Revolutionary Worker #1165, September 1, 2002, posted at http://rwor.org
In the days after September 11, 2001, as the rubble of southern Manhattan still glowed and smoked, the eyes of the world were on the people of New York. There were gatherings throughout the city, in the streets, in Union Square--as people tried to sort out what had happened, and what would come next.
Groups of artists decided to act, together. They stood, silently, dressed in black, in formation, wearing dust masks, up to 175 of them--carrying stark, identical signs that said "Our Grief Is Not a Cry for War."
These performances were powerful and courageous, as art should be. And they were sorely needed in that moment: By October 6, the U.S. military machine roared into impoverished Afghanistan, pounding its cities, villages and highways with their bombs. Flags from the World Trade Center were airlifted to U.S. aircraft carriers in the Indian Ocean and presented as patriotic war relics to bomber pilots. Despite sentiments in New York itself against revenge and war, the grief at ground zero was interpreted to the world as a vengeful "Let's Roll"--putting distant peoples into the crosshairs.
Today, those words "Our Grief Is Not a Cry for War" seem all the more urgent and even prophetic: because of the magnitude of what followed--and what is still unfolding around us. September 11 has now been used to justify a whole year of war, with more to come.
Last fall and winter, the U.S. destroyed Afghanistan's central government from the air, and mobilized Northern warlords on the ground. Since the fall of Kabul, this Afghan war has virtually disappeared from the headlines--but the bombing and raids go on. The Pentagon predicts years of active U.S. occupation.
The Pentagon refuses to estimate how many Afghan civilians have been killed, but Prof. Marc Herold of the University of New Hampshire documented over 3,000 Afghan civilian casualties by July 31, 2002. It is estimated that half of the prisoners of war have been murdered by the new Afghan government-- many died from suffocation in boxcar prisons.
The impact of that war spread far beyond Afghanistan, through Central and Southern Asia. The insertion of U.S. forces so escalated tensions between nuclear armed India and Pakistan that, within months, tens of millions of people were living on the brink of war.
Meanwhile U.S. troops have gone into the Philippines, into Yemen and Somalia. The U.S. has backed an aggressive new campaign by Israel to dismantle the Palestinian Authority by force and occupy much of the Palestinian West Bank. And increasingly in the forefront: the Bush administration is pressing for a major new war against Iraq.
On June 1, President Bush told the cadets of West Point that he believed his government had the right to attack "preemptively" anywhere in the world--meaning without warning or specific provocation. Bush said that 60 countries were being investigated for possible attack. His Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, later added that the Pentagon will be inserting its troops and commandos anywhere in the world the U.S. wants to capture or even assassinate people it considers enemies--without announcing these things in public or informing the governments involved.
No government in history has ever declared such a sweeping right of aggression. Even Republican congressmen and close U.S. allies are pointing out that such doctrines violate international law and existing American treaties. The U.S. used to talk about being "policeman of the world"--now the self- appointed cop acts like self-appointed emperor.
The U.S. president orders around whole countries like employees. The U.S. started this year by imposing a regime on Afghanistan--which has so little support that its officials need American bodyguards to leave their offices. Now the U.S. is demanding a "regime change" in Iraq.
In Pakistan, the U.S. ally General Musharrif overturns the country's Constitution and rejects elections--since his support of the U.S. war cannot survive any honest vote. And meanwhile, with remarkable doublespeak about "democracy," the U.S. president demands that the Palestinian Authority carry out foreign-supervised elections, and adds that these elections must not elect anyone the U.S. doesn't like.
Such openly colonial actions make a mockery of concepts like "national sovereignty" and "rule by the people."
And accompanying all of this, we are seeing a sweeping series of new domestic police powers put in place--with wiretapping, suspension of constitutional rights, mass incarcerations of immigrants without charges, federal snitch networks seeking to recruit a million participants, and even public discussion of U.S. government torture carried out in off-shore locations. The American "homefront" too is being put on a war footing.
