Copyright © 2001 Russell Brown
|HARD NEWS is first broadcast in Auckland on 95bFM around 9.30am on Fridays and replayed around 5.15pm Friday and 10am Sunday on The Culture Bunker. You can listen to 95bFM live on the Internet. Point your web browser to http://www.95bfm.co.nz. You will need an MP3 player. Currently New Zealand is 12 hours ahead of GMT.|
GOOD DAY MEDIAPHILES ...
Many people expressed their appreciation of the first digest of the emails I've received in response Hard News in the past two weeks.
Once again, there's a full spectrum of opinion on offer - and once again, the dissenting opinions are considerably over-represented. I think it's important to give your critics airtime. Quite a few people have expressed concern for *me* since the first lot went out - which is touching, but misplaced. I've been on the Internet quite a while and I've been in too many flame wars to be overly rattled by an angry email.
That said, this has been quite an experience, and I've been astounded by how far the bulletin has gone. I'll continue express an opinion on international affairs, but this will be the last of the Making Sense of It series as such. Apart from anything else, there are local body elections here that could do with a bit of analysis.
This email is likely to be rejected by some corporate email systems for two reasons. (1) It exceeds a threshold on size. (2) It falls afoul of stupid mail filters on "inappropriate language". I'm sorry, but I don't have time to bowdlerise what everyone has said. KPMG, ACC, Sky Television, Te Puni Kokiri and the others who operate filters might just have to start treating their staff like grown-ups.
As I've said, I think what's happening at the moment is something of a triumph for the Internet as a communications medium. Keep emailing each other, passing on information and debating the issues.
But: there's some bad information circulating out there. The story that CNN's pictures of celebrating Palestinians were taken 10 years ago is FALSE. Whatever you think of CNN, that one's a bum rap. I've put links to the background on that, and a few other post-attack rumours on the Mediawatch website at http://www.mediawatch.co.nz
Anyway, here's hoping the worst won't happen.
PS: When I referred to Rob Campbell as the government's lead negotiator in the Air New Zealand business, I of course meant Rob Cameron. Not the first time they've been mixed up of course ...
I am an American. I appreciate as well as many of my fellow citizens open and frank dialogue about the events that shook us all so deeply on September eleventh. And shake us they did. The whole world has paused to consider it. The whole world may well have fundamentally changed.
I love New Zealand, and I've never been there. Maybe I have a crush on New Zealand. Americans feel her affection for us like from no other country, and that affection is widely reciprocated here. New Zealand is to me like a beautiful woman at a party with whom you make eye contact from far across the room. You know you may never even speak, yet the mutual attraction is obvious. It is in that spirit that I ask you not to misunderstand what Americans understand about themselves.
I ask you to understand the process of further self understanding that we are now undergoing. We are in shock. We are moving from shock into rage. Then rage becomes resolve. Resolve becomes action, and action requires thought and understanding of what can be done, what should be done, what should not be done. I hope that we get far enough through this process that we hurt no innocents by acting hastily, and viscerally.
We know that we created Osama Bin Laden. The Cold War was never really that cold, was it. America skipped the Olympics the year after the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. We followed the events there closely in our media then and everyone knew we supported the Mujahedin, financially and militarily. And most people supported that effort, but many didn't. Many regret it now, to be sure.
We know that our foreign policy creates friendships, and enemies. And we know that friends become enemies depending how well they can serve our national interest at the time. We even have a term for it. It's called "blowback". Indeed.
Oh if only Colin Powell, or Rudolph Guliani were our president. They are not. Hopefully, cometh the hour, cometh the man can apply to George Bush in even a tiny degree as in those men. Did George Bush require a lesson in the need for world multi-lateralism? Yes. Did my good friend, Clive's best friend in the whole world deserve to give his life to teach it? No. Did the Kiwis there deserve to pay the ultimate price to teach him a lesson? No.
We know that Afghanistan is a pile of rubble inhabited by mines and hungry innocents. I personally have not heard one person discuss the desire to hurt innocent people to get revenge or the people responsible, regardless of the blustery rhetoric that gets the highlights in the media.
Why do I care what you think of me? Because you are a journalist. Because I think this is an opportunity to teach the world about love and understanding. Because I'd like to see the billions of dollars about to go into a war go to the ghettos of Sao Paulo. Because I believe that the only way to respond to hate is to love. Because my beliefs and the beliefs of my countrymen are more than a list of broadcast news web-site headlines.
Because stereotypes and broad generalizations about other countries lead to fear, mistrust, and misunderstanding, which leads to hate and death and destruction. Because I have given you a note to hand to the beautiful woman across the room, and I'd like to see her smile when she reads it.
Go Silver Ferns, and drink one for me.
Your are quite right - the blame-storm really arrives at the doorstep of Mr and Mrs America, who have failed to ask the tough questions about just what their Govt gets up to.
Lemme see...meddle, meddle,meddle...a sorry history in Vietnam, which only got better when they left the country, billions of dollars lighter and having invented a couple of new venereal diseases.
Pol Pot? oops, US funded, and later US backed in the UN as the best form of Government for Cambodia...just about the time he started plunging the country into the Stone Age.
Bin Laden - voted huge funds and armaments by the US Govt.
But wait, what's this? Go back about 15 years and we find the Islamic "fundamentalist" bin Laden actually enjoys a bit of MOTORSPORT!
True, I've seen the photo, in the days of TAG and Saudia sponsorship of the Williams team, the Williams Formula One car of the time, the FW07, was sponsored by bin laden and one of his family companies!
Weird but true. Seems the decadent ways of the west are a good place to throw wedges of cash at times eh?
Wonder what the Taleban makes of that!
Got many F1 tracks in Afghanistan boys?
You still don't get it, do you?
It was not so much your "America-has-only-itself-to-blame" rant that pissed so many of us off but rather your appalling lack of sensitivity in mounting your political soapbox while 6,000 bodies were still burning in NYC and Washington, DC. Not a word of sympathy or compassion for the victims, some of whom were friends.
From your standpoint, not to worry, I guess, they were just Americans -- although we now know the dead came from more than 60 countries and may well have included a New Zealander or two.
