Air Date 9/21/2021
[00:00:00] JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: Welcome to this episode of the award-winning Best of the Left Podcast in which we shall take a look at the parallel legacies of 9/11, including the war on terror and military spending, the casual acceptance of Islamophobia, the adoption of ever-wilder conspiracy theories, and the acceleration of the political divide in America, culminating, so far, in the January 6th insurrection.
Clips today are from Unf*cking the Republic, The Real News, Democracy Now!, the Brian Lehrer Show, Doomed with Matt Bender, Vox Conversations. World Review from the New Statesman, WhoWhatWhy, American Prestige, and Breaking the Sound Barrier by Amy Goodman.
9/11: A Story in Three Parts. - Unf*cking The Republic - Air Date 9-10-21
[00:00:46] HOST, UNF*CKING THE REPUBLIC: In the days immediately following the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, Congress gave the Bush Administration unprecedented authority to wage full-scale war on terror.
On September 14th, 2001, Congress passed the authorization for use of military force, AUMF, allowing the executive branch to leverage all available military assets to bring to justice combatants deemed responsible, or materially supportive, of forces associated with the terrorist attacks of 9/11.
Recall that only Congresswoman Barbara Lee from California voted against this measure in Congress. Here is the AUMF in general: "That the president is authorized to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11th, 2001, or harboured such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States, by such nations, organizations, or persons."
So it was under this authority that the United States government declared war first in Afghanistan, and then Iraq shortly thereafter. It's under this authority, as well, that the executive branch has carried out everything from covert assassinations to drone strikes in countries, such as Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia.
It's under this authority that we continue to bomb countries throughout the world, without permission or hesitation; a self granted authority, illegal in the eyes of any and every international body, though few developed nations would dare question us.
In so many ways, this authorization simply brought our actions out from behind the curtain. Subsequent updates to this authority changed in seemingly subtle, but powerful, ways. Gradually, the language related to 9/11 disappeared, and the authorization broadened to anyone suspected of aiding terrorism, anywhere, period.
Reprint a portion of a terrorist manifesto, even if it's in a journalism piece? You're fair game.
Inspire terrorist actions by preaching on a street corner, somewhere thousands of miles from the homeland? You're fair game.
An American citizen joining a movement abroad? Fair game.
The year following the coup in Chile,, a Senate Select Committee to Study Government Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities, known as the Church Committee, after Democratic Senator Frank Church of Idaho, offered a look inside the inner workings of our clandestine world. Among the findings: the CIA had varying roles in coups and assassination plots in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Dominican Republic, Cuba, and Vietnam. And of course, Chile.
In the case of the Congo, the committee discovered the agency had actually plotted to kill its newly elected prime minister, Patrice Lumumba. And although they didn't ultimately do the deed, (the Belgians did) they supplied the weapons and the money to help it along, originally planning to poison the leader.
The committee also shed light on just how high up the chain of command these orders came, revealing a concept called "plausible deniability," meaning the president and other officials with authority to pull the trigger on such activities could know-without-knowing about them, and escape blame.
The Church Committee also discovered widespread domestic surveillance operations by the CIA, including the mass photographing and/or opening and resealing of citizens mail, without even the U. S. Postal Service's knowledge. Our intelligence agencies would meddle in the Middle East, Southeast Asia, South and Central America, anywhere we saw fit to frustrate a nation state that didn't play by our rules.
Reagan carried out covert affairs all throughout his term, particularly in the Southern hemisphere. George H W Bush brought us into the Gulf war. Clinton went into Bosnia and Somalia. And all of this occurred before 9/11, 2001.
You see, this behavior was already the way of the U. S. but it was done in secret. The Church Committee exposed our clandestine ways, yet nothing changed. Post 9/11, we didn't just invent widespread surveillance and begin overthrowing them. We just brought these programs into the light and gave them all of the necessary funding to grow into an autonomous being, a war machine the likes of which the world has never seen.
Endless militarization has bled US society dry - The Real News Podcast - Air Date 9-14-21
[00:05:11] MARC STEINER - HOST, THE REAL NEWS PODCAST: What really struck me here is not just that $21 trillion was spent, but the tentacles of that and how it... and that's what you're trying to do here is wrap around what there's $21 trillion meant. Cause it's more than just an amount of money being spent, it's what it has engendered because of that spending.
[00:05:27] LINDSAY KOSHGARIAN: We wanted to look at two things with this report that went a little deeper. For one thing we wanted to look not just at the cost of the wars that we've started in Afghanistan and Iraq, but we wanted to look at the cost of how we've militarized here at home. Things ranging from our immigration system to the FBI and the increased powers of the FBI has had for the past 20 years, and all of these things that kind of grew out of the war on terror, or that the war on terror really fed into over the last 20 years.
So that was one part of it, and then we also wanted to look at what does that money actually done? How has it changed our world? How has it changed our communities? How has it changed our law enforcement, our policing, our immigration system? All of these things, a lot of which have really been hot button issues over the last few years.
[00:06:14] MARC STEINER - HOST, THE REAL NEWS PODCAST: And what you described this, that we'll get into the heart of it in just a second here, but you also, which I find interesting, weave the narrative that tied in this explosion of white supremacy, this explosion of authoritarianism in our own country, that you link between 9/11 2001 and January 6 2021 and leaving Afghanistan. To you, in this report, it's not just about dollars and cents, it's also all connected.
[00:06:40] LINDSAY KOSHGARIAN: Yes, that's very much the case. It is all connected. If you think about our evolution from 9/11 and a lot of people don't remember that in the early years after 9/11, the Department of Justice actually had what was effectively a Muslim ban on immigration. Everybody remembers the Trump Muslim ban, but not everybody remembers the Bush Muslim ban. And so it traces all the way back to that, and some of these themes have really had their roots in the response to 9/11. And then we see growing animosity to immigrants. We see growing xenophobia, we see growing authoritarianism. We see growing militarism and growing belief that law enforcement and crack downs and violent oppression or the way to maintain order in this country and in other countries around the world. And all of that really can be drawn back to the US response to 9/11, and the things that we did in the name of security for ourselves, that in the end did anything, but keep us secure and then made the entire world a less secure place.
[00:07:40] MARC STEINER - HOST, THE REAL NEWS PODCAST: And the way you do it, and then we'll get into some specifics here, it's the $21 trillion that was spent over the last 20 years, as entwined within that and enable that.
[00:07:51] LINDSAY KOSHGARIAN: Absolutely, yes. The spending has made all of it possible. I mentioned the first Muslim ban was enforced by the Bush Department of Justice, the second was the Trump Department of Justice. Most people don't think of the Department of Justice as an arm of the war on terror, but it very much has been. And so we looked at that and we've looked at, of course the Department of Homeland Security, which is a huge arm of both the war on terror and the militarization of our society in general.
Think of the militarization of the Southern border. Some people have heard at least that we have troops that we've sent to the Southern border, military troops that are inside the country at our Southern border. People may not have heard that we're using drones, predator drones, military drones, to patrol the Southern border. So there's a lot of militarization that's going on around all of these things, and it's been funded by the Pentagon, the Department of Homeland Security, and in large part, the Department of Justice, which is where the FBI is of the DEA, the Drug Enforcement Agency, and all of these agencies that have actually taken an active role in the war on terror.
And one of the justice department's core missions is counter-terrorism, but what that has amounted to is that the FBI has gained powers to not just surveil people, and we all know that, they may be listening into our phone calls or at least have access to our phone records, but they've been able to engage in racial profiling with no real limits on their power.
