Portsiders Reflect: Ten Years After 9/11
September 11, Imperialism and the Face of Clerical
By Bill Fletcher, Jr.
Nearly two months to the day after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, one of my best friends died suddenly, the result of a massive heart attack. Though physically weakened by an on-going medical treatment, two medical professionals concluded that her life was more than likely cut short by the trauma of 9/11. You see, she was standing about two blocks away from the Twin Towers and witnessed nearly everything. On 9/11, while she was near the Twin Towers we actually spoke on the phone. She described, in a low, unsettlingly cool voice, seeing
people plunge to their deaths when they jumped from the Towers.
The trauma of 9/11 affected everyone I know or have met since then. Confusion, anger, and deep sadness for most. Surprise on the part of many white Americans, whereas
for virtually every African American I knew the response was the same: it was only a matter of time before such an attack took place. While African Americans did not support the terrorist attack, they overwhelmingly had a better sense of the manner in which the USA is perceived internationally than do most white Americans. That sense, however, did not lessen the pain and anguish, particularly as we discovered the fate of friends, loved
ones and associates who died as a result of the attacks.
The US Left and Progressive movements were also confused by the attacks but for different reasons. Possessing a better understanding than most of the criminality of US foreign policy and the aggressions committed around the world in the name of the red, white and blue, they were nevertheless unprepared to understand and respond to a gross, criminal attack on US civilians by a political movement that claimed to be speaking for the world’s
For some on the Left side of the aisle, confusion led to silence. For others it led to a post-traumatic retreat into a World War II-like scenario analogizing 9/11 to Pearl Harbor. Neither silence nor class collaboration were appropriate responses to the emergence of a certain
form of clerical fascism.
Clerical fascism is not new. Variations of it existed in the Europe of the 1930s. In the USA, Father Coughlin, the right-wing radio commentator, was certainly an example of such a phenomenon. In the more recent past clerical semi-fascist and fascist movements have arisen in the USA within the broader white nationalist movement.
The 9/11 attacks, however, were the result of another variation: Muslim clerical fascism linked with right-wing anti-imperialism. In other words, this was a right-wing movement that challenged Western imperialism in the name of the oppressed, but with a fascist agenda. The closest analogy would be Japanese fascism/imperialism from the period of World War II (which draped itself in the garb of anti-imperialism and, quite ironically,
Al Qaeda and its allies are just such a clerical fascist movement. They are not simply theocrats, but they have used their distorted interpretation of Islam as a means of advancing a regressive social agenda. They speak for a middle stratum of marginalized men who are victims of the global reorganization of capitalism. Their solution, as with most fascist movements, is a return to a mythical past, in this case, an era in Islam’s history
that never existed.
The US Left and Progressive movements--with some notable exceptions--were largely unprepared for the rise of such a movement in the global South. Committed as we are to
struggling against imperialism, it was generally assumed that those who were against imperialism were to be considered progressive. But in the midst of the crises of both socialism and the national populist projects (the latter in the global South) an opening has been created into which right-wing alternatives have entered allegedly speaking for the dispossessed. These right-wing alternatives are in no way to be considered friends
or allies. They represent a threat to progress and should be considered enemies.
This situation has, therefore, complicated issues of strategy making it necessary to fight BOTH imperialism/global capitalism and right-wing so-called anti-imperialist movements. This was one of the greatest lessons of 9/11, a lesson that became clearer as the smoke dissipated and we buried the victims of yet another monster.
Bill Fletcher, Jr. is a racial justice, labor and international activist and writer. He is on the
editorial board of BlackCommentator.com and the co-author of Solidarity Divided.
The Way That 9/11 Was Sold
by Bill Tabb
After 9/11, the Bush-Cheney White House initiated policies that empowered reactionary politics, heightened fear in their declaration of an endless war against 'evil,' and used resources previously allocated to essential public services. We know that the administration followed plans already in the works to invade Iraq -- even though there was no evidence that Sadam Hussein was in any way implicated in the attack -- and that the terrorists came from our loyal ally Saudi Arabia. We know there were neither weapons of mass destruction nor mushroom clouds on the American horizon. Bush-Cheney’s actions led to the death of 6,026 American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan (through June 5, 2011); we do not tally the deaths of citizens of the countries we have invaded.
The way that 9/11 was sold to the American people now constrains the Obama administration. We have an entrenched homeland security system that intrudes into
the lives of every American, magnifying each new fear and perceived insult. (Consider, for instance, the unreasoning animosity toward an Islamic Center near the holy ground of the World Trade Center which is devoted among other goals to building understanding between the Muslim community and other Americans.)
We have the solipsistic commemoration of our 'heroes,' a term used to include the majority of our dead who were victims of the attack and showed no heroism as the term is formally defined. We learn the lesson that America must be strong -- which of course underlies further interventions in the Middle East and provokes more young men to use the tools of terrorism to combat our bullying imperialist policies.
Yes, by all means celebrate those first responders and volunteers at the site. But we must also acknowledge and mourn the children, women, and men in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere whose lives and societies our wars have destroyed. We accept George W.’s explanation that "they" hate us for our freedom -- even as throughout the region they put their lives on the line to rid their countries of the dictators we have maintained for so long in our drive for oil and strategic hegemony. Former Vice President Cheney’s memoirs insist that American exceptionalism requires a continuation of the political and military policies of the last decade. This cannot be the legacy of 9/11.
The $3 trillion that has thus far funded our Middle Eastern wars is about what our politicians are planning to cut from our national budget, illustrating the point Martin Luther King made so emphatically: our wars harm people abroad and at home. These wars are immoral and
must end. The media propaganda celebration of 9/11 distorts this truth. We cannot let the policies of Cheney and Bush determine our future.
Just a Mile North
by Dave McReynolds
Living just a mile north of the World Trade Center all that I could see were the billowing clouds of smoke, and even those I might have missed if I hadn't stopped one of the many people coming up Third Ave. (so many, too many for a tour group, I thought perhaps the subway had broken down) to ask what happened.
"The World Trade Center has been hit" - then I saw the clouds of smoke. The horror of it was not clear until I got home and watched the television, which showed people leaping from the highest floors as if the thick clouds of smoke would cushion their fall.
I could not immediately get down there – everything below Houston St. was blocked off. One thing which struck me was the immediate blossoming of American flags. Stores sold out of them, with signs in their windows "we have no more flags". In Washington Square
Park the crowds of people all had the flags - but my impression was not that this was a burst of enthusiasm for the government, much less of hatred for the bombers (about which at first we knew little) but an effort at human solidarity in the face of a great tragedy.
What is most impressive were the many signs near the World Trade Center, which I photographed as soon as I could get down there, which stressed peace. Not "revenge" or "kill the bastards", but again and again "peace" or some variation of that theme.
And what was so infinitely tragic in the days that followed were the 8 x 10 xerox posters on lampposts asking "Have you seen my father, last seen on the 80th floor of the World Trade Center", "have you seen my wife", a terrible litany of loss.
I leave for others the political analysis of how this 9.11 was used by the administration to lead us into war. I only want to stress that was not the mood of those in Lower Manhattan following the attack.