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11th September 2001


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From: The Socialist issue 222, 21 September 2001: No To War

Search site for keywords: US - 11th September 2001 - War - Imperialism - Terrorism

THE CARNAGE in New York and Washington resulting from the suicide attacks is a world event like no other before.
Socialists have condemned and opposed these attacks. But the aftershock will reverberate globally for some time to come. The Socialist reprints extracts of analysis from the Committee for a Workers' International statement about the impact of the events (CWI - the international socialist organisation which the Socialist Party is affiliated to).
Full statement online at www.socialistworld.net.

Attacks On The Us - Aftershocks Rock The Globe

NEW TECHNOLOGY and the speed of modern communication allowed millions of people on every continent to follow the horrific events as they unfolded. This resulted in an outpouring of emotion, a deep sense of concern and revulsion throughout the whole of the planet.

In the neo-colonial world, particularly in the Middle East, there are also expressions of open regret that innocents have had to suffer but this combines with the feeling that this is the result of the crimes of US imperialism in the countries of Africa, Asia and Latin America.

These events have colossal repercussions for the US and its after effects are still reverberating globally.

Thousands of people have been killed and countless others maimed on the bloodiest day of violence on US soil since the battle of Antietam in the civil war in the 19th century. More than 300 firefighters, who heroically rushed into the World Trade Center (WTC) to rescue victims, were killed. Many emergency service workers perished. It is not possible to remain unmoved by the scenes of devastation and death.

While sharing these sentiments, we in no way turn our eyes away from the terrible conditions which motivated the suicide bombers nor do we line up with the hysterical hypocrites such as Bush, Blair and the capitalist rulers of the world, who are banging the war drums for military action against the alleged perpetrators of these actions.

Socialists condemn the completely indiscriminate bombing attacks. They have played into the hands of the US ruling class and internationally and the consequences will rebound on the neo-colonial masses.

Repercussions

THE REPERCUSSIONS from 'security', economic, social and political standpoints will be considerable and can only be tentatively anticipated as yet. The greatest effects immediately, of course, have been in the US.

As many commentators have remarked, this is the biggest attack on the US ever. Comparisons have been drawn with the attack on Pearl Harbour in 1941. But even that pales before the suicide attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon.

Just over two thousand were killed at Pearl Harbour and provisional figures of those who perished in the World Trade Centre building are far greater. Moreover, the Pearl Harbour attack took place on a Pacific island. This is the first attack on the US 'mainland' since the 1812-14 war with Britain.

The US has not experienced this type of attack before, despite the fact that it went through the Second World War, the Cold War, including the Cuban missile crisis, and the Gulf War.

A handful of suicide attackers armed with knives successfully managed to devastate the US and world financial centre and the military power of US imperialism concentrated in the Pentagon.

New York City, paralysed for days after the bombing, is one of the richest cities on the globe independently:

"raking in more annually than all of the world's most advanced states. In 1998, the city's budget exceeded that of some major countries, including Russia."

"New York is more than just a wealthy city of eight million people. It is the financial capital of the world's largest economy. As the significance of what happened in New York sank in across the country, America's smaller exchanges closed down one by one. But it is the New York stock exchange that moves global financial events" (Stratfor (strategic forecasters) website, 11 September).

Even before the full effects of this tragedy can be digested, questioning and divisions within the US and worldwide ruling class have opened up. For example, how was it possible for US imperialism and its 'security agencies', with its battery of the latest hi-tech equipment, with an army of 'counter-spies' to seemingly have no warning of these events? This is despite the fact that Osama bin Laden, warned as recently as three months ago of retribution against the US for the "crimes against the peoples of the Middle East and Islam as a whole".

Moreover, other states, such as France, have had recent warnings and have taken action against attacks from Islamic militants. Little wonder then that in the latest issue of Atlantic Monthly, Reuel Marc Gerecht, a former senior CIA operative indignantly writes:

"The CIA probably does not have a single truly qualified Arabic-speaking officer of Middle Eastern background who can play a believable Muslim fundamentalist who would volunteer to spend years of his life with shitty food and no women in the mountains of Afghanistan. For Christ's sake, most case officers live in the suburbs of Virginia. We don't do that kind of thing." [Financial Times 11 September.]

