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politics of portals Oct 2001

terrorist attacks Sept 2001

refugee crisis? Sept 2001

Photos by Judy Tillinger, NYC
17 September 2001:


Si Dios

Postcard and Saint


~ my current rant ~

Terrorist Attacks in US

A few hours ago, terrorist attacks were made on an unimaginable scale against the US. Four hijacked planes were crashed into the World Trade Centre & the Pentagon.

The world will never be the same. We may be on the cusp of a war, a terrible new type of war where none of us can feel safe.

Regardless of who the perpetrators of these foolish and unspeakably cruel acts were, this has to be one of the greatest tragedies the world has ever seen.

Deepest sympathy to any of you who are affected directly by this tragedy. I doubt that there is a person anywhere in the world who will not be affected by it in some less direct way.

I've said before that the US is seen as the bully of the international schoolyard who ends up with everyone's lunch money - but that's no excuse for some skinny kid to bring a gun into the classroom & start spraying everyone with bullets. Terrorism can never be right. We have to get rid of that feeling of powerlessness, that feeling that the Teacher won't listen or care when we say that we've all had our lunches taken again.

katty b, 12 September 2001

Our current right-wing government in Australia has been fighting with our High Court to refuse entry to a group of refugees who were rescued from their sinking ship by a Norwegian Freighter. This situation started before the WTC attack, which for the refugees could not have happened at a worse time - because they're Afghans. Our government is carefully saying that the nationality of the refugees isn't an issue, but rampant anti-Muslim feeling throughout the reactionary sector of our community has certainly made it an issue. Whereas before the attacks, public opinion was turning against the government's brutal actions in using our military to force a boatload of refugees away from our shores, now it's become a real vote-winner. And we have a federal election very soon.

I've been feeling shell-shocked since Tuesday, watching the second plane hit live (late night here) and then not being able to leave the TV until I finally managed to fall asleep exhausted about 40 hrs later. The fact that I'm physically as far from the WTC as you could possibly get hasn't felt like any sort of buffer. I feel strangely guilty that it's affected me so much despite the distance, and despite the fact that all of my personal friends in the US are OK.

I have felt this sort of dull aching grief before - when news came from Rwanda about hundreds of thousands of people being machetted to death by their friends and neighbours; when the pictures of skeletal-looking Muslim men being freed from Serb concentration camps were shown; when young Muslim girls and grandmothers told of being pack-raped by whole units of soldiers in Bosnia, and their desperate attempts to abort the product of that violation; when whole villages of East Timorese were burnt alive, and a woman's unborn baby was carved from her belly and carried around impaled on a stick as a trophy; when two 10yo boys kidnapped an unattended toddler from a shopping centre in the UK and then tortured him to death and left his body on a railway track; when the IRA let off yet another bomb in a crowded market; when one lonely young man hunted down and killed dozens of tourists in a quiet corner of our own peaceful country, including two small children who had hidden huddled together behind a tree.

This grief for somewhat removed horror isn't the same bottomless and desperate grief that you feel at the loss of a close loved one; but it is still very deep and very real. The grief is as much for the perpetrator's loss of humanity as for the loss of victim's lives. How can people become such monsters? Why does it happen?

May the world realise that our only hope is in our humanity - that for every death, there's a mother left feeling dead herself, a widowed wife, bereft friends. Rampant nationalism, greed, religious zealotry - they can all undermine our empathy for others, allow us to dehumanise them.

I remember a Wilfred Owen poem from WW1 where in a dark, smoky trench, a soldier comes upon another who is fatally injured. There is an unspoken bond as he makes the dying man's last moments more comfortable - then realises that the dead soldier was 'the enemy'. We all need to seize that moment, that blinding flash when everything else is stripped away and we see that there is no 'us' and no 'them', just other fellow human beings.

katty b, 18 September 2001


Personal email & photos by J. Tillinger: (posted here with permission)

Debbie, Bobbie, Val and Kat

Forgive me for writing this to four of you at once - you've all sent wishes that I got this morning and I thank you for that - it means a great deal.

I left the apartment on Saturday morning to get away from the television yet I found myself walking downtown in the direction of Ground Zero. I live almost exactly a mile from it.

I wrote in my journal how we all want to go back to before. To when things were normal. And then I realized that this is now normal. That this is what we have to acknowledge and accept. Now, as those in Jerusalem have told us, we understand. The very ground we stand on is insubstantial.

