Sunday, September 11, 2011

The America-Bashers' Use of Symbolism on September 11

As Le Monde Commemorates 911, Plantu is back in his usual style, with a full page inside Le Monde Magazine bringing back 10 years of cartoons that belittle the human toll; or that suggest that Uncle Sam deserved whatever it had coming; or that compare the 2011 attacks of September 11, 2001, to Pinochet's coup d'état in Chile on September 11, 1973.

(This causes him to make —intentionally? — a colossal whopper, saying that 3,000 people died on September 11, 2001, just as 3,000 people died on September 11, 1973; in reality, 3,000 lives were lost during Pinochet's 17 years in power (not one day but close to 6,000 days) — nothing to be proud of, for sure, but facts need to be gotten right and in addition, whatever the toll is, it needs to be compared to those of neighboring régimes, like the 20,000 dead in Fidel Castro's Cuba.)

So No Pasarán is looking back at 10 years' worth of posts (six or seven, really) as well and checking out what it has been saying on the subjects so dear to the hearts of leftists everywhere.

1) Let's first take a look at the "legend", according to which,
in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 the US enjoyed the heartfelt sympathy of the world, only to see this capital of goodwill frittered away by the successive faux pas of an inept and arrogant Bush administration and then definitively exhausted by the launching of an illegitimate war on Iraq in defiance of “world public opinion.”

The Legend of the Squandered Sympathy

(October 10, 2004)
John Rosenthal's Transatlantic Intelligencer article ought to be mandatory reading for anybody studying September 11 and anti-Americanism. In The Legend of the Squandered Sympathy, John Rosenthal notably mentions the cartoon that Plantu saw fit to reproduce on the weekend of the 10th anniversary.
Such was the tenor of Le Monde’s coverage, in effect, just one week after the attacks. The monotonous drone of denunciations continued as the prospect of a military strike against Afghanistan materialized in the weeks ahead, with distraught “New York Jews,” Pashtun warlords and the estranged son of the “O’Dea,” the archetypal all-American family, all chiming in to register their protest and all sounding surprisingly like “third-worldist” Parisian intellectuals – or even indeed like the publisher of Le Monde. (Among other things, the legend of the squandered sympathy occludes the fact that even while a substantial majority of Europeans polled, including in France and Germany, showed spontaneous understanding for American military actions in Afghanistan, large swaths of Europe’s socialist and social-democratic intelligentsia opposed any American military response to the 9/11 attacks whatsoever.) The “boomerang” image went on to become the favored heuristic device of Le Monde and its affiliated publications in their treatment of 9/11. Thus the first issue of the monthly Monde Diplomatique to appear following the events bore the thematic headline “Boomerang Effect” [it also has an article by Maureen Dowd]. In a pictorial variation on the same theme, a special insert in Le Monde itself featured a cartoon depicting a little wind-up Taliban doll, “Made in USA” emblazoned across its back, carrying red, white and blue explosives and circling back toward Uncle Sam.
2) Now let's take a look at the state of democracy and human rights in Chile in 1973 by looking at the (very real) similarities between the overthrow of Manuel Zelaya and that of Salvador Allende

Notice the Similarities with That Other "Coup", the One That Overthrew Leftist Saint© and Martyr™ Salvador Allende?

(July 07, 2009)

In Latin America, José Piñera, armed with evidence including "the momentous Agreement of 23 August 1973 … widely unknown outside Chile", opines that because
President Allende became a tyrant when he broke his solemn oath to respect the Constitution and the Chilean laws [and because] his government [had] fomented the creation of armed militias … the origin of the Pinochet government is that of any revolutionary one, in which only the use of force was left in order to remove a tyrant [and to] "put immediate end" to these constitutional violations . It must be agreed that this was, in fact, an unequivocal call to remove by force the President who had initiated the use of force with the purpose of imposing a communist dictatorship.

…the truth demands recognition that former President Pinochet led a legitimate rebellion against tyranny and that the origin of Chile's civil war --and its victims-- lies with former President Allende and his marxist Socialist party. … The Economist said it clearly at the time: "The temporary death of democracy in Chile will be regrettable, but the blame lies clearly with Dr. Allende and those of his followers who persistently overrode the Constitution" (September 15, 1973).

