Apologizing for Imperialism (or bin Ladenism?) [formerly, Re: Marc Cooper]

Mohammad J Alam alam.m at neu.edu
Mon Sep 16 20:10:51 MDT 2002

"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

Dear sir, the maintenance of imperialism depends upon
super-exploitation, extraction of resources and raw materials, and
cheap labor, all from the Third World, and out-competing rival
imperialists. Is it accidental that the United States intervened on
behalf of reactionary despots, representing the class of landlords or a
military junta, to suppress and destroy nationalist movements in the
Third World? This is a severely mistaken assessment given even a
cursory glance at documents drawn up by imperialist planners, George
Kennan included.

The entire purpose of funding despotic Arab regimes is to ensure a safe
and secure oil supply; the entire purpose of invading Iraq is to
throttle any attempts by French or Russian businesses to prevent
American monopoly control over oil. The purpose of backing Israel
during the Cold War was to keep radical Arab nationalism in check, the
purpose of invading Vietnam to reduce to rubble any model or beacon for
similar countries to chart an independent course. Similar economic and
political motives can be cited for supporting Batista in Cuba and
Pahlavi in Iran and opposing the revolutions with overthrew both

Clearly, "if the US did something dastardly somewhere" is not even a
comprehensible phrase which one can untangle. But if we restrict
ourselves to funding unsavory characters and plotting against
anti-imperialist movements worldwide, there is both motive and trend.
The planners, obviously, made mistakes. This does not change their aim,
but only proves they are human. If you have an alternative proposition,
I hope it does not reduce itself to muttering about "pure cussedness,
or for some other reason."

"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

No one simply spins the globe and picks out the US for special scorn;
this is an absurd attempt to invert the actual power relationships of
the world in the same manner the Zionists tend to do: "this is
Israel-bashing", as if it Israel suffering from the indignation of five
to ten college youth and not the Palestinians languishing under brutal
military occupation. What is "blamed" on the US is precisely what it
has done: train, arm, and fund the entire first iteration of Islamic
fundamentalists to come out of Afghanistan. This is admitted cheerily
by former National Security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski. Such support
was not restricted to defeating the USSR; you will find that the US did
not exactly raise a hue and cry over Taliban rule in Afghanistan, which
began in 1994, for several years.

What Muslim sympathizers? Yes, other fundamentalists who are Muslim.
Bin Laden himself was at the very least a multi-millionaire. There are
also, undoubtedly, mosques scattered throughout Pakistan and
Afghanistan which have given money to mujahideen in one cause or
another, but there are no figures to be had, unlike the  hundreds of
millions, plus Chinese and American weaponry, provided by the CIA to
the mujahideen in the 1980s. You have to remember that al-Qaeda is an
organization of about 500-2,000 people, not a mechanized Panzer

"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."

Regardless of which "school" you cling to it is best not to remain
entirely uneducated. No one is asserting the attack on 9-11 is morally
justifiable, but to approach it from a perspective devoid of historical
and political context magnifies that which leads nowhere and minimizes
that which tends to help explain and understand.

"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."

Indeed. The workers in question deserve condemnation in the same sense
that bin Laden deserves support: none. But this was never the point.
The point was that an opportunist contortion of 9-11 will maximize the
"moral" aspects of the situation to peddle war plans and further the
agenda of the ruling class. Which is evidenced by the fact that you
seem to lend support to a "response" on the basis that it is some kind
of natural reflex which only die-hard "pacifists" will not commit to.
This is entirely abstract and is like asking what orange groves would
do if they grew potatoes.

"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" ?"

Once you put you neck in the noose of "defending ourselves" you might
as well kick the chair. The question of "evil things in the past",
which I have brought up, is not a case of some unrelated charge that
implies the attacks were "deserved". That is nonsense. The foreign
policy crimes which preceded the attacks made it more likely and more
easy for what happened to happen.

The point is not to "shrug shoulders" but to end a system which
requires the perpetual maintenance of thugs for the purpose of
enhancing the profit of one class, the negative effects of which, while
mostly contained in the periphery of the world, can occasionally hit
its core as well.

You have failed to explain how cluster bombs and daisy-cutters,
installing a puppet regime, backing the Northern Alliance, etc., all
counts as "self-defense". Moreover if you made the daring maneuver of
adopting a class analysis, you would see that the accompanying
maneuvers also show a lack of "self-defense" in the domestic sense that
there is no real "self" but two classes.  Allowing ex-CEOs across the
board to reap massive benefits from former companies, intimidating
strikers with calls of being unpatriotic, donating billions to airlines
industry while allowing their workers to be fired in the millions,
failing to address the rollback in benefits and health care for
workers, all exposes this division..

"was pretty obviously in Israel's camp quite a long time
before 9/11."

I did not say 9-11 caused an inversion, but an acceleration, of
existing tendencies.

"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..."

If I am accompanying a friend to my yard where my axe sits near a
stool, it "would obviously not guarantee" that I wouldn't pick it up
and crush him with it. Nothing is "guaranteed". The point is that there
is a social and political context which made 9-11 possible, and in a
context where a society's priorities are quite different under
socialism, there would have been no 9-11. The specifics are clear:

1. First of all, the USSR did not "invade" Afghanistan and establish
socialism; the PDPA initiated the Saur revolution and set up a
progressive government in 1978. The USSR invaded only when it became
clear that the landlord/mullah elements were clearly presenting
problems outside the major cities thanks to CIA backing--which
Brzezinski admits started "six months" before any Soviet military
intervention. So the whole campaign which brought together, according
to author of "Rogue State" William Blum a minimum of 15,000 mujahideen
from all over the world, would never have happened. The training,
weaponry, etc.

2. Taking bin Laden at face value he is angered by American military
presence in Saudi Arabia and support for Zionism. No socialist would
support either. Forces are in Saudi Arabia to protect oil monopoly
because major corporations make the development of alternative fuels
more difficult to adopt in a universal manner, and Zionism's crimes are
basically self-explanatory.

So these "religious nuts", who will obviously exist in any community
regardless, would not have had the historical opportunity, the material
backing, or possibly even the motivation to carry out the attacks. To
view fundamentalism as something outside the sphere of class relations,
instead of a component of class relations that have been shaped by the
deformity of power as a result of unipolar hegemony, is a mistake.

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