Moral Outrage
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9/11 made the US into what we loathe

Veteran correspondent Chris Hedges reflects on the 10 years since 9/11:

Reporters in moments of crisis like 9/11 collect data, facts, descriptions, basic information, and carry out interviews as swiftly as possible. We make these facts fit into familiar narratives. We do not create facts but we manipulate them. We make facts conform to our perceptions of ourselves as Americans and human beings.

Those of us who were close to the epicenters of the 9/11 attacks would primarily grieve and mourn.

Those who had some distance would indulge in the growing nationalist cant and calls for blood that would soon triumph over reason and sanity. Nationalism was a disease I knew intimately as a war correspondent. It is anti-thought. It is primarily about self-exaltation. The flip side of nationalism is always racism, the dehumanization of the enemy and all who appear to question the cause. The plague of nationalism began almost immediately.

The dead in the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania were used to sanctify the state’s lust for war. To question the rush to war became to dishonor our martyrs.

Those of us who knew that the attacks were rooted in the long night of humiliation and suffering inflicted by Israel on the Palestinians, the imposition of our military bases in the Middle East and in the brutal Arab dictatorships that we funded and supported became apostates. We became defenders of the indefensible.

What was played out in the weeks after the attacks was the old, familiar battle between force and human imagination, between the crude instruments of violence and the capacity for empathy and understanding. Human imagination lost. Coldblooded reason, which does not speak the language of the imagination, won.

We began to speak and think in the empty, mindless nationalist clichés about terror that the state handed to us. We became what we abhorred. Shock and Awe, prolonged occupation, targeted assassinations, torture, offshore penal colonies, gunning down families at checkpoints, massive aerial bombardments, drone attacks, missile strikes and the killing of dozens and soon hundreds and then thousands and later tens of thousands and finally hundreds of thousands of innocent people. We produced piles of corpses in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan, and extended the reach of our killing machine to Yemen and Somalia. And by beatifying our dead, by cementing into the national psyche fear and the imperative of permanent war, and by stoking our collective humiliation, the state carried out crimes, atrocities and killings that dwarfed anything carried out against us on 9/11.

We have still not woken up to whom we have become, to the fatal erosion of domestic and international law and the senseless waste of lives, resources and trillions of dollars to wage wars that ultimately we can never win.

We became the radical Islamist movement’s most effective recruiting tool. We descended to its barbarity. We became terrorists too. The sad legacy of 9/11 is that the assholes, on each side, won.

[Excerpt of Truthdig article by international correspondent Chris Hedges]

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