9-11… Random Thoughts

by Omar Ali


This is not a post about the great tragedy of 9-11 or the great tragedies that followed 9-11. These are just some random thoughts about some arguments that show up around this topic and that I, as a regular blogger and commentator on the intertubes, have taken part in over the years. Since most of my friends and interlocutors are westernized liberals or leftists, this is necessarily focused on arguments common in the westernized liberal world. By saying this, I hope to deflect the inevitable argument that I am “missing” or ignoring the awful, bone-chilling, sickening racism and islamophobia that is rampant on the Western right wing; or that I am ignoring the awful, bone-chilling, sickening anti-semitism and islamofascism that is rampant in the Islamist world or, for that matter, the awful, scary, racist nationalism that bubbles through sections of the Chinese intertubes. I am going to give those a miss, even though I am vaguely aware of their existence. This post is not going to be fair and balanced; It is about our pathologies (or my pathologies, as the case may be). And many of the sentences in this article are copied from previous comments and past posts.

Truthers: In some ways, the existence of the 9-11 truth movement should be completely unsurprising. Every world historical event generates conspiracy theories (and some of them are even true) and it is no surprise that the largest terrorist atrocity in US history, followed by two wars (at least one on completely false pretenses) and massive domestic spying and other illegalities, would generate many conspiracy theories. But the way otherwise intelligent and sensible people argue in support of outlandish and completely irrational theories about controlled demolitions and remote-controlled aircraft has still been a surprise and a learning experience. This is not about the claims themselves (which have been debunked in great detail on hundreds of occasions) but rather about what I have learned from arguing about them.

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Between Wole Soyinka and Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab

By Tolu Ogunlesi

Lamenting the presence of Nigeria on the US government’s list of “countries of interest” (in the war on terror), Nigerian writer and first African Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka told British journalist Tunku Varadarajan, at the Jaipur Literary Festival in January: “[Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab] did not get radicalized in Nigeria. It happened in England, where he went to university.”

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab is the 23 year old Nigerian man whose arrest on Christmas Day 2009 while attempting to detonate a bomb aboard a Detroit-bound plane caused the country's blacklisting.


In 2005, at the age of 19, Umar Farouk enrolled in the University College London (UCL), for a degree in ‘Engineering with Business Finance’, after high school at a British-curriculum school in Togo. From all indications UCL kept the young man busy. In his second year he was elected President of the Student Union’s Islamic Society, organizing a “War on Terror Week” during his tenure.

Soyinka’s England

Five decades before Umar Farouk became a student in England, Wole Soyinka was admitted to the University of Leeds. In October 1954 the future Nobel Laureate left the sleepy city of Ibadan, Western Nigeria (where he was studying at the University College), for England. He was 20. Soyinka would spend the next six years in England, returning to Nigeria on the eve of the country’s independence from Britain.

Wole372ready It can be argued that England was the breeding ground for Mr. Soyinka’s genius; the playwright was, in a sense, forged between the stiff upper lips of Poundland. It wasn’t only Soyinka the playwright that was made in England. Soyinka the father was too. He would during his time in that country fall in love with an English woman, who in 1957 bore him a son, his first.

When Mr. Soyinka left for England, the Nigeria he was leaving behind was merely one colony in an Empire that stretched across the world, and Mr. Soyinka was a subject of the Queen of England. The England he was leaving for was not the one in which multiracialism had become the politically correct thing; this was still an England that wore its racism rather comfortably on its sleeves. One of Mr. Soyinka’s most anthologized poems dates back to that time, a cheeky send-up of racism, which to all intents may have been autobiographical:

It features a young black man in England, speaking on the phone with a potential landlady. The phone conversation is a prelude to a face-to-face meeting. But he feels the need to make a “self-confession”:

“Madam,” I warned, / “I hate a wasted journey—I am African.” / Silence.

The landlady’s interest is piqued.

“HOW DARK?”. . . “ARE YOU LIGHT / OR VERY DARK?” she wants to know. She repeats herself, for emphasis.

“You mean – like plain or milk chocolate?” the narrator suggests. Then he has a color-coded brainwave. “West African sepia,” he concludes.

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Losing the Plot: (Civil War)

Maniza Naqvi Meanguy

Chapter One: The Little Coffee Shop

Chapter Two: The Hotel

Chapter 3: Dreaming Dulles

Stanley knew—Eileen would have him murdered. It was understandable. At another time he would have done the same. And the hours left to save her—someone who was life itself to him–were but a few. Madness—to have made so much of nothing—But Eileen would've and had. Eileen had been directed to find a problem. Eileen had done as she was told. Damned if the eager ambitious good soldier wouldn’t have done her job—reported success. No one on either side of the river ever admitted failure. And Eileen, when this was done, and as was the way, would move on. Up and on. Propelled by a sense of entitled good fortune. A higher calling another institution. Perhaps even a corner office and a view of the Potomac. Collateral damage would be the job left to be unearthed by researchers, decades from now—But there are no remedies, no reparations, no atonements for the loss of flesh and blood. Stanley would not be able to bear it. Not now. He would have to make it right.

Eileen had gone back and returned now—on Labor Day weekend. Must have been something pressing to miss out on a long weekend and be here instead. Missing Memorial Day and this one, was not done often by Washingtonians. A tradition revered: of saluting warriors and nodding to workers punctuating the beginning and end of a short summer. He thought back to those weekends away—affairs, of shadows and shades of verandahs and spires—–and out there on the beach—sunshine–umbrellas, dolphins–children jumping waves and gathering Cape May diamonds scooping them into empty vanilla shake cups—The crowds on the Boardwalk—families strolling in packs, clans and tribes–—crew cuts—ray bans; breasts, bleached hair–and tanned thighs— the accents speaking lines of foreign lands—and those Mason-Dixon lines. Hard candy, fudge and Southern Fried- and stomping on chickens and frogs in arcades–The flag lowering ceremonies at sunset, his hand on his heart back then—choking with emotion and pride. God Bless America—my home sweet home! A long time ago–all that. Now an echo of whatever never came to be.

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