Dr Howard Zinn a month after the 9/11 attacks on the hard-target Pentagon, the Twin Towers of New York and subsequent crash and death of air passengers in Shanksville, Penna. spoke on the meaning of these events at the Massachusetts College of Art on October 10, 2001. It was issued as a CD, “Artists in a Time of War.” With his usual dry wit and modest speaking style, he brilliantly placed this attack within the broader context of American imperialism. While at the time the projected casualties were about 6,000 according to his remarks, his statistical exaggeration was more than counterbalanced by his wisdom and intent to examine with keen analysis and introspection the 9/11 attacks.
He urged America to examine its own forms of terrorism. Professor Zinn used the term “state terrorism” to expand the notion of terrorism from being solely the result of non-state actors attempting to achieve a political outcome through fear and violent intimidation. Professor Zinn noted that acts of terror have been perpetrated by the United States government and that self-examination of our own practices are needed to fully comprehend the attacks on that tragic day. He noted that our response was merely one of war, retribution and destruction of Iraq and Afghanistan without the appropriate reflection of our own misdeeds. Violence begets violence is all too often a nation’s response as opposed to attempting to understand its source and resolve the conflict in a manner other than “justice for the devils who hate America.”
It is apparent that the politics of fear are used to maintain the empire of death funded by a declining nation that places Seal Team 6 members in the bedrooms of our adversaries in an invasion of a third country. Our great power is never described as a monstrous evil in which innocents are killed in much greater numbers than those of the quasi-mythical Al Qaeda: it is at best a loose coalition of groups that resist American-Israeli colonialism and suppression of Arab rights and legitimate nationalism. During this weekend of the tenth anniversary of the air raids, America is consumed with fear that three people from Pakistan might detonate a bomb. A huge military apparatus in our emerging police state is patrolling the capital–the world’s largest military theme park– and New York to hunt down the nameless, faceless, possibly, well maybe plan of a terrorist attack on civilians. If there is one, we need to stop it. If not, the military-industrial complex–thanks Dwight Eisenhower to your insight–benefits from exaggeration so fear becomes the meal ticket to the treasury.
Meanwhile how many Americans were killed overnight in Chicago, New York, Denver, Boston in ghettos–yep ghettos or bandustans– teeming with unemployed minority youth without hedge funds, or financial consultants providing investment advice to uneducated victims of America’s less than subtle economic Jim Crow? We rarely acknowledge domestic violence unless it is sensational in number or target that leads to far greater casualties than Al Qaeda inflicted. Of course if we cared about violence at home, we would deligitimise the domestic weapons trade in death and destruction and resist the maddening, egregious misinterpretation of the Second Amendment. No, the politics of fear is needed to avert reflection upon America the declining violent superpower and instead focus on the Arab other, the Arab Jihadist, the Muslim who wants to take away the Big Mac, smoothies, violent videos and who knows NFL football with its concussions of gratuitous national violence.
The late Usama Bin Laden stated that the purpose of the 9/11 attacks was retaliation and not to destroy the American capitalistic, free-enterprise, liberal democracy way of life. The attacks that represented a cruel and barbaric destruction of civilians and property, resulted from the Gulf War, the unresolved Palestinian colonial crisis and the stationing of American troops in Saudi Arabia: the home of Islam’s holiest sites, Mecca and Medina. In other words, the attacks that day were not bolts out of the blue–a weak imitation of a first strike withering nuclear counterforce attack–but a skirmish in an ongoing war that dates back to 1948.
The US is not accustomed to having its homeland violated by external attack; we pride ourselves in being able to kill others but without enduring a retaliatory second strike here at home. We just build memorial after memorial for those who died elsewhere in the latest invaded nation of colour. The perception of a new vulnerability despite the special forces and the intelligence agencies, and the bombs blasting in air from robotic plances are on display as America looks at our feet, penetrates our bodies with X-rays, pats down our bods with TSA hands and treats American citizens as if they were the enemy. Cities have cameras watching on every corner as the police state rises to perpetuate the fear that justifies the money that feeds the evil, immoral Sparta of America and its terrorist organisations such as the execrable Central Intelligence Agency.
Professor Zinn quoted in his 2001 remarks the African-American poet Langston Hughes, “Columbia.” These are exerpts. Columbia referred to America:
And you’ve taken the sweet life
Of all the little brown fellows
In loin cloths and cotton trousers.
When they resisted,
You’ve yelled “Rape,”
At the top of your voice…
To be so naive, and so coy.
Being one of the world’s big vampires,
Why don’t you come on out and say so
Like Japan, and England, and France…
Who’ve long since dropped their
Snmoke-screens of innocence
To sit frankly on a bed of bombs?