The attacks of September 11, 2001, destroying the World Trade Center in New York City and heavily damaging the Pentagon, were the deadliest acts of terrorism ever carried out on American soil.
The initial response of the WSWS, written only hours after the attack and posted the following day, “The political roots of the terror attack on New York and Washington,” laid out all the central political questions. The WSWS “unequivocally condemns the terrorist attacks,” it began.
“Those responsible for the hijacking of four commercial passenger aircraft and their conversion into flying bombs are guilty of mass murder… These acts of homicidal terrorism manifest a toxic combination of demoralized pessimism, religious and ultra-nationalist obscurantism, and, it must be added, political opportunism of the vilest character.”
The WSWS, however, placed central culpability for the attack on American imperialism. Since 1983, the US government had been bombing one or another Middle Eastern country, including Lebanon, Libya, Iraq, Iran, the Sudan and Afghanistan.
The charge that the individual behind the attack was Osama bin Laden, “whose every move is tracked with the aid of the most technologically sophisticated and massive intelligence apparatus,” raises “a host of troubling questions,” the WSWS wrote. It noted that bin Laden and Al Qaeda were products of the decision of American imperialism to arm and train Islamic fundamentalist insurgents to fight the pro-Soviet government and subsequently the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.
After pointing to the plans for war and attacks on democratic rights that were initiated immediately after the terrorist attacks, the statement concluded with a prescient warning that “the actions now being contemplated by the Bush administration—indicated by the president’s threat to make “no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbor them’—will only set the stage for further catastrophes.”
Two days later, a second editorial board statement, “Why the Bush administration wants war,” warned that the September 11 attacks would serve as the catalyst for a long planned increase in militarism abroad and attacks on democratic rights at home.
Another commentary, headlined, “Anti-Americanism: The ‘anti-imperialism’ of fools,” took a principled stand against demoralized middle class elements who responded to the September 11 attacks with vulgar anti-Americanism in the place of principled anti-imperialism. The WSWS explained that it was the American government and not the American population that was carrying out imperialist policies throughout the world.
At the same time, the WSWS rejected the official explanation of the events of 9/11 and conducted its own review of the information that was coming to light about the US government’s own role in permitting the attacks to take place, despite extensive warnings and direct monitoring of the conspirators. This was summarized in a four-part series of articles by Patrick Martin, published in January 2002, under the headline, “Was the US government alerted to September 11 attack?”