Pearl Harbor 1941, Twin Towers 2001: Machiavellianism of the US bourgeoisie

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From the very first moments, American bourgeois propaganda has likened the horrific terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in New York City on 11 September to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor 7 December 1941. This comparison is laden with considerable psychological, historical and political impact, since it was Pearl Harbor that marked American imperialism's direct entry into the Second World War. According to the current ideological campaign presented by the American bourgeoisie, especially its mass media, the parallels are simple, direct, and self-evident:

1) In both instances, the US was victimized by a treacherous surprise attack, taken completely off guard. In the first instance there was the treachery of Japanese imperialism, which cynically pretended to negotiate with Washington to avoid war but plotted and unleashed an attack without warning. In the current instance, the US was victimized by fanatical Islamic fundamentalists, who took advantage of the openness and freedom of American society to commit an atrocity of unprecedented proportions, and whose evilness places them outside the bounds of civilized society.

2) In both instances the casualties inflicted by the surprise attack were staggering, arousing popular outrage. At Pearl Harbor the death toll was 2403, mostly American military personnel. At the Twin Towers the death toll was far worse, nearly 6,000 innocent civilians.

3) In both instances, the attacks backfired on the perpetrators. Rather than terrifying or plunging the American nation into defeatism and quiet submission, Pearl Harbor and the Twin Towers instead aroused the deepest patriotic fervor in the population, including the proletariat, and thereby permitted the mobilization of the population behind the state for protracted imperialist war.

4) In the end, it is the goodness of the American democratic way of life, and its military strength, that prevails over evil.

Like all bourgeois ideological myths, whatever the elements of truth that offer superficial credibility, this tale of two tragedies, sixty years apart, is laced with half-truths, lies, and self-serving distortion. But this is no surprise. The politics of the bourgeoisie as a class are based on lies, deception, manipulation, and manoeuvre. This is particularly true when it comes to the difficult task of mobilizing society for all out war in modern times. The basic elements of the bourgeoisie's ideological campaign are completely at odds with both historical and present day realities. There is considerable evidence that the bourgeoisie was not taken by surprise in either case, that the bourgeoisie cynically welcomed the massive death toll in both cases for purposes of political expediency in regard to the implementation of its imperialist war aims, and other long range political objectives.

The different characteristics of war in ascendance and decadence

Since both Pearl Harbor and the World Trade Center attacks have been utilized by the bourgeoisie to rally the US population for war, it is necessary to examine briefly the political tasks encountered by the bourgeoisie in preparing for imperialist war in the epoch of capitalist decadence. In decadence, war has taken on significantly different characteristics as compared to wars during the period when capitalism was an ascending, historically progressive system. In the ascendant period, wars could take on a progressive role, in terms of making possible the further development of the productive forces. In this sense the Civil War in the US, which served to destroy the anachronistic slave system in the southern states, and unleashed the full scale industrialization of the US, or the various national wars in Europe that resulted in the creation of modern, unified nation states, which in turn provided the optimal framework for the development of the national capital in each country, could be seen as historically progressive. In general, these wars could be restricted largely to the military personnel involved in the conflict, and did not entail the wholesale destruction of the means of production, the infrastructures, or populations of the respective combatant powers.

Imperialist war in the epoch of capitalist decadence is characterised by sharply different features. Whereas national wars in ascendance could lay the basis for qualitative strides in the development of the productive forces, in decadence the capitalist system itself has already reached the zenith of its historic development, and this progressive aspect is no longer possible. Capitalism has accomplished the extension of the world market, and all the extra-capitalist markets, which facilitated the expansion of global capitalism, have been integrated into the capitalist system. For the various national capitals the only avenue for expansion now is at the expense of a rival - to seize territory or markets controlled by its adversaries. The heightening of imperialist rivalries leads to the development of imperialist alliances, setting the stage for generalised imperialist war. Far from being confined to combat between professional militaries, war in decadence requires a total mobilisation of society, which in turn gives rise to a new form of state - state capitalism - which functions to exert total control over all aspects of society, in order to rein in the class contradictions that threat to explode society, and at the same time coordinate the mobilization of society for modern all-out war.

