Decadent and depraved in the Middle East: How 9/11 transformed American thinking

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Photographed by the Historic American Engineering Record

I.

            On the eve of the thirteenth anniversary of 9/11, I sit in my home and face a window that looks out upon a neighbor’s privacy fence, and I check Facebook. This is a mistake since my feed is littered with the usual amount of “We’re Americans, kill the foreign bastards” garbage mentality that so many of my Facebook friends display.

No longer is 9/11 about a tragedy that took the lives of 2,752 people, but it has become part of a crusade toward assembling a disturbing image of an American militarized capitalistic Christian Middle East. There’s a larger message—a bigger picture—in light of the events that happened before and up to that day, and to the events that have unfolded since then. We do not want to see the bigger picture since it taints our views of the American Dream and destroys the image of the country we love so much. Truth means nothing these days. We’ve become too complacent in our lives to want to change the way we think and to make our lives and our country a better place to live. Why destroy the real enemy when we can destroy less-threatening others? The facts remain; we’re still living in the midst of a Reagan wet-dream.

We fear the things we don’t understand, and we take violence upon these things in hope to sway them toward a level of norm thinking that comforts us. This is why, on the spectrum of things distinctive to the status quo, people and ideas leaning toward the outliers have a hard time fitting in to our society. We bully the people who have differences of thinking. We murder the people who are not like “us”. Just look at the unrest in Ferguson against the white police force after the unjust murder of a black man. These murders happen every day. Every single day. It’s become the “norm” in our society, but with outliered groups trying to rectify what it means to be an “American” and to be “normal”, everyone has had their views shaken and turned upside down, even though our media outlets are trying to stop this from happening.

The news and media perpetuate things we fear in order to feed the American capitalist propaganda machines. This is no mistake. It’s happened since the Second World War. Distorting the facts on a subject not only hooks its viewers but it also feeds an altered reality that will change the way Americans live their day-to-day consumer lives. Money powers all. Natural resources like oil are keys to a thriving economy. Our government needs our media to paint a distorted picture of the dangerous and extreme “Neanderthals” in other countries and the threats they bring to the United States. How else can our government get away with invading countries to control energy resources?

In 2002, MSNBC released an article stating that the plans to go to war with the Taliban were on the President’s desk on September 9, 2001. An article, from the previous year, released by the BBC confirmed that the US wanted to go to war with the Taliban and were looking for a reason to. Then the bombings happened, and the US found its reason.

II.

I remember being at school the day the planes hit the towers. Everyone was silent and gathered around the small televisions that were attached to the walls. We were in the library trying to learn about World War II and the effects it had on the United States. Especially from the bombing of Pearl Harbor. How apropos.

My teachers never taught me about the negative effects from the bombing of Pearl Harbor. For instance, anyone who was Japanese-American were stripped of their rights and thrown into internment camps. Because they were Japanese. That was it. Because they were the unlucky bunch to be at the mercy of the American government. They were no longer human, they were garbage. They had become the outliers in our status quo, and like the Nazis rounded up the Jews, America rounded up the Japanese.

I had one teacher in twelfth grade, she was an AP Literature teacher, who briefly went over the Japanese internment camps when we read parts of the book Farewell to Manzanar. She made the observation that, like the Japanese, our modern day equivalent social pariahs have become the Arabs and the Persians. That our media has created an image of these people, even if they are American citizens, as being evil and the scum that walks the earth.

It is necessary to understand the media’s role in the creation of an “evil” middle east as well as our government’s agenda toward securing its wealth through the primary holds on oil and its function of using the media as a sculptor to pacify and sedate the minds of American citizens. Without this “brainwashing” effect, as Tony Blair stated eloquently, “To be truthful about it, there was no way we could have got the public consent to have suddenly launched a campaign on Afghanistan but for what happened on September 11.”

We then need to go back to the 1950s, as described in an interview with Noam Chomsky, to understand where the Middle Eastern hatred for America began.

“In internal discussions in 1958, which have since been declassified, President Eisenhower spoke about a campaign of hatred against us in the Arab world. Not from the governments, but from the people. The National Security Council’s top planning body produced a memorandum - you can pick it up on the web now - in which they explained it. They said that the perception in the Arab world is that the United States blocks democracy and development and supports harsh dictators and we do it to get control over their oil. The memorandum said, this perception is more or less accurate and that’s basically what we ought to be doing.”

