This article originally appeared on the site Revolution
On September 11, 2001, nearly 3,000 people died when jets flew into the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.
The immensity and horror of the attacks shocked people. Never had such a thing happened on U.S. soil. Some reacted with rage, with blind patriotic fury. Mobs formed to call for revenge; people who “looked foreign” were not only spat upon and often beaten, but in some cases actually killed for the offense of “looking different.” A network TV host deviated from the message and literally got told by the president’s spokesman in a press conference to “watch what you say.” He lost his show. Massive government roundups of over 1,000 immigrants occurred.
Other people—a minority, but not insignificant—were reminded of the scenes of horror on the nightly news that happen to “other people” who are “far away.” They mourned the 9-11 victims... but began to ask questions. Why did this happen? They sought out others—friends, sometimes strangers—to talk, to make sense of it all.
But the very act of asking such “dangerous questions” quickly got ruled out of order by the Bush regime and through the mainstream media: We’re not going to talk about that... don’t think about any history before 9-11, don’t consider the context for what happened... no, it’s time to get with the program. “You’re either with us or against us,” Bush said and all of Congress rose to its feet to cheer.
|How the Imperialists
Seized on 9-11 to Carry Out Longstanding Plans
In the talk, “The New Situation and the Great Challenges,” shortly after 9-11, Bob Avakian noted, in analyzing the background, “So there is the level of things that were already in motion, even before the current crew came into power in the U.S.—even under the Clinton administration. But at the same time, while there is all that, there is what happened on September 11, and I think the statement by the Committee of the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement (CORIM) is very much to the point here—that in the murky world of intelligence, where duplicity is the currency, it may be impossible to ever know exactly who was behind September 11. Who, actually, is Osama bin Laden? Of course, he’s the villain of the week, or whatever. Remember it used to be Noriega and then it was ‘Saddam, The Dictator’ (and don’t forget Milosevic). But who knows exactly who Osama bin Laden is and with whom and for whom he is actually working? All of this stuff is impossible to tell, but it does seem at least quite likely that there were real forces—not the proletariat, not positive forces, but other reactionary forces—who actually hit out at U.S. imperialism for their own reasons. Whether the U.S. ruling class knew that this specific thing was coming and decided to let it go for their own reasons, or whether they knew in a general sense that some kind of attack was coming against them, inside or outside the U.S., but they didn’t expect this (which is quite possible), whatever the truth of that is (and again we may never be able to sort all this out) the point is that there is both freedom and necessity for them in this situation.” (The talk is available online at revcom.us/a/245/ba-newsituation.) One point to note is that almost three years after 9-11, it came out that Bush had received an intelligence memo on August 6, 2001, titled “Bin Laden determined to attack inside the U.S.,” which said that the FBI had detected “patterns of suspicious activity in this country consistent with preparations for hijackings.”
After the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, high-level U.S. ruling class strategists began to push the view that the U.S. should act decisively to lock in the position as sole superpower and prevent any challengers from emerging. This position was articulated in the U.S. Defense Department’s 1992 “Defense Planning Guidance,” which argued that the U.S. should ensure “that no rival superpower is allowed to emerge in Western Europe, Asia or the territory of the former Soviet Union,” and that these objectives should be accomplished by preemptively attacking rivals or states seeking “weapons of mass destruction,” strengthening U.S. control over Persian Gulf oil, and refusing to allow any international law or coalitions to inhibit U.S. freedom of action. The document was written by Paul Wolfowitz, Lewis Libby, and Zalmay Khalilzad under the direction of then-defense secretary Dick Cheney—all later top officials in the Bush II administration. Over the decade of the 1990s, this core in the ruling class continued to flesh out and fight for this vision—in numerous research papers, think-tank seminars, opinion pieces, and efforts like the “Project for a New American Century.” They also led a growing chorus demanding more aggressive action against Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq, as well as against the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. All this was years before the September 11, 2001 attacks.
In September 2000, the neocon Project for a New American Century wrote that “[T]he process of transformation [of America’s global posture], even if it brings revolutionary change, is likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event—like a new Pearl Harbor.” On the night of September 11, 2001, Bush wrote in his diary, “The Pearl Harbor of the 21st century took place today.”
The carnage caused by the 9-11 attacks in the U.S. has been multiplied perhaps a hundred-fold by the response to that horror. On October 6, 2001, the U.S. went to war in Afghanistan—launching the beginning of what has now been a decade of unending war in the Middle East and South Asia—and resulted in 10 years of mounting death tolls and immense suffering for the people of Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan. These wars have caused the murder and mutilation of hundreds of thousands of people and traumatically destroyed or disrupted the lives of literally millions. According to a 2006 study done by Johns Hopkins and published in the British medical journal Lancet, in Iraq alone there were at least 600,000 deaths. UNCHR, the UN refugee agency, reports that 3.4 million refugees have fled Iraq for other countries.
