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Bush, Kerry Push “Anti-Terror� Hysteria

9/11 Commission Report: Blueprint for State Repression
Break with the Democrats! For a Workers Party!

Bush, Kerry Push “Anti-Terror� Hysteria

9/11 Commission Report: Blueprint for State Repression

Reprinted from Workers Vanguard No. 830, 6 August 2004.

This summer’s cynical media circuses, the Democratic and Republican national presidential conventions, have a sinister overlay, as the Homeland Security department decreed both “special security events.� These red-white-and-blue capitalist spectacles—whose platforms are nonbinding, whose delegates decide nothing, and whose nominees, John Kerry and George Bush, are predetermined—are surrounded by massive state surveillance. Inside the Democratic National Convention (DNC), it looked a lot like a Republican rally, as after the liberals pushed the “anybody but Bush� line all year, what they got was a candidate trying to out-Bush Bush in flag-waving tough-cop rhetoric. John Kerry promptly embraced the 9/11 Commission Report, with its appalling bipartisan proposals to ratchet up state repression, stating on July 27, “I will and I can wage a more effective war on terror than George Bush.�

As U.S. forces continue their cruel and ruthless occupation of Iraq, the Democrats call only for more domestic repression and a stronger military. They are no “lesser evil,� but the partner party of the Republicans in administering capitalism, only with a facade of being “uniters� of all Americans. They just lie through their teeth about caring for blacks, women and working people, then they stick the knife into them. We working-class socialists say: U.S. out of Iraq now! Break with the Democrats! Build a workers party to fight for socialist revolution!

For the DNC in Boston, armed Coast Guard boats patrolled the harbor and 40 miles of road were shut down, while a Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome razor-wire steel cage outside the Fleet Center—the “free speech zone�—was sensibly ignored by most protesters. In New York City, elderly residents near Madison Square Garden are being warned to stay indoors and stock up on supplies for the duration of the Republican invasion, while organizers of the main protest are being shunted to the shadeless and barren West Side Highway, ordered to stay off the grass in Central Park. Sheepishly, United for Peace and Justice leaders are not fighting this, not even going to court, though the right to free speech and political protest in Manhattan’s largest public park is a basic First Amendment right.

Repeatedly pumping the fear factor of another terrorist attack, as the Bush administration does every time it feels a political threat, the Homeland Security department even toyed with postponing the entire election! Newsweek (19 July) exposed Homeland Security head Tom Ridge’s crass ploy, reporting that he asked the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel (the same crew advising Bush he could torture at will) to look into shutting down the elections in case of a terrorist attack. A strange new agency, the “U.S. Election Assistance Commission,� asked Ridge to seek emergency legislation from Congress empowering Homeland Security to postpone the election in order to “secure the election� in the words of a Homeland spokesman—like “burning the village in order to save it� during the Vietnam War.

As for the Democrats, their national convention was an orgy of flag-waving patriotism showcasing veterans of past U.S. wars, with Kerry’s Vietnam combat role being played to the max. His subsequent involvement in antiwar protests was carefully obscured. “We are a nation at war,� Kerry said in his address, promising, “I will build a stronger American military.� Watching Kerry’s publicity film with its mawkish sentimentality, mesmerizing Spielberg Hollywood touches, and the glittering river wake of Kerry’s patrol boat, you’d have thought the Mekong Delta was in the “American heartland.� We say that it was a very good thing for the workers of the world that the U.S. was defeated in its dirty imperialist war in Vietnam by the heroic Vietnamese workers and peasants! Today we defend Vietnam, as well as Cuba, North Korea and China, against U.S. imperialist threats, as workers states ripped out of the hands of capitalism, despite their bureaucratic deformations.

The “anybody but Bush� sentiment pushed by liberals, and pandered to by the reformist left, means that working people and young activists opposed to the war and occupation of Iraq and the diminution of democratic rights carried out in the name of the “war on terror� are being told to vote for Kerry. The Bush administration has seized on the September 11 attacks to ratchet up repression at home and abroad. But in this they are not in any way challenged by the Democrats, who are merely trying to sell themselves to the bourgeoisie as more effective implementers of Bush’s policies. The only road forward for working people is the struggle to build a workers party to get what they need, a workers government.

