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Don't Ask, Don't Tell... Why

by Chris Wright  (September 2001)

We have a new forbidden word in these United States. Alongside the various swear words we cannot use on television, on the radio, or in print media, there is another word which has been banned from public view. WHY. The most common word out of the mouths of three year olds happens to be the one word that the journalists, the politicians, the pundits, the disc jockeys, the priests and ministers, the corporate HR people, and the WWF wrestlers cannot, will not, dare not, utter out loud. When children ask it, Bush scrambles for excuses. When the act itself screams it, Katie Couric of the Today Show immediately deems it unimaginable. WHY?

You can ask HOW (As in "How did they do this?" or "How will 'we' retaliate?") You can ask WHAT ("What did they want?" of "What will we use: ground troops, aerial bombing, missiles or other countries' militaries?"). You can ask WHO ("Who did this?" and "Who is going to get bombed in order to slake our thirst for revenge?"). You can ask WHERE ("Where did the other bombers target us?" and "Where is Osama bin Laden?" or "Where is Afghanistan?"). And you can ask WHEN (as in "When did this happen?" and "When will we get revenge?"). But you cannot ask WHY because WHY assumes that the people who did this might be real human beings, even if their act is monstrous. WHY assumes that rational human beings might hate the United States for rational reasons, including the millions of Middle Eastern people who had nothing to do with this. WHY raises the problem that this act of terror, while inexcusable and murderous, might be explicable. WHY.

I could list many reasons WHY this happened, and I will. I could list many reasons WHY this word is so horrifying to the spin-doctors and opinion makers, and I will. I could list many reasons WHY the current reaction of the opinion makers and spin-doctors is so rotten, and I will. But first spend a moment with me focusing on the word itself. Why. WHY. Why? WHY?

Now ask yourself, WHY would you kill someone? Because they threatened your life? Because they killed people you loved? Because they tried to deny you access to the means to live like a human being? Are these good reasons? Now ask yourself, WHY would someone want to kill you? Because you threatened their life? Because you killed people they loved? Because you tried to deny them access to the means to live like a human being? Are these still good reasons? WHY?

1 million people dead in Iraq, mostly women and children, almost all working people, almost all hostile to Saddam Hussein. WHY? U.S. embargo on medical supplies and the Iraqi economy, which in the context of a shattered post-war economy has meant starvation and death from preventable disease. WHY? To force a dictator we helped create to allow us to inspect all of his installations. WHY? Because we need to disarm him. WHY? Because he might kill a million people.

Tens of thousands of dead Palestinians; millions displaced, often jobless, mostly living in camps (we call them reservations in the U.S.) or in bombed out ghettoes (we call them ghettoes in the U.S.); constant terror by Israeli (and now PLO) soldiers and police, who shoot young boys throwing rocks and who beat old women to death with rifle butts, funded by billions of U.S. dollars a year to Israel. WHY? Because after World War II, the United States and Britain decided that the best way to control Arab oil in the Middle East was to have to non-(even anti-)Arab populations police the Middle East: Iran on one side and Israel on the other. WHY? Because oil is business. Big business. And to control oil, you must control the countries who have it and the workers who drill and refine it.

Iran: a ruthless dictatorship that engaged in murder, torture, massive militarization, and other methods of dictatorship. WHY? Because that was who the U.S. supported, against the wishes of the Iranian population and despite attempts to overthrow the Shah. WHY? Because we wanted cheap oil from the Middle East and a militarized state in Iran to control the Arab populations. WHY? Because the Arab peoples might not like the U.S. controlling their oil reserves. WHY? Would you want someone else controlling your resources?

Israel: a colonial settler state that came into being by driving the native Palestinian population off the land, bulldozing villages, waging constant warfare, engaging in apartheid/segregation/Jim Crow, and maintaining an armed settler force (just like settlers in the U.S.) who were ready to carry out random and not so random acts of terror against any and all Palestinians (like settlers against Native Americans here). WHY? Because Zionism was willing to work with whatever power would give them military support in taking over Palestine and that was exactly what the U.S. and Britain needed. WHY? Because we wanted cheap oil from the Middle East and a militarized state in Iran to control the Arab populations. WHY? Because the Arab peoples might not like the U.S. controlling their oil reserves. WHY? Would you want someone else controlling your resources?

In 1979, the Iranian people overthrow the Shah of Iran. The response? The Soviets invade Afghanistan; Iraq, with approval from the U.S., invades Iran, and the U.S. refuses to support the forces opposing the Ayatollah Khomeini. The U.S. plays Iran and Iraq against each other for nine years in a war resulting in 1.5 million deaths from 1980 to 1988. WHY? The revolution that overthrew the Shah threatened to infect the Middle East with revolution against the monarchies and dictators supported by the U.S., well as against the corporations. In fact, soon to be President Reagan made deals with the Ayatollah in what would later come out in the Iran-Contra scandal, in which Reagan convinced the Ayatollah's regime to keep the U.S. hostages until he was elected President. Immediately after his inauguration, the hostages were released and arms deals between Reagan and the Ayatollah's regime began. WHY? Because dictators are much better for business than popular revolutions. WHY? Because dictators usually have a narrow base of support and need aid from richer, more powerful foreign supporters, such as corporations and governments.