The FBI has surveilled and harassed entire communities just based on their race or ethnicity or their religious background. Not just Muslim communities, all those certainly they've done that, but also Chinese American communities and Black, African-American communities. Looking for crime, but where they have no evidence of a specific crime or wrongdoing, and they're targeting entire communities just based on race and ethnicity. And all of that has grown out of the response to 9/11, and all of it has been enabled by the spending that we have done, this $21 trillion over the course of the last 20 years.
[00:10:01] MARC STEINER - HOST, THE REAL NEWS PODCAST: So let's for a moment, before we jump into the FBI and jump into all the other pieces of this detentions of the border and more, let's talk for a moment about the $21 trillion and how you parse that out and how you came up with that number. And if from reading the report, there's $ 16 trillion that went to the military, huge number of that  trillion almost half or more, almost half went to contractors, but to talk a bit about the $21 trillion for a moment and how that was spent and what that meant.
[00:10:27] LINDSAY KOSHGARIAN: That's right Marc. So of the $21 trillion we've spent on what we call militarization over the last 20 years, it's the Pentagon, it's our wars, but it's not just our wars. It's the 750 military installations that we keep around the world all the time, with over 200,000 troops stationed permanently overseas. It's those things. It's the war in Afghanistan, it's the war in Iraq, it's the way that the war on terror has spilled over into 85 countries total, besides Afghanistan and Iraq. Some of those will be familiar, Syria, Yemen, Pakistan, but it's in 85 countries where we have drone strikes or we're doing a training of troops or we're doing other counter-terrorism missions, including combat missions. So the war on terror is.
So all of that Pentagon spending, both for the war on terror and all of the other military missions we have going at any given time, that accounts for about $16 trillion. We also include the cost of caring for veterans, because we don't have to have these veterans' programs. They're very necessary, but they're only necessary because we send our troops on these endless deployments. So we include that, that's about $3 trillion.
And then we include the cost of Homeland Security over the last 20 years, that's about $950 billion. And the cost of federal law enforcement, things like the FBI and the DEA, the US Marshals. All of these agencies are very engaged in counter-terrorism, they're very engaged in oppression tactics, and racial profiling and mass incarceration and things that are really damaging to communities, especially communities of color in the United States.
And they're also engaged in operations overseas. Not everybody realizes the FBI, the DEA, the US marshals, Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms, they all have offices outside of the United States. So it's a really big system and that last law enforcement part is about $730 billion.
All parts of that put together gets you to $21 trillion over the last 20 years. And we talk a lot in the report about what else we could have done with that money because $21 trillion is a number that most of us can't really wrap our heads around. We don't deal with trillions of dollars. We're lucky - most of us are okay with thousands, maybe a few of us can get into millions, but beyond that we get a little lost, right? So we look at some of what that's cost. And for example the CDC budget on an annual basis, it was only about $12 billion, and it went up to about $16 billion during the pandemic and that's billion, not trillion.
So it's huge, it's a huge dollar amount. And all of that money that has gone towards these militarized purposes is money that we haven't put into anything here at home. We're talking about right now, an infrastructure package or a, the package of Biden's Build Back Better package that would total 3.5 trillion over 10 years. That is less than a quarter of this, and it's only for 10 years. And we're hearing, " oh, we can't afford that. That's too expensive," but we spent $21 trillion on militarization over the last 20 years. So we have the money to invest when we want to, when that's what our politicians want to do. The money is there and they have the ability to do.
“Islamophobia and the Politics of Empire”: Deepa Kumar on How Racism Fueled U.S. Wars Post-9/11 - Democracy Now! - Air Date 9-14-21
[00:13:41] AMY GOODMAN - HOST, DEMOCRACY NOW!: If you could start off now, on this 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, by talking about what drives the Islamophobia. You say, this is about racism. It's not about religious bigotry.
[00:13:56] DEEPA KUMAR: Absolutely right, amy. My argument, basically, is that, it's not enough to understand Islamophobia simply as hate crimes, although hate crimes do exist. It's not enough to understand it as religious intolerance, or microaggressions, or hate speech, and so on, although we do know that all this exists, but to look at the roots of where it comes from. Because, what happens when you don't do that, is that, people accept the rhetoric coming from people at the top of society.
So, Bush argued, for instance, this is not a war on Islam, it's about the extremists. Obama, who was an extremely sophisticated orator, talked about how Muslims are such a deep part of American society, that Muslim civilizations have contributed to world history, and so on. And people accept that rhetoric, and don't see how post-9/11, and even before that, there has been a systematic targeting of people who are Muslim.
So, let me give some examples of how the security establishment works, and why deep-seated racism is what drives these policies.
So, if you look at the FBI's entrapment policy, right, the FBI sends agents provocateurs into Muslim communities to entrap vulnerable people with things like, you know, giving them cash to set up these plots. And, of course, immediately after they set it up, they nab them.
What's the logic here? The logic is that, all Muslims are potential terrorists and therefore we should nab them before they do anything. Right? You look at Obama's, counterradicalization program, the CVE program, and it's about trying to recruit people from the Muslim community-- imams, school teachers, coaches and so on-- to spy on their own community. Again, the idea is that there are people in the Muslim community that we should nab before they do anything. .
Same with the ubiquitous surveillance program, right?
Now, there are some people who would say, "Oh, that's just smart security policy!" But if the shoe were on the other foot, I think there'd be howls of anger.
Take for instance, Michael Wade Page, Dylann Roof, these are people who've committed hate crimes, but there's no corresponding program with the FBI, or local police departments, to go into white communities and spy on them, because they can produce people like this, right? There is no program to entrap them before they do anything.
If anything, the second amendment rights of far-right-wing groups, of militias, and neo-Nazis, are respected. That's why it's important to see that racism is baked into the security logic of the national security state in the U.S., as well as in terms of how it operates abroad, because if we don't understand where something is coming from we can't target the roots, and therefore dismantle it.
20 Years Later: How 9/11 Changed Being Muslim in America - The Brian Lehrer Show - Air Date 9-10-21
[00:17:02] BRIAN LEHRER - HOST, THE BRIAN LEHRER SHOW: Islamophobia obviously existed in this country before 9/11, but how do you think it changed after the attacks?
[00:17:10] ROWAIDA ABDELAZIZ: Absolutely. And I'm so glad you brought that up because I think oftentimes we only equate the issue of Islamophobia, or we only think about Muslim Americans in the post 9/11 context. Now definitely the experience post 9/11 was a traumatic one and a life-defining one for many Muslim Americans across the world.
Any of the issues was already existing in a pre 9/11 world was only amplified and exacerbated. And I think we particularly see this on the ground with Muslim Americans who went to school, and suddenly were facing unprecedented levels of bullying. We saw a rise in hate crime cases, some of them vile and vicious and resulted into the death of not just Muslims, that people who are perceived to be Muslim, who are brownish, right? The Muslim identity then became racialized. We saw arise of cases against Muslim women, right gendered, and Islamophobia, especially those who wear the hijab or the head covering.
And so the day-to-day life changed completely or all of a sudden, so many people felt like they needed to defend their faith. They needed to defend who they were. They needed to defend their American identity. And this took a huge emotional and mental toll, I think, on the wider community, both in New York City and elsewhere.
Outside of the socio-cultural aspects, we saw a mass changes in policies that came from the Bush administration and continued to morph in various forms throughout, that disproportionately impacted the Muslim American community, things like the Patriot Act, surveillance, the issue of informants, all of which really destroy the fabric of trust within the Muslim community, going to the mosque and not knowing if the person next to you was a Muslim member, a new neighbor or someone who was spying on you. We saw that continuing to rise.
And so I think when we reflect on the immediate months and years after 9/11, there's so much to take in that really change and define the Muslim American experience in a way that we had never really seen before.
