September 2011, Week 2


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Fri, 9 Sep 2011 23:34:22 -0400
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Portsiders Reflect: Ten Years After 9/11 (2)

We at Portside asked a number of our past contributors
for brief reflections on the significance of the event
and this anniversary. This is the second in a series of
comments on that day and what has come after it. -- the
Portside moderators

1 9-11, Imperialism and the Face of Clerical Fascism -- Bill Fletcher
2 The Way That 9/11 Was Sold -- Bill Tabb
3 Just a Mile North -- Dave McReynolds


September 11, Imperialism and the Face of Clerical

By Bill Fletcher, Jr.

Nearly two months to the day after the 9/11 terrorist
attacks, one of my best friends died suddenly, the
result of a massive heart attack. Though physically
weakened by an on-going medical treatment, two medical
professionals concluded that her life was more than
likely cut short by the trauma of 9/11. You see, she was
standing about two blocks away from the Twin Towers and
witnessed nearly everything. On 9/11, while she was near
the Twin Towers we actually spoke on the phone. She
described, in a low, unsettlingly cool voice, seeing
people plunge to their deaths when they jumped from the

The trauma of 9/11 affected everyone I know or have met
since then. Confusion, anger, and deep sadness for most.
Surprise on the part of many white Americans, whereas
for virtually every African American I knew the response
was the same: it was only a matter of time before such
an attack took place. While African Americans did not
support the terrorist attack, they overwhelmingly had a
better sense of the manner in which the USA is perceived
internationally than do most white Americans. That
sense, however, did not lessen the pain and anguish,
particularly as we discovered the fate of friends, loved
ones and associates who died as a result of the attacks.

The US Left and Progressive movements were also confused
by the attacks but for different reasons. Possessing a
better understanding than most of the criminality of US
foreign policy and the aggressions committed around the
world in the name of the red, white and blue, they were
nevertheless unprepared to understand and respond to a
gross, criminal attack on US civilians by a political
movement that claimed to be speaking for the world’s

For some on the Left side of the aisle, confusion led to
silence. For others it led to a post-traumatic retreat
into a World War II-like scenario analogizing 9/11 to
Pearl Harbor. Neither silence nor class collaboration
were appropriate responses to the emergence of a certain
form of clerical fascism.

Clerical fascism is not new. Variations of it existed in
the Europe of the 1930s. In the USA, Father Coughlin,
the right-wing radio commentator, was certainly an
example of such a phenomenon. In the more recent past
clerical semi-fascist and fascist movements have arisen
in the USA within the broader white nationalist

The 9/11 attacks, however, were the result of another
variation: Muslim clerical fascism linked with right-
wing anti-imperialism. In other words, this was a right-
wing movement that challenged Western imperialism in the
name of the oppressed, but with a fascist agenda. The
closest analogy would be Japanese fascism/imperialism
from the period of World War II (which draped itself in
the garb of anti-imperialism and, quite ironically,

Al Qaeda and its allies are just such a clerical fascist
movement. They are not simply theocrats, but they have
used their distorted interpretation of Islam as a means
of advancing a regressive social agenda. They speak for
a middle stratum of marginalized men who are victims of
the global reorganization of capitalism. Their solution,
as with most fascist movements, is a return to a
mythical past, in this case, an era in Islam’s history
that never existed.

The US Left and Progressive movements--with some notable
exceptions--were largely unprepared for the rise of such
a movement in the global South. Committed as we are to
struggling against imperialism, it was generally assumed
that those who were against imperialism were to be
considered progressive. But in the midst of the crises
of both socialism and the national populist projects
(the latter in the global South) an opening has been
created into which right-wing alternatives have entered
allegedly speaking for the dispossessed. These right-
wing alternatives are in no way to be considered friends
or allies. They represent a threat to progress and
should be considered enemies.

This situation has, therefore, complicated issues of
strategy making it necessary to fight BOTH
imperialism/global capitalism and right-wing so-called
anti-imperialist movements. This was one of the greatest
lessons of 9/11, a lesson that became clearer as the
smoke dissipated and we buried the victims of yet
another monster.


