[Last update: 13 SEPTEMBER 2001]

Statement on the Air Attacks in New York and Washington, D.C.

by the International Socialist Organization
September 12, 2001

The September 11 attacks in New York and Washington, D.C. are a horrific tragedy.

The bodies of perhaps thousands of people-of all races, religions and political beliefs-lie in the rubble of New York's World Trade Center. Our hearts and thoughts go out to those who have lost loved ones in the wreck-age and to those who were injured.

No one who watched the television footage of a jumbo jet flying into the World Trade Center or one of the largest buildings in the world crumbling to the ground-much less those who witnessed this firsthand-will ever forget what has taken place.

People around the world are still grappling with the enormity of this tragedy. But even as they do so, the highest leaders of the U.S. government and the media commentators are baying for revenge.

President Bush promised to "hunt down and punish" those responsible, and he was matched, word for word and threat for threat, by politicians across the political spectrum. Conservative writer Robert Kagan wrote, "Congress should immediately declare war. It does not have to name a country. It can declare against those who have carried out today's attack and against any nations that may have lent their support." ("A Declaration of War," Washington Post, September 11, 2001).

The media fanned the hysteria. No hearsay or rumor was too outlandish to be reported. For hours, they said that a car bomb had exploded in front of the State Department in Washington. The report was later retracted. They speculated-without any evidence to back them up-that the hijacked plane that crashed in Pennsylvania was heading toward the presidential retreat at Camp David, Md.

And all the usual "terrorism" experts were rounded up to fill the media with still more speculation-most of it focusing on what Arab group or country could be held responsible for such an attack. Acting on an anonymous tip to a newspaper in Abu Dhabi, they accused the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), one of the left-wing factions in the Palestine Liberation Organization. When officials of the DFLP denounced the attack, the media retreated.

In fact, all of the major political organizations in the PLO condemned the attack. Next, they focused on Osama bin Laden, the millionaire Saudi businessman who has been accused of other attacks on U.S. targets. Liberal Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) declared: "I have no doubt in my mind it's Osama Bin Laden. It's very much in keeping with the threats he has made."

"Terrorism" Experts

We may never know who or what organization carried out the attacks. But it's worth remembering that the same "terrorism" experts who are pointing the finger at Bin Laden and other Arabs did the same after the 1995 bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building. After stirring up a racist backlash that led to physical attacks on Arab-Americans, these "experts" made no apologies when authorities apprehended white, right-wing vigilante Timothy McVeigh. When bombs leveled U.S. embassies in Tanzania and Kenya in August, 1998, President Clinton declared Bin Laden to be the mastermind of the bombings. To retaliate, Clinton ordered a missile strike on a Sudanese pharmaceutical factory that he said was connected to Bin Laden.

Ten months later, the U.S. admitted that it had no evidence linking the factory to Bin Laden. As the London-based Independent commented at the time: "The embarrassing reversal means that the U.S. has virtually no evidence to support its claim that the missile attack was a strike against terrorism." (Independent, May 4, 1999)

By destroying a pharmaceutical factory that produced drugs desperately needed in famine-plagued Sudan, the U.S. didn't punish "terrorists" but poor Sudanese.

Trained in Terrorism

Whether or not Bin Laden was behind the September 11 attacks, he shares with Timothy McVeigh the distinction of having been trained in terrorism by the U.S. government.

As a soldier in the Persian Gulf War in 1991, McVeigh drove earth-moving equipment that buried hundreds of Iraqi soldiers alive. He openly bragged of killing surrendering Iraqis. Only weeks before he was executed earlier this year, McVeigh described the children who died in the Murrah Federal Building as "collateral damage"-the term that the Pentagon used (and CNN popularized) to describe Iraqi civilians killed by U.S. warplanes.

The U.S. government turned McVeigh into the monster that killed 168 people in Oklahoma City.

Likewise, the CIA trained Bin Laden as a commander in its proxy army that fought the USSR after its invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. Bin Laden was "so effective a recruiter [for the Afghan guerrillas] that close comrades at the time actually thought he was working for the CIA." (Christian Science Monitor, September 12, 2001).

Another close collaborator with the CIA in Afghanistan was the Taliban militia, which now rules Afghanistan as a medieval dictatorship. The same U.S. government that today denounces Bin Laden and the Taliban lauded them as "freedom fighters" in the 1980s.

