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Sam Razi
Founder of Pressimus. Technologist that writes from time to time.
Sam Razi

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Sam Razi
Founder of Pressimus. Technologist that writes from time to time.
How John Hersey's Hiroshima revealed the horror of the bomb - BBC News
At the end of this month 70 years will have passed since the publication of a magazine story hailed as one of the greatest pieces of journalism ever written. Headlined simply Hiroshima, the 30,000-word article by John Hersey had a massive impact, revealing the full horror of nuclear weapons to the post-war generation, as Caroline Raphael describes.
Sam Razi
Founder of Pressimus. Technologist that writes from time to time.
"Turn on the TV! It's world war three!"

On the morning of September 11, 2001, I was asleep in my apartment in Burnaby, British Columbia. Burnaby is a sister city to Vancouver, and part of the Greater Vancouver area. I was awakened by a phone call.

Upon fumbling for the phone and mumbling out a sleepy-headed hello, I heard my mom's voice on the other end say something that didn't fit any of the models I was accustomed to for when the phone rings early in the morning.

But I remember it like it was just yesterday.

"Turn on the TV, it's world war three!"

I was just not registering the meaning of what she was saying.

"What?  What are you talking about mom?"

"Turn on the TV! It's world war three! There's been an attack!"

Now you have to understand, my mom isn't one to play practical jokes or exaggerate.

At this point, my synapses finally captured the meaning of what she was saying, and I felt an instant pang of dread. The image in my mind was one of a giant mushroom cloud from a nuclear bomb going off, something that--especially if you were a kid in the 80s--you were conditioned to viscerally fear. The great red menace.

But the U.S.S.R. no longer existed.   I had cognitive dissonance.

"Ok, ok mom, let me see what's going on. I'll call you back."

I stumbled to the living room and turned on the TV. Vancouver, being on the west coast, is three hours behind New York.

What I saw when I turned on the TV was the two towers, with smoke coming out of them, and within seconds of turning on the TV, I saw one of the towers as it fell.

I remember getting down on my knees in front of the TV, clasping my hands over my head in shock and disbelief. "Oh my god!"

My mom was right. This was for all intents and purposes the start of world war three.

In that moment, even as I felt shock, dismay and fear, I remember thinking the following things:

  1. The world will never be the same.
  2. There will be revenge. The U.S. would make someone pay dearly for this act.
  3. As dreadful as the situation was, I remember a sudden realization that as an Iranian-Canadian, the Iranian part was going to take a hit. I remember thinking: please don't let this have been people from the middle east who did this.

This was a very vivid dread I felt in that moment.  Having experienced my formative years in Canada, and grown up there in an era where there were not a lot of other Iranians, I had experienced a lot of racism growing up.  And by the mid-90s and early 2000s that racism had started to ebb.   I felt relatively comfortable letting people know that I was born in Iran.

9/11 changed that.  And while I am comfortable letting people know I'm from Iran now, 15 years after that sociopolitical singularity that led us into the Bizarro's world we now live in, it's not because I feel like perceptions of Iranians or people from the middle east have improved.   It's more out of a desire to not live in fear of being stereotyped or judged because I happen to have been born there.  And also from a desire to dispel myths and stereotypes.

But I digress.

When the first images of the genocidal maniacs that ushered in this new era of terror came out, my heart sank even further.

I realized then that my mom was 100% correct.

This was the starting salvo in a war that would encompass the world.

It was the start world war three.  To this day I believe that.

Fast forward to today. My mom's words sadly have proven to be prophetic.

We are living through an era of profound change, uncertainty, risk, and fear.

9/11 was terrible.  But in the immediate aftermath, the world held out hope. There was a kind of global unity and anticipation that -- if perhaps the Bush administration and the neocons had not held the reigns in the US -- could have been capitalized upon.

People around the world, including in Iran held candlelight vigils.

But the opportunity was completely and utterly squandered.

It was clear that going after the Taliban and Al Qaeda were necessities.

But after that... after that...

Where should one start to enumerate the mistakes? Here are just a few.  A tiny sampling really.  There are many, many more. But I think these capture the essence of where we went wrong, and not necessarily in order of occurrence.

  1. The "axis of evil" speech and attacking and destroying Iraq, a country that had nothing to do with 9/11 and disbanding the Iraqi army (not because Iraq had anything to do with 9/11 but because, from Bush's own mouth, "he tried to kill my dad."  So upwards of a million Iraqis had to die?
  2. Guantanamo anyone? How about Abu Ghraib?  And what about all the prisons inside Iraq, and around the world where people were "renditioned" to and tortured?
  3. Ever heard of the Patriot Act?  Taking away or eroding the very freedoms that made America exceptional.   Wasn't that playing right into the hands of the people who want to see the end of western liberal democracy and our way of life? 
  4. How about the arbitrary arrests without due process, torture and extrajudicial killings?  Drones anyone?
  5. Spying on anyone and everyone (and this isn't just the Bush administration.  The Obama administration is just as culpable here).
  6. Syria.  Need I say more on this one?  We sat back and let Syria fester.  Hundreds of thousands dead.  Millions left with no choice but to leave and migrate to places that by and large are unsympathetic to their profound suffering.

These actually barely scratch the surface of the many things that have led to the unstable world we now face.   I could go on about Bush.  He squandered eight years of precious time that could have been used to try to tackle the climate change crisis for one.   This is not something abstract or separate from the situation in Syria. 

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The Ominous Story of Syria's Climate Refugees

Farmers who have escaped the battle-torn nation explain how drought and government abuse have driven social violence Drought, which is being exacerbated by climate change and bad government policies, has forced more than a million Syrian farmers to move to overcrowded cities. Water shortages, ruined land and corruption, they say, fomented revolution.

View full page →
Jul 17, 2016 02:35 (GMT)

Now we have ubiquitous 24/7 connectivity to the Internet, combined with tools that make everyone a reporter and broadcaster.

And we live in a time when ideas are spread instantly and trans-nationally.

So we have the furies and rage unleashed by unjust wars and the wavering from the ideals that made western liberal democracy a beacon of light for the world, combined with vulnerable minds and lone wolves that need nothing but a connection to the Internet to fall into filter bubbles of hate and radicalization, combined with economic disparities, inequality of opportunity, and an international trend towards xenophobia and the politics of fear.  And we have all of this happening at a time of rapid technological advancement and globalization that are leaving many people behind, population growth, degradation of the environment and a rapid decline in biodiversity, and a thousand other things that are fraying at the edges, creating uncertainty and a growing sense of helplessness in the world.

Is it any surprise to anyone that in Europe the far right is making a comeback? Dare I say fascism is in vogue?

Is anyone surprised by Brexit? Really?

After 8 years of the serial cluster-humping perpetrated on the world by the Bush administration, followed by another 8 years of the divisive politics of the right by the likes of the tea party crazies and rogue politicians that are trying to sabotage international agreements made by the President of the United States (think Tom Cotton and the 47 senators, including John McCain, who wrote a letter to Iran's leader saying that even if an agreement is made between Iran and world powers, they would seek to dishonor it) is anyone surprised that the narcissistic, sexist, orange man that wants to build a giant wall, wants to deport millions of people, and wants to ban people on the basis of their religion is within a nose hair's breadth from the most powerful political office in the world?

Close on fifteen years after 9/11 my mom's prophetic words still ring true.   Just turn on your TV.  Or hit up Twitter.

-- Sam Razi