Not Who but Why

Tragic attack isn’t much of a surprise in view of US history of military aggression

Why were we attacked? The question has mostly been ignored, but President Bush seems to believe it has to do with our commitment to freedom and democracy; an ideal, he implies, that is so hated that it is now being attacked by “evil.” But that answer doesn’t suffice, and the evasiveness of his answer merits scrutiny. Let’s look at some of the more comprehensive reasons why someone would want to attack the United States.

Contrary to our own internal propaganda, outside of the US the rest of the world largely sees the US military and big business as an international bully. To the third world we’re seen as a dictator, a rogue state imposing our will on everybody else, often directly responsible for devastating military power and corporate dominance, with tragic effects for the poor, but immense benefits for the global masters of the economy. To the rest of the world, it is we who are the terrorists, we who are enemy of peace, we who are evil. Such views are not unfounded, and examples supporting them are ample.

Take, for instance, the US-backed genocide in East Timor by Indonesia. Plenty to be angry about here. The entire population was murdered with US arms and support. Or what about the US sanctions imposed on Iraq, responsible for over 50,000 child deaths annually, something which Madeline Albright says is “worth it.” Or what about the US bombing of Libya, or the destruction of a pharmaceutical plant in the Sudan, responsible for a death toll probably higher than the attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center? Or consider Israel, the main client state of the US, backed with full support and over $6 billion annual military aid, used in an ongoing war against Palestinians, Syria, and their neighbors. Or what about the massacre and displacement of the Kurds, made possible and endorsed by massive US military aid to Turkey. What about Colombia, Latin America’s leading human rights violator receiving enormous support from the US? Or Vietnam, in which more civilian targets were hit than any other attack in history, and which now suffers child deaths due to explosives left scattered all over the country which the United States refuses to help clean up. And what about China? Or Cuba? The list of international atrocities committed by, or with full support from, the United States goes on.

In light of all of this, it should come as no surprise that the Pentagon and World Trade Center were attacked. We see it as a terrorist attack, but more likely it was a retaliatory strike, hitting back at a country who’s been bombing to hell the rest of the world for over 50 years, causing turmoil and poverty so extreme, that people are willing to die to send a message. Truly, for others to hate the United States this much, it must be much more than disdain for freedom; rather, people’s backs are against the wall and they’re striking back at their oppressors, us, in whatever way they can. With this in mind, the more frightening question might not be why this happened, but why this didn’t happen sooner?

However, the prominent question that the mainstream media is asking is Who’s to blame? That’s an understandable question. But I think the nature of the answers to this question require some analysis. The blatant anti-Arab racism that is being displayed throughout all of this, for instance, is dangerous. We don’t know who’s to blame – considering US global aggression, it could be anyone. But showing pictures of Palestinians dancing in the streets, or Osama bin Laden talking, or other images of Arabs while speculating about the attackers is causing nothing short of unnecessary hatred and racism. There has been almost no input allowed by the Arabs being shown on TV, since their voices are not present and since the press doesn’t ask them.

The result of all of this has caused anti-Arab hostility to reach even greater heights. Islamic groups all across the country are receiving death threats, and cab drivers are being pulled out of their cars and beaten. No other form of racism in the country is so openly tolerated today, and flashing photos of Arabs on the screen while white politicians talk about revenge only increases these sentiments. The US media is creating an enemy, hyping up the nation into a hysteria of revenge, and creating a war environment which encourages us to ignore dissenting opinion and do and think whatever the government commands.

If the attack on the Pentagon and World Trade Center were, in fact, the retaliatory result of our own brutal actions against our neighbors, then the responsibility for the attacks ultimately falls on our own shoulders. The US can only beat up everyone else for so long before someone hits back. If we weren’t constantly bombing the rest of the world, enforcing severe corporate dominance and imposing US aggression on everybody else then there would be much less of a chance of others attacking us out of revenge. The question of Who did it should only be explored with the backdrop of Why it happened, in which case the responsibility for the Pentagon and World Trade Center attacks, and the thousands of deaths, becomes primarily our own.

The reaction to all of this by the United States will be severe. The immediate emphasis by the State and press is revenge. The world will feel our “wrath,” as Hillary Clinton put it, and our enemies will suffer terrible consequences. A full scale military attack against whomever the US sees fit will result, and, as has already begun, hysteria is being whipped up into patriotic jingoism, readying the country for extreme military action and destruction. There is no time for further discussion, we will act, and act swiftly to exert our dominance, regardless of the suffering imposed on the rest of the world.

The long term effects will be worse; as social spending will be slashed even further, cutting domestic health care, unemployment and welfare, social services and education, in place of vastly increased military spending. The fear of terrorism can be called upon forever, and the justification for further strengthening the military will reach new heights. The violence that caused these retaliatory acts against the US will only grow, and the slaughter everywhere will escalate.

These things considered, we should be addressing the question of What to do in an entirely different light. Instead of blaming Arabs and gearing up for a full-scale war, we should be acting more responsibly. We should be asking President Bush not who did it, but instead, What has our government and the business elite who control it, done that is so egregious that people have gone to such extremes to get us back. We should be demanding answers, asking Why did this happen? What have we done that is so bad to have caused this?

So long as we continue to abuse the rest of the world, using our rogue super power, then violence at home and abroad will continue. The attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon were horrendous; by no means justified, and ultimately a boon to power. But it is the painful result of our worldwide capitalist military regime. The responsible thing to do at this point is refuse to side with the military in their retaliation, and demand the corporate state address their own involvement in recalcitrant global terrorism.