[00:19:17] BRIAN LEHRER - HOST, THE BRIAN LEHRER SHOW: And one of the things that shocked me was how casually accepted it was.
I've told this story before, but a few years after 9/11, I went to a minor league baseball game in New Jersey. It was the Lakewood Blue Claws and it was Firefighter's Night. They were honoring firefighters as a thing before and after the game. And there was a display outside the stadium in Lakewood with some firefighter's equipment and some firefighters with that equipment. And one of the guys standing there, I'm not going to say it was a firefighter himself, I don't know, but standing with that group was a guy holding a sign. And the sign said, "All I need to know about Islam I learned on 9/11." And in a way, what was most shocking about that was that the crowd just walk by, very few people said anything to him. And it was just accepted that somebody in a fairly prominent location would hold a sign like that. And people would shrug and walk by.
[00:20:21] ROWAIDA ABDELAZIZ: You know, unfortunately -- when did you see this? What year was this when this happened?
[00:20:24] BRIAN LEHRER - HOST, THE BRIAN LEHRER SHOW: You know, I'm trying to remember the exact year. I would say it was around 2004, 2005.
I could look it up in my old records, but it was a few years after 9/11.
[00:20:35] ROWAIDA ABDELAZIZ: It's wild because I've seen these shirts recently, still, and folks were wearing them: shirts and hats and other memorabilia. And I think what is particularly unique about Islamophobia and just anti-Muslim rhetoric, generally speaking, is that the faith is not seen as a faith. The Muslim identity has become so politicized over the years that, you know, there's an excellent book out there by Asma Uddin talks about When Islam Isn't a Religion and, the constitutional challenges that come with it, but also the fact that people can wear shirts and hats that can say this because it isn't looked like as a faith, that is, that provides spiritual comfort, right? to 1.3 billion people, that is a source of pride for people in the privacy of their homes, is a sense of worship. Just like Judaism or Christianity or Buddhism. It is now seen as a malicious political agenda for Muslims in the US or Muslims outside, that we have the predominant stereotype around Muslims that they are somehow more prone to violence and that they are somehow more prone to oppress women, and that it lacks fair and justice and the faith, all of which is not true, right?
I think it's a deeply private and emotional part of so many people's lives, but all of a sudden, when you have to defend it, not only from a civil rights perspective, but also because this is a emotional and private spiritual journey for so many people, that dehumanization has led us to many of the problematic policies that we saw immediately after and we continue to see today.
20 Years Since 9/11, 20 Years of Conspiracy Theories - Doomed - Air Date 9-10-21
[00:22:11] MATT BINDER - HOST, DOOMED: It's about this McIlvaine family who've, basically, lived with, for the Past 20 years, the fact that their son Bobby died in the Twin Towers. He did not usually work there. He went to set up... help a coworker set up for a conference that morning, it just so happened.
And he was there in the restaurant, Windows of the World, if I recall... That's the name? Yeah, Windows on the World, excuse me. And he was just setting up this conference for his coworker, and he was there. And his family have basically been grieving and living with this for the past 20 years.
And for this specific episode, everyone, every member of this family, from the mother, the brother, the fiance, who he literally proposed two days before he died, all have extremely interesting experiences. And I'm, again, please, go read this piece, I'll link to it in the YouTube, it's a very strong piece.
But the father, to me, stuck with me, because Bobby McIlvaine's father, Bobby McIlvaine, senior, he became, basically, a 9/11 truther. His way of mourning. His son was to fight... well, how, what he viewed, at least, as fighting for his son, in terms of fighting to find out what really happened.
And he, basically, was convinced by a group called "The Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth," which is, like a "truther" organization, filled of various different, like, scientists and architects, who, basically, you know, use their know-how to convince people of these various conspiracy theories. Because, you know, knowing the terminology behind explosions and architectural information could be quite convincing to a lay person.
And he basically came to the belief that 9/11 was an inside job, and there were explosives planted throughout the Twin Towers; and he actually believed that... for a long time, actually, his family believed that his... that their son was actually leaving the World Trade Center, due to the timing of everything, he had set up the event for his coworker, and was leaving when the planes hit. And they think due to the horrific autopsy results, and how they found his body, that he was leaving. And he basically was hit by a piece of the plane, which is, obviously, horrible.
But the father had all these questions based on how he was hit, where the damage on his person was, and he basically believed his son was in there and there were explosives.
And in the piece, actually, really interesting, the writer of the piece, Jennifer Senior, she actually approaches him with evidence he never considered. This is a guy who, for 20 years, has been working on debunking the story of how his son died. And there were some very basic evidence he never considered uh, such as when the conference was supposed to take place, which would put a lot of the timeline in place for him.
And it's just really amazing to see that someone who dedicated their life to this, just, was so convinced by this group that they didn't seek out some very basics. And to me, it was just so eye-opening. I mean, that's... that's... I'm sure you'll find that story... same story repeated from family members of people who've fallen down the conspiratorial rabbit holes for any conspiracy, really. But just this past year with Q Anon, and people are pushing the "Big Lie," Trump's election fraud theories, and the various different versions of the anti-vaxxer movement that believes COVID isn't real, which is obviously not true, it is! More people have died from COVID than on 9/11.
To me, the 9/11 truth stuff, obviously, I feel, isn't as bad on its own as some of the stuff that came later on. It's interesting just how conspiracy theories grew. And, you could see some of the names... obviously, Alex Jones will come up if you bring up "Loose Change", cause he was behind... he wasn't involved with the first iteration of Loose Change, but, like, either the third... I think the third edition, he got involved, and he really helped make a name for himself early on, as a 9/11 truther.
And, as you see, he goes from these really harmless conspiracy theories-- a lot of the UFO stuff, I think is harmless-- but he goes from being this guy, to becoming like the 9/11 truthers, still, you know, not so [harmful], and then he goes into the Sandy Hook stuff, and the Trumpism, and the Pizza Gate, Q Anon, Satanic ritual stuff.
And then he's pushing the Big Lie, and he's leading a group of people on January 6th. Then you can see how this persona grows from these smaller bore conspiracies to who he becomes today.
The road from 9/11 to Donald Trump - Vox Conversations - Air Date 9-12-21
[00:27:42] SEAN ILLING - HOST, VOX CONVERSATIONS: Let's go there, let's go back to those days after 9/11. It's obviously very hard to summarize our collective response to that national trauma, which involved a wave of legislation and the construction of various agencies and bureaucracies, but was there a unifying threat to all these things that kind of captured the country's reaction to that event?
[00:28:10] SPENCER ACKERMAN: Yes, it's called American exceptionalism. A way of ordering the world that says America constructs what it calls the rules-based international order, which is to say an international architecture through which first it operates in a leading role, and second of all, the outcomes of it, while not always and not guaranteed, are throttled in such a way that it benefits the extent, like American political and economic order. It also says that the United States does not have to feel itself bound by the architecture it creates that everyone else is. And most, perhaps fundamentally, it says that America acts America is not acted upon. That was the violation that policymakers felt as they interpreted the trauma of 9/11. That you heard so much extremely loose and ahistorical talk, but nevertheless significant and revealing talk, that America is innocence had been shattered and that America had returned to history.
This also helps you understand that American exceptionalism is basically the geopolitical version of white innocence. America has never been immune from history. All it likes to do is attempt to escape from history and say that it's not culpable for history. Not culpable for things that it does to millions, tens of millions, hundreds of millions of people whose lives it holds in the balance. Particularly at this moment, 2001, when America is the only global superpower. When there's no prospect of a pure competitor for a tremendously long time.