I took my cameras feeling some need to document, to witness for myself, whatever I could. Without an official Police I.D. even my Daily News identification couldn't get me closer to that place than Canal Street which is about a half mile away, but from there you can see some of the wreckage. And the smoke rising.

You've seen the images: Everywhere there are pictures of the missing posted on any available surface. On bus shelters and mailboxes, on chain link fences and lamposts. In twos and threes and singly. They represent a microcosm of what New York is: The names are Hispanic and Korean and Chinese and Anglo Saxon. The faces are white and yellow and black. The photographs were taken at weddings and parties, in living rooms and parks. With children and families. It breaks your heart.

At the fire station a block from my apartment, where 8 to 11 men are missing, there is a shrine that has grown each day: flowers and candles and notes and photographs. American flags and postcards of New York with photographs of the World Trade Center. Union Square Park has become one enormous altar, and it grows each day. Fences there are covered with posters made by school children and rows of T-shirts hand decorated with messages. Everything is red white and blue. Shop windows that don't have a flag displayed seem odd.

At Washington Square Park enormous canvas panels have been hung and markers are available for anyone to write messages. They are written in Russian and French and Spanish, in Chinese and English, in long paragraphs and single words. The majority, because this is, after all, Greenwich Village, a liberal bastion, beg for peace, beg for a rational response to this irrationality.

The weather. It's been impossibly beautiful. The sky has been ludicrously clear every day but one. On Wednesday nght there was lightning and thunder for maybe an hour without any rain, then the rain came. Torrential. It rained until midday on Thursday and then, again, cleared. There have been no clouds in the sky. Except the smoke from downtown. Smoke is still rising from the wreckage. Almost a week later.

Last night I found myself crying uncontrollably. I had spoken with a couple a friends and with my mother but none of them seem affected in quite the same way as I am. Everyone has their own way of coping. I understand that. I needed to talk with someone on the same wavelength. I called a friend from work, a television critic, in whose office I'd watched much of the coverage on Tuesday. He had done the same things over the weekend: Walked the streets, found himself sobbing. Neither of us has lost someone close and we confided that we feel somehow not entitled to our feelings, to grieving so profoundly. Even though we know, on an intellectual level, that our feelings are legitimate.

Here I am at work. We are supposed to be getting 'back to' some form of 'normal' which for me may mean designing pages about recipes and fashion. How am I supposed to do that? I seem to need to get a lot of this out so there may be more later.

At this url you'll find an account of the events of tuesday by a friend of mine here at the News. It's more eloquent than anything else I've read or heard.

Thanks again, judy
17 September 2001

Personal perspectives from some of my most-respected people: (these are all public letters)


From: Michael Moore []
Sent: Wednesday, 12 September 2001 6:23 PM
Subject: Death, Downtown

Dear friends,

I was supposed to fly today on the 4:30 PM American Airlines flight from LAX to JFK. But tonight I find myself stuck in L.A. with an incredible range of emotions over what has happened on the island where I work and live in New York City.

My wife and I spent the first hours of the day -- after being awakened by phone calls from our parents at 6:40am PT -- trying to contact our daughter at school in New York and our friend JoAnn who works near the World Trade Center.

I called JoAnn at her office. As someone picked up, the first tower imploded, and the person answering the phone screamed and ran out, leaving me no clue as to whether or not she or JoAnn would live.

It was a sick, horrible, frightening day.

On December 27, 1985 I found myself caught in the middle of a terrorist incident at the Vienna airport -- which left 30 people dead, both there and at the Rome airport. (The machine-gunning of passengers in each city was timed to occur at the same moment.)

I do not feel like discussing that event tonight because it still brings up too much despair and confusion as to how and why I got to live. a fluke, a mistake, a few feet on the tarmac, and I am still here, there but for the grace of.

Safe. Secure. I'm an American, living in America. I like my illusions. I walk through a metal detector, I put my carry-ons through an x-ray machine, and I know all will be well.

Here's a short list of my experiences lately with airport security:

* At the Newark Airport, the plane is late at boarding everyone. The counter can't find my seat. So I am told to just "go ahead and get on" -- without a ticket!

* At Detroit Metro Airport, I don't want to put the lunch I just bought at the deli through the x-ray machine so, as I pass through the metal detector, I hand the sack to the guard through the space between the detector and the x-ray machine. I tell him "It's just a sandwich." He believes me and doesn't bother to check. The sack has gone through neither security device.

* At LaGuardia in New York, I check a piece of luggage, but decide to catch a later plane. The first plane leaves without me, but with my bag -- no one knowing what is in it.

