September 14, 2001
8:06 AM   Subscribe

An editorial by Canadian broadcaster Gordon Sinclair called "The Americans" is being circulated by email in the wake of this weeks events, but in somewhat altered form. The broadcast was actually made on June 5, 1973, and the original text can be found at the Ryerson University site. Sinclair died in 1984.
posted by tranquileye (42 comments total)
Can there be anybody at this point who hasn't got this emailed to them?
posted by luser at 8:13 AM on September 14, 2001

I haven't - but then again, I've seen it here at least 4 times....
posted by epersonae at 8:14 AM on September 14, 2001

Nostradamus hasn't received one yet. But he foresaw it.
posted by pracowity at 8:16 AM on September 14, 2001

First of all, this has posted at least three times already.

Now, let's see - since 1973, the US has been involved in the illegal overthrow of the sovereign nation of Chile; funded death squads in El Salvador and Guatemala in which tens of thousands were killed with the knowledge (if not blessing) of the US gov't; illegally mined a sovereign nation's harbor (Nicaragua); decimated the people of Iraq; rained bombs down on people in the former Yugoslavia; bombed innocent people and facilities in Sudan and Pakistan; and, of course, countless other operations which the US public know nothing about.

There are millions and millions of people around the world whose lives have been directly, yes directly destroyed by the US. Villages gone; families tortured and murdered; societies ravaged.

What happened Tuesday is a tragedy, and it is inexcusable. But let's be clear about the context in which this happened, about the level of anger and resentmet that much of the world feels towards the US, and how the US' hands are not clean.
posted by mapalm at 8:17 AM on September 14, 2001

oooh. that needed to be said. and said it was.
posted by Frasermoo at 8:25 AM on September 14, 2001

And let's see . . . Yugoslavia was to finally stop another genocide from occurring. It was successful. Afterwards, the nation's people overthrew the leader responsible for the attack, rather than attacking American facilities. What does that tell you, exactly? Not into the myth of American innocence, but don't be a jerk.
posted by raysmj at 8:49 AM on September 14, 2001

now, now, raysmj, no need to resort to name calling.

As for Yugoslavia, I am fully aware of the genocide of that regime, but let's remember that thousands of innocent people were killed on the ground, AND that the bombing to rid the Serbs from Kosovo actually led to a stronger Serb crackdown on Kosovo civilians.
posted by mapalm at 9:02 AM on September 14, 2001

"What happened Tuesday is a tragedy, and it is inexcusable."

Then why are you going to such lengths to outline the excuse?

The events you list are not a secret (nor did they occur in a political or historical vacuum either, by the way). Revisiting them here will not undo the attacks. Correcting these sins will not prevent future extremists abroad and at home from targeting innocent civilians. So why list them here, if not to rhetorically suggest that the US had it coming?

I am growing tired of this gruesome trope: "Of course it's horrible BUT...; Of course it's inexcusable BUT...; I do not mean to say that the attacks were in any way justified..."

I am no longer confident that everyone who has written this over the past two days is telling the truth.

posted by hodgman at 9:14 AM on September 14, 2001


True they are not secret, but the fact is that many Americans do not know what their country does in their name, and somehow believe that the country is innocent (yes, the people in WTC were innocent, so don't go there). The fact is that Americans now are full of righteous indignation, bent on revenge, and haven't a clue about the horror they are so eager to rush into headlong.

Make no mistake about it - a gruesome war is about to begin, and will make what happened on Tuesday look like a walk through the park for millions of people around the world who dare defy the will of America.
posted by mapalm at 9:20 AM on September 14, 2001

The main point behind the "i'm not trying to excuse what happened, but..." posts is to show that, in the future, the best bet to avoid tragedies is not to have stricter rules on airlines, but to stop pissing off other countries.
posted by Newbornstranger at 9:34 AM on September 14, 2001

Forgive me if I do not share as bleak an outlook as yours. The Americans around me are angry yes, but they are mainly shaken, scared, and mourning--they are comforting one another, and finding ways to help.

I too have been troubled by reports of hate crimes and racist, inflammatory calls for massive military response by conservative shills like Coulter. But where I sit, the righteous indignation and pathetic ignorance you describe seems to me nothing but a hysterical cliche. As for our government, I will reserve judgment on its response until plans for a response are proposed.

