Take a deep breath, angry patriots
September 13, 2001 7:16 PM   Subscribe

Take a deep breath, angry patriots... and read another piece in vein of Seamus Milne's Guardian article. Think, breathe, think. (This one's from your fellow English-speakers in New Zealand).
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen (32 comments total)
Sorry, I still believe at this point that America, as a country, has done more good than evil in its history. Has it been perfect? Of course not. Has it been evil? Possibly, at times. This is a question for the ages to answer, not terrorists.

This attack is one I wouldn't have wished on my darkest, most dispicable enemy in a thousand lifetimes.

This attack was not about revenge or retribution for past acts, it was about ignorance, madness and pure unadulterated evil. It was about one small faction of this planet decideding to dictate to the rest of the world what is right and what is wrong.

America does not speak for all people in the world, but neither do the evil people who seek to make their voices heard using the screams of others.
posted by dewelch at 7:35 PM on September 13, 2001 [1 favorite]

Agreed. There are some fine points made, but overall a bit foolish. "A fruitless, low risk attack" on Bin Laden? Wow. I don't even think I have to dissect that.
posted by dig_duggler at 7:48 PM on September 13, 2001

But the American people's profound ignorance of their own government's foreign policy bodes ill."
Now, if I were an American reading this, I'd likely take offence at this guy's arrogance.

For what it's worth, what's been going on in NZ:
Quote from our acting Prime Minister Jim Anderton:

"Even if Islamic extremists are ultimately shown to be responsible for the terrorist activity, refugees to New Zealand are by definition trying to get away from persecution by extremist regimes and they can hardly be blamed for that"

Our real PM is on her way home from a cancelled tour of Europe, she is currently being waylaid by Naughty Australians. Of course, NZ has recently arranged to take 150 Afghan Assylum seekers from the Tampa.

Naughty, naughty Australians.
posted by Catch at 7:57 PM on September 13, 2001

As much as I am concerned about attacks against Arab-Americans and Muslims--as well as at the thought of a deadly, outsized military retaliation that is more symbolic than it is effective--I think Mr. Brown may be jumping the gun a bit in his dire prediction of our National Socialist future.

And does he mean to suggest that a potential economic downturn is also our fault? Let me be the first to apologize for having our financial district dive bombed: that was indeed very careless of us.

We in the US have long gained false comfort from our distance from the bloodletting in Europe, Africa, and Asia. But I suppose you would need to have at least a hemisphere between you and this tragedy to use it as an excuse for axe grinding.

Still, Mr. Brown did display an astonishing sensitivity to a single Pakistani cab driver. He actually wishes he had given him 20 dollars! (New Zealand currency, no less.) An inspiring example to us in this shameful nation.

Special big-ups to MonkeyBoy,

posted by hodgman at 8:01 PM on September 13, 2001

Know what? This and all the other "America is the living embodiment of evil" claptrap doesn't change the fact that there are at least 5,000 innocent people dead - probably thousands more. The killers will pay, and no amount of hand wringing or finger wagging by apologists will change that.
posted by owillis at 8:04 PM on September 13, 2001

Owillis: Are you going to sign up? If the killers are going to pay, someone's got to go and collect. Will it be you?
posted by websavvy at 8:10 PM on September 13, 2001

The killers will pay...

I suspect that those still alive, like those who went down in the planes, are quite willing to pay that price, considering what it bought them.

Those who define the rules of the game almost always win.
posted by rushmc at 8:12 PM on September 13, 2001

Will it be you?
If necessary, yes.
posted by owillis at 8:15 PM on September 13, 2001

[wryly]: for those about to rock, we salute you.
posted by quonsar at 8:25 PM on September 13, 2001

Well, anyone interested in "making them pay" will probably be interested in these links.
Make them pay on the ground...
Make them pay in a boat...
Make them pay in boats and on beaches
Make them pay from the air

Apparently, it helps to have Flash to access the Navy and Air Force sites. Those without flash might consider the more down-to-earth Army and Marine sites.

Those wishing to put their money where their mouths are can feel free to post pictures of themselves in their brand new uniforms!
posted by websavvy at 8:34 PM on September 13, 2001

owillis, no one is claiming that America is the embodiment of all evil, or that the killers shouldn't pay. It's not an apologia for terrorism, it's an inquiry into the whys and wherefores. Make killers pay with my blessing, just don't exact the price from bystanders. If you really believe justice is an American value, you can't have it any other way. Civilised justice punishes individuals, not collectives.

This is why people are so keen to categorise this as war, rather than criminal activity, because then you can bypass the niceties of justice and indulge revenge without moral qualm.

