10/7 will not go down in history or live in infamy the way 9/11 did. Those who wish that it would are guilty of something called moral equivalence.
It’s not clear what moral equivalence is, but those who are guilty of it evidently believe something like the following: that it is morally equivalent, equally criminal and immoral, to kill an American and to kill an Afghan. That a murder committed by someone who speaks Arabic is morally equivalent to a murder committed by someone who speaks English. That a murder committed by someone who blows himself up with his victim is morally equivalent to a murder committed by someone who does it by remote control. Or starvation. Or the denial of medicine. That murder for vengeance, or to prove a point, is morally equivalent to murder for vengeance, or to prove a point. Or murder committed as a lamented but predictable and preventable side effect.
On 9/11, people all over the world grieved. Grieved for those who were killed in the towers, and for those who were left behind. Some grieved also for those who we feared would be killed in their name.
Martin Espada’s poem of the anniversary of 9/11 ended:
‘When the war began, from Manhattan and Kabul two constellations of smoke rose and drifted to each other, mingling in icy air, and one said with an Afghan tongue: Teach me to dance. We have no music here.
and the other said with a Spanish tongue:
I will teach you. Music is all we have.’
10/7 is when the war began.
So it is in the fitness of things to remember television images not only of the planes crashing into the towers but also of the fuzzy infrared image and the voiceover telling us that the green fuzz was covering the first bombs falling on the Afghan people.
To remember the neighborhoods of Kabul, bombed without mercy, Herat, cluster bombed, the dams and homes and mosques and hospitals full of people who were killed.
To remember that in Mazar-e-Sharif in November 2001, men who had surrendered were slaughtered by American allies-and American soldiers. Locked in closed containers without ventilation to die. Shot and dumped in the desert.
To remember the refugee camp near Herat that was called Maslakh, ‘the slaughterhouse’ and had 300,000 people in December 2001, where “every night as the temperature dips well below zero, as many as 40 people die from cold and starvation. In the six cemeteries scattered through the camp, many of the piles of stones marking graves are so tiny that it is clear most victims are children and babies.”
To remember May 22, 2002, when US troops went to Hajibirjit village shooting-killing an old man, rounded up 55 men, blindfolded them, shaved their beards, penned them in wire cages, flew them to Kandahar in prison clothes and ID bracelets, and let them go. When they returned, the villagers had fled the bandits who came down when the men were away.
To remember June 2002 when a wedding party was bombed, with 40 killed.
And to remember as well, that the war used to be about bin Laden and al-Qaeda, and only later about the Taliban, and only after that about Saddam Hussein and weapons of mass destruction. Because to forget that is to guarantee another date will have to be set aside a year from now, a third date to add to 9/11 and 10/7, this time to remember all the Iraqis who will have been murdered between now and then. Those Iraqis have as little to do with Saddam Hussein as the Afghan civilians killed had to do with Osama bin Laden. They are as undeserving of punishment by bombs for Hussein’s crimes as those in the world trade center were for the US’s crimes.
Javier Elorriaga, a member of the civilian Zapatista movement in Mexico, said recently that forgetting is paid for with money, but memory is paid for with blood. Those who died in New York deserve to be remembered. Afghans have paid the same price and must not be forgotten. 10/7 should be remembered because it condemned both: Afghan dead, condemned to being forgotten, and American dead, condemned to having massacres enacted in their names.