To be a patriot is to love one’s country, people and civilization without hating others, without thinking yourself superior. American revolutionaries were patriots, as were Yugoslav and Chinese Communists, who led their people against Nazi and Japanese invaders. European Communists and socialists who organized resistance movements against the Nazis, their allies, and fascist puppets were patriots.
American Communists who fought for collective security against fascism in the 1930s, while major U.S. corporations made profits with Hitler, were patriots, as were those fought for anti-fascist unity in World War II. In our lifetime, all progressives who fought for peace against U.S. imperialism, which risked nuclear war in the Cuban missile crisis, in the Cold War were patriots.
On Sept. 11, thousands of Americans and citizens of other countries perished in attacks perpetrated by Muslim religious ultrarightists who are, essentially, the Frankenstein monsters of the Reagan and Bush administrations and its Contra war against the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan and the Soviet Union.
Looking to these groups for leadership in this struggle is like looking to Neville Chamberlain and the British conservative appeasers for leadership in World War II.
Any nation or people attacked as brutally as the American people were on Sept. 11 have the right to defend themselves and fight against their attackers. But how do we fight and against whom?
First, progressive patriots should call for a new foreign policy in the region and the world, one that withdraws support for the feudal reactionary regimes in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the Gulf states and seeks a serious solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict, used by the bin Ladens of the region in much the same way Hitler used the Versailles Treaty to win support from Germans. Support for a Palestinian state, a defense of the national rights of both the Palestinian and Israeli people, and programs for economic and political reconstruction of the region, is one part of the solution to the attack on our republic
Another part of the solution might be to go to the real source of both the instability and the terrorism, the oil money of the region. At present, the core of the world’s oil supplies are in the hands of a corrupt crackpot alliance of feudal-religious lords in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states, and transnational oil companies.
Think of what could be done if the oil were “internationalized,” placed under United Nations control with the entire oil industry reorganized and energy production and pricing geared to international planning for development and economic stability.
Such control would not only mean confiscation of the property of the Saudi feudal lords who made the bin Laden family billionaires; it could and should become the basis of the new economic order that the poor countries of the third world have been calling for decades.
Discounted oil prices for developing countries, and trade union protections for oil workers (who in the Gulf states are Muslim “guest workers” without rights), could serve as a model for progressive internationalism and peace in the 21st century and provide real victory in the war against the forces who perpetrated the Sept. 11 attacks.
Hunting down and killing Osama bin Laden will not prevent new bin Ladens from emerging to bankroll terror and murder, just as German corporations bankrolled Hitler. Supporting the restoration of the old feudal king of Afghanistan in alliance with Northern Alliance” moderates” won’t solve anything for the Afghan people, nor will it even end support for terrorism, since these groups, along with the Pakistanis, are ready to take bribes from and support for their own interests the religious ultra-right, which they have done in the past and with whom their differences are of degree rather than kind.
Building up the CIA (which both helped to create bin Laden and the Taliban and did nothing to prevent Sept. 11) would be like cutting off your nose to spite your face. Striking at the Bill of Rights in the name of anti-terrorism would, of course, give bin Laden and his fellow ultra-rightists their greatest victory.
A new foreign policy will of course require a new politics in the United States. In England at the end of WW II, the British people, even though they respected the leadership of Winston Churchill, voted him and his Conservative party out of office because of their insensitivity to the needs of British workers and their appeasement policy during the 1930s which had built up Hitler.
Americans will have a chance in local elections this year and in 2002 to vote out of office the cold warriors and right wingers who have largely brought about this crisis.
Norman Markowitz is history professor at Rutgers University.