Some of us are hoping that you'll all be really careful despite the justified pain and anger and not go charging in making a big mess that will lead to more terrorism in the long run. I would be really tempted to wait a few days, this does feel insensitive, except that this could likely end up in a long-running war if you guys mis-step in anger, and I'd like to spread the thoughtful meme before it's too late. I wish I knew how to be more successful at it :(

hodgman, i don't see any suggestion that the economic consequences for the world are America's fault -- to me, he was just emphasising that the awfulness doesn't stop at the immediate human tragedy but spills out everywhere -- and that there are consequences felt even in our part of the world. The Reichstag allusion was a caution, not a prediction, imho of course. No axe-grinding here -- I like Americans and American culture, and so does Russell Brown, and so do most of us. It just really does look different from the outside, where we get more world news, from more different sources.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 8:43 PM on September 13, 2001

...just don't exact the price from bystanders.

Here is an important lesson for you. It has been proven again and again.

There are NO bystanders in a war. There are no innocents. There are no neutral parties.

War has its own rules beyond the effort of nations to control them. War has a momentum of its own. War is a world unto itself. "War is all hell" visited upon everyone regardless of their politics, religion, beliefs or desires.

Our feeble attempts to "control" war (surgical strikes, 100 day wars) have brought us to the brink we face today.

Expecting America to control a war that was brought to their doorstep is like expecting to stop a river with your hand. America can only enter into this war, thrust upon it, with the full knowledge that hell has already appeared and they have no choice but to march through it to the other side.
posted by dewelch at 8:55 PM on September 13, 2001

dewelch, are you actually at war? Terrorism is usually treated (in my mind rightly) as a criminal act.

Yeah, calling it war allows you to leave your moral qualms at home. I disagree - this is a heinous act of mass murder, but it's not a war. It's a particularly awful incident in a series with months or years in between. Calling it war is strictly a rhetorical trope.

If it were a war, it wouldn't be one that you can win. If Afghanistan were nuked into a plain of smoking glass, attacks from deranged Muslims would only increase.

Question: which nation, people or state are you at war with? Where are their troops? How will you know you can declare victory?
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 9:12 PM on September 13, 2001

I'd like to take this opportunity to thank you for the thoughtful posts, spleen, and the outsider's perhaps more objective, certainly different perspective (in contrast to the "Americans are selfish, greedy, clueless bastards and the rest of the world hates you" posts). Not ALL Americans are reactionary bigots, as I'm sure you know. But there is no unlighting this fuse now, whatever any of us may think of it. It's fixin' to get VERY ugly, all over the world.
posted by rushmc at 9:22 PM on September 13, 2001

I can't help but remember something I posted earlier, like many others. In all of your bloodthirst, those of you who would attack first and ask questions later, do you wonder at all about whether you may doom thousands, hundreds of thousands, or even millions of Americans to death by retaliation? I live in Manhattan. Your determination could be my death sentence.
posted by Sinner at 9:34 PM on September 13, 2001

If you read any of my posts you will see I have not advocated killing civilians or treating them as "collateral damage". I want justice on the agressors, not innocents.
posted by owillis at 9:43 PM on September 13, 2001

I would think its safe to assume that the scene of the world changed that early morning.

Humans have suffered, Humans will suffer.

I guess there had to become a time, when American arrogance and ignorance of its own governments endeavours will have to be eliminated.

There are certainly two parties to all these posts.

One who prefer to believe that Super Cop America will whoop some butt and eradicate all "so-called-evil".

And others who prefer to believe that this is just the beginning of further escalation.

I believe America will whoop butt, and there will be further escalation. New Alliances will be formed.

Pain, horror and suffering will have to be endured by all humans, to break the circle of ignorance of the terrorists, and the arrogance of Super Cop America.

God Bless Us All.
God Show Us The Right Path.

posted by adnanbwp at 9:46 PM on September 13, 2001

Owillis: I agree.

I'd be ecstatic if the perpetrators of this crime were arrested, given fair trials and punished according to whatever laws apply in this case.

I'd also be ecstatic if we found that some of the people we thought were guilty weren't.

Broad gestures of brutality are what inspires legions of zealots to kill thousands of innocent civilians. If we've forgotten that in the past (and I think we have), we absolutely must remember that now.
posted by websavvy at 10:01 PM on September 13, 2001

Think, breathe, think? Why do assume that those of us who are bent on the destruction of these vile demons are not thinking? Here's what I'm thinking. I'm thinking that there will never be peace in the Middle East as long as there are two sides standing to take a swing at the other. I'm thinking that peace will only be achieved when one side is eliminated from the battle. And I'm thinking that the US is the only country with the courage, might and right to do it.

Civilians? What happened to the idea that it is the duty of people everywhere to opose evil and repressive governments, especially their own? Even at the cost of their onw life? I suppose the folks in Scotland and NZ would excuse the Germans for putting up with Hitler all those years? Besides, they were just living there and had nothing to do with all that nasty holocaust business. I suppose the same stands fo rthe citizens of Iraq, Afghanistan, etc. Who is serving in the represive armies and police forces of these nations? Robots? Robots of a kind, I suppose, but its the citizenry of these evil leaders, a citizenry which tacitly supports their vile activities.

