The date of September 11th, 2001 is ingrained in the minds of people around the world, albeit for different reasons and, sometimes, commemorating different events all together (Chile, 1973). The events that occurred that day have profoundly altered the political landscape of not only the United States, but the world, as the changes in policy, particularly the war policies, of the United States inevitably have an impact on everyone and everywhere else. People all over the U.S. will commemorate the lives lost on that day. Most of us who are old enough to remember will never forget the whirlpool of emotions that swelled in us, or the vivid memories of where we were, how we heard, when we first saw the events of that day. And, of course, there is nothing wrong with commemorating the innocent lives lost and the heart-wrenching pain felt by family members and friends who lost loved ones, or the ongoing emotional, physical, and mental trauma, as partially documented in Michael Moore's SICKO, that many of the firefighters and workers who helped clear the area and save lives that day still struggle with.
To understand the events that occured on that day, however, we should address the root causes of terrorism, what Arundhati Roy calls the "privatization of war." To do this, we must take an honest look at the past, at the horrors and atrocities committed by state-sanctioned violence. Whose state, we may ask. The answer is painfully clear, our state. Noam Chomsky argues that the U.S. is the "leading terrorist state" given it's history of violence and that it "is the only country that was condemned for international terrorism by the World Court and that rejected a [UN] Security Council resolution calling on states to observe international law." All states maintain an illegitimate monopoly on the use of force, they create the laws that dictate what is legal and what is not. The various administrations that have managed the U.S. state, both Democrat and Republican, perhaps more than any other state, often make use of this monopoly on violence. I cannot, for sake of time and length, go into every instance of U.S. sponsored terrorism or violence aimed at civil society and popular movements. We should, however, take the words of hip-hop artist and activist Immortal Technique to heart:
How could this be, the land of the free, home of the brave, indigenous holocaust and the home of the slaves? Corporate America dancing off-beat to the rhythm. You really think this country never sponsored terrorism? Human rights violations we continue the saga, El Salvador and the Contras in Nicaragua. And on top of that you still want to take me to prison, just cause I won't trade humanity for patriotism.
The list of interference through violent means, both direct and indirect, is almost endless. However, I hope today to focus instead on the date so percussive in the decision to go to war both in Afghanistan and Iraq, the date so copiously produced and so profoundly ingrained into the American psyche: September 11th. We alone do not express our remorse on this day. It is instead a date we share with many victims around the world. Today is a day not only to remember the victims of the World Trade Center, but to remember ALL victims of terrorism, whether committed by a minority fringe group or a highly-complex, industrially advanced capitalist state. Whether perpetrated by "men with beards in the Tora Bora," as one hears George Galloway often say, or by men in business suits in Washington, D.C. and Langley, Virginia. It was the Iraqi-British hip-hop artist Lowkey that made this point so poignantly, perhaps with a bit of hyperbole, that "America's inflicted a million ground zeros." So, let us remember some of these...
September 11th, 1919, Woodrow Wilson sends in the United States marines invade Honduras, ostensibly to "protect American interests and lives" but in reality to prop up the United Fruit company. A popular resistance to the U.S. sponsored, corporate dictator who allowed United Fruit to rape and pillage the labor and resources of the Honduran people. Wilson could not allow this and, in order to save the puppet dictatorship so loyal to U.S. business elites, sent in the marines to restore order.
September 11th, 1922, marks the date that the British Mandate of Palestine first goes into effect. British guns would kill over a thousand Palestinians and set the stage for the creation of a new state. This mandate formalized British rule in Palestine for over thirty years and would facilitate the dislocation and forced removal of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their land after World War II. Although not directly related to the U.S. at this point, Israel would be created from this colonial mandate and, of course, the U.S. would become the main supplier of military aid to the Jewish state and support it's apartheid style, genocidal tendencies.
September 11th, 1973 also marks the overthrow and assassination of the democratically elected Chilean president Salvador Allende. Augusto Pinochet and his military cadre would take over Chilean society and rule with an iron-fist (to institute the "invisible hand" of the neoliberal, free-market ideology friendly to U.S. business interests) for seventeen years. While we can be sure that Allende remained a mild social-democrat, even his paltry reforms threatened the private sector.
September 11th, 1982, International troops leave Beirut after the invasion of Lebanon by Israel. Five days later, the Orwellian Israeli Defense Force, armed and propped up by the United States, surround refugee camps at Sabra and Shatila and grant tacit permission to a Christian Lebanese militia group to massacre several thousand refugees.
The list, of course, goes on. I did not mention the fact that in 1609 Henry Hudson uses blankets infected with bubonic plague to massacre the indigenous population and steal Manhattan island. Nor do we remember that in 1839 President Martin van Buren attempted to return freed Black slaves to the Spanish crown, a horrendous insult to humanity. We could also remember 1943 as U.S. troops land in Korea and set the stage for massacres that would eventually condemn in 10% (3 million of 30 million) of Korea's population to death. Or, perhaps, we could also remember the victims that were the result of both the war and sanctions that occurred after then President Bush giving his infamous speech signifying he would send troops to Iraq in 1990.
It appears that we should be commemorating not simply those lives lost on September 11th, 2001, but ALL of the lives lost around the world on this date, many of them directly or indirectly the result of U.S. imperialism or colonial exploits. September 11th should stand as a date not intended to rile up virulent patriotism, anti-immigrant hysteria, and war-mongering, but should instead be remembered as a call to ending violent conflict, to removing the shackling debt and economic hegemony over third world nations, and to articulating a desire for a society that humanizes all people, not simply those who share our same skin color, religious affiliations, or national boundaries. Most important of all, we should take Noam Chomsky's advice when he simply reiterates the golden rule we are all taught in elementary school; if we want to stop terrorism, we should force our government to stop participating in it.