The WTC Attack, Sep 11 2001

Commentary and Analysis

The theory of a free press is that truth will emerge from free discussion, not that it will be presented perfectly and instantly in any one account.

-- Walter Lippman

[Note: this page was frequently updated during the first 2 or 3 months after 9/11/01. Since then it has been less actively maintained, as an increasing number of open discussions became easier to find in the media and online. It is still updated from time to time with articles of particular interest. For more lively coverage of the so-called "War on Terrorism" see War In Context and other indie news sites]
Contents of this page:
Alternative news/analysis/information sources:

Personal Stories and Letters

Not in our son's name
The grieving parents of one WTC disaster victim say that a vengeful war is not what they want.
A widow's plea for non-violence
Amber Amundson lost her beloved husband in the attack on the Pentagon building. "If you choose to respond to this incomprehensible brutality by perpetuating violence against other innocent human beings, you may not do so in the name of justice for my husband . . . "
An Afghani Expatriate Speaks Frankly
Tanim Ansary asks what will be gained by bombing Afghanistan, when the bombs can "only stir the rubble" of a country already devastated by occupation, civil war, and totalitarian rule.
An Arab-American writes about fear
This letter is anonymous and cannot be sourced. For all that, it may be considered as representative of the feelings of many Arab-Americans (or any American who might be mistaken for "an Arab" by an ignorant racist) as the first lynchings have been reported following the WTC hit.
An American writes home
Summer Brennan, an American abroad, is trying to get out of Pakistan before hostilities commence. In an insightful and compassionate letter she appeals to Americans not to be carried away on the tide of fear and anger.

