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Remembering 9/11

As today, is September 11th, I thought I would engage in a bit of remembering — it is, after all, important to recall moments of our history, for this is the story in which we live.
On this day in 1973, Augusto Pinochet’s American-backed coup overthrew the democratically elected government of Salvador Allende.  This resulted in seventeen years of torture, terror, and disappearances in Chile, and (according to people like Milton Friedman, who saw Chile as a textbook example of the type of world he wished to create) set a precedent for the way in which the United States acted in Latin America (particularly in the ’70s and ’80s… although they are at it again, as Obama’s government backed the Honduran coup which overthrew the democratically elected government of Manuel Zelaya in June of this year).
Sponsoring terror, imposing military rule, depriving local populations of their rights, their food, their land, their livelihood, their health, their children and their lives… this is the way that the US continues to engage with the world at large.  It is enough to make some people want to fly planes into buildings.  Which, not altogether surprisingly, is what happened on another September 11th.

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  1. Apart from the ridiculous juxtaposition of Bin Laden-social justice-torture-Friedman, are you saying even U.S. violent engagement in the world is a net minus? Where are all the enemies we’ve made?
    What was your opinion for instance of the situation last year in the Swat valley? Our influence and weapons helped liberate some local people and restore the livelihood of a people who were being “saved/crucified”” by your concerned crew of Bin Laden’s social workers called the Taliban. I would wager they did far more damage over a few months than Pinochet police state did.
    Look who your allies are. I think even Kissinger regrets the excesses of Pinochet’s crackdown on political enemies. Realpolitik has some sense of shame (usually after the fact). Your idealism prevents any self-examination.
    I don’t hear the Indian and Chinese non-starving hordes bemoaning the influence of the U.S. and capitalism. Do you care if people actually eat? Greedy capitalist agriculture does.
    Remember harder….
    Your passion and dare I say nostalgia for the political-economic debates of another era seems artificial and looking for an analogy to justify its continuance. It fits you for an academic position (in the liberal arts), but not for addressing or even accurately describing the practical problems of the world. It is interesting how little engagement with policy there is on your site.
    Finally, who knows what is the best outcome in Honduras? Revolutions often are for the best. But didn’t Obama and Sec. Clinton endorse the elected leader anyway? It seems you MUST have the U.S. be the bad guy. Imagine what it would mean for your views if the U.S. were not so bad, but actually an enormous force for good in the world. It would be tantamount to a conversion, and therefore personally devastating.

  2. Said stan: “It fits you for an academic position (in the liberal arts)…”.
    Did you really need to surround this lucidly indignant ad hominem sneer with such a banal paean to American and Market beneficence? If you’re outraged that our society continues to tolerate and subsidize pointy-headed types, then why bother obscuring what you really resent about the author with silly straw men like “your [Dan’s] concerned crew of Bin Laden’s social workers.”
    You assert that Dan has not “accurately described the practical problems of the world,” but (a) you’ve offered no counterevidence to his specific claims, only loud assertions, and (b) the point of the post is remembering, not problem-solving, and your comment perfectly illustrates what happens when you drink the waters of Lethe urged upon you by those authorities you honor.

  3. Wrong Joel. That is not fair. Dan said “Sponsoring terror, imposing military rule, depriving local populations of their rights, their food, their land, their livelihood, their health, their children and their lives”. That is Taliban SWAT valley 2008. Dan glosses over who he is talking about. Everyone is a Chilean socialist suddenly who Kissinger is burying his boot into. Please get real. Being contrarian on 9/11 is cool and all, but this is juvenile.
    My counter evidence to how the U.S. relates to the world was to point to Swat valley. We helped liberate millions from the Taliban. Dan speaks of these primitive warlords as dispossessed oppressed do-gooders FORCED to blow up planes and buildings to protest our worse aspects.
    I have nothing against pointy heads who deal in facts. Dan appears to be playing ideological games with material handed on to him by professors bathed in the fights of a generation ago. Pinochet? really! Does Dan care what is happening in Chile right now? No, like liberal arts faculty generally he cares what colleagues care about now. That is my problem with this form of pointy-headism: fake compassion which is simply displaced hatred of U.S. power). It makes him distort the current world situation. His characterization of Honduras was a specific example of such a distortion and I pointed it out.
    Dan is committed to an apocalyptic theological view of the powers or authorities which requires they not be forces for good. It would require religious conversion to believe otherwise.

