YANA DJIN

LETTERS FROM AMERICA



 CRUMBLING SKYSCRAPERS: 
WHAT IS THE WAR ABOUT?

Moscow News
September, 2001

          On September 11, America saw one of the darkest days of its existence. In Washington we woke up to an unusually cool and clear day for an early September and finally, after the months of stupefying summer, felt somewhat lucid. Alas, not for long. Most of us were at work at 8:48AM, preparing for yet another day of toil, when we were told that the “unthinkable” has just occurred and that we are about to witness it on our computer monitors which were streamlined with live video broadcast from CNN. Our lucidity gave way to horror as we saw one of the Towers at the World Trade Center issue clouds of fire and smoke. Several minutes later, a plane cut the other tower in half, and horror gave way to a surreal sensation. If not for the alarmed commentaries of the broadcasters, we would have thought that we were watching a Hollywood flick. Yet several more minutes later the camera cut into the sight of the Pentagon, just a few miles away from the building in which I work: we saw the biggest office complex in the world on fire. The Pentagon has been hit, we were told. The “unthinkable” has now turned into the “unimaginable” and without further delay, we were evacuated to the street. The city of Washington shut down. 
Someone once remarked that history is littered with wars which everybody thought would never happen. The atrocious attacks in the city of New York and Washington had been classified as nothing short of a declaration of war on the America: “The First War of the 21st century”, read one headline. America, clearly, wasn’t expecting this one. For how else are we to explain the disastrous vulnerability of the Pentagon -- the symbol of this country’s military power? How else are we to decipher the near-annihilation of the lower Manhattan in less than ten minutes by a gang presumably equipped with pocket-knives and local civilian jets? After the last few days, it has become evident that if Armageddon occurs, the CIA would be as unaware of its arrival as we would be. And if it takes the similar form as on September 11th, sci-fi lasers and missile defense shields would prove as helpless as pocket- knives used to be before that fateful morning. 
As early as yesterday afternoon, the headlines of the major internet-news editions as well cable networks began to be interspersed with concerns about the financial impact of the attack. “Is This War Going to Lift Our Economy?” , asked the MSNBC internet site. Business experts were invited to television stations to explain how the Stock Market is going to be affected. In the background we saw rescue workers, sweating and half-buried in rubble and human remains. Excerpts from an amateur video which captured people jumping out from 100 story windows were being replayed as the rest of the country listened which stock plunged. This was not so much cruel as bewildering and absurd. Who really is fighting this war? And what is it all about? Britain’s Tony Blair called it an attack on the “civilized world”. The only thing civilized in the past few days was the behavior of the people on the island of Manhattan, as they gathered calm, offering camaraderie, donating blood and volunteering time. The loss of estimated tens of thousands of people became more poignant as one could sense the feeling of solidarity amongst those who have survived. The government’s behavior was less than “civilized”. Immediately whisked away to the undisclosed safe locations where they would be able to withstand the Armageddon, they left the citizens of Washington and New York coverless and lost. As I stood on the street, 30 or so minutes after the attack, I heard people wondering out loud why the authorities are not telling anyone what to do or where to go. Where is the President? -- they mumbled. The president finally spoke from Nebraska and assured the nation that the evildoers will pay for their transgressions. I, for one, was not pacified. It is beyond argument that what transpired on the morning of September 11th was nothing short of a shakedown of the status quo. Before two days ago, the citizens of this country blindly believed in their “untouchability” and in their government’s capacity to single-handedly control the world-order. After the fall of the Soviet Union and its rather quick and “easy” disintegration, or--depending which side of the political spectrum you find yourself -- its integration into the similar principles and beliefs that govern America, the latter, it seems became so euphoric about its victory that it forgot to look in directions other than its former arch-enemy. The Moslem World, for one, which, incidentally, did not prove to be an easy enemy for the former “Evil Empire” either and which was targeted as its victim for the same strategic reason: oil. In other words, money.
         The Green God, though, has proved to be powerless before the Allah of the radical Islam, if only because the latter often demands that its believers commit impractical, irrational deeds, the likes of which the innocent civilians of New York witnessed just two days ago. 
          So, once again, what is this war all about? How is it going to be viewed by history which will undoubtedly include it in the ranks of those wars “that everybody believed would never happen”? The world in which we live is divided into the haves and the-have-nots, into the rich and the poor. This division is not equal. Furthermore, it is not determined by geo-political borders. America, for example, is the richest country in the world, in which, according to the statistics, every sixth child goes hungry. This war serves as a background for essentially all wars that have been fought. It’s slogan, from the American standpoint, is accumulation of wealth. From the point of view of the Moslem World whose many countries today are facing dire poverty, it is the war about the redistribution of that wealth. There are those amongst the poor on this earth who have acquiesced to their fates and have come to terms that they are going to die poor. There are those, in this country particularly, who tolerate their financial situation because they were told that it is only temporary and they too have the chance to strike it rich. And then there are those who refuse to wait and adhere to radical means such as terror. The attacks few days ago only justified the label which was attached to the radical Moslem groups by the West: Evil. 
        The cable networks in this country have been feeding us with plenty of pugnacious and faulty reasons underlying the terrorist attack. We were told that this is war is an attack on American freedom. I agree only partly and for two reasons. One: because of that attack, there will be measures taken to curb civil liberties of the American people. Some of those curbs would be to ensure our physical safety. Two: it is, indeed, an attack on the American “freedom”, hitherto taken for granted, to police and regulate the political, ideological and the financial scenes of the rest of the world. As we painfully witnessed in New York and Washington, the “evil” terrorists of the Moslem World are not giving America the right to micro-manage their existence, which as they would rather part with then subject to the Western scrutiny. Another reason for the attack, incessantly cited by the media is America’ s support of Israel. The unofficial word in the US is: enough is enough! Leave Israel to take care of its own affairs lest more of our innocent civilians die. In my opinion, Israeli-Palestinian issue is just a drop in the ocean. 
        Yesterday, when confronted with the above allegation, the former prime-minister of Israel, whose brother, incidentally died in the fight against Arab terrorists, Benyamin Netanyahu replied: “It is not America that is being bombed because of Israel. Quite the opposite, it is Israel that is being attacked because of America”. 
        The people in this country are angry, lost and confused. According to the Pentagon reporters, so is the government. It is rather “mysterious” that in light of what happened here last Tuesday, American people are not being told of what to do in case of a repeat attack, which, the State Department says, could occur in the near future. We are not being told what safety measures we must take to protect our lives. This is amazing for the country that warns its citizens to stay home when more than two inches of snow falls on the ground! There was a suggestion from the former US President, Dubya’s father, Bush Sr. He proposed that the American people pray for the President. What about those that do not have protection and will not be evacuated on the moments notice to obscure hiding places. If one must pray, then let us pray that no more innocent civilians find themselves buried under the rubble. 
        In order for the very recent history not to repeat itself, an “imminent retaliation” is not going to be enough. Now, it is time for Bush to do the unthinkable and unimaginable: think. And look beyond the immediate. It would do us all well if he recognizes that America is not the only country in this world and it cannot behave in a unilateral manner not only from the point of view of morality but also in order to safeguard its citizens. Even America’s allies have seen the Bush administration as a bully that is uninterested what others think. As a leader, Bush must rise above the vulgar thirst for revenge and rethink this country’s overall policies. Branding this attack as a war on our freedom is not only inaccurate, it is insulting. If it turns into a full-blown war, it would be essentially a war of greed. I believe that Americans, as rational, pragmatic, and “civilized” as they are, would rather pay more for gas then lose their lives in a worthless battle.

to the main page

to the content of essays page

Hosted by uCoz