9/11 and The Constituencies of Dissent

@15 September 2002


The United States has declared a global war on terrorism. We can discount this in any strict sense since nation states have always been the major sponsors of terror, and the United States is no exception.

However, the US is waging war on a certain category of terrorists, notably those posing a threat to current American interests. That is a credible and normal objective for a nation state. Further, the United States has also declared that it will ignore the sovereign rights and interests of all other states and peoples in pursuing such terrorists. This is neither wise nor defensible. Now, after thrashing around in Afghanistan with hazy results, the doctrine has been extended to declare that states such as Iraq which control resources desired by America are legitimate objects of invasion. We recall that Iraq had a similar take on Kuwait... Yes we know that Iraq is a horrid totalitarian dictatorship. One of many. We also know that George Bush has a family vendetta to settle with Saddam Hussein. We are mindful that Hussein's Iraq was supported by earlier American administrations, as was the Afghani Taliban, while they served American commercial interests.

I for one remain unconvinced that weapons of mass destruction (the public excuse for America's plans) are any less dangerous in the hands of America and its allies than they are in the hands of its sometime enemy states; (yes I do agree that Osama bin Laden with an A-bomb in his suitcase would be exceptionally undesirable..). The American administration has shown a consistent contempt for long established rules of conflict, has been the planet's major retailer of armaments for decades, has torn up many hard won treaties, has made it plain for years that it considers the peoples of the United Nations to be inferior species, and above all has lied without compunction.

Unhappily, little of this is grasped by most Americans themselves, who seem unable to understand international opposition to their government's policies. They are easy targets for rabble rousing xenophobia disguised as patriotism. As for the rest of us though, we know the old drums of imperialism when we hear them. So much for cultural enlightenment and human progress in the land of the free. Here is a nation which has effectively declared that it is at war with the world in perpetuity, and will be calling at your place, if not today, then probably tomorrow.

Social and political equilibrium requires a balance of human interests on this earth, so America's voice cannot be overwhelming. The United States comprises roughly 4.6% of the world's population, yet consumes 30% of the world's engaged resources. It is an obscene situation and obviously cannot be sustained for very long. It is the antithesis of ideals embodied in America's own constitution. Certainly, military force is a brittle firewall against such imbalance.

If the events of 9/11 have any redeeming outcome, it may be to have brought home to some Americans that they are indeed a very isolated minority. Their long term survival as a prosperous culture cannot be built on the slavery, servitude and exploitation of non-Americans. However, we see little sign from the White House coterie that this reality has been accepted in any constructive way. They understand only the preservation of privilege at any cost. A number of influential figures in the present American administration appear to relish war itself.

Few would accept the kind of society envisaged by those terrorists involved in the present conflict with America. Also relatively few share their religious or ideological obsessions in depth. Even fewer can endorse their methods at close quarters. Yet in spite of all of these caveats anti-American terrorists can draw upon a potential pool of dissent comprising 95% of the world's population. For 95% of the world is not American, and American administrations have made abundantly clear that they do not consider this 95% entitled to the rights, the democracy, the rule of law or the humanity extended to American citizens.

Imperial Washington's allergic reaction to the International Court of Justice shows it is well aware that many other parts of the world do not share the American public's Mickey Mouse memory of the United States role in historical events. For one example (amongst thousands) see this Korean view of American participation in the Korean War : "War Criminals or War Heroes?"

Indeed, within America itself whole swathes of the population feel themselves disenfranchised and therefore join the other 95% of human beings potentially alienated from the Washington administration.

The strident calls to patriotism coming from the White House are simply synthetic tribalism on a global stage. In this season, we, the unanointed, find it hard to recall with much sympathy that ancient truth : uneasy lies the head that wears the crown.

All opinions expressed in Thor's Unwise Ideas and The Passionate Skeptic are entirely those of the author, who has no aim to influence, proselytize or persuade others to a point of view. He is pleased if his writing generates reflection in readers, either for or against the sentiment of the argument.

"9/11 and the Constituencies of Dissent" copyrighted to Thor May; all rights reserved 2002

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