  4. Stan,
    You know, it’s always fascinating to see what people assume about one another when they write online. It’s been awhile since I’ve had somebody make so many off-the-wall assumptions. Thanks for the laughs.
    Oh, and regarding the counter-narrative that you have offered in your comments, well, it’s pretty hard to take any of it seriously given that you can’t even get it straight that it wasn’t the Taliban that flew the planes into the towers in New York (it was Al Qaeda). Now, I know that certain political and economic parties would like us to confuse the two (and let’s throw Saddam into that mix as well!) but come on, man.
    I suggest that you do some reading in the independent media sources that I have linked to at the top right-hand side of this blog.

  5. I’m sorry but Dan you jumped from Pino-frickin-chet to Al-Qaeda in your final paragraph. You painted them as responding to military rule and dispossession. I assumed you MIGHT actually be speaking about us occupying Afghanistan, so I made the more believable jump to the Taliban. You appear to see no link between them. Perhaps, you have been reading to many blogs “linked to at the top right hand side.” The U.S. gave them a chance to make that distinction (and align themselves with Allende, I guess, see aforementioned blogs:)). Instead we get Swat valley.

  6. You painted [Al Qaeda] as responding to military rule and dispossession. I assumed you MIGHT actually be speaking about us occupying Afghanistan…
    How could Al Qaeda have been responding to the US occupying Afghanistan, when the Americans didn’t begin to occupy Afghanistan until after Al Qaeda flew the planes into the towers?

  7. Ok of course I don’t believe such convoluted silliness, I was trying to make sense out of the muddle.
    ‘Military occupation’ describes roughly how we are relating to the world right now in Afghanistan. I think you are being evasive here in parsing words because you want to partially justify groups like Al-qaeda and the Taliban with a rather weak link to Allende. Anti-us sentiment being the only actual relevant link.
    You oppose U.S. action in Afghanistan, do you not?

  8. Dude, Stan, this post is not that difficult to understand. Dan is pointing out something quite unproblematic I think. That is, that 9/11/01 was a response to the many US adventures abroad, of which US support for Pinochet is but one example.
    Stan, do you think that 9/11/01 happened simply because “those arabs hate our freedom?”

  9. I think it was religious fundamentalism with cynical political excuses added on to please the left. So “hate our freedom” as Bushy as it sounds, is almost right. Do you see any of that? These particular Arabs want the right to religiously oppress/culturally influence their own people not unlike the Taliban.
    I don’t think many Chileans yesterday remembered Pinochet and 9/11 and made the connection “no surprise, serves America right.” Why does Dan? That answer deserves some examination. It’s not an alliance with the poor of Chile, but with certain sections of the academy of America.

  10. Stan,
    You’re misreading me to such an extent that correcting you would take a comment three or four times longer than the original post! However, I will say the following:
    (1) I have no interest in ‘justifying’ groups like Al Qaeda or the Taliban. In fact, I am completely morally and ideologically opposed to them. However, that said, I can understand why a person may wish to join a group like Al Qaeda or the Taliban… but understanding a person’s motivation, or feeling sympathetic towards that person, is a far cry from approving of what that person goes on to do! So, for example, let us say that one man’s wife and child are killed by a second man. The first man then goes on to kill the wife and child of the second man in order to exact vengeance. I do not agree with this act of vengeance, but I can understand the motivation of the first man and feel sympathy for him.
    (2) I am not at all trying to connect Allende (or any Latin American expression of socialism) with Al Qaeda or the Taliban — especially when it comes down to religious, political, and economic beliefs and tactics. The point of connection is the date 9/11/73 and 9/11/01. The point of connecting those dates is to ask: who is it that shapes the liturgy of our public calendar? Why are some dates remembered and others forgotten? And so on.
    (3) The date is also why I mentioned Pinochet. I don’t bring him up because I’m infected with some sort of nostalgia for a by-gone era (Lord knows, the Evangelicals who have been my professors certainly weren’t teaching me anything about those things).

