Co-editors: Seán Mac Mathúna • John Heathcote
Consulting editor: Themistocles Hoetis
Field Correspondent: Allen Hougland


Armageddon USA
John Heathcote

Assasins of Alamut

Twin Towers

Terrorism, Television and the Rage for Vengeance


What happened on September 11th 2001 was horrific in the scale of tragedy visited upon the people of New York City; the speed and reach of today's communications allowed a large part of the world's population to see the carnage wreaked by the attack on the World Trade Centre.

Although the scale of the devastation and the grotesque scenes of human suffering and despair being transmitted across the world shocked us all; it would be naïve to suggest that the event itself was a total surprise. One only has to read through the back pages of this publication to realise that this has been a disaster waiting to happen.

Anyone who takes even the most passing interest in politics; otherwise known as the world outside your own front door; has been waiting for the momentum into anarchy spreading out from the incompatible States of Palestine and Israel to reach the West.

For those of us who watched with a terrible feeling of apprehension for what will follow, our tears are for the dead; but our fear is for the living; and those who refuse to learn from the lessons of history. For let us be clear, this will be remembered as the first, not the only, bloodbath which the West will suffer. What I write is not to detract from the horror and emptiness felt by the families of those who have died; or the suffering

I say this because even in the first hours, when the whole world it seemed, had followed the unravelling of the most sophisticated, modern urban society in the World; the character and bravery of the people caught up in the New York disaster was counterpointed by the empty rhetoric of a government which seemed to have disappeared into a vacuum.

Far from the risk of any personal danger, the Bush Administration seemed to try and cover its lack of any crisis strategy with an increasingly vengeful rhetoric. We can suppose now that any evidence pointing to organisations or countries other than Afghanistan and the notorious Osmin bin Laden will be disregarded in the rush for revenge

The consequences of the current political mood in the West; with any dissenting voices being censored or ignored are clear. (On the early evening PM programme on BBC4 for instance the newscaster apologised for the strength of anti-American feeling expressed by "Muslim guests' on the BBC TV political Q&A 'Question Time' aired the previous night.)

One only has to read through the back pages of Flame to realise that the Freedom and prosperous life we lead in the West have been bought at a terrible, and continuing price for many in the rest of the World.

The dominant economic system is running the planet into the ground, and destroying the homes of the last few indigenous peoples. The recently convened UN Conference on Racism, was dramatically and arrogantly abandoned by the US and Israel. The Kyoto Protocols on the Environment were rendered more or less meaningless by the US withdrawal; these are indicators of the respect that the US Government has given to the World Community in recent months.

Most people in the world have shrugged and sighed; they long ago gave up any hope that the US would follow any agenda which did not fit into the general design of free-trade / corporate monopolism which has successfully been imposed on four-fifths of the planet.

When President Bush declared that the US was in a 'state of war' following the bombings, many people in the world assumed that maybe he had awoken, like a modern day Rip Van Winkle, from a deep sleep, coloured with over-the-Rainbow dreams of a world that never really existed outside Hollyweird.

(It is worth noting the number of big budget movies now on hold; featuring stars such as the Republican Schwarznegger who have probably never even seen a war zone; with the usual array of rizla thin plots about square jawed men saving the world from terrorists Perhaps it will be noted that the real heroes in events like that are the 'ordinary people'; the firefighters, emergency services and survivors who risked their lives saving others.)

Perhaps George W. was never awake, or sober enough to take in the almost continual TV War that the rest of his countrymen have watched over cans of bud and piles of nachos over the last two decades.

From Panama City to the nightly firework show over Baghdad, all seen as they happened courtesy of CNN; to the high altitude bombing of Yugoslavia where we were asked to accept trainloads of civilians as collateral damage, and TV stations as legitimate targets, there has been an almost continual involvement by the US military across the globe.

Less televisual of course, but equally important, has been the continuing aerial bombardment of Iraq; already impoverished by sanctions and suffering the long term effects of the DU (Depleted Uranium) armament strewn across their countries by the Western Alliance.

And of course most taboo subject of all to mention is the primarily American involvement in arming and financing the State of Israel.

The Palestinians were promised by previous US administrations that the security of their people, and the borders of their meager land, were guaranteed by the worlds foremost military and economic power, without whom the State of Israel would not exist.

Over the last six months we have seen in Israel and the US respectively the joint by Sharon, a man who should be tried in a war crimes court for crimes perpetrated in the Lebanon; and the assumption of power by Bush, the dull son of a rich political spy surrounded by right-wing isolationists.

