Wednesday, September 10, 2008

9/11/01: Seven Years Later Where Do We Stand?

As I sat in Memorial Hall this past Monday and listened to Independent Presidential Candidate Ralph Nader address the crowd on various issues, my mind began to wander through all that has happened in this country since September 11, 2001. We often hear that it was the "day that changed everything" and our current leaders often accuse critics of thinking in a "pre-9/11 mindset", but with so much of this rhetoric used in order to achieve political gain we often find ourselves in discussions that are empty of substance. It is simply unproductive and intellectually dishonest to operate under the mindset that a second time-line of historical events began on 9/11/01. While it is certainly true that the events which transpired on that day radically altered the foreign and domestic policy of the United States, these attacks and the subsequent policy decisions implemented by our country's leadership must continue to be understood within the broader context of history and examined with a critical eye.

Immediately following 9/11 the Bush Administration and the leadership in Congress embarked upon a foreign policy that has resulted in an occupation of two countries, a crackdown on civil liberties at home, and the expansion of economic forces into areas of the world that are of strategic importance to so-called "American interests". This expansion of economic forces has led to a rapid increase in the corporate influence over war and occupation. It was first reported in the Los Angeles Times in July, 2007 that the number of private contractors in Iraq exceeded the number of U.S. troops. The private contractors in Iraq do everything from providing oil services to guarding high level diplomats:

The most controversial contractors are those working for private security companies, including Blackwater, Triple Canopy and Erinys. They guard sensitive sites and provide protection to U.S. and Iraqi government officials and businessmen.
Security contractors draw some of the sharpest criticism, much of it from military policy experts who say their jobs should be done by the military. On several occasions, heavily armed private contractors have engaged in firefights when attacked by Iraqi insurgents.
Others worry that the private security contractors lack accountability. Although scores of troops have been prosecuted for serious crimes, only a handful of private security contractors have faced legal charges.

Most importantly, these private contractors who perform functions usually designated to the military, are not beholden to any public interest but to a bottom line. Companies like Blackwater, have already had their contracts renewed in Iraq and are expanding their services domestically (which I will discuss in a moment).
Like the foreign policy decisions implemented since 9/11/01, domestic policy has been passed which has done little for the advancement of Democracy. The PATRIOT ACT was passed a little over a month after the attacks on the World Trade Center and has only aided in the crackdown on civil liberties and dissent within the United States. The most recent example of this was in St. Paul, Minnesota for the Republican National Convention. This Convention saw preemptive police raids on media groups and journalists arrested for doing their job. The city of St. Paul with the help of Federal officials worked to stamp out dissenting voices using police intimidation and force. 8 members of the RNC Welcoming Committee were arrested in one of the preemptive house raids and have been charged with "furthering terrorism" under a Minnesota law that is similar to the PATRIOT Act. This is explained in a recent piece authored by Nat Perry and posted on

The language of the Minnesota law is eerily similar to the original Patriot Act, passed hastily in the aftermath of 9/11. Section 802 of the Patriot Act defines domestic terrorism as "activities that (A) involve acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the U.S. or any state; (B) appear to be intended (i) to influence policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or (ii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping; and (C) occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the U.S. ..."
Groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union and the American Bar Association have long objected to this definition, particularly the provision of (B)(i). The prohibition against seeking to influence government policy by "intimidation" is so vague and so subjective that virtually any act of civil disobedience or confrontational protest could fit under the definition, the critics have said.

In addition to vague legislation which is being used to clamp down and even criminalize dissent, we are now seeing the domestic expansion of private contracting firms. Blackwater is notorious for their actions in Iraq and most notably for their involvement in the Nissour Square Massacre, but a recent article in the Los Angeles Times by reporter Jeremy Scahill makes it clear that private contracting firms see the United States as an open market as well:

Blackwater is also winning at home. The company recently fought back widespread local opposition to its plans for a new warfare training center in San Diego. When residents and local officials tried to block it, Blackwater sued the city. A federal judge, appointed by President Bush's father, ordered San Diego to stand down. Now the company is entrenched, guns a blazin', in San Diego and is well positioned to cash in on the increasingly privatized border-patrol industry.
Blackwater's California expansion is just one of several ventures that reveal how Blackwater is growing. Among the others:
* Prince's private spy agency, Total Intelligence Solutions, is now open for business. Run by three veteran CIA operatives, the company offers "CIA-type services" to governments and Fortune 1000 companies.
* Blackwater was asked by the Pentagon to bid for a share of a whopping $15-billion contract to "fight terrorists with drug-trade ties" in countries such as Colombia, Bolivia, Afghanistan and Uzbekistan. Analysts say it could be the company's "biggest job" ever.
* Blackwater is wrapping up work on its own armored vehicle, the Grizzly, as well as its Polar Airship 400, a surveillance blimp Blackwater wants to market for use in monitoring the U.S.-Mexico border.

Given the accountability concerns that were discussed earlier in this piece as well as the overall concerns over a corporation performing these types of services, I decided to ask Independent Presidential Candidate Ralph Nader about this issue during his recent discussion at Memorial Hall. I asked Nader if he would speak to the significance of the growing influence of private contracting firms with tasks that have traditionally been run by the government. Nader stated that this is "another step towards fascism" in today's society. "There should be a group whose purpose it is to put Blackwater out of business," Nader continued, "There have got to be indicators when a society is on their way to fascism...these are the indicators."

So here we are, seven years after the attacks that have led to a war on a feeling, the occupation of countries, the suppression of rights and liberties at home, and the failure to have an honest discourse on exactly what is happening to this country. It should have been an indication to the path we were on when President Bush had to be pushed into even having an investigation into the 9/11 attacks by the family members of those killed. Critical thinking and transparency have been sacrificed in the name of fear and security and those who stand up to defend the Constitution are now labeled as "soft on terror" and caught in the "pre 9/11 mindset". While the attacks on 9/11/01 were a defining moment in the eyes of many Americans we simply can not let ourselves be caught up in the rhetoric that so often surrounds that day. We must view 9/11 in its historical context and examine the events that have happened since that day by utilizing a full historical timeline. Violations of the Constitution should not be acceptable simply because "we were attacked" and detainees shouldn't be tortured because "there are people who want to kill us." The path on which this country finds itself is unacceptable and we must stand up and demand that it change. Let us use this seventh anniversary of these attacks to mourn those who were lost that day, mourn those who have become casualties of imperialist policies since that day, and declare that all of this madness has gone far enough.

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1 comment:

The Commentator said...

Here in Canada in 1970 the government decreed the War Measures Act - martial law - in the wake of the FLQ terrorist (a ragtime group of murderous revolutionaries who sought Quebec independence) crisis.

Soon, tanks rolled into the streets of Montreal to deal with it.

Was it a conservative or right-winger who ordered it?


It was Prime Minister Trudeau from the Liberal party. You didn't get more socialist than him.

Here's what I'm driving at. When something foreign takes place it automatically triggers our defense mechanism. One way to look at this is employing the "better safe than sorry" philosophy.

Trudeau wasn't sure, I suspect, how to deal with it but he wanted to use force and suspended civil liberties to preserve Canada's democracy.

The question is what was the lasting implications, if any, of this? The larger question for all Western democracies functioning in liberal and pluralist societies is can democracies suspend freedom in the interest of security and quickly revert back?

I suspect this is the case with the U.S. It so happens companies are profiting from it and in this light this is where the Canadian example has its limitations.

Then again, Canada's democracy is not all that transparent and there's been a growth in the tendency of PM's to act like benevolent dictators.