Continued from More Brutal and Random
A Look Back at September 11, 2001
On the first anniversary of 9/11, my comments published on 11 September, 2002, in the Online Asia Times in my article "The Decline of the American Century" reproduced below.
Inequities of the Current Economic Order
“It is the afternoon sun that dazzles onlookers though it is past its prime. That sums up the height of US power before last September 11. If the US nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki without fear of retaliation was the acme of the American Century, then the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, symbols of economic and military might, could be termed the beginning of the end of the American Century.
After having thoughtlessly helped create the monster of Islamic fundamentalism, the United States has now succeeded in arousing it, ranging the might of Islamic people and their faith against itself. Earlier, the poor and the deprived could find solace and action in communist and leftist ideologies and programs, but after the dismantling of the Soviet Union, many in the Islamic world have taken to extreme religious movements.
Throughout history, there have always been asymmetrical wars, with the only recourse of the weak to sacrifice his life against a powerful tyrant. Among Muslims, Caliph Ali's son Imam Hussein, his forces outnumbered, is revered for his sacrifice at Kerbala for his principles. Today, nations send their soldiers to die for country or corporate interests in exchange for Purple Hearts and Distinguished Service Medals.
The American Century
The American Century began in the early 20th century when European economic and military power, with Great Britain first among equals, started declining and was transferred to the American subcontinent - from the City of London to Wall Street. World War I announced the arrival of the new guy on the block, the United States, but it was not yet numero uno. That happened in World War II, when the stamp of brutal power was heard around the world as the United States dropped two nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki at a time when no other world power had such a weapon.
What has been described as the Cold War was almost like a simulated nuclear war, in which the two sides invested most of their economic strength. The USSR, a lesser economic power, lost the war by the end of the 1980s. Historically, however, prolonged wars between two well-matched enemies affect both adversely. It was the exhaustion caused by the prolonged wars between the Byzantine and the Sasanian empires, as well as plagues and famines, that allowed Islam, the new military power from the deserts of Arabia, so easily and quickly to carve an empire that stretched from the Atlantic to China. So after its Cold War victory, aided by a naive Mikhail Gorbachev and consolidated with the help of Boris Yeltsin and his coterie, but it became apparent very soon that the capitalist system led by the US had also started shuddering.
The current international finance architecture is founded on the US dollar as the dominant reserve currency, accounting for 68 percent of global currency reserves, up from 51 percent a decade ago. Yet in 2000, the US share of global exports ($781.1 billion out of a world total of $6.2 trillion) was only 12.3 percent and its share of global imports ($1.257 trillion out of a world total of $6.65 trillion) was 18.9 percent.
Ever since 1971, when US president Richard Nixon arbitrarily took the dollar off the gold standard ($35 per ounce) in force since the Bretton Woods Conference at the end of World War II, the dollar has become the global monetary instrument that the United States, and only the United States, can produce by fiat, despite record US current-account deficits and the US as the leading debtor nation. The US national debt as of April 4 was $6.021 trillion against a GDP of $9 trillion.
The Bush administration's foreign policy has undermined the fragile structure of international law and conventions built up during the past three centuries, to which the United States made important contributions.
Until 1998, the United States and its allies Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Pakistan fully supported the Taliban and supplied them funds. Unocal, which spent millions of dollars on geological surveys on a projected pipeline from Central Asia to South Asia, courted the Taliban, whose leading officials were negotiating in Texas in 1998. It was only after the maverick Taliban decided to favor an Argentine rival that John Maresca, vice president of Unocal, testifying before the US Congress, said that there would be no pipeline until the Taliban were gone and a more friendly government was established.
Look how the energy interests are trying to rule the United States and the rest of the world. Zalmay Khalilzad, whom the Bush administration appointed as its envoy to Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban, was a Unocal consultant, as was, according to some reports, Karzai himself. (Pushtuns call Karzai "America's Babrak Karmal", a reference to the Soviet-backed president who ruled Afghanistan from 1979-86.) It is well known that the Bush family acquired its wealth through oil; former president George Bush Sr still works with the Carlyle Group that specializes in huge oil investments abroad. His son's commerce secretary, Dale Evans, was chairman and chief executive officer of an oil company. National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice was on the board of Chevron before going to Washington. (The oil company even named a giant tanker after her, although the ship has reportedly been quietly renamed the Altair Voyager.) Dick Cheney, before becoming vice president, worked for the giant oil conglomerate Halliburton.
Dangers from Within
The danger to the US "way of life and stability" could come from within, from black American Muslims who now number 3 million to 5 million.
The black community and Muslims remember many historic wrongs done to them. Of the 2 million Americans in prisons, two-thirds are non-white. Many feel oppressed by the white power structure and sentencing disparities, which too often fall most harshly on minorities. Islam offers brotherhood, dignity, and a sense of pride and solidarity, especially for non-whites. But many, alienated and disfranchised, are prime targets for radical Islamists who preach a religion of violence, of overcoming oppression by jihad. Many black Americans have experienced maltreatment and dehumanization. Conversion to Islam increased after September 11, even among Hispanics.
Perhaps it is in the United States itself where its ill-informed and misinformed people need not just a regime change but a system change. Where energy and military-industry corporate interests have hijacked power from the people to pursue their narrow objectives. Where corporate chiefs enjoy coercive powers even the Communist Party chiefs in the former Soviet Union would have envied. Where blacks, Hispanics and the poor cannot freely choose a president (as in Florida, where only by not counting their votes did George Bush become the president).
After the fall of the Berlin Wall, one misses Pravda and Izvestia, not that they propounded truth (Russian Pravda) but they were a check on the so-called free Western media, which were careful and comparatively honest. Now, without any restraints, the brainwashing monopoly of Western propaganda is wreaking havoc around the world, especially in the United States, whether it was the 1990-91 Gulf War, the bombing of Yugoslavia, Jammu and Kashmir, and now Iraq.
More Brutal and Random
The Decline of the American Century
Jihadis: Assassins by Another Name
A Look Back to September 11, 2001