Brian Holmes on Tue, 3 May 2011 06:01:24 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Why Celebrate?

Here is the text I posted on my blog after reading of Osama bin Laden's death on May 2. When I saw the pictures of people reveling in American cities -- probably staged, spurious, or at worst: real -- I felt heartsick about what has been done over the last decade.

Why Celebrate?

Nothing at all just changed. Since the deadly attack in New York on 9/11/01, the United States has become the centerpiece of a global police and military regime that is feared and hated around the world. We are involved in three wars, having transformed the hunt for a dangerous terrorist group into a pretext for the invasion and destruction of entire countries. Using the alibi of an anti-terrorist campaign, our government has set up extensive spying systems both abroad and at home, to protect, not citizens, but the elites of finance capitalism who brazenly wrecked our own economy as they have done to so many others in the past. Over the last decade the United States has created a new global norm: police states for the rich. Social relations are incomparably worse than they were ten years ago, everywhere. There is no reason to celebrate today.

Never over the course of these last ten years has our government allowed any public questioning of our own role in inspiring the fanatical hatred that ultimately led to the bombing of the Twin Towers. Such an inquiry would not have justified the bombing, and that would not have been the point. Instead it would have asked about the basic injustices in the world economic and political system that lend support to terrorist acts. It would have led to a change in our own fanatical drive to impose our rules on all peoples, in disregard for their historical paths and their present well-being. The underlying truth that the hunt for Osama Bin Laden has served to bolster with bombs and guns and aggression is the tired old truth of imperialism: free trade on unequal terms, the economics of greed backed up by troops, air power, intelligence, financial experts, structural adjustment, and the entire panoply of control devices that constitutes global power. Increasingly, that’s what we have here in America too: free trade on unequal terms, the unchecked rule of corporations, whose campaign contributions are protected as freedom of speech.

What does it mean, free trade on unequal terms? It means a class structure where all the advantages go to the largest organizations and the biggest billionaires, whose control over production determines not only who will get jobs and who will get debts, but also what kind of environment will greet them every day, whether a luxury high-rise or a destroyed suburb, whether a green, water-sucking golf-course or a blighted landscape devastated by robotic machines. This condition of fundamental inequality is clear wherever you go on earth, and it is clear right here in the USA, where we have turned imperialism against ourselves.

We have let our own industry be destroyed by the managers of money, who saw an opportunity to exploit people in China for higher profit. We have let our education system be destroyed by the managers of money, who consider that only the rich should go to school. We have opened our own land to the resource-extraction techniques that have long been used abroad: mountain-top removal for coal, deep-sea drilling for oil, hydraulic fracking for natural gas, with all their consequences on the environment and no serious attempt to limit consumption, just an acceleration of the the deadly drive to pollute this world even faster. This has all been done under the political climate of jingoist nationalism, fostered among a defeated population, unemployed, uneducated, stranded in small towns or barren cities where the military recruiter is the brightest career prospect in sight. This has all been done for the power of the rich, the makers of bombs, the lords of oil, the finance kings.

The excuse for the War on Terror was the threat of Islamist jihad across the Muslim world: but when populations take to the streets in the Middle East today, they only do so in order to throw off Western-backed dictators. Osama bin Laden was a specter that we created. The War on Terror has been a failure for all humanity.

Yesterday was May Day, the traditional day of workers’ solidarity. Across the earth, people marched in the hope of a better world. That was a day of hope. There is nothing to celebrate today.

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