The “War on Terror” Has Been—and Remains— a War for Empire
In short, over the last 10 years: The U.S. has invaded and occupied Afghanistan and then Iraq; and in the name of a “War on Terror,” (WOT), the U.S. has demanded a license to attack anyone who opposes U.S. domination anywhere in the world. The U.S. ruling class has declared a doctrine of “preemptive war”—now being furthered by Obama—claiming the “right” to threaten or launch wars of aggression based solely on so-called “intelligence estimates” of “potential threats” in the future; using covert operations, including assassinations, kidnappings, infiltrations, spying, and funding of networks of foreign agents.
We are told the WOT is “keeping the world safe.” But in fact, the real aims and goals—and even many of the plans aggressively put in place after 9-11—were on the agenda before 9-11.
What is really behind the so-called “war on terror” is a grand strategy aimed at reshaping the whole world, beginning with the Middle East and permanently establishing the U.S. in a position that has never before existed in the history of empires in the world—unchallenged and unchallengeable, in every dimension, on a scale never before seen in history. Their objective has been to violently recast international relations and make the U.S. the unchallengeable ruler of the world.
And under the banner of “homeland security” all kinds of fascistic policies and legal changes have been put in place—including vast new police powers of surveillance, systematic tracking of people, and attempts to mobilize the population in a climate of fear and mutual suspicion. There has been deep erosion of fundamental constitutional rights—including the protection from imprisonment without charges and searches without probable cause.
Just think about the morality of this: The U.S. is killing people, including many innocent civilians, because they think someone or some group might attack the United States. And this can often mean people are killed because they might resist U.S. troops or other pro-U.S. institutions in their country. They might be killed for utterly unfounded reasons... or for no reason at all.
In all this, Barack Obama has made some of the worst crimes of the Bush regime legal. And at the same time, he has gone even further and instituted measures that Bush didn’t even do. For example, he’s continued Bush’s policy (which Bush never actually implemented) of having the Joint Chiefs of Staff compile “hit lists” of Americans. And he acted on this. A Washington Post article in January 2010 suggested that the American-born, U.S. citizen, Islamic cleric Anwar al-Awlaki was on that list. The following week, Obama’s Director of National Intelligence, Adm. Dennis Blair, acknowledged in congressional testimony that the administration reserves the “right” to carry out such assassinations. Then in April, the Obama administration took the extraordinary step of authorizing the targeted killing of Anwar al-Awlaki, who they said had become a recruiter for a terrorist network—no matter where he was found, no matter his distance from a battlefield, and with no due process of any kind, no charges, no trial. Just an official U.S. “fatwah.1” (See “Confirmed: Obama authorizes assassination of U.S. citizen,” Glenn Greenwald, Salon.com, April 7, 2010.)
Those who rule the U.S. know that unleashing all this requires heightened repression on the “home front”—to prevent and suppress any resistance against what they are doing. This is the “reality” we are told is essential to protecting American lives.
A list of what the U.S. has done since 9-11 would fill many hundreds of pages. But even a brief overview of the “new norms” that have been rammed through or crept in over the last 10 years underscores the extreme and fascistic character of how the U.S. now operates in the world and at home:
- More than 1,000 Arab, Muslim and South Asian people living in the U.S. were swept up and detained without charges in the first month after 9-11—simply because they were the “wrong nationality” or practiced the “wrong religion.” The government message: “there are foreign enemies living amongst us.” And racist attacks on Arab and Muslim people happened all over the country.
Today, the government has more power to detain immigrants lacking U.S. citizenship without charging them with any crime. And there is mandatory detention until deportation of any citizen of another country certified by the U.S. Attorney General as a suspected terrorist or threat to national security. Federal prisoners suspected of terrorism or any act of “violence” are no longer guaranteed the right to private meetings with their lawyers. 2
- New legislation like the USA Patriot Act of 2001—with the blatantly Big Brother acronym: “Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism”—was quickly rammed through Congress. This and other measures have, in effect, swept away Fourth Amendment protection against search and seizure, and vastly expanded the federal government’s powers to spy, enter your home, office or other private place and conduct a search, take photographs, and download your computer files without notifying you until later; and authorize wiretaps of phones, subpoena email and Internet records and demand student records from schools. More than 550 public and private libraries received requests from the FBI for information about patrons or circulation records. (Boston Globe, March 9, 2004)
An unnamed CIA official captured the guidance coming from the White House when he said, “If you don’t violate someone’s human rights some of the time, you probably aren’t doing your job.” (Washington Post, December 26, 2002)
- People have been constantly told: “If you see something, say something.” After 9-11, it became a “patriotic duty” to report everything the least bit suspicious to U.S. officials. Anyone who doesn’t now becomes a suspect themselves.
