Date: Wed, 26 Sep 2001 14:36:24 -0700

Author: Bernard Cleyet

Subject: Re: CHAT WTC discussion

Post:

I suppose more than one of you just don't get it.

I don't approve of "random terror". I disapprove much more of state
terror. When it stops much of the so called "random terror" will. I don't
believe the recent was random at all. Most important a world that tolerates
state terror is not civilized.

I hope you all will read carefully the following ZNet commentary by Ed.
Herman.

bc



"The price is worth it"
By Edward S. Herman

Try to imagine how the mainstream U.S. media and intellectuals would
respond to the disclosure that at an early planning meeting of the
terrorists responsible for the attacks on the World Trade Center and
Pentagon, the question had come up about whether the "collateral damage"
of prospectively thousands of dead civilians wouldn't be excessive, but
that the matter had been settled with the top leader's response: "we
think the price is worth it"?

Suppose further that the terrorists' leaders then set out to make their
case to their followers, arguing that it was extremely important to show
the citizens of the Great Satan that they were not immune to attack on
their own land--that they could not continue to bomb others freely and
support the violent states of their choice without suffering some
retaliation themselves. The terrorists argued that, as the Great Satan
has been conducting low- (and often not so low) -intensity wars against
the Third World and Arab states for decades, the planned attacks would
be both just and legal under international law, justifiable under the UN
Charter's grant of the right of self-defense, which He has relied on so
often to excuse his own unilateral actions.

The leaders argued further that since the symbolic value of showing the
Great Satan's vulnerability by attacking the WTC and Pentagon would be
greatly enhanced by taking out several thousand civilians, this must be
regarded as acceptable collateral damage. Finally, imagine the
terrorists' leaders explaining to their followers that for the sake of
global peace and security, no less than the welfare of peoples the world
over, it is crucial to raise the costs of imperial violence, and help
persuade the Great Satan's population to ask Him to terminate His wars.
This, the terrorist leaders argued, would in the long run save far more
lives than those lost in the bombing of the WTC and Pentagon.

Wouldn't the mainstream media and intellectuals be wild with indignation
at the inhumanity of the terrorists' coldblooded calculus? Wouldn't they
respond in one voice that it is absolutely immoral, evil, and
indefensible per se to kill civilians on a massive scale to make a
political point? And as to the terrorists' underlying argument that the
attacks were justified both as retaliation for the Great Satan's ongoing
wars and as part of an effort to curb His imperial violence, wouldn't
this be rejected as outlandish? Wouldn't establishment spokespersons
rush to claim that despite occasional regrettable mistakes this country
has behaved well in international affairs, has intervened abroad only in
just causes, and is the victim of terrorism, not a terrorist state or
supporter of terrorism? And wouldn't it also be stressed that it is
immoral and outrageous to even SPEAK of a "just cause" or any give any
kind of legitimation for a terrorist action such as occurred in New York
and Washington? That the only question in such a case of violence is
"who," not "why"? (These last two sentences are a paraphrase of the
indignant argument of a U.S. liberal historian.) And in fact, across the
board the U.S. mainstreamers have refused to talk about "why" except for
superficial denunciations of an irrational enemy that hates democracy,
etc.

Turning now to the actual use of the phrase "the price is worth it," we
come to U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright's reply to Lesley
Stahl's question on "60 Minutes" on May 12, 1996:

Stahl: "We have heard that a half a million children have died [because
of sanctions against Iraq]. I mean that's more children than died in
Hiroshima. And--you know, is the price worth it?"

Albright: "I think this is a very hard choice, but the price--we think
the price is worth it."

In this case, however, although the numbers dead are mind- boggling--the
ratio of dead Iraqi children to deaths in the WTC/Pentagon bombings was
better than 80 to 1, using the now obsolete early 1996 number for Iraqi
children--the mainstream media and intellectuals have not found
Albright's rationalization of this mass killing of any interest
whatsoever. The phrase has been only rarely cited in the mainstream, and
there has been no indignation or suggestion that the mass killing of
children in order to satisfy some policy end was immoral and outrageous.

Since the morning hours of Tuesday, September 11, the civilian dead in
the WTC/Pentagon terrorist bombings have been the subject of the most
intense and detailed and humanizing attention, making the suffering
clear and dramatic and feeding in to the sense of outrage. In contrast,
the hundreds of thousands of children dead in Iraq are very close to
invisible, their suffering and dying are out of sight; and whereas the
ratio of Iraqi children killed by sanctions to WTC/Pentagon deaths was
better than 80 to 1, the ratio of media space devoted to the Iraqi
children and WTC/Pentagon deaths has surely been better than 500 to one
in favor of the smaller WTC/Pentagon casualties. Pictures of sufferers
and expressions of pain and indignation have been in a similar ratio.
The UN workers in Iraq like Dennis Halliday who have resigned in disgust
at the effects of the "sanctions of mass destruction" have been given
minimal space in the media to inform the public and express their
outrage.

The "who" in the case of the Iraqi mass deaths is clear-- overwhelmingly
the U.S. and British leadership--but the "who" here is irrelevant
because of how the "why" is answered. This is done implicitly. Madeleine
Albright said that the deaths are worth it because U.S. policy finds
this to be so--and with Albright saying this is "why," that settles the
matter for the media. Their indignation at the immorality of killing
civilians as collateral damage to make a political point ends, because
the Iraqi children die by U.S. policy choice--and in this case the media
will not even allow the matter to be discussed. The per se
unreasonableness of killing civilians as collateral damage is quietly
set aside (reminding one of how the Soviet's shooting down of KAL 007 in
1983 was per se barbarian, but the U.S. shooting down of Iranian
airliner 655 in 1988 was a "tragic error.") The media focus on whether
Saddam Hussein will allow UN inspections to prevent him getting "weapons
of mass destruction," not on the mass death of children. (And of course
the media regularly fail to note that the United States and Britain had
helped Saddam Hussein obtain such weapons in the 1980s, and didn't
object to his using them, until he stopped following orders in August
1990.)

Because the media make the suffering and death of 500,000 children
invisible, the outrage produced by the intense coverage of the
WTC/Pentagon bombing victims does not surface on their behalf. The
liberal historian who was so indignant at even asking "why" for the
WTC-Pentagon bombings and argued that only "who" was pertinent has said
nothing about the immorality of killing Iraqis; he is not interested in
"who" in this case, partly because he does not have to see dying Iraqi
children every day, and partly because his government has answered the
"why" to his satisfaction, justifying mass death. Is it not morally
chilling, even a bit frightening, that he, and the great mass of his
citizen compatriots, can focus with such anguish and indignation on
their own 6,000 dead, while ignorant of, or not caring about, or
approving his (their) own government's ongoing killing of scores of
times as many innocents abroad?

This reflects the work of a superb propaganda system. The U.S.
government finding the mass death of Iraqi children "worth it," the
media push the fate of these "unworthy victims" into the black hole,
thereby allowing that policy to be continued without impediment. With
the United States itself a victim of terrorism, here the reverse process
ensues: with these ultra-worthy victims, the media feature their
suffering and deaths intensively and are not interested in root causes,
but only in "who" did it; they beat the war drums incessantly and push
to the forefront the most regressive forces in the country, making
violence and repression the probable outcome of their efforts. But they
will sell papers, get larger audiences, support the "national interest,"
and prove to the rightwing that they are real Americans.


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