Revolution #246, September 25, 2011
10th Anniversary of 9/11: Ten Years of a Juggernaut of Empire… And the Need for a Whole New World
Below is a slightly edited talk given on September 11, 2011 by Andy Zee, spokesperson for Revolution Books in New York City, on the 10th Anniversary of 9/11.
Maher Arar, a Canadian engineer, was traveling home from vacation in Tunisia in September of 2002 and had a brief layover at JFK airport in NYC. He was immediately detained and held in solitary confinement for two weeks by U.S. intelligence forces and denied any meaningful communication with a lawyer. Although the U.S. authorities had no evidence against him, he was whisked onto a plane and taken, rendered—not to Canada which had raised concerns about him—but to Syria.
In Syria he was placed in an underground grave—a 3-ft. x 6-ft. rat-infested underground cell with no light. He was let out only to be tortured repeatedly, brutally interrogated, and worst of all kept in his solitary underground coffin without recourse or communication with the outside world. After 10 months, 10 long months, he was released and returned home. No charges filed. None. Arar is irrevocably scarred psychologically from this. His wife and young child put through their own hell. This never goes away. Eventually the Canadian government paid restitution for their conveying mistaken information. The U.S. has refused to accept any responsibility—declaring secrecy—including and continuing under the Barack Obama administration.
AMERICAN LIVES ARE NOT MORE IMPORTANT THAN OTHER LIVES
Syed Fahad Hashmi is a 30-year-old Muslim American citizen. He came to the United States from Pakistan with his family when he was three and grew up in Flushing, Queens. He became a U.S. citizen and graduated from Robert F. Wagner High School in 1998 and Brooklyn College in 2003. He then went to England where he earned an M.A. in 2005.
In June 2006, he was arrested by the British police at Heathrow Airport (he was about to travel to Pakistan, where he has family) on a warrant issued by the U.S. government. In May 2007, he was extradited to the United States, the first U.S. citizen to be extradited under terrorism laws passed after 9/11.
Under both the Bush and Obama administrations, Fahad was held in solitary confinement here in New York City at MCC [Metropolitan Correctional Center], just blocks from "ground zero"—under conditions that were Kafkaesque in their absurd brutality. He couldn't read a newspaper that was less than a month old, he was kept in solitary with no access to fresh air, monitored 24 hours a day, locked down for 23, with one hour in a cage. The restrictions on his life were so egregious that theater artists held vigils outside MCC.
Fahad was not charged with a violent crime, only that someone who stayed with him stored ponchos and socks in his apartment that were allegedly for use by terrorists.
Fahad was tried under conditions that were so militarized and so unfair right here in N.Y. that he eventually pled so that he would not spend the rest of his life in jail.
Fahad is a political activist for Muslim causes, and this was one of the reasons that Eric Holder, Obama's Attorney General, went after him with such vengeance—to perpetuate and intensify the chill against dissent that was a hallmark of the Bush administration, which has been increasingly codified by the Obama administration.
AMERICAN LIVES ARE NOT MORE IMPORTANT THAN OTHER LIVES
There is an irony in that Fahad actually is a U.S. citizen, but he, along with thousands of other Muslims and people of South Asian descent, have been castigated and rounded up—quite literally. The message that continues, and has been reinforced this 9/11 anniversary weekend: "There are foreign enemies living amongst us." Racist attacks, including murder, have been carried out against Arab and Muslim people all over the country.
That Fahad is a U.S. citizen matters not—even more true under Obama than during the Bush regime. For President Obama has arrogated to himself the right to execute anyone anywhere in the world, simply on his say so, including U.S. citizens. Last 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. How dare the U.S. rulers and their parrots in the media criticize Islamic states for their fatwahs.
This extraordinary fascistic policy is a logical extension of the doctrine of preemptive war—whereby the U.S. gives itself the right to attack any country in the world, to go into any sovereign country and carry out a military mission unilaterally simply because the U.S. decides that someone, some group, or some government might—in the future—do harm to U.S. interests. All this under the signboard of protecting American lives.
"AMERICAN LIVES ARE NOT MORE IMPORTANT THAN OTHER LIVES."
When Bob Avakian first spoke these words, he did so as part of an insightful, prescient talk: "Bringing Forward Another Way." As we look back today and reflect on the last decade since September 11, 2001, there is nothing we should want to do more than to bring forward a whole other way that the world could be.
