Ceremonies marking the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks today recalled the day 11 years ago when close to 3,000 perished as airliners hijacked by terrorists crashed into New York, Pennsylvania and Washington D.C.
After that horrible day Americans came together, ready to do whatever they were asked in order to prevent such a tragedy from ever happening again.
The Bush administration and the neoconservatives in power in Washington took advantage of that readiness to build support for a “war on terrorism” that would ultimately encompass two wars, one in Afghanistan and another in Iraq. Support for the wars was ginned up with false claims about the Saddam Hussein regime’s ties to the 9/11 attackers and about weapons of mass destruction that did not exist. The wars have taken an immense toll in human lives here at home and abroad. The Afghanistan war continues. Multi-trillion-dollar military expeditions may have succeeded in shoring up oil and military company profits but they failed to build stable and just countries overseas and they weakened the economy here in the U.S.
It is appropriate on this 11th anniversary to think hard about the need for a new direction in foreign policy.
In the years since 9/11 it has become clearer than ever that pursuit of wars and unlimited military spending threaten the very security they claim to provide. Pre-emption is seen for what it is – an excuse to pursue any means necessary, including war, to protect the interests of profit-hungry multinational corporations – with oil companies high up on that list.
Real homeland security is a fantasy in an economy where jobs are shipped overseas and a vibrant working class — the engine of real success for America – is eroded and destroyed.
The Obama administration has taken some important steps in the right direction. It has ended the war in Iraq and set a 2014 date for ending the war in Afghanistan. It has moved toward control of nuclear weapons of mass destruction and, it has rejected the reckless doctrine of unilateral pre-emptive war by resisting calls for military action against Syria and Iran.
However, use of drones that inevitably kill civilians, expansion of military bases and operations in Asia and Africa, and pursuing military intervention in Libya have continued the dangerous policies of intervention and militarism. Alliances with reactionary dictatorships like Saudi Arabia, breeding grounds for terrorists like the 9/11 hijackers, continue.
On the other hand, Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan and their backers advocate a complete return to bellicose adventurism based on the idea that the United States has the right to do whatever it wants anywhere in the world. At the recent Republican convention Romney backed military attacks on Syria and Iran. His is a dangerous policy that Americans reject. It guarantees there will be no nation building where it is needed most – here at home, and it does not make our country safer – indeed it jeopardizes our safety.
The necessary U.S. foreign policy is one that builds international respect and cooperation to protect us from any real terrorist acts, but also to promote economic and social justice at home and around the world. It protects and creates jobs in this country and abroad. A foreign policy that discourages exploitation of foreign workers and encourages fair trade will benefit everyone.
The necessary U.S. foreign policy aims at the dismantling of nuclear weapons and all weapons of mass destruction.
It aims at strengthening, not weakening, the United Nations, including bringing rising powers into its leading bodies.
It helps nations (including our own) eradicate disease and poverty rather than develop ever-higher-tech weaponry. It reduces military spending so that we can do the nation building needed here at home and help others at the same time.
This is how we move forward to make sure there are no more 9/11s — either here or anywhere else.
Photo: In 2001 and the immediate aftermath of Sept. 11 attacks, New Yorkers line West Side Highway to pay respect to the victims. (PW/Israel Smith)