  11. “I can understand why a person may wish to join a group like Al Qaeda or the Taliban”
    I’m sorry Dan but you are still implying (in a way you will surely wiggle out of in the reply) that they have some legitimate claim against the U.S.’s “interaction with the world”. Of course you don’t approve their actions, but you think they are fueled by resentment of actions similar to that litany of Pinochet’s actions which you hold the U.S. responsible for.
    Could the demonization be anymore clear in your hooking of Friedman into the torture state? I missed your generously-given sympathy for Friedman who was trying to give them more beans and rice than Allende could.
    9/11/73 was a single day of a coup 40 years ago in a small country without global implications for every major Western city like 9/11 was. The Pinochet coup itself was morally mixed as part of a subplot of the Cold War. Much like Vietnam. We win: Pinochet tortures a few ten thousand enemies. (Would Allende have been different?) We lose: a few million are lost in Vietnam and Cambodia. And survivors flee to US – the so-called torturing oppressors.
    The whole thing basically is rehashing old Cold War arguments. You are remembering Cavanaugh more than Pinochet.
    That you could connect the two by date was convenient and trivial. You didn’t just say “also on this day”. The more salient link if you were honest is seeing both as connected to American foreign policy. As I say, a Chilean wouldn’t even make the connection.

  12. Stan, I think the point Dan is trying to make about the American liturgical calendar is valid. And the examples are legion. If you don’t like Chile, then let’s take Nicaragua for example. I can’t cite this personally, because I don’t speak or read Spanish, but Chomsky (who does read Spanish) cites that while the Nicaraguan called the act of terrorism of 9/11 a tragedy, at least some journals mentioned the selective memory of America, and how they don’t remember the vast devastation America did as terrorist action in Nicaragua in the 80’s.
    Now, you could question Chomsky’s citation, but the evidence still stands. America was found guilty by the International Council of Justice of 14 acts of terrorism against humanity when the Nicaraguans brought the American government to court. Of course, America vetoed the verdict and refused to make reparations, and estimated Nicaraguan victims in the hundreds while they estimate upwards of 4 or 5 thousand, but the verdict itself is what it is. You can find the transcript of the trial online, with the verdicts, on the ICJ website. It’s not secret.
    In any case, the point is that, when tragedy befalls us, we make the world remember it, because we have that privilege as the powerful. But we don’t remember the atrocities – oftentimes graver – that we have done to others. And so we don’t understand why they hate us. Why would we – we have no memory of them.
    Then we make really stupid statements like, “they hate us for our freedoms.” I never agreed with you, but it was really hard to even hear you after you defended that statement.

  13. That last statement, “I have never agreed with you…” sounds like I know Stan or something. It was supposed to sound like, “I didn’t agree with the kinds of things you were saying in your post, but after you defended that statement…” Just so we’re clear :).

  14. Alex, if Dan’s point had only been the liturgical one it would have been beautiful. Unfortunately it more than implicitly linked Al-qaeda’s sentiments as growing out of anti-colonial or imperialist thinking. You make the same error at the end with your….
    “And so we don’t understand why they hate us.”
    You are wallowing in the “Cold War-confused-with-imperial” guilt to such an extent you are willing to rationalize the hatred of Al-Qaeda with it. It was a desperate act of fundamentalism directed at the West. “Hate us for our freedoms” works for shorthand a helluva a lot better than “U.S. crimes, similar those in Chile, motivated this.”
    Further, doing this on 9/11 made this seem like something worthy of Fred Phelps and the “God hates fags” signs outside of veteran funerals. They’ve got anti-homosexuality, Dan’s got anti-imperialism – both are used to justify their schadenfreude.

