No prayers to spare for the other victims

Peter Jackson
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The 9-11 anniversary has come and gone, and the deluge of mainstream media coverage has been, to say the least, disappointing. Alarming, even.

One could expect a swarm of attention 10 years after the 2001 terrorist attacks. It was a life-shattering, game-changing event.

But the nature of that coverage was gravely misfocused.

Between the human interest stories and the solemn memorials, the airwaves were mercilessly filled with repeated images of planes hitting buildings, and the mayhem that ensued.

It was uncalled for.

Close-ups unnecessary

As The Telegram’s Russell Wangersky pointed out Tuesday, repeated images of ferry passengers drowning in the surf would shed little light on the causes and implications of the vessel’s sinking.

Even more disappointing were the shallow perspectives on how

9-11 affected others around the world, especially those living in the regions where the plot was hatched — and in one place the plot definitely wasn’t hatched: Iraq.

Limited focus

With few exceptions — such as CNN host Fareed Zakaria’s grilling of former war secretary Donald Rumsfeld — these elements were ignored.

Hundreds of thousands were killed in the years that followed

9-11, not only by western invaders but at the hands of those whose sole focus is to visit death upon all infidels.

Where were the prayers for these victims, whose fate was equally sealed by the deeds of 9-11 terrorists?

From the ashes of 9-11, the U.S. had an opportunity to foster greater global awareness. In that moment of worldwide sympathy, a fresh, multilateral approach was possible.

Instead, it squandered that moral capital.

Not long after the towers fell, Fox News host Bill O’Reilly had one of his famous meltdowns while interviewing the son of a victim.

 Jeremy Glick tried to argue that U.S. foreign policy played a role in the attacks. O’Reilly told him to shut up, then cut his microphone and kicked him out of the studio.

Glick’s morality lesson was a little ill-timed. The horror was still fresh, the anger still palpable.

But 10 years later, little has changed.

Countless more lives have been lost, and the conditions that feed fanaticism still exist.

In the Baltimore Sun this past weekend, columnist Dan Rodricks highlighted how Americans remain blind to the impact the Iraq war had on the civilian population.

Three years after the war began, the White House estimated civilian casualties in Iraq at 35,000.

But an independent study out of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found the number of war-related deaths to be almost 20 times that number. That included those killed in sectarian violence during the post-invasion power vacuum.

Yet, few media outlets reported any numbers with regularity. Instead, such talk was usually greeted with anger and derision. (The American death toll, on the other hand, has been meticulously tallied.)

“We wanted revenge, and the Bush administration knew Americans would appreciate and support some old-fashioned frontier justice,” wrote Rodricks.

It’s a familiar story.

Consider the deadly bombing campaigns in Vietnam and Cambodia. And in the wake of the only other significant attack on American soil — Pearl Harbour — the U.S. unleashed a nuclear attack on Japan that killed, by conservative estimates, 225,000 people.

Author John Tirman addresses American indifference to collateral damage in his book “The Deaths of Others.” Rodricks cites him in his column.

“There is little evidence that the American public cares what happens to people who live where our interventions are conducted,” Tirman wrote.

Plus ça change …

Peter Jackson is The Telegram’s

commentary editor. Email:

Organizations: CNN, Fox News, Baltimore Sun Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health

Geographic location: U.S., Iraq, Vietnam Cambodia Japan

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Recent comments

  • Allan Smith
    September 14, 2011 - 14:39

    While I agree that intervention in another nation's affairs causes backlash against the interventer, this is not a new story; neither is it a uniquely American one. You can trace it back to at least Sargon the Great in ancient Mesopotamia (ironically modern Iraq) over 4000 years ago, and it most likely pre-dates that. However, you cannot stand by and let an aggressor attack you and do nothing (or next to nothing a la Bill Clinton). This is a double-edged sword as well, but if we want to mantain our way of life, it sometimes requires force. Imagine if France and the UK had stood up to Hitler in the 1930's, the world today may be very different. Hitler had to be expunged. Those fanatics like him must face the same fate. I for one would rather fight these fanatics in Iraq and Afghanistan than in the streets of Canada, the US or Western Europe. It may yet come to that although I hope not.

    • Murray
      September 14, 2011 - 16:11

      Would you be willing to extend that logic (viz. "if we want to mantain our way of life, it sometimes requires force") to other people as well or does that just apply to Canada, the US, and Western Europe?

  • AMAC
    September 14, 2011 - 14:26

    It's so true...the thousands killed on 9/11 are only a drop in the bucket compared to the other victims, those killed in the middle east, those now dying from the asbestos and chemicals from the towers when they fell, etc. And...the thousands of people from Rawanda who were slaughtered around the same time that 9/11 happened barely made the news. I think it's time for the UN to make it policy that whatever continent your born in, you stay in for life. And....if people keep fighting, people will be limited to their own country. And...if people still keep fighting, you'll be limited to your own province or state or life. Violence is SO STUPID!!!! Solves nothing.

  • Anon
    September 14, 2011 - 07:43

    Protip: There are more mercenaries on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan than there are US soldiers. Paul Bremer, Donald Rumsfeld, Erik Prince, Condi Rice, Bush and Obama are all responsible for this as well as a score of others.. It is these mercenaries that have spurred most if not all of the fierce resistance we see continuing to mount in the region.