News Review Archive

14th September, 2001

Left Condemns Terror Attack

The anti-capitalist left throughout the world has added its voice to the near-universal condemnation of the terrorist outrage in New York City which has left thousands dead. In the United States itself, the Independent Progressive Politics Network (IPPN)  Executive Committee, which brings together a large number of left and green parties, “thoroughly condemn(ed) the hijacking of four airplanes and their use to attack the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. We grieve with and our hearts go out to those who have family members who have died, been wounded or who are still missing because of these actions. We believe that those responsible for these attacks should be brought to justice.”  IPPN went on to reiterate its “position as an organization with members who have spent years of their lives, in some cases decades, fighting the Pentagon and U.S. militarism. We have played an active role in the movement against the IMF, World Bank, World Trade Organization, NAFTA, the FTAA and a deeply-rooted, unjust, racist and imperialistic foreign policy. Many of us have worked hard and endured sacrifices in opposition to the state terrorism used and supported by successive U.S. governments going back many decades against people struggling for freedom and liberation around the world. We do not support such violence against civilians as we saw yesterday as a legitimate response to these destructive realities. There are great dangers ahead of us,” warned the Network statement: “Without question, the Bush Administration will attempt to use this tragedy to create a more repressive society at home, increase military spending and make the ‘fight against terrorism’ even more the basis of our foreign policy.”

As is so often the case, Noam Chomsky provided the most apposite immediate response:

“Today's attacks were major atrocities. In terms of number of victims they do not reach the level of many others, for example, Clinton's bombing of the Sudan with no credible pretext, destroying half its pharmaceutical supplies and probably killing tens of thousands of people (no one knows, because the US blocked an inquiry at the UN and no one cares to pursue it). Not to speak of much worse cases, which easily come to mind. But that this was a horrendous crime is not in doubt. The primary victims, as usual, were working people: janitors, secretaries, firemen, etc. It is likely to prove to be a crushing blow to Palestinians and other poor and oppressed people. It is also likely to lead to harsh security controls, with many possible ramifications for undermining civil liberties and internal freedom.

The events reveal, dramatically, the foolishness of ideas about ‘missile defense.’ As has been obvious all along, and pointed out repeatedly by strategic analysts, if anyone wants to cause immense damage in the US, including weapons of mass destruction, they are highly unlikely to launch a missile attack, thus guaranteeing their immediate destruction. There are innumerable easier ways that are basically unstoppable. But today's events will, nonetheless, be used to increase the pressure to develop these systems and put them into place. ‘Defense’ is a thin cover for plans for militarization of space, and with good PR, even the flimsiest arguments will carry some weight among a frightened public. In short, the crime is a gift to the hard jingoist right, those who hope to use force to control their domains. That is even putting aside the likely US actions, and what they will trigger -- possibly more attacks like this one, or worse. The prospects ahead are even more ominous than they appeared to be before the latest atrocities.”


Last year’s Socialist Party USA Presidential Candidate, David McReynolds, who lives in New York City, wrote on Tuesday that  “Manhattan feels under siege, with all bridges, tunnels, and subways closed, and tens of thousands of people walking slowly north from Lower Manhattan. As we sit in our offices here at War Resisters League, our most immediate thoughts are of the hundreds, if not thousands, of New Yorkers who have lost their lives in the collapse of the World Trade Center. The day is clear, the sky is blue, but vast clouds billow over the ruins where so many have died, including a great many rescue workers who were there when the final collapse occurred. Of course we know our friends and co-workers in Washington D.C. have similar thoughts about the ordinary people who have been trapped in the parts of the Pentagon which were also struck by a jet. And we think of the innocent passengers on the hi-jacked jets who were carried to their doom on this day.” 

McReynolds was one of the drafters of a statement from the Executive of the War Resisters’ League (which, like the SPUSA, has its headquarters in Manhattan, though at a safe distance from the targets of the attacks), which began “We do not know at this time from what source the attack came. We do know that Yasser Arafat has condemned the bombing. We hesitate to make an extended analysis until more information is available but some things are clear. For the Bush Administration to talk of spending hundreds of billions on Star Wars is clearly the sham it was from the beginning, when terrorism can so easily strike through more routine means. We urge Congress and George Bush that whatever response or policy the U.S. develops it will be clear that this nation will no longer target civilians, or accept any policy by any nation which targets civilians. This would mean an end to the sanctions against Iraq, which have caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of civilians. It would mean not only a condemnation of terrorism by Palestinians but also the policy of assassination against the Palestinian leadership by Israel, and the ruthless repression of the Palestinian population and the continuing occupation by Israel of the West Bank and Gaza. The policies of militarism pursued by the United States have resulted in millions of deaths, from the historic tragedy of the Indochina war, through the funding of death squads in Central America and Colombia, to the sanctions and air strikes against Iraq. This nation is the largest supplier of "conventional weapons" in the world - and those weapons fuel the starkest kind of terrorism from Indonesia to Africa.” You can read the rest of the statement.

