The Loud Silencing After 9/11: Five Years On

Conspiracies abound about 9/11. Raed Jarrar is detained for wearing "We Will Not Be Silent" in Arabic on a T-shirt.

What's the real conspiracy? What will we not be silent about?

The real conspiracy is a conspiracy of silence about the horrors of U.S. foreign policy globally for over 50 years. The real conspiracy is that virtually anyone seeking some justice in the Mideast -- including Arabs and Muslims in the U.S. -- have been intimidated into not addressing central questions. The real conspiracy is that Bush and his cohorts -- in front of everyone -- could justify the killing of civilians in the name of the killing of civilians.

The open conspiracy is that our political culture allows this exchange between O'Reilly and me on Sept. 13, 2001:

Neil Herman, a former FBI official tells O'Reilly that Bin Laden "considers himself a comrade, a warrior in the war against America, and that's what he stands for, and he feels that he's a soldier carrying out this message." To which O'Reilly replied: "A soldier who kills little children and women. There are no soldiers like that."

Shortly I was brought on and noted that "The last time our embassies, people took out our embassies in the, in East Africa. What did we do? We bombed the Sudan. What did we hit in the Sudan? We hit a pharmaceutical plant that was supplying the pharmacies for an impoverished African country." Adding: "Are we just going to reflexively quote/unquote 'retaliate' and kill innocent civilians and not the perpetrators?"

O'Reilly responded: "Here's what we're going to do, and I'll let you react to it, then we'll get to Professor Boyle to get his reaction to it. What we're going to do is, we're going to take out this Osama bin Laden. Now, whether we go in with air power or whether we go in with a Delta force, he's a dead man walking. He's through. He should have been through long before this. He's been wanted for eight years.

"Now, they're going to go in and they're going to get him. If the Taliban government of Afghanistan does not cooperate, then we will damage that government with air power, probably. All right? We will blast them, because --"

Husseini: Who will you kill in the process?

O'Reilly: Doesn't make any difference.

Husseini: No, no. It does make a difference. I don't want more civilians dead. We've had civilians dead in New York and now you're saying maybe it's OK to have civilians dead in Afghanistan.

O'Reilly: Mr. Husseini, this is war.

Husseini: Stop it.

O'Reilly: This is war.

Husseini: Let's just stop it.

O'reilly: This is war.

Husseini: Yeah, exactly. And in war you don't kill civilians. You don't kill women and children. Those are your words, Bill.

O'reilly: Oh, stop it.

Husseini: Let's stick to those words.

O'reilly: All right, let's go to Professor Boyle, because this is ridiculous.

Husseini: Bill --

O'Reilly: Mr. Husseini, I don't want to insult you, Mr. Husseini, but this is --

Husseini: Bill, that's so sad --

O'Reilly: This is -- this is -- you are just made the most absurd statement in the world. That means we wouldn't have bombed the Nazis or the Japanese. We wouldn't have done any of that, because you don't want somebody who has declared war on us to be punished. Come on.

Husseini: Whose declared war on us?

O'Reilly: The terrorists states have declared war, Mr. Husseini.

Husseini: Get them. Get the terrorists.

O'Reilly: Cut his mic.

Just as amazing as my getting my mic cut for saying "Get the terrorists" is that O'Reilly would go on to even cut the mic of Jeremy Glick, whose father was killed on 9/11. We need to be more than not be silent, we need to speak out about that which matters most.

[originally published at on Sep. 13, 2006]

U.S. Policy: "Putting out the fire with gasoline"?

I took the opportunity to question Homeland Security head Michael Chertoff and the Co-chairs of the 9/11 Commission, Lee Hamilton and Thomas Kean.

You can find the trancript here, and also on DC Indymedia, with audio files attached.

With the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Michael Chertoff, outside the studios of ABC News this morning:

Sam Husseini: Sir, does U.S. policy like the invasion of Lebanon--backing the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, like the invasion of Iraq, does that cause resentment in the region, that makes your problem harder and that Al Qaeda types feed into?