Stop and think about this: Since 9-11, what has emerged is a level of mass surveillance in which 800,000 local and state operatives file reports on the most common, everyday behavior, and members of the public contribute hotline tips about “suspicious” people and activities. (“What a Difference a Decade Makes: Ten Years of ‘Homeland Security,’ Truthout.org, September 1, 2011)
- In the name of national security, government spies have secretly infiltrated political meetings and even religious services, without any probable cause to suspect criminal activity. Antiwar marches are videotaped and data is compiled on demonstrators. (“FBI Raids Anti-War Activists Homes in Midwest,” Revolution #213, September 27, 2010 and “In the Age of Obama, Criminalizing Political Opposition to U.S. Aggression and the FBI Raids on Antiwar Activists,” Revolution #215, October 31, 2010)
The Associated Press recently revealed that the New York Police Department (NYPD) has been working with the CIA to target and spy on ethnic communities: “The department has dispatched undercover officers, known as ‘rakers,’ into minority neighborhoods as part of a human mapping program, according to officials directly involved in the program. They’ve monitored daily life in bookstores, bars, cafes and nightclubs. Police have also used informants, known as ‘mosque crawlers,’ to monitor sermons, even when there’s no evidence of wrongdoing.” (“With CIA help, NYPD moves covertly in Muslim areas,” AP, August 24, 2011) The CIA is supposedly prohibited from spying on U.S. citizens. But a CIA officer built the NYPD’s intelligence programs and the CIA sent a senior officer to work as a clandestine operative inside NYPD headquarters. (“NYPD CIA Anti-Terror Operations Conducted In Secret For Years,” posted at huffingtonpost.com)
- FBI spies go into oppressed communities to entrap people into plots which the government itself dreams up, finances and then prosecutes. The FBI has 15,000 spies, many of them tasked with infiltrating Muslim communities in the United States. According to a study by Mother Jones, “Sting operations resulted in prosecutions against 158 defendants. Of that total, 49 defendants participated in plots led by an agent provocateur—an FBI operative instigating terrorist action. With three exceptions, all of the high-profile domestic terror plots of the last decade were actually FBI stings.” (“The Informants” by Trevor Aaronson, Mother Jones, September/October 2011) An article in Harpers detailing many such cases said: “Informants have been deployed by law enforcement for centuries, but in these recent terrorism investigations they have been given a more active role in shaping cases, often encouraging or even coercing individuals to commit violent acts toward which the individuals have otherwise shown no predisposition. Such sting operations present a disturbing kind of theater: the government provides the script, the arms, the cash, and other props, and offers logistical support.” (“To catch a terrorist: The FBI hunts for the enemy within” by Petra Bartosiewicz, Harpers, August 2011)
- For the U.S. rulers, torture has become not only acceptable but a routine and openly justified part of U.S. operations. More than 700 prisoners from 44 countries were rounded up and then held without charges, trials or public evidence in the U.S. military base in Guantánamo, Cuba. Most were accused of being al-Qaida or Taliban fighters, given the status of “enemy combatant,” and denied the legal protections of prisoners of war. The International Committee of the Red Cross documented the systematic use of physical torture and other extreme information extracting techniques. The U.S. government directed the highest-ranking lawyers in the White House to make an official and legal case for why torture, including things like water-boarding, is not against the law. And the press went along with all this—refusing even to call “procedures” that were legally recognized to be torture as torture... when they were done by the United States.
In 2009, Republican Lawrence B. Wilkerson, former chief of staff to then-secretary of state Colin Powell, told the Associated Press that many detainees locked up in Guantánamo Bay were innocent men swept up by U.S. forces unable to distinguish enemies from noncombatants—but these people were still held and tortured anyway.
