Dr. Dawg

9/11: On commemoration

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Why do we remember and commemorate some human tragedies and neglect others?

Natural disasters make the headlines, but they aren’t commemorated, other than with a plaque or similar kind of marker. I have no idea who the person in the photograph—caught up in the Japanese tsunami earlier this year—might be, or whether she survived.

Tsunami Japan.jpg

The Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004: nearly a quarter of a million people perished. Not a single name comes to mind.

We appear to reserve solemn ceremonies, like the ones going on as I write this, for victims of human-caused tragedies. But not for all of them.

It is only human that the tragedies we commemorate are biased towards the people whom we know, or at least people like ourselves. 9/11 is like that: a horrific crime was committed against our immediate neighbours. Deaths on that scale are supposed to happen far away. We observe through the media, safe and detached.

And then we discover that it can happen here. Here, or right next door. The world invades.

We are shocked beyond measure by the enormity of the crime. The victims are named, their histories become public property.

We can’t let 9/11 go, even ten years later. And we should mourn, deeply, the innocent victims. The stories and the images are heart-rending. Text messages from the doomed workers in the twin towers. Some choosing to jump rather than being burned alive. Too much for the mind to absorb without shattering.

But hate is not grief. Neither is the utterly cynical manipulation of state power in the wake of this crime against humanity: “anti-terrorism” legislation in the US and elsewhere that effectively suspended civil rights, extraordinary rendition, “black” jails, the mainstreaming of torture, carefully cultivated paranoia and xenophobia, two wars waged at an appalling cost in civilian lives.

We learned, it seems, the wrong lessons. What are we really commemorating?

I would like to remember all of the victims of brutal state stupidity, murderous ideological dogmatism, and the use of First World death technology on the wretched of the earth. Alas, there are too many. I don’t know them. I can’t name them. They didn’t live next door, but across town. Or in another town.

Iraqi children.jpg

Here are some of those victims, these from Iraq. But all I have is a few photos, abstract numbers, and the evil, self-serving excuses of the powerful. There are no memorials, no vigils to attend.

Over 100,000 Iraqi civilians died in the second Gulf war, a war that, in different guise, continues to this day. Then-president of the US George Bush insisted—falsely—that the bloody dictator Saddam Hussein, formerly a US ally, was implicated in 9/11. That he had “weapons of mass destruction.”

Mass destruction followed.

Up to 500,000 Iraqi kids died due to UN-imposed sanctions from 1990-2000. “We think the price is worth it,” averred former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. No doubt Islamists said the same thing about 9/11.

I didn’t know a single one of those children. And no one is reading out their names as names are read out today, September 11, 2011.

But this is as good a day as any to commemorate them, and so many other innocent victims, as well.

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This page contains a single entry by Dr. Dawg published on September 11, 2011 1:41 PM.

Policing the world over: a tale of two takedowns was the previous entry in this blog.

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