Pakistan-Afghanistan
borderland became the biggest producer of heroin in the world, and the single
biggest source of the heroin on American streets. Annual profits, reportedly
between $100bn and $200bn, were ploughed back into training and arming militants
(now mobilizing against the US-led coalition). Was this drug connection a repeat
of the pattern of CIA involvement in the East Asian Golden Triangle during
the Vietnam war period? Is the current Taliban control of heroin production
an underlying issue?
A major election commitment when Tony Blair's government first came to power
was "freedom of information" -- as an exemplication of "freedom"
and "democracy" in the UK. How is it that well into the second term,
in October 2001, efforts are being made by the UK government to delay for a
further three years the implementation of the Freedom of Information Act, approved
a year previously? (Guardian, 26 October 2001)
Why is it that the USA so recently refused to associate itself with the new
International Criminal Court which could well be the most appropriate arena
in which to try those master-minding international terrorist networks? In the
light of its new strategic proposals (in which "all options" are under
consideration) in response to such networks, is it understandable why the USA
did not want to run the risk of its citizens coming under the jurisdiction of
such a Court?
How is it that the last time precision-guided cruise missiles were used against
Afghanistan under Bill Clinton, one of them hit a mosque?
Have the shocking events associated with anti-globalization demonstrations
at recent intergovernmental conferences (Seattle, Washington, Quebec, Genoa)
partially determined the response to "terrorism" -- especially in
the light of efforts to associate such demonstrations with terrorism?
Is it not curious that the International Chamber of Commerce (21 Sept 2001)
should argue that the crisis following the attack reinforces the case for relaunching
a new round of talks on the multilateral trade agreement -- inhibited to date
by the anti-globalization movement?
Were the September 11 attacks and the ensuing police action provoked or staged by the G8 / global elite as a pretext for New World Order Globalization? (Mark Elsis, Questioning September 11th)
The UK has previously undertaken unsuccsessful military operations in Afghanistan.
The USA is embarked on an operation there that many competitors compare with
its disastrous progessive involvement in Vietnam. Is it true of Afghanistan,
perhaps more than anywhere else, that those who cannot remembhr the past are
condemned to repeat it? (Justin Cartwright, Guardian, 3 November 2001)
The military industrial complex has been in the doldrums since the Gulf war.
The US is facing severe economic recession. What better than a good war to revivive
the economy and fivert people's minds from domestic concerns? (John Green, Guardian,
6 November 2001)
During 2001, Tony Blair has limited decision-making at the cabinet level in
preference to his own coterie. In addition to the undemocratic discipline of
parliamentary "whips", a new tier of ministerial supporters has been
defined amongst members of parliament, limiting further the possibility of free
debate. The House of Lords is to be reformed to further limit its powers of
constraint over the House of Commons. Implementation of provisions of the Fredom
of Information Act are to be postponed to 2005. How is it as a champion of "democracy",
Tony Blair has shown a Marxist contempt for the traditional instruments of the
British state? (Peter Oborne, Guardian, 9 November 2001) How is this
to be distinguished from dictatorship?
How is it that one of the last smart bombs deployed in Kabul destroyed the
offices of al-Jazeera -- the only truly independent station in the Arab world?
(George Monbiot, Guardian, 15 November 2001) If it was a mistake -- how come that it was the only devastated building in an otherwise undamaged street? Was this revenge for its
failure to sell its coverage to CNN?
On arrival in Kabul, in the midst of a media clampdown, the BBC was free to broadcast images of a room filled with abandoned papers from an al-Qa'ida cell, complete with passports and othr manuals -- all of no interest to the security services. How is that an indicative passport was also conveniently found at the World Trade Center?
Did the Bush administration begin to negotiate with the Taliban immediately after coming into power in February 2001 -- meeting with the Taliban several times in Washington, Berlin and
Islamabad? Under the influence of US oil companies, did the administration of George Bush block US secret service investigations on terrorism, while it bargained with the Taliban to turn over Osama bin Laden in exchange for
political recognition and economic aid as two French intelligence analysts claim in a recently published book, Bin Laden, la verite interdite -- revealing that the FBI's deputy director John O'Neill resigned in July 2001 in protest due to official obstruction of his investigation of terrorism?
Further details of the futures trades that netted such huge gains in the wake of the hijackings have been disclosed. To the embarrassment of investigators, it has also emerged that the firm used to buy many of the "put" options - where a trader, in effect, bets on a share price fall - on United Airlines stock was headed until 1998 by "Buzzy" Krongard, now executive director of the CIA. (Chris Blackhurst, Independent, 14 October 2001) Who else profited unexpectedly in this way?