Feminist Analysis, Women's Groups/Issues

Masculinity as a Foreign Policy Issue
Cynthia Enloe of Clark University asks what feminist analysis can tell us about the influence of the military over US foreign policy, and the influence of masculinism over the military and our male politicians. "This is not about hormones. It is about the male politician's angst over not appearing 'manly.' This, in turn, is about American political culture."
Feminists agonize over war in Afghanistan. . .
Sharon Lerner writes for The Village Voice: "The power structure remains overwhelmingly male -- a fact that was highlighted by the never ending emergency press conferences featuring wall-to-wall men." Feminists, says Lerner, are caught between urgent need to stop the Taliban's persecution of women, and fear that the US/UK military campaign will lead to more suffering and death for ordinary Afghanis.
The Fundamental Mystery
American feminist Barbara Ehrenreich on the popularity and persistence of misogyny in fundamentalist politics.
A brief history of Afghan women
Dr. Huma Ahmed-Ghosh offers an overview of the vicissitudes of life for Afghan women during the last several regimes.
I cried . . . I laughed . . . (the fall of Kabul)
Tahira Khan "Don't they know that without making structural changes in the socio-economic fabric of society, 'token' political reprentation of women is not going to bring any change in common women's lives . . . ?"
The people of Afghanistan have nothing to do with Osama . . .
The women's resistance group, RAWA, has been fighting its solitary battle against the Taliban for years without much help from the West.
Interview with a RAWA Member
Janelle Brown of Salon online magazine interviewed 'Fatima,' one of the heroic women of the RAWA resistance organisation.
Where are the Afghan women?
Cynthia Peters comments on Znet that US media coverage reduces Afghan women "to nothing more than the sum of their most desperate parts," first ignoring their plight for years, then casting them as generic victims. "Afghan women and men, not western rulers, contain the seeds of their own liberation."
What about the Women?
Larry Chin writing for Online Journal: "the urgent concerns of the Afghan women remain largely unheard," as the US hastens to engineer a post-war government.
Returning to Afghanistan
Afghani film-maker Saira Shah writes for the Guardian about her recent trip back to her homeland. "These men . . . have a vested interest in keeping the country at war, any war, because without one they have no job, no status and no purpose."
Philippine Women's Solidarity Organization comments. . .
The Pilipina women's group, GABRIELA; ". . . we ask that the public bear in mind that the dead of the World Trade Center twin-tower collapse came from 62 countries. To use their deaths for xenophobia and anti-immigrant hysteria is to disrespect their suffering and those of their families."
Phantom Towers: Feminist Reflections on the Battle between Global Capitalism and Fundamentalist Terrorism
Professor of Political Science Rosalind Petchesky: "All the horror of the 20th century surely should teach us that war feeds on itself and that armed violence reflects, not an extension of politics by other means, but the failure of politics; not the defense of civilization, but the breakdown of civilization."
Why I Voted Against War
Congresswoman Barbara Lee explains how she came to take a lone and vastly unpopular stand.
First writing since . . .
Poet and author Sufeir Hammad writes of her grief and anger: "If one more person asks me if I knew the hijackers . . ."
Report from NYC
American feminist Robin Morgan, a resident of NYC, writes of her experiences the week of Sep 11.
Report from NYC, Part II: Ghosts and Echoes
Robin Morgan on the situation in NYC a week later: ". . . violence differs in degree but is related in kind, that it thrives along a spectrum, as do its effects--from the battered child and raped woman who live in fear to an entire populace living in fear. Meanwhile, we cry and cry . . ."
A Less Selective Compassion
American feminist Kathleen Barry on the problem of selective compassion.
Bioterrorism, Bio-Safety
Dr. Vandana Shiva, international activist for family farmers' rights and sustainable agriculture, asks why we are so terrified about biohazards in one set of irresponsible hands but not in another.
Terrorism, Biodiversity, Survival
Susan Hawthorne makes a connection between the hypermasculinism of suicidal terrorists and the hypermasculinism of corporate exploiters: ". . . were the planet to shift its focus from profit making . . . to biodiversity, many of these things would be undoable, unthinkable."
Life On Earth
Guardian contributor Jeanette Winterson: "Can somebody tell the guys what planet we're on?"
Women's Voices Silenced
Guardian contributor Madeleine Bunting comments on the peculiar absence of female writers and commentators from the media in the days following the WTC hits.
Lies and Deceptions
American social analyst Susan Sontag on the problem of an American media establishment that "infantilizes" the public instead of encouraging us to think.
Sontag Responds to Attacks
Susan Sontag's original essay (above) provoked a storm of hostility and hate mail. In this interview conducted by David Talbot of Salon online magazine, she comments on the extremely hostile response her original article received, and elaborates further on some of her own thoughts.
Sunera Thobani Responds
Scholar Sunera Thobani incurred significant hostility, including death threats, for an address she gave shortly after 9/11/01. Here she responds to some of her critics. For reference, here is her original address. For a while significant pressure was placed on her University to dismiss her from her teaching position.
A Pure High Note of Anguish
American author Barbara Kingsolver: "We would rather discuss trails of evidence and whom to stamp out, even the size and shape of the cage we might put ourselves in to stay safe, than to mention the fact that our nation is not universally beloved . . ."
No Glory . . .
A month later, Barbara Kingsolver muses on the meaning of carpet bombing: "I feel like I'm standing on a playground where the little boys are all screaming at each other, "He started it!" and throwing rocks that keep taking out another eye, another tooth . . ."
Victory Gardens ?!
Katha Pollitt is amazed by the popularity of WWII nostalgia: "Refocus your life, bomb a village. Maybe we should bring back the draft -- for 50somethings sorry they missed out on Vietnam."
We Didn't Have to do This
Stephanie Salter for the SF Chronicle: we "offer up the phrase as if it were a bona fide moral escape clause: We had to do something."
The Sacrifices We Must Make
Stephanie Salter again, on the message we are sending to the Afghan people: "To put it as simply as possible (I know many of you can't read), our very way of life here has been threatened. We are willing to sacrifice whatever it takes to respond. That sacrifice includes you."
Feminista Issue on Afghanistan
The online American feminist 'zine Feminista! special issue on Afghanistan offers background on the Afghani situation.
Feminista Current Issue
Feminista! has put out a stop-press emergency issue on the WTC/Pentagon terrorist attacks.

