I Lost My Brother On 9-11;
Does He Matter?
By David Potorti
Article Dated 10/10/2001
[Ed's note: On Tuesday, September 11, the
writer lost his brother, James Potorti, at the
World Trade Center. James worked on the
96th Floor of the first tower for a company
called Marsh & McLennan.]
On October 8th, as most Americans rose
concerned and curious about the military
action taking place on the other side of the
globe, NPR's Morning Edition host
Bob Edwards asked Cokie Roberts to
weigh in. "Leaders of Congress were
quick to issue a statement in support of
the military action in Afghanistan," he said.
"Were there any dissenters?" "None that
matter," she replied.
It's a jaw-dropping statement when you think
about it, one that says nothing and yet says
everything. There was opposition to the
bombing. But how much? From whom?
But before you go demanding simple facts
or objective reportage, let's cut to the chase:
it doesn't matter.
It's an opinion unlikely to be shared by
California Representative Barbara Lee, the
only member of Congress brave enough to
vote her conscience in declining to authorize
the use of military force. Or to other members
of Congress who expressed similar concerns.
Do they matter? To countless Americans who
share their concerns, they do. But in a larger
sense, of course, Roberts is right.
In a media universe where you're as likely to
find right-wing conservatives like Roberts
(or Juan Williams, or Maura Liasson, or...)
on ABC, Fox, or NPR, the facts don't matter;
only the framing. And in the hands of biased
pundits posing as objective journalists, the
framing is always going to be the same:
pro-military, pro-government, and pro-war.
Still, Roberts may have done us a favor with
her comment. Those three little words tell us
worlds about the values informing the
operation of U.S. intelligence, the
State Department, and the Pentagon.
Understanding those words may bring us
some much-needed clarity on U.S. policies
seemingly at odds with U.S. values.
Have sanctions against Iraq have killed
more than 500,000 innocent children?
None that matter. Did bombing Yugoslavia
kill more civilians than soldiers? None that
matter. Did lobbing cruise missiles at a
Sudanese pharmaceutical factory result in
the deaths of medicine-starved civilians?
None that matter.
The phrase is useful for understanding
domestic policies as well. At the Koyoto
summit, did any significant criticisms of
U.S. energy policies emerge? None that
matter. Has the U.S. stance on eliminating
the ABM treaty produced any significant
concerns from the rest of the civilized
world? None that matter. Has U.S. reliance
on the death penalty inflicted any damages
on our moral authority? None that matter.
It's equally handy at explaining our current
crisis. Are the militaristic responses to the
terrorist attacks likely to endanger the lives
of more American civilians? None that matter.
Will the war on terrorism endanger the civil
liberties of Americans at home? None that
matter. Will bombing Afghanistan cause any
significant improvements in the lot of the
innocent Afghan people? None that matter.
And let's not forget: it's a handy phrase you
can use at home as well. Will network news
divisions, owned by defense contractors,
give us any useful insights into the workings
of the U.S. military? None that matter. Will you
hear any coherent news reports from outside
of a narrow, statist perspective? None that
matter. And are there any mainstream media
outlets willing to criticize U.S. foreign policy?
None that matter.
Thanks, Cokie. By telling us it doesn't matter,
you've done more than express your biased
political opinion. You've explained the arrogant,
provincial, and value-free attitudes at work
behind American foreign policy. And you've
also given us valuable insight into the mindset
of the terrorists behind the events of September 11.
Won't innocent American civilians die in the
attacks? None that matter. Won't Islam be
defamed in the eyes of other nations? None
that matter. And, in the end, are the attacks
likely to achieve much-needed changes in
U.S. foreign policy? None that matter.
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