No matter how much it has successfully prepared the population for war on the ideological level, the bourgeoisie in decadence cloaks its imperialist wars in the myth of victimization and self-defense against aggression and tyranny. The reality of modern warfare, with its massive destruction and death, with all the facets of barbarism that it unleashes on humanity, is so dire, so horrific, that even an ideologically defeated proletariat, does not march off to the slaughter lightly. The bourgeoisie relies heavily on manipulating reality to create that illusion that it is a victim of aggression, with no choice but to fight back in self defense. The necessity to defend the fatherland or the motherland, as the case may be, against aggression and external tyranny, not the real imperialist motives that drive capitalism towards war, are offered up as justification for the conflict. No one can really succeed in mobilizing a population around the slogan of "let's oppress the world under our imperialist thumb at any costs." The state control over the mass media in decadent capitalism facilitates the mass brainwashing of the population with all kinds of propaganda and lies.

The American bourgeoisie has been particularly adept at this victimization ploy throughout its history, even before the onset of capitalist decadence in the early part of the 20th century. Thus for example, "Remember the Alamo," was the slogan of the Mexican War of 1845-48. This war cry immortalized the "massacre" of 136 American rebels in San Antonio, Texas in 1836, then a part of Mexico, by the Mexican forces led by Gen. Santa Ana. Of course, the fact that the "blood thirsty" Mexicans had repeatedly offered terms of surrender, and permitted women and children to evacuate the Alamo fortress before the final battle, did not prevent the American ruling class from imbuing the Alamo defenders with an aura of martyrdom, and the incident served the bourgeoisie well in mobilizing support for a war that culminated in the American annexation of much of what today constitutes the US southwest.

Similarly, the suspicious explosion aboard the battleship Maine in Havana harbor in 1898 served as the pretext for the Spanish-American war in 1898, and gave rise to the slogan "Remember the Maine." More recently in 1964, an alleged attack on two US gunboats in waters off the Vietnamese coast was used as the basis for the Tonkin Gulf Resolution, adopted by the American Congress in the summer of 1964, which, while not a formal declaration of war, provided the legal framework for American intervention in Vietnam. Notwithstanding the fact that the Johnson administration knew within hours that the reported "attack" on the Maddox and the Turner Joy never happened, but was the result of error by nervous young radar officers, they still pushed the combat authorization legislation through Congress to provide legal cover for a war that would drag on until the fall of Saigon to Stalinist forces in 1975.

It is true that the bourgeoisie used the attack at Pearl Harbor to rally a hesitant population to the war effort, just as the bourgeoisie today is using the 11 September atrocity to mobilize support for still another war effort. But the question remains as to whether in either instance the US was taken by "surprise," and to what degree the machiavellianism of the US bourgeoisie was involved either in provoking or allowing the attacks to occur in order to take political advantage of the ensuing popular outrage.

The machiavellianism of the bourgeoisie

All too often when the ICC denounces the machiavellianism of the bourgeoisie, our critics accuse of us of lapsing into a conspiratorial view of history. However their incomprehension in this regard is not just a misunderstanding of our analysis, but- even worse - falls prey to the ideological claptrap of bourgeois apologists in the media and academia whose job it is to denigrate those who try to ascertain the patterns and processes within bourgeois political, economic and social life as irrational conspiracy theorists. However, it is not even controversial to assert that "lies, terror, coercion, double-dealing, corruption, plots and political assassination" have been the stock in trade of exploitative ruling classes throughout history, whether in the ancient world, feudalism or modern capitalism. "The difference was that patricians and aristocrats 'practiced machi-avellianism without knowing it,' whereas the bourgeoisie is machiavellian and knows it. It turns machiavellianism into an 'eternal truth,' because that's how it lives: it takes exploitation to be eternal" ("Why the bourgeoisie is Machiavellian" International Review n°31, 1982 p. 10). In this sense lying and manipulation, a mechanism employed by all preceding exploiting ruling classes, have become central characteristics of the political mode of functioning for the modern bourgeoisie, which, utilizing the tremendous tools of social control available to it under the conditions of state capitalism, takes machi-avellianism to a qualitatively higher stage.