Calling Out the Emperor's New Clothes
All this is literally being done in the name of the American people--in the name of providing security and defense for people living in the U.S. And it needs to be said (not just here on this page, but loudly wherever people gather) that there is a profound lie in effect.
For years, Washington think-tanks have argued that the U.S. was now the "hyperpower" in a "unipolar world"--that it was unchallenged and untouchable. Powerful forces within the establishment have argued that the U.S. government and military should press its advantage much more aggressively --exploiting the collapse of the Soviet Union to energetically recast international power relations in a way that even more starkly serves the interests of the U.S. power structure and corporate interests. They have long wanted new influence in oil-rich Central Asia and labor-rich Southeast Asia--and now, under the banner of the "war on terrorism," there are new U.S. bases from the Black Sea to Uzbekistan to the Philippines.
It is extremely important to understand that many of the plans that are now into operation were drawn up before September 11.
One revealing example: U.S. government officials and oil executives were involved in years of negotiation with Afghanistan's government for an oil pipeline from Central Asia to the Indian Ocean. When the Taliban's hold on power proved too unstable for such operations, relations with the U.S. soured. NBC news revealed that the plan for war against the Taliban was already on George Bush's desk on September 9, two days before planes crashed into the two towers.
On a world scale, this "war on terrorism" is treated like a blank check used by the U.S. to attack any opponent they choose. "Terrorism" means whatever the U.S. government chooses it to mean. And everyone is supposed to accept it--in the name of protecting the American homefront.
Bush has invented an "axis of evil"--including Iraq, Iran, and North Korea (with China included as an unnamed but unmistakable target)--using September 11 to threaten countries that include a quarter of the world's people and much of the world's oil. Attacking Iraq would finish the "old business" of tightening the U.S. grip on Persian Gulf oil. And Sept. 11 is used to justify that attack-- despite no proven connection of Saddam Hussein with al-Qaida or September 11.
It is particularly disturbing that the U.S. government has started to label popular revolutionary movements as "terrorist"--so that future wars of counterinsurgency can become part of their "war on terrorism." Recently the U.S. State Department began targetting the Maoist parties of the Philippines and Nepal. This means that these armed insurgencies against unjust governments are threatened with U.S.-trained counterinsurgency troops, possible U.S. commandos and assassins, international dragnets and threats against their fundraising efforts. All this despite the fact that these revolutionary forces clearly are not "terrorist" by any stretch of the imagination and obviously had nothing to do with September 11.
There is much speculation about who knew about September 11 before it happened--especially because Osama bin Laden has a long history with the American CIA, and because governments all over the world warned the U.S. about impending attacks. Though we may never know the true pre-history of September 11--who really organized these attacks, and who may have "allowed it to happen"-- this much is clear: The U.S. government has exploited those events to unleash a huge juggernaut of bullying and war in many parts of this planet.
This is all done in the name of the American people--under the banner of security, defense, justice, world order, anti-terrorism and even peace.
But, in truth, this world will be a nightmare if the U.S. government gets to invade and occupy and bully wherever it wants. The American threats and attacks on countries like Iraq will not make people around the world safer. They will not bring justice in their wake.
Not in Our Name!
"Qui tacet consenti're vide'tur. (Silence gives consent.)"
Ancient legal doctrine
"Let it not be said that people in the United States did nothing when their government declared a war without limit and instituted stark new measures of repression."
From "A Statement of Conscience: Not in Our Name"
There are turning points where everyone is tested, where even more than usual, it matters what we say and do. It is now a year after the towers fell on September 11. Much of the shock and some of the grief have faded. But the government has fanned fear in their place--to maintain support for continuing operations.
There is, to be candid, still a great deal of confusion among people in the U.S.--about what is happening, about who it serves and where it leads. This is all the more reason for those who do see to speak out, in ways that millions can hear.
There is, in all of the operations of this "war on terrorism," a profound disdain for the interests, popular will, and most basic rights of people all around the world. And these operations are intended, piece by piece, to impose a locked-down McFuture ruled by dollars and smart-bombs.
This cannot be accepted. We must resist it together. Another world is possible.
This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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