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You Are Here:  Hell On Earth  >  Heresies  >  Terrorizing People

Terrorizing People

Reconsidering September 11, 2001

This text was written on September 16, 2001. Four days ago, two commercial airliners crashed into New York's World Trade Center, causing its two towers to burn and eventually to collapse. Another airliner tore into the Pentagon. A fourth one crashed into a field in Pennsylvania.

Four days after the event, the names of the planes' hijackers are known, but nor their intentions nor who planned this organized attack on two of the US's most recognized buildings. While the world still recoils with shock, the world's last superpower is already gearing up its troops. Polls claim that 80 percent of the American public approve of a counter-attack, even at the cost of civilian lives abroad.

There is a high risk that the USA will strike against the current prime suspect, a Saudi millionnaire named Ussama ibn Ladin (also known as "Osama bin Laden" in US media) very soon, following a "bomb first, ask questions later" course of action.

MSNBC calls the events an "Attack On America". NATO has agreed to cooperate in a counter-strike. The President of the USA, George W. Bush, has claimed an "Attack on Freedom" and announced he will pulverize the parties responsible for the events of September 11, 2001. And a member of his staff has spoken about "ending countries" that support terrorism.

When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, killing two thousand US soldiers, the US ended up retaliating by detonating two nuclear bombs over Hiroshima and Nagasaki, killing two hundred thousand Japanese civilians. Now an unknown force has destroyed one US landmark and badly damaged another one, killing at least four thousand people in the process. Suddenly, the world is scared not just of the terrorists, but of the USA as well. Ghosts of past interventions abroad haunt the collective memories. Korea. Vietnam. Iraq.

And I sit here, recalling events from grade school.

The Last Year Of Grade School

I'm not sure, but I believe every school class has its own bully: a child or teenager who dominates most of its classmates. He's usually taller and stronger than the others, often he's a year older. I don't quite remember the name of our class bully, so I'll call him Jack.

I was called Asshole, as in "Hey Asshole, you're sitting on my chair" or "Hey Asshole, let me copy your homework." We, the weaker students in the class, lived in mortal fear of Jack and his followers. He had four acolytes who were essentially weaker kids who were trying to stay on his good side by humoring him, laughing at his jokes and egging him on when he was torturing some other kid.

One day after school, he and his henchmen grabbed my arms and legs and threw me onto a construction site, on top of a pile of sharp rocks. When I came home, bruised and aching all over, initially I didn't dare to say anything to my parents. The whole sordid story eventually came out, however, and I expected just punishment from the teacher. My idea of punishment was that the teachers would grab Jack and his cronies, one by one, and throw them on the same rocky pile. They got two hours detention. When they came out of detention, they switched to psychological abuse. There seemed to be no justice.

Three or four months before grade school ended, we got a new classmate. I don't remember his name either, so I'll call him Greg. Greg had a turbulent school history, repeating second and fourth grade, his parents moving a lot. He was a loner, he looked strong and he was taller than everybody else.

About two weeks after Greg came into our class, Jack -- egged on by his Greek Chorus -- tried to assert himself in front of the newcomer. He started a fight and Greg clobbered him with two strikes. With horror and fascination, I saw Jack's tears and heard him cry. He cried like a pre-schooler. I had never seen him like this and I felt sorry for him, and I suddenly became very afraid of Greg.

With his nose bleeding, Jack went straight to the teacher. His story was taller than Greg: Allegedly, the new kid had picked on a weaker student (I think he even claimed it was me) and when Jack, the class hero, stepped in, Greg had attacked him viciously and without mercy. Nobody dared to tell the truth. Greg got detention.

Over the following weeks, Jack slowly lost his followers. It was too late, however: Grade school was almost over -- the shift in the balance of power no longer mattered.

So What?

Don't get me wrong. I don't either condone or welcome these attacks in any way. But when I read and heard the US Government's reactions to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, I suddenly recalled Grade School.

"What? The USA, a bully?" I hear you scream in outrage. Well, sorry to hurt your feelings, but -- yes. September 11 was already a day loaded with historical significance way before the collapse of the World Trade Center. In 1973, the CIA ousted the democratically elected president of Chile, Salvador Allende. Allende was killed and replaced with a cruel dictator, General Augusto Pinochet. It's not a good day for history.

Cynical people might even say that the USA had it coming, much like Jack from my childhood days. I'm not trying to justify anything, it was just very hard to act surprised. There are many countries who don't like the USA very much. Latin America is full of resentment against the northern neighbors. The US haven't exactly been shy about pushing their own agenda in the rest of the continent (remember the Monroe Doctrine?). But this isn't the time to recount the horrors which the USA have visited on other countries.

But now the USA is behaving like Jack again. It's scary to hear the words coming out of the mouth of the president of the United States. He claims to be the President of the Free World. He claims that Liberty and Democracy are at stake.

This is the behavior of a bully who, when hit, exaggerates greatly because he doesn't know pain, hasn't developed ways to cope with a pounding -- as the people who he usually preys on have had to. This is not a cry for justice, it's an announcement of revenge: "You'll be sorry, boy you'll be sorry."

But we're not in grade school anymore.

It's time for the USA to take it like a man. Enough about an "attack on liberty", enough saber-rattling. If the US government wants to strike against those who did this -- and they have every right to do so -- they must abide by the rules. Instead, they're changing the rules, considering to suspend 25-year-old laws out of convenience instead of neccessity.

Granted, it is much easier to get revenge than to obtain justice. At this point, it's time for the USA to finally live up to its ideals -- and not to its international reputation as a bully. If the USA want to be admired, they have to start earning it. Now.

Coda

I would be the last person to condone terrorist attacks or violence of any kind. But let's get a few things straight:

Further Reading

September 11 in History

September 11, 1973
Chile under Salvador Allende
The overthrow of Salvador Allende
The CIA's version of the events in Chile

September 11, 1990
George Bush addresses Congress to announce action against Iraq
(slightly dubious source)
(even more dubious source)

The Monroe Doctrine
The Monroe Doctrine in Latin America
The Monroe Doctrine and "Teddy" Roosevelt's Corollary

This Thought: © MOATMAI (September 16, 2001)

Previous heretic thought: The Screamer
More heretic thoughts: Heresies Index

More Heresies

No Afterlife for me, please: Against Life After Death

Don't ask how I'm doing; you don't want to know: Too Much Honesty

It's all Steven Spielberg's fault: Grow Up, Already

A true, if indiscreet, story: Christmas In A Tree

A musical obsession: Hating the Pet Shop Boys

Yet another opinion about Littleton: The Devil Made Them Do It

Spider-Man, The Early Years: Everything A Spider Can

Babies in Airplanes, Oh My: The Screamer

About the Terrorist Attack on New York and Washington: Terrorizing People

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