  15. Stan, I don’t understand the continual objection that somehow America’s imperialism cannot be seen in concert with other areas of its history. I think it must be, because America’s imperialism goes back to the very roots, back when Washington was referring to the US as the “nascent empire” and Thomas Jefferson spoke of the “empire of liberty.”
    Talking about American Imperialism is like talking about a four-sided square. America was founded upon imperialism, used in imperialism in the struggle against Communist ideological and geographical expansion, and continues to use imperialism today. American imperialism is not a new fad or milieu, and the imperialism we critique today and the imperialism we critique in what you dub the “Cold-War-confused-with-imperialism” are really only later phases of the imperialism that began with the inception of this country, by the admission of the “founding fathers.”
    Boiling down our activities in Latin America – which, mind you, began long before the Cold War – to anti-communist hysteria, is, I think, overly and dangerously simplistic. Throughout the history of National Security in America, since at least the Monroe doctrine and Adams’ Continentalism (which was proto-Manifest Destiny) all the way until now, “expansion as security” has been the motto and it has been dogmatically followed. The Cold War was a phase within this trajectory, and it was handled the same way it was handled when we invaded Florida, or the “Wild” West, or Haiti, or Hawaii, or the Philippines, etc etc. Imperialism is has been our modus operandi from the beginning. I don’t think we’re confusing the Cold War with Imperialism, I think there is a general confusion about the way America deals with the world; imperialism has existed before, during, and after the Cold War.
    The Cold War itself, it could be argued, was in itself a pretext for the expansion of the American empire under the guise of self-preservation. And when the Cold War ended, we see an almost immediate turn towards the Middle East in American hostilities. After the Cold War ended, a new pretext was needed, because American aggression could no longer be laid at the door of the Kremlin in the name of homeland security. The Middle Eastern responded by hating us because they are not as stupid as we must think – they knew what we were doing. We were after the things that were rightfully ours, because we own the world. They responded “aggressively” by disagreeing with us.
    I can understand saying that 9/11 is not simply an outworking of American imperialism, and there are some other things to take into consideration. But the denial of it, to me, is something that does not make sense.
    So I think Dan’s point stands – Dan is connecting America’s imperialistic actions, which have followed the same trajectory for some time, throughout many different guises and pretexts, to our national consciousness, which enables us to forget America’s aggression while we remember acts of aggression against us that happened, as some believe, for no reason other than, “they hate us because we’re so awesome.” This, as has already been stated, does not legitimize the violence of certain Middle Eastern groups – this violence has been condemned here and other places on this blog vehemently.
    As to your comment about malicious joy, I feel as if this is just so much ad hominem bullshit, I don’t really know what to say about it.