Those of us who characterize this as war do so because to treat these people as criminals trvializes their actions. And I do not want to end up in a situation where a very small group of people are simply put on trial and maybe locked up, maybe executed. If we are to prevent these sorts of atrocities from being repeated, the US (and our stalwart allies) will have to conduct a sustained and merciless assault on these monsters, those responsible for the WTC attack as well as others. It will be an unpleasant and grim mission, but if you think the US has "played dirty" in the past, you ain't seen nothin' yet.
posted by lenticular at 10:06 PM on September 13, 2001

Sinner - one small question. Who is to say that if we don't retaliate that you wouldn't be targeted anyhow?

I'm not talking about hitting first and asking questions later - I'm talking about being damn sure (as sure as you can be), and then responding to a threat.
posted by kokogiak at 10:10 PM on September 13, 2001

In the case of Afghanistan, Lenticular, the answer to the question: "Who is serving in the represive armies and police forces of these nations? Robots?" is "No one". There is no army and no police and sweet fuck all government of any kind. There's a mafia of mad peasants with guns and rocket launchers, kneecapping the rest of them atop a pile of rubble. Bombing the shit out of terrorised goatherds already ruled by fear is not going to help, and it's stupid, possibly even evil.

The point I have evidently been failing to make is that there is no other side at this point.

there will never be peace in the Middle East as long as there are two sides standing to take a swing at the other. I'm thinking that peace will only be achieved when one side is eliminated from the battle.

Great. The Crusades and WWIII, all rolled into one.

My last word in this thread, honest. There are no sides. There is no battle. But thanks to rhetoric like yours, there will be soon.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 10:23 PM on September 13, 2001

"I suppose the folks in Scotland and NZ would excuse the Germans for putting up with Hitler all those years?"

Steady on, Old Bean. Don't forget folks from both Scotland and NZ were having a whack at Nazi Germany long before the US got involved. Oh, now I've done it.
But HUGS lenticular. you seem very upset over one person's opinion.
posted by Catch at 10:27 PM on September 13, 2001

kokogiak - in my own personal foreign policy playbook, some reasoned use of the military has not been ruled out.

But if you read enough of these posts, and enough reports of Americans elsewhere, it becomes very, very clear that many people's definition of retaliation does not match yours' and mine. Many people who have been indirectly (meaning friends, family, etc. were hurt, but not them), who live elsewhere, seem content to press on with their agendas of an eye for an eye. Most likely - this is a guess - many of those folks live in regions less likely to be targeted. Which means they're willing to trade my life; but would they trade theirs'?

The possibility of "being targeted anyhow," is why I'll be leaving the city for a while effective tomorrow, especially given that the president -- who, beyond being a PERPETUAL target, was actually a DECLARED one in the first attacks -- continues to publicize his travel plans to our fair city tomorrow afternoon.
posted by Sinner at 10:29 PM on September 13, 2001

The subtle gloating in this article (American intelligence: "outsmarted yet again") is truly vile. The discussion about loss of civilian lives is utterly necessary, profoundly troubling and will ultimately have to be swept away. WWII ought to have been carried out differently -- no firebombing of Dresden, for instance -- but had anyone tried to hold back the inevitable invasion of Germany for the sake of German citizens, the world would have been drawn into a far deeper hell than the one it had already faced.

I'm only sorry that anyone exhausted the comparisons to Hitler with the Gulf War, which did not merit it. This does. If a coalition among bin Laden, Afghanistan, Iraq and any number of cells has access to the nuclear bomb, to smallpox, to chemical weapons, then what should we do?

The nature of events like this is that they have no nature we recognize; our old steady moral compass cannot point us where we must go. I for one will never trot out the John Wayneisms or boast like a Yew-Ess-Ay jerkoff about any war. But I cannot begin to express my exhaustion with the inadequate sentiments I'm hearing about how our enemy is but a shade and the enemy is us and (fatuous observation du jour) Americans Like TV Endings.

There is a terrifying and very real monster alive and active, now, in the world, with no compunctions and no limit to its desire to destroy American lives in as dramatic and painful a manner as possible. Mother of God, what would you all have us do?
posted by argybarg at 10:47 PM on September 13, 2001

How many people were involved in the bombing? Lets say 10,000 tops. Millions in Afghanistan. Oh yeah. And if you want to nuke it - check out China, Russia and Pakistan on its borders. Fallout won't make them happy..

There can be no war that will not involve millions of deaths - even if nobody came to the Afghans aid, have you seen the terrain? Thousands of ground troops would most likely die up there.. The Russians did.