The emergence of state capitalism in the epoch of capitalist decadence, a state form which concentrates power in the hands of the executive branch, particularly the permanent bureaucracy, and gives the state an increasingly totalitarian control over all aspects of social and economic life, has provided the bourgeoisie with even greater mechanisms to implement its machiavellian schemes. "At the level of organizing to survive, to defend itself - here, the bourgeoisie has shown an immense capacity to develop techniques for economic and social control way beyond the dreams of the rulers of the nineteenth century. In this sense, the bourgeoisie has become 'intelligent' confronted with the historic crisis of its socio-economic systems" ("Notes on the Consciousness of the decadent bourgeoisie" International Review n°31, 4th quarter 1982, p. 14). The development of a mass media completely integrated under state control, whether through formal juridical means or more flexible informal methods, is a central element in the machiavellian scheming of the bourgeoisie. "Propaganda - the lie - is an essential weapon of the bourgeoisie. And the bourgeoisie is quite capable of provoking events to feed this propaganda, if need be" ("Why the bourgeoisie is Machiavellian" p. 11). American history is jammed with myriad examples, ranging from the relatively mundane everyday obfuscation to much more historically significant manipulations. An example of the former type might include the 1955 incident in which presidential press secretary James Hagerty engineered a fake event to cover up the incapacitation of President Eisenhower, who had been hospitalized in Denver, Colorado following a heart attack. Hagerty arranged for the entire Cabinet to travel 2000 miles from Washington to Denver to create the illusion that the president was well enough to preside over a cabinet meeting, even though no such meeting occurred. An example of the latter might include in 1990 manipulation of Saddam Hussein when the American ambassador to Iraq, told Saddam that the US, wouldn't intervene in the border dispute between Iraq and Kuwait, tricking Saddam into believing he had been give a green light from US imperialism to invade Kuwait. Instead the invasion was used by the US as the pretext for the 1991 war in the Persian Gulf, as a means to reassert its status as the only remaining superpower in the wake of the Stalinist collapse, and the ensuing disintegration of the western bloc.

This is not to say all events in contemporary society are necessarily predetermined by the secret decision making of a small circle of capitalist leaders. Clearly, factional disputes do occur within the leading circles of capitalist states, and the results of such disputes are not forgone conclusions. Nor is the outcome of confrontations with the proletariat in the heat of the class struggle always under the thumb of bourgeoisie. And even with planning and manipulation, accidents of history can also occur. However, the critical point to understand is that even though as an exploiting class, the bourgeoisie is incapable of a complete, unified consciousness, accurately understanding the functioning of its system and the historical dead-end that it offers humanity, it is conscious of the deepening social and economic crisis of its system. "At the heights of the state machine it is possible for those in command to have some kind of general picture of the situation and what options are realistically open to them to confront it" ("Notes on the consciousness?" p. 14). Even with an incomplete consciousness, the bourgeoisie is more than capable of formulating strategy and tactics, and using the totalitarian control mechanisms of state capitalism to implement them. It is the responsibility of revolutionary Marxists to expose this machiavellian manoeuvering and lying. To turn a blind eye to this aspect of the ruling class offensive to control society is irresponsible and plays into the hands of our class enemies.

Machiavellianism of the American ruling class at Pearl Harbor

Pearl Harbor offers an excellent example of bourgeois machiavellianism at work. We have the benefit of more than half of century of historical research, and a number of military and opposition party-controlled investigations to draw on. According to the official version of reality, 7 December 1941 was "a day that will live in infamy", as President Roosevelt characterized it. It was used as a means to mobilize public opinion for war. It is still portrayed this way in the capitalist media, schoolbooks and popular culture, despite considerable historical evidence that demonstrates that the Japanese attack was consciously provoked by American policy; the attack did not come as a surprise to the American government and a conscious policy decision was made at the highest levels to permit the attack to occur and to sustain significant losses of life and naval hardware, as a pretext to secure America's entry into the Second World War. A number of books and considerable material on the Internet have been published on this history1. Here we will review some of the highlights to illustrate the operational aspects of machiavellianism.