There is a new bipartisan line coming out of Washington about the need for the U.S. to spearhead an effort against those who "harbor" terrorists-that is, for the United States to establish its right to go after "rogue states." Until now, the U.S. has been unable to get even its allies to sign on to its massive expansion of military spending and Star Wars programs. It will try to use this crisis to try realign its allies around American military initiatives.

No one who believes, as we do, that working people must fight to create a world cleansed of war and hatred, could possibly condone the September 11 attacks. Moreover, socialists have always rejected terrorism -the idea that an "avenging angel" can fight exploitation or oppression by assassinating a government official or destroying a symbol of corporate or military power.

But in their rush to assign blame and demand revenge, no journalists or politicians will stop to ask the simple question: Why would someone target the U.S.? Why would people feel so desperate that they would want to kill themselves and innocent civilians in these kinds of attacks?

Many reports have intimated that there's a Palestinian connection-and they point to the suicide bombings in Israel as proof of this.

Many young Palestinians suffering under a brutal Israeli occupation financed by U.S. military aid have joined the ranks of suicide bombers. Even Gen. Amos Gilad, Israel's military coordinator for the West Bank and Gaza admits that Israel's occupation-with its "closures," house demolitions, aerial bombardment, targeted assassinations and military checkpoints-is to blame. "The conditions in the territories, he told the Israeli press in late August, produce "a fool's cycle of violence in which Hamas grows stronger, we respond, and, as a result, the hardship in the territories grows and Hamas grows even stronger. If the situation continues, we are likely to be confronted with Šfive terror attacks a day." (Quoted in Alisa Solomon, "Uprooting the Olive Branch," Village Voice, August 29-September 4, 2001)

The 1991 Gulf War against Iraq killed as many as 200,000 Iraqis-most of them civilians-and left the country in a "pre-industrial state," according to the United Nations. Since then, UN sanctions against Iraq-backed most strongly by the U.S.-have killed as many as 500,000 children in that country since 1990. In a chilling 1995 interview, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright justified these children's deaths, saying, "the cost, we think, is worth it."

We should remember Albright's words when we hear the drumbeat about "terrorists" who "have no regard for human life." To the Bushs and Albrights of this world, talk like this is only a pretext for more war and destruction. It is an insult to the memories of the hundreds of New York firefighters who died trying to save lives when the World Trade Center collapsed.

If this attack turns to have connections to the opponents of U.S. policy in the Middle East-which is by no means proven-then it is terribly misguided. Far from putting the U.S. on the defensive for its international crimes, it allows the U.S. establishment an opportunity to rally the country around this tragedy and use it as a pretext to strengthen U.S. military might and its "right" to use force around the world, wherever and whenever it wants.

Then there is the question of civil liberties at home. President Bush called the September 11 tragedy an "attack on freedom, and freedom will be defended." Yet he and his supporters announced major crackdowns on freedom. We cannot let the horrible attacks in New York and Washington be used as a justification for further limiting civil liberties in this country.

Racist Scapegoating

Nor can we allow Arab Americans to be targeted for racist scapegoating. The constant comparisons of the September 11 attack to the 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor should remind us of where this kind of scapegoating can lead. More than 100,000 Japanese Americans were herded into internment camps for no "crime" other than their racial and ethnic background.

Forty years too late, the U.S. government repudiated the internments and paid reparations to Japanese-American families. In a 1990 letter to survivors of the camps, President George Bush wrote: "We can never fully right the wrongs of the past. But we can take a clear stand for justice and recognize that serious injustices were done to Japanese Americans in World War II."

We must stand up for basic human and civil rights of all people and not permit "guilt by association" because of racial or ethnic background. The people who died in the September 11 attacks are not to blame for the U.S. government's policy. Neither are millions of Arab Americans to blame for the attacks. We stand with our Palestinian brothers and sisters in their just demand for self-determination and freedom from Israeli oppression-and we will oppose any attempt to use this tragedy to justify that oppression.

We will know more facts in the coming days about the attacks and how the U.S. government plans to respond. But we must make a commitment today to rid the world of poverty, hunger, oppression and inequality-in other words, the very conditions that made the September 11 attacks possible.

Another world is possible, but only if we stand up for what we believe in.


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