The First Casualty of War: Media, Truth, and Civil Liberties Issues

Interview with Greg Palast
Greg Palast is an investigative journalist, which means he can't find work in the US and has had to relocate his family to the UK. In England, despite the lack of a First Amendment, he is able to write and place stories with major news outlets like the BBC, Guardian and Observer which he can't get published in the US -- stories about the US, about the election of 2000, the Afghan war, and 9/11.
An Alternate Reality
Paul Krugman in the NYT on the disconnect between the media image of America's new war, and the economic and political realities behind the jingo.
"Humanitarian Aid" is just PR?
Nobel-prize-winning humanitarian group Medecins sans Frontieres says that US/NATO claims regarding "humanitarian drops" during the bombing of Kabul are more window dressing than genuinely helpful to Afghanis. Humanitarian aid, they say, must be decoupled from military action.
War Is Peace
Arundhati Roy, writing for Outlook India, emphasizes the difference between the official US/NATO story and the reality on the ground: " . . . mainstream media, particularly in the US, has more or less rolled over, allowing itself to be tickled on the stomach with press hand-outs from militarymen and government officials."
Lost in the Rhetorical Fog of War
Robert Fisk questions the "sheep-like conformity" of US and NATO reports and media coverage of the US war on Afghanistan.
Media as a Weapon Eric Margolis comments on the use of media by both the Bush administration and bin Laden and his followers.
Hypocrisy, Hatred, and the War on Terror
Fisk again questioning the obedience of the US and UK media to the US government party line: "Do they think their viewers believe this twaddle?"
This War is a Fraud
John Pilger in the Mirror says it point blank.
All Spun Out
Mark Borkowski for the Guardian asks whether Pilger, among other critics, is finally making a dent in public complacency and acceptance of official spin. Note! the reference to the Pentagon's hiring of PR firm the Rendon Group, to keep the correct spin on US public opinion.
A Cautionary Tale for a New Age of Surveillance
Jeffrey Rosen in the NYT asks whether America will move towards total national surveillance as enthusiastically as the UK, and if so, what that will mean.
Letter to the Editor
Long-time folk musician and social activist Ronnie Gilbert sounds the warning: is the US headed for a new era of McCarthyism?
Losing the War at Home
Frank Rich, for the NYT: "This is an administration that will let its special interests -- particularly its high-rolling campaign contributors and its noisiest theocrats of the right -- have veto power over public safety, public health and economic prudence in war, it turns out, no less than in peacetime."
We Have Already Lost
Novelist and ex-intelligence officer John LeCarre: " . . . as we hastily double up our police and intelligence forces and award them greater powers, as we put basic civil liberties on hold and curtail press freedom, impose news blackouts and secret censorship," says the distinguished author, we have already lost.
The USA PATRIOT Act: By Any Means Necessary
Columbia Professor of Law Patricia Williams, warns of the unConstitutional implications of the new PATRIOT Act, mentioning in passing that "a recent CNN poll has revealed that 45 percent of Americans would not object to torturing someone if it would provide information about terrorism." (see also the more complete version of this essay published by the UK Observer)
US Green Party Member Not Permitted to Fly
Nancy Oden, US Green, reports on her bizarre experience at the Bangor airport, where she was apparently "blacklisted" in advance and prohibited from flying to Chicago.
Three Cheers for the Portland PD
The police department of Portland, OR has refused to cooperate with federal demands for racial/ethnic profiling. Stay tuned . . .
Who's Being Naive?
Tim Wise, antiracist activist, asks why it's considered sane for Dick Morris to suggest we declare war on Iraq, Libya, Sudan and Colombia while we're at it -- but "naive" and unrealistic for anyone to question the efficacy of bombing Afghanistan into democracy.
Novel Security Measures
Gwen Schaffer of City Paper reports that a young man was refused access to commercial air travel on Oct 10, 2001 because he was carrying a paperback thriller whose cover featured sticks of dynamite.
FAIR monitors the US media
FAIR, the US media watchdog group, finds US mainstream media coverage deeply biased and shallow, calculated to whip up hatred rather than inspire thought.
Not Patriotic Enough: No-Play List
Clear Channel Communications listed over 150 popular songs which were "not appropriate" for airplay at this time, including anything at all by the rap/rock band 'Rage Against the Machine'. Though the word "unAmerican" was not spoken, it hovers in the air.
Character Assassination in Miami?
Three Black firefighters in Miami FL have been suspended after what sound like trumped-up charges of "insubordination". The real cause? Apparently their vehement criticisms of the US government. L Plesser reports.
Black Radical Congress press release
"We as Black people have lots of experience with the horrors of terrorism in the US . . . " Black Americans have much to fear from the fallout of the WTC hits, say Art McGee and Bill Fletcher.
The New McCarthyism
George Monbiot writing for the Guardian on censorship and repression in 'the land of the free': "The charge of 'anti-Americanism' is itself profoundly anti-American. If the US does not stand for freedom of thought and speech, for diversity and dissent, then we have been deceived as to the nature of the national project . . ."
FBI Detains Innocent Man for Two Weeks
Macarena Hernandez of the San Antonio Express-News reports on the ordeal of one innocent man whose Arabic surname (as common as Smith or Jones) happened to match that of an FBI suspect.
Free Press for Sale
Robert McChesney interviewed by Derek Jensen of The Sun magazine, talks about the dangers of highly centralised and biased media: "Three University of Massachusetts social scientists found that people who watched the most CNN coverage of the war knew the least about who the participants were, what the different political positions were, and so on. Also - and this is very frightening - they were the most likely to support U.S. government policy." (Oct 2000)
Top Five Lies?
Students in Solidarity at U. Pittsburgh prepared this list of their "Top Five" -- not pop songs, but lies about the "war against terrorism."