The mass media as well as Republicans depict the DNC’s militarist theme as so much electoral rhetoric. But the notion that Kerry is actually a sheep who has temporarily donned wolf’s clothing—a view pushed by both Democratic Party liberals and Republican rightists—is profoundly wrong. As a representative of the American capitalist class, Kerry is sincere in maintaining that he could direct the U.S. armed forces more effectively than his Republican rival. Kerry calls for upping total U.S. troop strength by 40,000 men, and not just because he thinks saying that will help win the election. Significant elements of the American ruling class (including within the Pentagon) now view the takeover of Iraq as a very costly mistake for which they blame Bush. Their problem is that to just pull out would be seen as a humiliating defeat for the self-proclaimed “world’s only superpower.�

Down With the Neocolonial Occupation of Iraq!

On July 9, the Senate Intelligence Committee released a 511-page “Report on the U.S. Intelligence Community’s Prewar Intelligence Assessments on Iraq.� Even with some 20 percent blacked out by censors, the report thoroughly refutes the shoddy, outrageous official rationales given for the Iraq invasion and occupation, which have slaughtered an estimated 13,000 Iraqis in an already devastated land. The U.S. death toll has risen to over 900. The bipartisan report confirmed once again what has been well known: Saddam Hussein was not an imminent threat, Iraq did not have chemical and biological weapons, Iraq was not developing nuclear arms, and there was not a link between Hussein and Osama bin Laden. As the New York Times (10 July) editorialized, “Put simply, the Bush administration’s intelligence analysts cooked the books.�

Why? The Senate committee politely evaded that question, postponing investigation of the uses the administration made of the CIA’s disinformation until after the election. Veteran CIA director George Tenet, who also served under Clinton, resigned to take the heat off, while “groupthink� mentality at the CIA, rather than pressure from the White House, was blamed for the rush to justify the impending war. The Butler report in Britain used the exact same “groupthink� phrase to cover up for British prime minister Tony Blair’s eager and slavish commitment of British troops to the U.S.’s Iraq war.

The war was launched to reassert U.S. imperialist domination over its rivals, and over the oil-rich Near East. Democrats overwhelmingly rallied to support the invasion at the time. From the get-go, and in fact, facts were irrelevant. One example: the bizarre tale of Iraq mobile biological weapons factories, from a source code-named “Curveball,� was used by Secretary of State Colin Powell—reputedly the leading “moderate� in the Bush administration—at the United Nations in 2003. Responding to an analyst who questioned this fairy tale before the speech, the deputy director of the CIA’s task force on “weapons of mass destruction� wrote: “Let’s keep in mind the fact that this war’s going to happen regardless of what Curveball said or didn’t say, and the powers that be probably aren’t terribly interested in whether Curveball knows what he’s talking about� (cited in CounterPunch, 13 July). In short, the U.S. went to war, sending mainly working-class, black and Latino soldiers to slaughter thousands of Iraqis for a complete pack of lies.

But when CIA spies and blue-blooded representatives of the ruling class like the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Democratic Senator John D. Rockefeller IV, question administration policy, you can be sure it’s not in the interests of the working class. There are factional differences in bourgeois circles, especially as the occupation of Iraq isn’t going well, as to how the U.S. can more effectively pursue American imperialism’s interests—i.e., how to fatten their profit margins by increasing the exploitation and oppression of the world’s peoples. Some bourgeois ideologues feel the Iraq adventure was a wasteful diversion from other U.S. strategic goals, like overturning the 1949 Chinese Revolution, or crushing North Korea. Then there are long-term interimperialist rivalries between the U.S. and its two strongest competitors, Japan and Germany. Now some liberals, including many black Democrats like Jesse Jackson Jr., call for a U.S. “intervention� into Sudan, using the horrible warfare in Darfur as an excuse to insert a heavy U.S. military presence in northern Africa. We say: U.S. hands off Sudan!

