Nothing Will Ever Be the Same
by Paul Krassner, September 15, 2001
"In the dark times, will there still be singing? Yes, there will be singing. There will be singing about the dark times." --Bertolt Brecht
--From now on, everything will be divided between what happened Before the events of September 11 and what happened After.
Lane Sarasohn got caught in the middle. He is an editor of Ironic Times, an online weekly which satirizes the news, always leading off with apocryphal headlines marching along a ticker. On Monday, September 10, their new edition came out, and this was one of the jokes on the ticker: Taliban: No more Mr. Nice Guys...
Sarasohn told me that, in the wake of the utter devastation committed the next day by suicide pilots and their hijacker crews, the editors decided to excise that joke from their Web site. Otherwise, since the Taliban has been sheltering prime suspect Osama bin Laden, that particular headline would have been misperceived as insensitive.
What made the reference sardonic in the first place was that--having just put eight aid workers on trial for allegedly attempting to convert Muslims to Christianity, a crime that could be punishable by death--the fundamentalist Taliban ruling party in Afghanistan had not exactly been Mr. Nice Guys previously. They gave fanatics a bad name, and when it came to human rights, they made China look like angels.
Under the Taliban theocracy, females are not allowed to appear in public without being covered from head to toe, they are forbidden to leave the house without being accompanied by a male family member, they are not permitted to attend school, they cannot be treated by male doctors, and they are banned from practicing medicine or any profession.
Taliban zealots have destroyed a gigantic statue of Buddha, and they have declared it compulsory for all non-Muslim inhabitants of Afghanistan to wear a piece of cloth attached to their pocket to indicate that they are not Muslims. Shades of Nazi Germany.
And yet, on May 17, 2001, the United States presented the Taliban rulers with $43 million. Hey, wasnt the American revolution about taxation without representation? And Ill bet that darned old Taliban didnt even have to submit a business plan. Five days later, syndicated columnist Robert Scheer wrote:
Enslave your girls and women, harbor anti-U.S. terrorists, destroy every vestige of civilization in your homeland, and the Bush administration will embrace you. All that matters is that you line up as an ally in the drug war. The gift, announced by Secretary of State Colin Powell, in addition to recent aid, makes the U.S. the main sponsor of the Taliban and rewards that rogue regime for declaring that opium growing is against the will of God.
Never mind that Osama bin Laden still operates the leading anti-American terror operation from his base in Afghanistan, from which, among other crimes, he launched two bloody attacks on American embassies in Africa in 1998. Sadly, the Bush administration is cozying up to the Taliban regime at a time when the United Nations, at U.S. insistence, imposes sanctions on Afghanistan because the Kabul government will not turn over bin Laden. The war on drugs has become our own fanatics obsession and easily trumps all other concerns.
Most of the farmers who grew the poppies will now confront starvation. Thats because the Afghan economy has been ruined by the religious extremism of the Taliban, making the attraction of opium as a previously tolerated quick cash crop overwhelming. For that reason, the opium ban will not last unless the U.S. is willing to pour far larger amounts of money into underwritng the Afghan economy.
As the DEAs Steven Casteel admitted, The bad side of the ban is that its bringing their country...to economic ruin. Nor did he hold out much hope for Afghan farmers growing other crops such as wheat, which require a vast infrastructure to supply water and fertilizer that no longer exists in that devastated country. Theres little doubt that the Taliban will turn once again to the easily taxed cash crop of opium in order to stay in power.
Its bad enough that the United States helped sponsor state-sponsored terrorists against itself, but on top of that, American taxpapers will not be getting any refunds this time around.
For the past few days, Ive been reading the newspapers, then checking the Internet to see what was left out of the papers, and then channel-surfing, from CNN (with their Americas New War logo, reassuring viewers that its not a rerun) to MTV (where one of the Beastie Boys advised: The last thing the terrorists want is for us to work together).
On the Fox News Network, Edward Peck, former ambassador to Iraq, was an unusually outspoken guest. He said the terrorists acted as they did not because America is a freedom loving country, but because they feel the U.S. has been treating them the same way throughout the years--bombing Iraq for the last ten years whenever they felt like it--and adding to the list (Take Panama, take Haiti, take Cambodia) before he was cut off and dismissed.
Back in May 1996, on 60 Minutes, Lesley Stahl confronted UN Ambassador Madeleine Albright: We have heard that a half-million children have died [because of sanctions against Iraq]. I mean, thats more children than died in Hiroshima and, you know, is the price worth it? Albright replied, I think this is a very hard choice, but the price--we think the price is worth it.
None of this is one nano-iota of solace for the mass anguish that is taking place in shell-shocked America. So much human suffering, for the sake of our nations karma. But everybody perceives every occurrence through their own subjective filters. And so it was incredibly cruel of televangelists Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson to agree on TV that:
God continues to lift the curtain and allow the enemies of America to give us probably what we deserve. The abortionists have got to bear some burden for this because God will not be mocked. And when we destroy 40 million little innocent babies, we make God mad. I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People For the American Way--all of them who have tried to secularize America--I point the finger in their face and say, You helped this happen.
The pious pair became such pathetic parodies of their own fundamentalist agenda that I thought it was a hoax, despite the fact that it was published in the Washington Post.
In the face of all the platitudes and rhetoric of politicians, professors and pundits--those who speak of unspeakable horror and then, when thanked by their TV host, reply, My pleasure--the original impact of this ongoing tragedy was summed up concisely by a random teenager being interviewed by Tom Brokaw on NBC. She had been awakened by her mother on that tragic Tuesday morning and brought into the living room to see what was happening on television. The girl recalled, I was like Whoa! And then she added, It will probably be in the history books.
Meanwhile, Ironic Times has decided to run a best-of edition for the week beginning September 17--something that will hopefully cheer you up, subscribers will be notified, and give us time to cheer up as well. An editor, Matt Neuman, tells me, Were we publishing a regular edition next week, our ticker might start: Bin Laden cancels all public appearances...
Of course, by the time you read this, bin Laden may already have been taken out, and I dont mean to dinner and a movie.
This is the first thing I have written After the events of September 11, 2001, a dividing line which must be acknowledged here. Everything else in this book was written during the few years Before.