jacdon at earthlink.net jacdon at earthlink.net
Thu Apr 15 14:52:18 MDT 2004

By Jack A. Smith

The 9/11 Commission hearings in Washington these last weeks, for all their
cacophony of sound, fury, and front-page headlines, seem to have been
constructed to produce a foreordained and narrow conclusion intended to
avoid the issue of why the terror attacks actually took place.
The commission members, evenly balanced between powerful Democrats and
Republicans, do take partisan shots at each other, of course, this being an
election year. 
Explosive testimony from retired anti-terrorism chief Richard Clarke, based
on his new book, "Against All Enemies," provided commission Democrats the
opportunity to charge the Bush administration was so intent upon invading
Iraq that it paid insufficient attention to focusing on Al-Qaeda, thus
endangering American security.
And some interesting revelations  have emerged, such as the text of the Aug.
6 memo to President Bush a month before 9/11 informing him that Osama bin
Laden's Al-Qaeda organization was planning an attack in the U.S. with
hijacked airplanes.
It is clear, however, the hearings are expected to conclude that the reason
for the Sept. 11, 2001, hijacking attacks in Washington and New York City by
19 members of the fundamentalist fringe of Islam was "intelligence failure"
by the CIA and FBI. Reforms will ensue, civil liberties will be further
abridged in the name of homeland security, and hundreds of billions of
dollars more will be invested in a long "war" ostensibly against a few
underground organizations that may have a total of 1,000 committed members.
Unfortunately, the most relevant question of all regarding 9/11 and its
aftermath will not be addressed in the hearings or during the elections.
That question is, "What was the real reason the attacks took place?"
The conventional political wisdom from Washington seems to be that the cause
of 9/11, in effect, is that "the terrorists are uncivilized and are
motivated by a hatred for democracy and an envy of the American way of
life."  This is nonsense, of course, but the bipartisan political power
structure ruling America would prefer not to probe too deeply into this
question lest it be found complicit in the origins of a profound and not
illogical antipathy to the United States on the part of many people in the
Middle East.
In our view, there are four reasons in combination why a small group of
fanatics were willing to commit suicide to destroy the three symbols of U.S.
power in the world ‹the World Trade Center (financial power), the Pentagon
(military power), and the White House, which evidently was spared because
the final hijacked aircraft crashed before reaching its target (political

The primary reason is U.S. policy and actions in the Middle East since the
end of World War II ‹ a policy based on exercising control over the world's
greatest known reserves of petroleum. This has led Washington to
continuously intervene in the region to support backward feudal monarchies
and repressive, undemocratic regimes at the expense of social and political
progress. The three secondary reasons involve the Afghan civil war
(1978-1995), the first U.S.-Iraq war (1990-2003), and one-sided U.S. support
for Israel (mainly 1967-2004).
Until the implosion of the USSR in 1990, the U.S. was in a frenzy to prevent
the Soviets from gaining influence in the region.  Since 1990, Washington
has sought to secure total hegemony throughout the entire Middle East,
culminating in the Bush administration's plan to "re-make" the principal
countries of the region into "democracies" subordinate to White House
directives, by force if necessary, beginning with Iraq.
In some cases the White House made deals with reactionary regimes, such as
with the royal family in Saudi Arabia soon after World War II. In return for
guaranteed access to oil and for keeping the USSR at bay, Washington has
extended its military and political protection to the House of Saud
governing in Riyadh until this day.