Bill Fletcher, Jr. is a racial justice, labor and
international activist and writer. He is on the
editorial board of BlackCommentator.com and the co-
author of Solidarity Divided.


The Way That 9/11 Was Sold

by Bill Tabb

After 9/11, the Bush-Cheney White House initiated
policies that empowered reactionary politics, heightened
fear in their declaration of an endless war against
'evil,' and used resources previously allocated to
essential public services. We know that the
administration followed plans already in the works to
invade Iraq -- even though there was no evidence that
Sadam Hussein was in any way implicated in the attack --
and that the terrorists came from our loyal ally Saudi
Arabia. We know there were neither weapons of mass
destruction nor mushroom clouds on the American horizon.
Bush-Cheney’s actions led to the death of 6,026 American
soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan (through June 5, 2011);
we do not tally the deaths of citizens of the countries
we have invaded.

The way that 9/11 was sold to the American people now
constrains the Obama administration. We have an
entrenched homeland security system that intrudes into
the lives of every American, magnifying each new fear
and perceived insult. (Consider, for instance, the
unreasoning animosity toward an Islamic Center near the
holy ground of the World Trade Center which is devoted
among other goals to building understanding between the
Muslim community and other Americans.)

We have the solipsistic commemoration of our 'heroes,' a
term used to include the majority of our dead who were
victims of the attack and showed no heroism as the term
is formally defined. We learn the lesson that America
must be strong -- which of course underlies further
interventions in the Middle East and provokes more young
men to use the tools of terrorism to combat our bullying
imperialist policies.

Yes, by all means celebrate those first responders and
volunteers at the site. But we must also acknowledge and
mourn the children, women, and men in Iraq, Afghanistan
and elsewhere whose lives and societies our wars have
destroyed. We accept George W.’s explanation that "they"
hate us for our freedom -- even as throughout the region
they put their lives on the line to rid their countries
of the dictators we have maintained for so long in our
drive for oil and strategic hegemony. Former Vice
President Cheney’s memoirs insist that American
exceptionalism requires a continuation of the political
and military policies of the last decade. This cannot be
the legacy of 9/11.

The $3 trillion that has thus far funded our Middle
Eastern wars is about what our politicians are planning
to cut from our national budget, illustrating the point
Martin Luther King made so emphatically: our wars harm
people abroad and at home. These wars are immoral and
must end. The media propaganda celebration of 9/11
distorts this truth. We cannot let the policies of
Cheney and Bush determine our future.


Just a Mile North 

by Dave McReynolds

Living just a mile north of the World Trade Center all
that I could see were the billowing clouds of smoke, and
even those I might have missed if I hadn't stopped one
of the many people coming up Third Ave. (so many, too
many for a tour group, I thought perhaps the subway had
broken down) to ask what happened.

"The World Trade Center has been hit" - then I saw the
clouds of smoke. The horror of it was not clear until I
got home and watched the television, which showed people
leaping from the highest floors as if the thick clouds
of smoke would cushion their fall.

I could not immediately get down there - everything
below Houston St. was blocked off. One thing which
struck me was the immediate blossoming of American
flags. Stores sold out of them, with signs in their
windows "we have no more flags". In Washington Square
Park the crowds of people all had the flags - but my
impression was not that this was a burst of enthusiasm
for the government, much less of hatred for the bombers
(about which at first we knew little) but an effort at
human solidarity in the face of a great tragedy.

What is most impressive were the many signs near the
World Trade Center, which I photographed as soon as I
could get down there, which stressed peace. Not
"revenge" or "kill the bastards", but again and again
"peace" or some variation of that theme.

And what was so infinitely tragic in the days that
followed were the 8 x 10 xerox posters on lampposts
asking "Have you seen my father, last seen on the 80th
floor of the World Trade Center", "have you seen my
wife", a terrible litany of loss.

I leave for others the political analysis of how this
9.11 was used by the administration to lead us into war.
I only want to stress that was not the mood of those in
Lower Manhattan following the attack.


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