The Bush administration, to the rabid applause of pretty much uniformly political media and security elites, intellectuals as well, offered an interpretation of 9/11 that had nothing to do with what Al-Qaeda explained were the reasons why it was attacking the United States, and instead offered something that was both metaphysical, civilizational, and euphemistic. Which is to say, just think about the name "war on terror". It might take a moment to notice that it's not, say, the "war on Al Qaeda", or it's not a "war on Islam", but it is something between those poles where it's not specific enough that it can target an enemy after which, the enemy is destroyed, its capabilities are used up, and it's a spent force, and at that point the emergency ends, the thing stops. Nor does it want to say that it is expressly setting upon a war against one of the world's great religions that has contributed to several of its great civilizations.
Instead, sometimes short of that, but not that short, always undefined, always able to have nativist sentiment fill in the gap of this social compromise term called the war on terror. And THAT is really the response. That a sense of civilizational grievance, expressed in metaphysical terms, this foreign adversary drawing on something implied to be intrinsic about the faith of so many people, diagnosing pathologies in entire countries, entire civilizations, entire religions, and saying that violence on a mass scale is both necessary and desirable to reorient, to fix the pathology, once diagnosed in other people There's a reason why George W. Bush refers to evil doers and bad guys. It's to redefine what evil and bad is from something that you do, acts of evil, to something that you are, which is to say other people who are not Americans against whom so much is licensed in terms of death and in terms of repression and in terms of immiseration.
[00:32:49] SEAN ILLING - HOST, VOX CONVERSATIONS: We're fast forwarding a little bit to the present, but I think we should. How did that reaction, how did that posture, this idea that we're in this civilizational drama, and we're waging this war against a tactic, which by definition is a ceaseless war, how does that lead to Trump? Which obviously is a core thesis of your book, drawing a straight line from 9/11 to today. So map that out for us.
[00:33:16] SPENCER ACKERMAN: So in that response, in the attribution, civilizationally, of culpability for 9/11. In the pathologizing of Muslims, of Islam, of the Arab world, in particular, to, again, spread culpability and deflect any discussion of how America's extent, hegemonic, violent, and exploitative policies in the Muslim world contribute to a demand for the kind of psychotic political violence that bin Ladin is offering. As that takes hold, so too do very old, very historically rooted nativist currents in American history. They're expressed openly by pundits who were openly calling for the American military to invade their lands, convert them to Christianity, as Ann Coulter put it, it leads to an atmosphere where nativism is the subtext of the war on terror.
That because the 9/11 hijackers were able to enter the country legally, that immigration is not a mechanism to make more Americans, it's a threat to Americans who are already here. And so Muslim immigrants in particular, but immigrants in general have to be treated in that context of counter-terrorism with so much accordingly licensed to do against them, to include incarcerating them, deporting them, mistreating them when under detention. And within, a month, particularly once there is an obliteration of interest in discussing forthrightly what bin Ladin said were his reasons for attacking the United States, that is to say those material policies of the United States, then at that point, you funnel yourself exclusively in a policy response down this accelerated, righteous, patriotic violence against some people.
It is easy to think, as you put it, that calling it "the war on terror" was about war with a tactic. Really, the name is a social compromise to not say, "the war on radical Islamic terror", but it's not a war on terror, clot terror, because what we see very quickly is that not everyone's terror is the subject of the war on terror. White people's terrorism, the oldest, most violent, most resilient terrorism in American history is expressly not part of this, and becomes, as one FBI veteran told me much, much later, it becomes the lowest priority for FBI counter-terrorism.
It also creates, and you see this bubbling up on the right throughout the Bush administration, that this is about jihadist terrorism. This is about something concerning Islam, and the right keeps demanding a more explicit response here, because the cultivated sense, the sense that the war on terror and its architects consistently sent, is that Islam is the enemy, Islam must be combated over there and not over here. Evangelical leaders, people with tremendous followings, tremendous platforms, tremendous political influence, as well as spiritual influence settle on this very explicitly in 2002, as their explanation and preach from the Southern Baptist Convention and other fora that this was Islamic mask-off moment. That now it's not just coming for Israel, it's coming for America, which is also a deep misunderstanding, and a deliberate one, of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
So as the wars deteriorate, it's no accident that the appetite amongst this very cultivated constituencies, a constituency actively cultivated in these interpretations by the Republican party as a tool to retain and cement hold on power, and acquiesced to by the democratic party, basically nodded to by a military and an intelligence and a law enforcement leadership for a more expressively civilizational definition of the enemy and according focus. And this starts expanding dramatically, particularly when the first Black president gets elected. And among the things that this constituency is stoked to believe is that he is an enemy of the United States by virtue, not just of being Black, but through the meme of birtherism, the war on terrorists right there, because it's calling Obama a secret foreign Muslim. And that explains why he is an enemy, why he's not interested in your security, and so on.
Obviously we should just pause to say that this is a lie, it's a giant lie, but nevertheless, this found purchase because it was so aggressively cultivated by people like Donald Trump, who as every New Yorker, particularly of my age, knows, has played this casually violent nativism for his entire public career, and make sure, as well, that he's present at these moments of eruption. He's present, for instance, when in 2010, a New York City mom and his wife and his business partners try and set up a community center near Ground Zero, where one had already been. An actual Muslim place of worship right there, this is not foreign to New York City, these are new Yorkers. They set up something that they see as a Muslim equivalent of the 92nd Street Y, which is a Jewish space that plays an important role in the intellectual life of New York City generally, and this gets converted, with Donald Trump as a leading carnival barker endangering people's lives, into this Ground Zero mosque, which is viewed and portrayed actively by Islamophobic bigots exploiting the pain of 9/11 as the equivalent of Mehmed II turning Hagia Sophia into a mosque after conquering Constantinople in 1453.
And all throughout the Obama presidency, with things like the cultivated assaults in various state legislatures around the country against Sharia Law, that was exactly the kind of eruption of nativism that we would later see on the streets of Charlotte, because what it's saying is that they are replacing you. They're replacing your culture, your values, your tradition, and then ultimately your place in the American racial caste, that, while it doesn't guarantee you, this is supposed to provide you with a level of material comfort that lets you and not others live in dignity.
Over time, the pain of the war on terror, the agony of being inconclusive and sitting in tremendous conflict with American exceptionalism, because now suddenly the people that have been described to you with subhuman are winning these conflicts, this goes searching for an explanation for why this atrocious circumstance should be happening, and Donald Trump comes along and has an explanation ready to go.
America, 20 years after 9/11 - World Review from the New Statesman - Air Date 9-10-21
[00:41:16] SARAH MANAVIS - HOST, WORLD REVIEW: Do you see, like with what's happened in the last 10 years and just the political landscape in the United States, do you think that the cultural reflections or the cultural memory of 9/11 has changed from the 10th anniversary versus the 20th anniversary?
[00:41:31] EVAN OSNOS: Yes actually. And I think I would actually argue that it's become a more productive conversation this time around at the 20th than the 10th.
And what I mean is, I've been struck already, as we get into this moment, there have been a number of sort of very intelligent pieces of writing that have appeared in places like the Washington Post, in the Atlantic, that are reckoning with America's decisions in the months and years after 9/11, about how the U S conducted the war on terror, about what it meant for America's values, about the decisions to go into war in Afghanistan and Iraq, and ultimately the ways in which we did or did not make intelligent political choices, and the ways in which we were -- really let's be blunt -- but doing damage to our own values, our own moral credibility around the world, with Abu Ghraib, with torture at the hands of the U S government.
