[Let me state in advance that the deaths and injuries resulting from the events of September eleventh were nothing less than horrific. I feel for those families and their friends who have had to endure the senseless loss of loved ones.]
The tenth anniversary of September eleventh has now come and gone. And the United States government pulled out all the stops, my friends. They even had Billy Boy Clinton up there in the field in Pennsylvania, doing his best tear-jerk patriotic routine ever; his lower lip hanging characteristically, hand poised partially outstretched with thumb pinching finger, the audience hanging as well in desperate anticipation on his breaking words. The former president telling those assembled that the passengers on Flight 93 “gave the country an incalculable gift.” Excuse me? What gift was that, Mr. President? Their lives were lost, and to what end? Or was it simply payback to the Empire for its continued aggressive incursions onto foreign soils?
And of course Barack Obama, the current emperor, was on the road as well, selling the great benefits of “service to America” as a way of consoling ourselves for those losses sustained ten years ago. And perhaps between the fear mongering and the flailing economy, this appeal to service is working. At least two of my most diligent undergraduate students from three years ago have already signed on with Uncle Sam to answer the challenge of terror. But what can we expect when the only healthy employer in town, with cash on hand, is a purveyor of death? There seems to be no shame among our elite political class, and no depths to which they won’t stoop in selling their snake oil, while soliciting obedience and sacrifice from the body politic for ends that are selfishly nationalistic, greedily self-aggrandizing, and ultimately unsustainable.
Tears have been shed by those who lost loved ones, the memorials have been opened, eulogies and prayers offered, speeches made. But what does all of this have to do with giving us closure and a final accounting of what happened there ten years ago, and why?
The mysteries surrounding the events of 9/11/01 are multiple and complex. And there is no need to rehash the theories, counter-theories, and the conspiracy theories here. There are other, more pressing concerns that need addressing: issues preceding that event by decades, if not millennia, that may provide some perspective on the real, but often darkened trajectory of our republic, its policies, its self-understanding in world history, and ultimately its undisclosed role in that horrific event.
Noam Chomsky, Institute Professor Emeritus at MIT Department of Linguistics and Philosophy, and author of numerous political works, reflects on this tenth anniversary:
In [my book] 9-11, I quoted Robert Fisk’s conclusion that the “horrendous crime” of 9/11 was committed with “wickedness and awesome cruelty,” an accurate judgment. It is useful to bear in mind that the crimes could have been even worse. Suppose, for example, that the attack had gone as far as bombing the White House, killing the president, imposing a brutal military dictatorship that killed thousands and tortured tens of thousands while establishing an international terror centre that helped impose similar torture-and-terror states elsewhere and carried out an international assassination campaign; and as an extra fillip, brought in a team of economists – call them “the Kandahar boys” – who quickly drove the economy into one of the worst depressions in its history. That, plainly, would have been a lot worse than 9/11.
Unfortunately, it is not a thought experiment. It happened. The only inaccuracy in this brief account is that the numbers should be multiplied by 25 to yield per capita equivalents, the appropriate measure. I am, of course, referring to what in Latin America is often called “the first 9/11”: September 11, 1973, when the US succeeded in its intensive efforts to overthrow the [socialist-oriented] democratic government of Salvador Allende in Chile with a military coup that placed General Pinochet’s brutal regime in office. The goal, in the words of the Nixon administration, was to kill the “virus” that might encourage all those “foreigners [who] are out to screw us” to take over their own resources and in other ways to pursue an intolerable policy of independent development. In the background was the conclusion of the National Security Council that, if the US could not control Latin America, it could not expect “to achieve a successful order elsewhere in the world.”
It seems that the United States feared “an irreversible Marxist regime developing in Chile” and exerted extreme diplomatic, economic, and covert military pressure upon Chile’s democratically elected socialist government to bring it down.
But, did not the USA (along with its good buddy the UK) also orchestrate a similar coup d’etat in 1953 in Iran, and create another dictatorship in lieu of a democratically elected regime there? Of course we did. Together with Britain, Uncle Sam overthrew the elected Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh who had only recently nationalized the Iranian oil industry, previously under control of the British company AIOC (a remnant of British imperial interests in Iran). The coup effectively turned a constitutional monarchy into an authoritarian regime under the Shah until he was finally overthrown in February 1979.
