The Nation Institute Reflects On September 11th, A Tutorial in Liberal National Chauvinism

The wars declared by both the Bush Regime and the Democrats who approved them, and which have been continued and escalated under Obama, had NOTHING to do with the safety of the people of the U.S.

By Sunsara Taylor

Last night I attended a panel discussion at the New School in NYC featuring a a core of the heavy-weights at the Nation Magazine and frequent guests/hosts on MSNBC: Katrina vanden Heuvel, Melissa Harris-Perry, Eric Foner (okay, he's a professor/historian – not a personage of The Nation), Christopher Hayes, and John Nichols.

The event was a reflection on how the U.S. has changed in the ten years since the September 11th attacks. There were important insights brought out about how the mood of varied sections of the population was affected by the attacks ten years ago and how that mood and vulnerability was manipulated by those in power. There was also the occasional acknowledgment of the fact that the U.S. has been torturing people and waging wars that are immensely destructive.
However, most remarkable was the way the panelists and moderator managed to go the entire night and never once discuss – or even mention – the lives of people around the planet that have been destroyed due to the U.S.'s juggernaut of empire!
The wars were mentioned in the context of the overreach of executive power and the need for strengthened checks and balances within the U.S. power structure.
What was NOT mentioned is that over 600,000 Iraqis who have been killed, the millions who have been displaced, or the nightmare of Islamic destructive fundamentalism which has been stoked and unleashed in that country through the U.S.'s immoral and unjust assaults with all of the particularly horrific consequences for women.
What was NOT mentioned were the lives of more than 2,000 people who have been killed by U.S. drones in Pakistan – assaults which have escalated since Obama has been commander in chief. Or the lives of people in Afghanistan – which have been immeasurably worsened due to the U.S.'s wars.
What was NOT said was that the U.S. has committed and institutionalized war crimes and crimes against humanity – and this must be stopped.
Here, a very simple, yet all too often ignored and denied reality is captured powerfully in a quote from Bob Avakian:
Katrina vanden Heuvel argued “against” the wars by saying they should have been an “intelligence and police operation” – not an all-out invasion. She argued that this would have been better at ensuring the “safety of the people” in the U.S.
This is wrong. The wars declared by both the Bush Regime and the Democrats who approved them, and which have been continued and escalated under Obama, had NOTHING to do with the safety of the people of the U.S. They were about pursuing an unchallenged and unchallengeable empire. Further, they didn't make the world safer – for anyone! First of all, they didn't make the world safer for people throughout Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan, Libya and other countries (to his credit, Eric Foner at least mentioned all of these war zones as places the U.S. was now militarily involved in). Further, they didn't make it safer for the thousands of immigrants who got rounded up, the ones who were attacked and brutalized by their “neighbors”, the activists who have been spied on and set up, the public figures who've been told to “watch what they say.”
All of this – and more – is analyzed in Revolution this week.
John Nichols, who has taken many important stands over the years against the U.S.'s wars, repression, and torture, disappointed by keeping the whole discussion confined to the structures and functioning of the U.S. nation. He was the moderator. He ended by asking the panel what they would say to those who are losing hope that all of the changes and repressive measures that have been instituted can be challenged or changed.
Eric Foner challenged people not to lose hope, insisting that many of the biggest changes in history have come as a surprise – but he really didn't challenge people to act or offer any direction beyond that. Both Melissa Harris-Perry and Christopher Hayes suggested that it would be fine more or less to sit back and let things play out.
Harris-Perry argued in favor of allowing people to give up some of their freedoms for the larger safety of society. She raised her concerns about it, but mainly to assuage them publicly, even insisting that, “I'm a small person,” so she doesn't want society to retreat to a state of nature. She invoked the Leviathan and insisted that it was important that the communities retained the power – and that they were able to give up some power when they were scared and would have the chance to push back against that as well.
Hayes united with Harris-Perry, explicitly invoking the “self-correcting” nature of U.S. society. He said that ten years ago, it would've been impossible to imagine that Al Qaeda would seem like a footnote, but today they do. In ten years, maybe we'll look back at all the problems of today (implying the economic crisis and the failure of U.S. institutions) and feel that what seemed like an all-consuming crisis turned out not to be one. Take home message: don't worry, sit back, things will take care of themselves.
Katrina vanden Heuvel ended with a pregnant observation that we seem to be in a “pre-revolutionary moment.” She spoke to the deep mood of discontentment and stirrings around the world.
This last point is highly significant. We DO need a revolution. Not the kind vanden Heuvel was speaking of, but her insights on the moment need to be heard.
Ten years after September 11th, the world has become even more unlivable for millions of people all because of the criminal system of imperialism that is ravaging the planet, most especially the top dog imperialist the U.S. It is on us to take responsibility to lift this burden off the back of the planet. Get down with the movement for revolution. Check out Revolution Newspaper this week – and every week.

This article originally appeared on Sunsara Taylor's blog on September 9, 2011.

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