Would it have been too much for you to similarly express [some] sympathy before rushing to judgment that it was all due to abominable US foreign policy?
Pissing on America and Americans is nothing new for NZers. I well remember how much of the Kiwi population scorned and disparaged the US Marines and other US servicemen whose only "crime" in 1942 and 1943 was to rest up and train before offering their lives in the battles for Guadalcanal and Tarawa and God knows where else. Again, they were just ignorant Americans and the fact they helped keep the Japanese from our shores was beside the point.
Your are certainly entitled to your views from your isolated mountain top. Who cares whether you personally think Bush is "shallow and stupid," although one can imagine the righteous indignation that would ensue in Godzone if some foreign commentator dared say the same thing about Helen Clark. Actually, the Australians did in the Ansett fallout and look how it so angered so many Kiwis.
The bottom line though is that I remain appalled at your complete lack of sensitivity and, for that reason, this is one expat who won't be reading you any more.
Thanks for having the gumption to say what so many of us are feeling. There's no excusing what's happeneing in America, but compared to the atocity upon atrocity American has inflicted upon the middle east (and the rest of the world) it hardly compares.
What frightens me (and the rest of my household) now is the obvious slip into a 'Wag the Dog' type international media climate. I'm already suspcious of so many images I'm seeing ex-CNN or ABC (ie Palestinians celebrating in the street five minutes after it all happened - which looked suspiciously like welcoming home sports heros instead).
You're right - most of us haven't lived through anything that resembles what happened in New York or Washington. But neither have we lived through generation upon generation of attacks and displacement at the hands of Americans either.
It's so very important to keep perspective. I assume one of the essays you were referring to was Gore Vidal's piece on McVeigh in Vanity Fair, another excellent, honest insight.
Something else you may be interested in reading is a book by David Yallop, the title eludes me at the moment - (Hunt for the Jackel?). Anyway it's essentially an investigation into the whole myth created around the terrorist Carlos (aka Ilich Ramierez).
It's the most astounding and horrifying insight into the complexities of the middle east, the corruption of the American Government and the intricacies and conflicts within the major terrorist movements in that area. Anyway, enough ranting. Thanks again from everyone in our house for continuing to be the honest voice of our tribe.
i'm a new zealander who's lived in new york for the last three years and often reads your columns. i live on east 13th, just a street below the first isolation zone, and i wanted to share this small remembrance of the fallout of the 11th with you.
for the past 2 years i've lived half a block away from ladder no 5, which is the famous fire station that was celebrated by walt whitman amongst others. the supermarket that my girlfriend and i shop at is across the street, so we'd wander past their house at least a couple of times a week. while we'd never really stop to chat, or laugh, or say hello, we'd recognise their faces and the way they'd nod their heads in our direction like a lot of neighbours in new york who don't really know each other, but will acknowledge one another.
on the 11th all the on-duty members of that unit died rushing up the wtc. abc did a story on their crew, which started by showing their burned out engine which has the gold no. 5 from their first ever engine attached to the front of it. this famous no. 5 is unfortunately the only thing that is left of the engine and the fire-fighters who rode in it.
now everyday we walk past their station and look at the five feet deep piles of flowers and the tributes and feel sad and empty. not empty in the way that we wish we'd known them, but empty in the way that no one - of whatever faith or ethnic group - should have to feel at such a senseless act and the lives that perished in it and will perish because of it.
the enormity of the loss of those crews is apparent when all our other local stations, ladder no. 7 on 13th between 2nd and 3rd, and the great jones company, and the Lafayette company, suffered the same fate.
I am an American subscriber to your hard news publication and have found your newsletter to be very thoughtful, although prior to the bombing I had only read it a dozen times during the course of the past year. As I read the last posting though, it dawned on me that your thoughts, like many critics, stop short of any constructive advice or offering any alternative solution, short of urging the American population to look at their own role in the reation of the terrorists themselves. (Believe me - we have extensive dialogue in the US on that subject - whether you see it in New Zeland or not) There are many intellectually capable people, similar to yourself, who make their living pointing out the shortcomings of corporations, governments and religous organizations. In my life's experience I am in contact with people like you everyday and I must say that without offering real solutions, or actually becoming involved with the activities that will make this world a better place, or even presenting ORIGINAL criticism for the masses to consider, you simply are one of the many whiners that moan into the airwaves without consequence. I hope that at some point you will realize this and actually do something - it will be a liberating experience for you.
I suppose I'm just one of many who have written to you about your recent hard news reports about the terrorist incidents in NYC. As an American living in NZ, I am amazed at how little my fellow Americans really know about the foreign policies of their own country. It wasn't until I moved here 5 years ago that I began to understand how things are in the world, and I am well travelled compared to most. Americans are insular and unaware or anything happening beyond their boundaries (or even within them). And, I believe the media is there primarily to protect the fragile image Americans have of themselves.
I appreciate what you and other journalists try to do. Even if you get a lot of negative responses, I think it's worth it if one person finally realizes the injustices committed directly or indirectly by the US. Intolerance and hatred should not be a part of our lives, and certainly should not be part of public policy. My grandparents all came from other countries to live in the US, mainly to get away from poverty and oppression. I only hope that more can do the same.
I am a Kiwi doing a PhD in Politics at Queen’s University in Belfast, Northern Ireland (a place not exactly free from its own terrorist attacks!!). I just wanted to say that I totally support what you have written about the attacks in America. I too was of course shocked and saddened by the attacks, particularly in New York as I lived there for a few months and still have friends there. However it drives me mad that so many Americans and other Westerners cannot see that the things the US has done around the world are equally horrific and responsible for even more deaths – its policies in South America, its involvement in Vietnam, Afghanistan, its support for Israel’s repression of the Palestinian people, its support for the Indonesian occupation of East Timor, the embargo against Iraq which has led to so much suffering, and so on and on and on. The naivety and ignorance of so many in the US about the activities of their own government is scary, and when this is combined with the rampant nationalism resulting there from the crisis, it becomes terrifying. This is in no way to excuse what happened in the US, but the killing of thousands of already suffering, innocent Afghans is not a just response – I so hope it does not come to that. It would also not be an effective response; you cannot destroy terrorism that way. The fact that so many people reacted badly to your email is more evidence of the rise of American nationalism, or even some kind of pan-Western nationalism, which is also pretty worrying – as are the racist attacks occurring all over the West against anyone looking Muslim.