The Pearl Harbor events unfolded as the US was moving closer and closer to intervention in World War II on the side of the Allies. The Roosevelt administration was anxious to enter the war against Germany, but despite the fact that the American working class was firmly trapped in the grips of a trade union apparatus (in which the Stalinist party played a significant role), imposed under state authority to control the class struggle in all key industries, and was imbued with the ideology of anti-fascism, the American bourgeoisie still faced strong opposition to war within the population, including not only the working class, but even large parts of the bourgeoisie itself. Public opinion polls showed 60% opposed to entering the war before Pearl Harbor, and the "America First" campaign and other isolationist groups had considerable support within the bourgeoisie. Despite demagogic political pledges to keep America out of a European war, the Roosevelt administration searched furtively for an excuse to join the fighting. The US violated its own self-declared neutrality to an increasing degree, by offering aid to the Allies, and shipping vast amounts of war material under the Lend Lease program. The administration hoped to provoke Germany into launching an attack against American forces in the North Atlantic that could serve as a pretext for American entry into the war. When German imperialism failed to fall for the bait, attention switched to Japan. The decision to impose an oil embargo against Japan and the transfer of the Pacific fleet from the West Coast of the US to a more exposed position in Hawaii served to provide motive and opportunity for Japan fire the first shots against the US, and thereby provide the pretext for direct American intervention in the imperialist war. In March 1941, a secret Navy Department report predicted that if Japan decided to attack the US, it would come at Pearl Harbor in an early morning raid launched from aircraft carriers. In June 1941 presidential advisor Harold Ickes drafted a memo to the president when Germany first attacked Russia, suggesting, "There might develop from the embargoing of oil to Japan such a situation as would make it not only possible but easy to get into this war in an effective way". In October Ickes wrote, "For a long time I have believed that our best entrance into the war would be by way of Japan". Secretary of War Stimson wrote in his diary in late November the following account of discussions with the President: "the question was how we should maneuver them into the position of firing the first shot without too much danger to ourselves. In spite of the risk involved, however, in letting the Japanese fire the first shot, we realized that in order to have the full support of the American people it was desirable to make sure that the Japanese be the ones do this so there should remain no doubt in anyone's mind as to who were the aggressors".

The report of the Army Pearl Harbor Board (October 20, 1944,) detailed this conscious, Machiavellian decision to sacrifice lives and equipment in Pearl Harbor, concluding that during "the fateful period between November 27 and December 6, 1941? numerous pieces of information came to our State, War and Navy Departments in all of their top ranks indicating precisely the intentions of the Japanese including the probable exact hour and date of the attack" (Army Board Report, Pearl Harbor Attack, Part 39, pp. 221-30). For example:

- US intelligence sources learned on November 24th that "Japanese offensive military operations" had been set.

- On November 26, "specific evidence of the Japanese intentions to wage offensive war against Great Britain and the United States" were obtained by US intelligence.

- "A concentration of units of the Japanese fleet at an unknown port ready for offensive action" was also reported on November 26.

- On December 1, "definite information came from three independent sources that Japan was going to attack Great Britain and the United States, but would maintain peace with Russia".

- On December 3, "the culmination of this complete revelation of the Japanese intentions as to war and the attack came? with information that Japanese were destroying their codes and code machines. This was construed? as meaning immediate war".

This intelligence information was given to the highest ranking officials in the War and State Departments, and shared with the White House, where Roosevelt personally received twice-daily briefings on intercepted Japanese messages. Despite the desperate urgings of intelligence officers to send a "war warning" to military commanders in Hawaii to prepare for imminent attack, the civilian and military brass decided against doing so, and instead sent what the board termed "an innocuous" message.

This evidence of prior knowledge of the Japanese attack has been confirmed in numerous sources, including journalists' reports and memoirs of participants. For example, a United Press dispatch published in the New York Times on December 8, included the following under the subhead "Attack Was Expected: It now is possible to reveal that the United States forces here had known for a week that the attack was coming and they were not caught unprepared" (New York Times, December 8, 1941, p.13). In a 1944 interview, first lady Eleanor Roosevelt, revealed that "December 7 (?) was far from the shock it proved to be to the country in general. We had expected something of the sort for a long time" (New York Times Magazine, October 8, 1944, p.41). On June 20 1944, British Cabinet Minister Sir Oliver Lyttelton told the American Chamber of Commerce, "Japan was provoked into attacking the Americans at Pearl Harbor. It is a travesty of history ever to say that America was forced into the war. Everyone knows where American sympathies were. It is incorrect to say that America was ever truly neutral even before America came into the war on a fighting basis" (Prang, Pearl Harbor: Verdict of History, pp 39-40). Winston Churchill confirmed the duplicity of the American government rulers in the Pearl Harbor attack in this passage from The Grand Alliance: "A prodigious Congressional Inquiry published its findings in 1946 in which every detail was exposed of the events leading up to the war between the United States and Japan and of the failure to send positive 'Alert' orders through the military departments to their fleets and garrisons in exposed situations. Every detail, including the decoding of secret Japanese telegrams and their actual texts, has been exposed to the world in forty volumes. The strength of the United States was sufficient to enable them to sustain this hard ordeal required by the spirit of the American Constitution. I do not intend in these pages to attempt to pronounce judgment upon this tremendous episode in American history. We know that all the great Americans round the President and in his confidence felt, as acutely as I did, the awful danger that Japan would attack British or Dutch possessions in the Far East, and it would carefully avoid the United States, and that in consequence Congress would not sanction an American declaration of war (...) The President and his trusted friends had long realized the grave risks of United States neutrality in the war against Hitler and what he stood for, and had writhed under the restraints of a Congress whose House of Representatives had a few months before passed by only a single vote the necessary renewal of compulsory military service, without which their Army would have been almost disbanded in the midst of the world convulsion. Roosevelt, Hull, Stimson, Knox, General Marshall, Admiral Stark, and, as a link between them all, Harry Hopkins, had but one mind... A Japanese attack upon the United States was a vast simplification of their problems and their duty. How can we wonder that they regarded the actual form of the attack, or even its scale, as incomparably less important than the fact that the whole American nation would be united for its own safety in a righteous cause as never before?" (Winston Churchill, "The Grand Alliance," p. 603).