Secretary Michael Chertoff: In 1994 Khalid Sheikh Muhammad put together a plot that is very similar to this plot and is in some ways a model for this kind of plot, the one we saw this week. Now, in 1994 there wasn't any war in Iraq, there wasn't any invasion of Lebanon. I mean the fact of the matter is history teaches us we do not provoke terrorism. What tends to foster terrorism is when the terrorists think we're weak or when we try to appease them.

Sam Husseini: But Secretary, Israel invaded Lebanon and occupied it for 20 years beginning in the 1980s and was still occupying it when what you're talking about, the Gulf War -- the first Gulf War -- which Bin Laden rhetorically uses to gain following was just a few years before the 1994 attempted hideous terrorist attack.

Isn't U.S. policy pouring -- trying to put out the fire with gasoline?

Secretary Michael Chertoff: See, what my observation of the history of this is that no matter what we do or don't do terrorists are going to carry out their acts, but the thing that is most likely to inspire terrorism is weakness. When terrorists saw us withdrawal from Somalia that actually inspired them to believe they could win against us. When we fight back and when we take the war to them that actually sets them back. There's no doubt in my mind that the war against terror is won through strength and not through weakness, by taking the war to the enemy and not by retreating.


With 9/11 Commissioners Hamilton and Keane outside the NBC studios in Upper Northwest Washington this morning:

Sam Husseini: I'd like to ask a foreign policy thing, gentlemen. You spoke about the motivation of the terrorists and how to decipher them. This is Bin Laden's statement from October 2004, and he's talking about his--what he says his initial motivation is -- in seeing the Israeli bombing of Lebanon back in 1982. To quote: "When I saw those destroyed towers in Lebanon it sparked in my mind that the oppressors should be punished in the same way and that we should destroy towers in America so that they can taste what we tasted and so they will stop killing our women and children." Now, now, his stated and his real goals -- just like other politicians stated goals and real goals -- might be different. But those are his stated motivations, that he says to the people of the region and to us...

Hamilton: Osama bin Laden is a very skillful propagandist. He weaves all kinds of possible appeals to the radicalized muslim world. Some of it is religious, theological, philosophical. Some of it relates to American policy. The original thing that set off Osama bin Laden was the presence of American forces in Saudi Arabia--

Sam Husseini: Which have been removed --

Hamilton: Which have now been removed, that's correct, but --

Sam Husseini: So he [inaudible]

Hamilton: I think it is, I think it is -- well -- we withdrew those I think for our own interests. You can argue whether he would claim it's a victory, we would not, of course. But the point is that he cleverly weaves a lot of different appeals to get this radicalized muslim world--

Sam Husseini: But don't make matters worse? Now we're backing another Israeli invasion of Lebanon -- aren't we planting the seeds of further terrorism? Aren't we putting out the fire with gasoline here? And you can do all the security measures, all the law enforcement, but if that continues isn't that a fundamental argument--

Hamilton: Foreign policy gets very complicated. When you take certain actions to support a friend, the security of Israel, as we did, it has consequences. No question about it.

Sam Husseini: Are you aware gentlemen --

Hamilton: Look, look -- I don't want to get into an argument about Middle East policy--

Sam Husseini: No, no, different issue -- different issue. I'm broadening it out.

Hamilton: Yeah?

Sam Husseini: Sibel Edmonds is a whistle blower, who i believe came -- Sibel Edmonds, are you familiar with her, she was a translator for the FBI, --

Hamilton: Yes.

Sam Husseini: -- I believe she came to the Commission, --

Hamilton: Yes.

Sam Husseini: -- I don't think that you folks considered her work, and her saying that part of the FBI had been infiltrated by foreign -- presumably Turkish elements -- and her case is now under seal. Are you continuing to consider that, have you had second thoughts about taking up what she brought to the Commission, which I don't -- I believe was not included in the Commission report.

Hamilton: There were thousands and thousands of things brought to the attention of the Commission. When you have a commission investigation with a deadline, as we did, you have to make many many judgments about what evidence is most credible and what evidence is less credible. I don't know that we made 100% -- were 100% right in all of our judgments. We did invest her particular charge --

Sam Husseini: Have you had second thoughts?

