Remembering 9/11 and Protest in Chicago 20 Years Later
After the the attacks on 9/11/01, the website commondreams began to publish articles by journalists speculating on what a catastrophe an invasion/war/occupation of Afghanistan would be. I remember reading a piece by Norm Chomsky warning specifically of possible famine. That precise calamity did not come to pass in the way in which it could have, but the journalists were correct in predicting war crimes and disaster. Having read these articles and understanding the US’s track record when it comes to invasion and occupation, I started attending antiwar meetings in Wicker Park, Chicago in the fall of 2001. There were a dozen to 20 people at weekly meetings, a couple hundred at a couple of citywide meetings I attended. A reporter from WBEZ (NPR) even showed up to write about what we were doing; she was cool, but was honest about how unpopular our position was. The Taliban of Afghanistan, after all, had given refuge to Bin Laden and he had orchestrated an act of mass murder from that country. I understood that — but again, knowing the track record of the US, I believed that invasion/war/occupation would make matters considerably worse.
There was a little bit of debate, quickly squelched by CNN/MSNBC/Fox News/The Bush Administration, which stated that the mass murder on 9/11 needed to be investigated and prosecuted as a criminal act carried out by an international gang, not as an act of war. An act of war by whom? The non-state actor, Al Queda — members of whom the CIA had recruited and trained in collaboration with the Pakistani government in the late 1970s as part of the US proxy war against the Soviets in Afghanistan? Our argument was: Find and prosecute the gang leaders and their foot soldiers. Period. Long term, we argued the US would need to pursue a radically different strategy in the Middle East to prevent further acts of terrorism.It was not to be. Among the many reasons for the rejection of that approach is the simple fact that such a strategy is infinitely less lucrative for military contractors.
As an artist, I led up organizing and hosted a benefit for anti-war causes at Center Portion in Logan Square in the fall of 2001. It featured poets and musicians performing pieces in opposition to the threat of the invasion of Afghanistan. It was a memorable evening, with flickers of hope and feelings of “I’m so glad I’m not the only one who is against this shit.” We filtered in and out of the gallery, sometimes gathering around the fire pit in the side yard with a drink. Beyond that, we published pieces and wrote to our congressional representatives. We held rallies. Our voices were heard and our opinions were known by the powerful. They were simply rejected out of hand. Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld had decided the absurdly named “War on Terror” must be launched. (They couldn’t call it the “War on Terrorism” because that would’ve been even more self-evidently absurd, so opted for a derivation).
All of this occurred before the cataclysm of an invasion/war/occupation of Iraq was even being floated. By then, in 2003, many more people were wise to the game and the protests against it were massive and persistent. The protests were not heeded. Hundreds of thousands to millions of people ended up dying, being chronically injured, turned into refugees, and traumatized — lives shattered, futures vanished — for what turned out to have been the most cynical of geo-political maneuverings.
As I remember the innocent people murdered in the Twin Towers, I also remember all of the murdered and maimed innocents who would follow them.
— DH, September 11, 2021