9/11 – Just Retaliation or a Crime?

The above title may offend many people since it makes the proposition for one to contemplate the events of 9/11 as either a form of just retaliation or a genuine crime committed by criminals. It causes an offence since in their minds they have evaluated the event entirely by the images and the subsequent commentaries that were televised from that day onwards. However, in reality, actions in general are never evaluated exclusively by the physical acts. The surrounding factors (circumstances) and the intention gives the action its real precise meaning. Every society distinguishes between the murders of an innocent victim with the legitimate act of taking a life in self-defence, or dispensing capital punishment to a convicted criminal, even though all the actions can be categorised as killing a human being. Similarly, intercourse betwe! en married couples is acceptable where as the same action conducted outside the fold of marriage is deemed to be a crime. It is the circumstances that distinguish the precise nature of the action rather then considering the physical act alone. Distinction is also made on the basis of the intention of the perpetrator; hence all societies distinguish between a pre-meditated murder and manslaughter. Similarly the issue of intention is used to establish a genuine binding contract from a casual promise. Intentions often indicate the motivation of the perpetrators. Why would an individual commit a certain action? Since 9/11 perpetrators are considered to be criminal, the question should be posed as to what motivates a criminal to act. Motivations of most common criminals in general are hedonism and they seek to gratify their desire even by exceeding the legal limits of the law. Others are motivated by radical political views and may engage in assassination or conventional terror! ism, whilst a minority may simply have some innate perversions like the serial killers, which are found in relative abundance in the western orientated societies. None of the above would fit the motivation of the perpetrators of 9/11, since taking ones life would not comply with the notion of hedonism, no political assassination or conventional terrorism was carried out, no known mental sickness exists that would lead to taking ones own life. In short the motivation of a criminal does not include the taking or sacrificing his own life but rather he seeks to live at any cost. Paradoxically, the 9/11 perpetrators may have committed an act that is easily considered to be a crime on the surface but the facts indicate that their motive was not that of a criminal.

Despite the above axiom for evaluating an action, no attempt to date has been made by the US or the west in general to examine the intention, motivation and the circumstances of those who carried out the events of 9/11, other then to simply dismiss them as irrational fanatics. Such an emotional response at face value may seem to contradict the scientific nature of the western civilisation, which is always seeking answers for every phenomenon in life. Even the most horrific acts committed by serial killers are not simply dismissed but enormous amounts of efforts are made to comprehend the causes and the motivation. Hence, why the emotional response for 9/11? It seems to indicate that the US has something to hide in that examining the circumstances and the motivation of the perpetrators of the 9/11 as it may cast! a different light on the actual event, with the possibility of even incriminating itself as being the ultimate cause of the event. Another possible reason for such a simplistic portrayal of the event has been to project itself as an innocent victim with the right to respond in manner that it arbitrarily deems appropriate, a perfect convenient cover to increase its hegemony around the world.

Another level of argument arises. Everyone may concur about the immorality of indiscriminate killings of innocent civilians, which included women and children. Since many of the victims have no direct relationship with the perpetrators of 9/11, one can safely assume this to be a crime without examining the intention, motivation and the circumstances of the perpetrators. However, there exist another level of relationship that has been overlooked. As a society there is a notion of collective responsibility. If the society consents to its government’s foreign policy, it must bear the responsibility for its consequence as a society. Governments naturally represent the society, more so in a democratic one. Hence the principal is that the entire society can be collectively pun! ished for the actions of its government. If Iraq under Saddam, which was classified as a dictatorial society not representing the will of its own masses can be inflicted with such severe collective punishment, then by even greater reason a democratic society can also be inflicted with collective punishments. Iraq was certainly punished not for its mythical WMD, but as revenge for 9/11, the views expressed by the frank ordinary Americans demonstrate that, whilst the Politicians seek to demonstrate their "legal" justification to the world, and its intellectual community debates the hidden strategic interests behind the war. Since there was no UN backing for the war and the deployed pretext of WMD has been proven to be false, confirming the entire war to be a heinous crime by any standards, the invaders are like that of a serial killer committing mass murder, victims simply happen to be the innocent civilians in Iraq. Isn’t a similar level of punishment due upon the Americ! ans and the British for their crimes? Surely if the US can inflict collective punishment on others, they also posses the same right to inflict collective punishment on them.