* Back in Detroit, I take my time getting off the commuter plane. By the time I have come down its stairs, the bus that takes the passengers to the terminal has left -- without me. I am alone on the tarmac, free to wander wherever I want. So I do. Eventually, I flag down a pick-up truck and an airplane mechanic gives me a ride the rest of the way to the terminal.

* I have brought knives, razors; and once, my traveling companion brought a hammer and chisel. No one stopped us. Of course, I have gotten away with all of this because the airlines consider my safety SO important, they pay rent-a-cops $5.75 an hour to make sure the bad guys don't get on my plane. That is what my life is worth -- less than the cost of an oil change.

Too harsh, you say? Well, chew on this: a first-year pilot on American Eagle (the commuter arm of American Airlines) receives around $15,000 a year in annual pay.

That's right -- $15,000 for the person who has your life in his hands. Until recently, Continental Express paid a little over $13,000 a year. There was one guy, an American Eagle pilot, who had four kids so he went down to the welfare office and applied for food stamps -- and he was eligible!

Someone on welfare is flying my plane? Is this for real? Yes, it is.

So spare me the talk about all the precautions the airlines and the FAA is taking. They, like all businesses, are concerned about one thing -- the bottom line and the profit margin.

Four teams of 3-5 people were all able to penetrate airport security on the same morning at 3 different airports and pull off this heinous act? My only response is -- that's all?

Well, the pundits are in full diarrhea mode, gushing on about the "terrorist threat" and today's scariest dude on planet earth -- Osama bin Laden. Hey, who knows, maybe he did it. But, something just doesn't add up.

Am I being asked to believe that this guy who sleeps in a tent in a desert has been training pilots to fly our most modern, sophisticated jumbo jets with such pinpoint accuracy that they are able to hit these three targets without anyone wondering why these planes were so far off path?

Or am I being asked to believe that there were four religious/political fanatics who JUST HAPPENED to be skilled airline pilots who JUST HAPPENED to want to kill themselves today?

Maybe you can find one jumbo jet pilot willing to die for the cause -- but FOUR? Ok, maybe you can -- I don't know.

What I do know is that all day long I have heard everything about this bin Laden guy except this one fact -- WE created the monster known as Osama bin Laden!

Where did he go to terrorist school? At the CIA!

Don't take my word for it -- I saw a piece on MSNBC last year that laid it all out. When the Soviet Union occupied Afghanistan, the CIA trained him and his buddies in how to commits acts of terrorism against the Soviet forces. It worked! The Soviets turned and ran. Bin Laden was grateful for what we taught him and thought it might be fun to use those same techniques against us.

We abhor terrorism -- unless we're the ones doing the terrorizing.

We paid and trained and armed a group of terrorists in Nicaragua in the 1980s who killed over 30,000 civilians. That was OUR work. You and me. Thirty thousand murdered civilians and who the hell even remembers!

We fund a lot of oppressive regimes that have killed a lot of innocent people, and we never let the human suffering THAT causes to interrupt our day one single bit.

We have orphaned so many children, tens of thousands around the world, with our taxpayer-funded terrorism (in Chile, in Vietnam, in Gaza, in Salvador) that I suppose we shouldn't be too surprised when those orphans grow up and are a little whacked in the head from the horror we have helped cause.

Yet, our recent domestic terrorism bombings have not been conducted by a guy from the desert but rather by our own citizens: a couple of ex-military guys who hated the federal government.

From the first minutes of today's events, I never heard that possibility suggested. Why is that?

Maybe it's because the A-rabs are much better foils. A key ingredient in getting Americans whipped into a frenzy against a new enemy is the all-important race card. It's much easier to get us to hate when the object of our hatred doesn't look like us.

Congressmen and Senators spent the day calling for more money for the military; one Senator on CNN even said he didn't want to hear any more talk about more money for education or health care -- we should have only one priority: our self-defense.

Will we ever get to the point that we realize we will be more secure when the rest of the world isn't living in poverty so we can have nice running shoes?

In just 8 months, Bush gets the whole world back to hating us again. He withdraws from the Kyoto agreement, walks us out of the Durban conference on racism, insists on restarting the arms race -- you name it, and Baby Bush has blown it all.

The Senators and Congressmen tonight broke out in a spontaneous version of "God Bless America." They're not a bad group of singers!

Yes, God, please do bless us.

