This article was originally published by the Earth Island Institute on September 14, 2001, and has since been taken down.
See CEI's response to the article by Chris Horner titled, "Hug a Terrorist: The Earth Island Institute’s take on September 11."
U.S. Responds to Terrorist Attacks with Self-Righteous Arrogance
In the wake of the World Trade Center and Pentagon bombings, George Bush would like us all to believe that "America was targeted for attack because we're the brightest beacon for freedom and opportunity in the world."
That doesn't make a lot of sense, does it? Maybe there's another reason.
We need to correct the rightist spin of the Bush administration and media. This was not an "act of war.” This was an act of anger, desperation, and indignation.
This was not an "attack on Freedom.” It was a politically targeted attack on the core structures of the U.S. military and the U.S.-dominated global financial structure.
This was not an "attack on all American people.” This was not the sort of flat-out terrorism that targets random innocents at a disco or a beach. The majority of the victims were, unfortunately, working for the Pentagon and various elements of multinational financial empires.
After the bombing of the U.S. Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, the U.S. president vowed to "track down and punish the perpetrators.” After the bombing of the USS Cole, the U.S. president vowed to "track down and punish the perpetrators."
After this latest bombing, the US president vowed to "track down and punish the perpetrators.” This is merely a ritualistic formality.
The only bombers the United States had captured are a U.S. soldier named Tim McVeigh (who was stopped by a state trooper) and a bunch of extremists who blew up the basement of the World Trade Center (with the assistance of an FBI infiltrator, a little-noted sidebar to history).
(If the United States once again attributes the latest attack to Osama bin Laden -- the still very-much-unpunished-by-the-West yet very-much-celebrated-by-the-militant-Islamic-East -- the irony will be compounded. And, speaking of ironies, here's another. The man who provided the funds to bankroll Arbusta, George W. Bush's first oil venture, happened to be the father of one Osama bin Laden. Oil and money make strange bed fellows.)
The U.S. media pundits are repeating in full robotic chorus, praise for Bush's "important comment" that the U.S. "will make not distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbor them."
I find this statement cause for extreme alarm. It means that if the United States is unable to identify, track down and punish a specific individual or group that was responsible for this crime, it can take the easy way out have stage its full-press photo-op "revenge" by dropping bombs on a convenient country. Afghanistan comes to mind.
(Another cause for concern: This "no distinction" argument is, in all probability, the same logic employed by the attackers who took down the World Trade Center towers.)
This is the typical United States government response. Self-righteous arrogance followed by a threat of massive retaliation. If we aren't careful, George Bush could take us down the same path bloody path already explored by Ariel Sharon.
Has massive retaliation stopped terrorist attacks in Jerusalem? The record seems to indicate that massive retaliation only inflames terrorism.
The illogic of massive retaliation would be immediately apparent if anyone dared apply it to a child. ("Little Johnny broke the lamp, so we taught him a lesson by breaking his arm.") Inappropriate punishment is perceived by an abused child to be an injustice. It foments resentment, anger, and rebellion.
Why should we believe that massive retaliation, when applied to adults, will produce sobriety, compliance, and civility?
"We will punish the people responsible," Bush states. The people directly responsible are already dead, incinerated at the controls of those hijacked planes.
This is not war. No country has declared war on the United States.
This is not an attack not on U.S. citizens but an assault on U.S. foreign policy.
The administration is trying to tell Americans that we are all targets. This is being done to draw attention away from the real targets: World Trade and U.S. militarism.
Why is the United States the target of these attacks? The answer to that question is far more important than the quest to identify who trained and sponsored these attackers. Usually, when a crime is committed the first response it to look for a motive. Why is that not a major concern in Washington?
Here are some possible answers to the essential question: Why us? Because our soldiers are stationed in foreign garrisons around the world.
Because our soldiers and foreign policy support the repressive regime in Saudi Arabia.
Because our country has placed an embargo on Iraq that has lead to the deaths of more than a million children (by United Nations estimates).
Because our country (and Britain) continues to drop bombs on Iraq -- long after the "end" of the Gulf War -- injuring and killing civilian men, women, and children.
Because our country supplies Israel with the trademark Blackhawk attack helicopters and "smart" missiles that are used in "targeted assasinations" (a policy that even the CIA has been forced to formally abandon).
Because our country allows Israel, Colombia and other countries to violate U.S. laws requiring that our military weapons can only be used in a defensive manner.
You cannot wage "war" on suicide bombers. If you want to respond in kind, you've got to be ready to send in your own suicide bombers. What? We don't have any suicide bombers? Then we've lost the contest. The other side is willing to sacrifice their lives for a cause. We are only willing to risk lives.
One way to respond to terrorists is to listen to the message they are trying to send. Terrorism is the negotiating tactic of the powerless.
There is even an environmental analysis to this.
If you were to draw a flow chart tracing every terrorist attack against the United States back through every foreign alliance, military mutual aid pact, joint military exercise, bloody political coup, intrigue and tacit alliance, the lines would generally flow back to one common factor. Oil.
Our foreign policy is captive to oil. Our position as a superpower is dependent on oil. (The Pentagon runs on oil. That's why US motorists --unlike European drivers who pay much higher prices for petrol -- enjoy a unique hidden "subsidy" on the price of gas.)
If we were able to transform our economy into one that operates on clean, renewable energy, we would not only be taking the right measures to mitigate climate change, we would also be taking an important step toward a new foreign policy that is not predicated on the need to control world oil supplies by propping up foreign dictatorships, unpopular dynasties and repressive regimes.
A chilling phrase is being repeated by the pundits: "After today, our lives in America will never be the same." Powerful forces in U.S. society have long dreamed of such opportunities. A domestic Gulf of Tonkin episode to open the door to Martial Law Lite -- a proactive suspension of "certain" civil liberties and freedoms. (As another network commentator put it: "The terrorists succeeded because they took advantage of the very freedoms we take for granted.")
If we were to redirect our economy to operate on clean renewable energy --energy that is available everywhere on Earth and not just beneath the subsoil of despotic Third World governments -- we would not only be on the path to mitigating climate change, we would also be on the path to eliminating one of the major causes of terrorism.
The solution is available but the U.S. government (as presently constituted) will never act on it because, to do so, would require the United States to give up its position as the world's reigning Superpower.
Without oil, we have no army. If armies and economies run on oil, whoever controls the oil controls the planet.
If towns, factories and homes could be powered by solar and geothermal energy, no one country could dominate the world's energy-based economies.
It is time to move to a world beyond oil, beyond repression and beyond superpowers.