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News ::
Global Capital and Technology: America's New War
30 Sep 2001
Global Capital, technology, and America's New War.
On September 11, 2001 (9/11/01: 911: the national emergency number, as the property manager of my
apartment building pointed out to me that morning), events happened in New York City, Washington, DC, and near
Shanksville in western Pennsylvania that brought together all the components I've engaged throughout this book:
capitalism, technology, nomadism, multiple identities, postcolonial citizenry in the first world, and political and
economic regimes in the third world.

Hijackers seized four jetliners, all headed for California from the East Coast, and rammed two into each of New York
City's two World Trade Center towers, toppling both in a spectacular storm of fire, ash, smoke, and leaping victims.
A third jetliner smashed into the western section of the Pentagon in Virginia. And a fourth crashed near Shanksville
in Pennsylvania, possibly on its way to the White House or the Capitol Building, both in Washington, DC,
indicating that the hijackers had failed in their mission--whatever that might be. The attacks seemed carefully
coordinated. All the jetliners were headed for California, and therefore gorged with fuel, and their departures from
East Coast airports were spaced within an hour and forty minutes. Following are some details.

The first jetliner, American Airlines Flight 11, a Boeing 767 out of Boston for Los Angeles, crashed into the North
(or First) Tower of the World Trade Center (WTC) at 8:48 AM. Eighteen minutes later, at 9:06 AM, United Airlines
Flight 175, also headed from Boston to Los Angeles, plowed into the South (or Second) Tower. American Airlines
Flight 77, a Boeing 757, left Washington's Dulles International Airport bound for Los Angeles, crashed in the
western part of the Pentagon, the US military headquarters. Finally, United Airlines Flight 93, a Boeing 757 flying
from Newark to San Francisco, turned around near Cleveland and headed for Washington, DC, crashing instead into
a remote cornfield near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

In all, 266 passengers and crew members perished in the four planes and several score more were known dead
elsewhere. In New York City, numerous firefighters, police officers, and other rescue workers responding to the
initial disaster at the World Trade Center were killed when the towers collapsed. Hundreds in Lower Manhattan
were treated for cuts, broken bones, burns, and smoke inhalation. Some commentators have mentioned the
cinematic mode of this destruction: For instance, it is compelling to juxtapose video clips of the burning WTC
towers and the Pentagon recycled again and again on TV with images of an exploding White House (blown up by
aliens from space) in Bill Emerrich's 1996 film Independence Day.

Here are two eyewitness accounts: "I saw people jumping out of the building. A lady in green suit jumping out of
the building. A man in jeans jumping out of the building. When I saw people jumping out the building, I just
couldn't take it anymore. I just ran." Kurt Carrington, an employee of the nearby Burlington Coat Factory, in The
New York Times. "Some were alive, some were dead, some were really badly burned. It just rained and rained soot,
and it was really dark. When you see cops running, you know you've got no chance." Carlos Muniz, a New York
firefighter, in The Washington Post.

Declaring a national emergency, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) closed all US airports and suspended
all takeoffs. Airborne flights at the time of the order were instructed to land at airports closest to them. The air
lockdown lasted three days. Thousands of passengers were stranded everywhere in the US and Canada, to where
some flights had been diverted. The major stock exchanges, NASDAQ and the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE),
closed for a week--for the first time since the famous 1929 stock-market crash. In addition, the financial sector of
New York City and indeed the US suffered a meltdown because the World Trade Center was located in the financial
district, with several stock brokerage and investment firms that lost scores of employees who were at their desks
when the planes struck the towers. Further, New York City south of 14th Street was sealed off to everyone and
everything but authorized personnel, vehicles, and neighborhood residents. Schools and businesses in New York
City were shut down for several days. Later, the FBI described New York City's financial district "the biggest crime
scene in the history of America." Now, politicians and commentators and law enforcement officers have been
debating whether the September 11 events constituted a "crime" or an act of "war." The former would imply that the
hijackers were common criminals who hijacked jetliners to blow up buildings. The latter would imply that the
hijackers were ideologues with a cause and a "legitimate" beef against the US government, and so blowing up
buildings was an act of war against the US government and its people. I'm not so much interested in this particular
debate as I am in what actually framed this event.