Religious/Cultural/Ethical Viewpoints: Jewish, Christian, Muslim

Fundamentally Wrong
Damian Thompson asks what Islamic and Christian fundamentalists have in common.
Patriotism and Cosmopolitanism
U. Chicago Professor of law and ethics Martha Nussbaum questions where patriotism, as a strategy, may lead us -- and what alternatives are on offer.
A World Out of Touch With Itself
Rabbi Michael Lerner on the roots (and the terrible cost) of modern alienation and cruelty.
Will the US block efforts to prevent mass starvation?
Activist Geov Parrish asks whether the tragedy of 9/11 will be dwarfed by the number of Afghans who will die of starvation if the US doesn't suspend bombing long enough to led the aid convoys through before deep winter. "In less than two months, the United States government has gone from the moral high ground of being victimized by one of the most heinous crimes in world history, to being within a week or two of quite visibly committing a crime so much larger as to obliterate the world's memory of September 11."
Divergent Responses from Black and White Americans
Reverend Graylan Hagler writing for Tom Paine (online): "Blacks know what it is to be insecure . . . Now, in this current crisis, our insecurity is largely unchanged."
Lethal Lesson
Dave Sommers writing for The Trentonian: film star Danny Glover, anti-death-penalty and human-rights activist, challenges US policy in the wake of 9/11.
Beyond September 11
Eastern Mennonite University staff compiled this collection of essays based on the research of their Conflict Transformation Program.
Spend, Spend, Spend: Patriotism or Disconnection?
Jackie Alan Giuliano writing for Environmental News Service asks why our government is asking us for increased consumption rather than compassion or charity.
The "Security" Charade
Catholic bishop and ex-Serviceman Robert Bowman notes that while "A king is not saved by his mighty army. A warrior is not saved by his great strength," [Psalm 33], there are many ways to increase real security and a safer future. This essay was written in 1998.
Thoughts in the Presence of Fear
Wendell Berry describes many powerful influences which make the world a dangerous place today, and how we might make it safer.
Will we choose life?
The Philadelphia-based American Jewish peace organization, Jewish Mobilization for a Just Peace, asks whether we cannot learn something more than hatred from this tragedy.
Peace Vigil in Chicago
Not in My Name, an American Jewish anti-occupation group, held a multicultural peace vigil shortly after the disaster, with surprising results.
Teaching Peace
In an interview, Colman McCarthy explains why he feels that America's kids are growing up as peace illiterates, ignorant of any way of resolving disputes other than violence.
What about American Terrorists?
Dr. LeRoy Carhart, of UNMC, asks why we do not deal decisively with the terrorist who attack abortion clinics in the US.
Is War Necessary?
James Hanlon has gathered a collection of practical alternatives to military engagement.

