I’m tired, but I’m not quitting! “Another September 11” is a feeling, but it also references the 1973 overthrow of Salvador Allende in Chile that the United States instigated. In 1973 it was Henry Kissinger and Nixon elevating Pinochet to power; in 1979, Zbignew Brezinski got Carter to sign off on treating Afghans as pawns by fomenting intolerant, religious violence as a way of trapping the USSR there, and Osama Bin Laden became more than a wealthy Saudi engineer. Both presidential advisers cynically saw the pitfall that the murderous debacle of Vietnam was for the United States, and foisted that reality on others.
Let me re-share the moving statement that David McReynolds wrote from the War Resisters League offices as the Twin Towers were burning and falling in 2001. It remains profoundly true on pretty much every front. It speaks my heart in every way. It isn’t long:
Statement on September 11 Attack
David McReynolds, WRL
September 11, 2001
As we write, Manhattan feels under siege, with all bridges, tunnels, and subways closed, and tens of thousands of people walking slowly north from Lower Manhattan. As we sit in our offices here at War Resisters League, our most immediate thoughts are of the hundreds if not thousands of New Yorkers who have lost their lives in the collapse of the World Trade Center. The day is clear, the sky is blue, but vast clouds billow over the ruins where so many have died, including a great many rescue workers who were there when the final collapse occurred.
Of course we know that our friends and co-workers in Washington, D.C. have similar thoughts about the ordinary people who have been trapped in the parts of the Pentagon which were also struck by a jet. And we think of the innocent passengers on the hi-jacked jets who were carried to their doom on this day.
We do not know at this time from what source the attack came. We do know that Yasser Arafat has condemned the bombing. We hesitate to make an extended analysis until more information is available but some things are clear. For the Bush Administration to talk of spending hundreds of billions on Star Wars is clearly the sham it was from the beginning, when terrorism can so easily strike through more routine means.
We urge Congress and George Bush that whatever response or policy the U.S. develops it will be clear that this nation will no longer target civilians, or accept any policy by any nation which targets civilians. This would mean an end to the sanctions against Iraq, which have caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of civilians. It would mean not only a condemnation of terrorism by Palestinians but also the policy of assassination against the Palestinian leadership by Israel, and the ruthless repression of the Palestinian population and the continuing occupation by Israel of the West Bank and Gaza.
The policies of militarism pursued by the United States have resulted in millions of deaths, from the historic tragedy of the Indochina war, through the funding of death squads in Central America and Colombia, to the sanctions and air strikes against Iraq. This nation is the largest supplier of “conventional weapons” in the world and those weapons fuel the starkest kind of terrorism from Indonesia to Africa. The early policy support for armed resistance in Afghanistan resulted in the victory of the Taliban and the creation of Osama Bin Laden.
Other nations have also engaged in these policies. We have, in years past, condemned the actions of the Russian government in areas such as Chechnya, the violence on both sides in the Middle East, and in the Balkans. But our nation must take responsibility for its own actions. Up until now we have felt safe within our borders. To wake on a clear day to find our largest city under siege reminds us that in a violent world, none are safe.
Let us seek an end of the militarism that has characterized this nation for decades. Let us seek a world in which security is gained through disarmament, international cooperation, and social justice not through escalation and retaliation. We condemn without reservation attacks such as those which occurred today, which strike at thousands of civilians. May these profound tragedies remind us of the impact U.S. policies have had on other civilians in other lands. We also condemn reflexive hostility against people of Arab descent living in this country and urge that Americans recall the part of our heritage that opposes bigotry in all forms.
We are one world. We shall live in a state of fear and terror or we shall move toward a future in which we seek peaceful alternatives to violence, and a more just distribution of the world’s resources. As we mourn the many lives lost, our hearts call out for reconciliation, not revenge.
Brian Terrel who I recently touted for crafting Ground the Drones Lest We Reap the Whirlwind in 2009 had this to say in Common Dreams: “When the catastrophic consequences of a nation’s policies are so clearly predictable and evidently inevitable, they are intentional. What has happened to Afghanistan is not a series of mistakes or good intentions gone awry, they are crimes….No, the war is not over. From a nation that should be promising reparations and begging the forgiveness of the people of Afghanistan comes the infantile raging, “We will not forgive. We will not forget. We will hunt you down and make you pay” and while pledging to perpetuate the conditions that provoke terrorism, the parting taunt “and to ISIS-K: We are not done with you yet.”
