20 years on from the 9/11 terrorist attack in New York it’s still too hard for Aotearoa New Zealand to ask the simplest and most important question.
Why did the terrorists attack the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon and attempt to attack the US congress on 11 September 2001? Why did these young men give their lives in attacks on the most important symbols of US global power?
Looking through the screeds of media reporting on the anniversary it’s not possible to find that question asked, let alone answered and yet if we are to learn from this terrorist attack we should be asking and answering that question.
US President George Bush the Lesser (as Arundhati Roy referred to him recently) said it was because “they hate us, they hate our values”. Bush didn’t think that up himself – it was fed to him by his advisors as the first stage in dehumanising the enemy (even if you don’t know who the enemy is) to justify every appalling abuse you intend to inflict on them.
I remember writing a letter to the paper at the time saying that the schoolyard bully has got a bloody nose and was lashing out at the weakest person they could find – Afghanistan fitted the bill – irrespective of the lack of evidence linking that country to the terror attack. Saudi Arabia would have been the more logical choice given that was the country almost all the attackers came from. But the despotic, medieval regime which runs Saudi Arabia was friends with the US!
What had the schoolyard bully been up to which brought on this attack?
The filthy fingerprints of US imperialism have been everywhere across the Middle East since WWII. The Middle East became important to the US in the 20th century because although the US didn’t need the oil riches of the region it wanted to be able to channel those oil supplies to its friends and away from its enemies. To do this the US has intervened to destabilise any government (Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Lebanon, Libya etc) or political movement – such as Arab nationalism – which has sought to establish their own national control of these oil supplies. At the same time it has supported every right-wing dictatorship across the Arab world and helped crush any moves towards democracy where this would undermine US interests.
Most egregiously they continue to support the Western beachhead in the Middle East – Israel – which was formed by the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian population from their land in historic Palestine. Those abuses against the Palestinian people continue year in year out with every US administration since 1948 – not because the US establishment supports the Jewish people (it doesn’t) but because it suits the US to have a client, racist, apartheid state in the Middle East.
That’s the answer to the simplest and most important question when we think about 9/11. How many state-terrorist attacks had the US committed across the Middle East before the attack in New York? It is the millions of civilians killed by US actions in the Middle East since WWII who have paid the most terrible price.
Finishing on a more positive note, things are changing for the US and for Israel. 2021 is the turning point for the Palestinian struggle and the US, like all waning empires, has become deeply divided within itself. The schoolyard bully has an ugly future ahead.