  16. Very well done on the history. You missed Henry Clay’s missions to South America though 🙂 I understand the history, honestly I do, from our side at least.
    Dan’s theology is deeply anti-empire. Empire is always a bad word even in your recounting. There is very little room in your conception of it for the expansion of prosperity and justice and the prevention of economic and political decline. We have often been an empire against empires. Look at our reputation generally. Ignoring this bit of nuance allows you to search for the bad word ’empire’ in our history for confirmation of your thesis or to characterize our post-cold war policing as aggressive resource plundering when it has been no such thing. This seems like a characterization driven solely by the needs of your theology. Incidentally to cutoff the tired blog rejoinder, my theology doesn’t need America to be anything.
    I’m sorry you thought my analogy was an ad hominem, but perhaps the inflammatory aspects of it helped you feel what a decent person should have felt about Dan’s ‘explaining’ of 9/11.
    I enjoyed your measured tone, but if you think vehement condemnation of anything but North America Christendom happens here you are not reading carefully. Any evil found elsewhere such as you speak of is brought up only to implicate the United States foreign policy, market capitalism, or N.Amer. evangelicalism. (I defy you to find a counter example.)
    The concern seems to be to continuously apply a one-sided thesis with little regard for the subject. A critical mirror is continually held up to the western world in which Dan’s ideological school(s) reflection can’t be seen. Of course Dan introspects and judges himself here publicly on occasion but usually the the same motive appears before end of it. I mean, rather, Dan takes criticism so poorly (mostly turning on the unworthiness of his commentors) and rarely criticizes his ideological allies (except of course for lack of purity) nor finds the virtues of his ideological adversaries.
    The exiled deserve better than this. It is digging their hole deeper.

  17. I thought about adding a part about how some view imperialism as a good thing. Indeed, I had a section written where I talked about how the architects of America used the word “empire” so freely because to them, it was a good thing to be imperial. But I left it out because my comment was already way too long and because I think the critique of imperialism has changed throughout in some ways, but in some ways, it remains the same. The powers I would critique as imperialistic now I think still think imperialism is a good thing, as did the “founding fathers,” so really, the point seems to me a little moot (except they don’t like words like “empire” anymore). I think the trajectories of America have always been imperialistic, from Washington to Jackson to Wilson and beyond. And yes, I see empire as a bad thing, and I think the “prosperity and justice” bit is just the kind of rhetoric that keeps empire so alive and well.
    I’m confused by the tone of your comments. I don’t know if it is sarcasm in your comments about “well done on the history” and “I enjoyed your measured tone.” I guess it was, in light of the implied accusation that I am not a decent person, because I did not react to Dan’s post the way you thought a decent person. Oh well. I can’t respond to many of your comments about Dan, because I don’t Dan, or you, and I don’t know if you’re referring to some history that I don’t know about. In any case, if I am reading your write about your reference to me not being a decent person, then I think it ironic that it was found in the paragraph where you apologized for an ad hominem slight :).
    Lastly, I would disagree that my theology requires America to be something, but rather that my theology requires me to recognize what America (and any other like *empires*) is. And in that discussion, it’s just your word against mine.
    I think our points have been made and we know where we all stand.

  18. My compliments were sincere. I suppose if you didn’t react the way a decent person should have then it just shows decent people can disagree.

  19. I’m jumping in. Roger Flyer, to be clear–not R.O. Flyer but his (loving) dad.
    Stan-are you of a certain age? You sound professorial and fatherly (like me)
    Am I right?
    If so, maybe we could share a sidebar as I am sympathetic to your point of view.

  20. Hey Roger,
    I was just hanging out with somebody you know — a certain Joel Mason. It reminded me that at some point you and I are supposed to drink beer together in a cabin on the coast of Lake Superior.

  21. Next time you see Joel you should definitely smack him for me. But seriously, I’m really happy to hear you guys have connected. I hope to get out there in January, perhaps we can meet up.

    • I would love to meet up. Also, oddly enough, I do intend to give Joel a smack next time I see him — I’m organizing a fight night (think UFC mixed with Fight Club) and Joel has thrown his name into the mix. Trust me, he’ll be getting a lot more than a smack!

  22. HI Dan-
    Yep beer on lake superior when you are here…(come with Joel for a visit)
    There is a lot of stuff he is saying that I think is ture if you can open your mind up…
    I also think Stan’s objections to Dan’s way of disengaging from arguments is accurate.


  • A Real 9/11 Reflection – Inhabitatio Dei September 16, 2009

    […] Dan has what I’d consider to be a reflection on 9/11 that really has some substance: As today, is September 11th, I thought I would engage in a bit of remembering — it is, after all, important to recall moments of our history, for this is the story in which we live. […]