May 23, 2003
Latest In-Depth Report From The Front
By Congressman Paul Findley
CLOVIS -- Digging
continues for the fallen at Ground Zero and in the gaping hole in
the Pentagon. When the human remains are sorted out, burial rites
As the vast and varied services occur,
our nation and much of the world will remain in mourning. At this
sad, somber and fearsome moment in our national life, binding up
the nation’s wounds must come first, but thanks to television, other
themes also get attention.
One broadcast image combines both terrorism
and religion. In it, an airliner, transformed into a giant guided
missile, pierces the upper part of a World Trade Center tower.
As it emits a fireball of bright orange,
a horrified woman looking up at the burst from street level shouts
the supplication, “Oh, my God. Oh, my God.”
Wickedness and prayer are united in this
taped image, an image that will likely survive as long as America
itself. Other images will also survive. For me, two are indelible.
One shows Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, a man I have known for
23 years, expressing in halting English his sorrow at the bombings
before giving blood to help meet America’s emergency demands.
The other televised image shows a group of Palestinian
men and women, reacting joyfully to news of the bombings. This glimpse,
I learned later, is not representative of the Palestinians and Muslims
whose human rights I have long sought to advance. But I know the
image will not soon be forgotten. In our country, passions are riding
high. War drums are beating.
A large majority of Americans urge military
reprisal. We seem braced for major changes in our national life.
Who can blame those who react with fury?
The lives of nearly 7,000 innocent civilians
have been snuffed out. It is a time for both fury and grief. All
of us have wiped away tears as we watch distraught men, women and
children, many displaying photographs, search through rubble and
among rescue workers for any hint that lost loved ones may still
For others, this is a time of anxiety.
On my computer screen e-mail messages keep popping up from acquaintances
throughout America, the Middle East and beyond, even China.
Many wonder if other acts of terrorism
will soon follow. Muslims are concerned, because there is already
a vicious and violent anti-Islamic tide. In a suburb of Washington,
DC, angry citizens tear headscarves from Muslim women. In Chicago,
police stop an angry mob threatening a mosque.
In Texas, bullets are fired at a Muslim
center. Muslims go into hiding. Many Americans, misinformed about
the Muslim faith, mistakenly accept the bombings as terrorism condoned
by Islam. Long before the hijackers struck, most Americans already
linked Islam with terrorism, unaware that Islam considers both suicide
and the injury or killing of innocent people as forms of murder.
If the hijackers were professed Muslims, they grossly violated the
rules of their religion.
From Khalaf Al-Habtoor, a United Arab Emirates
businessman and longtime friend, comes this plea: “I know at times
like these that everyone is anxious to apportion blame and punish
those who commit atrocity. As yet no one knows who committed this
If it does turn out to have been organized
by someone of my faith, I ask you not to tar all those who follow
Islam with the brush of fanaticism and hate; all religions have
This is also a time for reflection. Today’s
America is not as beloved as yesterday’s. Have we pondered why?
Over recent years, have we listened beyond our borders for cries
of pain and anguish? Have we been outraged and bestirred to action
when terrible crimes occur against defenseless human beings in foreign
Are we attuned to such suffering today?
The past week’s horror calls to mind other enormous human tragedies
in which American involvement has been prominent.
Well known in America is our decade long,
intermittent air bombardment of Iraq, the major element in the economic
sanctions that are widely believed to have caused the death of 500,000
children, all Arab, mostly Muslim.
Even the sharpest Iraqi-American critics
of Saddam Hussain plead for an end to the air operations. How high
would our fury rise if air strikes caused our children to die from
want of medicine and nutrition?
Of other major, controversial U.S. involvements,
the American people seem to know little or nothing. A few years
ago, tanks and artillery from America—yes, gifts from America—swept
through southern Lebanon. Civilians fled northward in panic, some
of them to an enclosure at Qana, believed to be a U.N.-sanctioned
place of safety, clearly marked as such on current maps.
But missiles and artillery shells, also
gifts from America, hit the encampment, killing nearly 200 women,
children and elderly men.
There were cries of anguish, of course,
but the cries were not heard by a sorrowing television audience
in America. Qana’s Ground Zero was a sea of torn bodies and blood.
