Tag Archives: September 11

The Paris Attacks: Was the Date Symbolic?

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I generally try to focus my blog posts on books, poems, stories, and comics, but since the bulk of my reading over the past 10 hours has focused on the tragic events in Paris, I suppose I should share my thoughts.

First off, my thoughts and prayers are with the people of France, the victims, and their families. It pains me to think of what they must be going through.

Next, I would like to point out something that was obvious to me. This attack happened on Friday the 13th. I’m not superstitious, but I also do not believe in coincidences. It would not surprise me if the assaults were orchestrated to happen on this day for symbolic reasons.

If ISIS was behind this attack, and it seems likely that they were, we should consider that they labeled the French as infidels. During the Crusades, France sent the Knights Templar to the Holy Land to fight the Muslims. Afterwards, King Philip, fearing the power of the Templars, orchestrated the arrest and subsequent torture and execution of the Knights Templar on Friday the 13th, 1307. I hate to sound like a conspiracy nut, but the parallel gives me pause. If this was a planned and orchestrated attack, then I can only assume that the perpetrators chose a date that would hold symbolic meaning and would be easily remembered, just as the 9/11 date for the attack on the World Trade Center.

I want to close by reiterating that my thoughts and prayers are with France. My heart goes out to the people there.

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“Some Reflections on War and Peace” by Umberto Eco

TurningBackTheClock

While in Paris this past spring, I visited the famous Shakespeare and Co. bookstore. While I was there I purchased a copy of Umberto Eco’s Turning Back the Clock: Hot Wars and Media Populism. I began reading it the other day, fully expecting that I would read through the book and then write a review of it. I discovered that the book is actually a collection of essays written by Eco and after reading the first one realized that my original plan would not do this book justice. Hence, I decided to write individual blog posts specific to essays in the book.

“Some Reflections on War and Peace” is the first essay and it explores what Eco sees as the two types of warfare: paleowar, which is traditional war fought on a defined front against a clear enemy; and neowar, which is war where the identity of the enemy is uncertain and there is no front.

Eco asserts that the first Gulf War marked the advent of neowar and a shift in the general psychology and public view of warfare. It was no longer acceptable to simply wipe out an enemy, regardless of collateral damage. Global media has increased public sensitivity to war and the casualties associated with it.

The Gulf War established two principles: (1) none of our men should die and (2) as few enemies as possible should be killed. Regarding the death of our adversaries we saw some hypocrisy, because a great number of Iraqis died in the desert, but the very fact that no one emphasized this detail is an interesting sign. In any case neowarfare typically tries to avoid killing civilians, because if you kill too many of them, you run the risk of condemnation by the international media.

Hence the employment and celebration of smart bombs. After fifty years of peace due to the cold war, such sensitivity might strike many young people as normal, but can you imagine this attitude in the years when V1s were destroying London and Allied bombs were razing Dresden?

(Turning Back the Clock: pp. 14 – 15)

Eco seems very critical regarding media’s role regarding neowar. He uses 9/11 as a prime example. In this case, the media actually aided bin Laden in achieving his goals, which is to spread fear and uncertainty.

Bin Laden’s aim was to impress world public opinion with that image, and accordingly mass media talked about it, showed the dramatic rescue operations, the evacuations, and the mutilated skyline of Manhattan. Did they have to repeat this news item every day, for at least a month, with photographs, film clips, and the endless eyewitness reports, broadcasting over and over the images of that wound before the eyes of all? It is hard to give an answer. Sales of newspapers with those photos went up, television channels that offered continuous repeats of those film clips enjoyed improved ratings, the public wanted to see those terrible scenes replayed, perhaps to feed its indignation, perhaps sometimes to indulge an unconscious sadism. Maybe it was impossible to do otherwise, but the fact remains that in this way the media gave bin Laden billions of dollars’ worth of free publicity, showing every day the images he had created, sowing bewilderment among Westerners, and giving fundamentalist supporters a reason for pride.

(ibid: p. 18)

Eco makes another astute observation regarding how media influences the public’s opinion regarding war. People in the West often side with a group not because they believe in a cause, but because they oppose war as it is being presented via international media. A perfect example of this is the Israeli – Palestinian conflict. One could argue that many Palestinian supporters side with them not because they agree with their ideology, but because they feel a sense of outrage at the images which they are exposed to.

Within the ranks of the West, pro-Islamic groups would be formed not out of faith but out of opposition to the war, and new sects would arise that reject the West, Ghandians who would put down their tools and refuse to collaborate with their governments, fanatics like the Davidians in Waco who (without being Muslims) would unleash terror campaigns to purify the corrupt Western world. In the streets of Europe, processions would form of desperate, passive supplicants waiting for the Apocalypse.

