I don't think I will ever forget September 11, 2001. For a few hours between 3p.m. and 6p.m. I thought that our way of life was coming to an end. We were on the brink. The thought of a President like George W. Bush in the White House instead of nice guy Bill Clinton did nothing to ease my fears. I was born into a generation which has never known global war. I wasn't born at the time of the Cuban missile crisis and eventhough I have actively studied the First and Second World Wars I have never had the sensation that I felt on September 11. I watched in horror as the Sheffield was sank during the Falklands war but I didn't feel the fear I felt a year ago today. And I will be honest with you, I am still afraid. Not as frightened as I was on September 11 last year but still deeply concerned. The attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon was an attack on our world. I have close family living in New York and just two years earlier I had visited the Twin Towers. Three years earlier I had taken a plane from Boston to New York, the route followed by the hijackers. The list goes on.
The reason why I am still afraid is that little has been achieved over the last 12 months. Those who ordered the attacks are still alive and probably plotting once again. The only thing that has been achieved is that a new regime has been brought to Afghanistan and a number of Al Qaeda foot soldiers have been killed or imprisoned. Bin Laden, the world's most wanted man, has not been captured. The purpose of the invasion of Afghanistan was to catch those who masterminded the attacks. They are still free. The war on terror boldly announced by President Bush is still on-going but so far it has been a failure. Bin Laden has vanished and not even the combined forces of the CIA, National Security Agency and heaven knows how many other organisations have been able to find him. What I wanted to see was Bin Laden being brought to justice. Until that happens I will continue to be afraid and my faith in the United States of America will not be restored. Whatever anybody says the invasion of Afghanistan cannot be heralded as a major triumph against those responsible for the attacks. Many just escaped over the border to Pakistan or elsewhere because despite the New World Order there still appears to be a large number of countries who are willing to shelter the most wanted people in the world.
A reflection of our fear is clearly visible today. Fighter aircraft are patrolling the skies of New York, surface to air missile batteries have been set-up. Security at every major capital in the western world is tight. We are all wondering what is going to happen. We are living in fear. We may all be continuing as normal but I don't think there is a single person on the planet today who is not thinking just what is going to happen. As far as I am concerned that is the legacy of September 11. And now we are being asked to support an attack on Iraq. There is no real reason for this attack and it is probably what is known in the military as a soft target. Saddam Hussein, despite all the efforts of the Bush administration had nothing to do with the September 11 attacks. He is just one of a number of ruthless dictators in the world armed by the Americans or Russians and whose officer corps was probably trained at Sandhurst.
Saddam is allegedly building a nuclear bomb, the same bomb which Pakistan already has and where Bin Laden is allegedly hiding. Find Bin Laden Mr. Bush, forget Saddam. He is not the man you want. Until Bin Laden is caught we will not be able to move on and we will continue to be afraid. There may be many people who are even more ruthless that Bin Laden in the Al Qaeda network just waiting to take-over but that is not the point. Twelve months ago you promised that those responsible would be caught. We are still waiting.
What has been learnt?
It is easy to get emotional on a day like today. We will all retell our tales of where we were and what we were in the middle of doing when we saw one of the planes crash into one of the buildings live on the BBC, or Sky or CNN. We will also discuss what has happened over the past year, the war in Afghanistan and the imminent attacks on Iraq. But will we be asking ourselves, Americans in particular, why the September 11 attacks happened and why isn't so much compassion shown to other disasters around the world, many of which are indirectly due to American foreign policy?
It would be pointless to harp on about how tragic a day September 11, 2001 was. Everyone knows that already, and we will always be reminded of that fact every time an anniversary for the attacks approaches. But why is it that the Sept 11 disaster has stuck with us so vividly for the past 12 months? In January of 2001 an earthquake in India killed 14'000 people. Still remember it? No, didn't think so, there wasn't the same media exposure, no interesting followup with a war on earthquakes, no minute's silence at Premier League football matches. 14'000 people dead and very few people really cared because in the Western world it is hard to feel any kind of association with people from countries we know little about or to where we have never travelled. Floods in Bangladesh have killed thousands over the past few years, but very little is done or said because Bangladesh, in our Western minds, is of little significance. We know little of its culture and people and it is rarely in the papers. There are no famous sportsmen or pop stars or actors that justify our attention or interest.