The "O" Word: Oil, Money, and Foreign Policy

Oil Drives Security Policy
Julio Godoy writing for Inter Press Service reports on the publication of a book by two French intelligence analysts, which asserts that oil interests influenced the Bush government to obstruct its own Secret Service in its investigation of terrorists.
Back off the bin Ladins
On the same theme, the BBC (quoted by the Sydney Morning Herald) reports inconsistencies in US policy regarding suspected terrorists.
It's the Oil, Stupid
Johnny Angel writing for LA Weekly: "Yet for all the noise generated by partisans and centrists alike, no one is willing to accept the blatantly obvious, the real underlying factor behind America's involvement in the byzantine labyrinth of Middle East politics. . . "
Access To Oil
Frank Viviano, chief foreign correspondent for the S.F. Chronicle: "It is inevitable that the war against terrorism will be seen by many as a war on behalf of America's Chevron, ExxonMobil and Arco; France's TotalFinaElf; British Petroleum; Royal Dutch Shell . . ."
What bin Laden and Bush don't talk about
Michael Klare suggests that neither Mr. bin Laden or Mr, Bush is eager to discuss oil politics openly.
America's Pipe Dream
George Monbiot reminds us that "American foreign policy is governed by the doctrine of 'full-spectrum dominance', which means that the US should control military, economic and political development worldwide."
It's About Oil
Ted Rall outlines the problem of getting Kazakstan's oil to the world market: "Kazakstan's Soviet-subsidized economy collapsed immediately after independence in 1991 . . . Middle-class residents of a superpower had been reduced to abject poverty virtually overnight; thirtysomething women who appeared sixtysomething hocked their wedding silver in underpasses . . ." The pressure is intense to get a pipeline built across Afghanistan. "As recently as 1999, U.S. taxpayers paid the entire annual salary of every single Taliban government official . . ."
On the Brink of a Holy War
J. H. Crawford of Car-Free Times: "The disparity between what the USA preaches and what it does has become deeply disturbing . . ."
Gas-Guzzling Patriotism
Neela Banerjee interviews Americans on the street about their love affair with SUVs. America speaks: "I don't think it's unpatriotic to use so much gas. It's very patriotic. It's our way of life."
Can't be Done in 2001
Paul Glover of Citizen Planners says America's internal infrastructure is in bad shape: "Sixty years ago most Americans lived in comparatively energy-efficient cities connected by railways. Today nearly half our population are suburbanites helpless without their cars . . . Our 103 nuclear power plants are giant landmines each capable of killing millions when punched by a commuter jet. Cities like Los Angeles can be clobbered more completely than was New York, by blasting certain freeway intersections."
Drowning in a Rising Tide of Big Money
Bill Moyers addressing a grant-writer's association: "Do we want to send the terrorists a message? Go for conservation. Go for clean, home-grown energy. And go for public health . . . Healthier children and a healthier economy-how about that as a response to terrorism?"
Operation Infinite Contract
Edward Hammond of the Sunshine Project asks how much protection against bioterrorism is really being offered by US biotech.
The Oil Connection
James Hanlon has collected many articles and references on the influence of Big Oil Politics on current and recent policy.