What are the implications for the "war against terrorism" of the heavy representation
of oil interests in the Bush administration: George Bush (and his father), Dick
Cheyney, Condolezza Rice, and the ministers for commerce and energy? (Mark Seddon,
Guardian, 18 december 2001) But then what did Vice President Al Gore
-- who has deep personal and financial ties to Occidental Petroleum -- know,
and when did he know it, about the sale of the Elk Hills oil reserve to that
company (which tripled Occidental's domestic oil reserves overnight)?
Anthrax attacks the print and TV media just as the Bush administration warns journalists to censor TV and print news. Anthrax also attacks Senators Daschle and Feingold in their offices. Is it a coincidence that Sen. Russ Feingold was the only senator to vote against anti-terrorism bill that decimates 1st, 2nd and 4th ammendments? (Mark Elsis, Questioning September 11th)
In taking office, Bill Clinton placed considerable stress on ethics in the
White House -- and then created a major ethical scandal for the country. Does
George Bush's pledge to reduce government interference establish a mindset which
will soon create a major scandal around government interference in the lives
of private citizens?
It is curious that the fear-generating terrorists are purportedly financed
by drugs required by citizens of western civilization to allay their existential
fears. As with any western marketing strategy, are the terrorists seeking to
increase the level of fear in order to increase the western demand for drugs?
From the perspective of the vulnerable innocents targetted for personal violence
in their own neighbourhoods and institutions on a continuing daily basis throughout
their lives, how should they distinguish between their fear of such violence
and that of the "terrorism" defined by the US-coalition? How is it
that the "war against terror" fails to recognize or address their
Is it not ironic that George Bush's much-publicized direct responsibility and
support for capital punishment has proved as controversial on humanitarian grounds
as the strict application of executions under Islamic sharia law? Will
history see him or Osama bin Laden as having been personally responsible for
more deaths? Do the 300-plus executions authorized by George Bush in the light of his Christian conscience exceed in number the number of public executions authorized by the Taliban regime in the light of their Islamic conscience under sharia law?
The pro-war media campaign is giving exposure to a "manual on terrorism"
supposedly written by Osama bin Laden. Given that Osama bin Laden was trained
in terrorism by US agents, how does it resemble an equivalent manual produced
by the US-based School of the Americas and discussed in other media?
Is it not ironic that it is the "American way of life" that has articulated
understanding of "mine" into the highest legal art in the history
of civilization -- through its emphasis on exclusive property rights. Is it
not curious that it is launching an attack on one of the countries whose citizens
have the least personal property -- but is covered by some 10 million "mines"
that have maimed hundreds of thousands, and continue to do so? Is it not also
ironic that these were planted by another culture forbidding personal property?
It is curious that American culture is significantly characterized by death
denial and fear of death. How can it come to terms with a culture that has a
diametrically opposed intimate relationship with death -- even welcoming it
as an honourable reward for holy warriors?
Media vilification of the Taliban to firm up resolution for their overthrow
prior has emphasized secret video footage of women being beaten (for infringement
of sharia rules) and women being publicly executed (for murder). How
does the abhorrence at such sights compare with the abhorrence at the sight
of secret video coverage of LAPD officers beating up Rodney King in 1991, and
European abhorrence at US capital punishment and the public coverage given to
The US-led coalition is attacking a country many of whose citizens carry weapons
supplied by the Americans (at a cost of $3 billion) to the mujahideen
fighters in their war against the Russians in the 1980s. With the departure
of the Russians, the Afghans are now armed with both American and Russian weapons
and confronted by an American and Russian coalition -- with an earlier protagonist
of British Empire days. What can all these cultures learn from the total abandonment
of the Afghan peoples, the broken promises to them, and the shifting allegiances
within the international community?
Citizens of western countries, such as the USA, now live in widely acknowledged
fear because of a "successful" terrorist campaign. In countries, such
as Afghanisan, citizens have long lived in fear in facing the daily challenge
of starvation, disease, homelessness and oppression -- largely because of their
abandonment by western civilizations, for which they were merely a Cold War
pawn. Why is their fear not recognized?