Resistance to tyrants is obedience to God

Read also about Allende's purported suicide

And check out Romanticists Overlook Allende's Many Faults: Senator Ricardo Núñez Muñoz added in a NYT interview (emphasis mine) that
It’s wrong to say that the CIA, the armed forces, and the bourgeoisie alone brought down the Allende government. It’s obvious we need to admit we made critical economical and political errors that were as decisive if not more decisive
No less a figure than the president of the Partido Socialista, Núñez went on to conclude that
we know another Allende-like experiment would only be a collossal failure.
(Then again, that NYT report was back in 2001…)

3) Finally, we have this for Plantu:

The America-Bashers' Use of Symbolism on September 11

(September 12, 2005)
When confronted with the tragedy that occurred on September 11, 2001, it has become a tradition for some to recall another event that occurred on another September 11.

On that date, in 1973, General Pinochet overthrew Chile's President Allende.

This is supposed to make us think. Hard.

The problem with this, of course, is that there have occurred 500 September 11s in the past 500 years (to take the first round number that came to my mind), with varying occurrences on various continents, in various countries, in various regions, in various cities, in various neighborhoods, and in various personal homes around the world, and just about any one of those occurrences could have been picked to make a comparison with (and provide matter for reflection on, and some kind of metaphysical lesson for) September 11, 2001 (or September 11, 1973, for that matter).

As I have written elsewhere,

If looking down their noses, [America-bashers] ask "Do you know what other event occurred on September 11?", answer "Yes, a terrible tragedy." Pause while they nod approvingly, then add "George Washington lost the battle of Brandywine" (in 1777) or even "Brian De Palma was born on that date" (so was Ferdinand Marcos, by the way), although I'm not sure to what extent that counts as a tragedy. If they object that they are referring to something more recent and more tragic than that, agree and say "you must be talking of Hitler ordering reinforcements to Romania" (1940) or "FDR ordering any Axis ships in U.S. waters shot on sight" (1941) or even "wasn't it the first TV broadcast of a Miss America beauty contest?" (1954). How about, "that was the date (in 1962) that the Beatles recorded their first single at EMI Studios (you know, 'Love Love Me Do')".
This symbolism makes as much sense as noting with alarm that our 40th president sported three names with six letters each, supposedly marking the alleged number of the beast.

(If any association with September 11 should be made — with regards to the 2001 attacks, that is, not the 1973 coup — as several readers have pointed out to me, it would perhaps make more sense to call up the 1669 defeat of the Muslim armies besieging Vienna, bringing an end to the Ottoman advance into Europe.)

But what it all boils down to this: for symbolism to have any kind of meaning, it needs to stay close to its subject and, in my opinion, reflect on the better angels of our nature. What it should especially avoid is collective guilt, not least because that collective guilt is necessarily one-sided, i.e., used exclusively against Americans and their allies (or, historically, by any group against any group's alleged enemies).

For instance, it would probably not be too difficult to search through Chilean history and find some kind of tragedy (nation-wide or otherwise) on a September 11 that proved that the 1973 coup d'état was the Chileans' punishment for the earlier disaster (notwithstanding the fact that many believe that Pinochet's coup averted a far worse catastrophe for the country). In another example, which is actually far more coherent than simply noting a similarity of dates, many state that every setback by Bush or by a Bush ally amounts to (well-deserved) punishment for sending troops to Iraq, but because members of the Coalition of the Willing keep winning elections, this symbolism is discretely ignored. (I call this the wait, wait, wait syndrome.)

The use of symbolism says far more about those who wield it than about those the symbolism is meant to describe (and judge).

So, anyway: we know the date that Pinochet grabbed power in 1973.


But what was the date that he relinquished power?

What was the date in 1990 that Pinochet handed power back to a civilian government?

The answer is: March 11.

Now, we all remember what happened in Madrid on March 11, 2004, don't we?

So what is that supposed to mean? What is that supposed to symbolize?

Somehow, we are led to believe, the wholescale murder of 3,000 people in New York and Washington would not, or might not, have occurred had a strongman with no link to (and probably wholly unknown to) the perpetrators not grabbed power on that same date 28 years earlier.

What is the wholescale murder of 191 people in Madrid supposed to mean? That it would not have occurred had that same strongman not handed power back and had he remained in power 14 years earlier?

Your guess is as good as mine…


Le Monde's 911 Commemorations

• Looking Over TV Shows Inspired by 9-11, Le Monde Discovers (Surprise!) "a Culture of Fear"

• Hubert Védrine: Castigating Bush and the Neo-Cons, Former French Foreign Minister Says that the War on Terror Should Have Been Carried Out "With Discretion"

• André Glucksmann: Bin Laden Is Gone, Not The Strategy of Radical Hatred Without Quarter

The French Will Never Forget

The Legend of the Squandered Sympathy