Roosevelt may not have anticipated the extent of the damage and casualties that the Japanese would inflict at Pearl Harbor, but he was clearly prepared to sacrifice American ships and lives, in order to arouse the population to rage, and to war.

The Twin Towers and bourgeois machiavellianism

It is of course more difficult to assess the level of machiavellianism of the US bourgeoisie in regard to the Trade Center attack, which occurred less than three months prior to the writing of this article. We do not have the benefit of investigations after-the-fact by review boards that might reveal secret evidence on whether elements of the ruling class had some complicity in the attacks, or had advance knowledge but permitted the attacks to occur. But as ruling class history demonstrates, particularly the events at Pearl Harbor, such a possibility is far from unthinkable, and if we examine recent events, based solely on what has been reported in the media - a media incidentally that is completely enrolled in, and supportive of, the government's current political and imperialist offensive - we certainly find circumstantial support for such an hypothesis.

First, if we ask the question, who profits from the crime, there can be no doubt that the primary beneficiary of the attack on the World Trade Center has been the American ruling class. Surely this alone is enough to at least arouse suspicion. The US bourgeoisie moved swiftly and unrelentingly to take advantage of 11 September to advance crucial elements of its domestic and international agenda, including mobilizing the population behind the state for war, strengthening the repressive apparatus of the state, and re-asserting American superpower status in the face of the general tendency for each country to play its own card in the international arena:

- Immediately after the attacks, the American political apparatus and mass media were rushed into service to mobilize the population for war, in a concerted effort to use the tragedy to overcome definitively the effects of the so-called "Vietnam Syndrome," which has hampered American imperialism's ability to wage war for three decades. This so-called "mass psychological disorder" has been characterized by a resistance, particularly the working class, to mobilization behind the state for long term imperialist war, was largely responsible for the US's heavy reliance on proxy wars in its conflict with Russian imperialism in the 1970s and '80s, or on short-term, limited duration military interventions, relying heavily on air strikes and missile attacks rather than ground forces, like the Persian Gulf and Kosovo. Of course this resistance was not the result of some psychological disorder, but rather a reflection of the ruling class's inability to achieve an ideological, political defeat of the proletariat, to line up the current generations of the working class behind the state for imperialist war as had been done in the preparation for World War II. The current war psychosis campaign was exemplified by, and mapped out in, an editorial in a special edition of Time magazine published immediately after the attack. The thematic headline for the issue, "Day of Infamy," invoked the Pearl Harbor comparison right from the beginning, An editorial column by Lance Morrow, titled "The Case for Rage and Retribution," outlined the details of the ensuing ideological campaign. Though written in a mass media publication as part of the propaganda effort, Morrow's essay gives clear evidence of the bourgeoisie's conscious understanding of the heightened propaganda value of the Trade Center attack, compared to previous attacks, to manipulate the population for war because of large numbers of casualties and the dramatic visual images:

"A day cannot live in infamy without the nourishment of rage. Let's have rage.

What's needed is a unified, unifying Pearl Harbor sort of purple American fury - a ruthless indignation that doesn't leak away in a week or two?

This was terrorism brought to near perfection as a dramatic form. Never has the evil business had such production values. Normally, the audience sees only the smoking aftermath - the blown-up embassy, the ruined barracks, the ship with a blackened hole at the waterline. This time the first plane striking the first tower acted as a shill. It alerted the media, brought cameras to the scene so that might be set up to record the vivid surreal bloom of the second strike?.

Evil possesses an instinct for theater, which is why, in an era of gaudy and gifted media, evil may vastly magnify its damage by he power of horrific images" (Time magazine, special issue, September, 2001).

