20 years ago… Reflection on 9/11/2001

Amid the immediate reactions to the shock of the 9/11/01 attacks, there were many folks on the Left who could see what might be coming down the road ahead. 

The prospect of a wounded nation lashing out with the unleashed war-making capability, and the government’s tendency to look for scapegoats and suppress dissent loomed large. The Sept/Oct 2001 edition was just about ready for the printer when the planes hit, but we made room for the following story. 

The next edition of the Iguana, Nov/Dec 2001, was a 32-page special edition that garnered the 2002 “Best 9-11 Coverage” award from the Campus Alternative Journalism Project and Independent Press Association. Archives of these and other back issues are available at www.gainesvilleiguana.org.

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Sept/Oct 2001 as we went to press …

We had just about finished preparing this issue of the Iguana to go to the printer when we heard the news of the tragedy at the World Trade Center. We still don’t know even roughly the number of lives lost.

Boston compatriot Jason Pramas sent us these preliminary reflections on Tuesday, a few hours after the attacks occurred, and we thought they were worth reprinting here:

This is a dark day.

September 11th, 2001 is certainly “a day that will live in infamy.” But it remains to be seen who will ultimately be regarded by the world’s peoples as infamous. Attackers unknown? Or the government of the United States of America. And the multinational corporations that drive that government’s foreign policy.

The former certainly must be brought to justice for their heinous crimes. But the latter two ultimately share the blame for creating a geopolitical situation that could produce people desperate enough to commit such grand acts of violence.

Let me just say from here in Boston that my heart goes out to all of you in New York City and Washington, DC who are suffering through the aftermath of the destruction by hijacked aircraft of the Twin Towers in NYC and a section of the Pentagon in DC.

As a labor organizer specializing in helping temp and other contingent workers fight for better pay, benefits and working conditions, I am in shock imagining the fates of all the innocent workers in New York who have been made to pay by some still unmasked entity for the anti-democratic foreign policy of successive U.S. governments and the rapacious business practices of the multinational corporations.

I am less shocked by the attack on the Pentagon given that it is a military target. But since early reports indicate that the section of the Pentagon that was hit contained mostly shops, civilian employees, tourists and less military personnel than other sections of the building, I am still pretty shocked.

And since four planeloads of innocent civilians and airline personnel were sent to their deaths to commit these atrocities, I am disgusted that any organization would use people as living weapons in the service of what is clearly a political act. However justified and necessary that act may appear to be to some.

As a member of Service Employees International Union I have just been informed that our union had many members working in the Twin Towers—many of whom have no doubt now shuffled off this mortal coil—and that information fills me with extra doses of sadness and anger.

As a person who has spent much time in New York City, during a decade long courtship with my now-wife, I am at a loss for words at the disfigurement and destruction visited upon a great city that represents the best and worst of what the U.S. has to offer the world. I cannot imagine looking at the skyline the next time I visit the city and seeing a gaping hole where the Twin Towers once stood. Buildings on whose apex I once stood, over a 100 stories in the air, and looked down upon the misery and majesty of human creation for 100 miles in every direction.

In any case, I just wanted to write a fast essay early on in this crisis to say that the motley crew that is the U.S. Left will be facing a difficult period over the coming days, weeks, and months because of today’s tragedy.

Progressives of all stripes—socialists, communists, anarchists, feminists, social democrats, Greens, left populists and even liberal Democrats—must begin serious reflection on today’s events with all speed, and quickly resolve plans of action that will prevent the political situation in this country from becoming untenable for all of us.

The various factions of the U.S. right-wing will probably attempt to use the panic generated by the attacks to increase military funding and to curtail some civil liberties.

A war with one or another of the so-called “rogue states” that are unfriendly to U.S. corporate and governmental interests may be in the offing.

Racists and nativists of various stripes will probably step up attacks on people of Arab descent in the U.S.—and immigrants to this country in general.

The Israel lobby will try to garner even more U.S. financial and military support for that country’s suppression of the democratic aspirations of the Palestinian people.

Most ominously, there remains a serious danger of one side of another detonating a nuclear device of some sort, or targeting a nuclear plant for destruction—with unimaginable consequences for the planet should such a situation occur.

Because of these and other problems that are likely to arise, I think it is vitally important that all people of good conscience in the U.S. keep our wits about us and work hard to stop these dangerous political possibilities from coming to pass.

We all need to challenge the forces of militarism, racism, nativism wherever we come into contact with them.

We need to call for calm.

We need to fight to make sure that the U.S. government does not act blindly and irrationally in its inevitable quest for vengeance.

We certainly need to call for U.S. nuclear forces to stand down from the high state of alert they have remained on for the all of the many years since the end of the Cold War.

We need to fight more than ever for an end to corporate—or to be blunt, capitalist—domination of this country and this planet.

And we need, absolutely, to drive home the point that terrorism against the United States will never end until the United States stops attacking the rest of the world—repeatedly using its military and political might in the service of its corporations’ economic interests.

I hope that, together, U.S. progressives can prevent this country from plunging swiftly into some new version of the Cold War and a new version of the McCarthy era.

Good luck to us all.

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