As a US born Kiwi/Expat American who has lived only 5 of 21 years in the States, my attitude towards the American political system and ideals have always been cynical - although a trip back to the States a year ago helped me realise that much of my cynicism and negativity was indeed often baseless.
It seems, however, that despite my admiration for the many qualities that Americans (especially New Yorkers) have displayed, to my regret the justification of some of the cynicism has also been reconfirmed. It seems that the United States has sent an additional 100 military aircraft to the Middle East - presumably to help 'bring Bin Laden to justice.'
My understanding has always been that criminals are dealt with by extradition treaties, courts, Justice Departments and the like - not mob justice. International diplomatic pressure is one thing (and I doubt with the diplomatic and financial might of the western world that _something_ cannot be achieved) - but 'bringing Bin Laden to justice' (especially without the fair trial that seems to constitute so much of the American culture we see on our televisions these days) with a bomb is quite another.
A recently immigrated friend of mine asked me today what New Zealand was like twenty years ago. Obviously my recollections are second hand, but what I have heard of the Springbok tour, ANZUS and the Rainbow Warrior have lead me to believe that New Zealand is not unable to make a difference in the world. For what it's worth, I think it's time we do what we can to ensure that Osama Bin Laden is brought to criminal trial in an appropriate court.
Another good read - with the Twin Towers situation - nobody is right.
Personally as I was driving in the car and heard Bush's speech today I shed a tear, the saddest things are :
1. More innocent people are going to die violent anonymous deaths,
2. He didn't understand what he was saying nor the local or global consequences of the response, and
3.America is preparing for a siege.
America at 5% of the world's population will flounder (largely on its own lack of reality) and a new word order will emerge.
I guess it is about time.
Thanks again for an excellent piece.
I have just forwarded the latest Hard News to all the Americans I've met in my two years here. I will let you know if anything interesting comes back.
A thought just occurred to me as I was sending out the email: perhaps underneath all the flag waving (some?) Americans are afraid. Not of the terrorists, but of their government and each other. In moments like this with mob mentality running high, maybe sane people are afraid to make themselves targets by presenting a voice of reason? There certainly has been enough painful precedents for this to be a real concern.
I have printed out a copy of the American flag and written underneath it in bold - THINK! with a tag line that says "more brain, less blood" and stuck it outside my cube at work. (got the idea off scripting.com). So far no comments. I don't know if that's a good thing.
Bravo! But stand by for incoming missiles :-)
Extra good issue this week Russell. I am way too old and conservative to agree with you on matters of recreational pharmaceuticals or music, but in the humanitarian issues you are right on target.
I have read your opinions about the US on Hard News and while you certainly have a right to express them, I must say that I disagree with them. But then, it is well known that reasonable men can disagree. However, if your opinions reflect those of a majority of New Zealanders I think that it is the ultimate in hypocrisy for New Zealand to continue to trade with the US or permit entry to US tourists. Why are these activities continuing?
We take great pleasure in being kept up to date with your newsletter. how ever being an expat in the Middle East we have been what can I say ( concerned ) at the US sabre rattling. Your comment on US foreign policy biting it the bum is right on the nose, for those of us at the sharp end we can never understand how they get away with it. The event that happened shook us all and our hearts go out to those affected, it was dreadful, but if the American public want to know why, they should look to the US blind support of Israel. We have only to hear the mosques at Friday prayers to realise were the resentment lies. As a family we await the next step in this drama with some trepidation. As an ex serviceman the US war machines record for being discrimetary leaves a lot to be desired.
I meant to write you long ago to thank you for your comments about Elian Gonzales. I heard that you received a great deal of vengeful hateful for your bashing of the Miami Cuban community and its weird need to kidnap Elian. Well, I wish I could speak for a lot of Americans but sadly, I only speak for a very few who appreciated your insights. That whole incident was an embarrassment.
I am also one of the 8% who oppose U.S. military action against Afganistan for the as of yet unproven acts of bin Laden. I am not flying a flag and I am horrified at the mindless attacks ugly americans are committing against american muslims. I do want to say, however, that the U.S. media is admitting to its shady past of supporting bin Laden -- a bit. Of course the alternative press is all over the topic, but some of the mainstream has mentioned it too. None of your commentary was totally new, although much it was much more informed than the facts I have at my fingertips -- so thank you.
Anyway, I love your column. Keep it up.
Thank you for all the comment and letters you've posted during the last week. As neither Kiwi or American (the British ex-wife of a Kiwi, both of us living in Sweden - he e-mails me your postings) it has been refreshing to read voices and opinions of those outside the media mainstream, which for me is BBC/CNN/Swedish State Broadcasting.
The letters that you received from all over the world are particularly interesting - I have been shocked and scared by the political naivety of my own American colleagues' response to what has happened - and I can see this reflected in many of the responses you received.
No, nothing excuses what has happened in New York and Washington, but as this is something that an outside force has inflicted on the American people maybe it is time the American people took a look at what their government inflicts on the people of other countries. I have cried many times during the last week - for those relatives of those killed, the victims, the world that my child will grow up in and for myself.
I come from a country that has been directly affected by the terrorism of the IRA - I do not enter public buildings without looking for an emergency exit and have no idea how many times I have had to evacuate buildings in bomb scares - and would not wish this on anyone. It is difficult for me to forget that much of the money used by the IRA originated in the States.
I got onto Hard News by a Kiwi friend here in Korea. As an American living and working abroad, I see the points people make about the United States' foregin policies. I spent last week in a deep blue funk over the disasters in my homeland. My family says everything back in the States was quiet and reserved all that week, and they live nowhere near the East Coast.
I have often told my non-American friends that the next great semi-tyrannical nation on earth could very easily be the USA. Our system of government is not as democratic (responsive to the people) as, say, yours or Britain's, or Canada's.
