Reply to Marc Cooper
Mohammad J Alam
alam.m at neu.edu
Fri Sep 13 12:56:18 MDT 2002
My own comments and questions on Cooper's piece and Crde. Proyect's
As a whole, Cooper's article is distinguished by the ceaseless
invocation of "we" in the grand sense without class distinction, and
capitulations to ruling-class positions along the lines of, "well at
least this didn't happen" along with absurd quips and phrases
"Not that we had to apologize for the cowardly attack on New York, nor
that we somehow provoked the assault. But rather a deeper comprehension
that America, while more powerful and prosperous, is just one more
country among many and in no way exempt from the travails and
sacrifices that too many thought happened only in places whose names we
cannot even pronounce."
The ubiquitous "we" appears here; obviously if a group of men took upon
themselves to smash planes into buildings this was not a spontaneous
act of psychological madness - a set of circumstances made the attack
possible. If not "provoked" then trained and funded.
What is the philosophical nature of this "deeper" comprehension? Is it
one attack killing 3,000 people, in a half-century period in which
American bombs have killed millions, that makes America "in no way
exempt from the travails and sacrifices" of these other nations? From
this viewpoint it seems as though aliens were responsible for human
crises and war and America just happened to get hit this time. The
responsibility of capitalist US policy is totally ignored in this
"The possibility existed, on the right, to at least review, if not
revise, American foreign policy in the Middle East. There might have
been some understanding that traditional U.S. support for autocratic,
undemocratic regimes from Saudi Arabia to Egypt, while in no way
justifying or producing the 9/11 attacks, allows them to resonate
sympathetically with angry and desperate millions."
What a grand conclusion! There is a "possibility"--and only for the
"right" to "at least review", perhaps even "revise" if we so dare, our
foreign policy. The US support of tyrannical regimes is the sole focus
of Cooper's foreign policy concern - what about the actual training of
the mujahideen? Anyone familiar with Blum's "Rogue State" can see that
the dozens of thousands US-trained fighters have had a hand in numerous
terrorist incidents across the world, from Serbia to Pakistan.
" The left's Manichean view that only two forces -- American
imperialism and appropriate reaction against it -- shape world events
was no longer viable."
Wait a minute...I was pretty sure that it is Bush with the Manichean
view. How was this ever the case, anyhow? I don't see "the left"
cheerleading Hamas or Hussein or Khomenei back in the day, though there
was and is an understanding of how they became possible.
"But there was no targeting, no carpet-bombing, of Afghan civilians."
Only because the Taliban is not the VC. They melted and ran away. Only
10 years ago Iraq was thoroughly carpet bombed-this is not a sudden
case of compassion.
"If it wished, the left could have seen an America that had matured and
progressed over the last 50 years. It could have taken pride in an
America that didn't lock up millions of Arab-Americans, where the level
of hate crimes barely flickered upward. And while Attorney General
Ashcroft has strained to stretch and snap constitutional guarantees, a
resilient American civil society and a democratic, if flawed, court
system have offered effective resistance."
Is this serious? The AP press release on the rights lost from the US
PATRIOT Act is pretty extensive. At least a thousand Arab Americans
were locked up without even their names having been released for
awhile. Man, I hate the word "civil society".
"Especially for the left, September 11 offered a unique opportunity to
come back home, to find commonality and identification with a society
from which too many progressives and radicals have felt alienated and
estranged. In the suffering of September 11, the American left might
have taken the hand of its fellow Americans and together searched -- at
least for a moment -- for what unites rather than divides us."
What kind of utter nonsense is this? The left, "alienated and
estranged", is going to "take the hand" of a government that
capitalized upon the attacks within minutes for a license to kill on a
global scale--all in order to find "what unites us rather than divides
us"? Nothing "unites" me with the corporate world or its government
prostitutes, nothing "unites" the workers laid off with the _ex_-CEOs
still raking in thousands of dollars daily.
"What has been truly staggering over the past year has been the
dogmatic refusal of much of the left to simply say "yes." Yes, America
was attacked. Yes, we unequivocally mourn the unprovoked death of 3,000
fellow citizens. Yes, the window washers, the cooks, the secretaries
and, yes, even the stockbrokers who were incinerated that morning a
year ago were guilty of absolutely nothing, except showing up to work
Instead, from the left, we get a steady stream of "yes/buts."
This could be a line from O'Reilly, easily. We are supposed to bury our
heads in the sand, ignore reality, forget history, fail to explain
events, etc. This is called making a fetish out of one particular
aspect of suffering, for the purpose of magnifying it a hundred-fold in
order to self-righteously claim moral superiority and a license to kill
and plunder. The reality is that Cooper's attitude here, made without
any political or class distinctions, inevitably leads to jingoism; by
default the attacks have no grounded explanation in world events, the
"conspiracy of highly educated, religiously motivated zealots" is like
a phantom appearing out of nowhere.
"By placing its Centurion guards in the Mideast and Asia, Imperial
Washington invites the barbarians to storm the gates just as Great
Britain did during the Victorian era. The British Parliament was not as
"evil" as the Mahdist fundamentalists, but the fundamentalists
reflected the class interests of the Sudanese herders and peasants
against the British cotton merchant
and their Egyptian underlings."
But does Al-Qaeda reflect the class interests of the Afghan peasants?
Most Left explanations seem caught up in the following paradox between
the theory of blowback and the theory of revenge; if bin Laden is a
product of American imperialism and a trained agent run amock, then the
attacks are not directly a response to oppression. The sympathy for the
attacks among the masses elsewhere, after the fact, may be a response
to oppression, but then again, just because bin Laden et al. were
trained by the CIA at one point and are rich, does it mean that they
too cannot be infuriated by US action?
This kind of problem is in fact bigger in scope: trying to defend
people against US aggression, but then having to explain that their
leaders are ingenuine or accomplices in crime, and then claiming the
actions of leader X are in response to imperialist aggression (Hussein,
Arafat, bin Laden). Is this an historical impasse, a question of
finding a revolutionary leadership outside the scope of comprador and
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