An Inclusive Litany

10/4/01

Fredric Jameson in the London Review of Books, as part of its response to the September 11 attacks, October 4, 2001:
I have been reluctant to comment on the recent "events" because the event in question, as history, is incomplete and one can even say that it has not yet fully happened.

Obviously there are immediate comments one can make, in particular on the nauseating media reception, whose cheap pathos seemed unconsciously dictated by a White House intent on smothering the situation in sentiment in order to demonstrate the undemonstrable: namely, that "Americans are united as never before since Pearl Harbor." I suppose this means that they are united by the fear of saying anything that contradicts this completely spurious media consensus....

The physical extermination of the Iraqi and the Indonesian Communist Parties, although now historically repressed and forgotten, were crimes as abominable as any contemporary genocide. It is, however, only now that the results are working their way out into actuality, for the resultant absence of any Left alternative means that popular revolt and resistance in the Third World have nowhere to go but into religious and "fundamentalist" forms.

Thomas Laqueur, writing in the same issue:
[P]erhaps a more positive engagement with history could be considered. What if we took the 40 billion dollars that we are spending fixing up New York, the 20 billion that are being readied to bail out bankrupt airlines, and the untold billions we will be spending on the upcoming war, and divided some big chunk of it among the Palestinians and the Israelis to build an infrastructure for peace. That amount would buy lots of desalination plants, schools, and maybe some of the less hardline settlers as well. It would at least buy new houses for the uprooted. And a few billion more for the children in Iraq who have suffered from the boycott which has left their dictator in place but them hungry and sick. And maybe a few more billion for Pakistan, where the most desperate poverty has driven many to sympathise with a radically anti-progressive view. Anything but stale rhetoric from John Wayne movies.
Mary Beard, ditto:
[W]hen the shock had faded, more hard-headed reaction set in. This wasn't just the feeling that, however tactfully you dress it up, the United States had it coming. That is, of course, what many people openly or privately think. World bullies, even if their heart is in the right place, will in the end pay the price.

But there is also the feeling that all the "civilised world" (a phrase which Western leaders seem able to use without a trace of irony) is paying the price for its glib definitions of "terrorism" and its refusal to listen to what the "terrorists" have to say. There are very few people on the planet who devise carnage for the sheer hell of it. They do what they do for a cause; because they are at war. We might not like their cause; but using the word "terrorism" as an alibi for thinking what drives it will get us nowhere in stopping the violence. Similarly, "fanaticism", a term regularly applied to extraordinary acts of bravery when we abhor their ends and means. The silliest description of the onslaught on the World Trade Center was the often repeated slogan that it was a "cowardly" attack.

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