9/11: “A distant view” revisited
Submitted by jswami on September 11, 2008 - 10:03pm
Three years ago, I published here the article A distant view of 9/11. Its theme, in brief, was that when freedom-hating Islamic terrorists struck on 9/11/2001 and the armies of American democracy struck back, the events rolled out in patterns so exquisitely neat and familiar as to suggest that the entire show had likely been scripted and staged by powerful hands within (and beyond) the United States government itself. Oh, paranoid conspiracy theories! The article further discussed the idea of divine and demonic traits of human character, a topic to which Lord Krishna devotes an entire chapter in the Bhagavad-gita. Looking back on the article, I think it’s still pretty good. The more time goes by, the more the “distant view” seems a clear and accurate one. Some of the article’s facts, though, deserve updating. How many local people have died in Iraq? The article quoted a team of medical researchers who had done an on-the-ground survey of deaths in selected areas of Iraq and had used the results to reckon the total deaths in the country. They had published their results in the November 2004 issue of The Lancet, the London-based medical journal. “Making conservative assumptions,” they said, “we think that about 100,000 excess deaths or more have happened since the 2003 invasion of Iraq.” Bah! Old figures. In the October 2006 issue of The Lancet the same researchers published the results of a follow-up survey. New total: conservatively estimated, 654,965 people. All right, in some quarters those figures are controversial. Too high, some researchers say. In any case, the absolutely lowest possible figures are those provided by a nonprofit organization in the UK, Iraq Body Count. The IBC figures (the counter on the right keeps giving the latest) include only “non-combatants” and do not include deaths from secondary effects of war, such as disease, malnutrition, and water shortages. Further, the IBC figures include only deaths that can be documented from cross-checked media reports or carefully examined official records. By this way of calculating, which according to IBC themselves yields an undercount, the tally of deaths as of this writing is between 87,321 and 95,268. Is that enough? The circumstances are such that in place of men, women, children, and families who once were alive and whose lives are now gone, on the whole we have to settle for faceless impersonal digits. And while we’re counting: According to figures from the US Department of Defense the number of American military personnel who have died in the Iraq war (forget Afghanistan) now stands at 4,155, a toll that exceeds the deaths from the 9/11 attacks by 1,179. Those figures for American casualties in Iraq are now two days old. Since then, add two more casualties. More digits. Of course, there are other digits that justify all this. Digits that stand for profit, for holdings, for market share and return on investment in the great game of geopolitics and global economic warfare. Ultimately, I’m concerned with transcendence, not mundane warfare or geopolitics. But we might as well have a sober picture of the world we hope to transcend and the vicious nature of powerful fools who imagine they can own and control it. (That’s why Krishna takes the topic up.) For more on that, I recommend you read the original article. That article, as I mentioned, spoke of “familiar patterns” that suggested cynical, treasonous acts of mass murder and mass deception. (Oh, paranoid conspiracy theories!) For those who suspect that familiar patterns mean something—that they mean, simply, that history repeats itself, that the same things happen again and again, that when the doorbell rings there’s likely someone at the door, that when the phone rings there’s likely someone on the phone, that when politicians tell you the truth they’re probably lying—the past few weeks have been good ones for the story of 9/11. On August 21, scientists at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) released their 720-page report that finally explains, once and for all, the mysterious collapse of World Trade Center building 7, which smoothly descended to the ground late in the day of the 9/11 attacks, falling straight down, with utter symmetry, in roughly 6.5 seconds, looking for all the world like a controlled demolition. It’s “no longer a mystery,” NIST says. The tower fell “because of fires, fueled by office furnishings.” We’ve got the computer simulations that prove it. And that’s the end of that. I won’t even begin to talk about the questions the report leaves unanswered, the data it doesn’t account for, or the reliability of the speculative computer simulations it had to depend on in the absence of physical evidence—in the absence, for example, of actual buckled columns or snapped bolts and girders scientists might have hoped to examine instead of simulated digital ones, had the government not been so unusually efficient in dispersing nearly all the remnants of the building, beyond recovery, to third-world scrapyards. Anyway, the government has given us a report and the matter is done with. And if that’s not a familiar pattern for you—a suspicious event, a government report, some questions left hanging, and that’s that—here’s a still better one. Remember the 2001 anthrax attacks, the most horrifying acts of bioterrorism in the history of the United States, the terror that followed the terror, the fear that boosted the fear, after the attacks of 9/11? It was the Ay-rabs, all right, threatening our freedoms, our democracy, our American way of life. But then it wasn’t, and in the past seven years anthrax never showed up again and we never found out who did it. But then as the investigation took “a dramatic turn”—that very cliché, from the New York Times—we suddenly learned this year in the first days of August that the FBI had identified the culprit, a top US military scientist, and was just about to nail him when—wouldn’t you know?—all of a sudden he “apparently committed suicide.” (No autopsy performed.) And, oh, the story has lots more neat twists to it. Like the tip-off from his therapist, who turned out to have virtually no credentials in therapy, but was an “addictions counselor”—a former drug user in fact ( cocaine, heroin, PCP), with a long list of arrests for drunk driving—and who couldn’t spell her occupation any better than “theripist.” (Is that the sort of professional you consult when you’re a top government scientist and you’ve got the blues? And are those the sort of professionals the Army really lets you go to when you’ve got a high-level security clearance and you’re one of the few people in the United States of America who’ve got their actual hands on military anthrax?) I won’t go into it further—it gets better and better. But suffice it to say that if this were a plot for your newest thriller your literary agent might gently ask, “Do you think we could come up with something more original?” But, anyway, the FBI has solved the case. And, once again, that’s that. Is there anything good in all of this, anything encouraging, maybe even something transcendental? Yes, there is. The director and lead scientist for the federal investigation into the collapse of the World Trade Center buildings is a man of Indian origin named Dr. S. Shyam Sunder. So amidst all the deaths, all the suspicious happenings, all the controversies and speculations, at least we can be reminded of Krishna, Shyamasundara, the Supreme Lord, “beautiful and dark like a monsoon cloud.” In the Bhagavad-gita (9.33) Krishna says, “In this temporary, unhappy material world, just engage in devotional service to Me.” Of all people, the Supreme Person, Krishna, the creator of the world, certainly knows what sort of world this is. And, worth remembering on 9/11, He gives us the best advice: to transcend this world by engaging our lives in devotional service to Him.