United States: A decade on from 9/11

The article below is an abridged editorial from US progressive magazine Against The Current.

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The decade opened with the attacks of September 11, 2001 may have symbolically closed with the elite US death-squad assassination of Osama bin Laden.

But the turmoil of these post-9/11 years, notably the self-inflicted wounds of US capitalism, have exceeded the terrorist mastermind’s wildest dreams.

There are the wars that George W Bush, with the support of congressional Democrats, launched in Afghanistan and Iraq.

This led to a major US defeat in Iraq, a defeat all the more damaging because it is not acknowledged, and a quagmire in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

There was the drowning of New Orleans by the sheer racist and cynical neglect of its Black and poor population in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

This was followed by the catastrophe of the 2010 BP Gulf oil blowout, the product of regulatory negligence over the insane search for ever-more-remote sources of non-renewable planet-destroying fossil fuels.

Then came the financial meltdown that helped bring on the Great Recession. The dismantling of banking regulation (another product of the much-praised “bipartisan” spirit) enabled those exotic derivatives, credit-default swaps and other instruments certified by rating agencies like Standard and Poor’s as the highest-grade investments.

Now, those same rating agencies see fit to “downgrade” the credit status of the US itself.

For those who choose to look, these years have brought our society face to face with its real condition, and it’s not pretty.

The Bush-Cheney gang shredded the Bill of Rights of the United States constitution.

From the extraterritorial prisons at Guantanamo Bay and Bagram in Afghanistan, to “extraordinary rendition”, there has been torture and hundreds of cases of people (US citizens and others) rounded up, tried and imprisoned.

But what’s more sinister is that most of these practices have been continued, consolidated and routinised under the presidency of Barack Obama.

A secret, undeclared war on presidential orders, along with the destruction of due process, judicial openness and elementary norms of fairness in domestic law, are now all-but-permanent features of a national hyper-security state.

We now live in the era of secret wars with drones and Special Forces assassination teams that draw no attention except when their helicopters get shot down or large-scale civilian deaths are uncovered.

There are other casualties.

Despite the public’s concern over global warming, this has been largely a lost decade at a critical stage of the battle to prevent catastrophic environmental degradation and climate change.

The evidence pointing to the dangerous consequences of climate change, up to and including the potential for civilizational collapse, has piled up even while effective action is blocked.

This northern summer’s huge droughts and horrifying famine in east Africa, to say nothing of extreme weather events, look to become regular features of coming years.

During this time, the huge inequalities in US society have grown enormously. Unions have been almost gutted and industrial wages for new hires reduced by half.

Prison populations have exploded with convictions for nonviolent drug use. Immigrant communities have come under a reign of terror of raids and mass deportation, and state and local budgets have crashed with ruinous effects on basic public services and education.

During the first decade of the 21st century, the US has entered into sharp social decline and a notable erosion of its seemingly invincible imperial authority.

The issues confronting US capitalism arise from the deeper crisis of global capitalism.

Yet some aspects of today’s stunning dysfunction of mainstream US politics reflect aftershocks of September 11, 2001.

These include not only the unchecked ascendancy of corporate and banking greed, but also the growth of a weird pseudo-populism on the right.

This combines billionaire funding with fanatical anti-tax and anti-regulation elements.

At a certain level of abstraction, the 9/11 attacks assaulted rationality itself — and in the immediate aftermath rationality sure enough lost.

How do we account for the imperial adventure in Iraq, which was not only criminal but also quite stupid, strengthening only the regime in Iran at the expense of Washington’s regional clients?

Was it an absurd, ideologically-driven neocon pipedream to “transform the Middle East” with a series of improbable pro-imperialist regime changes — or did it reflect some thought-out strategic notions of how to consolidate US domination of the post-Cold War world?

Both factors were in play.

There was actually considerable resistance to Bush’s war drive among traditional pro-imperialist policy elites. But these objections were overridden by promises of a quick victory and the bonanza of conquering Iraq’s oil riches, and also by the cultural pathology of the post-9/11 US.

“They hate us because of our freedoms,” was a common mantra.

This mindless formula wasn’t only a whitewash of the depredations that have made the US rightfully the target of popular anger in the Middle East, Africa and Latin America — it became the pretext for assaults at home on precisely the democratic freedoms and civil liberties that the war was supposedly defending.

Another disturbing irrationalist sideshow was the mushroom growth of “9/11 truth” conspiracy theories, most of which were absurd on the basis of their mind-numbing complexity alone.

The myths of a government inside job, of vanished airliners, of plots by Israeli intelligence and so forth had currency not only within right-wing subcultures but also, regrettably, in parts of the left.

