Sunday, September 11, 2016

Arlene Corwin writes

Still 9/11

With not seven minutes more to go
Before it turns to twelve
When I cease staring at my conscience,
And stop being conscious
Of the shameful tragedy,
The change of policy and policies
That had the tendency
To police our activities
And make, have made, are making us suspicious
Of a world become malicious
As we go from trust to mistrust
‘Cause we think we must.
You must agree,
THAT is the tragedy!

 Taken -- Jerome Witkin


  1. On September 11, 2001, the Islamic terrorist group al-Qaeda launched four coordinated attacks on the United States, killing 2,996 people and injuring over 6,000 others and causing at least $10 billion in property and infrastructure damage and $3 trillion overall. The resultant wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the additional homeland security spending, reached at least $5 trillion. Four passenger airliners were hijacked; American Airlines Flight 11 and United Airlines Flight 175 crashed into the 110-story North and South towers of the World Trade Center complex in New York, causing them both to collapse within an hour and 42 minutes and leading to partial or complete destruction of the rest of the buildings in the complex and 10 other large structures in the area. American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon (the headquarters of the United States Department of Defense) near Washington, DC, leading to the partial collapse of its western side. United Airlines Flight 93 crashed into a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, after passengers tried to overcome the hijackers; it was probably heading toward the Capitol, the American legislative building, in Washington. All 265 people on the four planes, 2,606 in the vicinity of the World Trade Center, and 125 at the Pentagon were killed. In the aftermath, 343 firefighters and 72 law enforcement officers also died; all of the rescue workers who were studied had impaired lung functions, and as late as April 2010, 1/3 of them reported little or no improvement in persistent symptoms that started within the first year of the attack. Hundreds of thousands of tons of toxic debris containing more than 2,500 contaminants were released into the air, and the air quality did not return to normal until June 2002; some18,000 people developed illnesses as a result of the toxic dust. Civilian American and Canadian airspace was closed until 13 September, and when it was reopened air travel decreased, leading to an almost 20% cutback in capacity. American financial markets closed until 17 September. When they reopened, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 684 points (a 7.1% drop) and 1,369.7 points (14.3%) by the end of the week – worth $1.4 trillion. Over the next three months, New York lost about 430,000 job-months and $2.8 billion dollars in wages, and the city’s GDP lost $27.3 billion through 2002; 18,000 small businesses were destroyed or displaced.

  2. Immediately after the attacks, the Federal Bureau of Investigation launched PENTTBOM, the largest criminal inquiry in American history, putting half of the bureau’s special agents on following a half-million leads. Within the first week after the assault, at least 645 violent incidents (vandalism, arson, assault, shootings, harassment, and threats) against Americans of South Asian or Middle Eastern descent were reported, including a murder of a Sikh in Mesa, Arizona, and the firebombing of a Hindu temple. On the afternoon of September 11, US secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld ordered aides to look for evidence of Iraqi involvement. On September 14, Congress passed an Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Terrorists giving the president the authority to use all "necessary and appropriate force" against any nations, organizations, or persons who "planned, authorized, committed or aided" the attacks or who harbored them. As specific statutory authorization within the meaning of the War Powers Resolution of 1973, it is still in effect and has been used by president Barack Obama to justify the American military actons against Daesh (ISIS/ISIL) in Iraq and Syria. Tens of thousands of people attempted to flee Afghanistan following the attacks, due to their nation’s ruling Taliban’s harboring of al-Qaeda, and Pakistan closed its border with Afghanistan on September 17. Three days later, president George W. Bush delivered an ultimatum to the Taliban government to turn over al-Qaeda leaders in the country or face attack; the Taliban demanded evidence of al-Qaeda responsibility and offered to try offenders if the evidence warranted. The U.S. refused to provide any evidence and on October 7 American and British forces began bombing Taliban and al-Qaeda camps, followed by a full-fledged invasion. Pakistan allowed the coalition access to its military bases and surrendered over 600 suspected al-Qaeda members to the US. Kabul, the capital, fell by mid-November, and Taliban and al-Qaeda forces fell back to Tora Bora and other mountains in eastern Afghanistan before escaping into Pakistan. The Taliban regrouped in western Pakistan and began an insurgency against the new Afghan government in late 2002. American troops have been engaged in the conflict there ever since. In 2014, Afghanistan signed a security agreement which allows American and NATO forces to remain until at least 2024.

