As the corporate media and pro-war politicians launch an intensified propaganda campaign around the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks to sell the war in Afghanistan it is important to examine the US response to these terrible events and the impact this has had on working class people in Australia and around the world.
No one can deny the terrible events of September 11, 2001 when 19 terrorists hijacked 4 fuel laden passenger planes. The terrorists crashed 2 planes into the towers of the World Trade Center in New York, another plane into the Pentagon in Virginia whilst the 4th plane bound for a target in Washington D.C. was crashed prematurely into a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, after passengers and crew tried to retake control of the plane. Almost 3000 people were killed in these attacks. These attacks shocked and angered many in the US and other developed nations but the response from the US and allied governments had nothing to do with the victims and everything to do with increasing US dominance over the globe.
In the last 10 years in the Middle East, Africa, Latin America and Asia atrocities and mass murder have been committed by the US and its allies in the name of fighting terror while in North America, Europe and Australia civil liberties and the rights of workers to organise have been severely curtailed. The “War on Terror” is actually a systematic approach to opening up more of the world's natural and human resources to exploitation by capitalists based primarily in the US.
The Project for a New American Century
In September 2000, the neo-conservative think tank, the Project for a New American Century, wrote, “[T]he process of transformation [of Washington’s global posture], even if it brings revolutionary change, is likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event–like a new Pearl Harbor.” On the night of September 11, 2001, US President George W. Bush wrote in his diary, “The Pearl Harbor of the 21st century took place today”. A series of articles in the Washington Post in 2002by investigative journalist Bob Woodward, along with other reports and insider accounts, make clear that the invasion of Afghanistan and the whole “War on Terror” were not fundamentally responses to the attacks of 9/11. Nor were they aimed primarily at either punishing those responsible for the attacks or preventing future attacks on the US.
Around five hours after the attacks US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld turned to an aide and told him to begin drawing up plans for war. His instructions: “Go massive. Sweep it all up. Things related [to the attacks] and not.” Within hours of the attacks the Bush “war cabinet”, which included Vice President Dick Cheney, Rumsfeld, national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, secretary of state Colin Powell, CIA director George Tenet, and often deputy defence secretary Paul Wolfowitz began debating how best to use attacks to further US imperial ambitions. Rice described it as an opportunity to “shift the tectonic plates” of global power, calling the post-Cold War period one “not just of grave danger, but of enormous opportunity”. One top Bush official who wished to remain anonymous told The New Yorker’s Nicholas Lemann that 9/11 was a “transformative moment” not because it “revealed the existence of a threat of which officials had previously been unaware”, but because it “drastically reduced the American public’s usual resistance to American military involvement overseas, at least for a while ... Now that the United States has been attacked, the options are much broader.”
Initially this gang considered attacking Iraq straight away, despite it having no links to the 9/11 terror attacks, however they decided public opinion needed to be softened up first with an attack on Afghanistan. Bush told Woodward: “[I]f we could prove that we could be successful in this theatre [Afghanistan], then the rest of the task would be easier. If we tried to do too many things – two things, for example, or three things – militarily, then ... the lack of focus would have been a huge risk.” That day Bush signed secret orders authorising war on Afghanistan and instructing the Pentagon to begin planning for war on Iraq – even before his ultimatum had been issued to the Taliban. Retired General Wesley Clark told the Democracy Now radio program on March 2, 2008, that 10 days after September 11, 2001, he was in the Pentagon and was told by a top official, “We’ve made the decision we’re going to war with Iraq”, and that a few weeks later the same official told him a memo was circulating “that describes how we’re going to take out seven countries in five years, starting with Iraq, and then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and, finishing off, Iran”. Ten years on this list of countries is quite revealing. It shows that the current targets of the 'War on Terror' were planned at least 10 years ago and that unexpected resistance in Iraq and Afghanistan has severely pushed back their schedule.