How is it that a "terrorist" action with the aid of box-cutters has
such great repercussions on public confidence around the world -- whereas a
riposte with a cruise missile is so precisely targetted that, as George Bush
said in criticism of Clinton's 1998 action in Afghanistan: "When I take action,
I'm not going to fire a $2 million missile at a $10 empty tent and hit a camel
in the butt,"
Many independent analysts of the rationale of the US-led coalition in response
to the invasion of Kuwait have focused on the perceived threat to the continuing
oil supplies to the west, and the power of the corporations whose resources
were at stake in Kuwait. Will history establish that a major factor influencing
key actors promoting the coalition against the Taliban has been the threat they
constitute to the continuing supply to the west of one of Afghanistan's only
major exports -- heroin? In the case of the UK, for example, Afghanistan supplies
75 percent of the heroin needs. Is the war in Afghanistan to be a 21st century
variant of the Opium Wars in China?
Just as it is vital to trace high profit-making financial transactions on the
stock market just prior to the attack, is it not equally vital to trace which
corporations and individuals benefit exhorbitantly from the massive allocation
of funds to the war effort in response to the attack? How have their "loyal
pronouncements" against terrorism contributed to war-mongering and inappropriate
escalation of the military response?
As a financial enterprise, who benefitted from the Gulf War? Did it "make
a profit"? How is it that the German tax payer contributed 16 billion DM?
Whose arms industries benefit from such activity? Who will pay for the "war
against terrorism"? Whose arms and other industries will profit from it?
Vladimir Putin, a former arch-enemy of the USA, began his presidential campaign
in August 1999 with a very low approval rating. Then, in mid-September, two
night-time terrorist bombs decimated two large apartment buildings in Moscow,
and then another detonated in Volgodonsk -- some 300 innocent residents perished
in these attacks. His approval rating immediately soared and he came to power
with the promise of terminating the Chechen terrorist activity within weeks.
His team relied on a blitz of overwhelmingly biased news coverage on two major
television channels. What credence can be given to to George Bush's promise
that he will win the "war against terrorism", despite the rapid rise
in his approval ratings and the dedicated coverage by CNN ?
With respect to the three principal actors in the drama, how is it possible
to reconcile: Islam regards all of its men as warriors (with or without uniforms);
all Israeli adult males (up to the age of 55) are automatically part of the
reserve forces; and in the USA all citizens have a constitutional right to bear
arms? Is it not also curious that in Afghanistan, Israel and the USA citizens
all have ready access to arms -- to a much higher degree than in many other
One of the most experienced commentators on Afghanistan (Robert Fisk, Independent,
7 October 2001) titled a recent contribution as "Our friends are killers,
crooks and torturers", citing the setting aside of: Russian repression
in Chechnya, the practices of the religious mouttawa police in Saudi
Arabia, the Pakistani overthrow of a democratically elected government, total
suppression of opposition in Uzbekistan, Northern Alliance commanders whose
men used women as sex slaves. Given the case made against moral relativism (by
such as the Mayor of New York and Salman Rushdie) in evaluating the responsibility
of the attackers, is it not curious that the US-led coalition has been significantly
built on what might be termed "moral debt relief" ?
Is it not curious that whilst the bombers of the USA are turning rubble into
dust with targeted precision in Afghanistan, the population of the USA is being
exposed to a major crisis in relation to anthrax powder distributed with targeted
Is it not curious that the world population is being exposed to images of women
under the Taliban regime covered head-to-toe with a burkha, whilst also
being exposed to bio-terrorist emergency workers in the USA covered head-to-toe
with protective clothing? Are the Taliban as afraid of the effects of one kind
of contamination as US citizens are of another?
Is it not curious that the USA builds twin towers -- evoking male dominating
architecture -- whilst the terrorists use the same phallic symbol - the airplane
- to bring them down? (Sohail Inayatullah)
Although in process of termination by "mutual consent" (October 2001),
who would have thought that the family of Osama bin Laden, through the Saudi
Binladin Group, had close financial relationships with the Carlyle Group, the
US investment group backed by George Bush Snr (former President of the USA),
and John Major (former Prime Minister of the UK)?