It is a long, hard process to oust unfit or undesirable administrations and/or congresses because the United States has no national election. All elections are State and local ones that build a national government. During military operations we are definitely unwilling to change leadership.
Our Puritan tendencies subtly move us to see our history and future through the eyes of conservative Protestant philosophy. If you could take a tour of the unnumbered back country churches all over the States, the Baptist and other right-wing denominations and universities, you would see a 300-year history of people who believe that this country and Britain are the lost tribes of Israel (or variant themes like that) and that the prophecies of the Old Testament are speaking about the United States and its destiny as God's Chosen People.
This and other ingrained attitudes among so many millions make it quite possible for the States to become a dangerous beast on the world scene. Religious fanaticism in the States is an even more insidious element than religious fervor in the Mid East, because the States has immense power and influence.
Criticism of Americans only heightens the sense of their "righteous cause". However, if they see their traditional friends by their side, not criticising per se, but offering level-headed advice, maybe that would reach the American mind. No guarantees. Because there are 280,000,000+ Americans, there are more sane, rational, level-headed among us than in Australia, New Zealand, and Canada combined... but that is still a minority number in America, I fear!
God help us. Of course, the world's sense of justice requires that the complices of those who killed thousands of noncombatants in New York & Washington must be brought to a public trial. Let's keep our eyes and ears open and guard our common English basis of justice under law. If the USA steps over a commonly agreed line, then criticise, and criticise for all you've got.
I wanted to write to share some quiet sympathy. I am a NZer living in Boston for 6 or 7 years now. I spend a lot of time in NYC. I was there last Tuesday morning, in Chinatown not a 1/4 of a mile away from all that death.
Even now, I cannot contain my emotion. I have never been so close to something like that ... I do not think I will ever be the same. Now I am scared again as the Righteous again prepares to wipe out Evil. I appreciated your original column and some American friends of mine did too. However, I am mostly too scared to open my mouth and find myself almost whispering with other foreigners. Anyway, you did open your mouth and you copped it.
The patriotism here is intense beyond belief. When they say that you are "just a pissant from a no-account little country" - know that is kick-arse (sorry ass) patriotism that means if they so want to they will wipe that little no-account country of the map. I am so upset about all this (I have a little 1 year old US/NZ baby and another as yet unborn) but I mad too...I am mad at the stupid suicide terrorists but I am just as mad at Bush and all the other fucking cowboys...Clinton included.
Many Americans are unaware of history and their place in it. Afghanistan is just a place they have been sending their taxpayer money to in aid and this is what they get in return. I heard some Americans talk about how they need to rid their house of cockroaches first and deal with outside later.
I thank you for your sane article and hope you will not stop thinking. Please don't apologise....my American wife thought you were both sensitive and intelligent. Without thoughtful debate the worst is yet to come.
Einstein remarked "Problems cannot be solved at the same level of awareness that created them".
I lived in the Middle East for three and a half years. I was in Cairo when Islamic separatists assassinated a busload of tourists. I was in Dhahran when the Bin Laden attacked the barracks and in Beirut on several occasions when Israeli jets and tanks were blowing up refugee camps.
All along Iraq was being bombed on a daily basis by America and Britain. A week after I left Nairobi Bin Laden blew up the US Embassy. My father lived through years of sectarian violence in Belfast and I was there when the IRA blew up a bit of the airport. They were all fighting, pointlessly, to right one wrong with another.
Seems like the Western world now believes just a little bit more violence will be enough to end it once and for all. How wrong can they be and still not see it?
Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius -- and a lot of courage -- to move in the opposite direction. Bush lacks that courage and the genius.
For him to think and promote America as a victim beyond reproach is absurd. Its guilt is writ large in blood across the globe but the mote in their own eye prevents them from seeing the depth of their own injustices. I can't condone what happened, but I can understand what drove the bombers to act. If they had America's military they would use it, instead they fight with what they have.
Thank you for the hard news followup on the US situation. I think your second thoughts on this matter were spot on. I did feel that your first item was a bit lacking in positive comment about the US in general, but understand why you chose to say what you said.
Trouble is, falling victim to acts of terrorism is an inevitable downside of being the world's richest nation, given that the US has never said 'we now have a big enough share, let's not be greedy'.
On the one hand, it is terrible that a large number of individual Americans have been killed or suffered loss; but also it could be said (though no one would like to be quoted as saying it) that America as a nation has brought this upon itself by being too successful, at the expense of too many other countries. We can only hope that as few innocent individuals as possible will have to suffer as a consequence.
I tried really hard to stay out of this, mostly because I am not very articulate. But I have to tell you, I was born in Whangarei, grew up in Grey Lynn, went to Grey Lynn Primary School, Pasadena Intermediate School, and Seddon Memorial Technical College (when it was still on Wellesley Street).
I have lived in America for the past 34 years (San Diego). I am with the "perfect, fantastic stuff, bright beacon, best thought out ... " crowd.
I printed out last week's column to share with open minded people, but the only ones I have had the guts to give it to is my husband (an American) and my Statistics teacher at school (Persian).
Most people over here get in a blind rage if you even suggest that America would do anything dishonorable. Even my NZ acquaintances are waiving American flags - and I thought NZ had more sheep than any other country.
I think your hard news on Friday was probably the most rational report I have read so far on this whole atrocity. Atrocity that it is, there are several people in Afghanistan that do not support the Taliban or Osama Bin Ladin, and are now currently trying to flee the country.
I love New York, I have family in the States, but I don't support the US government. I think P. Bush is trying to create an enemy out of hype.
I don't personally think a government should harbour terrorists, but unfortunately, I think a lot of innocent Afghans, who unfortunately have no means to communicate their views due to their government's strict bans on media and communication, will suffer for this.
It's unfortunate that a lot of innocent people all over the world are already suffering, because they look or are Muslim. It's also a bit hypocritical of the US government to declare war on the same terrorists they have been supplying funds and arms to for decades.
I have cried along with countless others around the world over the past few days and genuinely feel for those who lost loved ones in the tragic events of last Tuesday.