Chomsky also added that these reasons also prevented the “emergence of democracies in the Arab world.” The emergence of the U.S. as a stable first-world Western nation following World War II has seen a massive amount of militaristic interventions in the following countries:

Puerto Rico (1950), Korea (1951-1953), Iran (1953), Vietnam (1954), Guatemala (1954), Egypt (1956), Lebanon (1958), Iraq (1958), China (1958), Panama (1958), Vietnam (1960 1975), Laos (1961), Cuba (1961), Germany (1961), Cuba (1962), Panama (1964), Indonesia (1965), Dominican Republic (1965-1966), Guatemala (1966 1967), Cambodia (1969 -1975), Oman (1970), Laos (1971-1973), Middle East (1973), Chile (1973), Cambodia (1975), Angola (1976-1992), Iran (1980), Libya (1981), El Salvador (1981-1992), Nicaragua (1981-1990), Honduras (1982-1990), Lebanon (1982-1984), Grenada (1983-1984), Libya (1986), Bolivia (1987), Iran (1987-1988) Libya (1989), Virgin Islands (1989), Panama (1989), Liberia (1990), Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Kuwait (1990-91), Somalia (1992-1994), Bosnia (1993), Haiti (1994), Croatia (1995), Congo (1996-1997), Liberia (1997), Albania (1997), Sudan (1998), Afghanistan (1998), Iraq (1998), Yugoslavia (1999), Yemen (2000), Macedonia (2001 ), Afghanistan (2001), Iraq (2003), Liberia (2003), Syria (2008), Libya (2011), Iraq (2014).

It wasn’t until the ‘80s, when Ronald Reagan became president, did we see the middle east take center stage. Following Carter, Reagan began to produce a different ideology toward both domestic and foreign policy and evoked an image of the 1950s and its conservative “old time” value. During Reagan’s tenure, a new uprising for Christian values began, and fundamentalism became widespread, allowing for George Bush to become elected as president in 1988. In 1990, Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. The United States, feeling that its oil supply was at risk, went to war with Iraq. After Bush left office and Clinton came in, more strikes against Arab countries were made in order to continue the creation of the western democratic Middle East. In 1996, cruise missile strikes hit Iraq against Saddam Hussein and his campaign against the Kurds. Operation Desert Fox, a campaign to “degrade” Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, began with four days of bombing.

III.

The attacks were difficult to comprehend while in middle school. Even in high school were the attacks rarely discussed in detail. Not to mention that any of the recent current events, from 1990 to 2001 were seldomly spoken.  When we did talk about it, the teachers were already biased. Their country was attacked. They needed, like the media, to teach their students that Evil was out there and needed to be stopped.  I still could not wrap my head around the answers that some of my teachers told.

“What happened on 9/11 was a travesty. As you know, terrorists flew jetliners into buildings, killing many, many people.”

“Why are they terrorists?”

“Someone who doesn’t like the freedoms we have, and they want to take them away. That’s a terrorist.” When someone tried to bring up “terrorism” and how America was formed, the teacher simply replied with, “That’s a different issue.”

This is our American history—a white-washed retelling of the victories and vitcimizations of the white man, with the exception of the black rights movement in the ‘60s, which we’ve granted an entire month dedicated to the black person.

None of what the employees of the public education system could seem to answer one simple question. “But why exactly did they attack us?” Perhaps it isn’t because they don’t like our freedoms, but because we don’t like their freedoms.

After the 1996 missile attacks, Al-Qaida official waged war against the United States. Osama Bin Laden released two Fatwas, one on August 23, 1996, and one on February 23, 1998, stating claims that the United States went against the Holy Quran by continuing to occupy holy land. Bin Laden also stated the claim that “despite the great devastation inflicted on the Iraqi people by the crusader-Zionist alliance, and despite the huge number of those killed, which has exceeded 1 million… despite all this, the Americans are once against trying to repeat the horrific massacres, as though they are not content with the protracted blockade imposed after the ferocious war or the fragmentation and devastation.”

Behind the shroud of religion, there was a man crying out toward the injustices brought against his country from missile strikes during 1996-2000. But no one listened. No one empathized with the man. The United States labeled him a terrorist for wanting revenge for the onslaught against his people.

“They rip us of our wealth and of our resources and of our oil. Our religion is under attack. They kill and murder our brothers.” [PBS]

While it’s hard to get a complete estimate of deaths, different sources give different numbers, but the numbers themselves still produce an insurmountable fact that the United States, in its acquisition for global dominance, have killed thousands of innocent civilians. The Gulf War produced around 2,300 causalities. In Clinton’s presidency, roughly 10,500 innocent civilians were killed in air and missile strikes on the Middle East. [Global Policy, Mother Jones] From 2002-2014, up to 144,702 civilian causalities were killed in Iraq, and up to 21,000 causalities in Afghanistan.