And I think what's changed most deeply, Sarah, in the years in between was that in the beginning we described 9/11 and our cultural memory as something that happened to us. And we were victims in that story. And what we've come to recognize is that we were also then at the beginning of a period, when we were agents ourselves and we ended up making choices, making political decisions and doing things that were quite active and in the end were quite damaging. And I think that kind of conversation has been surprising and it's very healthy actually.
I'll give you one, I find this, compelling this one piece of data that I came upon at one point a few years ago, it was a survey done in 2016 of Americans in which people were asked to estimate, now, 15 years after 9/11, asked to estimate what share of the country is Muslim, and Americans on average estimated one in six. And the real number is one in a hundred. And it was a demonstration to me of the way in which that event had pinballed through our collective perception and self-awareness, and had produced these really bizarre distortions in which Americans, some people were afraid of Sharia law in ways that obviously the facts could not support on the ground, but it had become this huge feature of our politics and changed us in ways that we didn't even talk about on the surface every day.
[00:43:52] SARAH MANAVIS - HOST, WORLD REVIEW: Something I really did want to talk about was the left and right divide over how we think about 9/11. Because I think often we think about the development of this conversation, and I guess the presumption is that's a conversation that's developing on the liberal left. And the liberal left's also had a lot of problems around the conversation around 9/11 in the years following. The left wing blogosphere actually had a lot of conspiracy theories about 9/11 and that kind of thing, and that kind of anti-Bush sentiment bled into other more, I guess what you would say, problematic ideas.
And I just wondered if you see, there is a great distinction between how the conversation around 9/11 had developed over the last 20 years on the right versus on the left. And if you see that as quite distinct, or if it's similar.
[00:44:37] EVAN OSNOS: You know, it's interesting, I have started paying attention a little bit to the way in which the anniversary is commemorated and I would pay attention for instance, to places that seemed to me far from Washington, and how were they experiencing it? So over the last few years, long before the 20th anniversary, I took note that small towns in places like West Virginia, which are predominantly conservative, would be having these occasions of commemoration, often saying, essentially, "remember our heroes." And what struck me about it was, to state the obvious, that there have been a whole range of different moments in American life that have on a sheer numerical basis taken much more American life, particularly during the pandemic. But that event resides in the memory, particularly among conservative Americans, as a period in which the United States was summoned to its full powers. That's obviously very different than how it feels on the left, which is that I think for the view, by and large, is that the U S after 9/11 unleashed some of its own political demons, that the instincts that we have towards militarism or towards abuses of power, towards discrimination, that those suddenly were given full reign. And you don't hear that actually on the right. You hear that this was a period in which the United States rose to the challenge.
So what I think is fascinating about this and you've hit on something important, Sarah, which is that I think actually, even if there had not been September 11th, if there had not been those attacks, that the cultural forces that were leading to this kind of bisection of the culture were going to present themselves, one way or another. And it happened to be that it was refracted through that event, but that was never necessary. I think something else would have happened that would have led us into this period in which we have such a clear parting of the paths.
The Direct Line From 9/11 to January 6th - WhoWhatWhy - Air Date 9-10-21
[00:46:36] JEFF SCHECHTMAN - HOST, WHOWHATWHY: One of the central premises here is that the politics of the 9/11 era transformed America.
I want to talk about whether or not those things that changed, those things that were transformed, were things that were lurking prior to 9/11 and were unleashed by 9/11, or did those events fundamentally change the underlying issues. Talk about that.
[00:47:00] SPENCER ACKERMAN: Thank you very much for framing it in that way. It's an excellent question, and the answer that my book offers is that the 9/11 era, the war on terror, is a doorway, a gateway to the path, from which all of the, ugliest, most violent, and most nativist currents of American history could match through, under cover of national emergency, and take power.
The war on terror doesn't invent anything. If it does it invents them in specific technological development. But fundamentally, the war on terror, isn't a new thing. We see continuity of the war on terror in things like cold war anti-communism. In things like the first time America waterboards people in a foreign war, it waterboards them in the Philippines in 1898. The first time Americans waterboard other Americans, they do so against Native tribespeople, it is an act of settler colonialism.
These are tools that the United States reaches for. Child separation, the term used for official kidnapping to migrant families that happens during the Trump administration. This is one of the most fundamental tools of Native genocide, of chattel slavery, and of, as I have found in my reporting in law enforcement around the country, on the carceral state.
How America acts abroad is how America acts at home, and how America acts at home is how America acts abroad. These are fundamental continuities that a lot of the typical discussion of the war on terror obscures. And then we find ourselves wondering, "oh my God, how did we get here?”
[00:48:48] JEFF SCHECHTMAN - HOST, WHOWHATWHY: And yet the way it played out, it seems, was in two very separate ways. One, those that try to exploit the nativism and all those forces that you're talking about, and that's personified best by Trump, and the other was the way in which other people, and the neocons in particular, hope to use the events for an entirely different purpose.
[00:49:13] SPENCER ACKERMAN: That's correct. The war on terror, under the Bush administration and particularly, the neoconservative elements in the administration, but also the Nixonian and frankly oilmen elements of the administration, Cheney and Rumsfeld most importantly, they see this as an opportunity. They see this as an opportunity to reorient American power in the Imperial direction, that they believe was the responsible exercise of American power. That, previously as they had seen it, there had been a period of lassitude in American empire coming from the absence of a central adversary like the Soviet Union, and the Cold War had provided earlier generations of those elements within, particularly, neoconservative and Nixonian circles, tremendous opportunity and tremendous power to portray and use American power abroad, under cover of it being in the interests of freedom all around the world.
Now here came another opportunity to do that. And particularly once as a result of this, in part, as a result of this, the Bush administration reaches for an expansive definition of the enemy. The Bush administration doesn't call this the war on Al-Qaeda, they call it the war on terror, with the suggestion that, and they say this again, and again, and again from, in particular, 2001 through 2005, that the enemy is so much broader than Al-Qaeda that ultimately that provides an opportunity to do things, violently in the world that have nothing to do with 9/11, like the invasion of Iraq and the occupation that followed.
[00:51:02] JEFF SCHECHTMAN - HOST, WHOWHATWHY: What should we make then, of the fact that as things evolve and we'll talk about all the things that happened in the middle, particularly with Obama, but then as this evolves, the neocon forces become in many ways, the strongest anti-Trump forces? What should we make of that in this broader context?
[00:51:22] SPENCER ACKERMAN: The people who run the let-the-wolves-eat-your-face party very often don't expect the wolves to eat their own faces. And that is what the never Trump and neoconservative response to Trump has been. That before there was a Trump, they were performing the same kind of cover of nativism, they were just expressing it in more respectable ways. How many times did the neoconservatives respond to 9/11 by pathologizing the Arab and broader Muslim world? By pathologizing Islam itself? By describing the war on terror, describing the act of 9/11, not as the result of a plot by psychotic millenarians, led by a billionaire who were finding, religious justifications, religious pretexts in other words, for the violence that they were inclined to commit, and then fueled by the material reality of how violently America acts in the Muslim world for adherence?
Instead of taking that interpretation, they instead pathologize Islam, preserve American innocence, which is to say, American exceptionalism, and use that in violent directions. Having unleashed these currents, they were entirely unprepared, particularly when they are discredited given how disastrously their wars go, for a nativist response that says, in fact, our problems are not just with Muslims. Our problems are with immigrants. Our problems are with Black people. Our problems are with Jews. Our problems are with liberals. Our problems are with leftists. The neoconservatives are on board for a whole lot of that, until it also starts to threaten their own power and discredit them themselves.
Neoconservatism is a prelude to Trumpism, it is not an alternative to it. And when it is portrayed, particularly by them themselves, as the alternative to Trumpism, it just helps guarantee that there will be more and worse Trumps to come.
