September 2011 Archives

Today is International Blasphemy Rights Day, on the anniversary of the Danish Mohammed cartoons (see here for my previous comments).

Believers may wish to ignore the inconvenient parts of their scripture, but Leviticus 24:16 clearly demands that I be stoned to death for this offense (among others).

Come at me, bro!

9/11 and the Left

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The 2002 survey The Left and 9/11 (The Nation) is a good supplement to all the conservative blather on the attack's anniversary, reminding us of the dissent that is all too often glossed over in recent reminiscences. Shatz writes, "I undertook an informal investigation of left-wing opinion on American foreign policy since 9/11:"

I spoke to a range of left intellectuals, from social democrats who were convinced that Afghanistan was a necessary and just war, to anti-imperialists who believed that it was a nasty war of retribution. More important, I spoke with people, arguably the left majority, who fell somewhere in between, in that sea of uncertainty that is the post-9/11 condition. [...] The question that has vexed them is where to draw the line between self-defense and imperial aggrandizement.

The piece mentions thinkers such as Tariq Ali, Todd Gitlin, Paul Berman, Ken Silverstein, Barbara Ehrehreich, and Edward Said, but winds up focusing on the contrast between Noam Chomsky and Christopher Hitchens:

Chomsky's jaundiced perspective on American power makes it virtually impossible to contemplate the possibility of just American military interventions, either for self-defense or to prevent genocide. Hitchens's intoxicated embrace of American power has left him less and less capable of drawing the line between humanitarian intervention and rogue-state adventurism. What the left needs to cultivate is an intelligent synthesis, one that recognizes that the United States has a role to play in the world while also warning of the dangers of an imperial foreign policy.

Also interesting is Susan Jacoby's piece on the sacralized myth of 9/11. She writes that "Sacralization and memorialization are not, and should not be, synonymous:"

Memorialization rightly recalls the names and lives of the individuals who died so senselessly on that day, not because they were all heroes but because they were all human beings worthy of remembrance. Sacralization and mythicization, by contrast, look for some sort of sense and transcendent meaning where there is none.

"Sacralization," she continues, "mistakes honest discourse for sacrilege:"

Hypocritical sacralization is really about ownership of a disaster, not about remembering and honoring those who died. [...] What sacralizers usually mean when they say "never forget" is, "Never forget the symbolic grievance that we can use for political purposes." They don't mean never forget the real horror and pain, experienced individually as well as collectively, of the lives that were lost.

Jerry Coyne issues this reminder:

Let us by all means mourn the nearly 3,000 lives lost on that day, each a human being embedded in a network of love and caring, but let us also remember that it was faith, blind, obedient faith in Allah, that was behind it all.

Reuters discusses 9/11's disappeared history by noting that "the vast majority of the 9/11 Commission's investigative records remain sealed at the National Archives in Washington, even though the commission had directed the archives to make most of the material public in 2009:"

Matt Fulgham, assistant director of the archives' center for legislative affairs which has oversight of the commission documents, said that more than a third of the material has been reviewed for possible release. But many of those documents have been withheld or heavily redacted, and the released material includes documents that already were in the public domain, such as press articles. [...]

Several former commission staff members said that because there is no comprehensive effort to unseal the remaining material, portions of the records the commission had hoped would be available by now to scholars and the public instead will remain sealed indefinitely.

Speaking of liberty, the ACLU has a new report entitled "A Call to Courage: Reclaiming Our Liberties Ten Years after 9/11" (PDF) "We could not have imagined," writes the ACLU, that the US "would engage in policies that directly defied American values and undermined our Constitution:"

We lost our way when, instead of addressing the challenge of terrorism consistent with our values, our government chose the path of torture and targeted killing, of Guantánamo and military commissions, of warrantless government spying and the entrenchment of a national surveillance state, all of which now define the post-9/11-era. That is not who we are, or who we want to be.

As the report notes, "our government's policies and practices during the past decade have too often betrayed our values and undermined our security:"

Ten years ago, we could not have imagined our country would engage in systematic policies of torture and targeted killing, extraordinary rendition and warrantless wiretaps, military commissions and indefinite detention, political surveillance and religious discrimination. Not only were these policies completely at odds with our values, but by engaging in them, we strained relations with our allies, handed a propaganda tool to our enemies, undermined the trust of communities whose cooperation is essential in the fight against terrorism, and diverted scarce law enforcement resources. Some of these policies have been stopped. Torture and extraordinary rendition are no longer officially condoned. But most other policies--indefinite detention, targeted killing, trial by military commissions, warrantless surveillance, and racial profiling--remain core elements of our national security strategy today.

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This page is an archive of entries from September 2011 listed from newest to oldest.

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