There was, and remains, good reason for scepticism over the received accounts of 9/11 — not about the undoubted fact that the attack was carried out by the religious-totalitarian fanatics of al-Qaeda, but about the full extent of what the Bush administration should have known in advance from its own and other intelligence services.

It is unlikely, barring some new whistleblowing heroes, that the full background hidden in closed archives will be known for decades, if ever.

A contradictory feature of the post-9/11 years has been the eruption of anti-Muslim bigotry in US society at both the popular and intellectual (if it deserves such a title) levels.

This phenomenon has certainly fuelled the growth of the right — and the wave of anti-immigrant repression, not only against Muslims.

Yet the government, even under Bush-Cheney, had to disavow anti-Muslim sentiments given its close alliance with fundamentalist regimes such as Saudi Arabia, which the US deems friendly.

Official Washington doctrine is that Islam is a religion of peace and Muslim citizens in the US are largely peaceful, productive and loyal.

But the state’s practice has been ethnic and religious profiling and the surveillance of Muslim mosques, communities and especially charities.

Some of these, notably the Holy Land Foundation, have been closed and their officers — Ghassan Elashi, Shukri Abu-Baker, Mufid Abdulqader, Abdulrahman Odeh and Mohammed El-Mezain — given between 15 and 65-year prison sentences on the retroactive and arbitrary application of post-9/11 laws about “material aid to terrorists”, meaning hospitals in Gaza.

Vicious tracts, books, DVDs and religious broadcasts on Islam as “the terrorist religion” proliferate.

One particularly sick argument that circulates in religious right broadcasts exactly echoes al-Qaeda’s ranting: “Yes, most Muslims are peaceful, but truly faithful Muslims who obey the tenets of Islam are required by their religion to be terrorists.”

Yet the majority of the US electorate voted in 2008 for Barack Hussein Obama. This was despite all the widely circulated disinformation calling him a secret Muslim, not a US-born citizen, educated in an Indonesian Islamic school, etc. — because they preferred his stated policy positions.

In this limited sense at least, rational thought prevailed when given a democratic chance.

The rise and the rejection of Islamophobia is one among many paradoxes of post-9/11 America.

This is a society in profound crisis and gripped by political reaction, but capable of producing, for example, the rebellion by workers against an anti-union law that shook Wisconsin this year.

Its political elites govern on the basest appeals to fear and paranoia, but popular support for their military adventures is visibly withering.

Its ruling class preaches the “necessity” of austerity through every media outlet, but most people do not want to see social security, Medicare and public education gutted.

US working people, in short, have the normal and predictable concerns that are to be expected in any society.

The political system, on the other hand, teeters toward self-destruction as a direct function of the smashing of the unions, the weakness of social movements and the unchecked influence of corporate cash in elections and the media.

Karl Marx’s observation that the struggle for basic reforms (for example, the eight-hour work day) is necessary to discipline capital’s wildest extremes, and important for the functioning of the system itself, seems strikingly relevant.

The self-wounding of US capitalism has reached another level with the recent debt-ceiling “compromise” that slashes the budget at the worst possible moment — on the eve of a double-dip recession.

It promises even more savage cuts to come under the aegis of the “bipartisan Congressional commission”.

In the absence of large-scale social resistance, the Obama program — a right-wing Republican initiative in all but name — offers a longterm slide toward deeper US decline, deeper class and racial inequality, and may eventually help produce a severe global depression.

Alternatively, there’s the Tea Party program, which would bring about these results right away.

Both the immediate and the lasting impacts of the 9/11 events and the imperial response were incisively foretold on that very day by an Against The Current supporter, a flight attendant out of Boston, who remarked when contacted by an alarmed editor of this journal: “We’ve entered a whole new world of shit.”

That remark if anything may be even more true in September 2011 than it was on September 11, 2001.


Isn't it great that this writer tells you how absurd that the 9/11 Truth movement is with out answering a single question of the 100's if not 1000's that have gone unanswered by anyone who likes to throw the 'Conspiracy Theorist' or 'Kook' phrases around. Your readers might find it intellectually fraudulent that you make these claims and statements without a shred of fact. I have only one question for you and if you can answer this, may allow you to redeem yourself and your credibility. How sir, did World Traded Center, Building 7, a 47-story skyscraper that was part of the World Trade Center complex. collapsed at 5:20 pm on September 11, 2001 at free-fall acceleration? Into it's own footprint, was not hit by an airplane and suffered minimal damage compared to other buildings much closer to the Twin Towers. Please anyone prove (using real science) that it was not a controlled demolition. You can't. Please investigate 9/11 before making a final judgement.
Alexander Cockburn answers 9/11 truther arguments at CounterPunch http://www.counterpunch.org/2011/09/02/the-911-conspiracists-vindicated-after-all-these-years