Rescue 9/11 w/ Jim Lobe and Laila Ujayli - American Prestige - Air Date 9-11-21
[00:53:37] DANIEL BESSNER - HOST, AMERICAN PRESTIGE: Is there a way if, when we're trying to attempt to characterize Muslim life in the United States in the 1990s, was there a sense of shared community? Was there not a sense of shared community? Was it mostly organized along national boundaries? Because it's interesting for me as a historian to hear that the shared oppression of 9/11 in some sense creates this sense of community. And so to understand that change, I was hoping we could maybe just understand a bit what was it like before.
[00:54:09] LAILA UJAYLI: Yes, of course. I think at the time there's still very much so that, unfortunately, the Muslim community can clump into national communities and neighborhoods, because of course it's a very diverse group. But I do think that there was a bit more separation before. Just from the community that I was born in. I was born in this clump of Syrian American Muslims in Beckley, West Virginia. So a bunch of new immigrants to the United States in the 1990s who had all said, you know what? Maybe Beckley West Virginia is a place where we can serve an underserved community and get our green card. For some reason, suddenly that meant that there was a bunch of Syrians in Beckley, West Virginia. Even going back to the 1920s and 30s, there were communities that were defined mostly by national origin. And obviously faith played a role. So we had Little Syria in New York and there were other places around the world around the U S where this happened.
But I think that the racial identity of being Arab or being from whatever country of origin you were coming from, had a bigger role to play. And there's obviously exceptions to this. For one, it was harder to get citizenship in the U S if you are Muslim, there's a court case about this that I'm forgetting the name of at the moment.
[00:55:31] DANIEL BESSNER - HOST, AMERICAN PRESTIGE: I believe that of the argument was made by some Arab Christians that their Christianity effectively made them white in a series of court cases. Yeah. In the middle of the 20th century, because I believe, and fellow historians, apologies if I got this wrong, you had to actually, you couldn't be made a citizen unless you were considered white until the early 1950s, if you were from elsewhere until 1952, I believe. So there's a lot of interesting things going on and basically the collapse of the post-Ottoman period where you see a large surge of immigration to the United States.
[00:56:05] LAILA UJAYLI: Yeah, exactly. So there's that element to it. And there's also, I mean, obviously Islam was in the American historical consciousness for quite a long time. So even abolitionists were talking about Islam and talking about how "look, if even the Muslims don't have this system of slavery, we can't be as bad as them, can we?" So this is an argument in favor of the abolition of slavery. So we've been having discussions about Islam in the United States for a very long time.
And that's also one of the soap boxes that I think that I try to get up on sometimes because there is, I think, a lack of understanding and complete ignorance of just how long the history of Muslims is in the United States. There's almost this tendency to assume that we just popped up in the past 20 years.
[00:56:57] DANIEL BESSNER - HOST, AMERICAN PRESTIGE: Jefferson talks about it too, I think. Jefferson also talks about Islam, in the 18th century, if I recall correctly for my comparative exams.
[00:57:07] DEREK DAVIDSON - HOST, AMERICAN PRESTIGE: To bring it more contemporary, Islam was in a cold war. Islam was our ally against the godless commies. This was a big consideration for the foreign policy community was we can work with Muslims. We can work with in Afghanistan, for example, we can work with the really devout Muslims because the enemies are the atheist communist.
[00:57:30] DANIEL BESSNER - HOST, AMERICAN PRESTIGE: And of course we could fund the Mujahideen famously.
[00:57:33] DEREK DAVIDSON - HOST, AMERICAN PRESTIGE: Exactly. Even into the nineties, I don't remember this that well, but there was some religious overtone to the intervention in Bosnia, to the intervention in Kosovo, that these people are being attacked, they're being killed, partly because of these -- I mean, you know, most of the parlance was like it's thousand-year-old feuds between communities. But there was some sense of religious aspect of those conflicts. But then 9/11 hits and suddenly this more knit complex, I think nuance d take on Islam becomes very simplistic and very hostile.
[00:58:10] DANIEL BESSNER - HOST, AMERICAN PRESTIGE: And that I think is also a part just -- very quickly -- also partially the product of the cold war and the creation of Judeo Christianity as this idea of what it means to be American, which was itself connected to the cold war. And of course, I think it's Eisenhower famously adding a religious element to the pledge of allegiance and things along those lines.
So you have these complex legacies of the cold war playing themselves out. Sorry to interrupt you, Laila, please.
[00:58:37] LAILA UJAYLI: Yeah, it's true. This really long history of Islam in the United States that's been negotiated or over many decades that started with Muslim slaves coming in the hulls of slave ships to the U S before even the foundation of the United States. To suddenly hit 9/11, and it's like, who are these people? What is this faith? What does it mean? It's something almost completely different. Is this a religion that sparks violence? Is this a religion that teaches hate and war and these historical conflicts? And suddenly here's this enemy that we have to deal with while ignoring the fact that actually, no, this is a community that has been among us for generations and that we actually know Islam. And if we had wanted to learn about it and learn about Muslims and reach out, we could have done that at the time. And that's given way to, as you were saying, Derek, this more simplistic interpretation that's had some pretty significant ramifications.
[00:59:38] DANIEL BESSNER - HOST, AMERICAN PRESTIGE: So to return to your story, you're a young child when all of this is happening. So what is that like? What is it like to grow up in, I think honestly, one of the darkest periods of American history, a period defined by incessant, jingoism and xenophobia and frankly racism? I could only imagine what it was like to be a young child during that era.
[00:59:59] LAILA UJAYLI: Yeah. To some extent your parents always put on a brave face and we were really fortunate to be in a community that wasn't so outwardly hateful, and we count ourselves among the lucky ones.
But I still have a story. I think many of us do, of incidents of racism and Islamophobia that have happened. I remember -- I'm not entirely sure which year it was, I think it was in '03 or '04 -- when we were driving to watch the 4th of July fireworks as we used to do every year. And there was this big park where everyone would go and park their cars. And from your car you would watch these fireworks with all of your neighbors in the community. And as we were driving by, someone shouted, "Go back to Iraq!" And I think that was at first, we were like, how do they even know we're Arabs? Do they just look into the car? How did they know?
And there was like, partly, oh, this is factually incorrect, we're Syrians. But also it was part of this kind of broader hatred that was happening at the time. That was really imbricated with both race and nations. So whether you were Arab, ethnically or not. But there was also a religious element to that because they were Sikhs being attacked and accused of being the same way, and Indians and people from Pakistan and all these places that were pulled into this kind of racialization of Muslims post 9/11.
So it was a really odd time. And that was a backdrop that I think all of us growing up with were really aware of. And whenever anything like that were to happen, you would always have community leaders be, "Hey, it's because they don't know, they don't understand. Most Americans don't really know who Muslims are. They probably haven't met a Muslim. And if you meet a Muslim, you're more likely to not be hateful and bigoted. So whatever you do in your studies and your extracurriculars, you need to be a model, right? Because you might be the first Muslim someone meets." So you are suddenly responsible for representing this entire faith and beating back this ignorance.
Congressmember Barbara Lee, the Lone Vote for Peace After the September 11th Attacks - Breaking the Sound Barrier by Amy Goodman - Air Date 9-9-21
[01:02:14] AMY GOODMAN - HOST, BREAKING THE SOUND BARRIER: Congressmember Barbara Lee, the lone vote for peace after the September 11th attacks.
[01:02:20] REP. BARBARA LEE: So I rise today, really with that very heavy heart. One that is filled with sorrow for the families and the loved ones who were killed and injured this week.
