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The Hijackings are Still in Progress

11 September 2002

It was a phrase unuttered by newscasters for many years: An airplane has been hijacked. The advent of airport metal detectors was supposed to have stopped this crime once and for all; you had to stop and think hard to recall the last time a plane was commandeered in mid-air.

But everyone watching television or listening, transfixed in horror, to the radio that sunny September morning last year could easily picture the harrowing scenes aboard the doomed airliners. Who did not shudder, imagining the nauseating sense of powerlessness, anger, and despair flooding the senses of the hapless passengers and crew members as the hijackers usurped control of the planes? Yet no one could fully appreciate the sheer terror the passengers must have felt upon realizing that this was not a conventional, garden-variety hijacking, but a qualitatively different airborne offense, one with profound and continuing repercussions for people on the ground - even now, a full year later.

Over the last 12 months, it has become increasingly clear that much more has been hijacked in the US than those four doomed airliners. The other hijackings are still in progress, and may prove to be just as dangerous and nefarious as those perpetrated by 19 young Arab men last September. The tools used to perpetrate these less high-profile hijackings are more sophisticated and devious than box-cutters, though. But since these hijackings are still in progress, and their denouement has yet to unfold, to the detriment of millions, we may yet have a chance to take back control from the hijackers and chart a new course.

The first hijacking began nearly a year before 9/11, during the last presidential elections. The electoral process was commandeered at the polls by old-fashioned means in Florida, where Patrick Buchanan picked up a surprising number of Jewish votes and African Americans were turned away from polling places in suspiciously high numbers. But the unique horror and deviousness of this electoral hijacking only became fully apparent in Washington, where a Supreme Court of dubious impartiality decided who won the election. (And given that the choice between the two leading candidates, whom some jokingly dubbed Gush and Bore , left much to be desired, it s easy to argue that the electoral process was hijacked months if not years before election day 2000.)

That hijacking easily accomplished - and with surprisingly few protests or complaints from the passengers of the wayward airliner America had become - a whole series of other hijackings were undertaken by a new US administration obsessed with an unrealistically unilateralist view of the world and America s place in it. International processes and frameworks addressing crises such as global warming, the arms race, and international justice rights were hijacked and virtually dismantled by the world s sole superpower, as the US repudiated the Kyoto Protocols, cancelled the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and withdrew from the Rome Treaty establishing an International Criminal Court.

Perversely, proudly and shamelessly, the US presented a new and pugnacious face to the world, that of an arrogant and greedy bully uninterested in the will of the people, be they American citizens or citizens of an increasingly interdependent world. What we say goes. Fuck with us and we ll fuck with you. We re number one!

The harrowing events of 9/11 only exacerbated this ugly tendency in American politics, domestically and internationally. US allies, old and new, have taken their cue from President Bush, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, Attorney General Ashcroft and Senators Jesse Helms and Dick Armey that human rights, the rule of law, democracy, the Geneva Conventions, respect for minorities, due process, and just principles can be jettisoned, disregarded, and trampled with even less fear of long-term consequences than before 9/11. Thus, fascistic policies and practices have been aided and abetted in Israel, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, and Russia, to name just a few places where international humanitarian law has recently taken a serious beating. War criminals are warmly welcomed in the White House as men of peace; arms deals are clinched with regimes whose hands are soaked in blood, all in contravention of US laws, such as the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961.

Even more distressing, the UN has allowed itself to be hijacked to suit the wishes of the powerful rather than safeguarding the needs of the powerless. Who still has faith in that world body s ability to mediate conflicts, halt bloodshed, enforce the will of the international community, speak up for what is just and proper, or take a stand for international law after the UN s cave-in to Israel s refusal to allow any investigations of events in Jenin last April?

A full year after 19 young men hijacked the complex, subtle, and noble Islamic principle of jihad which demands a spiritual battle with one's own inner demons - to kill thousands of innocents, the democratic process, the rule of law, and respect for the principles of justice are still being commandeered daily domestically and internationally by much more sophisticated hijackers. They use media spin, lobbyists charm offensives, P.R. campaigns, fear and demagoguery to rob us of our critical thought and political will. They are taking us to destinations as yet unknown, most likely bleak. They are spiteful, angry, selfish, and lacking in maturity, wisdom, and common sense. These hijackers promise us a war without end today in Afghanistan, tomorrow in Iraq, next year in Southeast Asia. They are about to launch a war without borders, goals, or resolution, a war guaranteed to produce only victims without names, more collateral damage, along with big profits for defense contractors.

Who are these hijackers? Do they truly represent the will of the people of the United States of America? Do they reflect the dearest goals, the noblest hopes, of 300 million American citizens? Probably no more than 19 deranged hijackers truly represented the ultimate desires of the vast majority of the world s one billion Muslims last September 11th.

This September 11th, we would do well to remember and honor the brightest lights extinguished a year ago: the firefighters who sacrificed their lives to save people they did not know because that was the right thing to do, and the brave passengers on Flight #93 who reclaimed their will and authored their final moments by attempting to regain control of their doomed plane. These are examples worth following.

We are not yet doomed. We still have a choice, as citizens of America, as citizens of the world, to prevent ourselves, our world, and our children from being hijacked to dangerous destinations and tragic ends. And we still have a chance, our feet firmly on the ground, to halt the abduction of our country and to take back the democratic process from the fanatics now lounging in the cockpit of officialdom in Washington, DC.

Let's roll, indeed, before a great democracy crashes and burns.

Laurie King-Irani
Published by © 2002 Laurie King-Irani

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