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619Bush & Bin Laden

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  • nicholas dee
    Oct 4, 2001
      What's Going On?
      By Michael Albert

      The U.S. response to September 11 seeks to benefit
      elites in the U.S., and, to a lesser degree, around
      the world. There are various goals.

      --> Destroy the bin Laden network
      --> Topple the Taliban
      --> Build a coalition fighting selected terrorists
      internationally in exchange for trade and foreign aid
      benefits and the right of coalition partners to pursue
      their own dissidents locally
      --> Channel fear and anger to cut education, social
      services, health care, and other socially desirable
      --> Expand military spending
      --> Enlarge police and surveillance budgets
      --> Curb civil rights
      --> Deny and even aggravate just grievances around the
      world when doing so serves corporate interests even if
      it also fuels the despair that breeds terrorism
      --> Ignore international legality to curb notions that
      the U.S. ought to obey international law
      --> Avoid defining terrorism as any attack on
      civilians for political ends, to avoid indicting the
      U.S. and its allies.

      But if you are Bush, how do you juggle so many goals
      How do you neutralize bin Laden, topple the Taliban,
      and strengthen regimes supportive of U.S. interests,
      yet avoid destabilizing others we want to maintain?
      How do you create a domestic dynamic that expands
      police and military powers and that redistributes
      wealth upward by gutting social programs and enhancing
      regressive taxes, yet retain popular support? And
      what about dissent...how does that impact your

      The good news is that I don't think it can all be
      done, supposing dissidents react with sufficient vigor
      and clarity. The campaign to elaborate an
      anti-terrorism war into national policy is
      That last little proviso -- that they must avoid
      clearly defining terrorism -- is the Achilles heal of
      the entire undertaking. With sufficient resistance,
      the campaign will succumb to its own obvious
      hypocrisy. U.S. policy makers are terrorists too.
      There are numerous indicators that activists will have
      the room to mount the needed resistance and help
      communicate the towering hypocrisy. In the past
      thirty years I have rarely addressed an audience too
      big to fit in a large auditorium - but in the last two
      days I was on a national radio call-in with two
      million listeners for two hours, and I was on NPR,
      again nationally, for an hour. Demonstrations and
      gatherings are occurring locally all over the country,
      with education and solidarity resulting. Many feel
      this is the worst of times for leftists. But while
      it is certainly a time of great grief and fear, and a
      time of immense danger, and while it is certainly a
      time of widespread confusion and nationalism,
      nonetheless, regarding communicating with previously
      apolitical people, there are many more openings than
      closings of opportunity occurring, both on the local
      and on the national scale.

      So, again, if you were Bush, what would be your
      preferred agenda, if you could have your way? Here is
      my best guess...at the moment, with admittedly little
      information available.

      First, you would elicit fear and nationalism. Second,
      you would convince populaces worldwide that there is a
      long-term war we must fight (the same war that was at
      the core of Reagan's foreign policy twenty years ago),
      which requires a massive allotment of resources and
      energy, plus lock-step patriotism. Third, after
      saber-rattling sufficiently to arouse fear and
      passion, you would ratchet down the rhetoric in accord
      with the
      necessity to avoid actual military losses or risking
      destabilizing friendly regimes, and to avoid appearing
      to want to punish civilians. Fourth, to have a good
      shot at getting rid of the Taliban, you would close
      the borders of Afghanistan, starve the country, and
      hope that Taliban members start to defect and that the
      country rises up in anguish and despair. Fifth, to
      fill the ensuing power vacuum, you would support
      Afghanistan's Northern alliance. Most important,
      sixth, to diminish the groundswell of anti-war
      opposition to your combating terror with even
      greater terror, you would send food to Afghanistan's
      borders, and perhaps even drop food from planes
      inland. But, if you could have your way, not too much
      food, of course. Indeed, if you remained free to do
      so, you would provide only a pittance compared to the
      need generated by closing the borders in the first
      place and by removing larger sources of aid. Your goal
      would be to induce starvation sufficient to topple the
      Taliban. It would not deter you that such behavior is
      precisely the definition of terrorism -- attacking
      civilians for political aims - because seventh, you
      would blame the ensuing starvation, caused by your
      closing the borders, on the Taliban itself. Finally,
      you would claim, eighth, that we are humanely seeking
      to avoid innocent suffering, even as the starved
      bodies pile up.