Whatever their differences, at bottom all bourgeois factions will unite against their perceived foreign and domestic opponents, most fundamentally the American working class, in defense of their state and its prerogatives. How many lies have both Democratic and Republican administrations told in advancing their imperial ambitions? Ask yourself, how many wars have there been? “Remember the Maine!� was the lying slogan launching America’s first imperialist war against Spain in 1898, aimed at taking over Cuba and the Philippines. Democratic president Woodrow Wilson lied that World War I was to make the world “safe for democracy� when in fact it was a war to redivide up the spoils of the world. The U.S. entry into World War II, supposedly a war against fascism, was intended to establish American domination in Europe and East Asia. The Democratic Roosevelt administration provoked the Japanese to attack to justify an American declaration of war. In 1964, the Democratic Johnson administration fabricated the Gulf of Tonkin incident as a pretext to massively escalate the U.S.’s dirty colonial war against Vietnam’s workers and peasants.

Covering Up the CIA-Bin Laden Connection

On the warm and clear morning of September 11, 2001, a massive terrorist attack was unleashed over the American northeast, as four commercial airliners were seized and turned into mammoth flying bombs by Islamic fundamentalists, killing some 3,000 people. Two crashed into the World Trade Center, and today, a huge and achingly empty concrete pit is all that remains where the twin towers once stood in lower Manhattan. One plane was forced down by the crew and passengers in Pennsylvania, and one hit the Pentagon. Unlike the World Trade Center, the Pentagon is the command and administrative center of the U.S. imperialist military, and being a military installation the possibility of getting hit comes with the territory. That recognition does not make the attack an “anti-imperialist� act, nor does it change the fact that terrorism almost always gets innocent people—in this case, the passengers on the plane as well as the maintenance workers, janitors and secretaries at the Pentagon.

The next day we of the Spartacist League issued a statement denouncing the attack on the World Trade Center as an indefensible act of criminal terror, writing: “Those who perpetrated this horrific attack (and there is no evidence at all as to who that was) embrace the same mentality as the racist rulers of America—identifying the working masses with their capitalist exploiters and oppressors!� We warned that the American ruling class would respond with repression at home and imperialist “retaliation� abroad.

The following month Congress passed the USA-Patriot Act with Kerry and most Democratic Senators and Congressmen voting for it. We wrote at the time: “These measures seek to eliminate many existing legal restraints on the government’s power to spy on the population, imprison political activists or labor militants, and indiscriminately round up and detain non-citizens� (WV No. 767, 26 October 2001). At the same time, the U.S. invaded and occupied Afghanistan and, in 2003, Iraq. Thousands and thousands of victims of U.S. aggression are dead, dying, mutilated, tortured, imprisoned.

If the Bush administration had had its way, there would have been no 9/11 Commission, whose report was an overnight best seller. However, the families of those killed in the World Trade Center attack rightly wanted and demanded answers: Why had their loved ones perished? Could the government have prevented the terrorist attack? But in the 9/11 Commission Report they got a continued cover-up, because the bitter and horrible truth is that the fanatics whom the government charges with the attack, Osama bin Laden and his Al Qaeda network, were in fact the creation of U.S. imperialism itself. The report focuses on bin Laden’s career after he turned on the U.S., claiming that earlier in Afghanistan “Bin Ladin and his comrades had their own sources of support and training, and they received little or no assistance from the United States.�

But facts are facts. Even the New York Times (6 June) admits the connection, though coyly, noting the CIA’s “clandestine role in the 1980’s in evicting Soviet forces from Afghanistan—though that operation inadvertently laid the groundwork for the rise of Osama bin Laden.� There was nothing inadvertent about it. In 1986, the CIA used Osama bin Laden to help build a huge tunnel complex in Khost, under the mountains near Pakistan, to create a major arms storage depot and training facility for the army of Islamic terrorists the CIA was building to fight the Soviet forces supporting the secular, modernizing nationalist government in Afghanistan (Ahmed Rashid, Taliban [2001]). This was by far the biggest covert CIA operation ever. Tens of billions of dollars went to arm mujahedin fighters in Pakistan and to Pakistan’s huge Inter Service Intelligence, which sponsored Islamic fundamentalist terror. After the Soviet Union was destroyed through capitalist counterrevolution in 1991-92, Washington cut off the lavish arms and money pipeline to its reactionary, woman-hating terrorists in Afghanistan. The blowback hit the World Trade Center a decade later.