Capital and technology framed the master text of this disaster. Corporate America had been dealt a blow, possibly
leading to an economic recession in the US that might extend to the whole world because of the international gird
and network of capital. The "terrorists" who hijacked the jetliners had trained in US flight schools, most in Florida
and some in San Diego, and so some of them were pilots (with valid pilot licenses, it turned out) who presumably
commandeered the planes into the collisions. The jetliners were all bound for California from the East Coast and so
were gorged with fuel when they were seized shortly after takeoff. The hijackers therefore made sure that the fuel
would add to the conflagration upon collision. In fact, structural engineers have speculated that the steel columns
holding up the WTC towers did not buckle from the collisions but from the intense heat generated from the fires
helped well along by the fuel from the planes. The hijackers transformed the hijacked jetliners into ferocious missiles
(with human freight) aimed at corporate America. The doomed passengers on these flights called their immediate
relatives from their cell-phones before impact, and in various conversations gave numerous clues about the
identities of the hijackers--and in some cases, left voice-messages.

(To give one harrowing example reported by The Boston Herald on September 13, 2001: "Brian Sweeney, 38, of
Barnstable, a passenger on United Airlines Flight 175 that crashed into the South Tower, left a message for his wife,
Julie, on their answering machine shortly before 9 AM: 'Hey Jules, it's Brian. I'm on a plane, and it's hijacked and it
doesn't look good. I just wanted to let you know that I love you and I hope to see you again. If I don't, please have
fun in life and live your life the best you can. Know that I love you and no matter what, I'll see you again.'")

These hijackers were said to have origins in the Middle East. A few were identified as US citizens born in the Middle
East, but who moved around the world with fake passports and identities--and inordinate amounts of funds seeded
by Osama bin Laden. (More about him below.) Indeed, several of these hijackers who trained in flight schools in
Florida supposedly passed themselves off as Germans and according to reports, spoke fluent German to one
another, and for several months were even guests at the home of a Florida family. One of these, Mohammed Atta,
had lived in Hamburg, Germany for some time before he did his four-month pilot training at the Huffman Aviation
International Flight School in Venice, Florida, to get ready for his mission. Another was identified as a Lebanese
who had lived briefly in Germany and then spent sometime in Afghanistan before enrolling in Embry-Riddle
Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Florida, to train as a jet pilot in preparation for his mission on September
11, 2001.

These hijackers were definitely polyglot new nomads: When they were flight students, they reportedly frequently
used flight manuals, cell-phones, and laptops with complicated software programs to plan their missions. They also
honed their training by frequently playing Microsoft flight simulator games on their laptops. And they also drank
quite a bit of alcohol in bars (not a usual practice by Muslims) where they played other kinds of video games
(presumably Velocity's "Jetfighter II" was one of these). Most lived near or in Delray Beach, Florida, because of its
proximity to Interstate 95, halfway between the municipal airports in Boca Raton and Lantana--obviously to facilitate
their global travel while designing plans for their September 11 mission. And all the hijackers bought the airline
tickets (which they used for their doomed September 11 flights) on the Internet from Travelocity using credit cards
or frequent-flier miles.

In any case, Federal authorities released the names of the hijackers on September 14, but after displaying these
names on the monitor for American viewers who had been glued to their TVs since the morning of September 11,
Peter Jennings of ABC (more on US corporate media's role in all this below), immediately and rightly pointed out
(perhaps with the exception of Mohammed Atta--whose name and picture had appeared in US print and TV media
for two days previous) that these names meant nothing, given the practice of these terrorists of moving around the
world with fake passports and identities.

In any case, all these names were linked by authorities to the global umbrella network of terrorists under the aegis of
Osama bin Laden, the Saudi-born exile and heir to some $300 million (from his construction-magnate father), who
reportedly operated out of Afghanistan. (More on the US history with Afghanistan below.) The US had declared
Osama bin Laden as Public Enemy Number 1 ever since US Embassies were bombed in 1998 in Nairobi, Kenya, and
Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania. The US had even bombed some areas in Afghanistan in the hopes of assassinating bin
Laden, but he has always eluded the US by communicating with various cells of his global network through
encryption modes, thereby leaving no brick-and-mortar or paper trails.

Shortly after the national air lockdown, President Bush declared a national state of emergency, and as
Commander-in-Chief mobilized some 1 million military reserves to get ready for what he proclaimed "the first war of
the twenty-first century." He said that "a group of barbarians have declared war on our country," and that
"Americans must prepare themselves for battle." From Day One, corporate media had been describing the rubble of
the WTC towers as Ground Zero: military moniker for the front line of a war battle.