Facing the wrong way

IN OTHER words, the US 'security' agencies were facing the wrong way, still fighting a version of the 'cold war' instead of anticipating the repercussions of supporting Israel, in particular, in its repressive policies against the Palestinians and the general hatred in which US imperialism is held throughout the Middle East and the Arab world in general.

These events have also shattered once and for all the alleged 'invincibility' of the US. It has torpedoed Bush's and the Republicans' intention to pursue a 'unilateralist' foreign policy.

The concept that the US is the centre of the world, that little of importance takes place outside of its borders and that it can remain largely untouched by international events runs quite deep in the US psyche. That has been shattered once and for all.

Mixed in with the bewilderment and anger at the bombings and their perpetrators is a growing realisation and a perplexity that the US is not perceived as the 'defender of liberty' internationally but is hated by significant sections of the world's population for its role as an oppressor, particularly in the neo-colonial world. It is the foremost power and champion of untrammelled global capitalism.

These events mark a significant turning point in world history and particularly for the US. Gone is the concept of 'Fortress America'.

The effect on the US people's consciousness, and foremost among them the US working class, will be felt in the medium and long term. Paradoxically, the idea that the fate of the majority of the US population is tied to that of the peoples in Africa, Asia, Latin America, never mind in Europe and Japan, will grow. But in the first instance, a patriotic and maybe even a xenophobic mood will develop and be whipped up by the US ruling class.

Inept leadership

HOWEVER, 11 September will be forever engraved on the consciousness of the world's population, not only by the horrors in New York and Washington DC but also by the open and palpable ineptitude, and panic, of the political leadership of the US ruling class.

Bush's first reaction on TV was unforgettable as he referred to the suicide attackers as "these folks"! The fact that he took to a bombproof underground Nebraska shelter and criss-crossed America before returning to Washington DC did not exactly cast him in a heroic mould.

The bombings also graphically underline the futility of Bush's 'son of Star Wars' project, which would cost more than $100 billion. This 'defence' would not only have proved totally ineffectual against the suicide attackers but would have been even more so in the event of a doomsday scenario, involving the use of nuclear devices in a suitcase or biological warfare by individuals, such as took place in Japan with the Aum sect.

Contrary to many people's illusions such a development is possible with the colossal proliferation of weapons for sale throughout the world in the aftermath of the collapse of Stalinism in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. This includes nuclear material and devices.

War psychology

NATO HAS declared that it is not just the US but also all its members which are 'at war'. This terminology is not at all accidental but expresses the rage of the US ruling class and its allies, its determination to seek retribution not just against the alleged 'terrorists' but also against the 'rogue states' which support them. US imperialism is a wounded beast that is ready to strike out in all directions.

It is obviously preparing to strike out in a significant military intervention, probably involving thousands of troops against the perceived 'enemy'. The problem is identifying precisely who the 'enemy' is.

Roosevelt, at the time of Pearl Harbour, denounced 'this day of infamy' and mobilised American imperialism's colossal resources against an identifiable enemy, Japanese imperialism. Now, however, it is not immediately obvious who is responsible and who will be the 'targets'.

But this will be immaterial to US imperialism and its allies. Bin Laden has been identified and demonised as the main culprit, although the evidence to date points to the fact that it was probably a consortium of Islamic organisations and groups, which have been in the US for a considerable period of time, which were responsible.

Moreover, bin Laden is a creature of US imperialism's intervention, particularly through the medium of the CIA (who financed him), in the proxy war they organised through the mujaheddin against the Soviet presence in Afghanistan. The sins of US imperialism's past are being revisited on the heads of innocent American men, women and children today.

Military coalition

However, some voices are being raised cautioning against early and precipitous military action. Some even urge an examination of the social and political conditions, which have bred specifically Middle East individual terrorism.

Nevertheless, these voices are being crowded out by the shrill tones of the majority of US capitalist commentators who, as atonement for the deaths, are demanding action, and blood if necessary, and punishment for the perpetrators. The US people were first of all traumatised by these events, but following this will come the anger. The voices calling for retribution are prominently featured in the media.

US imperialism has effectively, through the aegis of Britain's 'Lord' Robertson and Blair, put together a NATO coalition similar to that which was assembled at the time of the intervention and bombing of Serbia during the Kosovo/Kosova war in preparation for action. Indeed, US imperialism is trying to go even further than this.