Barack Obama has said repeatedly that it his "...belief that we need to look forward as opposed to looking backward." Why? Because, he said: "... part of my job is to make sure that, for example, at the CIA, you've got extraordinarily talented people, who are working very hard to keep Americans safe. I don't want them to suddenly feel like they've got to spend all their time looking over their shoulders and lawyering." Here Obama expresses precisely two of the key foundations of post-9/11 America—unbridled and unrestrained permanent war—open and covert—on a whole other level unrestrained by even the formalities of international law. And, at the same time, he joins the chorus of mockery of the rule of law by the all-too-familiar cop show complaint of defendants "lawyering up"—even as in this instance Obama is worried about his CIA assassins being constrained by the law. Obama won't look back because to defend and extend the murderous empire he is currently commander-in-chief of, he needs to do more of the same—rendering people to torture, murdering from the sky in the dead of night, prosecuting ever more violent war and occupations of whole countries, while increasing the police surveillance state apparatus at a moment when so many here in the U.S. are living lives of deprivation and desperation.
No. We are looking forward to a whole different future, through revolution. Part of getting there is understanding what has happened and why, and through doing so seeing not only the great crimes of this system, but discovering its fault lines, leading people to see their interests lie in resisting what their government is doing in their name, and coming to see and act on the understanding that this empire, like others before it, can end, and that there is a new world to be won and a way to get there.
Put simply and directly, the "War on Terror" was never anything other than a War for Empire. There is a better world possible through revolution.
* * *
Five hours after the WTC towers fell, Donald Rumsfeld said: "Go massive...Sweep it all up. Things related and things not." And, right from the beginning he instructed his Pentagon staff to begin drawing up plans for invading Iraq as well as Afghanistan.
In the view of the neo-cons in the Bush administration, the whole Middle East was a swamp that had to be drained. After the fall of the Soviet Union, this section of the ruling class perceived that the U.S. had an opportunity and real necessity to assertively establish itself as the sole superpower broaching no rivals. The "War on Terror" was the perfect rubric for this, especially as the terrorists, who Bush called the "evil doers," invoking his own Christian fundamentalist trope, were (and still are) whoever and whatever they say they are. A War on Terror is never-ending.
The current issue of Revolution summarizes:
"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."
More, these aims and goals were on the agenda before 9/11—even as many of the plans were aggressively put in place in the days and years after September 11, 2001. As far back as 1992, when this neo-con foreign policy crew of Cheney/Rumsfeld/Wolfowitz , who were then part of the outgoing Papa Bush administration, wrote a paper called "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.
In September 2000, their "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."
So, all of this was in motion before 9/11. Soon after September 11, the Committee of the RIM [Revolutionary International Movement] made the following observation, summarized here by Bob Avakian that still has great relevance:
"[I]n 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."
And, as we learned in 2004, Bush received a memo on August 6, 2001 warning of a "Bin Laden attack in the U.S."
What the U.S. did in response to 9/11 was extraordinary in their open declaration of preemptive war, their open dismissal of international and U.S. constitutional law, in their revival of a jingoistic, swaggering cowboy rhetoric of "Wanted Dead or Alive." But it was not extraordinary, not out of the ordinary on the level of action, an aberration. This indeed is the history of the U.S., founded in genocide, slavery, and a doctrine of Manifest Destiny, a nation forged on the blood, bones and suffering of people the world over. Water boarding was so routine by U.S. forces in the Philippines during the Spanish-American War at the end of 19th century that soldiers sang a ditty about it. The U.S.- trained and -sponsored death squads have scarred the body politic and even the soul, if you will, of countries from Central America to Africa—there is not a continent (save perhaps Antarctica) or a year in the last century and a half where the U.S. has not left its bloody imprint somewhere on the planet.
This is a history too oft forgotten—especially when it matters. When it doesn't matter, people say, I know all that. But, when the ruling class goes into overdrive to pull people back into their political process of affirming their choices for who will guide the ship of state… when it comes to the beckoning of elections for the head of this empire—whether with Kerry in 2004 or Obama in 2008 and now 2012—people tell themselves a pleasant fairy tale that disguises the reality, persuading themselves that this time it will be different. That this time it is different—look at the specter of the lunatic fascists. And thus put their stamp of acquiescence on the whole process. And humanity and the planet continue to be ground up.
The basic truth is that the promise and reality of America has always been nothing other than genocide, slavery, coups d'etat, invasions and wars of conquest. Make an argument why that is not so. If you can't, then tell us why we don't need to and should not build a movement for revolution to put an end to such a system.