All US corporate media, in high gear since immediately after the collisions on morning of September 11, soon began
to display the banners "America Under Attack" and "America's New War" on their telecasts. All the major
broadcast media anchors--CBS's Dan Rather, ABC's Peter Jennings, and NBC's Tom Brokaw--were on air all day and
night, relieved from time to time by lesser anchors (like Brian Williams, John Seigenthaler, and Forrest Sawyer). All
these media did whatever they could to ratchet up the "war mood" all over the country. CNN at some point even
aired an old video from 1991 of Palestinians displaying lots of joy on the West Bank supposedly in response to the
horrible disasters of September 11, 2001, a day that, again according to some politicians and the media, "will live in
infamy." Several officials and media commentators did not hesitate whatsoever to compare the September 11 events
to Pearl Harbor, some taking pains to point out that more American lives will be lost in this first twenty-first century
war than were lost in what happened in Hawaii on December 7, 1941.

At the time of this writing, the US is getting ready to engage Afghanistan in a Soviet-type protracted guerrilla war.
The US has been talking to Pakistan, hoping to use that country bordering Afghanistan as the staging ground for
this invasion. If there is an invasion, then images from that war will most certainly be beamed onto TV monitors all
over the US. "America's New War" will be a nightly entertainment in American homes. (Pace the 1991 Gulf War: A
college kid in Bloomington, Indiana, on the first night of the war on CNN, told his roommate: "I'm gonna pop some
corn and watch the war.")

If it turns out that Osama bin Laden was involved in the September 11 events, then most Americans will find out for
the first time the following history of their country's involvement in Afghanistan.

In 1979: The Soviet Union occupies Afghanistan.

In 1980: Soviet troops install a puppet regime in Kabul. The US, Pakistan, China, Iran and Saudi Arabia, offer
support to various Mujahedin, or Islamic anticommunist resistance groups, as they begin a guerrilla war against
Soviet forces. The war becomes a steady drain on Soviet resources and saps the morale of it soldiers. Many
observers compare the Soviet Union's experience of Afghanistan to the U.S. experience in Vietnam. In fact, in my
opinion, the Soviet invasion begins the end of the Cold war. But my point here is that the US sank a lot of money
and equipment helping and arming the Mujahedin.

In 1988-1989: All Soviet troops are withdrawn.

In 1992: Mujahedin resistance forces finally remove the Soviet-installed regime from power, leaving rival militias to
vie for influence in its wake.

In 1993: Mujahedin factions agree on the formation of a government with Burhanuddin Rabbani installed as
president, but factional infighting continues.

In 1994: The Taliban emerges as the strongest faction of the Muslim Afghan Mujahedin rebels.

In 1996: The Taliban seize control of Kabul and implement the Sharia, the fundamentalist Islamic law, barring women
from work and education. Islamic punishment is introduced including amputation and death by stoning.

In 1996: Taliban militia offers exiled Saudi militant Osama bin Laden refuge in Afghanistan.

In 1998: The U.S. launches missiles at suspected bases of Osama bin Laden, whom the US has accused of bombing
two of its embassies in Africa.

November 1999: The UN. imposes an air embargo and freezes Taliban assets in an attempt to force the Taliban to
hand over Osama bin Laden for trial.

In 2000-2001: Record cold, drought and civil war push an estimated 200,000 Afghans into refugee camps, many of
them in Pakistan.

On July 13, 2001: Taliban authorities ban use of the Internet to stop access to material deemed vulgar, immoral and

On July 19, 2001: Taliban authorities ban playing cards, computer discs, movies, satellite TV dishes, musical
instruments, cassettes and chessboards, after declaring them "against the Sharia."

On September 12, 2001: A day after the September 11 events, the Taliban condemned the hijacking attacks against
the United States and urged the US not to attack them in retaliation, saying the Afghan people are already in a great
deal of misery.

Which brings us to the present moment. September 11, 2001: Planes flying into tall buildings, blowing them up;
burning bodies leaping out of windows on top floors; broken limbs, severed heads, body parts strewn all over
Lower Manhattan, being collected in buckets; ferries carrying dead bodies across the Hudson River to New Jersey:
all these add up to incredible and spectacular cinematic scenes fueled (please pardon the pun) by capital and
technology. A college professor friend described this scenario still unfolding at the time of this writing as
"post-Apocalyptic." The hijackers who targeted US capital used its technology against it.

