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9/11 and The Left
The War of Terror = The New Class War
On this 10th anniversary of 9/11 attacks there are many things to reflect on and in this article we are going to focus on the relationship between 9/11 and the political 'Left'. Today 10 years later, the public particularly in the US seems quite dividved as numerous polls show that a majority of US citizens don't accept the official story and a significant portion believe the government was involved in one form or another. The mainstream media though is still very much on page with the official version of events. The details of the topic itself are divisive and two clear camps have arisen with opposing views and very little common ground between. At this stage many people are simply tired of discussing it and wish to move on. This article does not intend to dwell on the mechanics of the event itself but examine the wider political effects.
Next we have the relatives of the victims of 9/11 and this group itself is divided up into those still trying to pursue the truth largely by investigative and legal means. Interestenly the first responder firemen have been barred from the official 10th anniversary commenoration event.
The conspiracy theory crowd are portrayed in the media as simply loonies and they usually to focus on the more bizzare, but this grouping is actually quite diverse and it could be broadly split into three categories. In the first category are the actual loonies who attempt to stich together an incoherent set of facts and events tied to a narrative that is quite illogical but gives a simplified view of the world. Next there are the Jews did it camp, which tends to attract a certain element of the far-right, anti-semitic, illuminati types. The third group who get the least mainstream media attention, are the investigative types who really are trying to understand the mechanics of the day and the lead up to it. One could perhaps label them the scientific analysis / deep politics crowd.
Then we have the public and it is actually quite hard to judge what their true opinion is, but in polite conversation it would seem most people accept the official line but given the fact that polls (US polls at least. No data for other ones) do not reflect what one tends to encounter in daily interactions then I suspect a lot more people have deep reservations about the official narrative and are very reluctant to publically voice these concerns for fear of being labelled a nut case.
Against this backdrop, we have the bigger picture of society at large and the set of democractic states or whatever name they happen to label themselves. These are largely made up of developed countries and many of the developing ones that form the main players in the global capitalist system. A common meme presented particularly by the most blatant war mongering states (i.e. US and UK) is that they are progressive, liberal, democratic and like to present the image that they are the flag bearers of human rights and are a civilising effect on the rest of the world. In this mix sits the Left which is rather undefined but most people would recognise that it represents the liberal tendency. To those Left of the Left since the Left is actually central really, we have those who rightly make criticisms of the prevailing order and these are what remains of the much stronger socialist arm of the Left that existed in the 1960s and 70s. However the Neoliberal take over of society has be so complete that the Left is largely shutout of the mainstream and has little influence on events and the economy anymore. It still serves a minor role and is used by the system when necessary, when it needs to put out a humanitarian or liberal gloss on things and it is at this point that the Left is given a brief platform on the media stage in the form of opinion pieces or 'experts' on news shows. A classic example was during the invasion of Afghanistan when the rhetoric of standing up for women's rights was used as part of the justification for the invasion. There have been many examples since then such as the recent concern for civilians used to justify well eh the bombing of Libya which has resulted in many civilians deaths not suprisenly and enabling the blatant oil grab and general plunder of the sovereign wealth fund of around €150 billion.
So we now turn to the relationship of the Left to the events of 9/11
The Left's Position
What the Left does say or at least the socialist wing, is that US government used 9/11 to justify the two illegal wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. They rightly recognised the brutality meted out, the attack on civil liberties and the demonisation of Muslims. Indeed the far Left led much of the anti War movement in the early years reaching its pinnacle on Feb 15th 2003. In the US the movement collapsed completely with the rise of Obama even while it expanded the wars and upped the drone attacks thus exposing contradictions in their initial opposition.
