Statements on War, 2001 (United States – the Netherlands)
Saturday September 29th, 2001 Vrije Keyser screened the compilation “Statements on War” in the Amsterdam Open Channel from 21.00 till 22.00 hours. “Statements on War” is an answer to the war propaganda on the mainstream media. Within hours after the attack on the Pentagon and the Twin Towers is every opportunity towards intersubjective news coverage dismissed as heartless, treason and even pro-Osama
The US has been at war for two centuries. America’s wars, after the colonisation of the continent, have not taken place on its own territory, but on foreign land. From Grenada to East Timor, over to Panama and Vietnam; from the Congo to Somalia, over Iraq to Colombia. You name it; they have been there, invading, in the words of George W. Bush “openly or covertly”. A careful examination of US foreign policy history reveals over 234 self-declared overt military interventions and over 6000 covert interventions into at least one hundred countries, killing millions of innocent civilians.
The attack of 11th September this year, which killed over five thousand innocent civilians, was also the 28th anniversary of the CIA backed military coup in Chile, which killed Salvador Allende and most of his party members, and which led to decades of a military dictatorship, which brutally tortured, murdered and “disappeared” thousands more.
There is no weighing up of human losses. But there is a sense of history. This history, which ultimately walks along the lines of power, has shown some continuity. A continuity, which is ignored by the mainstream media in the wake of the attacks of 11th September (this year). The media frenzy was not due to the scale of the human tragedy which unfolded, because it was certainly not unprecedented. It was because of its location. Scenes that reminded us of the Third World had suddenly hit our civilised world! That surely was terrorism.
We did “statements on war” as a response to the war propaganda currently oozing out of every channel of the mainstream media. Within hours, any attempt of “objective” reporting had been smothered and was morally condemned as cold-hearted, or even pro-Osama. Not a single channel asked, what are the reasons, however misguided you might think they are, for this attack. What were the motivations, however much you disagree with them, of the attackers. Do dozens of people carefully plan an operation like this, and kill themselves in the process, because they are pure evil, as Blair and Bush want to make us believe? Do attacks like this stem from blind religious fanaticism, a psychological disorder? We certainly disagree with most anti-American politics, which itself often finds its roots in authoritarian beliefs, be they fundamentalist Christian or fundamentalist Islamic in their origin. What is hard to believe however, is that the devil itself, in the earthly form of Osama ben Laden, has come back to do evil. The events of the 11th September have been personified and any personification of a political conflict is dangerous. Careful analysis has been pushed to the sidelines, be it in the radio, in the papers or on TV. We are experiencing a climate which reminds us of colonial times: Muslims equals terrorists, there is good and there is evil and evil needs to be eradicated, there is a just cause and there is an evil cause, us versus them, and even worse: if you’re not with us, you’re with them. Well, that doesn’t leave us a lot of choice, does it George?
After the polemic political response to the attacks, decades of civil liberties’ and anti-racist work went down the drain, it seems. We see women in hijabs being treated like outcasts, Muslims and Black communities attacked all over the Western “civilised” world.
And the man who stands on the moral high ground right now, is the biggest lunatic of them all: George Bush. That is frightening. The man who doesn’t know where Europe is, do you think he knows where Afghanistan lies? The man who during his election campaign didn’t even know the name of the ‘leader’ of Pakistan.
More frightening than Bush however, are the media. There is not only a lack of independent reporting; there is a schizophrenic reporting. A reporting in which truth becomes a mockery. When after the communal declaration of war, always with a wink to Afghanistan, thousands of Afghans started fleeing the country, UK Prime Minister Tony Blair was found saying that the reason for these new waves of refugees was the terrible Taliban regime. This is, of course, true for earlier refugee movements, but why did he not admit that the most recent wave was caused by the declaration of war that he and his American colleague had made on Afghanistan? Now the refugee movement triggered by the war propaganda is used as a justification to destroy the Taliban regime. Not that the Afghan people will miss it, but does the US have the right to bomb the Afghan people for this just cause? Talks are being held with the Northern Alliance, a movement which committed mass rape and murder just years before, as the Afghan women’s organisation Rawa informs us. And to top it all, it will be those people who flee from the threat of war enforced onto them by the NATO alliance, that the civilised world will keep in “temporary protection zones” and those few that will be able to reach the shores of the “civilised” West, will be rejected at the borders as “bogus asylum seekers” and “illegal immigrants”. In these times we would be well advised to remember that politicians don’t give a fuck about civilians, they are interested in power.
Why does the media not pick up on these inconsistencies? We are presented with a world where there is only black and white. Some things are called terrorism, others, like the US sanctions on Iraq which have killed over 1.5 million under the age of five, are called justice. Vast amounts of airtime are given to sentimental American patriotism, soppy songs, many flags, much talk of revenge and justice. We made “statements on war” because we cannot hear George Bush and Tony Blair anymore, we are sick of their talk of security and justice. Whose security, whose justice? Is the life of an American worth more than the life of an Iraqi? Or a Columbian hit by the current Plan Columbia? Or a Sudanese watchman in a pharmaceutical company hit by US bombs?
The present media reporting does not give us any other choice than to be polemic. Differentiated, considerate and thoughtful voices are not heard in this frenzy and war propaganda. They are mobilising popular support for war. Thinking is dangerous when you have to justify a mass killing of civilians. Even if they are only Afghans.
Vrije Keyser: camera, script, editing, interviews, concept
Statements on War, 2001 (United States – the Netherlands)