In September 2001, this writer and 1,800 other employees of a health-insurance company worked in World Trade Center #1. Our department was on the 31st floor. Our official starting time was 8:45 a.m., and the first plane struck that building at 8:48 a.m on Sept. 11. Our starting time was flexible. I usually arrived late and left late.
I had worked late the night before, waiting to leave until 9 p.m. when a rainstorm ended. I would have walked to work the next morning, which was beautiful and clear. I often walked the three miles along the Hudson River from Chelsea to the WTC.
But I got a call at 9 a.m. from a friend, who wanted to be sure I was late as usual. When he gave me the news, we both thought an accident with a small plane had happened, like the one at the Empire State Building in 1945. No one answered my call to the office so I decided to stay home.
I soon learned by radio news that a second plane had hit WTC #2 and a third had hit the Pentagon. I knew immediately that no matter who was responsible, the Bush administration would use the event as an excuse to launch a war — somewhere.
I called the editor of Workers World newspaper, Deirdre Griswold, and suggested we editors meet on an emergency basis to redesign the coming issue. As I started to walk toward Eighth Avenue at 10:00 a.m., WTC #2 collapsed. Everyone above the floors where the planes hit and all in the planes died, along with the "first responders," especially firefighters.
Thirteen of my co-workers died, including some colleagues who couldn't walk. Most workers either hadn't arrived or quickly ran down the smoky stairs. They were traumatized for years, and I caught some of that, too. Having a political interpretation of the events doesn't make you immune to the feelings.
Despite this trauma, no one among the 20 people I worked most closely with talked about "revenge" or spoke about going to war. But after about 36 hours of George W. Bush flying around the country and Dick Cheney hiding in the bunker, the Bush administration went on the offensive.
As some people from inside the administration later pointed out, even as they were readying an attack on Afghanistan they were also preparing an invasion of Iraq. They rushed through the Patriot Act to militarize U.S. society. They took advantage of a wave of patriotism to recruit to the military and secret service organizations.
There was almost no opposition from within the ruling class and its corporate media to either of these wars, despite all the contradictions in the government's argument.
Let's consider two of those contradictions.
Washington had built up al-Qaida and other groups like it to battle the Soviet assistance to the Afghan revolution.
Those who allegedly carried out the 9/11 attack were almost all Saudi citizens; they were enemies of the secular Ba'athist government in Iraq. Yet the Bush gang blamed Saddam Hussein for being behind this attack, though the attack was carried out by his sworn enemies.
No significant capitalist media challenged these obvious lies.
However 9/11 came about, the Bush administration immediately used it to conspire to invade Iraq, even without the U.S.'s NATO allies. This Sept. 2 former U.S. Ambassador to Germany John Kornblum said: "I don't know what they would have done if September 11 hadn't occurred. Either they would have done nothing or they would have had to invent another pretext." (presse.phoenix.de)
Now that these wars — and a new one in Libya — have continued under a Democratic administration, it's obvious that doing nothing was off the table. They would have invented another pretext. The imperialist attempt to reconquer those parts of the colonial world that freed themselves at least partly after World War II, while the U.S. was locked in a Cold War with the USSR, does not depend on having a convenient excuse.
If the "war on terror" doesn't serve as a pretext, then "saving civilians" will. That was the excuse in Yugoslavia, as it is now in Libya.
What is more important to the imperialist offensive than the Sept. 11 pretext is the fact that there is no longer a Soviet Union. The very existence of the USSR as a powerful anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist entity had strengthened independence struggles in the countries of the former colonial world.
Local resistance movements have stymied Washington in both Afghanistan and Iraq. Yet the Pentagon has been able to keep a foothold in both countries and risk a new war in Libya. It could never do that when it had to confront the USSR on many fronts.
It is important that progressives again plan to show their banners near the World Trade Center for the 10-year commemoration. They will be confronting the anti-Muslim bigots and building unity. And they will expose the misuse of 9/11 as a pretext for more war. Resistance to future wars will have to be built at home.
The above is based on a much longer interview that Catalinotto, a managing editor of WW, did with the progressive German daily newspaper, Junge Welt, that will be published in a special section on 9/11.