I spent several months travelling in the USA visiting around 20 states and met many different people from a wide range of different backgrounds. The lasting impression I hold of the majority of Americans is their very limited knowledge of the rest of the world.
Their naivety was at times amusing - however it has translated into a Government with a licence for dangerous arrogance. I shudder when I see a Texan cowboy called George "Dubya" Bush calling for revenge, I would like to express a vote of no confidence in his ability. Where is that mans sense of hypocrisy?
The rest of the world holds its breath as we wait for the American way of life once more be defended at any cost.
To whom it concerns,
More than likely the majority of freedom you now enjoy was won or secured at the hands of some average working American that doesn't even know you.
Also, the economic increase you enjoy has probably been enhanced as well by some American unknown or unacknowldged because you are so "independent." But we Americans don't mind because we support an ideology that all people are free and are entitled to rights of free speech, economic increase, health, and happiness.
No violent action justifies another violent action, but your contention that somehow this action is deserved makes you no better than the terrorists that hi-jacked those planes. Americans aren't ignorant as you contend of our foreign policy.
But before you condemn every action of the United States take a look around at the foreign policy of Africa, or even of their brutal domestic policy. Then look at Germany, Yugoslavia, and the former Russian countries. If anything we should know is that man is inhumane to man and always have been.
The thing that disturbs the Americans about complainers such as yourself, you typify the arm chair quarterback always having perfect vision usually looking behind you but never involved in the skirmish and certainly never dirtying your hands.
It is too easy to sit comfortably from the sidelines and fall back on your ass and say "what can I do, we are such a small country." If you feel you are somehow slighted so much by breathing the same air as Americans, then why don't you go live with Bin Laden or another of the fanatical groups and see exactly what you get for it.
You see, the $20 you forgot to give the taxi driver has been given repeatedly to underprivileged nations time and time again by hard working Americans that struggle to make ends meet like anyone else in the world, the only difference we haven't forgotten to reach in our pocket unlike others that somehow find comfort in themselves by at least thinking they should have done something.
Research which people are the most charitable in the world, and not just from corporate donations and see if you compare, even respectably!
One day you will see exactly what America and its' economy does for the world and when American people finally have had enough of the hangers on and they become as self-centered as the rest of the world, see whose hand is out then and the direction it's pointed.
First off, you have done quite a good job of expressing your opinion, wrong as it is, to the entire world (thanks to the internet). Now answer me this: just who is it that has defended and secured your right to do so over the last nearly-hundred years or more? The vast armies of New Zealand? Perhaps not.
Imagine the world overrun by the despots and would-be true totalitarians of the 20th century. Feel pretty good about the way things turned out? I do. Thank the good ole USA.
As for the current situation: President Bush is doing an excellent job. He is being a LEADER. Perhaps NZ has a difficult time understanding this as you have never led anything...(not mentioning anything you might have done to aborigones in your country, of course...below the belt).
And Chirac, France, terrorism? They struck a ship dedicated to international terrorism. If you don't understand that Greenpeace is a terrorist organization please give me a break. I have seen films of Greenpeace ramming ships, endangering human lives to protect whales, so much for diplomacy. The French action was benign and fully justified (merely sinking a ship without harm to humans) and any comparison to current events is beyond asinine.
Funny how you take the words of a couple of malcontent US liberals and turn them against us. There are plenty more worthy intellectuals on our shores who believe we SHOULD move boldly against terrorism... voices both conservative and liberal. So, perhaps we helped Bin-Laden during the USSR invasion. He has turned on us for the simple fact that we staged in Saudi Arabia during the Gulf War. Live and learn. As Americans we appreciate rebels when they are oppressed. We do not appreciate terrorists. He has shown his true colors and he will pay.
I could spend a week refuting your un-supportable drivel...but...I've got to go give blood. Please try to be useful yourself instead of being a nay-saying wanker.
So piss all you want. Does NZ even have a building tall enough that ANYONE would think worth knocking down?
I am origianlly from the US but when asked, I firmly declare myself a New Zealander as I both think and sound like one. I moved to NYC nearly 6 months ago and even though I often get frustrated by Americans mentality, I have started to feel patriotic ties again.
In saying that, I agree with most of what you said in your first article. In my humble opinion, I think that Bush as a president is horrible. Most people over here at the moment are blood thirsty - they want revenge - to claim as many, if not more, innocent lives as they have. Whoever 'they' may be. And it seems as though Bush is willing to give that to them.
Some of them even decided who 'they' were before it was confimed. They started to attack middle eastern people in deli's and on the streets. People who look middle eastern but who have in fact been born and bred as americans. On wednesday evening, after a long day at work I found myself looking at a middle eastern person and starting to feel angry at them. As soon as I caught myself I was ashamed. I knew that it was in no way that persons fault but you start to get brainwashed by all the crap that is following across TV screens 24/7.
I think Bush is taking on a kill first think later approach to this. When it comes down to the people itself - most say that it would be embarrassing to not go to war - it's a pride thing. How can a country that has always appeared to be so powerful not retaliate? I think it is ignorance.
This is just my opinion and it could be wrong but I am trying to sort out how I feel about what is surrounding me and it is all coming out jumbled.
I am a NZ'er. I was in New York when the world trade center was destroyed. I saw one tower standing and was as horrified as I am convinced you were at this act of terror.
That night I listened to president Bush's speach and the next day I read some articles in the NY papers (unfortunately I didn't save them).
The words that I heard and read have scared me more than I can say. It is as if someone was yelling WWIII, WWIII, WWIII in my ear.
I am currently living in Dublin, where we participated in a national day of mourning on Friday. Virtually all businesses were closed, all day. You couldn't even buy a pint of milk. As far as I'm aware this unprecedented national holiday was a unique reaction to Tuesday's events. In saying that, I guess Ireland has a unique relationship with the US. It appeared to have been a wholly worthwhile exercise that was carried out without complaint by businesses.
I felt that your column was fine and spoke common sense that I assumed a lot of people would already feel. Upon a second reading I realised that it did indeed progress past the 'condolences' stage a bit quickly. Well done for rectifying this.