(ibid: p. 25)

The later part of the essay deals with the possibility of peace on a global scale. Eco is not optimistic. He asserts that conflict is part of human nature, and while we would like to envision a return to a peaceful state, mirroring that of the Edenic state, the sad fact is that humans have never enjoyed a prolonged state of peace.

I don’t believe that on this earth men, who are wolves preying on their fellow men, will attain global peace. Basically, Fukuyama was thinking about this peace with his idea of the end of history, but recent events have shown that history repeats itself, and always in the form of conflict.

(ibid: p. 29)

While this view of war and peace seems dismal, Eco ends the essay on a note of optimism. While global peace may never be possible, peace on a local level is certainly within our grasp. And I would augment this by asserting that if enough people worked towards local harmony, this could have a rippling effect across a wider plane.

Our only hope is to work on local peace.

(ibid: p. 30)

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George W. Bush’s 9/11 Speech

GeorgeWBush

As I was having my coffee this morning, I wondered what I should read on the anniversary of 9/11. In the past, I had read things like Art Spiegelman’s In the Shadow of No Towers. Today, I opted to read George W. Bush’s speech which he delivered on that evening. There is one part of the speech that struck me:

These acts of mass murder were intended to frighten our nation into chaos and retreat. But they have failed. Our country is strong. A great people has been moved to defend a great nation.

Terrorist attacks can shake the foundations of our biggest buildings, but they cannot touch the foundation of America. These acts shatter steel, but they cannot dent the steel of American resolve.

It’s ironic how just last night my wife and I were discussing how fearful everyone is nowadays and how people’s actions seem motivated by that fear. This fear seems to be fanned by the media. As much as I hate to admit it, 13 years later, it seems the perpetrators of the attack may have been successful in their ultimate goal. We have become a fearful nation.

I wish I knew what the answer was.

I am including the full text of the speech for those who wish to read it.


 

Good evening.

Today, our fellow citizens, our way of life, our very freedom came under attack in a series of deliberate and deadly terrorist acts.

The victims were in airplanes or in their offices — secretaries, businessmen and women, military and federal workers. Moms and dads. Friends and neighbors.

Thousands of lives were suddenly ended by evil, despicable acts of terror.

The pictures of airplanes flying into buildings, fires burning, huge structures collapsing, have filled us with disbelief, terrible sadness and a quiet, unyielding anger.

These acts of mass murder were intended to frighten our nation into chaos and retreat. But they have failed. Our country is strong. A great people has been moved to defend a great nation.

Terrorist attacks can shake the foundations of our biggest buildings, but they cannot touch the foundation of America. These acts shatter steel, but they cannot dent the steel of American resolve.

America was targeted for attack because we’re the brightest beacon for freedom and opportunity in the world. And no one will keep that light from shining.

Today, our nation saw evil, the very worst of human nature, and we responded with the best of America, with the daring of our rescue workers, with the caring for strangers and neighbors who came to give blood and help in any way they could.

Immediately following the first attack, I implemented our government’s emergency response plans. Our military is powerful, and it’s prepared. Our emergency teams are working in New York City and Washington, D.C., to help with local rescue efforts.

Our first priority is to get help to those who have been injured and to take every precaution to protect our citizens at home and around the world from further attacks.

The functions of our government continue without interruption. Federal agencies in Washington which had to be evacuated today are reopening for essential personnel tonight and will be open for business tomorrow.

Our financial institutions remain strong, and the American economy will be open for business as well.

The search is underway for those who are behind these evil acts. I’ve directed the full resources for our intelligence and law enforcement communities to find those responsible and bring them to justice. We will make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbor them.

I appreciate so very much the members of Congress who have joined me in strongly condemning these attacks. And on behalf of the American people, I thank the many world leaders who have called to offer their condolences and assistance.

America and our friends and allies join with all those who want peace and security in the world and we stand together to win the war against terrorism.

Tonight I ask for your prayers for all those who grieve, for the children whose worlds have been shattered, for all whose sense of safety and security has been threatened. And I pray they will be comforted by a power greater than any of us spoken through the ages in Psalm 23: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me.”

This is a day when all Americans from every walk of life unite in our resolve for justice and peace. America has stood down enemies before, and we will do so this time.

None of us will ever forget this day, yet we go forward to defend freedom and all that is good and just in our world.

Thank you. Good night and God bless America.

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