From the commemoration of 9/11 to the Wikileaks cables
By Jooneed Jeeroburkhan
Over the past weekend, the North American media deluged us with a non-stop, wall-to-wall orgy of 9/11 tributes to the 2,605 US victims of the terrorist attacks of 10 years ago. It was again time for collective navel-gazing, for repeating the official story of the events, and for the US to portray itself as the epic, innocent victim of “hatred”, “barbarism” and “inhumanity”.
The fact that the victims were overwhelmingly civilians, except for 55 military personnel who were killed at the Pentagon, only fed the media-aided patriotic ritual of a never-ending litany of heart wrenching individual and family “human interest stories”.
The 372 foreign nationals from more than 90 countries killed on 9/11 were barely acknowledged. As for the reported 19 hijackers – 15 Saudis, 2 Emiratis, 1 Egyptian and 1 Lebanese -, well, they took their usual dose of media-lynching, together with Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden et al.
Millions killed as a result of 9/11
Questions about “What really happened on 9/11” were, as usual, batted out of the ballpark by the media and official Washington. Like, why did the 47-storey building at No 7 World Trade Centre collapse when it was not hit by any airplane? And why have all the findings of the 9/11 Commission not been made public yet?
More importantly, the millions of innocent Afghanis, Iraqis, Palestinians, Lebanese, Pakistanis, Indians, Ivoirians, Libyans, Somalis, Yemenis, Bahreinis, Srilankans, and others, who have been, and are still being, killed, maimed, turned into refugees or just displaced as a direct result of 9/11 were left out completely. They just don’t exist.
This was a “private” US patriotic “moment”, an ingathering before the media for sharing grief and reinvigorating national purpose, albeit a “moment” dragged out over three days and nights. These foreigners had no place in it, especially as they were still killing US personnel, military servicemen, subcontracted mercenaries and civilians alike, from Bagdad to Kabul to Karachi.
The stock question was again trotted out, with the usual blatant ingenuousness and false naïveté, for the largely uninformed US public: “Why do they hate us?” “After the attacks of 9/11, we were told to say that they hate us because we love freedom”, said former Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney in Montreal last week.
The fact that 9/11 precipitated the implementation of US imperial war plans concocted over the 1990s by theorists of the “clash of civilizations” and the neo-cons of the Project for a New American Century (PNAC) was never brought up in media comments and analyses.
Forced to choose sides in the new Global war
The fact that the world was told to choose sides in the new Global War on Terror (GWOT): “Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists”, was left out of the debate. That war is not for oil, gas and mineral resources, for military bases and geopolitical advantage, they keep repeating. It’s for freedom, democracy, human rights, women’s liberation, protection of civilians and good governance! As was omitted also the assault of the Patriot Act on civil liberties within the US itself, and collaterally, within so-called “allied” countries.
This is the mindless mush the North American media and political circus have inflicted on us over the recent days. Few mainstream analysts have had the courage of a Bill Keller who wrote in the New York Times Magazine, taking into account no doubt the growing woes of the US, that the invasion and occupation of Iraq “was a monumental blunder”. But the only link he sees with other imperial wars is, as he says, the US is applying the lessons of Iraq in Libya!
Interestingly, the main private media in Mauritius have simply mimicked their North American, and Western, Big Brother, in their coverage of the 10th anniversary of 9/11. The same clichés, the same slogans, the same photos splashed across their pages. With the notable exception though of Le Defi, where Che signed a timely and well-written piece titled “Les chiffres de la haine” , and where Subash Gobine reminded us that Mauritius is being sucked into the GWOT through the campaign against piracy in the Indian Ocean.
Wikileaks, the US Embassy and “pressure points”
Which brings me to the new Wikileaks file, namely the cables on Mauritian affairs wired to Washington over recent years by the US Embassy in Port-Louis.
What’s striking in the local coverage of these leaked cables is the total absence of a committed national position vis-à-vis what is at best a jumble of partial, biased and interested notes aimed at increasing US pressure on the Mauritian government. One US complaint that recurs throughout is that the Mauritius vote in international bodies is far from congruent with the US vote.
The US nervousness over growing Mauritian ties with India, China, Venezuela, etc., is clearly revealed in the cables. The Embassy’s interest in corruption and ICAC, as well as in communalist and casteist politics in Mauritius, is not unusual, but it does betray a focus on “pressure points” where Mauritius can be vulnerable to US influence and amenable to US desiderata.
In short, the US Embassy is just doing its job, as US and all other Embassies do all over the world. The real Wikileaks revelation, it seems to me, is that our main private commercial media just took the US Embassy reports at face value, as impartial assessments of facts, and used them as a stick to beat the government. It was not without some joy that the Prime Minister was depicted as another “cigar-smoking” rebel-in-waiting from the South!
The media needs an anchor
The media needs a firm national anchor point, it needs to be rooted in the national interest. This does not mean it has to be the mouthpiece of government. But in the face of foreign abuse, as in the case of the visiting President of China, it needs to display some show of national pride and outrage – especially since the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan are costing the ailing US economy $4-trillion, with tens of billions having gone “missing” through shady, no-bid contracts. In matters of corruption, the US could certainly teach us a lesson or two!
And the media should naturally take the US Embassy to task for behaving as if there is not a Chagos issue with Mauritius, and as if the US monstrosity in Diego Garcia, which has spread nuclear and toxic waste in the Indian Ocean and over a pristine archipelago forcibly emptied of its inhabitants more than 40 years ago to make way for a US military command, were irrelevant.
From the US commemoration of the 10th anniversary of 9/11 to the US Embassy’s politically motivated reports on Mauritian affairs, the same blinkered self-righteousness prevails.
* Published in print edition on 16 September 2011