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This is not a blog which expresses instant opinions on current events. It rather uses incidents, books (old and new), links and papers as jumping-off points for some reflections about our social endeavours.
So old posts are as good as new! And lots of useful links!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Ten years On

As the 11th September approaches, more and more articles appear on the significance and effects of the attacks on that day a decade ago. My own article has duly appeared in today’s issue of Revista 22 (for which many thanks to my translator Cristina - and Daniela's subsequent revisions). I start the piece in the following way -
Whatever other effects the attack on the Twin Towers may have had, it certainly provided the opportunity for the security systems of leading States (adrift after the collapse of communism) to regroup and increase their budgets and power. The “war against terrorism” became after September 2001 the slogan behind which many States increased their surveillance and control measures over their own citizens. “Defence” budgets and actions boomed.
I did list some other changes since September 2001 but was concerned to make three basic points – that the damage “neo-liberalism” has done to us is vastly greater than that of Islamic radicalism; that the global financial meltdown has actually strengthened the ideologues of privatisation; and (a non-trend) that the anti-globalisation vision so evident 10 years ago which one might have expected to see come back in strength failed to materialise /
An article in today’s Guardian suggests that one of the most disturbing developments of the post-9/11 world
is the growth of a national security industrial complex that melds together government and big business and is fuelled by an unstoppable flow of money. It takes many forms. In the military, it has seen the explosive growth of the contracting industry with firms such as Xe, formerly known as Blackwater, or DynCorp increasingly doing the jobs of professional soldiers. In the world of intelligence, private contractors are hired to do the jobs of America's spies. A shadowy world of domestic security has grown up, milking billions from the government and establishing a presence in every state. From border fences that don't work to dubious airport scanners, spending has been lavished on security projects as lobbyists cash in on behalf of corporate clients.
Meanwhile, generals, government officials and intelligence chiefs flock to private industry and embark on new careers selling services back to government
The invitation to the Revista 22 special issue was phrased in terms of “how the world has changed since 09/11” which gave scope to write about other things. Social Europe carries a piece from Jo Stiglitz which explicitly deals with the changes which flowed directly from the attack. He focuses on Bush’s response - as do several contributors to the special composium published today by The Guardian.
As we might have anticipated, the most profound set of comments on 09/11 come from Noam Chomsky who basically raises the question about the ethical position of most of those invited to write about the tenth anniversary. “Intellectuals”, he suggests, “are those who play the government tune. Those who criticise government strategies on ethical grounds are labelled terrorists”. It’s a fair point – and he summarises the evidence of the American role in the massacres in various Latin American countries in the latter half of the 20th century as proof.
He accuses most of us of hypocrisy in praising and protecting the dissidents of central europe and yet standing silently by while the few Americans who dared to criticise the American record were vilified.

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