Geopolitics and History

Hearts and Minds: Avoiding a New Cold War
Mahajan and Jensen writing for Common Dreams News Center: "U.S. leaders chose the path of the Cold War, which was not so much an attempt to contain Soviet-style communism as it was to destroy any example of independent development in the Third World, to extend and entrench our economic superiority. That effort harmed democracy in our country and in others, killed millions, and has led in the end to the creation of new and terrifying threats to all our safety . . . "
A Chilean's Perspective
Ariel Dorfman suggests that we remember another terrible September 11th, 28 years ago: when the light of democracy was extinguished in Chile. "One way for Americans to overcome their trauma is to admit that their suffering is not unique . . . "
The Algebra of Infinite Justice
Arundhati Roy in The Guardian: "The trouble is that once America goes off to war, it can't very well return without having fought one. If it doesn't find its enemy, for the sake of the enraged folks back home, it will have to manufacture one . . ."
The Awesome Cruelty of a Doomed People
Robert Fisk writes about the historical persistence and perpetuation of hatred.
Who Are Our Allies?
Robert Fisk, a few weeks later, asks what kind of "friends" the Northern Alliance will turn out to be.
Whom are the Refugees Fleeing?
Robert Fisk, in the third week of the bombings: " . . . as the Afghan refugees turn up in their thousands at the border, it is palpably evident that they are fleeing not the Taliban but our bombs and missiles. The Taliban is not ethnically cleansing its own Pashtun population. The refugees speak vividly of their fear and terror as our bombs fall on their cities."
Noam Chomsky interview
Noam Chomsky speaks here to an interviewer from Radio B92 Belgrade. It is significant that this interview with a distinguished American policy analyst did not take place on the BBC or on any US radio network.
Inevitable Ring to the Unimaginable
John Pilger asks who can really be surprised, in the light of US/NATO policies in the Third World, that desperate acts of revenge are undertaken?
Understanding bin Laden
William Beeman thinks the US risks a serious miscalculation in its response to the WTC outrage.
Walking Into a Trap
Robert Fisk concurs; Bush is walking into an historical and military trap, he says, and taking much of the world with him.
How Could they Cheer?
The Guardian newspaper (UK) discusses the shock and outrage Americans felt on seeing CNN footage of Palestinians celebrating the news of the WTC attacks.
They Can't See Why They are Hated
Writing for the Guardian, Seumas Milne discusses the relationship of US foreign policy to the public image of the US in the rest of the world.
Why Do They Hate Us?
David Wallechinsky offers a few possible reasons.
American Foreign Policy in Perspective
Charles Mercieca points out that war is healthy, if not for children and other living things, at least for American industrial interests; and these interests drive our foreign policy.
The view from Islamabad
"Ultimately, the security of the United States lies in its re-engaging with the people of the world, especially with those that it has grievously harmed..." Physicist Pervez Hoodbhoy says that suicidal terrorists cannot be hired, they can only be bred under special conditions: conditions which have to be artificially created and maintained.
So This Is War?
Christopher Hitchens (the Guardian again) suggests that Americans are focussing exclusively on how such a tragic and terrible thing could have happened to them, but relatively few are asking why.
Bush's Faustian Deal with the Taliban
Robert Scheer of the L. A. Times, writing in May (!) of this year in criticism of the Bush administration's recent $43 million gift to the Taliban. [Note that this article has come in for heavy criticism, and that Scheer is not known for checking his facts carefully before ranting.] see Spinsanity for more details.
What is really under attack?
"Simply put, we enjoy our freedom and way of life precisely because we are able to limit tremendously that of billions of others . . ." Arturo Escobar invites us to look beyond soundbite language.
Chamber of Horrors in the Garden of Eden
Andy Kershaw of the BBC reports for the Independent on the toxic legacy of US/NATO military action in Iraq: birth defects and cancer.
Our Legacy of Enduring Freedom
Josh Schrei for indie online 'zine Guerilla News: "When the Gulf War was over, we welcomed our camo-clad troops home with a ticker tape parade down Broadway. On worldwide television, American civilians celebrated a victorious bombing campaign which had left tens of thousands of civilians dead. 10 years later, those same Americans were doubtlessly shocked and outraged by footage of Palestinian civilians celebrating a bombing that left thousands of U.S. civilians dead . . ."
Dialogue with a Patriot
My own small contribution. All over the country, people's opinions are colliding; two forms of patriotism are in deep conflict. This is just one dialogue out of millions taking place right now.

The Eternal Verities

Auden on September 1939
W. H. Auden, writing from New York City in 1939 on the eve of global war, reflects on the past and the future in terms eerily, and sadly, contemporary.
An anonymous correspondent suggests that historical events are what we make of them, and that many axes can be ground on one tragedy: some things never change.
Ten New Laws
One of the eternal verities is that people can grasp desperately for humour even in the direst, most tragic, or craziest times; even prisoners in the concentration camps told jokes about Hitler (in a whisper). Here an anonymous wag finds dry humour in America's sudden passion for patriotism.
De Clarke