A thought also came to me - sure this killed many people, 5,000 odd, but maybe the main target of this was the US economy? Consumer spending is the basis of America's prosperity, and that will go down most definately. Wall Street is going to be shut down until next week too - and as for the Pentagon, US defence has doubtless been hit bad.. Maybe these were the main targets?
posted by Mossy at 4:19 AM on September 14, 2001

"It just really does look different from the outside, where we get more world news, from more different sources."

And I might remind that it really does look different from the inside, where there is a mass grave 8 miles south.

Not trying to pull "suffering" rank, just saying that Brown's analysis was lazy, opportunist, all to willing the horrible specificity of this act for his own rhetorical ends. His blithe warning of America's likely slide into Nazi-ism is inflammatory. His comment on the economy, following as it does without transition from the long list of what he have done and likely will do long, was a non sequitur at best, a clear if nonsensical implication of blame at worst.

I know we are liked abroad, even loved, and I am grateful. But I've been abroad, and I know it's a love-hate relationship, and perhaps that's justified.

But I think in this case we're looking at someone using a remote tragedy as an opportunity to release some pent-up aggression of his own. I suspect he would be more sensitive and patient about the timing of his rant if the tragedy were less remote.

posted by hodgman at 4:57 AM on September 14, 2001


"all to willing the horrible specificity of this act for his own rhetorical ends"

should read

all too willing to overlook the horrible specificity of this act for his own rhetorical ends."

I am typing too fast.
posted by hodgman at 4:58 AM on September 14, 2001

Once I got over my shock at the we-had-it-coming tone of articles like Brown's, or Milne's, or Moore's, or this, the only way I could make sense of them was to see it as some kind of magical thinking:

If only the US hadn't scuttled Kyoto. If only the US hadn't bolted out of Durban. If only the US hadn't built Nike factories in Asia. If only the US hadn't supported Israel. If only the US hadn't done what it did in Argentina. If only the US weren't so fat and greedy. If only these things and many others, the terrorists wouldn't have attacked us.

That US policies over the years have created critics and enemies over the years goes without saying. But to say that these policies have created, let alone justified, terrorist attacks seems a real stretch.
posted by idiolect at 6:05 AM on September 14, 2001

I don't think that I'm the only American willing to admit that some of the US foreign policy has been less than even-sided, impartial, etc.

This article was disturbing to me on many levels. Not so much for the points it attempted to make, but in the way that it did so.

The criticism for using the words "justice" and "peace," words for the ideals that the American people strive towards, if not always perfectly accomplish, in the President's national statement.

The implication that celebrating Palestinians should not surprise or anger Americans. Perhaps I'm not the majority, but I can't say that if I saw television footage of a bomb landing on bin Laden's home that I would be dancing in the streets and celebrating, and I think it would be especially unlikely if that bomb killed innocent bystanders, or hit a school, or an office complex. Even more so unlikely if the bomb hit the school or office complex and missed bin Laden completely.

There are so many more things in that article that I think muddy the waters of what is going on here. That thousands of people in a civilian building were summarily executed for perceived crimes of the nation in which they live. That this occurrence is a cause for sorrow and reverence for those that have lost their lives or their loved ones. And that the loss of these lives was the responsibility of those who made the decision to hijack planes and crash them into buildings, and no one else's.
posted by chlumani at 8:27 AM on September 14, 2001

I'm thinking that peace will only be achieved when one side is eliminated from the battle. And I'm thinking that the US is the only country with the courage, might and right to do it.

There is nothing courageous about striking out indiscriminately in pain and anger. There is nothing right about advocating the genocide of an entire ethnic and cultural group. Such actions prove the very antithesis of courage or right.

Today I grieve for my nation. How much greater will my grief be if we become the monster we claim to fear and hate.

How we conduct ourselves from here will determine how our nation is perceived from the clarity of hindsight. We can take the path of justice or the path of blood. All hope that we prove worthy of the accolades of time.
posted by theMargin at 11:56 AM on September 14, 2001

As a follow up to my post above: Recent quote from Cormac McCarthy, pulled from another thread.

"Pacifism is not passivity. Pacifism is direct action, direct resistance, refusing to cooperate with violence. That takes a lot of bravery. It takes much more courage than to use a gun or drop a bomb."
posted by theMargin at 12:08 PM on September 14, 2001

I'm thinking that there will never be peace in the Middle East as long as there are two sides standing to take a swing at the other. I'm thinking that peace will only be achieved when one side is eliminated from the battle. And I'm thinking that the US is the only country with the courage, might and right to do it.

And it worked so well in putting a stop to all those wars the pesky Indian tribes used to fight with each other! Oh, wait, that was eliminating ALL sides...my bad.
posted by rushmc at 5:12 PM on September 14, 2001

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