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What We Can Learn from the September 11 Attacks

by Kevin Danaher (www.globalexchange.org)

The September 11 attack on the United States is a political gift to the far right. There are already calls for more militarization, bigger CIA budgets (even though the CIA helped create the Taliban in Afghanistan!), foreign policy aggressiveness and restriction of civil rights. It brings out the worst and the best in the population: the best in the form of people helping in search and rescue, giving blood, and coming together to pray for and raise money for the victims' families; the worst in the hostility toward Arab-Americans and a knee-jerk demand to bomb some foreign country that most Americans could not find on a map. The attacks will set back the social justice movement in the U.S. for a period of time that is impossible to estimate. Those of us working to move U.S. foreign policy in a progressive direction have had our efforts set back at a time when we were making headway developing a detailed critique of the neoliberal economic model and corporate power.

The definition of a paradox is something that appears contradictory on the surface but actually makes perfect sense when you get a deeper understanding of the facts. The paradox in this case is that authoritarian forces in the USA will be strengthened by an act of terrorism by foreign authoritarians opposed to US power in the world. They may have been acting out of desperation for a way to influence US policy, but they have influenced it in a way that sets back the efforts of those sectors of US society who have been working the hardest to establish more humane policies abroad and domestically. There will be massive US retaliation abroad, which will entail major loss of innocent life. There will probably be a crackdown on civil liberties domestically. And the Bush administration will not feel much need to justify it all to the public because the public has been numbed by the horror of the TV images, followed by national security officials and "man in the street" interviews calling for foreign blood to be spilled.

This is a situation that will test our moral reserves.

As US citizens we benefit materially from living in the most powerful country in the world. With that privilege comes a responsibility to understand US foreign policy, its history, its effects on people and the environment, and what we can do to make it better. This large-scale educational project is one of the most sensible and compassionate things we can do to get at the roots of all terrorism, whether perpetrated by small groups or large nations. We can show respect for the innocent civilians who died on September 11, 2001 by taking world affairs more seriously, studying, debating, and getting control over our government agencies and corporations which (whether we like it or not) represent "America" out there in the rest of the world.

And we should always remember, you don't fight fire with fire, you fight it with water. And you dont fight hate with hate, you fight it with love.

globalization & war | kevin danaher | www.agp.org | www.all4all.org