Nineeleven, War, Death and Destruction
By Jim Scanlon
As the dismal anniversary of the attacks of September 11 approaches, planning is advancing throughout the US to commemorate the date with solemn ceremonies, speeches by elected officials, religious leaders and non stop television coverage. Since the most visible, dramatic damage occurred in New York, the mayor of that city and the governor of that state, will be prominently featured. The mood of many media commentators and of our nation's leaders seems to be one of unquestioned, overwhelming hostility towards Iraq and a barely suppressed need to attack and destroy something, anything. It remains to be seen whether the intense feelings of hurt stirred by the memorials to September 11th will lead to a more overtly violent war.
This anniversary looms sickeningly like a dark, oppressive, suffocating cloud of toxic dust that we must all endure to see and breath again. Since September 11 was such an unusual event in American history, and since US citizens are so abysmally ignorant of history, it might be well to try to put Nineeleven into some kind of historical perspective.
Actually the date, September 11 has already been pre-preempted by Chile, a small South American country, one of many that experienced a "regime change" courtesy of the US Central Intelligence Agency on September 11, 1973. They call it "once de septiembre" and it means different things to different people. To some it means the toppling of a communist government; to others, 17 years of brutal military oppression, murder and theft. Many would just like to forget the date.
For some Chileans the whole month of September is a miserable reminder. During September 1974, an exiled general and his wife were murdered in Buenos Aires by a US citizen with ties to the CIA. The following September that same US citizen arranged the unsuccessful assassination of an elderly exiled Chilean politician. Although shot in the head he did not die. His wife was paralyzed from a bullet in the head. In September 1976 the same assassin killed an exiled Chilean diplomat, and a young American woman in Washington DC. The assassin still lives freely in the US under the protection of the US government Memories of "11 de septiembre" and "Nineeleven" will strangely mingle in the hearts and minds of some Chileans and Chilean Americans.
It is often said that the attacks on Nineeleven "changed everything" and that "America will never be the same". Words like "unimaginable" and "unspeakable" are often used. Even Mohammed Khatami, the president of a certified "Axis of Evil" country , Iran, still bitter from memories of it's own CIA sponsored regime change in 1953, referred to the events of Nineeleven" as "horrific." One assumes Khatami was being diplomatic, which is not to say he was insincere.
Even the most cursory examination of the number of dead and the destruction brought about by Nineeleven clearly rank it as one of the minor catastrophes of the last 100 years, strongly suggesting that the power elites and the general population of the United States of America have a limited and a faulty understanding of the concept of "war" not to mention the death and destruction connected with that state of human affairs. Soldiers, like the Special Forces troops in Afghanistan, always seem surprised when they realize that someone is actually trying to kill them. No one really fights back in American wars on drugs, crime, scofflaws or bad grammar.
The last US experience of real war was 137 years ago during he Civil War, which was, essentially, a dispute over private property. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, there were less than a million casualties during that war, with 359,528 Union deaths and 275,175 wounded; 258,000 Confederate deaths and 225,000 wounded. At the battle of Gettysburg Pennsylvania, 51,112 men were killed or wounded: 28,063 Confederate, 23,049 Union soldiers. The total number of deaths in that battle alone was more than the number of soldiers killed in action in the entire Revolutionary War against England.
The reason for the high casualties during the Civil War was that military commanders persisted in marching their men against entrenched troops with muskets that had rifled barrels which were much more accurate over a longer distance than the older smooth bore muskets. It was suicide to charge positions with entrenched men armed with rifles. The generals, the great men of history, didn't understand this in World War I either.
World War I, also known as The Great War and The War to End Wars (1914-1918), was a war that no one really seemed to have wanted-but they got it. Roughly 65,000,000 men were mobilized, 8,400,000 were killed and 21,000,000 wounded, one of whom was a decorated Austrian corporal named Adolf Hitler. As with most modern wars up until that time, there were relatively few civilian causalities. It has been argued that that war never really ended and imperceptibly evolved into World War II, also known as "The War to Keep the World Safe for Democracy"
Between 1937 and 1945, an estimated 22,000,000 Chinese lost their lives. The Soviet Union lost 11,000,000 dead soldiers (millions of prisoners died in Concentration Camps) and 7,000,000 civilians. Germany lost 3,500,000 combatants (mostly in Russia) and 780,000 civilians. Japan 1,300,000 and 627,000. Yugoslavia lost 305,000 combatants and 1,200,000 civilians (mostly Serbians as Croatia and Bosnia were collaborationist states which even provided Waffen SS combat units). The figures for England (UK) are 264,443 and 92,673. For the US the number of combatants and civilians killed was 292,131 and 6,000.