Just days after the attacks, they are attempting to assemble an even wider 'coalition', similar to that established at the time of the Gulf War.

Arab anger

MILITARY ACTION of one kind or another against the Palestinians, for instance, will undermine such efforts. Arab public opinion is already at boiling point because of the military repression by the Israeli ruling class, with the acquiescence of the Bush administration, against the Palestinian masses.

The consequence of the attacks is to reinforce something which the perpetrators sought to undermine, the hegemony of US imperialism. It further underlines the baleful effects of individual terrorism. Since the collapse of Stalinism, the US has been the sole superpower but with severe restraints on this power. Economically, of course, it is the colossus which bestrides the globe.

However, because of the world relationship of forces, the overwhelming power of US imperialism has still been severely constrained. Now that has changed.

Within days of these events, representatives of French capitalism, which has always traditionally sought to seek some distance between itself and US imperialism, [initially] switched tack.

Gerhard Schršder, the German chancellor, who criticised US imperialism during the Gulf War, has fallen into line.

Blair had no need to change his position as traditionally he acts, as have all representatives of British imperialism since 1945, as the poodles of American capitalism. Even Russian capitalism, in the form of Putin, initially fell in solidly behind US imperialism.

Even if the 'coalition' does not hold in the mid and long term it has, nevertheless, enormously strengthened US imperialism's hand in using whatever measures it deems necessary to strike back.

Military intervention

WHAT KIND of measures will be used is not clear yet to Bush and the American ruling class. But at the very least some kind of military intervention, possibly not just air strikes but the use of ground troops, will be deployed against bin Laden's 'bases' in Afghanistan.

This would have repercussions not just in Afghanistan but also in Pakistan, with the rise of Islamic fundamentalism, which the Musharraf government is impotent to combat.

The Pakistani regime is armed with nuclear devices, as is India, and it has been an enduring concern of American imperialism that conflict in this theatre could spiral out of control and result in a limited nuclear exchange.

Now, however, the very actions of US imperialism, if it goes ahead and are on a wide scale, could lead to a situation where events spiral out of control and the nightmare scenario could be realised. This seems far-fetched but we are moving into an entirely different situation where these attacks in the US have skewed how world events will develop.

The repercussions of these events internationally could, for a time, distract attention from the economic and political effects of this recession. However, even this is doubtful, particularly as far as Europe and Japan are concerned.

In the US, there may be an element of what Britain experienced during the Malvinas/Falklands conflict where, despite the devastating economic situation in Britain at the time, Thatcher managed to win a huge election victory on the basis of the patriotic wave following the war victory.

Military victory?

INTERNATIONAL MILITARY incursions, even if they are carefully calibrated, will only compound the problems in the Middle East and, particularly, Israel/Palestine which remains a powder keg.

Under cover of these events, the Israeli ruling class temporarily moved in and occupied two Palestinian towns and then subsequently withdrew. Sharon has announced the intention to establish a buffer zone between the West Bank, Gaza and Israel proper.

This conflict has also reinforced the tendency of a section of the Israeli ruling class to contemplate the doomsday scenario of a repartition of the area, involving the driving out of the million Israeli Arabs, the consolidation of a number of the Israeli settlements already in the West Bank into Israel, and the erection of a cordon sanitaire around Israel.

The exclusion of all Palestinians from Israel would enormously compound the social and economic problems of the West Bank and Gaza and provide a festering source for another round of vicious terrorism, from which America, with the rest of the capitalist world, would once again suffer.

This running sore would be a guarantee of a further round of terrorist attacks, including on the US and counter measures, etc.

No matter which route US and world imperialism chooses, it will find no solution to its problems. Temporarily, class and social issues can be pushed to the background.

But we must emphasise that there will be a significant minority who will be looking for explanations and can eagerly embrace our analysis and can be won over to socialist ideas.

This period will be a testing time but we must not be blown off course. We must remain firm in the face of what could be another vicious round of capitalist ideological warfare which aims to demonise all who stand against their system as 'terrorists'.

However, the relationship of class forces will not be fundamentally altered by these events. The economic situation and its political repercussions will be felt in the political arena.

The CWI has established very important points of support and can grow substantially in the medium and long term, if we ideologically come to terms with this new situation.

This is a very important turning point in US and world history. How we face up to this position is an important test of socialists and CWI members and supporters.