The outside world hardly noticed. Still
earlier, in 1982, fighter bombers and missiles from America turned
much of Beirut and its suburbs into rubble mixed with torn human
According to Robert Fisk, the respected
correspondent of the London Independent, who has long resided in
Beirut, 17,500 innocent civilians perished in the onslaught. Of
course, some say, they were “ just Arabs.” If the hijackers were
professed Muslims, they grossly violated the rules of their religion.
In Beirut at the time, Ground Zero consisted
of most of the city, not just a few blocks. This human agony got
little attention beyond the Arab world, least of all in America.
To this day, most Americans do not know about
America’s role in the terrorism that engulfed Beirut civilians.
No television cameras roamed through the rubble, no microphones
relayed anguished cries to the outside world.
Americans did not pull the triggers, launch
the missiles, or guide the fighter-bombers, but, through their government
in Washington, they supplied the deadly devices and paid little
attention to how they were used.
In stark testimony of American indifference,
the Beirut dead had hardly been buried before the U.S. Congress
sent another gift, a multimillion dollar grant that enabled the
warriors to re-supply. I know. I was a Member of Congress. The grieving
people of Lebanon—the entire Arab world—knew about America’s role.
America provided the key support to the assault forces.
When Paul “Pete” McCloskey, my colleague
from California, visited the devastation after an earlier assault
in Beirut, outraged Lebanese civilians pointed to shell-casings
marked made-in-America and screamed at McCloskey, “Why are you Americans
doing this to us?”
In the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem,
tanks, guns, helicopters, bullets, bombs and bulldozers—all U.S.-donated—have
been used for 30 years to bring death, injury, devastation, and
humiliation to the Palestinians.
As I write, bulldozers from America are
rooting Palestinians from their homes, turning their residences
into rubble. Helicopter gunships and bullets from America are murdering
Palestinians merely on suspicion of fighting back against their
The rule of law and religious standards
are nowhere to be found. Seldom do cameras and microphones report
to the American people the lethal, destructive way these U.S. gifts
are used. Somehow, the American people are kept in the dark.
Perhaps some Americans don’t want to know.
It is ironic that people in almost all other countries are better
informed than Americans about the bias in U.S. policies in the Middle
East. Perhaps that knowledge leads some of them to fury, white-hot
All of this, taken together, cannot possibly
justify the terrorism just inflicted on New York City and the Pentagon.
Nothing can. No grievances can justify those monstrous crimes against
Perhaps the recitation I have provided
will help create some understanding of long and deep grievances
that can lead oppressed, hopeless people to carry out awful deeds.
There are new questions we must ponder.
Can military action remove an underlying
grievance? Will punishment of anyone cure the wound—or make it worse?
The London Independent carried a profound headline on Sept. 12:
“The wickedness and awesome cruelty of a crushed and humiliated
Have the weapons of war that America keeps
supplying in the Middle East been used to crush and humiliate an
entire people? Have these gifts now stricken us, in return, with
wickedness and awesome cruelty?
Has the Lord our God who notes the fall
of a sparrow been watching? The day after the attacks in New York
and Washington the fires were still smoldering at America’s Ground
Zero and the Pentagon, when 22 tanks donated by America blasted
their way through Jericho, the biblical city of Joshua.
The assault left seven Palestinians dead,
among them an 11-year-old girl. It was not a modern-day battle of
Jericho. It was a one-sided raiding party. Over television, were
you able to watch the anguish of the bereaved family and the cries
of the wounded?
Did they call out, “Oh, my God. Oh, my
God”? Did television commentators, overcome with grief, choke back
tears as they tried to form words to describe the scene? Of course
There were no cameras, no interviewers, no microphones.
The Associated Press reports that after the tanks left Jericho,
a cloud of smoke and an orange fireball could be seen above a refugee
camp on the edge of town. Another cloud of smoke, another orange
Former Congressman Paul Findley (R-IL)
is the author of the recently published Silent No More: Confronting
America’s False Images of Islam, available from the AET Book Club
along with his previous books, They Dare to Speak Out and Deliberate
Deceptions. This article first appeared in the Jacksonville (IL)
Journal-Courier on Sept. 16, 2001.
Note:Former Congressman Paul Findley (R-IL) is the author of the
recently published Silent
No More: Confronting America’s False Images of Islam, available
from the AET Book Club. This article first appeared in the Jacksonville
(IL) Journal-Courier on Sept. 16, 2001. Reprinted with permission.
The papers of
former congressman Paul Findley, dealing with the influence
of the Israel lobby in American public life are on file in the Archives
at The Hoover Institution, Stanford University.]
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