Many families have been devastated tonight. This just is not right. They did not deserve to die. If someone did this to get back at Bush, then they did so by killing thousands of people who DID NOT VOTE for him! Boston, New York, DC, and the planes' destination of California -- these were places that voted AGAINST Bush!

Why kill them? Why kill anyone? Such insanity.

Let's mourn, let's grieve, and when it's appropriate let's examine our contribution to the unsafe world we live in.

It doesn't have to be like this.

Yours, Michael Moore


And from Deepak Chopra:

The Deeper Wound
Deepak Chopra

As fate would have it, I was leaving New York on a jet flight that took off 45 minutes before the unthinkable happened. By the time we landed in Detroit, chaos had broken out. When I grasped the fact that American security had broken down so tragically, I couldn't respond at first. My wife and son were also! in the air on separate flights, one to Los Angeles, one to San Diego. My body went absolutely rigid with fear. All I could think about was their safety, and it took several hours before I found out that their flights had been diverted and both were safe.

Strangely, when the good news came, my body still felt that it had been hit by a truck. Of its own accord it seemed to feel a far greater trauma that reached out to the thousands who would not survive and the tens of thousands who would survive only to live through months and years of hell.

And I asked myself, Why didn't I feel this way last week? Why didn't my body go stiff during the bombing of Iraq or Bosnia? Around the world my horror and worry are experienced every day. Mothers weep over horrendous loss, civilians are bombed mercilessly, refugees are ripped from any sense of home or homeland. Why did I not feel their anguish enough to call a halt to it?

As we hear the calls for tightened American security and a fierce military response to terrorism, it is obvious that none of us has any answers.

However, we feel compelled to ask some questions. Everything has a cause, so we have to ask, What was the root cause of this evil? We must find out not superficially but at the deepest level. There is no doubt that such evil is alive all around the world and is even celebrated.

Does this evil grow from the suffering and anguish felt by people we don't know and therefore ignore? Have they lived in this condition for a long time? One assumes that whoever did this attack feels implacable hatred for America. Why were we selected to be the focus of suffering around the world?

All this hatred and anguish seems to have religion at its basis. Isn't something terribly wrong when jihads and wars develop in the name of God? Isn't God invoked with hatred in Ireland, Sri Lanka, India, Pakistan, Israel, Palestine, and even among the intolerant sects of America? Can any military response make the slightest difference in the underlying cause? Is there not a deep wound at the heart of humanity?

If there is a deep wound, doesn't it affect everyone? When generations of suffering respond with bombs, suicidal attacks, and biological warfare, who first developed these weapons? Who sells them? Who gave birth to the satanic technologies now being turned against us?

If all of us are wounded, will revenge work? Will punishment in any form toward anyone solve the wound or aggravate it? Will an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, and limb for a limb, leave us all blind, toothless and crippled?

Tribal warfare has been going on for two thousand years and has now been magnified globally. Can tribal warfare be brought to an end? Is patriotism and nationalism even relevant anymore, or is this another form of tribalism?

What are you and I as persons going to do about what is happening? Can we afford to let the deeper wound fester any longer? Everyone is calling this an attack on America, but is it not a rift in our collective soul? Isn't this an attack on civilization from without that is also from within? When we have secured our safety once more and cared for the wounded, after the period of shock and mourning is over, it will be time for soul searching. I only hope that these questions are confronted with the deepest spiritual intent. None of us will feel safe again behind the shield of military might and stockpiled arsenals. There can be no safety until the root cause is faced. In this moment of shock I don't think anyone of us has the answers.

It is imperative that we pray and offer solace and help to each other. But if you and I are having a single thought of violence or hatred against anyone in the world at this moment, we are contributing to the wounding of the world.

Love, Deepak


by Arun Gandhi

Understandably, after the tragedy in New York and Washington DC on September 11 many have written or called the office to find out what would be an appropriate nonviolent response to such an unbelievably inhuman act of violence.

First, we must understand that nonviolence is not a strategy that we can use in a moment of crisis and discarded in times of peace. Nonviolence is about personal attitudes, about becoming the change we wish to see in the world. Because, a nation's collective attitude is based on the attitude of the individual. Nonviolence is about building positive relationships with all human beings - relationships that are based on love, compassion, respect, understanding and appreciation.

Nonviolence is also about not judging people as we perceive them to be - that is, a murderer is not born a murderer; a terrorist is not born a terrorist. People become murderers, robbers and terrorists because of circumstances and experiences in life. Killing or confining murders, robbers, terrorists, or the like is not going to rid this world of them. For every one we kill or confine we create another hundred to take their place. What we need to do is to analyze dispassionately what are those circumstances that create such monsters and how can we help eliminate those circumstances, not the monsters. Justice should mean reformation and not revenge.