- At the same time, the American bourgeois political apparatus quickly rolled out plans for strengthening the repressive apparatus of the state, and took immediate action to implement them. New "security" legislation restoring the legality of many practices that had been discredited in the aftermath of the Vietnam war and the Watergate affair, as well as a whole new arsenal of repressive measures, was drafted, debated, adopted and signed by the president in record time. We can be excused if we suspect that the legislation had been drafted earlier and was being held for the right moment to be introduced. Over 1,000 "suspects," with Arabic surnames or Muslim garb being the primary reason for suspicion, were taken into custody, many held without charges indefinitely. Funds of organizations suspected of being sympathetic to bin Laden were frozen, without any court procedure. Restrictions were placed on immigration, particularly from Islamic countries (more a response to the bourgeoisie's long standing concerns about the tide of illegal immigration into the US as people seek to flee the horrifying conditions of growing decomposition and barbarism in underdeveloped nations, than anything related to the terrorist attacks).

- The terrorist crisis became overnight both the excuse for the worsening economic recession and the justification for horrendous budget cuts in social programs, as all available funds were shifted to war and national security. The rapidity with which these measures were presented reflects the likelihood that they were not drafted at the spur of the moment, but had been prepared, discussed and planned on a contingency basis for some time.

- On the international level, the real purpose of the war is not so much to destroy terrorism, as it is to reassert and reaffirm, American imperialism's dominance as the only remaining superpower in an international arena increasingly characterized by challenges to US hegemony. The collapse of the eastern bloc in 1989 quickly led to the unraveling of the western bloc, as the glue that had held it together - the confrontation with Russian imperialism and its bloc - had disappeared. Despite its apparent triumph in the cold war, American imperialism found itself confronted with a world situation in which its former great power allies, and numerous lesser powers as well, began to challenge its leadership and pursue their own imperialist ambitions. To force its erstwhile allies back into line, and acknowledge its dominance, the US has undertaken three large scale military operations in the last decade: against Iraq, against Serbia, and now Afghanistan and the al-Qaeda network. In each case, the US military display has forced American "allies," like France, Britain and Germany, to join the US-led "alliances" or face total irrelevancy in the global imperialist chess game.

Second, contrary to the officially sanctioned version of "reality" that claims an unsuspecting US was completely blind-sided by the terrorist attacks at the Trade Center and the Pentagon, based solely on reports in the bourgeois media, it is possible already to begin to piece together circumstantial evidence that does not prove but certainly opens up the possibility of machiavellian maneuvers within the American bourgeoisie to permit these attacks:

- The forces that seem to have carried out the Trade Center attack may not have currently been under American imperialism's control, but they certainly were known to the American security apparatus and indeed originated as agents of the CIA. To counter Russian imperialism's invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, the CIA recruited, trained, armed, and supplied thousands of Islamic fundamentalists to wage a holy war, a jihad, against the Russians. The concept of jihad had largely been dormant in Islamic theology, until American imperialism resurrected it for its own purposes two decades ago. Islamic militants were recruited from throughout the Muslim world, including Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia. This is where Osama Bin Laden first came into the picture, as an operative of American imperialism. Following the Russian withdrawal from Afghanistan in 1989, and the collapse of the government in Kabul in 1992, American imperialism walked away from Afghanistan, shifting its focus to the Middle East and the Balkans. When they fought the Russians, these Islamic fundamentalists were hailed as freedom fighters by Ronald Reagan. When they use the same ruthlessness against American imperialism today, President Bush says they are uncivilized fanatics who have to be destroyed. In much the same way as Timothy McVeigh, the American right-wing fanatic responsible for 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, who was raised on the cold war ideology and imbued with hatred of the Russians, and recruited to the US military, the young men recruited to the CIA's jihad knew only hatred and warfare their entire adult lives. Both felt betrayed by American imperialism after the cold war had ended, and turned their violence against their former masters.

- Since 1996, the FBI had been investigating the possibility that terrorists were using American aviation schools to learn how to fly jumbo jets, so the entire modus operandi of the terrorists had been anticipated by authorities ("FBI failed to find suspects named before hijackings," Guardian, September 25, 2001).

- The apartment in Germany, where the Trade Center attacks had been planned and coordinated had been under German police surveillance for nearly three years.