Hamilton: -- and we thought it was less credible than a lot of other things. But that's, look, the 9/11 Commission Report is not a final report.

Sam Husseini: I understand, I mean have you had second thoughts since then?

Hamilton: I have not.

Sam Husseini: On the democracy question, you both have said US is to help democracy in the Middle East. But Israel is bombing lebanon which was a function democracy, it had a parliament, with the backing of Saudi Arabia. So is that the actual motivation of US Policy when it gives the backhand to the Palestinians when they have a democratic election and to the Lebanese, getting their infrastructure pummeled, when they're a democracy and we're doing this in conjunction with the Saudis -- perhaps the most autocratic regime in the region. It doesn't add up and it doesn't add up to the people who... does it add up to you?

Keane: Well, There's no-- there's no question that we've got to look hard at the autocratic regimes in the Middle East, and the ones we support and why, and I think we've got to work with those leaders to make those regimes less autocratic. There's no question about it. I think we've gotta--not only that, we've gotta help some of them in education systems because these madrassas, which we know teach hate in a lot of cases, are there for a reason. They're there because there aren't schools that are alternatives. These young people in the Middle East cannot go to the kind of school we talk about and learn trades or skills that'll enable them to support a family. So they go and learn about religion, that's all they learn about, and then they can't support a family--they're destitute and therefore they're liable to look at ideologies, look at other things.

Hamilton: Ok, thank you very much.

Sam Husseini: ...That's not being done by Hezbollah, what about...

[originally published at on August 13, 2006]

Sound and Vision

On August 6 I joined the media stake-out in front of Fox studios at the C-Span building and asked Israeli Ambassador Ayalon and former Speaker Gingrich some questions. Audio and partial transcript are posted to DC Indymedia. (Thanks to Matt Bradley for audio and pics.)

On August 1 I was on a panel at the Palestine Center. Video from this event is available on the C-Span web site (link requires RealPlayer), and what appears to be quite a "cleaned up transcript" from the Palestine Center is on the Jerusalem Fund's web site.

[originally published at on August 6, 2006]

My July 4th

The highlight of my July 4th was carrying a sign around the Washington Monument before the fireworks.

On one side it read:
Fireworks: Good
Bombing: Bad

On the other:
Fireworks in DC
in Iraq & Gaza

(One from July 3, while joining the Troops Home Fast gathering:
Fireworks in DC
Bombings in Ramadi)

There were tens, perhaps hundreds of thousands of pairs of eyes there. They would look curiously. They are usually deluged with signs and ads. The Mall on July 4th is amazingly an ad-free place (we'll see how long that lasts...). Eyes would seek my sign and after reading it, quickly dart away.

A young woman walking up to me: You realize you're offending soldiers who are here.
Me: How am I offending them?
Woman: Because you have that sign, they're risking their lives and doing their jobs and they are the people protecting your freedom.
Me: I really don't think that if we withdraw from Iraq my freedom will be curtailed. But I'm happy to talk to any soldiers here. Actually the people who are making the decisions about this war -- not the soldiers -- are also trying to curtail our freedom. So it's the opposite of what you're saying.

She had to go.

Some people clapped -- I'd say hi, shake their hands and gave them a flier about the Troops Home Fast, which is centered on the other side of the White House from the Washington Monument, in Lafayette Park.

A young man followed me around briefly, holding up a piece of paper scrawled with:

Fireworks: Good
Protesting on July 4th: Bad

I glanced at him, laughed and kept walking. After a minute, I turned around, wanting to asking him what it was about the meaning of July 4th that makes it a bad day to protest -- is it better to protest on Groundhog Day? But he was gone.

It was great to hear kids reading my sign, spelling out the syllables. "Fire-works-good bomb-bing-bad."

I had hoped other activists would join me in this, and at times I did feel alone in a way and would call a friend on my cell phone. It was good to smile while carrying my sign.

Man to my left shouting from 15 feet away: How quickly we forget 9-11.
Me walking toward him: Forget what about 9-11?
Man: All those people killed.
Me: Right, people shouldn't be killed, they shouldn't be bombed --
Woman to my right 10 feet away: Freedom isn't free.
Me: What does that have to do with Iraq -- they're not fighting for freedom --
Police officer walking up to me: Let's go.
Me: We're just talking.
Police officer: Let's go.

