The single omnipresent historical reference in the American media immediately in the wake of September 11, 2001, was, of course, "Pearl Harbor" -- and those code words for it, "infamy" and "day of infamy," splashed in mile-high letters across the front pages of papers. What we had experienced, it was commonly said then, was "the Pearl Harbor of the 21st century." And with that image of the Japanese attack that began the Second World War for the United States went powerful, if only half-conscious, memories of how that war ended, of nuclear holocaust, and so the place where the World Trade Center towers went down was promptly dubbed "Ground Zero," previously a term reserved for the spot where an atomic blast took place.
Naturally, the idea that 9/11 was an "act of war," and that we were "at war," quickly and heavily promoted by the Bush administration, followed; and all of this would have been appropriate to a surprise attack by a nuclear-armed state, but not to an assault by 19 terrorists backed by a ragtag organization spread from Hamburg, Germany, to the backlands of Afghanistan. That the framework for taking in what had happened that day was so thoroughly askew mattered not a whit to most Americans at that time; and the rest, including the President's "Global War on Terror," came easily, if disastrously, in its wake. Now, "9/11" has become the "Pearl Harbor" of the twenty-first century, the antecedent and analogy of choice, and so, not surprisingly, it was on all but a few media lips, during the recent massacre and siege in Mumbai, India.
Arundhati Roy, the Indian activist and author of the prize-winning novel The God of Small Things, was one of the earliest, strongest, sanest voices on this planet of ours to take on George W. Bush and his Global War on Terror. "The freshest voice on Earth," I called her back in 2003. She was an inspiration. Now, she turns to the events in her own country, in Mumbai, and explains just why using 9/11 as the analogy of choice there, as we once used "Pearl Harbor" here, will lead in no less terrible directions.
The piece that follows was published by the superb magazine Outlook India, which is sharing it with TomDispatch.com. Tom
9 Is Not 11(And November Isn't September)
By Arundhati Roy
We've forfeited the rights to our own tragedies. As the carnage in Mumbai raged on, day after horrible day, our 24-hour news channels informed us that we were watching "India's 9/11." And like actors in a Bollywood rip-off of an old Hollywood film, we're expected to play our parts and say our lines, even though we know it's all been said and done before.( Collapse )