You know the mainstream media doesn't tell you everything it knows. That's obvious. Some of the reasons why are obvious, too: limited space in newspapers, limited time on news programs, limited resources of news departments, limited number of reporters.... Some things are bound to slip through the cracks.
What this amounts to is a list of 25 stories that alternative media will have to pick up. Come on, bloggers, pick one and write about it. Because the New York Times won't write about it. And Fox News won't talk about it.
I'm still stunned by the magnitude of it. I spent this morning in tears.
The scale of the attacks was beyond imagining, not so much because it was so immense -- After all (the former history student in me asks) how many died in one day during World War 2? I think the impact of those attacks was all the greater because we experienced it through the television.
It was real in that television kind of way. On the same screen we watched the news and Sex and the City and Oprah and reality-show melodramas, jetliners flew into these tall buildings that were unexceptional except for their height and the thousands upon thousands of people that worked inside.
The hate of it!
The whole world could see it.
I found myself looking at the Missing posters whenever they were on screen, hoping I wouldn't see someone I knew, yet I was unable to turn away. I had to know!
Shocked as I was, I was not at all surprised to see how New Yorkers pulled together. New York is bigger than anybody, and everyone there knows it. Being a New Yorker gets into your blood. It can mean more than your ethnicity or race or gender or class. It's there, underneath all the hustle and bustle and hollering and agitation. It's easy to forget when you're in the midst of it, but then something happens and there it is.
We were all with them. I wanted to be there. I don't know if non-New Yorkers felt this way, but to me it was like my family was suffering.
For a while after the attacks, I was in a rage, even in my calmest moments, it was there underneath, lurking, waiting. The people who did this had to pay!
But while revenge is a common feeling we've all felt to one degree or another, it's not something we hold dear as an American virtue. And in those first hours and days and weeks, we focused on our virtues.
In the face of such a hateful attack on us -- not on our government, but against us as in against We The People -- necessarily we turned inward to look to ourselves. And while the inevitable question "Why?" came up again and again, it seemed we spent more time asking ourselves what it is to be an American. Were we really that bad? Were we the people, the ordinary folks working jobs to get by and raise families, really such awful people that we had to be attacked by religious zealots from the other side of the world?
In those days, I didn't have a television, so when I wasn't at a neighbor's, I was left to my own thoughts, without the benefit of NTSC chewing gum. How many times can you watch those video shots of the planes and the collapses anyway?
For several nights, I sat on the roof of the condo I was renting, looking at the stars through my tears or staring off into space through a fog of shock, while listening to the silence of the skies, save for the occasional military jet in the distance.
And every morning, I listened to NPR's Morning Edition's beautiful coverage. They were there in the city, telling us the stories of the people. Did you listen? Do you remember the music? That haunting, beautiful music they found to play? I found a lot of healing from those shows.
Over the previous years, flying the flag on one's house or car -- except on a national holiday -- had become the cheap sentiment of yahoo politics. You flew the flag if you were for the Establishment. You flew the flag to reinforce your toughness. You flew the flag for jingoistic patriotism.
You certainly didn't fly the flag to celebrate the freedom of civil liberties. You didn't fly the flag to celebrate liberality towards one's neighbor. You didn't fly the flag to proclaim progressive values. The yahoo right had claimed the flag. The American flag wasn't for all of us.
Some twits claiming "artist" status did things like lay the flag on the floor of a museum or wipe it with excrement, which to me didn't say anything except that they were rather shallow and stupid. We have the wingnutty efforts to prevent "flag desecration" by Constitutional amendment as a result -- more shallow and stupid posturing, if you ask me.
But after 9/11, there were more flags flying -- a lot more flags. Everyone had them up, and it no longer meant being a right-wing goon. We were all together, we were all Americans, at least for a while.
And while the flag pin has become a default expression of cheap patriotism by our government leaders, I still love my flag. I love it for what it represents. I love it because it stands for a country that celebrates freedom so much that I have the right to destroy that flag.
The liberty is greater than the symbol. Without the liberty, the flag means nothing.
Back then, the entire world stood with us. Though some bloody-minded idiots danced in the streets of some hardened Muslim ghettos in the Middle East, people all over the globe held candlelight vigils, gathered at U.S. embassies and laid flowers -- flowers! -- at the gates.
People carried American flags in their own countries, in marches of support for America. It was so healing to see people in Africa, in villages in Southeast Asia, in Moscow, standing with us.
Try to imagine that happening today.
And this is the question we're left with. Why did these hate-filled zealots kill so many innocent people? Why did our hate-filled president run off to attack Iraq?
Five years ago, Jon Stewart spoke most eloquently. Do watch this.
Five years ago we were attacked.
Since that time, the Earth has flown nearly 3 billion miles around the sun, and a new world order has been brought about. The United States that the world loved and mourned for and looked up to has become the United States that lies, that tortures, that holds secret trials, that spies on its own citizens, that doesn't show much sense in international politics but is all too willing to kill on a mass scale, all in the name of freedom and fighting "terrorism."
How far we've come.
What was once a moment where we were united with the world has become a justification for marching down a path of division and violence. And every act we take as a country seems to create more and more radical zealots dedicated to our destruction.
Such is the cycle of hate. We took an audacious criminal act and legitimized it, making it into a war, fighting hoodlums with bombers and tanks, and in doing so, we elevated Osama bin Laden to the equal of the American presidency, while killing tens of thousands of innocent civilians. And in the process we've doubled the number of Americans killed in connection with 9/11.