One can easily see how the American concept of war, death and destruction came to be perceived as "war" meaning bombs falling somewhere else, outside the continental US and as other people dying, other cities being destroyed somewhere else. The 3,000 civilians killed in Lower Manhattan is minuscule when compared to even little Serbia, but huge when compared to the number of US civilians killed in World War II.
In the year 2000, 60,839 New Yorkers died: 723 died from homicide, 532 from firearms, 448 from suicide and 1,074 from accidents. On Nineeleven, 2,617 people officially died in the World Trade Center: 2,552 were working, 61 were not (probably eating breakfast in the restaurant) and 4 were not categorized; 27 were from California, 1,687 from New York and 662 from New Jersey.
War for us is when you drop bombs and shoot rockets that kill other people in other places and so therefore it is a big surprise when someone strikes back and kills civilians. In the Bibleland myth, Goliath scoffs at David. It is all the more frustrating when there is no one to hunt down and kill. They are all dead. You can't really follow the money trail because it is much too dangerous to your wealthy friends in Saudi Arabia. You have all these expensive weapons and a massive war making infrastructure but you have no one to use them against. We have been bombing Iraq for 10 years, so that seems the best choice.
Due to the structural eccentricities of the twin towers of the World Trade Center each building was somehow able to withstand the tremendous impact of heavy jets traveling near 500 miles per hour and the explosion and combustion of thousands of gallons of jet fuel. But these same eccentricities caused the towers to burn furiously until structural steel supports softened and each floor collapsed, one on top of the other, almost strait down in a dozen or so seconds killing everyone above, more than 400 rescue workers below and everyone else who was slow in getting out. Everything was compacted, crushed into powder under enormous pressure. Most of the bodies were liquefied and never recovered.
The people above the floors hit by the jets would probably have all died if the building has stood, but, as bad as it was, it could have been much worse. If the towers had toppled, the loss of life and property would undoubtedly have been greater. It the planes had missed the towers and crashed elsewhere in Manhattan or New Jersey the loss of life could easily have been just as great or greater and the disruption to the city worse. Two standing burnt out buildings would have spared only the rescue workers but endangered and disrupted the city for a much longer period of time: gloomy monuments indeed!
But what happened, happened. Lower Manhattan will survive this terrorist attack. New Yorkers were the most deeply affected, but got back to work quickly. The city was wounded, so to speak, but never stopped functioning. The Stock Exchanges were working within a week. Of course if a real war occurs-one where destruction does not happen only over there, somewhere else, who knows? One suspects residents of Manhattan don't like the intrusion of the world into their lives and would like to hide until the ceremonies are over, and then forget about it.
It is often very difficult to see the obvious (Master Yoda says in Star Wars II "Hard to see the dark side is") but the damage done to New York on nineeleven cannot be even vaguely compared with damage done to cities in World War II. All the cities of European Russia, Poland and Germany were wiped out with hardly a building standing. They have all been rebuilt.
All modern societies celebrate war. All of them! The US in particular, possibly because its population is so ignorant on the subject. War is presented in film and video as a time of heroism in which men sacrifice themselves while their women wait, a consistent Homeric theme since the Bronze Age. Death is solemn and sanitized for the good and quick and ugly for the bad. You don't see the randomness of death in war, the shredded, crushed bodies, the blackened corpses. You don't see the falling jumpers smoked out of the North Tower. The video images have been sanitized supposedly out of respect for the victims' families.
The so called "cowardly" attack on the peaceful civilian population of the World Trade Center is perfectly consistent with the behavior of the victorious allies of World War II. The potential of the Zeppelin and the airplane for terrorizing urban populations was recognized early during World War I. German pilots supporting Spanish rebels were the first to attack a defenseless city in 1937. German and British bombers indiscriminately attacked each others' cities during the early part of the war. But the British Air Force aided by the US Army Air Corps, using heavy bombers, developed the destruction of cities to a science.