What would you propose?

posted by hodgman at 9:43 AM on September 14, 2001

Explanation is not justification. Correcting these sins might prevent future extremists abroad and at home from targeting innocent civilians.
hodgman, you seem to believe that things like this happen in a historical vacuum. What could make people desperate enough to sacrifice their own lives out of hatred against the US? If you don't figure this out than all the rockets in the world won't prevent this from happening again. Why was the CIA blind enough to support Bin Laden and turn a blind eye when his men were involved in conflicts in Bosnia and in Kosovo? Whose interests was it serving? Not the victims' of the WTC massacre, for sure. Does the support of genocidal policies in Turkey, Indonesia, Russia, Iraq, make it more or less likely that some crazed Kurd, Iraqi, Chechen etc. will become desperate enough to want to die, killing as many western civilians as they can? Who will suffer then? Why is Israel allowed to implement an apartheid policy, protected from sanctions by the sole superpower? How do you think, literally thousands of kids in Gaza are becoming one after the other human bombs and blowing up themselves along with markets, police stations etc.
The need for the US and the world to reflect is more urgent now than it ever was. If you believe that so many posters who write about the context of this tragedy, are really claiming that what happened was in any way justified, you are assuming that you are surrounded by monsters.
posted by talos at 9:44 AM on September 14, 2001


Are you saying that if we had never done the specific things listed by mapalm that we would not be facing terrorist attacks today?

Even if we were to renounce those acts and all our dirty past and promised to never do it again, is it possible to have ANY foreign that will make everyone happy?

And even if we did forge such a policy, would that necessarily protect us from fanatacism?

posted by hodgman at 9:50 AM on September 14, 2001

I wanted to make it clear that this was written in 1973, during the Vietnam War, in response to a very different situation.
posted by tranquileye at 9:54 AM on September 14, 2001

I would not characterize the bloodlust as "hysterical cliche." It is real and evident everywhere in the calls for vengeance and retaliation by any means and whatever the consequences.

A bleak view, perhaps; and though I pray I am wrong, all signs point to the imminent unleashing of hell.

I propose that we bury our dead, mourn them, and begin a process of examining the policies and relationships the US has around the world; build new alliances that reflect a movement towards peace and justice, not profit and oppression; support the rights and aspirations of oppressed people from Palestine to Afghanistan to Colombia; and stop the machine of war whose gears are beginning to turn. Of course, none of this will happen, because Americans are a vengeful people.
posted by mapalm at 9:54 AM on September 14, 2001

mapalm: Then what was your solution to the crisis. The remarks I heard from annoying super-lefties at the time (and I'm not a conservative, just for the record) was, basically, America is a nation run by fascists who are going to bomb a sovereign nation because the military-industrial complex . . . blah blah. I despised that crap then, I despise the hindsight viewpoints now with, "Well, it was still bad in some ways," without disputing the essential, overall positive outcome.

And whoever said we shouldn't piss off other countries. Well, no, you shouldn't necessarily, and we did plenty of times. But you can't avoid pissing other countries off, just as you can't avoid pissing individuals off. Sometimes it happens no matter what you do, or is sparked by the flimsiest of pretexts. If you don't want to piss people off, you stay out at home, around the clock.
posted by raysmj at 9:57 AM on September 14, 2001

The US has a history not of "pissing off other countries," but of decimating them, imprisoning its citizens, destroying infrastructure, inflicting terror.
posted by mapalm at 10:00 AM on September 14, 2001


I am the first in this thread to say that all of these events do not occur in a historical vacuum. In fact, I was the first to say those exact words (though obviously mapalm feels the same way).

But are you suggesting that US intervention (or lack of intervention, depending on which feels more conveniently sinful to you) MAKES children into human bombs? That they have no parents or guardians, no leaders, who strap explosives on to them? Who tragically manipulate them to their own ends.

