| [sept 11 event ] editorial at world socialist web site
The political roots of the terror attack on New York and Washington
By the Editorial Board 12 September 2001
The World Socialist Web Site unequivocally condemns the terrorist attacks
on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Those responsible for the
hijacking of four commercial passenger aircraft and their conversion
into flying bombs are guilty of mass murder. Nothing of a socially progressive
character will be achieved on the basis of such an indiscriminate and
callous destruction of human life.
These acts of homicidal terrorism manifest a toxic combination of demoralized
pessimism, religious and ultra-nationalist obscurantism, and, it must
be added, political opportunism of the vilest character. Terrorist organizations-notwithstanding
their anti-American rhetoric-base their tactics on the illusion that
random acts of horrific violence will compel the US ruling class to shift
its policies. Thus, in the final analysis, they hope to make a deal with
However it seeks to justify itself, the terrorist method is fundamentally
reactionary. Far from dealing a powerful blow against imperialist militarism,
terrorism plays into the hands of those elements within the US establishment
who seize on such events to justify and legitimize the resort to war
in pursuit of the geopolitical and economic interests of the ruling elite.
The murder of innocent civilians enrages, disorients and confuses the
public. It undermines the struggle for the international unity of the
working class, and counteracts all efforts to educate the American people
on the history and politics that form the background to contemporary
events in the Middle East.
Nevertheless, our condemnation of Tuesday's terrorist outrages does
not in the slightest imply any lessening of our principled and irreconcilable
opposition to the policies of the US government. Anyone who wishes to
understand the why and wherefore of yesterday's events must study the
historical and political record of the US in the Middle East, especially
over the last 30 years. The unrelenting efforts of American imperialism
to secure its domination over the oil resources of the region, which
has entailed, among other things, unstinting support for the Israeli
state's oppression of the Palestinian people, has placed the United States
in violent opposition to the legitimate and irrepressible democratic,
national and social aspirations of the Arab masses.
In the immediate aftermath of Tuesday's events, politicians, editorialists
and media pundits have declared over and over that Americans must recognize
that the destruction of the World Trade Center means the United States
is at war and must act accordingly. But the fact of the matter is that
the US government has been engaged in direct warfare in the Middle East,
in one form or another, for the better part of two decades.
Putting aside the massive material aid that it provides for Israeli
military operations, the United States has been bombing one or another
Middle Eastern country almost continuously since 1983. US bombers and/or
battleships have attacked Lebanon, Libya, Iraq, Iran, the Sudan and Afghanistan.
Without actually declaring war, the United States has conducted military
operations against Iraq for nearly 12 years. The ongoing daily bombings
of Iraq are barely mentioned in the American media, which has made no
attempt to ascertain the total number of Iraqis killed by US bombs since
Given this bloody record, why should anyone be surprised that those
who have been targeted by the United States have sought to strike back?
The same media that is now screaming for blood has routinely applauded
the use of violence against whatever country or people are deemed to
be obstacles to US interests. Let us recall the words of New York Times
columnist Thomas Friedman, who had this to say to the Serbian people
during the US bombing campaign in 1999: "It should be lights out in Belgrade:
every power grid, water pipe, road and war-related factory has to be
hit.... [W]e will set your country back by pulverizing you. You want
1950? We can do 1950. You want 1389? We can do 1389."
The foreign policy of the US is a mixture of cynicism, brutality and
irresponsibility. Washington has pursued a course that has inflamed the
hatred of large sections of the world's population, creating an environment
in which recruits can be found for bloody terrorist operations. In rare
moments of candor, foreign policy specialists have acknowledged that
the actions of the United States provoke hatred and the desire for retribution.
During the Balkan War, former Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger
stated: "We've presented to the rest of the world a vision of the bully
on the block who pushes a button, people out there die, we don't pay
anything except the cost of a missile ... that's going to haunt us in
terms of trying to deal with the rest of the world in the years ahead."
This insight has not prevented the same Eagleburger from declaring Tuesday
night that the United States should respond to the destruction of the
World Trade Center by dropping bombs immediately on any country that
might have been involved.
George W. Bush's address to the nation Tuesday evening epitomized the
arrogance and blindness of the American ruling class. Far from America
being "the brightest beacon for freedom and opportunity in the world," the
US is seen by tens of millions as the main enemy of their human and democratic
rights, and the main source of their oppression. The American ruling
elite, in its insolence and cynicism, acts as if it can carry out its
violent enterprises around the world without creating the political conditions
for violent acts of retribution.
In the immediate aftermath of Tuesday's attacks, US authorities and
the media are once again declaring that Osama bin Laden is responsible.
This is possible, although, as always, they present no evidence to back
up their claim.
But the charge that bin Laden is the culprit raises a host of troubling
questions. Given the fact that the US has declared this individual to
be the world's most deadly terrorist, whose every move is tracked with
the aid of the most technologically sophisticated and massive intelligence
apparatus, how could bin Laden organize such an elaborate attack without
being detected? An attack, moreover, against the same New York skyscraper
that was hit in 1993?
The devastating success of his assault would indicate that, from the
standpoint of the American government, the crusade against terrorism
has been far more a campaign of propaganda to justify US military violence
around the world than a conscientious effort to protect the American
Moreover, both bin Laden and the Taliban mullahs, whom the US accuses
of harboring him, were financed and armed by the Reagan-Bush administration
to fight pro-Soviet regimes in Afghanistan in the 1980s. If they are
involved in Tuesday's operations, then the American CIA and political
establishment are guilty of having nurtured the very forces that carried
out the bloodiest attack on American civilians in US history.
The escalation of US militarism abroad will inevitably be accompanied
by intensified attacks on democratic rights at home. The first victims
of the war fever being whipped up are Arab-Americans, who are already
being subjected to death threats and other forms of harassment as a result
of the media hysteria.
The calls from both Republican and Democratic politicians for a declaration
of war foreshadow a more general crackdown on opponents of American foreign
policy. General Norman Schwarzkopf, who commanded American troops in
the 1991 invasion of Iraq, spoke for much of the political and military
elite when he declared on television that the war on alleged terrorist
supporters should be conducted inside as well as outside the borders
of the US.
It is the policies pursued by the United States, driven by the strategic
and financial interests of the ruling elite, which laid the foundations
for the nightmare that unfolded on Tuesday. The actions now being contemplated
by the Bush administration-indicated by the president's threat to make "no
distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts and those
who harbor them"-will only set the stage for further catastrophes.