I was not surprised that the newspaper which carried a column including the lines “A bully with a bloody nose is still a bully” in the aftermath of September 11th 2001, should head its comment page two years on with a reference to September 11th 1973. The message the Guardian thereby seeks to convey is that what happened in New York two years ago is nothing special, and has to be seen in the context of US responsibility for other crimes against humanity.
After September 11th 2001, I was, like many other people, disgusted by the various statements made in the Guardian, New Statesman, London Review of Books and elsewhere, to the effect that the victims somehow got what they deserved, shouldn’t really be considered innocent and so on. I said so at the time, and then later on my blog, Junius, and then in a paper I wrote on the war in Afghanistan. When, as liberal or a leftist, you make such points, you get a good deal of approbation from the conservative and libertarian parts of the blogosphere. The sentiment being “joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.” It is nice to be praised, to be considered part of the “decent left” and a “non-idiotarian”. While I may flatter myself that I’m not especially susceptible to flattery, I know that I’m not exactly immune to it either.
I don’t want to take back one word of what I’ve written about September 11th 2001. I feel just as repelled by the Pilgers, Pinters and Alis today as I did then. Their world view is not mine. But I also, remembering September 11th 1973, feel somewhat dirtied by some of the praise I received from the right-hand-side of the blogosphere. I’ve read recently a certain amount of blogospheric comment on Chile, often highly critical of the Allende regime. I don’t have the knowledge or the expertise to evaluate Allende’s economic policies, and I’m sure that many of his political choices were wrong or unwise. But no explanation of the context, and not examination of the “root causes” of the Pinochet coup can justify or excuse the
3,197 cases of victims of ‘disappearances’, extrajudicial execution and death resulting from torture under military rule. [A] figure that does not include the thousands of victims of torture who survived their ordeal. (Amnesty)
There can be a “decent left”, that sees September 11th 2001 as the crime against humanity that it was, a crime that no amount of context or explanation can excuse or mitigate. But I’d rather not be told how decent I am by anyone disposed to excuse September 11th 1973 and its aftermath.