There was nothing secret at the time about the massive U.S. support to the mujahedin in Afghanistan. Quite the contrary. Yet practically every self-styled leftist group in the world echoed the imperialist line. They condemned the Soviet intervention and demanded that Moscow withdraw its troops. Whatever the motives of the Kremlin leaders, the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan was doubly progressive. It represented a necessary military defense of the USSR—a bureaucratically degenerated workers state—against imperialist encirclement. And it represented a defense of the meager forces of social progress, centrally for women, in this hideously backward Central Asian country. Uniquely on the left, we raised the slogans: Hail Red Army in Afghanistan! Extend the social gains of the October Revolution to the Afghan peoples!

Besides covering up the CIA-bin Laden connection, the 9/11 Commission Report proposes a truly outrageous set of “security� measures. You know it’s bad when a right-wing columnist like former Nixon speechwriter William Safire (who is also something of a social libertarian) denounces “fear-driven new groupthink� and writes: “With great fanfare, the 9/11 commission amplified that call for a super-spymaster. This rush to ‘reform’ is stampeding otherwise sensible senators into writing a czarist bill to combine the spying techniques of secret surveillance with the law-enforcement power of the F.B.I., invading the unsuspected citizen’s privacy under the rubric of fighting terrorism� (New York Times, 26 July).

Among the Senate proposals are “biometric� identity cards not just for foreigners but for all Americans, abolishing restrictions against CIA and military spying and operations within the U.S., and establishing a single, unified intelligence/police/spying apparatus which can run unchecked at home and abroad. The report complains that airport security didn’t use a list (called TIPOFF), which the State Department already had before the September 11 attacks, of some “known and suspected terrorists� which comprises 60,000 names! In the name of “pre-emptive� strikes, what’s to stop the state from rounding up all those names, even if they haven’t actually done anything? Actually, to qualify for “pre-emptive� detention, by definition you’d have to be innocent to be grabbed in advance of doing anything. This is no paranoid sci-fi Philip K. Dick fantasy, but the mindset of the American imperial police today.

For Class Struggle at Home!

When Kerry says he’d be a better commander in chief of the U.S. armed forces than Bush, he means better for the men (and a few women) who run Wall Street and the Fortune 500. Historically, the Democrats have been the preferred war party of American imperialism because of their broader base of support among workers, black people and ethnic minorities. Precisely because the Democrats are seen as a “friend� of labor and blacks, they can be a more effective political instrument for carrying out the bloody-handed crimes of American imperialism. The key to defeating the U.S. occupation of Iraq is class struggle at home, but this is impeded by the Democratic Party-loyal labor leadership, who are opposed to militant struggle that could break the chains tying workers to their exploiters in the ruling class.

For all the bourgeoisie’s bombast about stopping terrorism, in fact the only people who actually stopped terrorists on September 11, 2001, were the heroic passengers and crew of United Airlines Flight 93. They voted to rush the cockpit, diverting the plane from its suicide bombing run and forcing it to crash into a field in Pennsylvania, killing all aboard. There were other heroes, overwhelmingly working men and women. The firefighters at the World Trade Center gave up hundreds of their own lives to save thousands. And the air traffic controllers across the country performed brilliantly on a nationwide coordinated scale, bringing 4,500 commercial and general aviation aircraft safely onto the ground without incident. Ronald Reagan and his class fired the whole PATCO air traffic controllers union in the 1980s, expressing their utter contempt for working people.

If there is to be an end to this system of imperialist war, racist oppression and all-sided grinding misery, the multiracial U.S. working class must be won, through Marxist education and its own experience in struggle, to the perspective of building a workers party that fights for a socialist revolution. The capitalist system must be overturned and replaced by the rule of the working class, a workers government that will seize the means of production and establish a planned, collectivized economy as part of an egalitarian, socialist society on an international scale.

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