That there are men and women in the world who have no choice but to kill themselves and murder others because US policy made them do it?
posted by hodgman at 10:05 AM on September 14, 2001

I have been watching the MeFi community commenting on the attack, and until now have been silent as to my view. I don't think I can read anymore about it, because many of you are totally pissing me off. America, our country, is the greatest country in the world today. Tell me one country that is better, one country where people do have a chance to succeed, one country that uses their own military for humanitarian causes. (I don't want to hear anyone say anything about "Big Brother" or anything related. You know that when you were in high school, college, whatever, there were causes that you felt had to be rectified. Whether it was a "Free Tibet" or Nelson Mandella, or whatever, you strove to rectify the social injustices of the world). What is the problem? We are a great country, and we will be a great country. The people responsible must pay, the ideologies that caused this must pay. Palestine, who fosters hate for America, must pay. WTC attack was and is an act of war, and if you don't have the guts to fight, then get out! As for me, this is my country, my home, and I love it. When my home is threatened, I am not going to wait for a task force to decide who did it, I am going to react, I am going to fight for my rights to live without fear. What would you do? A neighbor rapes and kills your wife while his brothers sit by, watch, and applaud. What are you going to do? They should all be punished, killed, taken out for good. Sure, it won't solve the problems of the world, sure, innocent people who don't agree with the travesty, but are silent, may be killed. But the message must be that America will not tolerate, and will punish those who try to usurp the freedom we enjoy and take for granted. We must not take that freedom for granted, we must fight, and keep fighting for it. I cannot believe that ANYONE, in the wake of such a tragedy, would even allude to operations, of which you probably do not understand the reasoning behind, to taint what America IS. Shame on you! Go to another country, see what it is like. Come back when you are willing to fight for your home.
posted by Uncle Joe's Brother at 10:12 AM on September 14, 2001

As for Americans being vengeful people, I don't know where you live. But this clearly is an offensively reductive statement that I'm sure you know isn't wholly true.


"I propose that we bury our dead, mourn them, and begin a process of examining the policies and relationships the US has around the world; build new alliances that reflect a movement towards peace and justice, not profit and oppression; support the rights and aspirations of oppressed people from Palestine to Afghanistan to Colombia; and stop the machine of war whose gears are beginning to turn. Of course, none of this will happen, because Americans are a vengeful people."

Actually curious, non-rhetorical question: I see no punishment in the above list. Are you saying that those who planned and funded these attacks not be punished at all?

Semi-rhetorical follow-up question: wouldn't that then prove to the the world that diplomacy by mass murder and terror works?
posted by hodgman at 10:13 AM on September 14, 2001

Obviously my defense of the American people is undermined somewhat by following so closely beneath Uncle Joe's Brother's bloodthirsty rant.

But I stand by my basic opinion and longtime observation that Americans on the whole are more interested in seeking justice (compound, complex, problematic ideal that it is) than vengeance.

posted by hodgman at 10:17 AM on September 14, 2001

From Thursday's Globe and Mail: In 1987, I travelled to the West Bank to research my book (The Garden and the Gun)about the shifting ideologies of Israel. In the dusty Balata refugee camp, I encountered young Palestinians who were enraged or numbed by the thwarted circumstances of their lives. I remember their rousing, well-rehearsed chorus of "Death to Israel." And I shall never forget the boy of 18 who said, "Our daily life is what you see here. We have no hope. . . . Maybe death is that way out." Nor shall I forget the soft-spoken professor at An Najah University near Nablus who said, "I believe that if the Palestinians continue to live as deprived as they are now, the younger, more radical generation will initiate a new round of terrible violence."

It is not directly US policy, but the hopelessness that comes from the life these people live, and that hopelessness has its roots in US policy, particularly in Palestine but also in US client states like Turkey and Egypt where the gap between rich and poor is enormous and corruption and oppression is widespread. Islamists are influential in these places not because of their anti-US stance but because they, and not the governments, are setting up clinics, schools and other community resources. Many Islamists are socialist/communists with religious beliefs that simply make them more attractive to the conservative poor of these countries, people who have been abused by their governments for years, decades even.

It would be great if we could think that the atrocities on Tuesday were some kind of unjustifiable anomaly, but let's be realistic: the people had a reason for what was done, and the partial list mapalm provided is a place to begin trying to put this event in historical context.
posted by fellorwaspushed at 10:24 AM on September 14, 2001

I don't think America is capable of dispensing justice or punishment in a way that will not also involve mass destruction.

