Ten years after 9/11, what has happened to the world? Capitalism seems to be in meltdown but only as a theory. Otherwise, things go on much as they have done forever. Forever being however long the oldest among us can remember. How could we possibly imagine anything else? What did we expect? Or not us exactly - but America. We have aligned ourselves with America, it seems to be a place that might understand us, for we have had terrorism for quite a bit longer, courtesy of our Irish cousins. But then that wasn't proper terrorism, was it? It wasn't a strike at the land of the free. It was a campaign by the disaffected against their overlords, or it was certainly portrayed as such by the British press. But against Bin Laden's provocation the answer came from the throats of America, who disregarded the Geneva Convention, by which rules two World Wars had been fought, and used torture on its enemies. We - the British - were said to have acquiesced in the movement of victims to places where torture was carried out. But we don't get to know about that. It's too sensitive. It's MI5, or 6, or anyway, something like that.
The targets for America's response were people from Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, or born in Britain, even in America, but anyway, alienated from their country of birth. Muslim, anyway, that strange (to us) religion so much like Christianity, yet bent to such fearful and terrifying ends. Their crimes were unproven, overwhelmingly so in the case of those imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay. Some of those imprisoned will never be free, and will never stand trial either. But none of this, or very little, is addressed by the writers of this issue. Instead it obliquely tackles the subject through the experience of refugees, American soldiers, the story of a Tunisian man who, goaded beyond endurance after he refused to pay money to be allowed to sell vegetables on the street, burned himself to death. The story of Libya's graffiti artists, one of whom was shot, photographs from the Tunisian refugee camp (hardly any women are visible), some, from Nigeria, are double refugees who fled to Libya, and then to Tunisia. Bangladeshi's and Egyptians, Sudanese, Filipinos, Ghanians, all immigrant workers, are similarly represented in this camp.
It seems to me best that this subject, the world ten years on from 9/11, should not be graced by any sort of attempt at overarching explanations. The story is not over. The suffering goes on and looks likely to go on for more than just another ten years.
on 3 October 2011
This is an awesome collection. It reflects on the aftermath of 9/11 in the US, in the prime targets for revenge, Iraq and Afghanistan, and explores the Arab Spring, airline security and Somalia. Some stories are about US army veterans trying to reintegrate back home. Some regret having joined, others feel they cannot live in today's US, miss the old comradeship and want to return to battle.
War victims are also given space. Afghan warlords reacted quickly to US offers of $ 5.000 for any Taliban caught, condemning many innocent people to a long stay in Guantanamo after being tortured elsewhere. A Moroccan-born, UK-based cook, states his case after suffering 3 years of solitary confinement there. So does his lawyer, who explains his client is bi-polar and was temping in a Chelsea restaurant at the time of his alleged crimes in Afghanistan. But still, his client was caught in Afghanistan... Nuruddin Farah story is an extract from his new novel "Crossbones" in which a Minnesota-based Somali exile searches for his son. He fears he has joined the extremist Shabaab, in a Somalia the father has trouble understanding or surviving once he arrives.
Anthony Shadid provides a history of the now defunct Baghdad College, established in 1932 by US Jesuits, using its yearbooks and interviews with surviving staff and students as source material. Amazing piece of history.
Tahar Ben Jelloun portrays with great empathy the poor Tunisian fruit seller's state of mind before setting himself on fire, the event that sparked the Arab Spring, and pays respect to an unknown Egyptian, picked up because the police needed a quick confession for something. He died within hours. Two examples of callousness by Arab regimes' poorly-paid police forces.
Every report and story in this issue is deep, incisive and instructive. Buy it, borrow it, read it from start to finish.