9-11 at ten: a frustrated report from New York City
Ten years after 9-11, there are many hopeful signs that the world is finally moving on from the dystopian dynamic unleashed by the attacks. As we pointed out after the killing of Osama bin Laden: Al-Qaeda has been utterly left behind by the Arab Spring, which has already overturned two authoritarian regimes (Tunisia and Egypt), with more almost certainly on the way. While there have been few and small Islamist protests over Osama's killing, basically secular and progressive protests against dictators are mounting throughout the Arab world, the greater Middle East and beyond. Al-Qaeda has been relegated to playing catch-up, hoping that continued terror attacks can transform the struggles in Yemen and Morocco from popular civil revolutions to jihadist civil wars. It hasn't been working. Alas, a brief review of the streets of downtown Manhattan on this day indicates how little these changes have extended to popular consciousness in New York CIty and the United States...
The official and mainstream commemorations, of course, bristle with American flags and strike a tone of shamelessly maudlin patriotism. Even after 10 years and the fall of the Bush regime, there isn't a trace of grappling with the fact that the US is still at war in Afghanistan and Iraq (compare less than four years of war after Pearl Harbor), with the horrific toll in human lives these adventures have taken (dwarfing 9-11, of course), with the dramatic erosion of civil liberties (as "freedom" is ironically reified in saturation propaganda), with the fact that the Guantánamo Bay prison camp is still open, with the normalization of torture, even with the seemingly irreversible economic decline that is related to the hubristic spasm of military escapades.
But this is to be expected. What is utterly frustrating is the complete absence of any progressive alternative to official self-congratulatory propaganda—or, at least, none was in evidence on the streets of downtown Manhattan today. Bicycling down Broadway toward Ground Zero, this observer came across three protest events organized by what passes for the "left" these days—each more offensive than the one before it.
The first, on the sidewalk outside the north end of City Hall Park, was an art exhibit on an anti-war and pro-human rights theme. There was little overtly obnoxious about the displays, which sought to remind viewers precisely of the human toll from the US reaction to 9-11—representations of the iconic images from Abu Ghraib, and so on. But the exhibit, if one stopped to check, was organized by 9-11 Global Memorial, a project of World Can't Wait, which is in turn a front for the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP), a doctrinaire Maoist cult. It is obvious that the RCP regards the artistic contributors to the 9-11 Global Memorial as useful idiots when one recalls that the party is the stateside voice of Nepal's Maoist insurgents and Peru's Sendero Luminoso—which are responsible for grave and voluminous human rights abuses of their own. As we have pointed out, Sendero Luminoso considers the very idea of human rights to be a "bourgeois" construct, and has even been credibly accused of enslaving indigenous people in their zones of control in Peru's jungles. And in case you had any doubt about RCP's degree of control over the 9-11 Global Memorial, the largest display there was dedicated to lengthy quotes from the party's guru, chairman Bob Avakian.
Even the effort to mask RCP's control by promoting more mainstream "progressive" figures is pretty ugly. If you go to the World Can't Wait website, their "Voices of Resistance" heroes prominently include Cynthia McKinney, an avid cheerleader for Moammar Qaddafi, and William Blum, a cheerleader for Slobodan Milosevic who welcomed a personal endorsement from Osama bin Laden.
Moving right along. At the south end of City Hall Park was a rally (behind police barricades, of course) where one was immediately greeted by a protester carrying a huge portrait of Moammar Qaddafi reading "WE SUPPORT BROTHER QADDAFI!" It thus immediately became obvious that the rally was led by the International Action Center (IAC), a front group for the retro-Stalinist Workers World Party (WWP) and a fan club not only for Qaddafi, but for Milosevic, Saddam, Deng Xiaoping and assorted other monstrous dictators. (This is well established in our classic exposé, "The Politics of the Anti-War Movement.") Given their love for Milosevic, the mass murderer of Muslims, it is pretty hilarious that the rally billed itself as the "Emergency Mobilization against Racism, War and Anti-Muslim Bigotry"!
Continuing south, across the street from St. Paul's Chapel (an historic site where 9-11 recovery efforts were coordinated) was the inevitable gaggle of 9-11 "Truthies" ranting away to passers-by in the usual pseudo-physics babble about "nano-thermite" and "free-fall collapse" (both of which are thoroughly discredited). Every time a tour bus passed, they erupted into deafening and insistent chants of "9-11 WAS AN INSIDE JOB!" It occurred to this blogger that perhaps they should have changed their slogan to "CHANTING REALLY LOUD MUST MEAN WE'RE RIGHT!"
The Truthies and sectarians both continue to fetishize 9-11 as much as the patriots they loathe. For both the patriots (not a word of praise in our book) and the protesters on the streets of Manhattan, it was all about the USA. The Arab and Muslim worlds are finally starting to move on from 9-11, with youth mobilizing to shake off dictators regardless of whether they are backed by the US (Mubarak, Ben Ali, Saleh) or affect an anti-US posture (Qaddafi, Assad). It is time for the US to catch up.