To mark the 20th ‘anniversary’ of the September 11 attacks in New York, we draw our readers’ attention to our lead article from International Review 107, “New York and the world over: Capitalism sows death”. The article denounces the massacre of thousands of civilians, the majority of them proletarians, as an act of imperialist war, but at the same time exposes the hypocritical tears shed by the ruling class. As the article says, “The attack on New York was not an ‘attack on civilisation’, it was itself the expression of bourgeois ‘civilisation’”. The terrorist gang engaged in the destruction of the Twin Towers are petty assassins when we examine their action in the light of the gigantic death toll inflicted on the planet by all the legally recognised states over the past hundred or so years, in two world wars and countless local and regional conflicts since 1945
In this sense, 9/11 was in continuity with the bombing of Guernica, Coventry, Dresden, Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the 30s and 40s, of Vietnam and Cambodia in the 60s and 70s. But it was also a clear sign that that decadent capitalism had entered a new and terminal phase, the true “inner disintegration” predicted by the Communist International in 1919. The opening of this new phase was marked by the collapse of the Russian imperialist bloc in 1989 and the resulting fragmentation of the US bloc, and would see capitalism’s inevitable drive towards imperialist conflict take on new and chaotic forms. This was symbolised in particular by the fact that (even if was less certain at the time the article was written) the attack was spearheaded by Al-Qaida, an Islamist faction which had been amply supported by the US in its efforts to end the Russian occupation of Afghanistan, but which had now turned round to bite the hand that fed it. The “New World Order” proclaimed by George Bush Senior after the fall the USSR rapidly proved itself to be a world of growing disorder, where former allies and subordinates of the US, from the developed states of Europe to second- and third-rate powers like Iran and Turkey, down to smaller warlords like Bin Laden, were more and more intent on pursuing their own imperialist agendas.
The article thus shows how the US was able to instrumentalise the attacks, not only to whip up nationalism at home – accompanied, as soon became evident, by a brutal reinforcement of state surveillance and repression, and embodied in the “Patriot Act” passed on 26.10.01– but also to launch its attack on Afghanistan, whose first steps were already noted at the time of writing (3.10.01). Afghanistan, of course, has long held a strategic place on the global imperialist chessboard, and the US had specific reasons for wanting to topple the Taliban regime with its close links to Al Qaida. But the overarching aim of the US invasion – followed two years later by the invasion of Iraq and the overthrow of Saddam Hussein – was to move towards what the “Neo-Cons” in the government of Bush Junior referred to as “Full Spectrum Dominance”. In other word, ensuring that the US remained the only “Super Power” by calling a halt to the growing chaos in imperialist relations and preventing the rise of any serious contender at the global level. The “War on Terror” was to be the ideological pretext for this offensive.
20 years later we can see that the plan didn’t go too well. The last US troops have had to leave Afghanistan and are on their way out of Iraq. The Taliban are back in power. Far from damming the tide of imperialist chaos, the US invasions became a factor in its acceleration. In Afghanistan, the early victory against the Taliban turned sour as the Islamists regrouped and, with the aid of other imperialist states, made sure that Afghanistan remained in a permanent state of civil war, characterised by bloody atrocities on both sides. In Iraq, dismantling the Saddam regime led both to the rise of ISIS and the reinforcement of Iranian ambitions in the region, fuelling the seemingly endless wars in Syria and Yemen. And on the planetary level, the advancing decomposition provided the background for the return in force of Russian imperialism, and above all for the rise of China as the USA’s main imperialist rival. The different strategies for “making America great again”, from the Neo-Cons to Trump, have been unable to reverse the inexorable decline of US power, and Biden, despite claiming that “America is back”, has now had to preside over America’s biggest humiliation since 9/11 itself.
In analysing the manner in which the US sought to “profit from the crime” of 9/11, the article shows the similarities between 9/11 and the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbour, which was also utilised by the US state to mobilise the population, including reluctant sections of the ruling class, behind the USA’s entry into the Second World War. It cites well-documented evidence that the US state “allowed” the Japanese military to launch the attack, and tentatively advances the hypothesis that the US state, at some level, had the same “laissez faire” policy in the lead up to the Al-Qaida action, even if may not have been fully aware of the scale of destruction this would entail. This comparison is further elaborated in the article published in International Review 108, “Pearl Harbour 1941, Twin Towers 2001: Machiavellianism of the US bourgeoisie”. We will return to this question in another article, where we will discuss the difference between the marxist recognition of the bourgeoisie as the most Machiavellian class in history – naturally dismissed by the bourgeoisie itself as a form of “conspiracy theory” – and the current plethora of populist “conspiracy theories” which often take as an article of faith the idea that 9/11 was an “inside job”.
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