9/11 Reconsidered in the Light of U.S. Drone Policy
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So, let me get this straight: you direct airborne vehicles to fly into buildings in order to destroy enemies your Leader has unilaterally judged are terrorizing your people. Those “taken out” don’t necessarily terrorize directly. Nonetheless you kill them because they’re associated with, are near, and/or are sympathetic to the ones who do actually or potentially terrorize. Alternatively, those killed have been designated “signature” terrorists, because they look like those you and your inner circle have decided are terrorists or potential terrorists.
Sound familiar? Sounds like the loose logic attributed to the still-undisclosed Obama rationale for extra-judicial drone killings in at least five countries. . . . Or like the logic of 9/11.
You recall, of course, why Osama bin Laden allegedly mounted the 9/11 attacks. If you’ve forgotten, you can read about it in The Guardian.
According to the “Letter to the American People” finally posted there in 2002, it was all response to U.S. terrorism.
More specifically, after repeatedly invoking the authority of Allah, bin Laden said the attacks were retaliation for unprovoked western aggression against Arabs in the form of:
- Eighty years of occupying the Arab world (since the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in 1921).
- U.S. support for Jewish crimes against Muslims and Arabs in Palestine.
- The killing of more than 500,000 children during the sanctions American regime against Saddam Hussein.
- U.S. desecration of Muslim holy sites, Mecca and Medina by the stationing of American troops there following the first Gulf War.
And bin Laden didn’t confine his rationale for 9/11 simply to retaliation for general acts of terrorism in the political or structural sense. He had particular more easily recognized instances in mind. He wrote,
“It will suffice to remind you of your latest war crimes in Afghanistan, in which densely populated innocent civilian villages were destroyed, bombs were dropped on mosques causing the roof of the mosque to come crashing down on the heads of the Muslims praying inside. You are the ones who broke the agreement with the Mujahideen when they left Qunduz, bombing them in Jangi fort, and killing more than 1,000 of your prisoners through suffocation and thirst.”
According to bin Laden, the entire American people were guilty of such acts of terror against the Muslim world. After all, he said, they elect the officials who formulate such policies. The American people pay the taxes that fund the manufacture of the tanks and planes involved. They’re the ones who populate the army directly involved in illegal invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.
It was all too much to take, bin Laden implied. So on the 80th anniversary of the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, he was unilaterally declaring what might be called a “War on American Terror.” And, of course in a state of war, international law simply does not apply. As a Great Man once said, he would have to “work the dark side.”
More particularly, the rules of warfare allowed bin Laden to attack those doing their own shadowy work inside the World Trade Center. Everyone there matched the profile of what we now call “signature terrorists.” After all, they worked in that iconic center of economic oppression and terrorism that in the eyes of bin Laden was symbolically and actually responsible for the devastating debt that impoverishes the entire Third World. That debt and associated trade policies administered from the Twin Towers cause the deaths of at least 30,000 innocents who die every day from hunger-related and debt-related causes.
More specifically still, according to bin Laden, the usurious interest rates — in many ways the basis of “world trade” – are the culprit. They and those who determine and enforce them, like those working in the Twin Towers, are as guilty of terroristic murder as if they put guns to the heads of the innocents and pulled the trigger 30,000 times each day. They’re as guilty as if they flew planes into 10 Twin Towers on a daily basis.
Bin Laden wrote: “You are the nation that permits Usury, which has been forbidden by all the religions. Yet you build your economy and investments on Usury.”
What I’m saying here is that 9/11 was a prescient expression of drone warfare. The only difference was the 9/11 “dronists” possessed a courage of conviction entirely lacking in today’s U.S. drone terrorists. While the latter inflict death across the world entirely isolated from danger in their fortified air conditioned theaters, their 9/11 counterparts sacrificed their own lives to kill those they judged guilty of terrorizing their people. In any case, the rationale for 9/11 was nearly indistinguishable from that of Bush, Brennan and Obama, namely,
1. Those who have been terrorizing our people have gathered together by the thousands in the Twin Towers.
2. If they are not actually terrorists in the strict sense, their association with and sympathy for terrorists makes them guilty.
3. Since we have declared war on our opponents, the rules of war dispense us
from any obligation to observe peacetime procedures connected with international law.
4. We can do all of this because Allah is on our side. (Or as Bush/Brennan/Obama would put it: as the “Exceptional Nation” we are GOOD, while our opponents are BAD.)
Does anyone else see the oily, greasy, slippery slope we’re all sliding down? Barbara Lee perceived it immediately when she warned us against becoming “the evil we deplore.” Under drone warfare policy, we’ve now become the exact evil we claim to be fighting – right down to the detail of flying airborne vehicles into buildings where the innocent will be killed along with the guilty. We’ve manifested unmistakably for the entire world to see the very evil of which bin Laden accused us. That was his intention in the first place.
As another Great Man once said, “Mission accomplished.”
Mike Rivage-Seul is emeritus professor of peace and social justice, former Roman Catholic priest, activist, and liberation theologian. Visit his blog here.