Reply to Marc Cooper

Jon Johanning jjohanning at
Mon Sep 16 17:05:57 MDT 2002

On Monday, September 16, 2002, at 12:13  PM, Mohammad J Alam wrote:

> 9-11 did not
> happen in a social vacuum; decades of US imperialist action into dozens
> of countries resulting in millions of lost lives preceded it. Examples
> are abound: bombing Vietnam, strangling the Sandanistas, funding the
> Indonesian and Israeli occupations/massacres, training Latin American
> death squads, so on and so forth. None of this is accidental; all of it
> was essential to maintaining US hegemony through favorable investment
> climates and crushing of nationalist/communist resistance.

Whether all of these activities (which I fully acknowledge) were
actually essential to maintaining US hegemony, or whether some of them
may have been in fact unnecessary for this purpose, but were carried out
because their perpetrators *thought* they were necessary, would require
some detailed analysis. I think leftists and Marxists too often assume
that if the U.S. did something dastardly anywhere in the world, it was
necessitated by the imperatives of capitalist imperialism, when it might
have happened out of pure cussedness, or for some other reason. But I
grant you that the US government has had a very bad record since it
became a world power.

> when in fact the
> group responsible for the attacks, the group in question, is a
> religious-fundamentalist group formerly trained and funded by CIA, and
> led by a wealthy oilman, bin Laden. In this sense, the attacks were
> "blowback"; US support for "unsavory" persons as long as they fit
> imperialism's own agenda backfired.

Another habit of US leftists I have a problem with is that everything
wrong with the world is blamed solely on the U.S. Indeed, Al Qaeda
benefited considerably from CIA support during the fight against the
USSR in Afghanistan, but that's not the whole story about AQ -- if I'm
not mistaken, they have been primarily supported by Muslim sympathizers.

> The question of whether or not the attacks were "justified" begs a
> context. No one likes to see 3,000 civilians die.

No one except bin-Laden, perhaps -- he seemed on the videos AQ itself
put out to be pretty joyful about it.

>  But on the social and
> not the moral plane of discussion, such an attack was practically
> inevitable, given the daily atrocities delivered by imperialism around
> the world,

Excuse me, but I am staying on the moral plane, for the time being, at
least. I don't belong to the school of "Marxists" who think that
morality is unimportant. An atrocity is an atrocity, it seems to me,
whether the people against whom it was committed happen to live and work
on the territory of a country that has committed a lot of atrocities
themselves. For example, what about the immigrant cleaning people
working in those buildings who were incinerated along with the stock
brokers? What role had they played in the atrocities of U.S. imperialism
which made it legitimate to snuff out their lives?

>  which few in America are willing to even recognize, let
> alone pause or reflect, or in the case of 9-11, raise to the highest
> standard of fixation as if this was the only or the largest crime ever
> witnessed in history.

I certainly wouldn't call it the only or the largest crime in history.
The Holocaust comes to mind, among many others.

> As for the response to the attacks and "it could have been worse", this
> too is a skewed approach. The response was merely anacceleration of the
> dynamic which produced not only 9-11 but suffering around the globe;
> before the day had even come to an end--literally--Rumsfeld was
> ordering his minions to "gather up everything related and not" and
> planning to bomb Hussein and bin Laden. Recent think-tank documents
> released by the Sunday Herald also show as early as 2000 the right-wing
> regime in charge now already had plans to invade and occupy all of
> Asia.

9/11 certainly fit in with the Bush administration's global strategy --
so much so, that it almost looks providential from their point of view.
But I would merely argue that their response to the event can be *at
least partly* explained simply as what any government which had just had
3000 of its citizens (and probably some resident aliens and visitors)
wiped out would do. Who would expect that government to just smile, sit
back and say, "Well, we've done lots of evil things ourselves in the
past, so we guess we just have to shrug our shoulders. We have no right
to defend ourselves" ?

> To speak of a "response" is sorely mistaken, as if "America" was hit
> and "America" is striking back. That is bullshit. The capitalists, as
> expected, opportunistically used the attacks to further their own
> agenda from all sides: unabashed corporate thievery, erosion of
> constitutionally-guaranteed rights, war drums on dozens of countries, a
> free hand for Sharon to intensify brutality, brushing aside the
> 'international community', and so forth.

That's the other part of the response, over and above the self-defense
aspect. I don't know what you mean by "corporate thievery" in this
context. "Erosion of constitutionally-guaranteed rights" happens
whenever the U.S. gets into a war -- the Red Scare in WW I,
Japanese-American confinement in WW II, etc., etc. Again, I hate it as
much as you do, but what do you expect in this sort of situation? All we
can do is try to defend these rights as forcefully as we can. They are
mentioned in the constitution, but they aren't "guaranteed" by it --
it's only the will of the American people to fight for them that
guarantees them.

"War drums on dozens of countries" -- sure! Some of these countries
probably have AQ people in them, some not. Looking for pretexts to
attack foreigners one doesn't like is an old, old story -- going back
thousands of years before the U.S. ever existed.

"Free hand for Sharon" -- the U.S. govt. (especially the Bush
administration) was pretty obviously in Israel's camp quite a long time
before 9/11.

"Brushing aside the 'international community' " -- that's what any
powerful country, capitalist or not, does, as long as it can get away
with it.

> A socialist government would never "respond" by murdering a minimum of
> 3,125 civilians in the world's poorest country, installing a puppet
> government, relying on the forces of primitive barbarism--in fact, a
> socialist government would never have enacted policies that would have
> lead to 9-11, period.

I don't know what your definition of "socialist country" is -- these
days, that's a term that covers a lot of semantic territory. Was the
USSR "socialist" when it invaded Afghanistan? In any case, even if the
U.S. were as pure a socialist country as the driven snow, that would
obviously not guarantee that it would not be attacked by a bunch of
religious nuts who wanted to take the world back to the 8th or 9th
century and had the wherewithall to take some flying lessons, even if
they didn't weren't interested in learning how to take off and land.
They were attacking infidels -- capitalist or socialist was of no
interest as far as they were concerned.

Jon Johanning // jjohanning at
How good bad music and bad reasons sound when we march against an
enemy. -- Nietzsche

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