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September 2012

A concerned follower, student at Marist College, wrote to me on 12 Sep 2012 asking me to state the customary sentiments every Sep 11 about the people killed in the attacks of 2001 and the Bush forces troops killed in Iraq. After the discussion he suggested I post an article about the issue. Most of this article comes from the response I sent him.

I am sorry about any death, but I don't in general publicly commemorate deaths. (Mourning, for me, is private.) I mention them only when it is pertinent to some point I want to make.

In September 2001, almost 3000 American lives were lost in terror attacks, over 4000 to car accidents, and around 40,000 due to tobacco. Each of those deaths was a tragedy, and each one may have made other people suffer materially or emotionally.

To give special attention to those 3000 deaths is something I have a duty to avoid, because of the way that public emotion about those deaths is used in US politics. The response to the Sep 2001 attacks has been pumped up by the people that hate our freedom, first Republicans and then Democrats, as an excuse to attack our freedom, and as a distraction so we won't defend it.

That attack is still going on, and things are getting worse. The issues of torture, imprisonment without trial, criminalization of protest, state assassination and total surveillance are hardly mentioned in the mainstream media or the election campaign. Neither is the issue of reining in the TSA, which is starting to search people on buses and may someday do so in their cars.

I feel it is my patriotic duty to reject this distraction/excuse campaign so as to help America focus on the greater danger. Recovering human rights requires saying, "The September 2001 attacks were not, after all, as important as the freedom we are losing." I say this hoping that others will join me.

I express this by commemorating the US-backed attacks in Chile precisely because that way I don't say, "The attacks in the US were insignificant," but rather, "Remember the bigger crimes."

As for the roughly 4500 Americans who died in the occupation of Iraq, the crucial point is to reject the claim that they were "serving their country". The troops may have had that honorable intention, but in fact their presence in Iraq served scoundrels, oil companies and al Qa'ida -- those that benefited from the invasion. (Some soldiers figured that out; I was proud to receive a fan message from a soldier in Iraq who said his unit generally agreed that their mission was to support imperialism.) Sometimes the Bush forces fought against sectarian murderers, but while those sectarian murderers were very bad, fighting them couldn't justify the occupation of Iraq. It was the occupation of Iraq that sparked the sectarian killing in Iraq.

Rejecting the pretence that these Americans were "serving their country" is important because that pretence is used to distract attention from the crime of launching the war, and shield those responsible from prosecution.

I am sorry about each of those 4500 or so deaths, and equally sorry about each of the Iraqis who died because of Dubya's invasion and the subsequent occupation. The Iraqi dead were between 40 and 300 times as numerous as the US dead, so when I mention these deaths, I give priority to the Iraqi dead.

I supported the invasion of Afghanistan, not because of al Qa'ida but to end the Taliban's oppression. It turned out well, with few casualties, until Dubya ignored Afghanistan to focus on the oil he really wanted to conquer. Heavy casualties in Afghanistan, on all sides, began once it became clear that Karzai's government inspired no loyalty; the US soldiers that prop it up are not "serving their country", and the best way to support them is to bring them home.

US veterans deserve our concern, so I campaign for government policies to help poor Americans, including the many homeless Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. I think it is better to give them the help they deserve than a misguided salute.

One US soldier in Iraq may have served his country well: Bradley Manning, if the accusations are true, risked death to show the public the nasty things that the US government was doing. He passed the ball to the American people, and now it's up to us to figure out how to score for freedom in the US.

Copyright (c) 2012 Richard Stallman Verbatim copying and redistribution of this entire page are permitted provided this notice is preserved.