I walked away and waved to the man and woman. The police officer made no attempt at all to hinder me from carrying my sign.

Man coming up and shaking my hand: I just want to thank you for having the guts to carry that sign around here.
Me: Sure, thanks.
Man: Have you looked into the 9-11 attacks?
Me: Not much, I think there's enough that we know for certain about hideous things this government's done and we don't need to speculate...

Two young women came up, I think they were Italian, applauding me and wanting to take a picture. One whipped out her camera, the other posed with me, giving a thumbs up with one hand and holding up one end of my sign with the other hand. I told her she would have to carry the sign around alone if she wanted to hold it. She looked at me in horror. I told her I was kidding.

[originally published at on July 5, 2006]

Not Taking the Fifth on the Fourth

As someone was speaking about the Troops Home Fast as it began here in D.C. they said it wasn't being done in the hopes of changing Bush, but of reaching out to others. I happen to be standing next to Cindy Sheehan at the time, and she muttered "and to change ourselves."

That's why I love Cindy Sheehan. Cindy Sheehan certainly says a lot of what's wrong with Bush, but she derives her strength I think from acknowledging her own flaws. "I knew this war was wrong, I knew the invasion of Iraq was wrong -- but I didn't do anything about it [before it started] and I'm going to regret that for the rest of my life."

Too many people have spent too much time talking about what's wrong with Bush -- and sometimes missing the point entirely, I think, because we rarely talk about what's wrong with us. What can we do differently to change the world? Asking questions like "Who would Jesus bomb" is a way saying how superior to Bush we are -- without saying what we should do.

At the fast, Raed Jarrar and some others have been wearing t-shirts which said "We Will Not Be Silent" in Arabic and English. I am silent much too much. One time I was not silent was July 4, 2005, the day I met Cindy Sheehan.

Some soul spent lots of money to have a stage and a sound system for a protest near the Capitol. Only 20 or 30 people showed up, but one of them was Cindy. I said to her: "There will be hundreds of thousands of people later today near the Washington Monument for the fireworks, let us reach out to them."

We did. We passed out flyers featuring some writing from Cindy. I approached each huddled family or group listening to a military band on the grounds of the Washington Monument. Some thanked me; some gave me the flyer back when they read some of it. I kept doing it. I felt free.

Taking charge like that reminds me of the best of Flight 93. Taking charge like that reminds me of the best of the Declaration of Independence. Taking charge like that is a part of articulating human freedom.

To the extent that the U.S. flag and July 4 represented that sort of self-determination, it has atrophied. To the extent that they have symbolized unjust domination over Native Americans and others, it has proliferated.

That must stop.

Whatever nobility has been symbolized in the flag is desecrated every day by the actions of our "leaders."

That must stop.

It is many Palestinians and Iraqis and others who are upholding both decent tenets: Self determination and protecting indigenous culture from illegitimate attack.

We must reach out. By fasting, by empathizing, by listening, by engaging. Each other and ourselves.

[originally published at on July 4, 2006]

Can Pacifica Live Up to Its Promise?

In an age when "progressives" seem segmented at times, each faction focusing on specific issue areas; and at a time when the power of media seems central, the promise of the Pacifica network could be of enormous importance.

Pacifica was founded by radical pacifists who refused to fight even in World War II; nor were they content to wash their hands of the situation and be quietly hidden away in camps. Rather they wanted to disseminate their ideas; so after World War II, they established Pacifica radio, in the words of its mission, to "gather and disseminate information on the causes of conflict between" and to "contribute to a lasting understanding between nations and ... individuals of all nations, races, creeds and colors." Hopefully the Pacifica board, which meets this weekend in New York City, will live up to this legacy.

In the late 90s and early in this decade, problems long-festering within Pacifica spilled out and resulted in a series of lockouts, lawsuits and conflicts that gripped the network, which owns five stations. By the time the cataclysmic events of 9-11 happened, the network was in a state of internal war; crucially, its flagship program, "Democracy Now!", was eerily being censored from Pacifica's stations in New York City and Washington, D.C.