      Assuming Bush and his advisors can overcome some
      internal opposition from their right and reign in the
      momentum to shoot someone that all the troop and
      missile movements have unleashed, I think they will
      pursue more or less the above agenda. This is not the
      worst set of policies the U.S. government could adopt
      -- that would be nukes and the like -- but it would be
      horrendous in its cynical exploitation of pain and
      suffering, and in its expansion of each, and it must
      therefore be opposed with as much energy as people of
      good will can muster. If we do our job well enough and
      fast enough here in the U.S., and if others throughout
      the world do so too, then the pressure on Bush may be
      great enough that the borders will reopen, the food
      shipments will become more than opportunistic and
      marginal, and massive new tragedy will be largely
      averted. If we are slower, more people will suffer.
      The same holds for the more long-term aims of
      revamping laws, budgets, and alliances on behalf of
      militarism, profit-seeking, and right-wing repression.
      The degree these are limited or reversed will reflect
      the extent of our organizing and opposition.

      On September 11, I wrote:

      "In coming weeks we may suffer a kind of celebration
      in America, a celebration of security and of power, a
      celebration of surreptitious information retrieval, a
      celebration of arms growth, and perhaps of
      assassination, all described as virtuous goals rather
      than uncivil abominations, all touted as if the terror
      victims will be honored rather than defiled by our
      preparing to entomb still more innocent people
      around the world. Normal good-hearted Americans will
      weep for the suffering that today's events exacted and
      hope to create a world in which such hate and
      callousness disappears. But I fear that America's
      leaders will cynically bulk up their ammo belts while
      seeking to make ubiquitous their listening
      devices-trying to relegate public freedoms to an
      incinerator. In this environment, people of good will
      must explain
      as often as necessary that terrorism is horrific and
      insane, but so to is capitalist business as usual. And
      we must not step back from dissent, but must instead
      work harder to oppose all kinds of injustice with
      massive public demonstrations and civil disobedience."

      Events are unfolding as indicated, and my view is
      essentially unchanged.

      For the government, the answer to terrorism shouldn't
      be reciprocal terrorism - whether by bombing or by
      starving civilians. The answer to fundamentalism
      shouldn't be to mount a military crusade abroad and to
      curb civil liberties at home. The answer to
      hypocritical inhumanity shouldn't be to
      opportunistically exploit fear. The government should
      not use the excuse of a battered economy to enrich the
      rich and empower the powerful while gutting social
      programs to hurt the poor and weak.

      And for the left, the answer to entreaties that we
      should forgo dissent shouldn't be passive obedience,
      but, active disobedience. We should mount our peace
      movement against the terror war, organize our
      humanitarian opposition to starvation tactics, renew
      our resistance to the embargo of Iraq, intensify our
      rejection of Israeli and U.S. rejectionism regarding
      Palestinian rights, and finally enlarge our
      anti-globalization movement to not only demand just
      and equitable institutional successors to the IMF,
      World Bank and WTO, but also improved adherence to
      international law and binding General Assembly
      adjudication of disputes among nations.

      Some will call us un-American. Some will call us
      callous. Some will cry treason. Some will threaten us.

      At the same time as many opponents of change are very
      angry and vocal, millions upon millions of far less
      noisy Americans are trying to understand recent events
      and the broader context in which they have occurred
      and are approaching the matter with considerable

      This is not a time to hunker down in subdued silence.
      It is a time to go out and organize. To talk, talk,
      and talk.to demonstrate, to activate, to use the
      knowledge and access that we have.

      Forget about hating Bush and Powell and the rest. Yes,
      these people give the orders. They hand out the bombs.
      They withhold the food. But institutions create the
      pressures that mold them. Those institutions and
      associated policies must be our focus.

      But what to do?

      Handing out leaflets, arguing against war with a
      co-worker, urging a relative to think twice about our
      own role in international terrorism, going to a
      demonstration, sitting in, doing civil disobedience,
      or even building movements to do all these things
      collectively, may all seem momentarily insignificant
      in light of the calamity that could befall
      Afghanistan and the world in coming weeks. But the
      fact is, these are the acts that can accumulate into a
      firestorm of informed protest that curtails Afghani
      starvation, that derails the war on terrorism, and
      that even raises the cost of profiteering so high that
      the institutions breeding such behavior start to

      War, whether it is waged with kamikaze planes, fleets
      of missiles and bombers, or starvation food policies,
      is a horrendous crime against humanity. It invariably
      rends apart life and justice and civility. It benefits
      no one other than the Masters of War. War in all its
      forms is an orchestrated atrocity that mandates our
      militant, unswerving opposition. But we should also
      remember that even after we curb Bush's rush to
      violence and forestall his starvation scenarios, the
      on-going day-to day grievances and injustices of our
      world will still need attention. Ultimately, our
      opposition must transcend current events.

      Alienation, poverty, disease, starvation, death
      squads, and terror-these and other atrocities stem
      from basic institutions. The institutions must become
      our lasting target.

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