The Left and the Iraq WarPrior to Sept 11th, Bin Laden's image appeared regularly in the media relating to earlier attacks elsewhere and it was naturally prominent after the attacks and into 2002. Then about mid way into 2002, Saddam Hussein got a lot of presss and his image started to be appear more regulary whilst Bin Laden's faded out. By late 2002 it was clear to the dogs on the street that a war was going to be launched against Iraq and the US and UK governments were raising one false accusation after another including a bogus claim about the importation of yellow cake (Uranium oxide) from Niger. The defining moment was when Colin Powells made his speech on Weapons of Mass Destruction to the UN which was composed completely of lies and which Powell years later described as 'the lowest point in my life.' What was interesting about this period is that the Left especially the far Left challenged all of these lies one after another and exposed their falsehoods. They were quite aware there was an orchastrated campaign to justify the war and given that the media served as the mouthpiece of the lies from the US and UK governments, the implication was that the media was in on this which it was and as the most recent revealvations of the Murdoch press momentarily demonstrated was how the capitalist apparatus works together while giving the impression that they are separate and independent. Thus the Left while never using the word conspiracy clearly were implying there was a conspiracy to launch an aggressive war and they were later proved to be 100% correct.
Meanwhile in Ireland during this period the Left here knew and stated it so that the government here was lying about the transport of US troops through Shannon and the assumption was that all other utterances related to the Iraq war were pretty much suspect. It would have been much the same in other countries too. Again they were a short while later proved correct.
So from this we observe that the Left everywhere were being very skeptical which is healthy and they were challenging government statements and checking the facts for themselves. This is what you would expect.
The Class War
The 9/11 attacks are probably one of the greatest TV spectacles ever and it was this media imagery that gave it strength and power. There is so much to be said about the events before and after. Rather famously there was the AIPAC document written by the neo-cons a few years prior talking about the New American century and the need for a new Pearl Harbour event to galvanize the nation. Also towards the end of the rather politically subdued 1990s, the anti-capitalist movement burst on the scene in the Battle of Seattle out of which Indymedia itself was born followed by numerous other summit demos leading up to the extremely repressive events around G8 summit in Genoa in July 2001 where all the main world leaders met and there was huge media coverage around the fact that surface-to-air missiles were installed in case of terrorist attacks from the air. It was clear to anyone at the time that the Class War was in full swing and people were waking up. There was a buzz in the air and more importantly there was hope.
Then came the attacks but what was probably more frightening was when Bush announced: 'You are either with us or against us'. Within hours and days practically every country stood up and swore allegience to the War on Terror. In Ireland we even went as far as having a day off for the mourning of the victims while US didn't even get the day off. A blanket of fear was laid down over the US population and absurd levels of security. For any sane person who knew anything about the US role in the world, they realized that these people were going to get very mean and brutal. They didn't disappoint. Within days the US Patriot Act was passed. This was a 600 page document that effectively shredded most of the rights in the US constitution. People were urged to go shopping by Bush, the CIA instigated secret renditions and opened up a torture centre in Guantanamo and numerous other black sites around the world. The Orwellian Dept of Homeland Security was born and in the meantime food parcels were briefly dropped on Afghanistan followed by daisy-cutter 4,000 lb bombs. But everyone was scared. Everyone who was anyone in the media or politics had to either write a piece or at some point announce how awful it was and condemn the attacks and they were awful. There was some mention that this was blowback for the US foreign policy in the Middle East but it got little mainstream attention.
The US itself seemed to go into fever pitch and a sea of flags sprung up across the country flushing out waves of fresh recruits for the wars in Afghanistan and later in Iraq. People were asked to spy on either other and no-flylists appeared. Many a muslim was picked up and held for months indefinitely, frequently tortured and others deported.
Immediately after and really continously since then, there are two things to note. The first is that the fear was kept going with stupid announcments of fears of possible further attacks none of which materialized and the instigation of different color coded alerts. In the years that followed the countries with some of the stronger anti-war movements such as Britain and Spain got their own mini 9-11s and this was used to keep the export fear and keep it going with the benefit of keeping all the partners onboard. There was also a long string of high profile arrests of various individuals and small groups where apparent attacks were prevented. However the followup showed in the vast majority of these cases they were sting operations setup and instigated by the FBI in the case of the US and MI5 in UK and they usually entrapped young clueless muslims who had no real contact with any real group and were hoodwinked into thinking they were joining real terrorists cells. The second point, was that the 9/11 card was played many times and not just for the wars. Bush used it for his re-election and even got Bin Laden to make a cameo reappearance in a new video which helped shore up his support.