This occurred largely because "Democracy Now!", unlike much of the other programming on those stations, sought to report on moves by the Pacifica national board, which seemed intent on mainstreaming the network, and possibly selling off parts of it. There was some indication that these actions could even have been motivated by goals of personal profit for board members (the stations are now worth hundreds of millions of dollars).

Some listeners, board members and programmers struggled to resist these attempts. By 2003, the lawsuits were settled, Pacifica's bylaws were rewritten and new Local Station Boards with more power were elected by listener/members to oversee the stations and in turn elect a national board. This new structure seems to have assured that there will not be a "hijacking" of Pacifica, but it has not shown that it is leading to a vibrant network -- which is what is desperately needed.

While there have been some positive developments since that time, their pace has been rather slow and there have also been some negative changes.

Imagine a Pacifica that has reporters going to the major news conferences: At the White House; at City Hall; at the State Department; at the Pentagon; at the place they call the Department of Justice; at the big think tanks. All asking tough, timely questions.

The WPFW (Pacifica's D.C. station) local board, when I was chairing it five years ago, called for this.

Had Pacifica reporters gotten into the White House regularly, or even the State Department or Pentagon, could they not have increased scrutiny on false claims for the Iraq war before the invasion? Had Pacifica had someone effectively covering Homeland Security issues, could that not have highlighted the vulnerability of the levees in New Orleans before Katrina hit? When progressive forces don't set up the structures necessary to avert disaster, should we really be surprised when it strikes and the flood waters -- and death -- come?

There was one WPFW programmer who was occasionally asking tough questions at the White House briefings, Russell Mokhiber who edits the Corporate Crime Reporter newsletter. But the program he hosted, "Challenging Corporate Power," brought on to WPFW in 2002, was cancelled. WPFW General Manager Ron Pinchback had -- after I voiced concern when the program was regularly preempted in late 2004 -- assured me the program would not be cancelled. In short order, it was.

Imagine a Pacifica that does not merely pretend to be brave, that and that avoids the cheap shots of demonizing Bush supporters as "brownshirts"; instead, actually building a news and information infrastructure that will help change the world for the better -- by providing information that changes hearts and minds.

Imagine a Pacifica with programmers who have the knowledge and wit to regularly bring on officeholders, mainstream pundits and others and expose their fallacies on the air.

Imagine a Pacifica that, rather than bringing on people who agree with each other, or at least pretend to, actually have open discussions. Advocates of different movements, say liberalism and socialism, can and should be in dialogue; should be critically examined, including by each other. The worst elements of all should be exposed; the best aspect of each should proliferate. As it is, too often advocates of each of various "schools" undermine each other behind the scenes. Similarly, too often, cultural and political programming have been pitted against each other when they should be complementary.

Imagine a Pacifica and WPFW that helps organize people around Washington, D.C. so that the collective conscience of the people around the nation's capital is felt on a daily basis by federal government officeholders. Imagine WPFW being used to announce timely protests at crucial events and places in DC. Imagine a Pacifica that has training programs to bring in new talent. The DC Radio Coop, just such an initiative, has been purged from WPFW by the management of the station.

Imagine a Pacifica that organizes "town hall" meetings between the people of various cities in the U.S. and the people of cities around the world where our government is exerting its violence and threats of violence. Imagine a Pacifica that builds on this and uses the power of the Internet effectively, that builds local and global connections.

What needs to be scrutinized is the collusion of incumbent programmers, many of whom were put in place by the previous utterly corrupt management, with the current management that seems resistant to change -- and stays in place largely because of support from incumbent programmers. Some local board members seem to be joining such cliques; others seem reluctant to assert their power to reform the network.

People need to demand excellence from their independent media; not simply to repeat platitudes, but to provide a serious news, information and cultural infrastructure that exposes the mainstream media as the dinosaurs they are.

Sam Husseini is a former chair of the WPFW local advisory board. Many of his writings are at

[originally published at on June 2, 2006]