In 1943, from July 28 to August 3, 1943, in "Operation Gomorra," thousands of British bombers dropped incendiary and explosive bombs on Hamburg, Germany. US planes attacked during the day. The attacks were continuous and designed to kill and disrupt firefighters and prevent them from controlling fires. Perhaps the world's first fire storm was induced, where individual fires joined into one huge blaze that sucked in winds at hurricane force, suffocating and baking those in air raid shelters, killing over 30,000 men women and children, destroying 45,000 homes, 277 schools, 24 hospitals and clinics, 12 churches and making perhaps 1,000,000 homeless.
Hamburg was a center of Nazi war production, so there was ample justification for the attacks, however the destruction of Dresden, a few months short of the end of the European stage of the war, had no such justification. Using the same techniques used against Hamburg, Dresden, a city full of refugees fleeing westward from Russian troops, was bombed continuously over a three day and night period. The number of deaths has never been accurately determined but range from 70,000 to 150,000. The number of houses destroyed was 24,866 out of 28,410 within an area of 11 square miles. US fire bombing attacks on residential areas of Tokyo in January 1945 killed an estimated 100,000. There were fewer deaths at Hiroshima and Nagasaki-no counseling, no closure, little food, no monuments, most bodies could not be identified.
During WWII, there were two major ship disasters, one at the beginning of the war and one at the end that accounted for 7,000 and 9,000 victims which are only mentioned occasionally. Perhaps the most wrenching disaster was the 7,000 German social democrats, communists and trade unionists who survived Neugamma concentration camp only to die after being placed on a ship which was then attacked and sunk by British aircraft on the last day of the war.
Have Americans, or has anyone, learned anything about militarism and war? What all nations seem to learn is that everyone needs a strong military. If the weapons you have aren't destructive enough, you need weapons that are more destructive and so on. And, in order to lower the cost of these weapons so that you can afford them, you sell them to others, so that more and more people have destructive weapons. And you arrange things so that those who procure and use your weapons are allowed to work and buy stock in those companies that make the weapons. Quite naturally the weapons business is brisk! If the damage and loss of life in the Nineeleven attack was so horrific, what was World War II? Korea? Vietnam? The Cold War? Were our national leaders all totally insane when the formulated a policy of fighting a nuclear war and winning when there were thousands of nuclear warheads pointing at us?
On any given week there will be a presentation of some kind on the Holocaust. The message is repeated over and over again that never again will there be a anything like the deliberate murder of 6,000,000 European Jews. There are hundreds of Holocaust memorials throughout the US and even an official one in Washington DC on Federal Property. Recognizing the immensity of Jewish Holocaust is highly commendable but does nothing to threaten militarism and global war industries-in fact it seems to embrace and enhance militarism. The beleaguered Jewish state of Israel is one of the world's preeminent producers, consumers and exporters of weapons and weapons systems.
Remembering the six million does not preclude remembering all the other millions of victims who were killed including Germans and Japanese. It would be well to remember the various Slavic genocides, a little different, but no less deadly than the Jewish. Everyone has a stake in remembering. It would have been hard to be sympathetic to the suffering of the Slavic peoples and the Chinese when they were part of their Evil Empires and the Germans and Japanese were allied with the US.
For some reason there seems to be a great need these days, for elaborate monuments different from the old fashioned granite pillars with bronze plaques. The 16 acres that comprise "ground zero" are said to be "sacred" and "holy ground" which is probably why Lincoln's Gettysburg Address will be read on the anniversary of Nineeleven.
There will be some kind of monument to the victims of nineeleven, but choosing one will be a daunting task perhaps even more daunting than rebuilding "ground zero." Manhattan itself seems to be in acute danger of being "de clustered," which means corporations moving to the suburbs. Even a mini nineeleven will be the end of Manhattan, the city, the urban cluster as we have come to know it
Even more daunting will be disposing of the billions of dollars collected for the families of the victims. One family accepted a $1,040,000 settlement from the Federal Compensation Fund in the death of their son. The average award is expected to be $1.5 million but families have to agree not to sue. But, sue who? More than 300 families have now joined in a $300 billion suit against various Saudi Arabian interests: deep pockets.
California now has an "Amber Alert System" a media and freeway flashing information system set up to instantly alert people when a child is kidnapped. One could wish that parents might recognize other dangers to their children like the military structure of our country. We can't seem to live without it, but they may not live long with it.
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