In other instances, the White House ordered the CIA to overthrow
democratically elected progressive governments, such as happened in Iran in
1953 when left-leaning President Muhammad Mossadegh was dispatched. The
result was a quarter-century of repressive rule by the Shah of Iran, a U.S.
puppet finally overthrown by Shi'ite fundamentalists, who established a
reactionary religious regime. The reason that only the religious faction was
in a position to seize power was that Iran's sizable left and democratic
forces had been killed, imprisoned or exiled by the Shah with U.S. approval.
The CIA repeatedly intervened in Iraq from 1958, when progressive Gen. Abdul
Karim Kassem overthrew the British-installed monarchy, until 1963 when he
was overthrown with U.S. help. Many thousands of leftists and communists
were killed along with Kassem. This ultimately led to rule by the secular
and at the time pan-Arab Ba'ath regime.  In 1979, Gen. Saddam Hussein gained
control of the Ba'athist government, purged and killed any remaining
leftists, and within a year launched an unjust war against Iran that was
supported by the U.S. until ending in a stalemate in 1988.
Over 50 years of constant American intervention ‹ whether in Iran or Iraq,
Egypt or Jordan, Lebanon or Syria, Saudi Arabia or Yemen, Oman or Kuwait, or
across the Red Sea in Sudan, Eritrea and Ethiopia ‹ have led to a plethora
of ill fortune in the region. This includes weak, reactionary regimes
dependent on the U.S.; governments in thrall to religious factions; poverty
amidst great wealth; the violent destruction of left and progressive forces;
the stultification of social progress; the rise of extreme religious
fundamentalism as a means of establishing social and political power
(particularly since the secular left has been repressed in so many of these
countries); Arab disunity; and a deep sense of frustration and anger against
the outside forces who have created most of these conditions, whether it be
old style British and French colonialism or, since 1945, U.S. imperialism.
Three more factors must be added to this mixture to arrive at Sept. 11,
2001.  They are:
The Afghan civil war, 1978-1995:  It was during this period that extremist
Islamic fundamentalism became a serious military force, in large part
because the U.S. invested billions of dollars in training and equipping such
a force, as well as providing bases and financing fundamentalist religious
schools in Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan.  Saudi millionaire Osama
Bin Laden played an important role in the CIA's schemes.
Washington was responding to a military coup in April 1978, principally led
by left forces including progressive military officers determined to enact
major social and political reforms to bring Afghanistan into the 20th
century. The resulting ruling group, the People¹s Democratic Party of
Afghanistan (PDPA), began to introduce reforms and to establish close
relations with the neighboring Soviet Union.  This set off alarm bells in
Afghanistan's warlords and fundamentalist religious forces immediately
opposed the reforms for fear they would upset traditional power relations,
and also because they guaranteed the equality of women.  The reformers were
in Kabul only a few months before President Jimmy Carter ordered the CIA to
support the oppositional forces, largely based in the vast countryside.
When it was apparent a few months later that U.S.-backed right-wing forces
might overthrow the left government, the USSR sent thousands of troops to
defend the progressive forces, withdrawing them in 1988. Ten years later,
Carter¹s national security adviser during the war, Zbigniew Brzezinski,
finally acknowledged Washington's role and bragged that the U.S. virtually
induced the USSR to send soldiers to Afghanistan in order that it stumble
into its own "Vietnam."
The left government continued in power until it was smashed in 1992, leading
to a horrendous civil war between rival reactionary factions that was
finally won by the Taliban, which was deeply indebted to bin Laden and the
mujahideen "freedom fighters" responsive to his extreme fundamentalist
The first U.S.-Iraq war, 1990-2003: Iraq invaded the tiny, oil-rich
principality in neighboring Kuwait in August 1990, presumably under the
naïve impression the U.S. would not intervene, perhaps as a reward for
exhausting Iran in a long war. Rejecting repeated Iraqi offers of a
negotiated withdrawal, the regime of George Bush the First gradually built
up a huge invasion force and massively retaliated in January 1990.  Iraq's
entire civilian infrastructure was destroyed ‹ electricity, water supplies,
factories, transportation, communications, bridges and so forth, along with
its retreating army and many thousands of civilians.  Extensive sanctions,
which killed up to 1.5 million people, along with frequent air attacks,
continued until 2003, when George Bush the Second launched a new invasion.
In the eyes of many Arabs and Muslims around the world, including those
critical of President Hussein, the first U.S. war had turned into a
nightmare of genocide and humiliation for the Iraqi people, compounding
anti-American sentiments that had been building during previous decades of
Washington's intervention in Middle Eastern affairs.
In addition, bin Laden, the leader of the mujahideen movement that emerged
from Afghanistan, was outraged by the government of his native Saudi Arabia,
which had allowed the "infidel" Americans to establish a military base on
Arab soil to attack another Arab country. At around this time he dedicated
himself to two goals: pushing the U.S. out of the region and getting rid of
the House of Saud.
One-sided U.S. support for Israel, mainly 1967-2004:  The U.S. has been
devoted to Israel as a surrogate for American military power in the region
since the June 1967 war, though it has generally supported the Zionist state
since its inception in 1948.
As far as the Arab world is concerned, these last 37 years that Israel has
occupied much of the territory mandated to the Palestinians have been a
period of great tragedy. Arabs view the Palestinians as refugees in their
own country, oppressed by a violent colonial state supported by the United
States.  Many Arabs have also expressed the conviction, shared by a number
of progressives in the U.S., that the Bush administration attacked Iraq at
least in part in order to destroy Israel's principal opponents in the
region, with such as Syria and Iran as potential targets as well.
Every time Washington vetoes a UN Security Council resolution seeking
justice for the Palestinians, Arab anger mounts against the U.S.  Every time
Israeli tanks and soldiers fire at stone-throwing boys, the anger mounts
further.  Middle Eastern public opinion does not expect Washington to turn
on Israel and embrace the Palestinian cause, but it cannot countenance
America's total support for Israel at the expense of simple justice for
millions of Arabs.
These four examples of Washington's imperial deportment in the Middle East
for a period of more than half a century have unintentionally conspired to
create an extreme fringe of Islamic fundamentalism dedicated to visiting
retribution upon the United States.  It is not a question of hating
democracy or envying America.  It is a rebellion, however distorted by
religion and the tactic of small-group terrorism, spawned in desperation
against continuing U.S. intervention and manipulation in the Middle East.
It's not going to be halted by the "war on terrorism," which is much more
focused on extending U.S. hegemony than it is on crushing this small but
potent rebellion.  The invasion of Iraq, which the world knows was blameless
of connection to 9/11, is ample proof of that.
What will make America more secure?  The answer is clear enough to be an
activist slogan: "Bush says stay the course, we say reverse the course!"
Treat the people of the Middle East with respect and dignity.  Stop
manipulating the politics and economy of the region. Instead of spending
hundreds of billions of dollars on the "war on terrorism," or on propping up
reactionary regimes, invest that money in repairing the damage caused by
over 50 years of intervention. Get out of Iraq now and permit these
beleaguered people to resolve their own problems. Stop military
interventions and close down the Pentagon's many military bases in the
region. Adopt a balanced stance vis-à-vis the Palestine-Israel question,
starting with the demand ‹ backed by the threat of withdrawing Washington's
annual subsidy, if necessary ‹ that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon withdraw all
troops and settlements from the occupied territories.
This seems the surest way of protecting Americans from terrorism and of
creating a more positive image for the U.S.
Of course, those who rule America have no intention of doing anything
approaching this suggestion.  Both the Republican and Democratic parties are
dedicated to continuing the policies that have allowed the U.S. to exercise
hegemony over the region and in the world.  Yes, it resulted in 9/11, but
despite the official hand-wringing about terrorism, it is apparently well
worth the inconvenience to continue U.S. domination over the Middle East and
the liquid gold under its burning sands. Anyway, isn¹t it just a matter of
getting better "intelligence" from the FBI and CIA?
This article will appear in the April 21 issue of the Hudson Valley (NY)
Activist Newsletter.

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