by Carol Harvey
[dropcap]O[/dropcap]n September 11, Bay Area CodePINK, the National Organization for Women and 22 Bay Area peace and justice groups organized a Golden Gate Bridge march memorializing the 2,819 New Yorkers who lost their lives in the destruction of the twin towers in 2001. They also honored the millions of U.S. military and Iraqi victims, collateral damage in the wake of U.S. retaliation for 9/11 and “the continuing violence of war and occupation.”
California participants from San Francisco, Berkeley, Martinez, Redwood City, San Mateo and Danville joined in solidarity with Muslims and Arab-Americans — including Syrians, Afghanis, and Pakistanis — and walked together across the Golden Gate Bridge.
On the San Francisco side of the bridge, Renay Davis and Nancy Keiler of CodePINK spoke out against the war to the gathering crowd. Davis said that for nearly five years, CodePINK has marched for peace on the Golden Gate Bridge on the second Sunday of each month.
On this tenth anniversary, CodePINK mourned 9/11 victims while denouncing the U.S. government’s use of this tragedy to justify “an endless cycle of horrific violence” by conducting the longest wars and occupations in U.S. history, resulting in countless deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Ironically, the common people in Afghanistan, the world’s second-poorest country, “likely have no knowledge of the events of 9/11 itself — no television, no iPods, no iPads, no cell phones — barely enough food to eat each day,” Davis said.
Davis said that 50,000 U.S. troops and mercenaries still occupy Iraq. This year, the Afghanistan occupation cost U.S. taxpayers $122 billion. Meanwhile, the housing and medical needs of U.S. citizens are ignored, while education, infrastructure repair and the creation of green jobs are defunded, she stated.
“These wars of greed are not our wars,” she said. “We, the people, have the power. We demand justice. We demand peace.”
Nancy Keiler read a statement from September 11th Families For Peaceful Tomorrows. The families of September 11th victims expressed gratitude for the concerned remembrances: “We ask those who feel compassion for our loss to expand their compassion to include others who continue to experience loss ten years later,” referring to the innocent families in Afghanistan and Iraq who lost loved ones and experienced displacement.
“The lesson of 9/11 is that we live in a connected world. We rise and fall together. On this 10th anniversary, let us recognize kinship with people all over the world and affirm the values and principles that will affirm peaceful tomorrows forever.”
Before the march began, Syrian-American Imam Khaled Hamoui told me, “Arab people (historically) have been going through 9/11s over and over again.”
Propelled by social media, on Dec. 18, 2010, a revolutionary Middle East wave of Arab Spring rebellions began in Tunisia. Catching fire in Egypt and Libya, the ouster of tyrants Hosni Mubarak (former Egyptian president) and Libya’s Muammar Qaddafi inspired strikes, demonstrations, and civil resistance in Bahrain, Yemen, Algeria, Iraq, Jordan, Morocco, Oman, Kuwait, Lebanon, Mauritania, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Western Sahara, the Israeli border, and Syria.
Totalitarian state authorities reacted with violence against demonstrators in the Arab world. One of their slogans is “Ash-sha`b yurid isqat an-nizam,” (“The people want to bring down the regime.”)
The Imam described what he called an earlier “Grand 9/11” in Hama, Syria. In 1982, Hafez al-Assad, the father of brutal Syrian dictator, Bashar al-Assad, in one month carried out tortures, disappearances and murders against 20,000 of his people in Hama, then a city of about 20 million.
In the current Syrian revolution, he said, thousands of courageous Syrians “are dying in the cause of freedom and democracy.” As Bashar al-Assad conducts a crackdown against his people on Hama’s streets, “Syria goes through a 9/11 every day and has been going through 9/11s for the last six months.”
He said that after Manhattan’s 9/11 attacks, “the United States took its war on terror against the innocent people of Iraq who had absolutely nothing to do with 9/11 here. In fact, they would have loved to have gotten rid of Saddam Hussein in the same fashion that the Syrians, Yemenis, Egyptians and Tunisians are getting rid of their own dictators — without outside interference.”
At that point, the solemn procession began across the Golden Gate Bridge. Berkeley marcher Roberta McLaughlin sported “No To War” and “Free Bradley Manning” stickers on her flowered hat.