- Photos from the U.S. Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq showed prisoners who had been beaten bloody, chained up in painful positions that dislocated their shoulders, forced to masturbate in groups, and threatened with dogs. Prisoners described guards urinating on them and forcing them to eat from toilets, being suffocated by hoods over their heads. One photo shows an Iraqi prisoner with a hood over his head, balancing on a small box, with wires attached to his fingers, who was forced to stand for hours, and told that if he fell over from exhaustion, the wires would electrocute him. The U.S. Army’s own investigation, headed by Major General Antonio M. Taguba, concluded that what went on at Abu Ghraib was “sadistic, blatant, and wanton criminal abuses” and that this was “systematic and illegal.” As punishment for the report, Taguba was forced to retire from the military. Nobody up the chain of command was ever tried for these crimes. (“The General’s Report,” by Seymour M. Hersh, New Yorker, June 25, 2007)
- Individuals can be seized by U.S. forces anywhere in the world (including on U.S. soil) and held without charges or evidence, then “rendered”—that is, turned over to foreign governments to be interrogated and tortured. People—who have later proved to be innocent of anything—were snatched up by CIA agents at airports and then sent to foreign countries to be tortured. And there has been no recourse. These innocent people were denied the right to sue the U.S. officials responsible for the horror that was visited on them.
One U.S. official was quoted saying, “We don’t kick the shit out of them. We send them to other countries so they can kick the shit out of them.” (Washington Post, December 26, 2002)
- On the cultural front there has been a wave of shows like 24 where torture is openly carried out with bragging rights. New phrases have entered the language reflecting the poisonous atmosphere: someone arrested is criticized for “lawyering up”—that is, refusing to talk to law enforcement without a lawyer—or worse, insisting on their right to invoke the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, to refuse to incriminate themselves. The message? “Don’t be concerned about Big Brother—if you’re not doing anything bad, what’s to worry?”
What’s Our Responsibility?
To the millions of youth: The U.S. has been at war for as long as you can probably remember. It’s hard to imagine an airport where you don’t have to take your shoes off, or a backpack that can’t suddenly become suspicious... you’ve been told over and over again that the “war on terror” is to “keep you safe” even as the U.S. makes the world more dangerous by the day. Start questioning all this. Can you still accept everything the U.S. government is doing as “just a part of life?”
Everyone needs to ask themselves—and each other: What kind of society has come into being since 9-11? Where is it headed? And is this the kind of world we want to live in?
The horrors of 9-11—and the even more horrific 10 years since 9-11—should raise profound questions about the world we live in—and the world we should want to live in. It poses before people the road of fundamentally challenging this system and fighting to bring a better world into being. Or the road of signing up to defend—or going along with the defense of—an empire of misery that now openly depends on and justifies mass murder in foreign lands, torture and repression at home, and unthinking obedience. If you thought Obama would somehow change that, you should have been disabused of that notion long ago. All the representatives of this empire can do nothing but give you more of the same... and worse.
But there IS a different future that is possible. A future that involves making common cause with—not wars against—the oppressed of the world. A future that breaks free of all fundamentalism and blind, my-nation-first patriotism, and involves fostering the critical spirit and an inclusive vibrancy in culture and politics that cannot even be imagined within the constraints of today. A future that does not plunder the planet—and the people on it—in a blind rush for profit, but can in fact make it possible for people to live lives worthy of human beings while protecting other species and the environment. But the only way to get to that future requires revolution. Such a revolution is possible—and in particular because of Bob Avakian and the work he has done over several decades, summing up the positive and negative experiences of the communist revolution so far, and drawing from a broad range of human experience—there really is a viable vision and strategy for a radically new, and much better, society and world, and there is the crucial leadership that is needed to carry forward the struggle toward that goal. And not only is such a revolution possible, but we ARE BUILDING a movement for this revolution.
We invite you—we challenge you—we urge you—to check this out and get into it. There really IS a better way—a viable and sustainable better way, and a movement for revolution that is fighting for it. And as you are doing this, there is the need to refuse complicity with what is being done and what is being planned... and to resist, and to support others who resist. To join with those on 9-11 who will protest the crimes carried out in the name of its victims... to support and participate in actions planned against the 10 years of war on October 6-8. Take part in the actions being called or co-sponsored by World Can’t Wait.
The essence of what exists in the U.S. is not democracy but capitalism-imperialism and political structures to enforce that capitalism-imperialism. What the U.S. spreads around the world is not democracy, but imperialism and political structures to enforce that imperialism.
Stop Thinking Like an American,
Start Thinking About Humanity
1. A fatwah is an official or religious decree issued by a Muslim leader or scholar. [back]
2. After 9-11 new Department of Justice regulations, according to the American Bar Association, “permit[s] the government to monitor all communications between a client and an attorney when there is ‘reasonable suspicion’ to ‘believe that a particular inmate may use communications with attorneys or their agents to further or facilitate acts of violence or terrorism.’” “Reasonable suspicion” is decided by the DOJ, with no need for prior court approval. (“Is the War on Terrorism a War on Attorney-Client Privilege?” Paul R. Rice and Benjamin Parlin Saul, Criminal Justice Magazine, Summer 2002) [back]