October 21, 2004

Remembering the World Trade Centre

I watched an amazing documentary on 9/11 last night, filmed by two French brothers who were filming a FDNY Fire crew when the towers were hit. It's a fairly old documentary now, you may have seen it. But for me it was very strange, very compelling and very disturbing.

I was swept back to that semi-real mental space, just like the days in 2001 when everybody was glued to CNN 24 hours a day, staring slack-jawed at the endless replays of planes hitting towers, towers collapsing, people staring, people racing or just staggering helplessly through dust-covered streets. But what was different this time was the voice I could hear in the background.

It was the voice of George W. Bush on television that day, telling the world that the USA would hunt down the people who did this and bring them to justice. And it was different because now, three years later, we know that Bush has not brought those people to justice. And because now, after all the books and articles and investigations, we have a much better idea of what was really going through Bush's mind on that terrible day.

As I watched the fire-fighters helplessly struggling to reach the inferno, with more and more bodies crashing and thudding to the ground around them, I couldn't help thinking that George Bush was still sitting in a pre-school somewhere, pretending to read a children's book. I couldn't stop thinking that he sat there for seven minutes - seven minutes! And I think we all have a pretty good idea now of what he was thinking...

"Plane crash? Hitting a building? Two of them? Gotta be that bin Laden kid, the angry one... Shit. I'm doing deals with his family! How's that gonna look? Ooh, this is bad... I'm stuffed this time. I've really screwed up. Condi even showed me a report the other day, the warnings from the CIA... What did we do about it? Anything? I don't think so... Shit. OK, don't panic. Keep a straight face. Keep reading this book. Yeah, nice kid... How do we get out of this? Karl's gotta come up with something... "

It took days and days and days before the White House finally went public with information indicating that bin Laden's Al Quaeda group was behind the attacks. As we now know, this was well and truly obvious to anyone in the intelligence community at the time, if not to Bush himself. And yet we also know that, during those days of heated White House discussion, people like Rumsfeld were actively trying to lay the blame on Saddam Hussein's Iraq (see Bob Woodward's books). Why?

Why? Are we allowed to ask? And if no-one gives us an answer, can we assume that the very idea of using Iraq as a scapegoat was an attempt at a massive cover-up? And is that not an admission in itself that there was something that needed to be covered up? I think so.

And what about the "we will bring them to justice" bit? The suicide bombers on those planes were facing God's divine justice before Bush even knew about them. But despite two pre-emptive wars, despite the loss of tens of thousand of lives (many, if not most of them just as innocent as those who died that day in the World Trade Centres), bin Laden himself, and other top Al Quaeda figures, remain free. The efforts to "hunt them down", we are told by Bush himself, do not even occupy his mind very much these days.

And even those that have been captured and taken to places like Guantanamo Bay, even these people have not faced anything that could so far be called "justice". Indeed, long-standing concepts of US Justice have been torn down just as willfully, just as destructively, and perhaps just as permanently as the crumbling edifices of the World Trade Centre towers. To date, not a single "terrorist" has been captured and tried and legally found guilty within the established US legal system of "justice". Not one.

So I look back today at the horror of 9/11 with a renewed sense of outrage and horror. And now I see a double tragedy: firstly, that so many innocent lives were lost in such a barbaric act of wanton destruction, and secondly, that the man in the White House that day was the most incompetent, lying and corrupt leader in US history.

And I remember that there were reports of people, in far-off places like Pakistan, Nigeria and Palestine, who cheered when they heard the news of the Trade Centre attack, only to be rebuked by their fellow countrymen. And I wonder, if another such attack occured today, how many would be cheering, and how many would dare try to rebuke them?

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