Mars rules the Hour: The world since 9/11
Sept. 11, 2001 marked the beginning of the 21st century. It set in motion the dominant themes of the last decade, and opened the door for conflicts that will cast a shadow over generations to come. On the 12th anniversary of the attacks, we inevitably question whether the world has changed.
The world has indeed changed, but not for the better. It has instead been building up to a disturbing crescendo.
The Obama administration — once hailed as the coming of a new era of liberal reform —is trying to rally support to wage war on Syria, a war which could easily set fire to the entire Middle East, a region that is already scarred by U.S. interventionism and undergoing dramatic, revolutionary changes.
A close look at history reveals that we are not witnessing changes, so much as shifts to more dangerous levels of imperial violence. Consider that this Sept. 11 marks 40 years since the CIA overthrew the elected, socialist government of Salvador Allende in Chile.
On Sept. 11, 1973, the U.S.-trained Chilean army overthrew Allende after years of economic war and sabotage funded by the Nixon administration. Allende was replaced by the barbaric regime of Augusto Pinochet that tortured and killed over 30,000 people.
Just this summer, the CIA finally admitted to overthrowing the elected government of Mohammad Mossadeq in Iran in 1953, replacing him with the shah who was, in turn, overthrown by the Iranian Revolution of 1979, which birthed the current Islamic Republic.
In 2009, Obama looked the other way when the elected progressive government of Manuel Zelaya in Honduras was overthrown in a bloody military coup orchestrated by local oligarchs. This is a small blip on a radar screen that includes drone strikes, support for repressive regimes and now more war.
History will record how, instead of using the attacks of 9/11 to do some serious self-reflection on our role in the world, the U.S. under George W. Bush used the terrorist act to charge like a mad beast into Iraq, shattering that country and fueling a deadly sectarian war between Shia and Sunni Muslims that has spread region-wide.
This demonstrates the greatest fundamental error the U.S. made, which many citizens do not yet understand.
We never stopped to wonder how our actions fed the terrifying fantasies of the radicals who flew the planes into the World Trade Center.
Instead of reducing our presence in other corners of the world, we decided to expand by force. We made the decision to spiral ever so downwards. Radical men, whether religious extremists or secular revolutionaries, are products of their time and place.
In the case of the Middle East, we have spent decades supporting dictators, police states and corrupt monarchs. We have supported Israel’s brutal occupation of the West Bank and its recent wars on the besieged population of Gaza.
This has only produced resentment among the peoples of the Middle East and boosted the ranks of those who choose darker, more dangerous paths toward change or for getting a point across.
In the post-Bush era, Obama and John Kerry pontificate about saving the people of Syria, only because they happen to live under a violent regime we do not like.
But in 2011, Obama supported Saudi Arabia’s invasion of Bahrain to crush a popular, unarmed Arab Spring uprising against the local monarchy.
Funding from U.S. coffers still pours into the Egyptian Army, which now presides over a country drenched in blood and sorrow.
Not to mention, in our hemisphere, Obama has done nothing to end the ridiculous embargo on Cuba.
This is not the idea most people had in 2008 when the slogans “Hope” and “Change We Can Believe In” were splashed all over the country.
The attacks of 9/11 did not inspire our rulers to self-reflect, but instead it turned the vast machinery of U.S. power into a living version of Francisco Goya’s terrifying painting, “Saturn Devouring His Son.”
James Stramel, philosophy professor at Santa Monica College, reflects on the current state of the world.
“There’s the old quote, ‘the more things change the more they stay the same,'" he said.
"Human beings have a tendency to repeat history again and again, despite knowing our history,” said Stramel. “We’re short-sighted. We don’t plan well for the long term. We’re xenophobic. I’m talking about all humans. And unfortunately, when there’s a conflict of interest, I think we do tend to return to our animal natures of 'I’m going to protect mine, you’re my enemy.' That doesn’t set us up for peaceful negotiation.
“If we can understand that those xenophobic reactions that people tend to have against ‘those bastards’ is deeply rooted in us, and to a certain extent there’s nothing we can do about those responses because they are so evolutionarily ingrained," he said.
Was 9/11 more of a prophecy than occurrence? The world since that fateful Tuesday never regained a steady axis. Stramel said he feels the vibe in the air.
“Even though I’m generally a positive and optimistic person, I kind of think humanity has peaked," Stramel said. "I kind of think we’re on the downward slide."
Twelve years since 9/11 and the appropriate words for our time come from Frederich Schiller’s play, “The Death Of Wallenstein."
“The dawn commences, and Mars rules the hour.”