  3. On September 17, as the US was finalizing its Afghan campaign, Bush gave the CIA the authority to secretly imprison and interrogate detainees. Before long, the first such detainees (including innocent men arrested due to flawed intelligence or sold to the CIA for bounties) were taken to improvised CIA/military bases in Kandahar, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. They were brutalized with beatings and repeated slappings, binding in contorted stress positions, confinement in small boxes, hooding, walling, waterboarding, sexual humiliation, electric shocks, exposure to extreme cold, suspension from the ceiling by their arms, near-drowning in buckets of water, subjection to deafening noise, extreme heat or cold, sleep deprivation to the point of hallucination, deprivation of food, drink, and medical care, "rectal rehydration," "rectal fluid resuscitation," and "rectal feeding, though many of these practices had long been illegal in the US; an unknown number died of abuse; but the use of “enhanced interrogation” was not organized as a bureaucratic program or sanctioned under Justice Department legal cover until July 2002. On October 8, as the war in Afghanistan began, Bush announced the creation of Office of Homeland Security, and Congress formalized the situation by creating the Department of Homeland Security to coordinate domestic anti-terrorism efforts on November 25; this was the largest government reorganization since the National Security Act of 1947 created the Department of Defense, the National Security Council, and the Central Intelligence Agency. Among its provisions, 180,000 employees lost their civil service and labor protections against expeditious reassignment or dismissal. On October 26 Congress passed the USA PATRIOT Act (Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act), which gave the government new powers to detain foreign terror suspects for a week without charging them with anything, detain immigrants indefinitely, allow law enforcement officers to search a home or business without consent or knowledge, expand FBI powers to use National Security Letters (a form of administrative subpoena) to search various records without a court order, monitor telephone, e-mail, and internet communications, tighten the record-keeping requirements for financial institutions to make money laundering more difficult, seized the assets of suspected terrorists, authorize the National Security Agency to commence warrantless surveillance of telecommunications, and make sweeping changes in many law enforcement and intelligence gathering activities.

  4. Using the authority granted by the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Terrorists, Bush issued a presidential military order ("Detention, Treatment, and Trial of Certain Non-Citizens in the War Against Terrorism") on 13 November, which allowed the detention and trial by military tribunals of individuals who belonged to al Qaida or who conspired or committed acts of international terrorism. In January 2002, to detain and interrogate dangerous terrorists and to prosecute them for war crimes, a military detention camp was established on the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base which the US maintains in Cuba; it was created to provide indefinite imprisonment without any of the legal and constitutional protections afforded to defendants and convicts within the US since, although the US has de facto control over the base it is not a sovereign territory of the United States (in 1950 the Supreme Court ruled that it had d no jurisdiction over enemy aliens held outside the USA). To skirt the Geneva Conventions governing prisoners of war and other aspects of international law to which the US is party, a new category of “unlawful combatant” (illegal combatant or unprivileged combatant/belligerent) was created to describe anyone who engages in armed conflict in violation of the laws of war, but the term was not codified until the Military Commissions Act of 2006 invested the president with broad discretion to designate to whom it applies. Most of the individuals originally detained at Guantanamo were captured in Afghanistan, but others were added as the “war on terror” expanded. A February 2002 memorandum by Bush stated that the Geneva Convention guaranteeing humane treatment to prisoners of war did not apply to al-Qaeda or Taliban detainees, and in December a memo by Rumsfeld approved the use of "aggressive techniques" against detainees at Guantanamo Bay. In addition, ignoring the normal extradition processes in international law, from 2001 to 2005 CIA officers captured an estimated 150 people and transported them to US-controlled sites or to countries known to torture prisoners, often after having transited through secret detention centers ("black sites") used by the CIA; “rendition” is the transfer of persons from one jurisdiction to another after the appropriate legal proceedings have been conducted, but “extraordinary rendition” is the apprehension, detention, interrogation, and all other practices occurring before and after the movement and exchange of extrajudicial prisoners; it is almost exclusively carried out by the United States, though often with the collusion of other countries. The US has also been accused of operating "floating prisons" to house and transport terrorists. On 20 March 2003 the Americans launched a preemptive attack on Iraq, after the administration manipulated intelligence reports that Iraqi agents had been involved in the planning of 9-11 and that the country was developing a sophisticated weapons of mass destruction program, including nuclear weapons. Both claims were false, but perhaps 600,000 Iraqis were killed in the first 3–4 years of conflict, American mismanagement of the occupation led to widespread sectarian violence between Shias and Sunnis and a lengthy insurgency against foreign trooops; the United States officially withdrew its military in December 2011 but re-entered in 2014 against the territorial gains that Daesh had made (Daesh had begun as an al-Qaida affiliate in Iraq that re-reorganized as a new Muslim caliphate).


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