James Dorsey‘s posts continue to inform me. His podcast has an amusing name: The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer. I recommend subscribing. For starters, check out his Sept. 9 entry: Bin Laden’s legacy probably surpasses his wildest dreams. And then there is Kathy Kelly…
Images of Aghanistan from my visit there in 2011: The memorial sign to the children killed is on the grounds of an important medical complex, “Emergency” that treats any victim of violence. Emergency is an world-renowned Italian NGO whose founder passed away recently, Gino Strada. Our one day trip outside of Kabul took a third of our 27 person delegation up to the Panjshir Valley. The people there fought off the Russians, and have maintained more fierce opposition to the new Taliban rulers than other locales, or has been in the news of late. The large building is a memorial to Ahmed Shah Massoud whose assassination on Septermber 9, 2001 must have been deemed necessary to those carrying out the attacks two days later. The valley is steep, and I can see why it is hard to conquer. The sign from a park almost looks like a tombstone more than a sign of shared purpose and cooperation.
High Holy Day Reflection
I considered organizing a discussion time for people to reflect on Israel during the High Holy Days. It would have been a zoom thing. I crafted a first draft of some potential prompts for people. I haven’t been centered enough to get to the second draft. I want a space for keening, or to cry on each other’s shoulders with people who would understand why I think Palestine, if not Israel’s broader, heartless, global militarism, needs to be centered in our prayers of repentance. Both their personal and national aspirations are denied by we who cry out to God for our suffering.
It is funny that I haven’t already read more of Marc Ellis‘s work given that I am Jewish and a longtime advocate of Liberation Theology. He wrote the seminal book connecting the two back in 1987 as I was discovering the Catholic Worker movement. We both have found ourselves often to be Jews within Christian circles. I’m catching up. In 2018 Ellis wrote, “I told myself I wouldn’t write about Yom Kippur this year as I have for more than three decades. How many times can I write the obvious predictive scenario: On Yom Kippur, the Jewish community in Israel, America and beyond will refuse to confess our sins against the Palestinian people. My call for repentance and turning toward justice is repetitious. It is driving me and everyone who reads what I write to the brink.” And then we write…and act (I hope).
Looking at more of Ellis’s recent writings, I was struck by his 2019 reflection on Rabbi Brant Rosen’s efforts to re-imagine a Judaism that is rooted in justice instead of rooting injustice. Ellis lifts up Rosen’s as a prophetic voice and contextualizes the harsh and pointed judgements in his translation of Psalm 140.
Ellis writes, ““Oh lord deliver me from my people”: “I can abide them no longer.” Rabbi Rosen’s words here are fraught. Are these the words of an anti-Semite? A self-hating Jew? Or a person, a rabbi, a Jewish leader, who recognizes that there is no return to an ethical Judaism and is about to embark with other Jews of Conscience into uncharted Jewish territory? For those unfamiliar with the Biblical prophets, Rabbi Rosen’s words seem unbalanced and unduly harsh. Yet the Jewish tradition, starting with the Hebrew Scriptures, is full of these terrible notes. The people Israel have strayed too far. God’s judgment is on its way.”
Neither Marc Ellis, Brant Rosen nor I are leaving Judaism. May God and our lives of service and love help Judaism not leave us. With that in mind, as Yom Kippur approaches, may we read the psalm and take it to heart:
Psalm 140: deliver me
Trans. by Rabbi Brant Rosen
oh lord deliver me from my people
who wield their weapons with impunity
whose armies rain bombs on the imprisoned
whose apologists equate oppressor and oppressed
who punish resistance without mercy.
keep me from those who speak so easily of two sides
of dual narratives of complexities and coexistence
those who call submission peace and lawless laws justice
who never tire of intoning never again
even as they commit crimes again and again
who have forsaken every lesson they’ve learned
from their own history and their
own sacred heritage.
like jacob i have dreamed fearful dreams
i have struggled in the night
i have limped pitifully across the river
and now like jacob in my last dying breath
i have nothing left but to curse my own
whose tools are tools of lawlessness
who maim refugees who dare dream of return
and send bombs upon the desperate
for the crime of fighting back.
so send me away from this people
this tortured fallen assembly
keep me far from their council
count me not among their ranks
i can abide them no longer.