911’s Deeper Significance – an Oppositional Perspective

911’s deeper significance – an oppositional perspective

Of course the victims of 911 are innocents and their killers need to be punished as severely as the law allows-that is a given. The alternative or oppositional significance of 911 is the fact that it was the first time North Americans have suffered the kind of terrorist violence common in much of the world. What actually surprised me about 911 was that it took so long for the horror to occur. Those who would label me an Al Qaeda booster ought to at least acknowledge the sordid and brutal record of US government (CIA, Special Forces, DEA etc.) in running roughshod over the developing world since 1945; creating enemies and bitter resentments through overt and covert military interventions and arrogant regime changes. While a violent response to this behaviour was inevitable, this perspective is absent from the jingoism and faux patriotism of the mainstream corporate press.

The following evidence suggests that the Muslims do not hate the U.S. for cultural reasons (i.e. they hate out freedom) but instead deeply resent U.S. interference in Iraq, Afghanistan and the endless Palestinian/Israeli conflict. According to a 2007 University of Maryland survey by political scientists Peter Furia and Russell Lucas, “[they found]…no evidence that ordinary Arabs resent countries [the US included] for what they are, and considerable evidence that they resent them for what they do.” (Basham, 2008 in Ottawa Citizen, July 31, 2008) Organizations like al-Qaeda owe their existence to this simmering resentment.

Why do we do not publicly mourn the 200 Iranian jet passengers “accidentally” shot out of the sky by a US Navy F14 in 1988, the thousands of Iraqi Shias sacrificed by George Bush Sr. following the first Gulf War or the 1400 plus Palestinians recently killed in the U.S. – backed Israeli siege of Gaza? While the truth will never be fully exposed, are the civilian death tolls of Iraq and Afghanistan worthy of our attention, or are they just unfortunate road kill on the highway to accessing and controlling the natural resources of other states?

What would we do if a foreign power decided that they needed our resources so badly that they concocted an excuse to invade, occupy and brutalize our country? A form of substitution is the simplest and most effective way to demonstrate the irrationality of subscribing to self-evident truths. One need merely find a story about the U.S. government’s latest adventure and substitute the phrase “U.S. government” in place of the name of the newest enemy of freedom or “rouge state.”

I offer the following case for contextual explanation,
Here is a sentence from a Catherine Philip story in the October 29, 2009 Ottawa Citizen describing the U.S. commando raid into Syria that allegedly killed an assortment of people, some supposed U.S. opponents and a number of Syrian civilians. “U.S. officials said Abu Ghadiyah, the Iraqi national targeted and allegedly killed in the attack, had run a network channeling foreign fighters, weapons and funds into Iraq since 2004.” While readers are led to assume he is an evil terrorist, he may well be an Iraqi fighting to rid his country of the U.S. invader. Unfortunately, he is not among the converted Iraqis who understand that it is wiser to simply allow a foreign power to occupy your country and arrange your affairs. Has not the U.S. government, “…run a network (the U.S. Army, Marines and CIA) channeling foreign fighters, weapons and funds into Iraq since 2004? The evidence suggests that they certainly have but they choose to call their activities by another name: democracy promotion. Perspective is the key factor here. Most Iraqis would likely agree that U.S troops are foreign fighters. However, since terrorism is dominantly defined as defending your country against imperial aggression, their opinions don’t count for much in the face of self-evident assumptions.

Perhaps Philip’s headline should accurately reflect reality and instead read: U.S. Invades Syria Sans Formal Declaration of War – International Law Violated rather than the bland, "Air Raid a “Warning” to Syria, U.S. says. " Imagine what would happen if Syrian forces conducted a commando raid on New Jersey to “warn’ the U.S. about interfering in its affairs? Why is it that that the actions of the “other” are considered monstrous while “we” easily justify similar or worse behaviour on the world stage? This is a question worth asking.

The answer to the question above may lie in the identification of a 21st Century version of the colonial era’s “white man’s burden.” This term was coined to describe the way colonial England justified its endless conquests, thefts and the imposition of its culture upon countless unfortunate peoples. Today, the U.S. and its client states like Canada and Britain justify their interference in the affairs of other states by claiming to promote democracy or freedom or open markets or other noble concepts. It is no coincidence that the states targeted for such attention are usually rich in natural resources, strategically located or both.

Noam Chomsky refers to, “…a system of unspoken presuppositions that incorporate the basic principles of the doctrinal systems. These principles are therefore removed from inspection; they become the framework for thinkable thought, not objects of rationale consideration.” If that eloquent explanation is too lofty I’ll offer a simpler version: Certain dubious ideas have become so entrenched in public writing that they are considered self-evident and therefore largely immune to criticism. This immunity is a highly dangerous to genuine democracy but perfectly supportive of what has been called marketing democracy. The unspoken presupposition in this case is that the so-called War on Terror excuses any and all acts of aggression directed at those suspected of opposing the will of the U.S. government and its desire for full spectrum dominance or global military supremacy. We are expected to keep our heads down and accept insidious erosions of freedom in the name of security.

