On November 9, 2001, less than two months after the unprecedented terror attacks on New York’s twin towers of September 11th, the late great historian Dr. Manning Marable took to the Free Press to deliver an op-ed decrying U.S. plans to retaliate by indiscriminately dropping bombs on the nation of Afghanistan. He was greatly ahead of the curb on this. At the time anyone who voiced such opinions ran the risk of being ostracized, or worse, labeled a “terrorist sympathizer” or “anti-American”. Though Dr. Marable is no longer with us, his words continue to speak to us from beyond the grave, and “The Failure of U.S. Foreign Policies” can be read in retrospect as a prophetic warning.
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The bombing campaign against the people of Afghanistan will be described in history as the “U.S. Against the Third World.” The launching of military strikes against peasants does nothing to suppress terrorism, and only erodes American credibility in Muslim nations around the world. The question, “Why Do They Hate Us?,” can only be answered from the vantagepoint of the Third World’s widespread poverty, hunger and economic exploitation.
The United States government cannot engage in effective multilateral actions to suppress terrorism, because its behavior illustrates its complete contempt for international cooperation. The United States owed $582 million in back dues to the United Nations, and it paid up only when the September 11 attacks jeopardized its national security. Republican conservatives demand that the United States should be exempt from the jurisdiction of an International Criminal Court, a permanent tribunal now being established at The Hague, Netherlands. For the 2001 World Conference Against Racism, the U.S. government authorized the allocation of a paltry $250,000, compared to over $10 million provided to conference organizers by the Ford Foundation.
For three decades, the U.S. refused to ratify the 1965 United Nations Convention on the Elimination of Racism. Is it any wonder that much of the Third World questions our motives? The carpet-bombing of the Taliban seems to Third World observers to have less to do with the suppression of terrorism, and more with securing future petroleum production rights in central Asia.
The U.S. media and opinion makers repeatedly have gone out of their way to twist facts and to distort the political realities of the Middle East, by insisting that the Osama bin Laden group’s murderous assaults had nothing to do with Israel’s policies towards the Palestinians. Nobody else in the world, with the possible exception of the Israelis, really believes that. Even Britain, Bush’s staunchest ally, links Israel’s intransigence towards negotiations and human rights violations as having contributed to the environment for Arab terrorist retaliation.
In late September, during his visit to Jerusalem, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw stated that frustration over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict might create an excuse for terrorism. Straw explained: “there is never any excuse for terrorism. At the same time, there is an obvious need to understand the environment in which terrorism breeds.” Millions of moderate and progressive Muslims who sincerely denounce terrorism are nevertheless frustrated by the United States’s extensive clientage relationship with Israel, financed by more than $3 billion in annual subsidies. They want to know why the U.S. allowed the Israelis to move over 200,000 Jewish settlers-one half of them after the signing of the 1993 peace agreement-to relocate in occupied Palestine. It is no exaggeration in saying that for most of the world’s one billion Muslims that Israel is as anathema to them, as the apartheid regime of South Africa was for black people.
How does terrorist Osama bin Laden gain loyal followers from northern Nigeria to Indonesia? Perhaps it has something to do with America’s massive presence-in fact, its military-industrial occupation-of Saudi Arabia. The Washington Post recently revealed that in the past two decades, U.S. construction companies and arms suppliers have made over $50 billion in Saudi Arabia. Today, over thirty thousand U.S. citizens are employed by Saudi corporations, or by joint Saudi-U.S. corporate partnerships. Just months ago, Exxon Mobil, the world’s largest corporation, reached an agreement with the Saudi government to develop gas projects worth between $20 to $26 billion. Can Americans who are not Muslims truly comprehend how morally offensive this overwhelming U.S. occupying presence in their holy land is to them? Even before September 11, the U.S. regularly stationed five to six thousand troops in Saudi Arabia. Today, that number probably exceeds 15,000 American troops. How would the U.S. government react if the P.L.O.’s close ally, Cuba, offered to send 15,000 troops to support the Palestinian Authority’s security force? There is, to repeat, no justification for terrorism by anyone, anytime. But it is U.S. policies-such as the blanket support for Israel, and the blockade against Iraq that has been responsible for the needless deaths of thousands of children-that help to create the very conditions for extremist violence to flourish.
There is a direct linkage between the terrible events of September 11 and the politics represented by the United Nations World Conference Against Racism held in Durban, South Africa, only days prior to the terrorist attacks. The U.S. government in Durban opposed the definition of slavery as “a crime against humanity.” It refused to acknowledge the historic and contemporary effects of colonialism, racial segregation and apartheid on the underdevelopment and oppression of the non-European world.
It polemically manipulated the charge of anti-Semitism to evade discussions concerning the right of self-determination for the Palestinian people. The world’s subaltern masses represented at Durban sought to advance a new global discussion about the political economy of racism-and the United States insulted the entire international community. Should we therefore be surprised that Palestinian children celebrate in the streets of their occupied territories when they see televised images of our largest buildings being destroyed? Should we be shocked that hundreds of protest marches in opposition to the U.S. bombing of Afghanistan are being held throughout the world?
The majority of dark humanity is saying to the United States that racism and militarism are not the solutions to the world’s major problems. Transnational capitalism and the repressive neoliberal policies of structural adjustment represent a dead end for the developing world. We can only end the threat of terrorism by addressing constructively the routine violence of poverty, hunger and exploitation which characterizes the daily existence of several billion people on this planet. Racism is, in the final analysis only another form of violence.
To stop the violence of terrorism, we must stop the violence of racsim and class inequality. To struggle for peace, to find new paths toward reconciliation across the boundaries of religion, culture and color, is the only way to protect our cities, our country and ourselves from the violence of terrorism. Because without justice, there can be no peace.
Dr. Manning Marable is Professor of History and Political Science, and the Director of the Institute for Research in African-American Studies at Columbia University in New York. “Along the Color Line” is distributed free of charge to over 350 publications throughout the U.S. and internationally