September 11 will stand out more than any other recent tragedy because of the media coverage and because it happened in America. I doubt many people would be paying their respects if the same attack had happened in Sudan or Peru with the same number of people killed. In fact, I know they wouldn't. That's not to say that the victims of the Sept 11 attacks should not be remembered, far from it. Just where do you draw the line? Why is one person's life in one country worth more than another?
The big question on my mind is; has America learnt anything over the past 12 months? Not to say that the September 11 attacks should be used as some kind of lesson, but have Americans asked themselves why is it that they were attacked in the first place? The common reason touted by George Bush is that the attackers wanted to disrupt America's way of life, but anyone in their right mind, which I am sure Mr. Bush isn't, can see that the attackers were provoked for reasons other than simply wanting to cause America grief.
The reason the attacks took place is more likely to be because of America's aggressive foreign policy, Bush's reluctance to help sort out the Middle East situation while backing Israel to the hilt, corporate America's greed and grip on the world and how it largely dictates the country's foreign policy, and numerous other acts of arrogance and political might that adversely affect the rest of the world.
The President's recent crusade to attack Iraq illustrates America's insistence that they know best and their arrogance that they should dictate to the rest of the world what is right and wrong. When nearly every sane person in the world is saying no, Bush is intent on raging war on Iraq, but why? Is it to take some of the spotlight away from the flagging war on terrorism or the financial scandals in which Bush and co are embroiled?
Firstly, according to the US, Iraq was a legitimate target because it harboured al Qaeda terrorists. Northern Ireland and the Basque region of Spain harbour IRA and ETA terrorists, but it surely wouldn't be wise to attack those countries. Secondly, with no proof of (not that the US seems to need it) a network of terrorists in the country, Bush changed tactics and said Iraq was pursuing the use of chemical weapons and that inspectors aren't allowed into the country to check laboratories. America also toys with chemical and biological weapons and has also refused international inspectors full access to laboratories, is that good enough reason for Iraq to bomb America?
With both reasons not causing the international outrage that Bush wanted to form a coalition attack on Iraq, he is now going for the Hussein is a bad man and wasn't democratically elected reason. With Osama elusive, Hussein has been reinstated as public enemy number one with the American public lapping up everything that he is supposed to be planning.
There is no doubting Hussein is a dangerous man, but there are many bad and dangerous men who are leaders and many governments are not democratically elected, but the US doesn't want to attack all of them. Countries like Egypt and Saudi Arabia are allowed to get away with not having democratically elected leaders because they are friendly to the US. Lest we not forget, Bush was not democratically elected, but elected in the type of election that would have had America crying foul had it been in another country (especially if someone other than their chosen man had been elected).
The US reliance on imported oil has more to do with any imminent attack on Iraq than Hussein being dangerous. As does Bush Senior's inability to oust Hussein in the Gulf War and pressure from a nervous Israel. Another factor is the fact that war is economically sound for America and justifies the large amounts they spend on weapons. But none of these reasons is good enough to attack a country from an international standpoint, so Bush presses other issues to make it justifiable.
People around the world are sick of this hypocrisy and double standards and quite clearly see through the smokescreen that Bush creates. It is obvious though that the majority of American people do not.
America's big excuse for their international aggression is that they want to preserve their way of life and can justify bombing one of the poorest countries in the world, Afghanistan, because their way of life was threatened. It is fair enough to want to preserve the American Way, but that does not mean they have to push that way of life on any other country. This overriding arrogance that their way is best also annoys people and, obviously, if something is forced upon someone in their own country from an outside source they are going to react in some way.
What is so precious about their way of life anyway? America's murder rate places in the top ten countries in the world and that includes countries locked in civil war. It has the 12th highest divorce rate in the world, and is in the top ten for both alcoholism and drug addiction.
