The terrorist attacks were major atrocities. In scale they may
not reach the level of many others, for example, Clinton's bombing
of the Sudan with no credible pretext, destroying half its pharmaceutical
supplies and killing unknown numbers of people (no one knows, because
the U.S. blocked an inquiry at the UN and no one cares to pursue
it). Not to speak of much worse cases, which easily come to mind.
But that this was a horrendous crime is not in doubt. The primary
victims, as usual, were working people: janitors, secretaries, firemen,
etc. It is likely to prove to be a crushing blow to Palestinians
and other poor and oppressed people. It is also likely to lead to
harsh security controls, with many possible ramifications for undermining
civil liberties and internal freedom.
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 today's 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.
In short, the crime is a gift to the hard jingoist right, those
who hope to use force to control their domains. That is even putting
aside the likely US actions, and what they will trigger -
more attacks like this one, or worse. The prospects ahead are even
more ominous than they appeared to be before the latest atrocities.
As to how to react, we have a choice. We can express justified
horror; we can seek to understand what may have led to the crimes,
which means making an effort to enter the minds of the likely perpetrators.
If we choose the latter course, we can do no better, I think, than
to listen to the words of Robert Fisk, whose direct knowledge and
insight into affairs of the region is unmatched after many years
of distinguished reporting. Describing "The wickedness and awesome
cruelty of a crushed and humiliated people," he writes that "this
is not the war of democracy versus terror that the world will be
asked to believe in the coming days. It is also about American missiles
smashing into Palestinian homes and U.S. helicopters firing missiles
into a Lebanese ambulance in 1996 and American shells crashing into
a village called Qana and about a Lebanese militia -
paid and uniformed
by America's Israeli ally -
hacking and raping and murdering their
way through refugee camps." And much more. Again, we have a choice:
we may try to understand, or refuse to do so, contributing to the
likelihood that much worse lies ahead.
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