I was mainly wanting to comment on New Zealand's lucky position during this crisis.
Does New Zealand realise the luxurious position it is in? Even on the basic level of time differences it was spared so much of Tuesday's trauma.
While New Zealand slept, some people over here were fully freaking out. There were emails from friends getting evacuated from buildings in London while the hysteria grew on TV. New Zealanders asleep in bed didn't have to endure the total confusion and scare stories emerging as it all unfolded. At one stage it was sounding like half a dozen major US sites had been bombed/hit and that London was next.
I know people living in New Zealand would have been deeply shocked and hugely upset when they did wake up to the news. I just wanted to point out that they were lucky enough to avoid that other dimension of fear, as the drama took place live, in front of our eyes.
I think it has made a few people on this side of the world think about their priorities (not before time for some). We all know the many advantages that New Zealand enjoys and acknowledge how it will no doubt continue to be a 'safer' place than many, in certain respects.
There are already stories of friends cutting their 'OEs' short to head home. In a perverted way, maybe this will help placate the semi-maniacal Brain Drain fretters. It might speed up the homecoming process that already exists for most people over here.
I have many friends in the USA, all via the internet having never been there, and NONE of them can understand or want to believe that there is any ill-feeling towards them in the rest of the world.Each evening since the devastating events of last week I have had to 'bite my tongue' for fear of telling it how it is - or at least how I perceive it to be.
How does one explain that there is little difference in who is baying for blood in times of crisis - or cheering on the troops when they have the upper hand as the end result is the same - blood will flow?
Many years ago, they bayed for Castro's blood, later Gadaffi, then Sadam Hussein, all still in power, all now forgotten in the face of this latest threat. Only one person of the many I 'spoke' to knew of the continuing sanctions and air strikes in the middle east. Nobody believed that another US spyplane was shot down - most didn't know they were even there. Even worse, nobody in the northern States knew that Florida was in the grip of a massive tropical storm.
Your comments on the NYC/Washington attacks were spot on - ignore the flames you've received and keep up the insightful commentary.
I enjoyed my time in Berkeley - as one of your correspondents said, it's one of the few places where you can find Americans that openly discuss the faults of their government.
It is a country of contradictions: immense wealth and grinding poverty, the home of democracy yet <50% of people vote and those votes aren't properly counted, the land of the free that wants the right to dominate any and every country that disagrees with its opinions.
Many Americans have very little knowledge of the world outside the USA. It is this ignorance which breeds the fear and hatred that is being expressed now. And those individuals that disagree with the prevailing hatred will not be heard because the media prefer to talk up patriotism, anger and violence - these make for better ratings than a reasoned and objective debate.
I cried when I heard the news of the attacks and my heart goes out to the people who have lost loved ones in these terrible events. I still haven't heard from some of the people I know over there and am afraid that someone I know and love has been hurt. But more violence will not bring back the dead, it will only hurt more innocents.
The people of the US have a right to be angry and to grieve for their loss but they do not have the right to create more misery and hurt in their desire for revenge.
I hope that this attack will be the catalyst for a new effort towards peace and tolerance in all countries. I fear it will provide an opportunity for more hatred, bigotry and violence.
I don't know of much about terrorism here as I am not quite old enough. The things I have seen though have been very horrific from building bombing to school shootings. My heart goes out to the strong people but it is hard to be strong under the circumstances. I do not think that military strikes from any nation will be the best way to deal with the current situation but I dislike any sort of violence.
I am not afraid of what President Bush will do, I think he is being quite patient at the moment. It is hard to say what he will do as soon as he gets all of his plans together.
I think that getting even with innocent people is a sick way of thinking. The most horrific part that, I can not get out of my mind is the people on the planes, I am sure if they were asked if they had a choice they would not have wanted to be used as a weapon to hurt/kill more people.
These hate crimes and taking the lives of these innocent people just for being a certain race or religion is just a sad thing all the way around. I person shouldn't be judged by any of that. They can't all be terrorist because they are the same race and religion, I am sure some of them are lovely people. I wonder what makes these people think they are both judge and jury to end the lives of others.
After all is said and done they (being Indian, Muslim, Arab. and or Islamic) are the people that will suffer the aftermath of the whole ordeal. Those people have done nothing but try to belong. These are hard working people mostly running their own businesses, and children going to school that have been granted citizenship by the US to live here.
As a former left as they come couch potato ... I think everything needs left rethought except for the OBSCENE war on Vietnam. Which was and ever will be.
It's now a question of how these right wingers will wage war when the analogy is Pearl Harbor, not Tonkin Gulf. (My Congresswomen Barbara Lee is a left wing twistee and thinks we should think instead of acting - she was the one vote against war. But then hell man I live in the Bay Area, what'd you expect? My Humanist group couldn't have been more out of touch with material reality than last Sunday, but then we are generally known as dare I say a home base for leftists (with whom we share use of our hall.)
Our local radio KPFA is busy being left ambivalent/concentrating on the outrage Arab Americans are now enduring (scattered attacks on people with turbans ...) and tonight the major networks have "finally" come around to that issue.
But I want to note the remark of one your correspondents that "The US has shown no interest in the concerns of dispossessed Palestinians." Right on. The Arab League has insisted that they be stuck in refugee camps Lo! these many decades. Jordan is an exception, I think, and some Palestinians have been lucky enough to escape to America, where they rapidly become citizens. But the majority are stuck in countries which will not grant them citizenship, and I think we ought to lean on the Arab League and have that position reversed and give them money to help integrate the refugees. All this is primarily a matter of straightening out their heads, so we can all move on.
Naturally there are other lunkheads stuck in a time warp.Michael Lerner, publisher of Tikkun Magazine, who lives here in the Bay Area, just quit being publisher. Why? Right wing Israeli lovers have been putting out murderous sounds about him and put his address/map and directions/on the web. Hey, what for? Gosh he wants to put the Israel/Palestine dividing line a little to the left of right, or something.
I'm a kiwi living in Washington and I welcomed your first piece and the follow-ups (and, indeed, all those that preceded them). Keep them coming.