Meanwhile the Taliban thrives in Afghanistan, while we suffer the consequences of a stubborn, short-sighted president who is deciding America right into a ditch.
That is the tragedy I see now. That is the real tragedy of 9/11.
The Administration is comparing Iraq and Fascism. Images of World War Two are used, but not Vietnam. Communism is mentioned, but the fact that the world's most populous nation is also a Communist state, slips most people's minds. We are busy making sure we are in good standing with the biggest nation, let alone the biggest Communist nation, that we no longer say that "Communism doesn't work."
Why is this relevant? Well, the Administration is talking about how the United States fought Fascism and Communism. It declares victory.
We are told we have to fight the terrorists "over there," otherwise we'll have to fight them "over here." This used to be called the "Domino Theory" during Vietnam. If we let Vietnam fall, we'd be soon fighting Communists at home. Instead we're importing Communist goods and setting up factories in Communist China.
No longer do we hear slogans about how Communism doesn't work and that we're fighting Communism. The war against Communism is largely forgotten, except for Cuba and Korea.
More to the point, Rumsfeld and the rest of the Administration have it wrong about World War Two. Why doesn't the current Administration look at Lyndon Johnson's War in Vietnam? The comparisons are striking beyond the Domino Theory. In the 1960s, Americans were also told to "stay the course" insofar as Vietnam and that "victory is just around the corner," and "we're seeing light at the end of the tunnel."
Today's pundits blame Democrats for being "soft" on national security. Most are too young to recall the slogan, "The Democrats are the party of war and the Republicans the party of depression." Many people fail to remember that World War One and World War Two were fought during Democratic administrations. The standoff during the Cuban Missile Crisis was under a Democratic Administration. This is not to say Republicans are weak despite the stalemate in Korea and Nixon's pull out in Vietnam.
Author Tammy Bruce, a once progressive convert to Reagan, gives a lesson about how World War Two happened and she advises that "Mein Kampf" tells the story, but those who have actually read it find its is largely an anti-Semitic tract. Yet the United States declared war on Japan, not Germany, after Pearl Harbor. It was the Germans who declared war on the United States through a Japanese-German Treaty because America had declared war on Japan. America was not a member of the League of Nations and Americans did not broker much, if anything, in Europe during the Hitler's rise to power or the carving up of Europe.
I am also somewhat inclined to feel that their criticism of our hysterical approach towards Iraq, viewing Iraq as another Nazi Germany, Saddam Hussein as another Hitler is not without merit. I think we have lost our sense of proportion.
Surely we should stop terrorists, but miring America's Army in an overseas civil war is not going to stop, for example, British citizens from plotting to blow up planes. Using the name of Hitler and the Domino Theory has little to do with the real threats.
The best comparison to a war of the past is America's involvement in Vietnam ... a Civil War where the enemy blends into the populace, where raw military force cannot crush the opposition, where we are told to "stay the course" and told that if we don't, the Domino Theory will mean we end up fighting them here.
And yet, history has proven that staying the course did not win us anything and yesterday's enemies, Communist or not, are our big friends.
Despite a sharp increase in the prosecution of terrorism cases just after Sept. 11, 2001, only 14 of the defendants have been sentenced to 20 years or more in prison, according to a study based on Justice Department data.
Of the 1,329 convicted defendants, only 625 received any prison sentence, said the study, released Sunday by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, a data research group at Syracuse University. More than half of those convicted got no prison time or no more than they had already served awaiting their verdict.
The analysis of data from Justice's Executive Office of U.S. Attorneys also found that in the eight months ending last May, Justice attorneys declined to prosecute more than nine out of every 10 terrorism cases sent to them by the FBI, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and other federal agencies. Nearly 4 in 10 of the rejected cases were scrapped because prosecutors found weak or insufficient evidence, no evidence of criminal intent or no evident federal crime.
The small number of long prison sentences shouldn't be a surprise because "terrorism is actually very rare â€” far more people are killed in ordinary street crime," said James Dempsey, policy director of the Center for Democracy and Technology.
Nevertheless, terrorism poses a risk of catastrophic loss of life, "so agencies must pursue a lot of leads that do not pan out," Dempsey added. "We can't blame the FBI for pursuing those leads, but we can blame them and the Justice Department for arresting people and making a big media splash when things don't pan out."
We can also take to heart just how wrong wrong wrong the Bush government and its dittohead apologists and fans are when it comes to civil rights.
This is a problem when it comes to the non-prisoners in Guantanamo.
At the penalty trial of al-Qaida conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui, the government acknowledged that it has captured most of the Sept. 11 ringleaders including mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and operations coordinator Ramzi Binalshibh. Although prosecutors suggested they might be charged somewhere someday, the government has never disproved persistent allegations they were tortured during interrogations overseas and thus cannot be tried in U.S. courts.
If prosecutions "have been compromised by unlawful interrogation or surveillance, that would be worse than ironic," Aftergood said. "It would mean the government has performed in a self-defeating manner."You think?
This is a land ruled by laws, not by men. But the men in charge have really messed up. Now what? That's the question of this upcoming election.
Note: I browsed through all the YouTube offerings of this clip, and the sound quality ranges from the marginal here to the downright awful on some others. Still, please, click on Play and watch. These are six minutes and 41 seconds you won't regret.