On the morning of September 11th, 2001, four airplanes were hijacked in the Eastern United States. Intent on humiliating the US, sowing confusion and terror, and thereby causing its invasive military to withdraw from its myriad overseas bases, among other goals, three planes hit their targets. The fourth plane, aiming for the White House, took a bit longer to arrive. In early 2017, however, it landed in Washington D.C., in the form of Donald Trump.
With his presidency careening from one outrage to another, one might note that this comparison is less than apt. To be sure, while the 19 mostly Saudi terrorists’ aim was to humiliate and delegitimize the US, it isn’t entirely clear that that is Trump’s goal (even if he’s effectively doing so). Irrespective of whether Trump is aware or not, however, he is nevertheless pursuing a course of action that is realizing the aims of Al Qaeda (a group funded and nurtured, ironically, by the CIA – an agency presently at odds with Trump).
Trump’s alliances with terrorists, of course, are far more concrete than this. In addition to being endorsed by David Duke, and other members of the KKK, ensconced in the core of his constituency are white nationalists and white separatists – terrorists and terrorist sympathizers who openly tout their goal of eliminating all Jews, people of color, and other non-white, non-Christian people from the United States. And via ICE and the Department of Homeland Security, to which he appointed avowed Nazis, in collaboration with local police departments throughout the country, those genocidal and terroristic aims are being daily pursued.
It may be of interest, incidentally, to note that, though they are very different from the terrorists who brought down the World Trade Center, and crashed into the Pentagon, the white, rightwing Trump-supporting terrorists do not merely share the goal of destroying the US (in order to impose their own murderous, fundamentalist regime), they share many tactics and strategies with Al Qaeda as well. In the highly influential American Nazi novel The Turner Diaries, for example, first published in the mid-1970s, white racists used an airplane to crash into the Pentagon (to detonate a nuclear bomb). The similarities don’t end there, however. A major terrorist attack is carried out in the novel on the city of Houston, Texas, on a September 1 1th – an attack that, though fictitious, shares many similarities with the damage that Hurricane Harvey inflicted on Houston just last year. What’s Hurricane Harvey got to do with it?
Intensified by capitalogenic global warming, in many respects the destruction wrought by Hurricane Harvey illustrates Fritz Lang’s observation, made in the Godard movie Contempt, that “what the Nazis did with their pistols the Americans are doing with their credit cards.” With Trump and his collaborators, however, who regard torch-brandishing nazis as “good people,” and are rolling back every environmental protection, worker protection, and other curb on capitalist violence that they can, you get both. As much as ever, economic and political violence lose all distinction.
Humiliating the US and undermining its clout (which Obama, in spite of his own war crimes and drone strikes, managed to spiff up after the wreckage of the Bush years), the perpetrators of 9/ 11 would certainly approve of Trump’s buffoonery. More than that, in many respects they may regard him as their product. For, by sowing confusion and hysteria, the attacks of 9 / 11 led to the imposition of Bush and Cheney’s militarized security state (long since normalized by Obama and the Democrats). This aggrandizement of power, coupled with economic policies that gutted much of the country following the 2008 financial crash, impoverishing all but the ultra-rich, created a level of misery, disgust, distrust, and resentment for the status quo that paved the way for Trump’s accession. And just as the perpetrators of the 9 /11 attacks would have liked, via Trump’s attacks on US alliances, immigrants, environmental, consumer, and worker protections (not to mention athletes, the press, and others), and his praise for strongmen, the US doesn’t only have less clout internationally than (perhaps ever) before, domestically people are just as frightened as ever – in other words, people are terrorized.
Armed with automatic weapons, Republicans remain deeply terrified – of immigrants, refugees, Black men, women, and children, the poor, and so many others. And Democrats are terrified, too – by Trump, his allies, his policies (often with good reason), as well as by Putin, various Russians, and others. More justifiably, the immigrant community and people of color and other victims of racist violence are terrorized also, by ICE and other agencies.
Moreover, while neither Republicans nor Democrats seem to be too concerned about the fires, heatwaves, floods and other cataclysmic events stemming from the deepening climate crisis (at least not enough to do anything significant about it), both seem pretty terrified of Socialists as well, and others threatening the profits of the war machine.
Indeed, as Trump pursues his terror campaign against the poor, people of color, the environment, etc., the self-styled resistance only wants to reintroduce the economic and foreign policies that produced the poverty, hopelessness and hatred that provided the catalyst for the attacks of 9 /11 (and the rise of Trump) in the first place. As illustrated by the spectacle of John McCain’s recent funeral, “the Resistance” has little interest in creating an equitable society. In the struggle against Trumpian violence it prefers to join forces with Bush, McCain, Kissinger, and other peddlers of war – a unity whose pursuit of political and economic policies, nationally and internationally, will continue to produce poverty and war, not to mention catastrophic storms, fires, floods, heatwaves and other sources (as well as forms) of terrorism.
These servants of the war economy may talk, from time to time, about ending particular wars. But ending war in general? That’s a childish, utopian absurdity, they maintain. And yet, war in general must be ended, not least of all the class war (i.e., capitalism, and social relations of domination and exploitation), if we are to ever be free from political, economic, and ecological terror. Whether or not the White House craters, we must not forget this.