U.S. Army soldier Bradley Manning’s fate was a major concern for many. In May 2010, Pfc. Manning was placed in solitary confinement at Quantico, Virginia, on suspicion of passing a huge computerized cache of diplomatic cables and other material to the whistle-blowing site, WikiLeaks. These cables and videos documented U.S. wars of aggression, including war profiteers’ Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld’s flimsy 9/11 excuse to grab money, power, and oil by bombing Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, ostensibly to flush out Osama Bin Laden.
Public protests led to Manning’s transfer to less torturous conditions at Fort Leavenworth prison, Kansas. “If he actually did what he’s accused of doing, he’s patriotic,” said one Martinez marcher.
Trisha Mills from Danville waved an American flag at passing cars’ sympathetic honks. Mills said she commemorates 9/11 every year because “my heart bleeds” for the people jumping from that burning building. She attended the funeral of Tom Burnette, a Danville local, one of the passengers on the plane that went down in Pennsylvania. “This is the way I express my sadness.”
As she walked, high school teacher Susan Witka recalled wondering out loud to students, “What would it be like to live in a country that wasn’t addicted to war? To use that money to have a free education like in some European countries? I can see in my students’ faces they’re worried about their future. Education should be a human right like health care.”
Reaching the bridge’s midpoint, the huge procession joined hands facing the San Francisco Bay. Turning toward the ocean, they stretched across the bridge, their upraised arms connected by pink ribbons. For two minutes they stood silent, mourning global victims of U.S. wars.
Then each person in the human chain spanning the Golden Gate Bridge hurled a powerful proclamation west across the Pacific, one after another: “These are not our wars. The people demand peace!”
Reaching the Marin staging area, event organizer Toby Blome announced each speaker. Rabbi Alissa Wise was shocked over morning coffee by the burning buildings in Manhattan ten years ago. Her group, Jewish Voice For Peace, conducts divestment campaigns against companies who profit from Palestinian occupation.
They disrupt state acts of Islamophobia and anti-Arab profiling. “Think about one thing you can start to work on, trying to disrupt that normalization,” said Rabbi Wise. “Make a commitment to acting as though the world is different.”
On 9/11, Fatima Mojaddidy, Afghans for Peace, wondered, “What will happen to Afghans?” She recounted stories of the war in Afghanistan: One boy raped by U.S. soldiers, one shot pleading for his life. “Did the (Afghani) people really have to be punished like this?” she asked. “Why did they have to pay the price for something they had nothing to do with?”
In a quavering voice, a military mother from Military Families Speak Out said, “My name is Patty Bennett. My son is in Afghanistan, and I want him back alive.”
Each evening rounding that last corner on her drive home, Bennett looks for strange cars or anyone on her porch bearing condolences. She regrets she lied to her son, saying, “This will all be over soon, and you will be home.” She supports the troops, but added, “I do not support these wars.”
Was 9/11 an “inside job?” Syrian-American Imam Khaled Hamoui obliquely drew parallels between the U.S. 9/11 with the Lavon Affair, a covert 1954 false flag anti-Arab operation in which Israeli military intelligence recruited Egyptian Jews to plant bombs inside Egyptian, British, and American targets. Intended to be blamed on the Muslim Brotherhood, the Lavon operation was contrived to create an unstable environment so Britain would keep troops in Egypt’s Canal zone.
Decrying anti-Muslim racism closer to home, he spoke of the violent images which appeared in Palestinian children’s drawings after the Israeli occupation of Gaza. After this art exhibit provoked controversy, it was removed from the Oakland Museum of Children’s Art.
CodePINK’s Rae Abileah urged attendees to stay engaged. She said that, for the next month until the Afghan invasion’s 10th anniversary, CodePINK is launching a national campaign inviting people to make peace art for a giant on-line quilt. [Check out CodePINK.org/create.]
This march was cosponsored by Afghans for Peace, American Friends Service Committee, American Muslim Voice, ANSWER Coalition, CodePINK, Bay Area Women in Black, Buddhist Peace Fellowship, California chapters of NOW, Courage to Resist, East Timor Religious Outreach, Global Exchange, Grandmothers Against the War, Iraq Veterans Against the War, International Socialist Organization, Jewish Voice for Peace, Pace e Bene Nonviolence Service, September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, South Bay Mobilization, Veterans for Peace, Women for Genuine Security, and World Can’t Wait.
To visit the Bay Area CodePINK website click here.