Should former President Bush immediately resign from the Carlyle Group because of an obvious conflict of interest? How much money is the Bush family making off the undeclared war on Afghanistan? (Mark Elsis, Questioning September 11th)
For many religions, especially
Christians (Matthew 5.38-41): "You have heard that it was said,
An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But I say to you, Do not resist
one who is evil. But if any one strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him
the other also; and if any one would sue you and take your coat, let him have
your cloak as well; and if any one forces you to go one mile, go with him two
miles". No traditional Muslim, and even a fundamentalist, would say that
it is ever legitimate, even in a legitimate war, to kill civilians. The killing
of innocents is a sin. How is it that a nation led by a born-again Christian
can so significantly fail to take account of the Christian injunction? And how
is it that Islamic radicals appear to have no qualms about violating sacred
Cluster bombs in use in Afghanistan consist of some 200 "bomblets"
designed to scatter themselves over a large area, targeting troop concentrations
and military vehicles. Many may lie unexploded. They are shaped like a soft
drink can. The food aid packages that are being dropped, known as Humanitarian
Daily Rations, are square and covered in plastic. Why are they both covered
in yellow, have been dropped in the same areas, and require broadcast warning
messages to help Afghans to distinguish between them? Was this confusion deliberate
-- or merely a very high order of incompetence by the world's only superpower?
Is this a symptom of what has been described as an "intelligence vacuum"?
Has the ability of young American children to distinguish between two such yellow
products been evaluated under similar circumstances -- perhaps as a learning
game in American schools? What proportion were "killed"?
How is it that the Taliban appear to be enthusiastically awaiting the day when
the US-coalition commits ground troops to face-to-face conflict -- whereas their
opponents are so reluctant to enter the fray? Is it because it offers Islamic
militants the possibility of a direct ticket to heaven -- whereas their opponents
are only offered the possibility of a ticket home in a body bag?
Is support for continued bombing as complete as opposition to terrorism --
except that just as there is no universal consensus on the operational definition
of "terrorism", there is little consensus on what to bomb, and in
Whilst Tony Blair was attempting vigorously to shore up the fraying US-led
international coalition against the Taliban, Cherie Booth (the Prime Minister's
wife) was promoting a domestic challenge of responding to bullies in schools
(Observer, 4 November 2001). Personal compensation for the international
bullying of Afghanistan? Are there patterns of similarity between the two forms
of bullying -- and the bullying of women by the Taliban?
Can the arguments in favour of globalization win over those against it -- if
most of the world is living in poverty? Will the deliberate efforts to present
anti-globalization movements as pro-terrorist movements evoke a corresponding
over-simplistic association of pro-globalization arguments with those aspects
of globalization that are identified as the root causes of terrorism?
Has the status and function of George Bush, as spokesman of the world's only
superpower leading the peoples of western civilization, effectively evoked the
status and function of Osama bin Laden as "spokesman" of those disadvantaged
by the western hegemony? Is this indeed leading to an archeytpal confrontation
across the gap that both have helped to dramatize?
As military advisors, on our behalf, the well-paid western special forces will
follow behind the impoverished fighters of their Northern Alliance allies --
some of them pre-adolescent children obliged to venture into landmined combat
zones. When the advisors return as be-medalled combat veterans to their home
countries they will be followed as heroic role models -- notably by pre-adolescent
children. Similarly, again on our behalf, is it the young of the Third World
who are leading the way into a dangerous future, trailed by highly paid western
experts avoiding any risk to themselves -- but who are in turn acclaimed as
role models and fonts of wisdom in the west?
How is it that whilst the USA focuses on what the world has most recently inflicted
upon it, others focus on what the USA has inflicted upon them in the past --
but when others plead for assistance in response to their most immediate needs,
the USA focuses on their need to repay accumulated debts to the USA over past
Some of the western cultural repugnance that was manipulated to trigger hostility
to the Taliban derived from its imposition of the burqa -- the long garment
used by Muslim women to drape their body, with only a grid through which to
see. How is this repugnance to be reconciled with the description by a Muslim
woman: "A burqa, you know, is something a person outside sees. You are
inside it. You don't see it, or think it strange. It is there to stop others
from seeing you, not you from watching them. You see everything. Inside it you
feel free, all alone with yourself. You don't have any impertinent eyes coming
in when you want to be left alone ..." ? (Marion Molteno, A Language in Common,
The Women's Press: London, 1987). How is it to be reconciled with the concerns
expressed by western women at their exposure to invasive looks? How should it
be reconciled by emerging legislation in Europe prohibiting any form of concealement
of the face (masks, face paint) from cameras?
In seeking to portray what is most reprehensible under the Taliban regime,
media have focused on the manner in which women are completely veiled (in accordance
with one traditional interpretation of Islam) and limited to view of the world
through a lace-work grid. In confronting the Taliban and its response to the
attacks, to what extent has American culture effectively emulated such constraints
by severely curtailing traditional of freedom of expression - subjecting to
sanction those who oppose dominant male views? Has credibly neutralized news
(CNN) become the "lace window" through which the "other"
America sees the world, and is seen by it? Like the beauty of Afghan women,
is such otherness something Americans are now only free to enjoy in the privacy
of their own homes?