But in many ways the most significant and effective thing was the With Us or Against Us statement. That put down an invisible but clear marker and everywhere knew they would be in real deep trouble if they crossed that line.
Overall the legacy of 911 has been a massive increase in repression worldwide, the further advance of corporations to central place, and promotion of surveillance, torture and fear.
The Left on Board
Whether you accept the offical fairy tale or not, you would expect in such a big pool of people a certain amount of diversity of opinion and a range of arguments. What is also lacking is any decent investigation other than early on, the type of articles that validated quasi establishment explanations.
But intrigue and conspiracy are not actually that always rejected. For example, it is widely accepted that the assassination of Martin Luther King was carried out by the FBI. It is also widely known and documented the US institigated the famous COINTEL-PRO operation against all Left, Environmental and Social Justice movements, as well as the Black Panthers during the 1960s and 70s and this included disruption, widespread use of informants, provacteurs and went as far as murder of key individuals through the mechanism of police shootouts. Then in the 1980s, although perhaps slightly less well known, we had Operation Gladio in Italy which was a regime of terrorist bombings and kidnappings including the kidnap and subsequent murder of Italian Prime Minister Aldo Moro, the Bolgona train station bombing where 76 people died and other incidents. It became known as the Strategy of Tension. At the time it was blamed on the radical far Left and was successfully used for to keep them out of power in Italy and generally suppress the working class and their movements. Subsequently in the early 1990s, it came to light through the courts during an investigation of the death of three police and which led to the unravelling of the information. As a result it is on the public record and it showed that all of these attacks were carried out by the far Right and instigated and setup by NATO and the CIA through this network of Gladio cells. The whole thing was established back in 1958 and it orignally was part of a stay-behind NATO in the event of a Soviet invasion but quickly become a tool to keep the working class in their place.
Then in late 1990s in the US, details of Operation Northwoods were declassfied. This was a plan which had been signed off by the Joints Chief of Staff in the 1960s during the era of the US entanglement with Cuba, although never actually put into operation, to launch a series of terrorists attacks on US soil and blame it on the Cubans and the central piece of the plan was to shoot down a US airliner with Americans on board and blame this on Cuba too. I guess the logic is if you want to go to war and some of your own people are going to die, then why not just have some of those deaths up front.
There are many other sinister and vile plans and operations that were hatched and carried out by governments over the years and the so-called 'democratic' ones have been some of the worst offenders. However it should be pointed out it is generally not the regular members of these governments, but shadowy figures in military, intelligence and almost always top ranking individuals from the capitalist class of the given nation.
Thus we have a long history of intrigue, double dealing, conspiracy, outright lies and deception and murder and at this point much of it is undisputed but yet for the Left, 9/11 stands out as an exception like a bright beacon in the dark night. And it is not as if nothing happened afterward. The Left is quite clear that much of what has happened then is just a continuation of empire and domination and few people except the clueless or those in complete denial, recognise that US policy is and has been a blight on our collective humanity and a step backward.
The Left on the Ropes
At the G8 in Genoa in July 2001, the capitalists laid on massive repression and with the death of Carlo Giuliani, people knew the capitalists were now getting very serious and people were going to be brutally dealth with and not many were obviously willing to come forward for that. So in effect the Left and everyone else hunkered down after 9/11.
The lunatic arm of conspiracy theorists had always existed but now they were given a huge gift and they gladly accepted it. The problem now was anyone questioning 9/11 in the days and weeks after could in the ultra hyped up hysterial atmosphere be labelled as being with the terrorists and a bit later this morphed into an even worse potenital outcome, which was to be labelled a member of the lunatic conspiracy theorists. Thus so long as you didn't challenge the centrality of the events and causes of 9/11, you were okay. That was why it became relatively safe to challenge the lies and fabrications around the Weapons of Mass destruction story on Iraq because in reality 9/11 was the real justification used. People will recall that within the US it was implied but never actually said that Saddam Hussein was friends of Bin Laden and that he was in some way responsible for the attacks even though there was not a shred of evidence. But in the US, where all the media is in the hands of the Right wing, facts have little standing. Polls at the time showed that many believed these distortions which thereby goes to show the priceless value of propaganda.
