9-11: What Can Be Done?

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Mr. Markowitz is an associate professor of history at the New Brunswick Campus of Rutgers University and a writer for the History News Service.

On Tuesday, September 11, 2001, the equivalent of a major World War II bombing raid was launched against New York and Washington. What Nazi saboteurs, who landed by submarine on Long Island and the Jersey shore, dreamed of doing, was accomplished as the President was hustled around the country, becoming visible only a dozen hours after the attack, no planes seemed to scramble to intercept the second World Trade Center suicide attack or the one on Washington, and the commander of the Joint Chiefs and President have responded with commercial sounding pledges that the military is on guard, that there will be retaliation, and that faith and volunterism will see us through.

It is difficult for a conservative government to fight enemies from the right, or to develop a long-term vision and policy to eliminate the social causes that create movements of secular or clerical fascism (a term used widely in the 1930s for various"Christian groups" that called for the destruction of"Godless Communism" and secular liberal democracy). Neville Chamberlain couldn’t do it when he appeased Adolf Hitler’s Nazi government to keep the Soviet Union and Communism quarantined in Eastern Europe. Earlier, the elites who supported rightwing veterans groups (freikorps) in Germany and Blackshirts (fascisti) in Italy in 1919 to put down socialist uprisings later gave power to those forces, under Mussolini in 1923, and Hitler, in 1933, to prevent revolutionary upheavals. Similarly, Cold War U.S. governments abandoned liberal hopes for an international version of the New Deal after WW II by supporting governments and movements of the right, including those with Nazi collaborators in Greece, Japanese collaborators in Korea and Vietnam, and all regimes which would genuflect before the secular religion of anti-Communism and adjust themselves to the economic interests of the U.S. and its allies.

All of these became part of the"free world." A secular socialist oriented government in India pursuing a neutralist foreign policy, was opposed (except when it got into conflict with"Red China") and a clerically based military dictatorship, Pakistan, was actively supported, along with the Shah of Iran, the feudal Saudi Arabian royal family and other like-minded regimes and movements.

11 In the 1980s, Ronald Reagan abandoned the detente policies of the Nixon, Ford and Carter administrations, which offered hope for a less destructive foreign policy, and"Hollywoodized" the Cold War, using both public and international private sources to fight contra wars in Nicaragua and Afghanistan, training, arming, funding and glorifying forces of the former Somoza dictatorship and Holy War fighters against the Peoples Democratic Party of Afghanistan and its Soviet supporters. Rambo even went to Afghanistan in the movies, Clint Eastwood"liberated Grenada," and a foreign policy of bombing super villains, Khaddafi, Saddam Hussein, the Ayatollah, and defending the freedom loving Gulf States, Saudi Arabia, etc. continued after the fall of the Soviet Union and continues to this day.

However, the fall of the Soviet Union, an enormously complex event, was also the victory of the rightist forces throughout the world, which had been united only by anti-Communism and hatred and fear of the Soviets. It was relatively easy for someone like Osama bin Laden, whose Saudi followers were armed and trained by the CIA and its Pakistani equivalent (ISI) in Afghanistan, to transfer their ideology and their methods of terrorist attack to the U.S. once there was no reason for them to support the U.S. against the Soviets. It is also understandable why U.S. intelligence, which for half a century fought revolutionary movements of the left failed to take bin Laden seriously, except in the Reaganite way of portraying him as a Hollywood villain, a Goldfinger of Dr. No, plotting world catastrophes. Certainly, virtually nothing has been done against the Taliban government, the beneficiary of Reagan and Bush support for Afghan contras, even though they are rightly regarded as one of the brutal governments on earth.

What can be done? If this is a"new kind of war," it can’t be fought with the methods of the Cold War, which in effect have brought it about. The relevant allies are in the region, Russia and India, to act against bin Laden, his Taliban allies and their Pakistani protectors. It will take a progressive American government, going back to the original ideals of the United Nations, embodied in the old United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Agency and UNESCO, to undertake regional development that will provide clean water, food, education, employment, for the tens of millions of impoverished people who are now tempted to turn to clerical and secular fascists, many of who are former cold war allies, in the post cold war period.

Also, it will take a regulation of airlines and air traffic, an end to piecemeal privatization of everything from airport security to prisons, and most of all, a strong national government to coordinate the defense of the nation and people, which is its first constitutional responsibility. Twenty years of rhetoric against"Big government" and"Washington" makes that difficult but necessary.

11Even before the U.S. entered World War II, President Roosevelt brought prominent Republicans Henry Stimson and Frank Knox into his government, along with the conservative businessman, William Knudson , of General Motors, to direct war production. If President Bush, whose credibility was deeply compromised by the events of the election, is serious, he might also contemplate bringing prominent Democrats and liberals , Senators John Kerry or Ted Kennedy for example, into a government of national unity, facing this crisis with new ideas.

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