When I had read it, I immediately forwarded it to my Canadian wife, but with what appears, judging by the reaction you have received, an important disclaimer -- that I couldn't think of an American I could forward it to. In the couple of days since, we've thought of a few, but not many. As one of my friends said, she's open to hearing these points (has in fact expressed them in the past), just not right now. God knows they need a dose of sanity here right now, as the Bushies and the media drum up a new Crusade.
It's true, as one of your readers wrote, that NPR has provided some balanced reporting. But the ranters don't listen to NPR. They watch things like the 800 Club (you must by now be aware of Jerry Falwell's appearance with Pat Robertson -- and people criticise you for insensitivity?), Fox News Network and the local news I watched in horrified amazement on Sunday night, which featured numerous stories of "the nation" coming together to pray (ignoring the fact that the Muslim and Jewish parts of "the nation" came together to pray on Friday and Saturday) and, most terrifying, a piece that I think was meant to discourage hate crimes against Arabs, which pointed out that one of those targeted was in fact a Sikh, who you can "distinguish by their turbans and long beards", and "who have no connection with terrorism". Unlike Muslims, presumably.
I lived in NY until a year ago, and have a huge number of family and friends there, and was separated from my wife and two-year old son (who were both at the Smithsonian, in between the Pentagon and the White House) for about six hours on Tuesday because of traffic around DC. I still haven't heard from some of my friends, but so far I have been lucky -- I haven't known well anyone who is confirmed or presumed dead.
I'm also a permanent resident of the US and therefore eligible for the draft. I'm not interested in taking part in a war that will only serve, as you and others have pointed out, to multiply the number of victims and potential perpetrators of violence. Of course, a military effort could be tied to foreign and economic policy initiatives that address the reasons some people hate America, but I'm not optimistic.
There have been many inspirational stories of sacrifice, community and compassion in the past week, especially in New York, which has demonstrated why it is the world's greatest city.
But this week has also demonstrated why so many people, "freaks" as one of your readers put it, head for NY from other parts of the US as well as from the rest of the world. Ignorant, violent jingoism is the terrifying flip side of America's trumpeted patriotism (of all nationalisms, Arab included?). I know it's meant to reassure us that the President says Osama Bin Laden is wanted "dead or alive". Frankly, it just scares the shit out of me.
Thank you for your emails. I moved to San Francisco six months ago and up until Tuesday I had not found America to be a foreign place. Much of what I saw around me looked familiar, largely due to American movies and television. Today I find myself very much a stranger in a strange land.
It is the Flags that upset me the most. Everywhere I go there are flags. Americans take huge comfort from these, and what they stand for. As I talk to my co-workers and American friends I have been amazed to learn that they consider America's actions overseas to be predominately good and just. Most are bewildered that someone could hate America enough to bring down the World Trade Centers. Up until Friday I held back my comments. Our firm lost five people on the planes bound for the west coast and pointing some of the more damning aspects of American foreign policy seemed inappropriatete.
So it was on Friday in a bar with some Americans that I answered the question that I had heard dozens of times, "Why did they do this"? My comments were largely in the same vein as yours and it would be fair to say that the discussion did not go well.
I'm a NZer living in the US. And while I do not and never will condone what has happened, my blood pressure has been rising over the past week at the refusal of the mainstream media here to discuss the issue of why this happenned, and at the consistent portrayal of the US as pure good and anyone who opposes them as pure evil. (A child on the ABC children's special asked "Why have these people done this to us? We've never done anything bad to anyone, ever." No-one answered her.)
And when I do remark on this, right here in the land of free speech, I get comments back that make me decide that the best course is to just shut my mouth and keep it closed.
Interesting article. I think you could learn more from your ten year old about compassion and when to keep your opinions to yourself. I find your facts not fully accurate. Was that intentional?
There are some of us here who do hope we can convince our leaders that we want a response that goes after specific individuals rather than matching the innocent loss of life we have just seen in our own home.
Make no mistake I want a response but I want the time taken to find those responsible.
I too am concerned about a loss of liberties in the name of a squeaky clean America. It does not surprise me at all that Mr. Barlow has spoken up on behalf of our liberties.
Keep right on speaking your mind. It won't always make us feel good, and it won't always be right, but I imagine your thoughts and words will always be worth considering. That right of you to speak your mind is what I would be willing to die for.
I'd like to add my voice to those thanking you for injecting a note of sanity into the debate. I'm not surprised by the reactions of many Americans to your piece though. I've noticed that large number of them confuse "America is not 100% right" with "America is 100% not right".
I did get a surprisingly negative response to your initial article from someone I would consider to be an 'enlightened' American, however, the shock for once as being seen as not just the perpetrator but also the under-dog does not sit well with the American ethos, something I feel they may have to learn to live with.
Having lived in London all my life and been constantly vulnerable to terrorist attacks we maybe can deal with the horror a little better, but as you said it's not to tally up the deaths, a horror's still a horror.
most of the world media is willingly and enthusiastically gunning for World War III - those with dissenting views and more accurate memories need to speak out. if we do not see this attack in the context which it so painfully lies, then we learn nothing. and this is what we must do, to both move on and to be without the violence we all dread.
I've had similar arguments with american friends here in japan. its very painful for them when i suggest that this is exactly the same as iraq, or vietnam or a dozen other conflicts. they say - this is not the time to be accusing us of past grievances. but dead people are dead people and i fear that we will see many more as america inevitably moves to retaliate.
now is the time to reach people and offer them the real view that they will not hear from most of the media. if its hard to swallow then its hitting home, please - keep it up.
I am a New Zealander living in Tokyo. Two of my workmates are American and three others Canadian. I think your piece on Friday was a pretty reasonable and responsible effort and deserves some praise. It wasn't perfect, but even now, almost six days later, a lot of people everywhere (including me) are walking around with delayed shock, unable to fathom the what has happened. People deal with horrific events in different ways.
I think everyone feels for the victims of this terrible crime. Thoughts go to their families and friends. But what disturbed me almost as much as the violence already perpetrated is the (almost entire) lack of any attempt by the mainstream media in the U.S., Japan and NZ to put this horror into some sort of context.