We saw some people in Iraq and Palestine and I dare say many other countries rejoice the blowing up of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. It horrified us, as it should. But, let us not forget that we do the same thing. When Israel bombs the Palestinians we either rejoice or show no compassion. Our attitude is they deserve what they get. When the Palestinians bomb the Israelis we are indignant and condemn them as vermin who need to be eliminated.

We reacted without compassion when we bombed the cities of Iraq. I was among the millions in the United States who sat glued to the television and watched the drama as though it was a made for television film. The television had desensitized us. Thousands of innocent men, women and children were being blown to bits and instead of feeling sorry for them we marveled at the efficiency of our military. For more than ten years we have continued to wreak havoc in Iraq - an estimated 50,000 children die every year because of sanctions that we have imposed - and it hasn't moved us to compassion. All this is done, we are told, because we want to get rid of the Satan called Sadam Hussein.

Now we are getting ready to do this all over again to get rid of another Satan called Osama Bin Laden. We will bomb the cities of Afghanistan because they harbor the Satan and in the process we will help create a thousand other bin Ladens.

Some might say "we don't care what the world thinks of us as long as they respect our strength. " After all we have the means to blow this world to pieces since we are the only surviving super-power. Do we want the world to respect us the way school children respect a bully? Is that our role in the world?

If a bully is what we want to be then we must be prepared to face the same consequences as a school-yard bully faces. On the other hand we cannot tell the world "leave us alone." Isolationism is not what this world is built for.

All of this brings us back to the question: How do we respond nonviolently to terrorism?

The consequences of a military response are not very rosy. Many thousands of innocent people will die both here and the country or countries we attack. Militancy will increase exponentially and, ultimately, we will be faced with another, more pertinent, moral question: what will we gain by destroying half the world? Will we be able to live with a clear conscience?

We must acknowledge our role in helping create monsters in the world and then find ways to contain these monsters without hurting more innocent people and then redefine our role in the world. I think we must move from seeking to be respected for our military strength to being respected for our moral strength.

We need to appreciate that we are in a position to play a powerful role in helping the "other half" of the world attain a better standard of life not by throwing a few crumbs but by significantly involving ourselves in constructive economic programs.

For too long our foreign policy has been based on "what is good for the United States." It smacks of selfishness. Our foreign policy should now be based on what is good for the world and how can we do the right thing to help the world become more peaceful.

To those who have lost loved one's in this and other terrorist acts I say I share your grief. I am sorry that you have become victims of senseless violence. But let this sad episode not make you vengeful because no amount of violence and killing is going to bring you inner peace. Anger and hate never do. The memory of those victims who have died in this and other violent incidents around the world will be better preserved and meaningfully commemorated if we all learn to forgive and dedicate our lives to helping create a peaceful, respectful and an understanding world.

Arun Gandhi Founder Director
M.K.Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence


from: The Dalai Lama

to: His Excellency Mr. George W. Bush
The President
The White House
Washington, DC 20500 USA

Your Excellency,

I am deeply shocked by the terrorist attacks that took place involving four apparently hijacked aircrafts and the immense devastation these caused. It is a terrible tragedy that so many innocent lives have been lost and it seems unbelievable that anyone would choose to target the Wolrd Trade Centre in New York and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. We are deeply saddened. On behalf of the Tibetan people I would like to convey our deepest condolence and solidarity with the American people during this painful time. Our prayers go out to the many who have lost their lives, those who have been injured and the many more who have been traumatized by this senseless act of violence. I am attending a special prayer for the United States and its people at our main temple today.

I am confident that the United States as a great and powerful nation will be able to overcome this present tragedy. The American people have shown their resilience, courage and determination when faced with such difficult and sad situations.

It may seem presumptous on my part, but I personally believe we need to think seriously whether a violent reaction is the right thing to do and in the greater interest of the nation and the people in the long run. I believe violence will only increase the cycle of violence. But how do we deal with hatred and anger which are often the root causes of such senseless violence? This is a very difficult question, especially when it concerns a nation and we have certain fixed conceptions of how to deal with such attacks. I am sure you will make the right decision.

With my prayers and good wishes,

Yours sincerely,
The Dalai Lama


Other interesting links:

Who's been funding the Taliban?


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