[01:02:30] AMY GOODMAN - HOST, BREAKING THE SOUND BARRIER: Intoned California Democratic Congressmember Barbara Lee, her voice trembling with emotion as she spoke from the House floor on September 14th, 2001, three days after the devastating 9/11 attacks. The nation was reeling from the deaths of over 3.000 people, and president George W. Bush was beating the drums for war. Lee spoke during a five-hour debate on whether to grant the president expansive powers to use military force in retaliation for the attacks which the Senate had already passed by a vote of 98 to zero.
Barbara Lee would be the sole member of Congress to vote against war in the aftermath of 9/11. The final vote: 420 to 1.
[01:03:18] REP. BARBARA LEE: Only the most foolish and the most callous would not understand the grief that has really gripped our people and millions across the world. This unspeakable act on the United States has really forced me, however, to rely on my moral compass, my conscience and my God for direction.
September 11th changed the world. Our deepest fears now haunt us. Yet I am convinced that military action will not prevent further acts of international terrorism against the United States.
[01:03:56] AMY GOODMAN - HOST, BREAKING THE SOUND BARRIER: Barbara Lee had prepared her speech in a rush. She thought the resolution would go through the committee process, but instead the Republican house speaker brought it to the full house directly.
[01:04:08] REP. BARBARA LEE: So I had to race down to the floor.
[01:04:10] AMY GOODMAN - HOST, BREAKING THE SOUND BARRIER: Congressmember Lee told the Democracy Now! News Hour, in an event sponsored by the Institute for Policy Studies just days before the 20th anniversary of September 11th.
[01:04:21] REP. BARBARA LEE: I was trying to get my thoughts together. I had to just scribble something on a piece of paper.
[01:04:25] AMY GOODMAN - HOST, BREAKING THE SOUND BARRIER: Barbara Lee's scribbled words resounded through the House chamber.
[01:04:30] REP. BARBARA LEE: However difficult this vote may be, some of us must urge the use of restraint. Our country is in a state of mourning. Some of us must say, let's step back for a moment. Let's just pause just for a minute and think through the implications of our actions today, so that this does not spiral out of control.
[01:04:56] AMY GOODMAN - HOST, BREAKING THE SOUND BARRIER: And spiral it did. Brown University's Watson Institute estimates at least 801,000 people have been killed by direct post-9/11 war violence in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen and Pakistan, with civilians accounting for close to half that number. Thousands of US troops and contractors have been killed and injured, with a price tag for US taxpayers, the Institute estimates will reach well over $8 trillion.
In "Turning Point," a sweeping new five-part documentary about the US response to 9/11, congressmember Lee reflects on that authorization for use of military force or AUMF that she alone opposed in Congress.
[01:05:43] REP. BARBARA LEE: It's been used over 41 times in about 19 countries, not related at all to 9/11. It's also been used for domestic spying in the United States. It's been used in Somalia, Yemen, you name it. It's been used all over the world as the basis to use force and to bomb and engage in military operations. That is unconstitutional. It set the stage for perpetual war.
Congress member Lee courageously voted no against the AUMF 20 years ago, as ground zero smoldered, along with the wreckage at the Pentagon and a flight 93 in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, which crashed as passengers and crew fought that plane's hijackers. After the vote, Lee immediately began receiving death threats and being called a traitor and un-American. But she got other responses as well.
Also there were, I'd say 40% of those communications, they're 60,000, 40% are very positive. Bishop Tutu, Coretta Scott King, people from all around the world sent some very positive messages to me.
[01:06:55] AMY GOODMAN - HOST, BREAKING THE SOUND BARRIER: At the time, Barbara Lee was one of the newest members of Congress and one of the few African-American women to hold office and either the House or the Senate. When asked on Democracy Now! where she got the courage to take that difficult stand, she said:
[01:07:09] REP. BARBARA LEE: Oh, Black women in America.
[01:07:11] AMY GOODMAN - HOST, BREAKING THE SOUND BARRIER: Barbara Lee then told a story she rarely shares in interviews about the day she was born in El Paso, Texas.
[01:07:19] REP. BARBARA LEE: My mother went to, she needed a C-section and went to the hospital. They wouldn't admit her because she was Black. And it took a heck of a lot for her finally to be admitted into the hospital, a lot. And by the time she got in, it was too late for a C-section. And they just left her there. And someone saw her, she was unconscious. And they just saw her laying in the hall. They just put her on, she said, a gurney and left her there.
And so finally they didn't know what to do. And so they took her into, and she told me it was an emergency room, it wasn't even the delivery room. And they ended up trying to figure out how in the world they will save her life because by then she was unconscious. And so they had to pull me out of my mother's womb, using forceps. So I almost didn't get here. I almost couldn't breathe. I almost died in childbirth. My mother almost died. I guess everything else is like no problem [chuckles].
[01:08:14] AMY GOODMAN - HOST, BREAKING THE SOUND BARRIER: On September 14th, 2001 Congressmember Barbara Lee closed her historic speech with a plea for peace and diplomacy we should all remember.
[01:08:25] REP. BARBARA LEE: Now I have agonized over this vote. But I came to grips with it today. And I came to grips with opposing this resolution during the very painful, yet very beautiful memorial service. As a member of the clergy so eloquently said, "As we act, let us not become the evil that we deplore."
Final comments on Brian Williams and the campaigns we can win vs the campaigns worth winning
[01:08:55] JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: We've just heard clips today, starting with UnF***ing the Republic explaining that 9/11 didn't so much change our foreign policy as expose it;
The Real News detailed our military spending since 9/11;
Democracy Now! discussed the spread of Islamophobia; as did the Brian Lehrer Show, them with an emphasis on the casual acceptance of it;
Matt Bender on Doomed made the connection between the 9/11 "truther" conspiracy theories and the much more destructive conspiracies of the Trump era;
Vox Conversations discussed the national trauma of 9/11, and how it shook our sense of American exceptionalism;
World Review from the New Statesman talked about how politics shapes our interpretations of our response to 9/11; and
Who, What, Why? analyzed the politics of the neo-cons as a prelude, rather than an alternative, to Trump.
That's what everyone heard, but members also heard bonus clips from American Prestige, diving deeper into the history of Islam in America before 9/11:
[01:09:58] DEEPA KUMAR: " It's not enough to understand Islamophobia simply as hate crimes. It's not enough to understand it as religious intolerance, or microaggressions, or hate speech, but to look at the roots of where it comes from, because what happens when you don't do that, is that, people accept the rhetoric coming from people at the top of society.
"So, Bush argued for instance, "This is not a war on Islam. It's about the extremists." Obama, who was an extremely sophisticated orator, talked about how Muslims are such a deep part of American society, that Muslim civilizations have contributed to world history and so on.
"And people accept that rhetoric, and don't see how post-9/11, and even before that, there has been a systematic targeting of people who are Muslim."
[01:10:54] JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: And Amy Goodman's other show, Breaking the Sound Barrier, told the story of Barbara Lee's no vote on the authorization for military force three days after 9/11:
[01:11:05] REP. BARBARA LEE: Now, I have agonized over this vote. But I came to grips with it today, and I came to grips with opposing this resolution during the very painful, yet very beautiful, memorial service. As a member of the clergy so eloquently said, "As we act, let us not become the evil that we deplore."
[01:11:35] JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: To hear that, and all of our bonus content, delivered seamlessly into your podcast feed, sign up to support the show at bestoftheleft.com/support or request a financial hardship membership, because we don't make a lack of funds a barrier tearing, more information. Every request is granted. No questions asked.
And now I'm going to be putting VoicedMails on hold for today, because I have a story to tell you, and it might take a few minutes.