Nearly everything has been "who did this?" and "we'll hunt down the evil sub-humans that planned this and obliterate them." The one exception I have seen has been the Independent in the UK, which has provided excellent coverage and thought-provoking pieces from people such as Robert Fisk.
Also, I cannot tell you how relieved I was on Friday when I read a piece from the Washington Post that appeared in the Japan Times. It was the first thing I'd seen written or broadcast by an American that actually stopped to think. It was written by Henry Allen and headlined "A message of hate the 'empire' should heed." Apparently, the original was titled "A message in the smoke." It can be found at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A13744-2001Sep11.html
I also found an indignant letter to the editor in responsehttp://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A34426-2001Sep14.html so don?t feel bad about some negative reaction to your pieces. In fact it was particularly interesting to see how confused and hypocritical several of the responses deriding you were:
"How can you even attempt to excuse the in-excusable, or explain the un-explainable." Ridiculous. Where did you try to excuse ANYTHING?
"Another alternative would have been to filter your addresses to assure that your diatribe wouldn't reach subscribers in the United States." Hey, freedom-loving Americans, the First Ammendment and all that, superb.
"How dare you accuse the United States of "playing dirty" by equating an accidental downing of an aircraft by the United States with a deliberate murderous attack on thousands of innocent people?" Never heard that argument when the Soviets downed that KAL 747.
"How dare you accuse, proclaim, criticize, opine? How dare you, whoever you are and whatever your qualifications are, even PRESUME to speak on these matters at all?" Absolutely, shut your mouth or we?ll deal to you, in the name of freedom, of course.
"Nowhere in the Hard News piece is there any genuine expression of condolences." Better learn to read, mate.
By the way, I was in the middle of some of the remotest mountains in Nagano at a music festival when, thanks to Scoop and Google, I read Hard News on my i-mode phone (just before the battery ran out).
I feel much sadness for the families of the victims. Like you, I have children, and though we do not normally have the television on while our three-year-old is awake, I watched a few minutes of the NHK news on Wednesday night, and the sight of weeping and blood splattered people was obviously too much to hoist on such a young mind.
But every time I see someone say "stop trying to justify this terror, think of the innocent victims" I think of tens-of-thousands of Iraqi babies dying every year, and ask myself are those NYC innocent lives worth more than Iraqi or Lebanese or Afghani innocent lives?
The feeling of helplessness is strong. But humility and goodwill are things we can all communicate if we try.
Someone said the first casualty of war is freedom of speech, so I guess the negative reaction, although depressing, is not surprising.
I have been getting Hard News for many years, both overseas, working in various countries for a US company, and more recently here -- a saner voice I have not heard in this part of the world, especially given the pap Granny Herald and its long line of quasi imitators palm off on this unsuspecting public.
Hard News this week was excellent because all this stupid rage and anger at some shadowy Afghan-backed (perhaps...) man who was originally a pawn in America's attempts to undermine the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan is just yet another example of how US foreign policy has never, ever got it right. Even before Castro one would have thought that someone in the State Department would have got the message.
The only winner on Tuesday was Israel -- no hands tied now as they re-colonise the West Bank at will -- maybe the FBI should be having a very close look at Mossad's activities over the last few months -- I'm sure the conspiracy theorists could have a field day following that lead.
As far as terrorism is concerned where was our ally, the United States, when the Rainbow Warrior connection was proved? Where were the sanctions against the importation of French goods or exports to France, at the very least. Which is what we will be expected to do at some stage. At the expense of another 5,000 Iraqi/Afghan children a month.
It is a sad, sad thing that happened in New York -- I had a friend that worked in that building -- but if his death should lead to even more senseless deaths in revenge attacks, then indeed America can truly be called the Great Satan.
When the pens fall silent, humanity is not far behind.
Big ups on your recent Hard News ("Making Sense of it all") and subsequent follow ups. As a kiwi living here in the US, I find the mainstream news media here so one-sided so as to think it might be state monitored and controlled.
Free speech has been an early casualty of the tragedy - there are reports of death threats against the California democrat who was the lone nay vote on authorising the use of force. Literally minutes ago there was a news item highlighting threats made to the ABC network and "Politically Incorrect" host Bill Maher, for daring to uphold free speech in last night's show.
I got your HARDNEWS piece, and follow-up emails from a friend and what was written was amazing, crazy, stupid and saddening at the same time. I, of course, am very aware of the dichotomy and agree with your commentary on America.
Lisa and I find ourselves yelling at the TV when Bush and other TV anchor fuckwits talk the talk (just buying themselves - and us- a load more shit) but I also have this soft, terrible, sad spot for NYC and the Towers (as crazy as that sounds), and that's because I lived there for 8 years. It's a strange thing Russ, but those building, those people, were my people and that is almost impossible explain and I suspect understand. The Towers were part of the landscape, the environment, the tacticity of the culture that lives there. It is an environmental disaster, and this doesn't even begin to account for the people inside.
While I think your piece was important, and on the money, I think those 'inside America' (and I know you do too) feel something more, cos I can't shake that hole in my stomach seeing that hole in the skyline. I find people here in NZ, while shocked at the event itself, don't go any further than that. Which is good because that is really the important issue.
But as a (kinda) New Yorker, the attack on the city is something in itself that can't be understood off the island (or surrounding boroughs). A close friend of mine called from NY the other night and she said "we don't know which way is south anymore." I thought this summed it up for me.
But I know, remember cuba; el salvador; hoduras; nicuragua; chile; iran; iraq; haiti; germany; panama; mexico; to name but a few. Lets hope the Americans start looking at the strings that are attached to their freedom from now on. (By the way, that freedom doesn't really apply to black americans, but I'll leave that for now).
As for the future, this is a new world, and I know that i can't think of anyone else I wouldn't want in the whitehouse right now. Lets hope you and I can bring up our kids in a world that worth growing up in. I just heard on NPR that some people are filing lawsuits against Osma bin Laden. Great stuff!Russell Brown firstname.lastname@example.org
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