The death count in Iraq becomes astoundingly higher when you incorporate the amount of deaths from Saddam Hussein’s regime. Up to 300,000 Iraqis were killed.

IV.

I haven’t met many people who have had a real problem with swallowing the truth about 9/11. They accepted the facts: terrorists seized control of planes and caused massive terror. That’s what terrorists do. There is sanctity to the event. Even after thirteen years, we need to tread lightly around the subject. People don’t question why 9/11 happened. They just accept that it did.

“I’m not saying that 9/11 is an inside job. What I am saying is that 9/11 was the perfect catalyst for throwing us into a government takeover to get its oil. Who else better than Dick Cheney and his company, Halliburton, to go into the Middle East and take it over? Question everything. Don’t think that if something happens and has a simple explanation that everyone accepts is the true explanation. However, we may never know the real explanation, since it’s hard to uncover the true motives of a government. But question it.”

This was the first time I had heard someone, no less a professor, describe to her class an “alternative” method of thinking about events that have happened. She was right. Just as George Carlin was right. “Question everything.”

For decades, the United States held onto the petrodollar, the U.S. dollar earned through oil sales, which is how all countries—until recently—paid for oil from America. Throughout the two wars, the oil companies profited, taking in increased production of oil, with at least three million barrels per day. George W. Bush and Dick Cheney continued what Bush’s father had set out to do, reform the Middle East and milk it dry of oil, and they succeeded. But with emerging backlash that our troops were in Iraq and Afghanistan for too long, plans were put in process to remove the troops.

George W. Bush warned the military, however. He said pulling out of Iraq “could unleash chaos in Iraq that could spread across the entire region.” We had meddled too much. We had meddled to the point where new “threats” would begin to grow. “Evil” would run rampant throughout the country. Our “work” would be undone. And it happened. The after-effects of an American-led Iraq resulted in turmoil.

On the eve of the thirteenth anniversary of 9/11, I sit and anxiously wait to hear the President’s national address and his plan for ISIS. The recent “emergence” of this extreme Islamic group, and its activity of beheading of Americans, has caused concern for what Iraq holds. President Obama has held off on prompting action toward ISIS. He’s saving it for tonight. President Obama has bombed the Middle East for five years now, resulting in at least 2,400 deaths. It raises the question: should President Obama continue to bomb Iraq? And even more pertinently, should President Obama invade/bomb Iraq on the grounds of removing an extreme militant social group? This will continue to affect the world and our relations to other countries negatively. Is it necessary though?

V.

I sit, staring out at that neighbor’s god-damned privacy fence, and I think about how I have been alive for as long as the United States has bombed the Middle East. I am a product of a culture that has become placated with death, destruction, racism, and sexism. Each day I wake up and witness more crimes against humanity that needn’t not be created, I wonder what future lies ahead for us. I wonder if we can rectify the mistakes we have continually made in the past. Do we have to continue to kill people to send the message that America is number one? We have larger things to worry about in our own country: racism, sexism, abuse, rape, murder, homelessness, joblessness, internet equality, lack of education, ignorance, consumerism, and plenty of others. How can we tackle well-thought foreign policies when we can’t even take care of ourselves?

As to the subject of the Middle East and to our foreign policy toward ISIS, don’t bomb. Get all the troops out of there. Leave the Middle East alone. We’ve failed. We meddled and tried to reform Iraq. It didn’t work. Just like Vietnam didn’t work. It’s been a disaster, and too many lives have been lost to justify its necessity. The Middle East has a chance to change and grow on its own. Just like Western countries have grown and become first world countries, the Middle East has its chance to do the same—without the intervention of the United States.

The U.S. needs to focus on creating renewable energy resources if we want to continue to thrive as a first world nation. Forget about the oil. We don’t need it. Forget about the Extremists like ISIS. If we leave them alone, if we stop the killings, if we allow Arabs and Persians to live their lives the way they want to live them, without any meddling from us whatsoever, the threats to kill Americans will cease. This falls back to the 1958 studies. If we leave them alone to prosper, then we won’t have as many problems.

If we continue to bomb the Middle East, as we have now for almost twenty-five years, we will continue our vicious cycle of greed and our status quo of “white, Christian, capitalistic” gobbledygook and nothing will be accomplished. Let’s stop blowing up the world for money, and begin focusing on its beauty and finding a way to co-exist without resorting to our stereotypical “American” mentality of “let’s just blow shit up.”

The world will thank us for it.