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9/11 And The Great American Decline

By Glen Ford

11 September, 2008
Black Agenda Report

"So, what do you think will happen now?" The question was posed by the taller of two young Israelis, my sole companions in this section of Liberty State Park on the Jersey City side of the Hudson River, the morning of September 11, 2001.

"Everything has changed," I replied, unaware that the same phrase was simultaneously forming on the lips of millions around the globe.

"Yes, everything has changed," said the Israeli, looking not at all displeased. He turned to resume taking photos of the great smoking space that had been the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center, and of the huge, low cloud that drifted across New York Bay to Brooklyn.

My fellow witnesses to the collapse of the second tower were already positioned at the riverbank when I arrived at the scene on foot after having rushed past police who blocked all vehicular entrance to the park. The athletic, military age duo were clicking away with two very expensive-looking cameras. They spoke excitedly to each other in Hebrew - a language I instantly recognized from my two decades as a Manhattanite - but clumsily claimed to be "Polish" when I asked where they were from. I pretended to believe they were visitors from Poland.

Informed that I was a reporter, the taller, more gregarious one laughed giddily and exclaimed, "Yes, we are reporters, too!" He opened an attaché case to display two laminated New Jersey press cards that looked just like mine - except they were the wrong color. He cheerfully admitted the press cards were phony. "They are easy to make," he said, still laughing.

Their new-smelling car was parked nearby; it was the only vehicle in the lot, since the young men had clearly arrived before the police sealed the entrances to the park. When we were done gawking at the awful hole in the skyline across the river, the visitors allowed me to hitch a short ride home. As the day unfolded, news reports told of other, small groups of Israelis positioned at vantage points on the Jersey side of the Hudson. Some behaved shamelessly, loudly welcoming the new era in which "everything has changed."

My own theory is that my companions were probably senior students in a graduating class of one or another Israeli intelligence agencies. Co-ed groups of military-age Israelis pretending to be students of a non-existent Tel Aviv "arts school" had earlier that year been caught attempting to visit - "infiltrate" - sensitive U.S. security sites, as authoritatively reported at the time by a number of corporate media outlets.

At the very least, Israel knew something was up, and arranged for their graduate-spies to be witnesses to history.

In the intervening years I have always maintained that, in one sense, it doesn't really matter what the Israelis or the U.S. government knew or did not know. The essence of the event lies in how it was received, framed and acted upon by the Bush regime: as a god-send - no matter how it was actually sent or by whom.

The Bush gang could no more conceal their excitement at the possibilities now opened to them by mass murder at the Twin Towers, than could my Israeli interlocutors at Liberty State Park. 9/11 was wielded as a kind of weapon to take down the planet, justification for a final assault on international order, itself.

In its convulsive "response" to 9/11 - the worldwide "War on Terror" - the United States seized the opportunity to put in motion planetary aggressions that already existed in the blueprints of the neo-con's Project for a New American Century (PNAC). In effect, Washington was claiming revenge as the motive for crimes that it had long been planning to commit. Precise causality for the specific events of 9/11 becomes near-irrelevant, submerged in the much larger aggression that was conceived long before the towers fell.

The strategic offensive to establish permanent U.S. global hegemony by force of arms, beginning with an invasion of Iraq, is truly the event that was meant to "change everything." In the broad sweep of history, 9/11 may one day be viewed much like the assassination of the Archduke Ferdinand, in 1914: as an occurrence that merely served to ignite the inevitable. The Bush regime desperately wanted a global war, and it got one.

And they became drunk, much like biblical descriptions of men drunk on their own ambitions. With the seemingly easy seizure of Baghdad and the apparent capitulation of the international community, the Bush regime drank fully of their own propaganda. Triumphalist Capital and millennialist Christians and Zionists, speaking in tongues of pure aggression, imagined they had sealed the fates - ended the history - of all the "lesser peoples" of the planet. Defense chief Donald Rumsfeld whirled in rabid dementia, convinced that Iraqis were burning Baghdad in celebration of U.S. victory. "They're free," he frothed. "And free people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes and do bad things."

The corporate media began to speak of America as the "New Rome" - which was, tellingly, the same way Osama bin Laden started referring to the United States. But in Washington's version, there was no fall at the end of empire - no end at all, only a final equilibrium with the U.S. at the top.

Rome looms large in the imagination of white America (which does exist, despite what Barack Obama says). Europeans have long noted that the United States has far more Roman- and Greek-styled columns than do Rome and Greece. These decadent, ostentatious knockoffs were the standard facades of Deep South mansions, each of them soaked in slave blood. America, conceived by its founders as an empire in-the-making, has always dreamed of out-doing Rome. For a brief time, the U.S. Lords of Capital and tens of millions of American racial chauvinists thought they were on the brink of a pan-Earth empire - until the Iraqi resistance halted Washington's grand offensive.

Stopped in their tracks, the would-be Romans now faced the same contradictions that had propelled them to declare endless war in the first place - but multiplied by bacchanalian military expenditures, steady shift of productive forces from North and West to South and East, dramatic erosion of the dollar's artificial supremacy, and a determination among nations to disentangle themselves from the dangerous, unhealthy American Centurion.

Looming like Doom is the Mother of All Bubbles, $750 trillion in derivatives and other monetary inventions that former German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt and many of Europe's social democrats call "fictitious capital." When the bubble bursts, which it must, then it can truly be said, "everything has changed."

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at

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