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September 11: Then and Now Conference and Workshops

In the past few months leading up to early September, we have been the victims of one of the most expensive and widespread advertising campaigns the world has ever seen. In a manner worthy of analysis by Naomi Klein, the author of “No Logo,” the branding of “nine -eleven” has been relentless in order to crowd out any serious discussion of any other issues or events (for all you Canadians and Brits, nine-eleven does not refer to the ninth of November but rather September 11th). Furthermore, it has been used as an emotional catalyst to allow a regime, which was not democratically elected, to declare war on the entire planet. Indeed, as I write we hear Mr. Bush’s report to congress outlining his strategy for promoting U.S. military and economic domination of all parts of the world. Here he states that “To forestall or prevent such hostile acts by our adversaries, the United States will, if necessary, act pre-emptively.” U.S. forces will be “strong enough to dissuade potential military adversaries from pursuing a military build-up in hopes of surpassing or equalling the power of the U.S.” He vows further to “bring the hope of democracy, development, free markets and free trade to every corner of the world.” Apart from the spherical nature of the planet, “hope” is likely to be the only aspect of democracy, development and free trade that is likely the rest of the world will receive under the threat of a 1 billion dollar per day war budget.

It is in this hostile context that a coalition of peace, solidarity and activist groups, including Science for Peace, came together to explore that nature of historical events which centred on the date of September 11. Initiated by Chileans in the City of Toronto, a one day conference and workshops was organized for September 6 and 7 as well as a public forum on the evening of September 11. The context of these events lay in the burial from history of tragedies and crimes against humanity which have occurred in the name of “peace” and the “promotion of democracy”. The following examples discussed at the workshops and forum are listed:

September 11, 1953.** AllanDulles, director of the CIA, is presented with the “General Plan of Action” report which initiates the overthrow of the democratically elected government of Jacobo Arbenz Guzman in Guatemala. Following the coup, ,the Guatemalan people suffer increasing military oppression resulting in 200,000 murdered and disappeared people, 93% of whom were killed by government forces or their paramilitary associates (from the Historical Clarification Commission Report).

September 11, 1973.Increasingeconomic pressure from the Nixon administration (Nixon asked to make the economy “scream”), and with direct influence from Henry Kissinger, political assassination and violent sabotage culminate in the overthrow of the democratically elected government of Salvador Allende by Augusto Pinochet. Allende is murdered during the coup and the Pinochet regime proceeds to round up, murder and/or disappear thousands of supporters and activists throughout Chile.

September 11, 1982.Israeli defense forces under General Ariel Sharon have invaded Lebanon and seized its capital Beirut in pursuit of Yasser Arafat and the PLO. 17,000 civilians are killed during the campaign. However, at the Shatila and Sabra Palestinian refugee camps, Ariel Sharon gives orders to allow Christian Phalange militia into the camps. There begins three days of continuous terror where the militia systematically slaughters up to 3,500 completely defenseless civilians under the direct observation of the Israeli forces which control and are responsible for civilian well -being in the areas they occupy. The Supreme Court in Israel later finds Sharon indirectly responsible for the massacre.

September 11, 2001.Fanatical members of the Al Qaeda organization, headed by Osama Bin Laden, hijack four civilian jet lines simultaneously. Two are flown into the World Trade Center buildings which collapse, killing 2,900 unarmed civilians, one is flown into the Pentagon, killing several hundred more military and civilian people and the last crashes in Pennsylvania, killing all passengers on board. The response to these attacks was the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, which BBC had documented, had been planned as early as May, 2001. The result of this retaliation was the death of between 3,000-5,000 civilians (International Red Cross, MSF estimates) and the overthrow of the Taliban government, the latter of which were previously the recipients of materials, training and logistics by the CIA in order to fight the Soviet Union military during their occupation of Afghanistan.

As discussed at the workshops and forum, most of these events have been relegated to the memory hole for the U.S. and Canadian press. The ones that survive have been cleansed of any context or used to justify the violent expansion of U.S. power and the arbitrary victimization of people in our own countries. Indeed, during this year, where the world was expected to “follow” the U.S. lead in promoting democracy, the U.S. government and press uniformly cheered as yet another democratically elected government in Latin America, this time the Chavez regime in Venezuela elected on a platform of land reform and redistribution of oil wealth for health care and education, is briefly overthrown in a coup which lasted three days. We were treated to such commentaries in the “free press” from that “great democratic” nation to the south such as (I paraphrase), ´there is more to the legitimacy of a government that just being democratically elected.’ Likewise, the people of Colombia have now to look forward to a level of oppression that may well dwarf the horrible era in Central America during the 1980’s. Unreported this week was the imposition of a state of emergency in Colombia, signifying the end of all legal restraints for the murderous campaign of Colombian military and paramilitary forces, which are financed to the level of over 1.3 billion dollars of U.S. taxpayers money.

September 11:Then and Now attempted create a small space in which history and context of all events of that day could be discussed in the hopes that we can end the repeat of history.

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