Taliban offered Bin Laden
The fundamentalist Taliban government in Afghanistan was comprised of many former allies of the US. As members of the US-backed Mujahideen they had ousted the democratically elected socialist government of Afghanistan in the 1980's. They knew they were unpopular with the people of Afghanistan and were in genuine fear of US instigated regime change after the 9/11 attacks because the Taliban had allowed fellow religious fundamentalists al-Qaeda and their leader, Osama Bin Laden, to set up training camps in Afghanistan.
Even before the US started bombing Afghanistan, the Taliban asked for evidence of Bin Laden's involvement in 9/11 and offered to try him before an Islamic court inside Afghanistan – proposals that the US promptly rejected. A week after the US attack on Afghanistan began the Guardian reported on October 14, 2001, “Afghanistan's deputy prime minister, Haji Abdul Kabir, told reporters that the Taliban would require evidence that Bin Laden was behind the September 11 terrorist attacks in the US. "If the Taliban is given evidence that Osama bin Laden is involved" and the bombing campaign stopped, "we would be ready to hand him over to a third country", Mr Kabir added.” Bush's response to this was, "There's no need to discuss innocence or guilt. We know he's guilty".
A number of conspiracy theories have sprung up around the 9/11 attacks which are a complete distraction from the real issue of unending imperialist war and its devastating consequences for the working class globally. While 9/11 truthers desperately pour their energies into trying to prove their own particular theory they end up playing into the hands of far right and fascist groups who have readily enlisted these theories to strengthen their racist, false solutions to the problems of capitalism. To talk about the US government betraying its citizens ignores the reality that the US government has always ruled in the interests of the capitalist minority at the expense of workers in the US and internationally.
If you have a conspiracy you have to have people who planned it and these anti-worker hate groups readily apply their particular target of hate to the role of conspirator. Some incorporate modern conspiracy theories into older fascist conspiracies about Jews trying to take over the world, some Islamic fundamentalist groups give 9/11 conspiracy theories a theological spin and Tea Party types like Ron Paul use these theories as an example of the “evils of big government” as he rails against the state providing things like health care, education and laws that protect workers.
In places like the US and Australia conspiracy theories are racist in nature. Whether consciously or unconsciously, it is racist to place a higher value on seeking justice for 3000, mostly white people killed in the US while hundreds of thousands of people are being slaughtered by ongoing US and allied policies. This same racism dampens opposition to the “War on Terror” as well. If workers in countries like Australia saw the victims of this global war as equals, as fellow people, the government would not be able to contain the resulting mass outrage.
Situation worse in Afghanistan
Former member of Afghanistan's government, Malalai Joya, wrote in the Sydney Morning Herald on August 30, “The Australian people should ask their government to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan because their presence is only making the situation worse. The Afghan people have lost all trust in the foreign troops: they see that they are making things even more complicated. The foreign troops are engaged with brutal warlords: they support a brutal mafia regime; they are implicated in drug-trafficking; they kill innocent civilians in their bombardments and are only motivated by their own strategic and regional interests.”
Joya also said, “The conditions in the country are the same as in the Taliban's time and in some provinces conditions are even worse. Women and girls are raped, kidnapped, killed, flogged in public, stoned to death, poisoned or have acid thrown in their faces. The conditions are so unbearable that many commit suicide, most commonly through self-immolation, with very high rates in many provinces. Women in the cities do enjoy a limited set of rights, but these rights are not even close to what they had in the 1970s and '80s.”
When the hated Taliban were removed, progressive forces that had been resisting the Taliban tried to organise openly and bring out their own publications. They were soon crushed by the appointed Karzai government, backed by foreign troops because the US wants a government they can control, not genuine democracy. Joya describes how the people of Afghanistan now face three enemies (Karzai government of warlords, foreign troops and Taliban) instead of one (Taliban). Far from destroying the Taliban which had little popular support in 2001, the occupation of Afghanistan has actually allowed the Taliban to win more people to their fundamentalist world view.
The invasion and occupation of Afghanistan by US and allied troops actually interrupted and set back the struggle that was already going on against the Taliban. The longer the troops remain the harder and bloodier this struggle will be when the foreign troops do leave. As Joya concluded her article, “No nation can liberate another nation. It is the responsibility of our own people to rise and free Afghanistan from terrorism and fundamentalism.”