Posted Monday, September 17, 2001

Quick navigation

Alphabetical index (text)

 Being at war is not without its blessings. The question is, given the possible collapse of the United States' economy, can they now afford one? Bange Frage, as the Germans say.

Monday, September 17, 2001
(Philadelphia, USA)

I LEAVE Niagara Falls at exactly midday. . . I drive all day down through the Eastern Appalachians to Pennsylvania, and arrive at Philadelphia at 8:30 p.m. The Americans, who routinely fly from city to city, can have no idea how beautiful and varied is the country that lies between.

Somewhere far to the north-west of this mountain highway lies the small crater left last Tuesday, according to the media, by the crashing United Airlines 767 flight. Did the 767 crash, or was it shot down by a US fighter plane? The evidence for the latter seems to harden, as this morning the media report that at 9:53 a.m. that Tuesday President Bush did indeed give, "with heavy heart," the order to open fire on any commercial airliner that seemed to be disregarding air traffic control instructions; and that the Pentagon has confirmed that two US air force fighter planes armed with air-to-air missiles did come within sixty miles of the doomed United 767 -- i.e. about two or three minutes' flying time -- but that it crashed soon after, allegedly "three minutes" before Bush issued his order.

So that clarifies that. The plane was brought down by the heroic passengers who stormed the hijackers (and not by a US fighter plane which innocently thwarted their rescue attempt). Ho-again-hum.


WE have however seen pictures of the crater, and it is not the crater that a wide-bodied plane crashing with a full passenger- and fuel-load leaves, but substantially smaller. Remember Pan-Am 103 and the crater that it left at Lockerbie after flying the length of England and reaching cruising altitude? In that soulless Pennsylvania field there is a smallish crater, and no recognizable airplane debris (one rescuer last Tuesday said in wonderment there was "nothing larger than a phone directory").

Two days ago however there was one odd radio news item, not picked up or repeated after that: a fragment of the plane had been found eight miles away. So it did disintegrate in mid-air. Why is that being withheld from the public? Was it blown up by a hijacker armed with an explosive charge? Or shot out of the sky by a US missile, seemingly to protect a White House which had already been evacuated of its entire staff, and of which the President was not within a thousand miles? If the latter is true, and Bush feels he has to conceal it, he is less of a man than I took him for: Which says much.

Of course the air is thick with rumours, and the most improbable news items are being spoon-fed to a gullible American viewing public as facts. One prime-time television news report stated yesterday that in the World Trade Center (WTC) wreckage, three passengers had been found "still strapped into their seats" and "a flight attendant with her hands bound behind her." There is no word of those gruesome tidbits elsewhere.

Patriotism in its ugliest manifestation has momentarily seized this great and otherwise intensely likeable nation. Some people have attacked, and even murdered, anybody looking Arabic in origin. The television media, which bear more than a share of the blame for this evil, murmur a dutiful tut-tut. Osama Bin Laden's shifty, oily, semitic features leer from every news bulletin, in a barely concealed appeal to the American viewers' racism. Dr Joseph Goebbels could not have done it better.

In a parking lot in a small town in northern Pennsylvania the woman parking her car next to me is the now archetypal obese American mom in her late twenties, puffing a cigarette as she unloads her infant from the car, on the windows of which is scrawled in large white-paint, just-married-style, letters an incongruous "America the Beautiful."

"GOD SAVE AMERICA" is written everywhere, even flashing from interstate highway signs which normally warn of traffic hazards, and I can only agree, and with the utmost fervor.


"Asked tonight what the attack meant for relations between the United States and Israel, Benjamin  Netanyahu, the former prime minister, replied: 'It's very good.' Then he edited himself: 'Well, not very good, but it will generate immediate sympathy.'" [New York Times, 12 September 2001, p. A22]


President Bush, who has unilaterally declared that suspicion for the foul deed, the bombing of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, falls only on Bin Laden, is heard on television news being asked if he wants him killed. As the CNN commentator notes, "Bush hesitates," then recalls the 19th Century Western posters that used to proclaim "Wanted -- Dead or Alive."

General Dwight D Eisenhower too was an avid reader of western novels: so it seems that Washington has another pulp-fiction reading statesman, though of immeasurably less stature than Ike.