And to this day this would appear to be still the situation. The Left refuses to get sucked in or to comment on the whole ordeal. They inherently know that they were not strong enough to withstand the onslaught that would have occur and I believe they would have been torn apart by it all.
I believe it was a mistake because collectively it was not an honest thing to do and in effect it allowed others to stake this ground. If you take the message of the conspiracy theory factions and excluding all the less coherent stuff, the message is that a group conspired to carry out 9/11 so as to setup a totalitarian regime and to start wars. They are very keen to stress that 911 is the justification and there is no doubt that it has. Who caused it can be put aside for one moment. However what they are in fact describing is very similar to the Class War. It just comes from a different angle. Another faction says the same thing but tend to stress that there is some group that has perfectly choreographed many events and wars but the sub message is that there is little hope and there is nothing you can do. I don't accept this message because I don't accept that any plan can go perfectly well. People, groups and organisations do make mistakes. But the difference between the two factions are quite subtle and you will miss it completely if that entire discussion is walled off.
Depending on what thread of reasoning you follow, there is a money or finance element to 9-11. Again there are two approaches to this. The traditional Left takes the Marxist view of the explanation of capitalist and the role of finance and so forth. Some parts of the conspiracy theorists come at it from the banking elite and the role of money. Unfortunately there are far too many of the types that seem to be hung up on the roles of Jews in banking, funny symbols and New World order of a strange variety. But in there is the serious matter of how does money itself setup the structure of the economy and other questions like, what is money, how does it come about (hint: through issuing debt), who has authority to print or generate money, the role of central banks and so on. These questions are really important today as we are in the midst of the global financial crisis. Even today the traditional Left is still coming at it from the Marxist view and describing the trading of CDOs and all sorts of derivatives but they are still not asking the questions on the nature of money itself and it would appear that they have ceded this ground because they know it borders the conspiracy theorist camps. Yet there are quite a few very respectable individuals doing great work in this area through their own writings and investigations.
It is therefore my opinion that the Left has managed to give up a lot of terrority and consitutency because they have been afraid to challenge events for fear of losing credibility and yet at a time when the whole world should be turning to the Left for answers and solutions they just aren't getting the resonance that they should.
The world is a very complicated place and a lot of stuff is very very nuanced. So often when people step outside their own domain of knowledge they tend to view things in very simple forms. So many times conversations around 911 start with the phrase: 'Its quite simple really, there is no way that....'. These are usually theoretical discussions based on assumptions people make that ultimately are used to back up their side of the argument. Rarely do I encounter one based around an examination of actual facts and analyzed in the way you might expect a forsenic detective to go about their work. Instead people have their eye on labels and they really fear being made a social outcast. There is a very dishonest effort time and time again to lump all explanations other than the official way as the same. A few moments thought would quite clearly make it obvious that there is an almost infinite set of possibilities and therefore theories and there is presumably only one theory that is correct. The beauty of the current public or rather allowed public narrative is that there are only two and these are black and white. In fact if we examine the media on the vast majority of important political events, they attempt to present them as black or white. This is the way the invasion of Libya is presented. In the case of the London riots, we have rioters bad, police and state good. All other explanations and contexts are irrelevant. We are trained to not think and simply react in an infantile fashion. It is the Right wing capitalist media that setup this false choice and its the only game in town.
So returning now to the way 911 is presented in the media, it is the official (fairy tale) story which every respectible person and authority believes or the loony conspiracy one. This is a retake on: Are You With Us or Against Us. As pointed out above it very nicely lumps the infinite set of explanations into just one and thereby enables the media to give you just two choices and in the way it is presented, the Left has no choice or rather no stomach to dare puncture this false setup.
On a final note it is quite clear that the War on Terror or rather the more properly named War of Terror is really just the Class War and this is reflected on the ground because this card is being played time and again against activists from the anti war movement, to social justice, environmental, animal rights; against strikers and to the media demonisation of protests against the bailouts and austerity. What is amazing is that the capitalist class have been able to have this new offensive running for over a decade now and yet no-one on the Left appears to have called it out for what it is, the new Class War in new clothes.