Outside the United States the message was the same. The Cuban government, which offered airport facilities, medical aid and other help, issued the following statement:

“The Government of the Republic of Cuba has learned with grief and sadness of the violent, surprise attacks carried out this morning against civilian and official facilities in the cities of New York and Washington which have caused numerous deaths. Cuba's position against any terrorist action is known. It is not possible to forget that for over 40 years our country has been a victim of such actions fostered from within the territory of the United States. Both for historical reasons and ethical principles, the Government of our country strongly rejects and condemns the attacks against the aforementioned facilities and hereby expresses its most heartfelt sympathies to the American people for the painful, unjustifiable loss of human lives resulting from such attacks. In this bitter hour, our people commiserate with the people of the United States and express their full willingness to cooperate within its modest possibilities with the health institutions and any other medical or humanitarian organization of that country in treating, caring for and rehabilitating the victims caused by this mornings events.”

Francis Wurtz, President of the United Left Group in the European Parliament, called the attack “a challenge to the whole human community”. From further away,  Democratic Socialist Party (DSP) of Australia, began its measured response by saying that  “Socialists unequivocally condemn the September 11 terror bombings in the United States,” and continued, “The killing of thousands of ordinary working people is absolutely criminal and has nothing whatsoever to do with the struggle for a better world. Indeed, this atrocity will undoubtedly make this struggle more difficult and aid the forces of capitalist reaction.

Popular struggles throughout history have often involved the killing of oppressors, tyrants, police torturers and the like. Such actions may or may not be politically expedient. But the attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon was of a fundamentally different kind. It was a deliberate act of mass murder. The perpetrators made no political demands, they had no goal except to kill indiscriminately and inflict pain, suffering and devastation. It showed an astonishing callousness and brutality. Our sympathy and solidarity are completely with the innocent victims of these terrorist acts not with their perpetrators.”

  Fighting terror with terror?

Will the US government react by creating still more hecatombs? You bet. As Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St Clair observe, in Counterpunch, “…the lust for retaliation traditionally outstrips precision in identifying the actual assailant. By early evening on Tuesday America's national security establishment were calling for a removal of all impediments on the assassination of foreign leaders. Led by President Bush, they were endorsing the prospect of attacks not just on the perpetrators but on those who might have harbored them. From the nuclear priesthood is coming the demand that mini-nukes be deployed on a preemptive basis against the enemies of America.” Go to Counterpunch for a complete archive of their reportage on the attack.

Michael Albert of Z-Net warned that “In coming weeks we may suffer a kind of celebration in America, a celebration of security and of power, a celebration of surreptitious information retrieval, a celebration of arms growth, and perhaps of assassination, all described as virtuous goals rather than uncivil abominations, all touted as if the terror victims will be honored rather than defiled by our preparing to entomb still more innocent people around the world. Normal good-hearted Americans will weep for the suffering that today’s events exacted and hope to create a world in which such hate and callousness disappears. But I fear that America’s leaders will cynically bulk up their ammo belts while seeking to make ubiquitous their listening devices—trying to relegate public freedoms to an incinerator. In this environment, people of good will must explain as often as necessary that terrorism is horrific and insane, but so to is capitalist business as usual. And we must not step back from dissent, but must instead work harder to oppose all kinds of injustice with massive public demonstrations and civil disobedience.”

The danger is not only of retaliatory state violence, but of growing repression within the US and a racist collective punishment response. As Earl Ofari Hutchinson of the National Alliance for Positive Action says, “The clamor by Bush and the Americans to hit even harder at the guilty will grow to a roar. But the guilty must not translate into anyone with an Arab face and a Muslim surname. Go to this web site   for the rest of Hutchinson’s article.

Outside the States, left parties in other NATO countries warned of the dangers of a violent and inappropriate reaction. German PDS Chair Gabi Zimmer and head of PDS Parliamentary Group Roland Claus condemned the  NATO Council decision to “(invoke) the mutual defence clause in Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty. Article 5 applies to the aggression of a state against one of the treaty's parties, not to an armed attack of a terrorist group. Therefore the decision is doubtful from a judicial point of view. Politically it may rather escalate than de-escalate the situation. In no case should there be counter-attacks with innocent people being the victims. Peace must be restored, not a chain of violence and counter-violence let loose.

Those responsible for the appalling criminal act in the USA must be ostracised world wide. They are to be punished. But no more innocent people should suffer.” See the PDS statement

A personal statement from the editor

In the near future Spectre will carry, I am sure, a great deal of comment on these atrocities, their background and aftermath. For the moment, however, having, we hope, pointed our readers towards material which helps to make sense of the horror, I merely want to express, on behalf of all at Spectre, our deep sympathy for and solidarity with the ordinary people of New York City and Washington DC.  I have been made welcome by all sorts of people in both of these cities, as a historian doing research at the Library of Congress in the 1980s, and more recently as an editor and author. New York is a place of extraordinary vitality and openness, and I am confident that both of these qualities will enable its people to survive this outrage and rebuild their lives.