B. told me yesterday that the BBC's Jonathan Dimbleby hosted a television programme two days ago about the horrors, and that several members of the live audience had voiced the same views as mine -- of which she herself thoroughly disapproves -- namely that the United States, with their crazy meddling in the Middle East against the Muslims, are more than partially the architect of their own misfortune. Today there is loud criticism in the media of Dimbleby for having even allowed such questions to be asked.

Yet the ordinary man in the street here is asking much the same: I know, because over the last seven days I have talked with the Americans at stops across two thousand miles of highway in this country, and the difference between Joe Six-Pack's views on the Middle East, and those propagated by the media, are startling. I wonder what the explanation can be?

Today I hear one phone caller from Philadelphia sardonically asking a New Jersey radio station whether they can perhaps see some connection between United States warships firing Cruise missiles at what turns out to be an innocent pharmaceutical warehouse in the Sudan, in the mistaken belief that it was a "germ warfare factory" controlled by the self-same arch-fiend Bin Laden, killing innocent employees there, and Tuesday's terrorist attack on the WTC skyscrapers. The female radio host is shocked, and points to the difference in scale: Yet the Allies justified their massive saturation bombing raids on Germany and Japan by reference to the Luftwaffe's puny attacks on Warsaw (in 1939) and on Coventry (in 1940, with 300 dead) and even on Guernica (in 1937, where just 97 died).

Pentagon damageTo regain a sense of proportion perhaps we should devise a new unit of scale, taking the present World Trade Center deathroll, horrific though it is, as a base. One WTC unit equals 5,000 -- or roughly the number of Irish innocents who have been murdered by the IRA with misguided American support since the start of the recent troubles. On this scale, Guernica rates roughly one-fiftieth of a WTC. The Luftwaffe Blitz on England however rates about six on the WTC scale. The sinking of the refugee liners Cap Arcona and Deutschland in 1945 by one British fighter-bomber (7,000 passengers drowned) rates 1.4. The Soviet torpedoing of the refugee ship Wilhelm Gustloff in 1945 rates 2. The RAF bombing of Hamburg, at the end of July 1943, rates seven or eight. Hiroshima, of course, and Dresden, each rate roughly 20 WTC units. Two hundred thousand Iraqi children killed by the mindless British and US embargo on Iraq in the last ten years, roughly forty WTC units. And so on.


THOSE were acts of war, some will plead; but George W Bush has retroactively declared that the bombing of the WTC was also an act of war -- though we may soon suspect that he has ulterior reasons for this: Wartime leaders are Very Popular. Hanging chads no longer matter. War moreover entitles him to liquidate any of his enemies on the basis of mere suspicion, no matter how much they protest their ignorance and innocence. (To be fair, Bin Laden is said to have applauded the WTC bombings when he heard of them; but then so did Benjamin Netanyahu, declaring them to be a good thing for Israel); and President Bush can please his military-industrial complex by pooping off more of his country's expensive Cruise missile arsenal against Arab targets -- Arab lives do not count, and never have, in the inhuman calculus of Washington.

What are five thousand heroes when killed by an enemy in the financial skyscrapers of New York are in the eyes of Washington worthless sub-humans when they are Arabs, Serbs, Sudanese, Ethiopians, Vietnamese, Japs, or other foreigners -- dismissed as mere "collateral damage" in the contemptuous words of the White House's Ari Fleischer or the Pentagon's equivalent of Nato's unctuous Jamie Shea. And how that criminal phrase, "colla'eral damage", spoken in Shea's unspeakable Dagenham voice, has now come back to haunt the nation that invented it.

Bush's other ulterior motive for proclaiming this to be a war may well not have occurred to his sorely-tried but patriotic citizens. If the WTC bombings are indeed to be regarded as an act of war, then the insurance companies concerned, whose stock has taken such a beating on the Stock Exchange this morning, will find that they have no need to pay out on insurance claims. "Read the small print," they may well say.

Being at war is not without its blessings. The question is, given the possible collapse of the United States' economy, can they now afford one? Bange Frage, as the Germans say.

Previous diary

Sept 13: CNN first reports Pennsylvania crash debris found 8 miles away

 Register your name and address to go on the Mailing List to receive

David Irving's ACTION REPORT

© Focal Point 2001 [F] e-mail: Irving write to David Irving