The story has to do with some journalism I accidentally ended up having to do. But it starts back in 2017. This is a clip from Brian Williams on MSNBC commenting on a missile strike in Syria that was taking place at the time:
[01:12:16] BRIAN WILLIAMS - HOST, THE 11TH HOUR: "We see these beautiful pictures at night, from the decks of these two U. S. Navy vessels in the Eastern Mediterranean, I am tempted to quote the great Leonard Cohen, "I'm guided by the beauty of our weapons." Um, and they are beautiful pictures of, uh, of fearsome armaments making, what is for them, a brief flight over to this airfield. What did they hit? What are..."
[01:12:43] JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: So, I've heard that clip several times over the last several years. It's, sort of, the go-to if you want to criticize Brian Williams for being either incredibly pro-military, or just sort of weird and out of it, and waxing poetic, as opposed to taking the news seriously.
But, for context about what he was saying, and what it actually means, this is the Washington Post reporting at the time; the Post writes:
"The song Williams quoted is, 'First we take Manhattan,' one of Cohen's best-known tracks. Here's the line Williams mentioned in context from the song: 'I'm guided by a signal in the heavens/ I'm guided by this birthmark on my skin/ I'm guided by the beauty of our weapons/ First we take Manhattan/ Then we take Berlin.'
"Cohen, who died in November--" remember, this report is from 2017, "--had described the track as, "... a terrorist song," saying he admires extremism in certain forms. As he said of the song in 1988, the year of its release," now quoting Cohen, "'There's something about terrorism that I've always admired. The fact that there are no alibis, or no compromises. That position is always very attractive. I don't like it when it's manifested on the physical plane. I don't really enjoy the terrorist activities, but psychic terrorism. I remember there was a great poem by Irving Layton that I once read. I'll give you a paraphrase of it. It was: 'Well, you guys blow up an occasional airline and kill a few children here and there, but our terrorists, Jesus Freud, Marx Einstein, the whole world is still quaking.'"
Now, continuing the article, "Whether Williams was aware of that background, or what he intended when he quoted Cohen, is anyone's guess. But he became a trending topic as coverage of Syria continued late into the night."
So that's from 2017. And then, last Friday, now in 2021, I just happened to be watching Brian Williams due to some circumstances not entirely in my control. And as they were discussing the drone strike in Kabul that killed only innocent people, I heard of this:
[01:15:09] BRIAN WILLIAMS - HOST, THE 11TH HOUR: "General, we turn to you, and your life's work, and the Pentagon's very emotional admission today. In circumstances like this, I always try to quote the Leonard Cohen lyric, warning us about being "blinded by the beauty of our weapons," as he wrote it. And he meant just that.
"Talk about military mistakes, always in the back of your mind as a combatant commander, especially in this era, when we are used to the Pentagon proudly pointing out, uh, 'surgical strikes' as they've called them..."
(From 2017) "I am tempted to quote the great Leonard Cohen. 'I'm guided by the beauty of our weapons...'"
(From 2021) "The Leonard Cohen lyric, warning us about being 'blinded by the beauty of our weapons,' as he wrote it. And he meant just that."
[01:15:57] JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: "Blinded" by the beauty of our weapons! I mean, for a guy who, for some reason, likes to quote this lyric as often as he can, by his own admission, I'm astonished at how wrong he got it, and not just a little bit wrong, but changing the meaning to fit the current circumstance. It's bizarre!
And so, you know, of course, as he started quoting the lyric, I heard it, and thought, "Oh no, you're not quoting that Leonard Cohen lyrics again, are you? Don't... what are you doing?" And then, when he started to quote it differently than I knew he had before, I thought, "Well, okay, now, who's wrong? Was he wrong before? Is he wrong now?" You know, I had to go do some digging to figure out what was actually happening.
And to be honest, I don't know which is worse: waxing poetic about the beauty of killing machines, or making up lyrics and meanings that never existed to try to fit a new narrative for a new time.
I mean, In either case, I think it's long past due that Brian Williams quit the news and just go do spoken word poetry, where, I think, he might honestly be happier. I just don't think he's a good fit for real news. I mean, you never hear Amy Goodman quoting lyrics, for instance, "Professor Joseph Stiglitz, could you give your perspective on the benefits of higher taxes, not only for society as a whole, but also to the rich themselves? Because, as Biggie explained all those years ago, 'mo' money, mo' problems.' Isn't that right, Professor." You're just not going to hear that.
So if you agree, and you think Brian Williams has seen better days, and should move on to something else, you can retweet where I put that video out on the Best of the Left Twitter account.
However, this isn't the end of the story. After about 24 hours went by, after I was struck dumb by Brian Williams beginning Brian Williams again, and feeling really frustrated about how I had to go do some actual journalism, in an attempt to take him down, I realized that this is yet another example of us grasping at a winnable, though ultimately meaningless, campaign, because important campaigns seem so unwinnable these days.
This is a major element of online activism, and what gets called cancel culture, which, I say without prejudice against any particular call to action, or online condemnation of some famous person that gets grouped in with cancel culture. I'm not saying that they are to be universally praised as good or condemned as destructive.
What I am saying is that they are easy and enticing. You know, I can't stop the U. S. From drone striking people. I can't convince anti-vaxxers to help us get to herd immunity. I can't convince White supremacists that Joe Biden won the presidential election. And so, it's hard to get excited about launching a campaign with those kinds of goals.
But I do know that Brian Williams is a shitty newscaster who says dumb stuff regularly, and it might be possible to get him off the air if enough pressure was brought to bear. So, it often ends up that we launch the campaigns that are winnable, not the campaigns we actually need to win.
And that, ultimately, is what I think is the source of so much of our political depression right now. If we only fight meaningless battles, then the wins are meaningless, too. And so, in a world of finite energy, and the need to make choices about where we will expand our resources, it only makes sense to fight the battles that are really worth our time.
But of course that means there are going to be a lot fewer wins along the way.
So let my entirely meaningless campaign to take down Brian Williams be a lesson to you. I still hope Brian Williams gets replaced by someone who can do the job better than him. But what I really hope for is to live in a political environment where discussions about real change are the norm rather than the exception so that we can make a habit of ignoring this kind of nonsense altogether.
Thinking again of Amy Goodman. I mean, you would never hear her talking about this kind of story. Right? "And now we'll be speaking with a Leonard Cohen biographer. Sir, could you explain the gravity of misquoting the lyrics of this song, and Mr. Cohen's thoughts on terrorism?"
Again, you're just not going to hear that. And we should all strive to live in Amy Goodman's world of politics. Otherwise we're just spinning our wheels at nonsense sideshows.
As always, keep the comments coming in at 202 999 3991,. Or by emailing me to [email protected]
That is going to be it for today. Thanks to everyone for listening. Thanks to Deon Clark and Erin Clayton for their research work for the show and participation in our bonus episodes. Thanks to the Monosyllabic Transcriptionist Trio, Ben, Ken, and Scott for their volunteer work helping put our transcripts together.
Thanks to Amanda Hoffman for all of her work on our social media outlets, activism segments, and bonus show co-hosting. And thanks to those who support the show by becoming a member, or purchasing gift memberships at bestoftheleft.com/support, or from right inside the Apple podcast app. Membership is how you get instant access to our incredibly good bonus episodes, in addition to there being extra content and no ads in all of our regular episodes.
For details on the show itself, including links to all of the sources and music used in this and every episode, all that information can always be found in the show notes on our website and likely right on the device you're using to listen.
So coming to from far outside the conventional wisdom of Washington, DC, my name is Jay, and this has been the Best of the Left podcast coming to you twice weekly thanks entirely to the members and donors to the show from bestoftheleft.com