The "War on Terror" has not been all smooth sailing for the imperialists. They have unleashed what Bob Avakian, right after 9/11, called a "cauldron of contradictions," which holds the possibility of two extremes: devastating losses for the forces of revolution in the world and a great strengthening of imperialism, or, on the other hand, to the opening up of pathways for revolution—as well as all the possibilities in between these extremes. This plays out still.
Yes, they can have their suburban warriors in a Langley, Virginia office park launch automated drones and murder dozens of people halfway around the world. But, in doing so they are both incurring the wrath of millions, and more are unleashing forces and contradictions way beyond their control. Even a cursory look at the real situation in Afghanistan and/or Pakistan reveals how what they have wrought could potentially be their Achilles Heel. Even the upsurges in the Middle East, with all their democratic illusions as well as the maneuvering and direct intervention by U.S. and NATO military, has, nonetheless, unleashed millions of people's positive aspirations as well as given initiative to social forces that could be very problematic for the continued stability of imperialism.
This has not been and is very far from being a great decade for U.S. imperialism. They are not riding high. If you look deeply at the situation, there is a profound strategic basis for revolution, even as that basis lives within a currently unfavorable political and ideological alignment. This is what we are, and must, work to transform.
The U.S. rulers also have not had a clear field for their crimes here at home. Their whole "War on Terror" has not been without, at times, significant resistance here—even as for now it has been contained, suppressed—with people stuck in a state of disconnect and paralysis. Right after 9/11, as people gathered in Union Square in NYC, people wrestled with how to bring positive change out of the deaths of so many innocent people. The art project and street theater, "Our Grief is Not a Cry for War," was among the first public protests, pictures of which went round the world. In the summer of 2002, a Statement of Conscience, "Not in Our Name," was pulled together that soon involved hundreds of public intellectuals—with full-page ads appearing in papers all across the U.S., and this in turn led to the first major protest of 25,000 in Central Park. Then, protests in Washington grew, and by the winter of 2003, 15 million protested around the world. The mother of an American killed in Iraq camped outside Bush's house and became a symbol of resistance. Protest continued at the political conventions in 2004 and 2008. World Can't Wait/Drive Out the Bush Regime was formed and is now hounding the war criminals as they tour NYC and the country with all too much impunity. Vets have resisted, often at great personal cost. These are the vets who are heroes. Tonight is not the occasion to sum up the resistance and analyze the obstacles it faces from the repression of the ruling class to the illusions, delusions, and demoralization of the people. But, it is to take serious measure that there has been resistance and that this can and must be amplified as part of building the movement for revolution.
The draconian surveillance and police state repressive measures that have been put in place are, in a perverse way, a recognition of the actual and potential for mass resistance. They can aptly be seen as a certain admission on the part of the ruling class of the unjustness of their rule—as well as their intent to preserve it no matter the crimes they have to commit to do so. Yes, these repressive measures have real teeth and effect, but they also put right on the people's side. And, do not discount the many here and around the world who recognize this. Indeed, the very point that I began with: "American lives are not more important than other people's lives," expresses a morality that many people in this country agree with and want to live by. That, by the way, is one of the positive legacies of the 1960s.
On the back page of this week's Revolution newspaper, there is a quote from BAsics that originally comes from "Bringing Forward Another Way":
"The interests, objectives, and grand designs of the imperialists are not our interests—they are not the interests of the great majority of people in the U.S. nor of the overwhelming majority of people in the world as a whole. And the difficulties the imperialists have gotten themselves into in pursuit of these interests must be seen, and responded to, not from the point of view of the imperialists and their interests, but from the point of view of the great majority of humanity and the basic and urgent need of humanity for a different and better world, for another way."
And, the thing is, a different and far better world is possible. There is a vision and viable plan for what a new revolutionary society could be. It's here, in the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal), issued this past year by the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA.
Let me read Article II, Section C-2:
"In keeping with this purpose and role, and in accordance with its internationalist orientation, the New Socialist Republic in North America will dismantle all remaining bases of the former imperialist USA in other countries and will renounce all treaties and agreements, military and otherwise, which were imposed by that imperialist state on other countries and peoples or which in any case served to impose and enforce the domination of the imperialist USA. The New Socialist Republic in North America renounces all wars of aggression and domination, and all occupation of other countries in pursuit of such domination and aggression, and will not station its forces, nor establish bases, in another country, except in circumstances where this is clearly in accord with the wishes of the masses of people in that country and where such action would actually be a manifestation of the internationalist orientation and other fundamental principles and objectives set forth in this Constitution and would contribute to the advance of revolutionary struggle in the world in accordance with these principles and objectives."