When I think of how America began, with the expulsion of the British, and then the war with Spain, not to mention additional land-grab conflicts and the ongoing slaughter of native North American Indians as European settlers spread across the continent, I am struck by the fact that, in addition to our religious and legalistic obsessions, we have always been a war mongering country. And, for the most part, these have been imperial wars of expansion, control, and indigenous subjugation. Our “national interests” – the securing of critical resources, commercial markets, and cheap labor – along with our pathological fear of being out-gunned by the bad guys, these have been the hallmark of our aggression and our campaigns.
Was not this the root cause of the Cold War? Fear! And did we not get close to doing the same thing in Cuba as well? But, was this fear real, or was it manufactured, always a ploy, a piece of propaganda to keep the body politic in line without questioning our real motives – global domination? And is this not what we are still doing even now – in Iraq, in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Libya; and what we may be preparing to do in Iran (yet again) or perhaps in China? And especially this “War on Terror;” what a piece of political marketing this has been, and to what end? In the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 events, Condoleezza Rice called in her senior staff at the State Department to consider ways of “capitalizing on the opportunity presented by this catastrophe.” Is this not a psychopathic country, or what?
We are a nation, or I should say, the leadership of this nation is obsessed with protecting (by any and all means necessary) an unsustainable lifestyle, expanding its hegemony, and dominating the entire planet until there is nothing left to control. And it does so through military force and propaganda. Yet, our own acts of aggression and terror go unchecked in the world. After all, we represent the three hundred pound gorilla in the room; who would dare to challenge us? Remember the Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at George Bush. Well, that was a small challenge. He was trying to alert the world to the American atrocities taking place in his homeland; he was doing it as some small expression of retaliation for the millions of Iraqi lives that were lost or sacrificed on the sword of American anger and arrogance.
But, the more important challenge was the one allegedly perpetrated by a tall, skinny, bearded “holy” man high atop the romantic sounding hills of Tora Bora in Afghanistan, a modern day David confronting the great and almighty Goliath. And Osama bin Laden must have relished the idea of seeing our bloodthirsty nation in an unwinable holy war on his home turf. And so, there we are – guns a blazing, lives lost, pensions plundered. But, perhaps no one over there knew to what extent Uncle Sam longed for an excuse to enter and rape that region of the world. Some folks even believe our leadership had some foreknowledge of the coming event and did nothing to stop it. For, they wanted to go to war.
Is it any wonder with our history of violent incursions into foreign lands to prop-up and support dictators who would feed our imperial hunger – and increasingly with our push into MENA – that we may have at the very least whetted the appetite of those who would become our newest slaves?
As I reflect on 9/11 in the strange fog of its aftermath ten years hence, and recalling the history of our bellicose adventures (both overt and covert), it seems to me that our present US military-political hegemony may represent the final leg of this very civilized human race – a race that began back in ancient Sumer, with the growth of cities and the establishment of the first standing armies. It is a cultural legacy stronger than any addiction, its impact on the psychosocial history of the civilized world now irrevocable.
It seems to me that our present positioning can only lead to complete destruction of the systems of hierarchy and the mechanisms of domination we have constructed, in a series of grand almost apocalyptic struggles as the beast strikes out in almost epileptic, involuntary fits of rage, trying mightily to free itself from its own destructive past in its final death throes. It was in Sumer where this all first began. And it will be round about Sumer (the area comprising much of modern Iraq and Iran) where it all seems to be moving mechanically, intractably towards its end, a complete circle, back to the beginning: the self-consuming Uroboros, swallowing its own tail, a consequence of the empire’s headlong and self-consuming hunger for more. But, unlike the ancient mythological snake, this empire will not be reborn; but most likely just vanish into itself.
Now, I do understand just how cynical this view must seem; but this is my sense of history’s current trajectory and its likely conclusion. As well, I don’t think we will see it finally crumble until all of the fossil and nuclear fuels on this earth have been exhumed and exhausted in our furnaces and upon our funeral pyres. And that may take a little longer than many of my more knowledgeable colleagues have forecast. But, it can be said that 9/11/01 was a watershed event in the collapse of Western civilization, unleashing the agressive heart of the curriculum itself, and reminding us of its archaic origins. This single event forced the charade of freedom and equality to be exposed for the myth it has been since hierarchical political systems made their arrival in Sumer so long ago.