Once America identifies the perpetrators (if ever), then I would support arresting them and putting them on trial. But that would not be enough for many Americans who need mass reprisals to assuage their anger. And that is frightening.
posted by mapalm at 10:27 AM on September 14, 2001

last post was in response to hodgman
posted by mapalm at 10:27 AM on September 14, 2001

hodgman: I'm suggesting that murder, repression and denial of basic freedoms makes children into human bombs. And these bombs will explode at anyone who they perceive to have assisted in their plight. In recent cases, market places in Israel. Now, that is a demented and inhuman reaction. Who supports suicide bombers? But it will happen. Again and again. Unless the source of the madness is addressed.

So if enough demented and hopeless people are produced in the Middle East, some of them will be recruited by homicidal fanatics and, surely, odds are that some of them will eventually make it to the US and "hit" the country that has aided Israel, imposed the Shah, supported Hussein in his rise, OKed the invasion and destruction of Lebanon etc. And they can't tell the difference between civilians and countries any more. They have no respect for life because they have lost respect for their own life. Support for repression allows repression, repression breeds despair, despair madness, madness organizes, madness kills indiscriminately.
That's my reasoning. It has nothing to do with blaming the victims.
posted by talos at 10:31 AM on September 14, 2001

You are making it sound as if the perpetrators of this action is limited to a few black sheep, but I don't think that is the case. BTW, mass reprisals are necessary. If we let terrorists (and these aren't invisible rogues with hidden agendas who are doing these things out of malice) attack us in this way, we need to react. I agree, there is not a clear target to go to war with, but if the countries that harbor these kind of people, and use them to enter our country and make war, then we do have a target, and we must exercise our power to ensure the safety and integrity of our country.
posted by Uncle Joe's Brother at 10:34 AM on September 14, 2001

sorry, hodgman, meant for mapalm.
posted by Uncle Joe's Brother at 10:37 AM on September 14, 2001

Uncle Joe, I have nothing to say to that. Your bloodlust is sickening.

I am done here...
posted by mapalm at 10:42 AM on September 14, 2001

talos: "That's my reasoning. It has nothing to do with blaming the victims."

Would it be fair to say that you do not blame the individual victims but that you do blame the US as a collective victim?

Or do you just mean to say that, as they are clearly repressed, despairing, and mad, those responsible for these attacks are blameless?
posted by hodgman at 10:42 AM on September 14, 2001

BTW, I believe that if some state was behind this, the usual suspects (afghanistan, iraq) are not it. Look towards the gulf, Saudi and Gulf state sheikhs with a large bank account and connections all over the world. Unlikely that they would ever be targeted though...
posted by talos at 10:43 AM on September 14, 2001

I don't want to get in the middle of this, and it seems to me that both sides have some very valid points. I just have a question.

How reduced a role in international events would America have had to have had, in order for fanatical terrorists not to target it? For instance, should we really have let the Palestinian nations destroy Israel just after it was created, or maybe a few years later?

Clearly, mistakes were made. But for the most part (though with some notable and regrettable exceptions) they were well-intentioned, with the protection of the free world in mind. I don't know whether we've done more good than harm. It's not for me to say. But I do think the most powerful single nation on the planet does have some moral-type obligation to serve the good of the entire planet (including, way back when, trying to stop the Communist Empire from swallowing other nations, etc.), and if, in doing so, it attracts the hatred of vile and fanatical rogue elements, this is still a smaller price to pay than to stand idly by while other, weaker nations are destroyed.

And I have a hard time following the chain from the U.S. support of Israel to the oppression of the Palestinian youth. Their governments have failed to stimulate their economies and create opportunity. Even if that is a cost of a war against Israel, it is still not attributable to any U.S. (or Israeli) policy. I just don't see how we created the hatred behind this -- it is the work of fanatics who are frustrated by their inability to destroy something they hate (and not by U.S. policies), and who are lashing out as hard as they can.

(I guess I ended up making some comments, in addition to my question.... But would a reduced U.S. role really have prevented such hatred?)
posted by mattpfeff at 10:48 AM on September 14, 2001


"but let's be realistic: the people had a reason for what was done..."

At least you have the courage of your apologist convictions, as distasteful as I find them.

posted by hodgman at 10:50 AM on September 14, 2001

I cannot believe that ANYONE, in the wake of such a tragedy, would even allude to operations, of which you probably do not understand the reasoning behind, to taint what America IS.

Uncle Joe's Brother, you owe it to yourself to get educated about what is happening the world, because you don't have all the facts.

