Ten years later

“I was afraid of the dark. It never happened before 9/11. It was a sense of security having that light on,” says Artie Van Why, a witness to the September 11 attacks in anarticle on bbc.co.uk. The story talks about the trauma that Van Why went through and how the harrowing memories of 9/11 made it too painful for him to continue working at his office which was located close to the towers. Before long he was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

George W. Bush made a highly debatable decision when he responded to the attacks by attacking Afghanistan, and later Iraq. For the 3,000 civilian deaths of 9/11, the United States butchered thousands of civilians in Afghanistan (women and children amongst them). Under the pretext of weapons of mass destruction, Iraq was invaded and massacred, and what was once a flourishing Baghdad was reduced to rubble. According to WikiLeaks, the civilian death toll in Iraq was over 92,000 deaths.

The ‘War on Terror’ continued with Pakistan being forced to become a coalition partner with the United States and a never-ending stream of drones still continues to annihilate the tribal areas. Noam Chomsky in his columnon 9/11 titled ‘Was war the only answer’ explains that the attack on Pakistan has only radicalised the nation further, and that America has in fact helped Bin Laden on his mission. “That Washington seemed bent on fulfilling bin Laden’s wishes was evident immediately after the 9/11 attacks,” says Chomsky.

Simon Jenkins of the Guardian agrees to that and insists that waging war was not in America’s best interests. Anti-American sentiments were fuelled when America attacked a hapless Afghanistan, and later Iraq and then carried out drone attacks in Pakistan. Daniel Byman from the Brookings Institution (an American think-tank) suggests that drone strikes may kill “10 or so civilians” for every militant killed. In contrast, the CIA believes that since 2010, no civilians have been killed in the attacks — only militants were killed. Civilian deaths are seldom reported and when we hear of the casualties, they are given that seemingly benign terminology: collateral damage’. Whilst we have thousands of 9/11 survivor stories like the one mentioned in the beginning, somehow, Western media has failed to produce similar news stories that talk about the suffering of a little girl in Iraq, or someone in Afghanistan, or someone in Pakistan whose school was blown up in the fighting instigated by a nation once highly esteemed in the world.

“Pakistanis are too poor to go and seek treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder. They also realise that the trauma is far from over,” writes Mohammed Hanif in the Guardian’s ‘Comment is Free’ section. Indeed, poverty-stricken individuals in Pakistan have more pressing concerns such as proper meals and potable water.

That is most certainly not to belittle the crime that was 9/11 or the sufferings of those who went through that horrific incident. I only wish to present a simple question — why is it that when Muslims kill it is called ‘terrorism’ or ‘crime against humanity’ and when the United States massacres anyone in broad daylight, with the aid of men such as Tony Blair, we dismiss it as though the blood of those being killed is of lesser value? Is it fair to clothe the butchery of innocent civilians, who get killed alongside so called ‘militants’ under the garb of ‘collateral damage’? Moreover, why isn’t the Western media powerful enough to expose the true situation in Palestine, where the most horrific injustices take place under the approving eye of the United States?

War has been detrimental for the United States economically too. The economy collapsed after billions of dollars were deployed to fund the wars which many noted thinkers and writers have termed a mistake. The spillway effect has been the worst recession the world has seen in recent times.

There is no doubt about the fact that the attacks on the twin towers were truly terrible and every such action or intention by the militants has been condemned by Muslims all around the world, as it should be. However, America has achieved little in terms controlling terrorism – for every civilian murdered by American troops, a new Bin Laden is born. The word ‘jihad’ is in rampant misuse and young people are brainwashed as they happily blow themselves up in the name of Islam. Radicalism has placed its feet on firmer ground than before as militants use America’s crimes to fuel sentiment against America.

Amidst all this, Islam and Muslims have taken the most serious bashing. Anyone with a beard and a cap is automatically a ‘fundamentalist’, women with hijab are looked at sceptically as though they are oppressed and opting for ‘madressa’ for your child is a definite no-no — even if all they do there is teach the Arabic language.

Ten years down the line, we as a global community are worse off. Life on this planet becomes increasingly more dangerous as a doomed war continues, and we wander farther away from peace and stability. One wonders though, how Artie Van Why would have taken it if something like 9/11 happened on a daily basis, and that too for years. Someone in Iraq would know.


First published here: http://www.dawn.com/2011/09/09/ten-years-later.html