Occasionally we hear of tanks rolling into some village or town in Palestine, of 'targeted killings' which may or may not have hit the right target; of some fourteen year-old stone throwing boy, or child caught in crossfire being shot dead. Most people are unaware of the economic stranglehold that Israel maintains over the tiny Palestinian State and its people; are unaware of the vast sums paid into the Israeli budget by the US taxpayer and the phenomenal amounts that are immediately transformed into the latest, most deadly military hardware on the planet.

According to The Guardian (17th September 2001), the recent assault on Ramallah adds to a catalogue of Israeli actions since the attack on America on 11th September. In the past week, Israel has:

  • Announced that it would declare areas in the West Bank adjacent to the Green Line military zones, which means that Palestinians found without passes are liable to be shot;
  • Sent its armour into the desert town of Jericho, the quietest in the West Bank during the last year of upheaval;
  • Advanced into Jenin, on whose perimeter troops are now dug in;
  • Launched missile strikes on Palestinian security posts in Gaza
  • Used tanks to shell a suburb of Bethlehem, killing an ambulance driver at the weekend
  • Tightened the siege of the cities of Tulkaram and Qalqiliya.

At least 15 Palestinians have been killed in these assaults. The hardening of Israel's stand against ceasefire talks appears driven by Ariel Sharon's desire to block the possibility of the Palestinians - and Syria - assuming any role in Washington's coalition, a possibility he views as "very dangerous".

In short, many people in the Arab world feel that the Palestinian people were led into a trap; a gigantic Sabra or Chatali; and that the guarantor of their security has not only turned it's back on their suffering, but given aid to their oppressor.

When we in the West hear of another Palestinian town razed to the ground; to make way for another settlement of pious Americans wanting their slice of the Promised Land; or watch footage of Israeli F-16 jets and Apache Helicopter gunships sending missiles into the side of some dilapidated Palestinian apartment block; we need to make the connection between what happened on September 11th 2001 and what we see on our TV screens.

For if we fail to understand what inspires young men to take a plane full of people and steer it into a building full of people, it will happen again; maybe again in ways less televisual, but perhaps far more dreadful in consequence.

We all wait with trepidation for the first wave of violence that will inevitably be unleashed over the pathetic ruins of Afghanistan perhaps; which everyone seems to accept will have to cause suffering at least the equal of the WTC attack. In some strange parallel with the flawed principles used to support the death penalty, we are led to believe that suffering of retribution heals the wounds of the victims. Instability in this part of the world might well leave us with a fundamentalist coup in Pakistan - which already has the nuclear bomb.

We are also asked to believe that this is a struggle which can be won by force majeure; or the destruction of life and property; without realising that the enemy is amongst the dispossessed, many of whom do not even have a homeland.

The declaration that this is a new sort of War is perhaps the only really perceptive statement from the bunker ensconced pResident this week.

It is a war which challenges not just the US world hegemony; but it's appearance of invincible impregnability upon which rests the whole risk-and-loss economic system.

It also challenges the very principles which the US citizens hold dearest ; ideas of Freedom and personal liberty.

As Gore Vidal noted in a BBC Radio 4 interview broadcast in the wake of the atrocity, the imposition of a kind of martial law in the US by the Government will have been keenly noted by the 4 million or so members of the 'Patriot Movement' cradling their rifles in the hills of Montana.

BBC TV (News 24, 17th September) also showed an excerpt of an interview with Dick Cheney, US vice-president justifying enlargement of the CIA and payment to criminals (remember Lucky Luciano?). We can only guess at the extension in their power of action given to them by the Bush government in the last few days.

Even in Britain, the so-called Labour Home Secretary has admitted to the possibility of introducing identity cards - whatever possible protection that will give anyone.

One hopes that the ludicrous missile defence shield will be quietly shelved -with maybe some of the billions saved being spent on the less glamorous project called diplomacy.

The myth of high-tech surveillance being of any use in protecting a country's citizens, rather than just controlling them has been laid bare in the US by the failure to appreciate the determination of their enemy; and advise their politicians how to remove the causes of that suicidal bitterness.

Or maybe they did, but the politicians were serving different masters; or riding different horses at the same time.

Somewhere in the chain of communication, some very important issues seem to have been neglected, ignored, or missed; which is not comforting in the worlds premier superpower.

It is only necessary to add here that all of the above is written in the vain hope that if enough of us challenge this slide into a War with no specific enemy, no specific objective other than to win; we will see a war without end.

For those religious fundamentalists, both here in the West, and elsewhere; the World is polarised in a strangely binary way; between good and evil.

Different histories give us different faces for the same God; and when life itself ceases to have meaning or sweetness, people turn to their God to justify anything that will let them feel they are righting the balance between justice and injustice.

Unless we can stand back and untangle the history that has brought us to this point and understand that ways of bringing peace are braver than making war; all these true believers, Muslim, Jewish and Crusader - the true horsemen of the Apocalypse - will start to drive this chariot over the edge.