Do you, do we realize what a weight this would lift off the people of the world? To those progressives who chatter on this anniversary weekend about how 9/11 was a "police matter" and that there is a better way to make America safe, lift your sights and look at America as it really is, and check out this liberating vision that humanity really needs.
This is but one clause of a concrete conceptualization of a radically new state power. One that, as Revolution newspaper put it this week, "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."
This is not a pipe dream of utopian vision. There is in the world today the material basis to feed, clothe, house every person on the globe. There is the understanding and the science to save the planet and protect other species. But the barrier is that the world today is organized on the basis of capitalism and imperialism—for the furtherance of the demands of empire and profit. Most decisive, there is the understanding of a different, better system and how to get there. There are answers.
This Constitution really is a doable, whole other way the society could be organized—a different economy based on what humanity needs, a different government that fosters cooperative relations among the people while mobilizing society to overcome the legacies of national and women's oppression. A society that is working to overcome the great division between those who from birth have been forbidden from participating in and enjoying the life of the mind and those who have such privilege today. A society with a morality based on eliminating all oppression. A society with an ethos of cooperation that protects the rights of the people in ways far beyond the much vaunted Bill of Rights of the exploiters' U.S. Constitution that established law that at its inception protected chattel slavery and that exists to perpetuate and enforce wage slavery. Not only is the vision and plan in the new Socialist Constitution a far more desirable and just society, but it is one in motion towards a whole world without oppression or exploitation. This is a future where people could finally live like human beings.
This is a vision grounded in and made possible because there is a new synthesis of communism that has been brought forward by Bob Avakian. Because of 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.
The world is in a lot of hurt. Ten years after 9/11, many people feel it. But they don't really know why. They don't know that there is a way forward. People haven't heard of Bob Avakian, and those who have do not know much about what he has brought forward. They need to know that there are answers and there is leadership to change the world and a vision of that world that is worth fighting for.
So when you go home tonight and turn on the TV and listen to the politicians and the priests and the high priests of the media poison minds with their chatter about the enduring resilience of American values, the American spirit, remember all we have talked about here.
As heart-rending as the deaths of innocent people in the attack on the World Trade Center was, think of the horrors of the one million Iraqis killed, the 3.5 million refugees cast off from Iraq in revenge to protect and extend the strategic interests of U.S. imperialism. Think, too, of the bombing of Libya. Do not step away from the images of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo in your memory. Think of the thousands of Muslims and South Asians still being scape-goated. Do not forget that in their wild ambitions to reshuffle the whole deck beginning in the Middle East, the imperialists have set loose a cauldron of contradictions that may well not secure their permanence, but which holds great potential for what we must be all about.
This is a world where the U.S. is waging permanent war. Freshmen entering college this fall have lived in a country at war since they were in first grade, with no end in sight. Torture is "normal." The government's right to know everything about you is normal. This is the world we live in. Those who rule this country are not going to do better, or be compelled by reason or votes to do better. You are not going to hold Obama's feet to the fire so that he can do what you have deceived yourself into imagining that he really wants to do. There isn't someone else in the wings of their setup, something-somewhere-somehow that is going to rescue us out of this horror. Over three decades ago, speaking in Washington D.C., Bob Avakian said: if we want to get free, we are going to have to emancipate ourselves.
To find out what that is all about, to be a part of bringing this into being, get a copy… no, get three copies, of BAsics, from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian. One for yourself, two for a friend, three so that the PRLF [Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund] can send to a prisoner. You can't change the world if you don't know the BAsics.
Don't say that the kind of vision of which I've been speaking can't work until you've read the draft proposal for a Constitution for the New Socialist Republic of North America.
No one should be complicit with what this system, this government, is doing here and around the world. World Can't Wait got it exactly right when it placed a full-page ad in the New York Times that said: SILENCE + TORTURE = COMPLICITY. Join with those who are protesting the war criminals who are touring the country with all too much impunity.
Tonight, through the art work, the testimony of the vets who spoke earlier, and by digging deeply into all that, we really must remember and learn well from September 11, 2001: We can flip that omnipresent, odious ode to snitching—"if you see something, say something." Indeed, we have seen something, so we should say a lot more here tonight, and then go out in the world and say more and tell others—bring people the real deal about this system, the need to resist, and the movement for revolution that is being built to bring about a whole new world. Thank you.
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