George Bush’s Father Trained the Man Who Killed My Father: An Interview with Jeremy Glick of September 11 Families for Peaceful Tomorrows

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Jeremy Glick, whose father was killed in the World Trade Center, has traveled around the U.S. speaking about peace as it relates to 9/11 and Iraq on behalf of “September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows,” a group of family members of those killed in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. I spoke to him on April 10, 2003, when he was in Champaign-Urbana for a speaking engagement sponsored by the Anti-War Anti-Racism Effort (AWARE) and other local groups.
Baldwin: Anti-war activists get asked a lot about their motivations, but I wonder if you think it’s different for you, or how that might have changed after Sept. 11?
Glick: Nothing has really changed. I mean, obviously everything has changed for me personally since 9-11. My family life has been devastated. I’m without a father. So of course that’s changed. But really 9-11 has only just made me more disciplined, because I felt a greater sense of personal or immediate urgency. I’ve always been opposed to US and any other form of imperialism. But it also just generally reminded me of my limited, my mortality, the fact that my life isn’t necessarily guaranteed for any period of time. So it makes me a lot more disciplined and a lot more sparing with my time in the sense of sacrifice. I’ve always been involved in social justice issues. It’s just that this social justice issue has an exceptionally personal component.
Baldwin: What about the group, September 11 Families for Peaceful Tomorrows?
Glick: They came along with their own momentum. I’ve been involved in political prisoner and anti-imperialist and local issues in various urban centers in the New York and New Jersey area. The Peaceful Tomorrows organization is an anti-violent organization of 9-11 family members that opposes aggression against Afghanistan and Iraq. And I have an immense amount of respect for them, obviously with their personal pain and also the way they’re converting their subjective experience into fodder to struggle for social justice. I think that it’s very frustrating for a 9-11 family member to listen to how that day, and not only the lost loved one but the pain of the living family member, gets evoked over the top from the mouth of bourgeois politicians and the Right in the media. So I think it’s really important that there are people that were directly impacted that are being so principled and so thoughtful.
Baldwin: Do you think that there’s a special role or a special place for that in the antiwar movement?
Glick: Yeah, they’re speaking from a very powerful moral high ground. But I think they also have to be careful about talking from experience. It seems to me that the system could produce, you know, ten 9-11 family members who don’t have a very thought-out analysis, and are just warmongers. So I’m always cautious about speaking only from my personal subjeceive position. But I think that their analysis is more correct than the pro-war analysis. Also, in terms of the 9-11 subject, family members are like the cross in a vampire movie. It deflects a lot of criticism, you know, that you’re being insensitive to the families’ members who lost loved ones. I mean, people say that to me anyway. But actually I don’t think that the leadership should be that. My whole thing about 9-11 is that, those political conditions, that instability, of murder, or terror, domestically, on a quotidian, day-to-day level, is shared by, for example, the Black and Latino working community in New York City. They know exactly how it feels to be under the gun like that, and have that much instability and emotional insecurity that’s because of structural terror, or extralegal terror, whether it’s at the hands of the economic system or the hands of the NYPD.
So, the [9-11] family members are strategically important. They certainly need to be heard. They certainly need to be enfranchised so much more than they have, because the media has completely shut them out. And a lot of 9-11 family members are not concerned about going to war, or bombing, or retribution. I’m not being clever – I’m sure that there are some that are. But most 9-11 family members, regardless of their political orientation, are tired of feeling exploited. Because if you lose a loved one, whether it’s your husband or your wife, or your child, or your grandmother, or your uncle, or your dad in my case, or your brother or sister, it’s a private loss. And it’s a private loss that’s been co-opted by a public sphere, both a media sphere and a government, like a civic sphere. You’re just like, ease up, buddy, can I have a little, little space to, like, mourn? I understand the bumper stickers, but people that lost a loved one in 9-11 aren’t going to ever forget. That bumper sticker is not doing anything for me. I mean, in my family there’s conservatives – everybody isn’t radical – but even the non-radical were like, I don’t want American flags brought to the funeral or memorial service – not because my family has a problem with the American flag, but my mom felt like it was a co-optation. You know, “This isn’t a political event – I’m trying to mourn my husband.”
But in the global situation, you can’t privilege my father’s life over an Iraqi’s or somebody in Palestine. And you can’t privilege my pain, because I lost a North American US-citizen father in the Trade Center, over somebody in Chile on September 11, 1973, who lost his father in the US-sponsored Allende coup. I’m not a pacifist. If the people of Iraq wanted to take up armed struggle to democratize their civil society, I would support that. But it’s not what we’re witnessing. I don’t love Saddam Hussein. I don’t consider Osama bin Laden my friend. I consider him an armed extension of Bush’s power. So if you’re going to hire thugs to kill people, you’re as culpable as the thugs that kill people.
Baldwin: Rita Lasar and some others from the Peaceful Tomorrows group went to Afghanistan after the bombing, and when they came back they were calling Afghanistan “Ground Zero Two,” with the World Trade Center being “Ground Zero One.” Do you see a connection?
Glick: Yes, George Bush’s father trained the man who killed my father – when George Bush, Sr. was head of the CIA. It doesn’t get any more basic than that. But I’ll tell you a funny thing. The summer before 9-11, I went to the Bruderhof, which is a Christian, communalistic society. They were sponsoring a magazine I write for, and a bunch of us were on this retreat.
That Sunday when I got back – I remember it was in July, right before July 4th, and right behind where my apartment is there was a housing project – Memorial Homes, New Brunswick, New Jersey – and that Sunday it was firebombed, because the city is becoming immensely gentrified. Nobody died in that, per se, but I went to Ground Zero with a federal escort in October, and it was horrific. Even though this was public housing and it really wasn’t ideal circumstances, they were still people’s homes, and those people were not given what they were promised in terms of relocation. And if they did get relocated, they were low-income people that didn’t have access to cars, and they weren’t sensitive to where they relocated them and how this would tie into public transportation so they could continue their jobs. So it was just a blight, it was a devastation upon a community that was already devastated. And, to be frankly honest – and maybe this has to do with repression – I didn’t feel what I anticipated, which was this scary moment, like, “Oh my god, this is where my father died,” because it’s so big and you can’t really look. But the first thing I thought was, “Oh my god, this looks exactly like the imploding of the projects. It’s just on a bigger scale. That’s exactly what it looked like. And I daresay that the two were related politically.”

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