- The FBI and other American intelligence agencies had received warnings of, and intercepted messages about, a planned spectacular terrorist attack, timed to coincide with the anniversary of the White House Rose Garden ceremony with Clinton, Rabin and Arafat. Both Israeli and French intelligence agencies had sent warnings to the Americans. So, American authorities certainly had advance notice about when the attack would come. Perhaps it was not clear that the target would be the World Trade Center, but the Center had already been targeted by Islamic terrorists for attack in 1993, as a symbol of American capitalism.

- In August, the FBI had arrested Zacarias Moussaoui, who had aroused suspicions when he sought pilot training at a flight school in Minnesota and mentioned that he was not interesting in learning how to take off or land. In early September, French authorities had sent a warning about Moussaoui's suspected terrorist links. In November, the FBI suddenly reversed itself and denied Moussaoui's involvement in the plot. But in any case, suspicions about pilots not interested in taking off or landing, hinting at the possibility of a suicide hijacking, were revived.

- Mohamed Atta, the supposed ringleader of 11 September, who allegedly piloted the first plane to hit the Twin Towers was well known to authorities, but seemed to have led a charmed life, and was allowed to remain at large in the US. Despite the fact that Atta was listed for years on the State Department's terrorist watch-list because of his suspected involvement in a 1986 bus bombing in Israel, he was permitted repeatedly to enter, leave and return to the US. From January to May 2000 he was under surveillance by US agents following his suspicious purchase of large amounts of chemicals, which might be used to make explosives. In January 2001 he was held by Immigration and Nationalization agents at Miami International Airport for 57 minutes because he had previously overstayed a visa, and because he did not have a proper visa to enter the US to study at a flight school in Florida. Despite being on the State Department watch-list, despite the FBI's concern that terrorists might be attending flight schools in the US, he was permitted to enter the US, to enroll in flight school. In April 2001 Atta was stopped by police for driving without a license. When he failed to show up in court in May, a bench warrant was issued for his arrest, but it was never executed. He was arrested for drunk driving on two other occasions. Atta never made any attempt to operate under an alias during his entire time in the US, traveling, living and studying at the flight school under his real name. Was the FBI grossly incompetent, or hampered by a lack of Arabic agents and translators as the FBI claims, or is there a more machiavellian explanation for the authorities constantly and consistently permitting him to remain at large - was he being "protected" or set up as a fall guy? ("Terrorists Among Us," Atlanta Journal Constitution, Sept 16, 2001)

- August 23, 2001, the CIA sent a list of 100 suspected members of Osama bin Laden's network, who were reportedly in or on their way to the US, including Khalid al-Midhar and Nawaq Alhazmi who were on board the plane that hit the Pentagon.

- Long before the supposedly unexpected attacks of 11 September, the US had been secretly laying the groundwork for war in Afghanistan for nearly three years. Following the attacks on US embassies in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania and Nairobi, Kenya in 1998, President Clinton had authorized the CIA to prepare for possible action against the out-of-control Bin Laden. At this level secret contacts and negotiations began with the governments of the former USSR republics of Uzbekistan and Tajikistan to arrange for military bases, supply operations, and intelligence gathering. Not only did this prepare the way for military intervention in Afghanistan, but it also opened up significant American inroads into the Russian sphere of influence in Central Asia. In this sense, despite its claims of being taken by surprise, the US was poised to immediately pounce on the opportunity offered by the Twin Towers attack to push forward with a number of strategic and tactical measures that had been in the planning stages for a long time.

- The cornerstone of the ideological campaign immediately launched around the Twin Towers disasters has been the devastating destruction and death toll. For weeks government officials and the media have drummed into our heads that nearly 6,000 lives were lost at the Trade Center - twice the death toll at Pearl Harbor. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff repeated these numbers in an interview on a national television broadcast in early November.2 Yet there is every indication that these statistics, with their emotional propaganda value, are greatly inflated by the government. Independent tallies compiled by news agencies put the total at under 3,000, roughly equivalent to the loss of life at Pearl Harbor. For example, the New York Times puts the total at 2,943, Associated Press at 2,625, and USA Today at 2,680. The American Red Cross, which is distributing financial grants to families of the victims has only processed applications from 2,563 families. Government officials refused to comply with a request from the Red Cross for a copy of its still secret official list of Trade Center victims ("Numbers vary in tallies of the victims" New York Times , October 25, 2001, B1). Meanwhile, politicians and broadcast media continue to use the more propagandistically valuable, larger inflated number of 5,000-6,000 dead and missing, which is by now imbedded in popular consciousness.