Thousands of Afghani women tortured, killed in the streets, beaten at will. Thousands of Afghani men killed, hung from lamp posts, driven to desperation. WHY? First the Soviets invaded and wreaked havoc and war. Then the U.S. supported the right wing, ultra-conservative Mujahedeen and Osama bin Laden, trained its leaders and soldiers, funded it with the sale of heroin, and helped put it in power as... the Taliban. WHY? Control over Middle East oil, Middle East resistance, and possible Middle East revolutions. WHY? Because popular control, democracy and poor people taking control of their lives threatens U.S. oil interests, which are vastly more important to the U.S. government than the lives of the peoples of the Middle East. See above.

17,500 Palestinians killed in Lebanon in three weeks in 1982. WHY? Because of Israeli and U.S. supported and funded attacks on the Palestinian refugee camps by Christian militias. WHY? Support of Israel, which means decimation of the Palestinians. WHY? Because U.S. Middle East policy has only one reliable, militarily powerful ally by 1982: Israel.

Thousands of people jailed, tortured, killed, dispossessed, and brutalized by monarchies and dictators in Jordan, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen, all of whom were funded and/or politically supported by the U.S.. WHY? Oil and the control of Arab workers (especially Palestinian in the Arabian peninsula) labor. This would seem to be a familiar theme, wouldn't it? WHY? Because oil = money and oil requires workers. WHY? Because if workers don't do the work, the oil does not come out of the ground and oil that does not come out of the ground will not make money. No controllable workforce, no oil; no oil, no money.

Thousands of Kurdish people murdered by chemical warfare in Turkey, but the U.S. does not respond. WHY? Turkey is an ally and allies can kill as they please as long as it does not interfere with U.S. interests in the region. Thousands of Kurds killed in Iraq during a revolt after the Gulf War, as the U.S. ignores the 'no flight' zone and allows the Iraqi army to move in and smash the Kurdish rebellion. WHY? Stability and the control of labor is more important than freedom for U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East. WHY? Ask Exxon, Mobil, Royal Dutch Shell, British Petroleum, Texaco, Amoco/Standard Oil, and Marathon (the Seven Sisters of the single largest and wealthiest industry in the world).

WHY did the U.S. get attacked on September 11? Because the U.S. threatens Middle East peoples' lives. Because the U.S. kills Middle East peoples' loved ones. Because the U.S. tried to deny Middle East peoples' access to the means to live like human beings. Because the U.S. supports every corrupt dictator in the Middle East. Because the U.S. wants to control resources that do not belong to them. Because almost every act of torture, murder, or persecution in the Middle East is backed by U.S. money, technology, diplomacy and training.

But before you stop here ask yourself this: WHY did the people who bombed New York kill so many civilians? Because whoever did this is no less monstrous than the U.S. government; they are just a smaller monster. WHY did some Palestinians and Arab peoples cheer this horrendous act? Because absolute desperation and the thirst for revenge go hand in hand. WHY? If you live in the U.S. right now, you should know the answer. Americans are desperately seeking for revenge. They want revenge for being the objects of revenge. They want revenge for being woken from their slumber. They want revenge for being hated by a world that does not see the U.S. as a benevolent, liberal, freedom-loving country but as a greedy, gluttonous, murderous butcher and bankroller to dictators.

WHY should we denounce both the U.S. government and the people who bombed the World Trade Center and the Pentagon? Because birds of a feather use the same methods: murder civilians, murder innocent people, murder people to instill terror and/or obedience. Whether it is bombs from planes or planes as bombs, it is murder. Both the U.S. government and the people who carried out those horrid acts on September 11 make targets of working men and women and our children. WHY should we refuse to be a part of the drive to bomb a country that is already decimated, to add to the death toll? WHY should we say no to bombing Afghanistan? Because if we do not begin to say, "This should not happen ANYWHERE", it will continue to happen HERE. And if you have watched the media, then you know that the politicians WANT U.S. casualties. They want us to 'get over' 'Vietnam syndrome' and accept massive loss of American lives. They clearly figure that this is their best chance.

We have been initiated into the world we have made and it is a bitter, deadly, frightening world. If we really want to be a freedom-loving, charitable, kind, compassionate people, then we must be everything that our government and corporations are not. Then we must be all those things, not when it is easiest, but when it is hardest. And the next time you hear the politicians, reporters, and their ilk talking about freedom, liberty, justice, democracy, compassion, and kindness, remember that even the Devil can quote scripture. And remember to ask WHY?, always WHY?

- from Allsorts newsletter "more texts on a recent event"  (20 Sep 2001)

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revised 18 November 2005