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Silent But Deadly

editorial - SchNEWS,  13 September 2002

"As a Native American, every time I see the American flag I feel the same way I imagine Jewish people must feel when looking at the Nazi flag. The American flag is a flag of oppression and genocide. Because that's what America is built on - from the very beginning when the first European settlers landed in North America, it has been a country built on blood."
- Rod Coronado, Native American activist, speaking in Brighton last week.

"It's really not a number I'm terribly interested in."
- General Colin Powell, when asked about the number of Iraqi people who were killed by Americans in the 1991 Desert Storm campaign (200,000 people, incidentally)

September 11th is an anniversary. And if you've watched too much telly or read too many newspapers this week, you may have been fooled into believing that September 11th is only the anniversary of one tragedy, in one nation. But it's not. On the same day in 1973, Salvador Allende, the socialist President of Chile, was killed in a violent, American-sponsored coup, led by General Augusto Pinochet. Pinochet's rise to power, dreamt-up and orchestrated by a Red-paranoid CIA and Mr. Henry Kissinger, began nearly twenty years of military dictatorship that led to thousands of deaths and countless incidences of oppression and torture. 30,000 people were massacred in the weeks following this other September 11th, as Pinochet tried to wipe out an entire layer of society who had identified with the left. Even in exile, many who had associated with the Allende government (or were vaguely perceived as some sort of communist threat) were assassinated by Pinochet's secret service. And all of this sponsored in the name of Freedom and Democracy.

So when we're having a minute of silence for the people who died in the Twin Towers, why not a minute of silence for those who died at the hands of Pinochet's CIA-sponsored death squads? Or while we're at it, we could have a minute of silence for the people of the Congo, also subjected to a military dictatorship thanks to the CIA assassination of evil lefty Patrice Lumumba. Or how about Cambodia, which deserves at least two minutes of silence when one considers that America (and Britain) backed Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot to the tune of $85 million in his genocidal rampage which killed nearly 2 million Cambodians. Or what about a few minutes of silence for Nicaragua, where in 1936, the American National Guard helped Anastasio Somoza to establish and maintain a family dynasty which would rule over Nicaragua for the next 43 years. While the National Guardsmen, consistently maintained by the US, passed their time with rape, torture, murder of the opposition, and massacres of peasants, as well as less violent pursuits such as robbery, extortion, contraband, running brothels and other government functions, the Somoza clan laid claim to the lion's share of Nicaragua's land and businesses. Love that Freedom & Democracy, don't ya?

The problem with this list is that it could go on and on - Brazil, Guatemala, El Salvador, Ecuador, Uruguay, the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Haiti, Iraq, Iran, Laos, East Timor, Grenada, Greece... All of these and more are countries who have suffered from oppression, torture, starvation, and death at the hands of American 'intervention,' whether it takes the form of bombs, sanctions, or our personal favourite, CIA sponsored military regimes. As ex-State Department employee and author William Blum writes, "An American holocaust has taken place - So great and deep is the denial of the American holocaust that the deniers are not even aware that the claimers or their claims exist. Yet, a few million people have died in the American holocaust and many more millions have been condemned to lives of misery and torture as a result of US interventions extending from China and Greece in the 1940s to Afghanistan and Iraq in the 1990s."

"I will never apologise for the United States of America - I don't care what the facts are," said President George Bush Sr. in 1988, when the U.S. Navy warship Vincennes shot down an Iranian commercial airliner. The plane was on a routine flight in a commercial corridor in Iranian airspace. All 290 civilians on board the aircraft were killed.

So while George Bush Jr. demands that the world observe a minute of silence for the dead and injured civilians of September 11th, the 290 dead Iranian civilians of 1988 didn't even get an apology. Neither did the nearly 8,000 Afghani civilians who have died in the last year as a result of U.S. led air strikes in Afghanistan, a campaign appropriately titled 'Enduring Freedom.'

And while we're on the subject of bombs, it might be interesting to note that since the Second World War, the US government has bombed 21 countries: China in 1945-46 and again in 1950-53, Korea in 1950-53, Guatemala in 1954, 1960, and 1967-69, Indonesia in 1958, Vietnam in 1961-73, Congo in 1964, Laos in 1964-73, Peru in 1965, Cambodia in 1969-70, El Salvador throughout the 1980s, Nicaragua throughout the 1980s, Lebanon in 1983-84, Grenada in 1983, Bosnia in 1985, Libya in 1986, Panama in 1989, Iraq in 1991-20??, Sudan in 1998, Former Yugoslavia in 1999, and Afghanistan in 1998 and 2002.

To the best of our knowledge, none of the victims of bombings in these countries have ever received any apologies, memorial funds, or commemorative minutes of silence. Yes, it is a tragedy when 3,000 people lose their lives on a single day as the result of madmen. But it is also a tragedy that takes place in many countries around the world on a daily basis, often times as a result of the madmen in Washington. And when this fact is not acknowledged, anniversary observances of September 11th sound hollow at best, and grossly hypocritical and offensive at worst. As one American activist told Schnews, "If we had to observe a moment of silence for all of the victims of American foreign policy, we'd be silent for the rest of our lives."

- SchNEWS  (13th September 2002)

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revised 18 November 2005