Socialists Oppose Terrorist Methods

TERRORIST METHODS carried out by conspiratorial groups, no matter what the underlying causes - oppression, discrimination, poverty, etc - always have the opposite and reactionary effects to what its perpetrators anticipate.

In the past, Marxists, who base themselves on mass action, had to oppose "individual terrorism", usually action by individuals or small groups to assassinate individual representatives of the ruling class, who would simply be replaced by new leaders.

The US attacks, however, are a form of mass terrorism carried out by a conspiratorial group, not only striking a blow at symbols of US wealth and power but also indiscriminately claiming the lives of thousands of ordinary people.

The denunciation of 'terrorists' in the mouths of Tony Blair, Bush, Ariel Sharon, Vladimir Putin and the rest of them is pure hypocrisy. They are the greatest perpetrators of mass terror, usually against mostly defenceless peoples.

Blair daily defended the mass terror deployed against the Serbian people during the Kosova war. Bush's father and his chief general of the day, Norman Schwarzkopf, perpetrated mass terror against the beaten and defenceless Iraqi army at the time of the Gulf war.

The countless civilian victims in Iraq, which we have to remember dwarfs even the terrible numbers killed in New York and the Pentagon, were merely dismissed by Schwarzkopf as "collateral damage".

Imperialism's slaughter

MIDDLE EAST expert, Robert Fisk, commented on 12 September in The Independent:

"Ask an Arab how he responds to 20,000 or 30,000 innocent deaths and he or she will respond as decent people should, that it is an unspeakable crime. But they will ask why we did not use such words about the sanctions that have destroyed the lives of perhaps half a million children in Iraq [a Palestinian journalist in The Guardian has put the figure as one million children who have died from the effects of depleted uranium and starvation], why we did not rage about the 17,500 civilians killed in Israel's 1982 invasion of Lebanon.

"And those basic reasons why the Middle East caught fire last September - the Israeli occupation of Arab land, the dispossession of Palestinians, the bombardments and state-sponsored executions... all these must be obscured lest they provide the smallest fractional reason for yesterday's mass savagery."

Leaders of the G7 sat down for talks with Putin in Genoa, Russia's prime minister at the time of the final Russian assault on Grozny, Chechnya, in 1999 which resulted in the slaughter of thousands of people.

Socialists oppose 'terrorism'

WE OPPOSE 'terrorism' but we use this term in a different sense to the pejorative fashion in which the capitalists use it.

For Blair, Sharon and Bush it does not apply to them when they use mass terrorist methods. However, they argue it is legitimate to use this term, when a subject people, take up arms to defend themselves against an oppressive regime.

By this reasoning, the South African masses had no right to resist the apartheid regime armed to the teeth.

The Palestinian masses are expected to lie down and meekly accept the unspeakable social conditions, the denial of legitimate democratic and national rights, the torture, and the daily bombardments and killings including of women and children.

Socialists and Marxists have nothing in common with this hypocrisy in our arguments against those who use the methods of terrorism. But these methods cannot succeed in seriously weakening capitalism or imperialism never mind lead to its overthrow and a change in society.

On the contrary, the experience of the working-class movement and the struggles of the people in the neo-colonial world demonstrate the ineffectiveness and futility of such methods.

Even the history of the Palestinian struggle itself underlines this point: it was not the Palestinian guerrilla fighters from outside but the mass uprising of the Palestinian people in the intifada that forced the Israeli ruling class to step back and make 'concessions'.

Similarly, no matter what the motivation of the suicide bombers was, the net result, as is already evident in the few days following these events, has been to create the conditions to allow the ruling classes of the world to begin to strengthen and justify repressive measures.

These will be aimed not just against 'terrorists' but against working-class movements, radicals and those who intend to protest against the inequality and injustice of the capitalist system.

Socialists and Marxists have always counterposed to the methods of the 'terrorists' the idea of a mass movement and mass action of the working class.

Paradoxically, the Financial Times in Britain on 13 September demonstrated the force of our argument:

"A decentralised capitalist system is extraordinarily resilient in the face of physical damage. Sustained bombing campaigns, such as that against Germany in the Second World War, rarely bring an economy to its knees.
Civil disobedience - such as last year's European blockades against high fuel taxes - can halt a modern economy much more quickly. But that demands the overt participation of the many, not the secret attacks of a few."





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