When I lived in America for five years, I shared an apartment with a black guy named Mike. I was probably the only white student in a university of 27'000 people who had a coloured roommate, and this is in the 1990s. Up until the 1960s America's Civil Rights was atrocious, and it is still an extremely racist and segregated country. Why would you want to preserve such a way of life, that has so many problems, from health care that only treats the rich, to where a kid of nine years old can go into school and shoot seven of his class mates? A country where a woman is raped every three minutes. A country where only 12 percent of corporate officers in the top 500 firms are female. For me it is a country badly in need of some soul searching and not one that should be actively trying to impose its way of life on anyone at all.
America's insistence that it can change international laws to better apply to themselves or for their own benefit is also a sticking point that sends out the wrong messages to the rest of the world.
Since George Bush was voted in as president America has torn up more international treaties and disregarded more UN conventions than the rest of the world has for over 20 years. America's reluctance to help create a better world because it would either affect it economically or has no relevance to it is another irritant.
Here are some recent examples of America not helping the rest of the world or ignoring international laws:
America has just 4.5 of the world's population but produces 25 percent of the world's CO2 emissions. The gas destroys the ozone layer and creates global warming causing such devastating effects as El Niño, destruction of the ocean's barrier reefs, and creating things like the aforementioned floods in Bangladesh. Despite the rest of the world making an effort to control CO2 emissions America stuck two fingers up at the Kyoto treaty. I will not do anything that harms our economy, said Bush. What about the lives of all the people suffering because of the consequences of America's disgraceful approach to the environment?
Recently the U.S. withheld $34 million in funds for the U.N. family planning program. It was supposed to be used to prevent around 2 million unwanted pregnancies through contraception. It would have prevented over 800'000 abortions, 4'700 maternal deaths, and 60'000 cases of serious maternal illness, 77'000 infant and child deaths and also prevented numerous HIV cases. The reason the US withheld the money was because some of the program involved women receiving advice on abortion, something Bush and his cronies oppose. Luckily the EU put up the cash instead.
The US defied the Geneva Convention and outraged normal people and human rights organisations by locking up unlawful combatants in outdoor cages without any legal aid and without charging them. It also sought to immobilise the UN convention against torture. This is a country that claims to be civilised.
All over the world America pushes for presidents and leaders that have been rubber stamped by itself. It wants Yasser Arafat out in Palestine even though he was democratically elected, while in South and Central America it sends covert operations to help fight governments it opposes in Nicaragua, El Salvador, Venezuela etc. In Bolivia it threatened to withhold aid and boycott trade if a socialist leader was elected. What if any other country tried to do that to America? The conniving and underhand operations is simply to satisfy Corporate America which wants better trade with those countries and to appease the paranoid American government which feels threatened by anything other than its way of thinking.
When Israel makes incursions into Palestinian land killing little stone throwers and driving its tanks over houses the US does nothing, but when Iraq steps into Kuwait all hell breaks lose. Why? Because of oil. If Palestine was a large oil exporting country then the situation would be under control straight away.
And before anyone writes in saying I am antiSemitic, I am in fact criticising Israel's policies, not Jewish people. I am also criticising Bush's policies; it doesn't mean I'm antiChristian. I know full well there are many Israelis and Americans who campaign vigorously against their aggressive governments.
The large majority of Americans truly believe they live in a country superior to any other. It may be useful in the sporting arena, but in the real world, where it is necessary to be understanding of everybody's views and cultures, it only serves to isolate people and turn them against you.
America is the most powerful country in the world, it is also an extremely beautiful country with many wonderful people, but unless it starts using that power in a positive way that benefits all of the world and not just itself, it will be seen as an aggressor and will not be seen for all the good things it possesses.
Until America (and its sycophants, eg Mr Blair) starts to think of the other people around the world and the importance of coexisting, there will be more and more attacks in the style of September 11 and more and more anniversaries allowing us time to ponder just what we have learnt.