I think a lot of people pretty clearly understand the reasoning behind America's various oversea's adventures: preserve American miliatary, political, and economic power. This is called realpolitik.Henry Kissinger and his ilk would certainly admit this. It isn't a secret at all.
posted by tranquileye at 10:51 AM on September 14, 2001

hodgman: the suicide pilots are the puppets. Even if they were to blame they're dead now. The guilty parties are the "Islamic" ideologues (that rich SOB Bin Laden) who use these people as instruments. They thrive in the kinds of environments I previously described.
And I don't understand the concept of a "collective victim." I did, do and will blame the US government and the corporate interests it serves for a lot of things, but not for this attack and I would never accept terrorist violence as a political weapon.
posted by talos at 10:59 AM on September 14, 2001

mapalm: The US has a history of "decimating" other countries, utterly destroying them, is hyperbole (especially in re to Yugoslavia, which you mentioned). And I was addressing the pissing off comment alone anyway, OK? Meantime, we are not totally innocent, but we're not the Great Satan either, which is basically what your post amounts to saying.
posted by raysmj at 11:00 AM on September 14, 2001

I agree that the main reason behind our international actions are to preserve America (you can categorize it if you want) and our allies. My point was that our actions, while aimed at preserving our interests (isn't that what the government is for? preserving the interests of the American people, even if we don't know all the facts), probably are the result of other, more specific motivations. I work because I want to live a comfortable life, but I am at work today because I need to finish an audit, help out on a tax audit, and whatnot. If I did not have these things to do, I may decide to take a day off. You would not have known that if I did not tell you. You did know, however, that I work to live a comfortable life (or at least could have correctly assumed). I was commenting on the specifics, while you were focusing on general goals. We don't know the specifics, usually. We can't know, it isn't our job. Just like it isn't your job to know why I need to do a tax audit, or why I need to audit another company.
posted by Uncle Joe's Brother at 11:05 AM on September 14, 2001

Vietnam: decimated

Iraq: decimated

Nicaragua: decimated

Guatemala: decimated

I don't think hundreds of thousands murdered, disappeared, tortured, etc. is hyperbole.

Satan? No, there is nothing mythical about the US' history of violent aggression. It is all too real.
posted by mapalm at 11:06 AM on September 14, 2001


"I would never accept terrorist violence as a political weapon."

On this we can agree.

posted by hodgman at 11:11 AM on September 14, 2001

mapalm: Last I heard, Vietnam had a Club Med, so there goes the totally destroyed angle. It wasn't doing all that well before we showed up. Our crimes there are well documented, and we've agonized over them endlessly (still not enough, in certain cases), but the country wasn't wiped off the map. And Vietnamese aren't coming here to blow us up.

Iraq's problems are mostly brought upon itself by its leader(s), not the U.S.. We did not "decimate Iraq" or el dictador there would be gone by now and there wouldn't be that Jumbotron he shows the late-model weaponry on during military parades, etc. I'll let others address the other situations. And you don't address any good at all, which undercuts any point you're trying to make. It's all horrible, horrible, U.S. is fascist, blah blah. Finally, you failed mentioned Yugoslavia this time, which you did earlier.
posted by raysmj at 11:34 AM on September 14, 2001

Vietnam has a Club Med - what the hell does that prove?

If you are not aware of the extent to which the US bombed Vietnam, then you need to educate yourself.

'nuff said.
posted by mapalm at 12:53 PM on September 14, 2001

hodgman: I do not make apologies for the perpetrators, that would be impossible. But it is naive to think that there was no motivation -- that would reduce the atrocity to "act of god" status. Obviously, the people who committed these actions are insane by any standard (psychotic suicidal mass murderers), but this was no accident. When I was living in the Middle East (Jordan), every night there were reports of US & British bombing raids on Iraq. That is just one instance of American aggression in the Arab world. Just because it doesn't make the news doesn't mean it's not happening.

To clarify: I do not sympathise with the killers, or try to explain their actions as being at all justifiable, but simply point out that everything happens within an historical context. And history has shown, as mapalm observes, that the US is not some shining beacon of democracy, no matter what Americans might like to think.
posted by fellorwaspushed at 1:01 PM on September 14, 2001

We aren't??
posted by Uncle Joe's Brother at 2:33 PM on September 14, 2001

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