In fact, it is considered unpatriotic to question the prerogatives of state power in the now permanent War on Terror. Simply stated, whatever the U.S. government does in the name of democracy is sacrosanct by default because it has managed to present itself, rightly or wrongly, as the gold standard of freedom - no further explanation is necessary. I consider this a triumph of marketing and public relations in much the same way that the U.S. invasion and destruction of Vietnam has been successfully recast as a noble failure in the cause of freedom.

Perhaps Westerners need constant and graphic reminders of the following crimes involving the casual killing of civilians directly or indirectly by the U.S. government and its military/intelligence forces. Each example was perpetrated for the political purpose of demonstrating the overwhelming power of the U.S. military and their foreign proxies:

- invasion and bombing of Afghanistan-thousands, so far
- invasion and bombing of Iraq-tens of thousands, so far
- arming of Turkey to crush Kurdish independence- tens of thousands
- invasion and bombing of Pamana- thousands
- Contra terrorism in Nicaragua-tens of thousands
- invasion and bombing of Grenada-hundreds
- invasion and bombing of Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos-millions
- invasion of Cuba, Haiti, Dominican Republic-thousands

Considering the staggering death tolls, need I continue? To be fair, the Russians have done similar work in Afghanistan and Chechnya, the French in Southeast Asia and the Germans, Belgians, French and Portuguese committed hideous atrocities in Africa. As well, the Israelis have been brutalizing Gaza for 30 years, with full U.S. support. I support justice, but let us present a bit of balance and perspective. Terrorism is terrifying whether its author is a government or a so-called insurgent. Can the citizens of an occupied country really be considered terrorists when they violently oppose their oppressors? It requires considerable discipline to accept that that argument.

Unfortunately, much of the world’s military violence has been perpetrated to support the economic and geopolitical goals of the US government and its transnational corporate backers. The election of Barack Obama has changed nothing, in fact, according to a July 8, 2010 Ottawa Citizen article, U.S. President Obama is “protecting” our world by sending U.S. Special Forces into 75 countries, more even than George W. Bush dared to dispatch on their deadly errands. Such tactics will simply create more angry young men that may turn to terrorism. From Egypt to Indonesia, despotic regimes and local elites continue to eagerly and brutally oppress their own people for cash, cheap weapons and a thick slice of the corporate pie.

This support is the main cause of the trouble in Middle Eastern nations like Egypt; the second largest recipient of US military aid after Israel. Grinding poverty and oppression is the lot of the vast majority of the subjugated populations of the oil rich Middle Eastern countries. These people are well-aware that the weapons and military/security apparatus employed against them are American in origin. Saudi Arabia and Kuwait are run by Sheiks and Emirs who re-distribute very little of their national wealth to the working people. They behave as if the oil were their private property. In fact, Saudi Arabia is a police state that routinely employs torture against its opponents and considers human rights violations a normal part of governing. How pathetic that we in the West wink at this for the sake of oil and other natural resources like natural gas and minerals like copper.

Concerning Afghanistan’s $88 billion copper deposits, “A 30 - year lease was sold to the China Metallurgical Group for $ 3 billion.” (Ottawa Citizen, May 17, 2008, pg. A13.) I can’t imagine that the government of Canada (liberal or conservative - it doesn’t matter) was not aware of Afghanistan’s natural resources prior to the insertion of Canadian troops or that securing these resources for corporate profit was not a factor in the decision to send Canadian combat troops to Afghanistan. What does this say about Canada’s so-called humanitarian mission?

For current context, it may be time for Western newspapers to start printing the names and faces of the anonymous Iraqis and Afghans who die “collateral” deaths. The actual number of Afghans accidentally killed by US and other NATO forces is debatable but should these dead remain faceless to us? We owe them public acknowledgement if we insist on managing their affairs at gunpoint. Are their lives worth less than the lives of the soldiers sent to “liberate” them from oppression? Perhaps the anonymity of the Afghan dead assuages the secret shame we feel about our ill-defined role in this ugly intervention originally sold, like the Iraq invasion, as a reaction to 911.

The solution will take time but it is not complicated. The West will continue to endure the scourge of terrorism unless we very publicly begin to make amends for the selfish brutality committed to appease the savage god of rapacious consumerism and begin supporting working people of the developing world rather than those local elites who oppress their fellow citizens to help Western corporations. The South Americans seem to have much to teach us about genuine democracy. Do we still have the capacity to learn?