On September 15, 2001, in a brief appearance with his senior advisers at Camp David, George W. Bush said
point-blank: "We're at war. There's been an act of war declared upon America by terrorists, and we will respond
accordingly. My message is for everybody who wears a uniform to get ready." Shortly afterward, in his weekly radio
address, he warned that "those who make war on the United States have chosen their own destruction." He told
Americans to steel themselves for a campaign "without battlefields or beachheads." Victory, he said, "will not take
place in a single battle, but in a series of decisive actions against terrorist organizations and those who harbor and
support them." Bush again called those responsible for the attacks "barbaric people."

And so at this point the US is bracing for war against Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda, his international network of
terrorists, and against nation-states, which is what Bush meant when he said "and those who harbor and support
them." And therein lies the rub: this network is transnational, nomadic, and diasporic, and operates with fake
multiple identities, passports, and nationalities, with cell-phones, rented apartments and apartments near freeways
in world cities, with Internet encryption communications, and with face-time in modular cells.

The US will engage diasporic and fluid cell-units in war. And the nature of war itself has changed considerably
since Pearl Harbor. To paraphrase the title of Manual de Landa's excellent book: What we now have is "war in the
age of technology." The US and the West, mostly Judeo-Christian, armed with global capital, confront an
international network of nomadic terrorists, mostly Muslim, armed with ferocious passion for redressing (perceived)
injustice, guns, knives, robust funds, and jetliners transformed into lethal missiles. And both sides are armed with
technology. The former's terrain are digital cities, and the latter, deserts and mountains, and also digital cities. To
cite Attorney-General John Ashcroft, the attacks on September 11 were "orchestrated, coordinated assaults
conducted in technically proficient way."

It seems at this point in the US, that we're not too far from the Los Angeles of Ridley Scott's Blade Runner, if we
believe what security experts are saying in the wake of September 11 events. Security experts are describing a new
kind of country, where electronic identification might become the norm, immigrants might be tracked more closely,
and airspace over cities like New York and Washington might be off-limits to civilian aircraft. Security experts say
technology has presented almost limitless possibilities, including national electronic identification cards. "Each
American could be given a 'smart card,' so as they go into an airport or anywhere, we know exactly who they are,"
said Michael G. Cherkasky, president of Kroll Inc, a security consultant. "The technology is there," Mr. Cherkasky
said. "These cards in industry are going to spread, and then it's going to be rapidly spread elsewhere."

Smart cards, with computer chips would have detailed information about those they were issued to and would
identify them when read by a computer. The cards would be coordinated with fingerprints, or in a few years, facial
characteristics, and be programmed to permit or limit access through turnstiles into buildings or areas. They could
track someone's location, financial transactions, criminal history, and even driving speed on a particular highway on
a given night. Video surveillance, already becoming widespread, could be sharply increased in stores, offices, and
public spaces and at public events. In the interim, the profiling and surveillance of Arab- and Muslim-Americans will
most certainly increase within the US, echoing the internment of Japanese-Americans after Pearl Harbor.

The looming war is imbued with religious overtones. George W. Bush has used the term "crusade" from time to time
to describe the war his administration is planning. And Osama bin Laden's words in his 1998 interview with ABC's
John Miller--that I cite here at length--offered an ominous window into the events of September 11, 2001:

The hostility that America continues to express against the Muslim people has given rise to feelings of
animosity on the part of Muslims against America and against the West in general. Those feelings of
animosity have produced a change in the behavior of some crushed and subdued groups who, instead of
fighting the Americans inside the Muslim countries, went on to fight them inside the United States of
America itself. The Western regimes and the government of the United States of America bear the blame for
what might happen. If their people do not wish to be harmed inside their very own countries, they should
seek to elect governments that are truly representative of them and that protect their interests…The truth is
that the whole Muslim world is the victim of international terrorism, engineered by America…

What the future on earth will look like is anybody's guess. But one thing is certain: Life in America changed forever
after September 11, 2001. Already people are talking about "pre-September 11" America and "post-September 11"
America. My own life changed forever on September 11, 2001. (See dedication at the beginning of this book.) I
began writing this book long before that date. Now I have to finish it like this after that date.
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