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Raffique Shah


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Selective sympathy for victims of terrorism

September 17, 2006
By Raffique Shah

Whatever the facts or fantasies or conspiracy theories about the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon back in 2001, what is undeniable is that thousands of innocent people died. I emphasise this because there are many people worldwide who are convinced it was not Al Qaeda operatives who pulled off that spectacular on 9/11. There are too many discrepancies in what we saw, and more in what we did not see. That Osama bin Laden and his associates claimed responsibility for the carnage does not necessarily mean they did it. Such organisations are known for laying claim to acts that propel them to the limelight only for the sake of publicity, and to look good in the eyes of their supporters.

I leave my mind open as to who "dunnit", since I, too, find the ease with which two-by-two terrorists were able to mount multiple attacks on the most powerful and highly-protected nation on earth incredible. What remains fact is that many innocent people paid with their lives because the perpetrators wanted to make their point. It does not matter who the victims were; one has to be sub-human not to feel for them, to sympathise with their loved ones who are left behind to mourn their loss. I could not help, though, blanking from my mind the numerous memorial services held and even from television stations that enjoyed almost necrophilic coverage of the anniversary of the carnage, feasting on the departed.

What I find pertinent is the selective sympathy of those who gathered in churches and at "ground zero" to shed tears for the victims. In Port of Spain, hundreds, including Prime Minister Patrick Manning and US Ambassador Roy Austin, gathered at the cathedral. I saw one UNDP woman weeping uncontrollably as she mourned the victims. And I really wished I had the gumption to walk up to these people and ask them a few questions.

Firstly, I'd ask how many of them shed tears for the tens of thousands of people, mostly women and children, who are being held in a virtual prison in the Gaza, denied electricity, water, food and other essentials? I'd further ask if they ever think of the thousands of children who have died at the hands of the Zionists over the past however many years, but who remain not even statistics, not even memories.

I'd remind Austin and Manning that following America's initial misadventure in Iraq, some 50,000-plus Iraqi children died slow, painful deaths occasioned by cancer.

This was brought on by the volume of uranium-coated missiles and bullets fired into Iraq in the most intense bombing campaign since the Vietnam War. I won't bother to add to this list the huge number of ordinary Iraqis who have been killed or maimed following the 2002 invasion, which, it's now established, was based on wholesale lies peddled to the world by George Bush and his then minion, Colin Powell. Today, thanks to these terrorists-in-power, hundreds of Iraqis die every week, the country is a total wreck, with a once-happy people living in a state of perpetual torture.

Madame UNDP, do you cry for these poor, innocent people in your private moments? Do you ever think of them? Or is it that you, like so many others around this unjust world, see only Americans as human beings, all others as sub-humans? I ask my Prime Minister: will you, Sir, attend a service to mourn the massive loss of lives in Iraq? Will you speak out on the injustices meted out to those people? Or are they, for you too, sub-human?

Then there was that most savage attack on Lebanon by Israel in which much of the country's infrastructure was destroyed mainly by bombs supplied by the US. Hundreds of people, again mainly women and children, were killed, and tens of thousands more maimed and dispossessed, when Israel rained bombs on Lebanon.

Today, mere weeks after the Israeli military put its tail between its legs and withdrew behind its border, a partly-defeated force, the pain it left behind in Lebanon remains as acute as ever. Children without limbs or eyesight, women crawling on stumps-do you cry for these people? Or are they, too, sub-humans in your eyes?

I can go on and on pointing to innocents other than the victims of 9/11 who are all but forgotten by those who were eager to shed copious tears for the victims of the WTC. The people of Darfur, black just like Madame UNDP, but furthest from her mind as she cries for the hapless in America. Afghanistan, where the only things that prosper under US occupation are poppies and opium, but where tens of thousands languish in squalor, thanks to Bush and Blair.

Cry, my not-so-beloved, for the rich and powerful. Then let your hearts turn to stone when it comes to the wretched of the earth.