BEYOND SEPTEMBER 11: An Anthology of Dissent

The 11th of September: A date indelibly etched on the mind of the world. It will not be forgotten nor will it be allowed to be forgotten. Everyone remembers what may were doing on die day the news reached them. It eclipsed all the memorable dates mat went before: J.EK.’s assassination, Bloody Sunday, Hiroshima . . .

But I would like to ask a question regarding another date in another month of that same year. Where were you on the 6th of October 2001? What were you doing at around 6pm that day? I doubt many people could recollect; even if pushed. I was in my house in a small town in Ireland when news that America and the U.K. had launched a battery of cruise missiles at targets in Afghanistan first broke. It was inevitable soon after the urn of September that the people of Afghanistan were going to be on the receiving end of an atrocious and appalling punishment from warmongers on Capitol Hill for something it had little connection with. I however, it still shocked me that the leaders of the so called “free world” and “flag bearers for justice and civilization” had now begun to pummel one of the world’s poorest and most destitute countries. 1 despaired at die thought of an already starving people being subjected to a Cambodia-style bombardment.

“It is dangerous to be right when the government is wrong” Voltaire said and in his statement is the whole ethos of this book. The dissenting voices during the military build up and attack on Afghanistan were the only dung that kept up my hope in humanity as the days passed and we were subjected to the misguided and misguiding rhetoric of patriotism and revenge peddled by the gutter press to the consuming masses.

In this book die editor Phil Scraton has gathered togetiier a diverse range of essays and articles written to counter the Auffand nonsense published by the Bush/ Blair union. The autiiors range from lawyers and journalists to academics and antiracist activists all united in uieir disgust and dismay at the actions carried out by that coalition in the name of us in the west. The writers include Noam Chomsk, John Pilger, Robert Fisk and many other notables in the fields of journalism, politics academic analysis and beyond.

Most of the essays were filled with factual details that leave the reader in no doubt about the gaping cracks in die argument for “the war on terror”; whiles others were more personal accounts of tiioughts and emotions. Although most of the articles came from a different perspective there were a few overlaps in the way of content. Something that would be hard to avoid on such a singular topic.

One of the striking things about this book is its detail into the background of terrorism ; citing the reasons for the turmoil in the world and ascribing motives without excuse or justification. The authors could see through the oft-repeated stereotypes like “Muslims envy our freedom” or “they just want to destroy our way of life”. Some of the parallels that were drawn by a few of the authors were rather surprising. In two articles , comparisons are drawn between the situation at hand and the directions taken previously by the U.K. in its war on terror in Northern Ireland. The fact that the U.K. failed in its war in Northern Ireland didn’t deter the U.S. from citing Britain’s experience in counter terrorism as one of the reason for their close knit ties.

John Pilger draws from his experience as a reporter in the Vietnam War to show the type of warfare that me U.S. forces are unfortunately best at i.e. slaughtering civilians from the sky.

The editor provides a very thorough overview, bringing forth a collection of some of the best works of dissent from the period in question. I did find a few of the works decidedly academic – not meant as criticism but as proof of its seriousness. It goes beyond merely airy liberal thoughts on what a Utopian society should be. It is in parts a litany of charges against the powers that be for waging this war against popular moral opinion. Some of the sentiments echoed in this book will contribute immensely to an understanding of what lies before us in the Iraq situation and provide food for thought in any future discussions regarding true democracy and the will of the people in the face of corporate greed.

I recommend this book to anyone with a desire to understand the art and language of dissent, although it is not a book that will grab you and have you reading to the early hours. It wasn’t intended to. I found tittle or no humour in it Even a Michael Moore or Rory Bremner wouldn’t find much humour in the humiliation of an impoverished country at the hands of neo-imperialist forces.

Robert Fisk’s article, which details his beating at the hands of an angry mob of Afghanis, is one of the finest articles I have read. Eloquently and movingly depicting a situation in which he became the victim while understanding the reasons for the violence, he goes on to publish his humiliation so that truth would not be hijacked then turned to a reason for further dehumanising the Afghan people.

This book is a profound analysis of the most important event in our recent history.

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    A piece previously published in the print issue of Islamica Magazine between 2003-2009. The following has been an effort to digitize and archive as a free service. Author citations can be found at as we continue to work on improving the digital archives here.

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