- The US government has never publicly revealed its "evidence" of bin Laden's responsibility for the Trade Center. And then as the war progressed, the Bush administration announced that, if captured alive, bin Laden would be tried in a secret military tribunal, in order not to make public the sources of evidence against him. Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld clearly signaled his preference that bin Laden be killed rather than captured in order to skip a trial. It is only natural to wonder why the US is in so concerned to keep its alleged "evidence" a secret.

None of this constitutes positive proof that either the Administration, or perhaps the CIA, had prior knowledge of the Twin Towers attacks and permitted them to happen, but one doesn't have to be a conspiracy buff to have his suspicions raised.

Is the Twin Towers a modern day Pearl Harbor?

Contrary to the media's insistence, the current situation cannot be equated to Pearl Harbor on the historic level. Pearl Harbor came at the end of nearly twenty years of political defeats that had vanquished the world proletariat politically, ideologically and even physically, and opened up an historic course towards imperialist war. These defeats were of momentous historic weight on the proletariat: the failure of the Russian Revolution and the revolutionary wave; the degeneration of the revolutionary regime in Russia, and the triumph of state capitalism under Stalin; the degeneration of the Communist International into a foreign policy arm of the Russian state, including a wholesale retreat from the revolutionary class positions promulgated at the height of the revolutionary wave; the integration of the Communist parties into their respective state apparatuses; the political and physical defeat of the working class at the hands of fascism in Italy, Germany, and Spain; and the triumph of the ideology of anti-fascism in the so-called "democratic" countries.

The cumulative impact of these defeats was to profoundly limit the historic possibilities for the workers movement. Revolution, which had been on the agenda in the period following 1917, was now on the historic backburner. The balance of forces had shifted definitively towards the capitalist class, which now had the upper hand in moving towards imposing its "solution" to the historic crisis of global capitalism: world war. However, the fact that the rapport de forces between the classes had shifted in its favor didn't mean that the bourgeoisie necessarily had a free hand to impose its political will. But even the course towards war didn't mean that the American bourgeoisie could automatically unleash imperialist war at given moment. The bourgeoisie still faced resistance to war within the American proletariat in 1939-41, in part reflecting the vacillating position of the Stalinist party which enjoyed considerable influence, especially in the CIO unions, due to Moscow's wavering line during the period of the non-aggression pact with Nazi Germany. The dominant faction of the US bourgeoisie also had to deal with recalcitrant elements within its own class, some who were sympathetic to the Axis powers, or others who maintained an isolationist perspective. As we have seen an "unprovoked" attack by Japan provided the pretext for rallying all the wavering elements behind the state and the coming war effort. In this sense, Pearl Harbor was the final nail in the political, ideological coffin.

The situation is very different today. True, the Twin Towers disaster comes after more than a decade of political disorientation and confusion sown by the collapse of the Stalinist regimes in Europe and the ideological campaigns of the bourgeoisie about the death of communism. But these confusions have not had the same political weight as the defeats of the 1920s/30s on the consciousness of the proletariat on the historic level. Nor did they mean a change in the historic course towards class confrontations. Despite disorientation, the working class was struggling to regain its terrain, and there were abundant signs of the process of subterranean maturation of consciousness, and the emergence of searching elements and a growing milieu around existing proletarian revolutionary groups. There is no attempt here to minimize the political disorientation within the working class ever since 1989, a situation that has been aggravated by decomposition, creating a situation where the slide into barbarism did not necessarily require World War to be achieved. While the American bourgeoisie is enjoying considerable success with its ideological offensive, even if for the moment workers are caught up in the war psychosis to an alarming degree, the global balance of class forces is not determined by the situation in a single country, even one as important as the US. On the international level, the proletariat is still undefeated and the perspective is still one of class confrontation. Even in the US, this international working class capacity to continue the struggle was echoed by the two-week strike by 23,000 public sector workers in Minnesota in October. Despite being attacked for being "unpatriotic" or striking at a moment of national crisis, these workers nonetheless stood their ground and struck for improved wages and benefits. While Pearl Harbor was the final punctuation mark in the fulfillment of the process of bringing to fruition the course towards imperialist war in 1941, the Trade Center is a setback for the proletariat, especially the proletariat in the US, but within the context of a general historic situation that still favors the proletariat.



1 See for a documented chronology and links to key historical documents online.


2 See for example, the interview of Gen. Richard Myers, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, on NBC News Meet the Press on November 4, 2001.

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