A few example shows the US has committed war crimes that dwarfs 9/11 in magnitude and its indiscriminate nature, which justifies a larger retaliatory response then 9/11. Hiroshima and Nagasaki were clear acts of war crimes, as was the indiscriminate bombings of Tokyo where the civilian casualties exceeded the former. The cities were not clearly military targets, Japan never attacked the cities of the US, and Pearl Harbour was a military base. In any case it was the US that initiated the war by placing economic sanctions on Japan. Economic sanction is something that the North Koreans recently reminded the US about. More recent example of the needless killings of the retreating soldiers and civilians that posed no threat during the latter part of the first Gulf War after they had crossed the border of Kuwait. US soldiers were in fact playing! out the episode as if they were playing a video game with their usual offensive chants (yahooo) and taunts. At one stage they even fought amongst each other to have a go at the defenceless Iraqis. This is the real fanaticism and extremism (US fundamentalism) that the world needs to get rid of in order to create real peace. It was an obscenity. The war was followed with the devastating economic sanctions, and the arbitrary imposition of the no-fly zones over Iraq, which resulted in routing bombings of the civilians and non-military installations causing immense sufferings and casualties. Use of Depleted Uranium has left long term mark on the region. Therefore the victims of the US have every right to retaliate by bombing its cities. Just retaliation is something that is universally recognised as a right by every society. There is no difference between the innocent victims of the 9/11 with the innocent victims in Iraq, Afghanistan, Sudan, Japan or else! where. It is simply hypocritical to highlight the higher moral grounds by showing victims of 9/11 but yet it refuses to recognise the innocent victims that it has taken prior and post 9/11 in far greater magnitude. If America decides to call the innocent victim of its bombing as collateral damages, she must also be prepared to accept American civilians as collateral damages, like the victims of 9/11. For sure no one can justify 9/11 as an unprovoked act, but it was in retaliation for much larger and monstrous crimes committed by the US.

What is also perplexing is that many from US intelligentsia sought to argue in defence of its military actions on the basis that it is surgical and targeted rather then indiscriminate, which is difficult to convince anyone when JDAMS, cruise missiles, B52s and cluster bombs are dropped in built up civilian areas. Most certainly cluster bombs and B52s are not smart bombs. Ever since the fall Baghdad the daily killing, torture and arbitrary imprisonment of civilians in Iraq has become so common that now much of this information does not even make it to the news. We keep hearing about the number US dead soldiers since the fall of Baghdad, but often we hear about the innocent Iraqi civilian casualties. Whilst the US casualties are everyday reminders, the Iraqi’s are simply background statistics. Remember the US invoked the war in their name, t! alked about liberating them from Saddam, but to the contrary they have been the largest victims. If the west truly believes that all human lives have the same value, why is it that the victims of Lockerbie or 9/11 can be compensated in millions, whilst the victim in the Arab/Islamic world rarely get anything and certainly not in millions. The American government with its powerful mass media have created the illusion where she is being given legitimacy for any action that she undertakes, whilst demonising those who the same in retaliation. As soon as one retaliates the labels and terminologies begin to appear. Hence the Palestinians are painted as "terrorists" on their own lands fighting against the foreign invaders, demonised in the same light as the Red Indians were. The Islamic/Arab fighters in Iraq are deemed as "foreigners" but yet its own presence described as anything but a foreigner. Similarly the US backed Soldiers in Afghanistan are "Afghanis" but the Talebans are Ta! lebans, even though they are also from Afghanistan and constitute the largest section of the ethnic composition of Afghanistan.

A cursory examination of the responses is also useful and one in particular comes to mind. Just after the event of 9/11, a well-known British TV presenter by the name of Robert Kilroy-Silk asked a selected group of audience as to why there was so much oblivion towards the events of September the 11th in the Arab/Islamic world. Which was echoed in various other places. The question was not asked with a genuine intention of seeking answers but simply to taint he Arab/Islamic communities as possessing an innate hatred towards the west, a subject often talked about by the US intelligentsia. For sure the Arab/Islamic world has much hatred, but that is because unlike powerful nations who have the luxury of not being subjected to what they dispense out from their lethal war machines. The TV presenter focused excl! usively on the Arab/Islamic world even though a most of the third world and developing countries including many of European countries displayed a similar attitude towards the event. On the flip side the response from the Arab/Islamic world was full of hypocrisy and often indicated confusion. Most of the westernised secular elites suddenly raised their heads to condemn the 9/11 actions, as if history began with the events, at the same time they joined in with the usual militant secular cabal of blaming everything upon militant Islam. Without for once trying to separate the cause from effect, the victims from the aggressors. So came the subsequent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, these self-appoint and self-righteous people lowered their heads and never to be seen again. As the day of 9/11 approaches they would again raise their heads and ostracise the Arab/Islamic world to remember the victims, but few would bother to remember their own people that have perished under ! the military machines of US and Israeli forces prior and post 9/11 in far greater magnitude. As for the response that emanated from the Islamic sections was even more disappointing, often indicating the gross naiveté of the basic Political reality, many of the so called Institution and Scholars kept either apologising for Islam or simply accepting the allegations and the definitions provided by the US intelligentsia regarding the nature of its war on "terrorism". Whilst others continue to languish in their own make belief world of spirituality and seeking divine knowledge, oblivious to the entire events around them. Forgetting that the knowledge has a practical dimension, which is to apply it to the current reality, which necessitates the comprehension of the Political events. This scenario echoes the response of the Scholars during the Napoleonic invasion, when they sought to study certain classical texts as a "response" to repel the belligerent foreign invaders. It is ! indeed very sad to witness the ordinary masses from the non-Arab/Islamic world speaking out with greater zeal, authority and accuracy regarding the American aggression then the so-called Scholars and the self appointed apologetic groups and individuals.