Given that face-covering is now forbidden (because it prevents effective CCTV surveillance) as part of some new anti-terrorist legislation, how are feminist and security agendas to be promoted following the continued use of the burqa by Islamic women, after the overthrow of the Taliban, notably in Kabul? If face-covering is tolerated in Islamic countries, but not in western countries, what does this suggest about the curtailment of civil liberties in the respective countries? Should such covering be permitted in western countries as a protection against sexual and other forms of harassment?
If the attacks on the WTC and the Pentagon were a form of rape, in psycho-social
terms, has the American culture been impregnated by the Taliban mind-set --
to the extent of precluding all alternatives to the dominant view?
If the attacks were a form of rape, does the response of America correspond to that of a rape victim -- requiring eqivalent help and counselling? What of the outmoded accusations that rape is always in some measure the fault of the victim?
Following the traumatic cultural encounter with the Taliban, when will the
American alternative voices be able to remove the burqua's imposed upon
them by their ideological dominators?
In making a threat-backed ultimatum to other countries to support the USA against
terrorism, to what extent is George Bush effectively declaring his own form
of fatwa in emulation of Osama bin Laden?
Were the consequences of the attacks -- notably widespread loss of business
confidence -- significantly exacerbated by hysterical and lengthy American media
coverage -- too much, too soon? How is it that the military response is subject
to a correspondingly high degree of media clampdown inhibiting any critical
public assessment necessary in a democratically governed society -- too little,
Osama bin Laden has been ridiculed for operating out of a cave in Afghanistan. How is it that the 11th September attack forced George Bush to use Air Force One to isolate himself in a bunker in Nebraska?
Is it not richly ironic that the first achievement of the "war on terrorism" has been to install in Kabul the Northern Alliance, for whom terrorism has been the entire line of business and way of life for more than 20 years? (Andrew Murray, Guardian, 16 November 2001)
The attacks have been framed as against the foundations of civilization. Is it not curious that the response against the Taliban arose from their refusal, in the light of their cultural norms regarding civilized treatment of a guest, to deliver up a guest to foreigners with peremptory demands unsupported by justification beyond suspicion?
Exploitation of crisis and commitment
What questionable initiatives can be disguised by strategies purportedly undertaken
in response to "terrorism"?How will these be detected if their proponents
cloak themselves in anti-terrorist fervour?
Who seeks to define "terrorism" in a manner that is primarily supportive
of their own opportunistic strategic objectives -- under the guise of eradicating
"evil from the world"? How is this policy to be distinguished from
the excesses of the Soviet-era?
What constrains efforts by those in power to extend the operational definition
of "terrorism" to include elimination of dissent and opposition of
Has western civilization become the victim of governments using jingoism and
fear-mongering to exploit the horrific events for their own ends?
Have Americans been unfairly savaged by left-wing critics taking advantage
of the attack to settle old scores?
To what extent does a hasty, vengeful response best serve the interests of
some groups whose policies most need to be held in check in a civilized society?
What assurances are there that those warning of this will be heard -- rather
than subject to intimidation?
Is there a fundamental danger that American society will henceforth use its
suffering from these horrendous attacks as an unquestionable justification for
any future policies it chooses to follow -- following the pattern of Israel
in relation to the horror of the Holocaust? What would be the consequence of
other countries following this pattern? Will the suffering of the USA be used
to justify inability to assist Third World countries, who should therefore blame
Are the deaths being used -- whether emotionally, or cynically -- to legitimate
the infliction of yet more deaths? (Ronan Bennett, Guardian, 3 November
If Americans use the attack as an opportunity to usurp the whole world's sorrow
to mourn and avenge only their own -- instead of using the attack as an opportunity
to try to understand why it happened -- will it then fall to the rest of the
world to ask the hard questions and say the harsh things? And, consequently,
will the rest of the world be disliked, ignored and perhaps eventually silenced?
What are the dangers that legitimate international agendas in response to terrorism
will be perfidiously manipulated to serve as a Trojan horse to advance particular
strategic objectives that are totally contrary to the declared rationale of
any such coalition? Will this provide an ideal cover for settling old scores?
Which pre-attack crises will be reframed by the coalition as part of the deals
done in order to create a viable coalition? H