Ending Terrorism is our Task
A Discussion with "International Haftegi"
Question: Thousands of people have lost their lives as a result of terrorist attacks on the skyscrapers of the World Trade Centre in New York and the Pentagon Building in Washington. What is the position of the Worker-communist Party of Iran on this incident?
Mansoor Hekmat: The Worker-communist Party of Iran immediately issued a communiqué on this. We condemn this act as an immense crime against humanity and genocide. Our hearts go out to the people of America and we share deeply in their grief. Reactionary states and organisations have made terrorism a stable aspect of life in our era. We believe that through people's power, we can and must put an end to state and non-state terrorism. Other than its direct unimaginable criminal dimensions, it is clear to us that this occurrence is just a preface to the further escalation of a global terrorist contest. It is a dark day - a prelude to more calamities. We call on people to come to the fore and take the world in their own hands. The world must be taken out of the hands of bombers and generals.
Question: Who has carried out this terrorist act and to what purpose?
Mansoor Hekmat: The facts of this incident are still not clear. Several possibilities could exist. In the Oklahoma incident, it quickly became clear that a circle from the extremist Right in America itself caused that catastrophe. But this time, indications are that an Islamic current was behind this crime. The suicidal nature of this operation places it within the traditions of Islamic groups. Which Islamic organisation and or mix of organisations and states were behind this attack is more obscure. The scope of the operation, the existence of four teams with four pilots trained to fly passenger planes who were ready to commit suicide, is indicative of a long-term plan of four to five years. The fact that no hints of such a large-scale operation had been leaked to Western intelligence is indicative that their intelligence sources had not so deeply infiltrated these organisations, and this too points to outside USA and Europe. Nonetheless, it is not possible to comment on the causes and perpetrators of this incident with certainty. The American government and media are primarily focused on Ben Laden's group.
Question: American officials are speaking of revenge and of punishing the terrorists and countries supporting terrorism. They have accused Ben Laden and have said that if the Taliban does not hand him over, they might attack Afghanistan. What is your opinion on this?
Mansoor Hekmat: In my opinion, America and NATO will definitely carry out an immense violent operation, not necessarily or fundamentally to punish the perpetrators who might not even be within America's reach, but rather to assert its power globally as well as for psychological and emotional factors in USA itself. Between an effective political way to confront anti-American terrorism and a futile military course of action, the US will definitely opt for the latter because America's conception of itself and its super power status is based on military might.
There is still no certainty about the dimensions of America's response. I do not think that they themselves will consider the firing of missiles and dropping of bombs on the regions and cities of Afghanistan from a distance as sufficient. If Taliban hands over Ben Laden, the extent of USA's military reaction might remain limited; otherwise they would plan to carry out a military occupation and ground invasion of Afghanistan or even Iraq. This would change many things. The political picture of the world would change altogether.
Question: In initial reactions to this incident within America, there has been talk of intelligence and security weaknesses. In fact, the Pentagon, the centre of the defence establishment and the most important centre of finance have been attacked and many people have perished. What is the effect of this incident regarding the status of America as a superpower in the world; what measures might America take to prevent a diminished position?
Mansoor Hekmat: In my opinion, this terrorism in fact helps secure America's image as a superpower. USA's superpower status is defined in relation to other economic, political and military powers in the capitalist world and not in relation to Afghanistan, Iraq or Islamic Jihad and Hamas. USA's status as a superpower is in domineering the world, not in its secure airports and fireproof buildings. And today's climate in the world after this incident, just as the period after Iraq's occupation of Kuwait, is exactly a climate of renewed declarations of allegiance to America by other Western powers and their yielding to the political and military tendencies of the American administration. This terrorist crime gives a blank cheque to America for military intervention in any part of the world and to re-assert its world dominance, while a day before, the American government was under pressure by the ruling circles and the media in the West for its obstinate and zealous defence of Israel and its disregard for the Kyoto agreement. USA will exploit this incident as a springboard, and excuse for a show of military power. In the short term, all Western governments will fall in line and stand to attention. In the medium term, however, more lasting economic and political equations will again change the equilibrium to America's disadvantage.
Question: Politically, will this incident affect issues such as peace in the Middle East and the question of Palestine? How?
Mansoor Hekmat: In the short term, everything will definitely be affected by this incident. Both sides of the conflict in Palestine and Israel are stunned, immobile and concerned. Arafat quickly reaches a microphone and condemns the attack in case he might be held partly responsible. Israeli leaders are extremely infuriated with arguments that this incident is a continuation of the Palestinian question and a reaction against Israeli violence; they deny any responsibility. But the medium term effects of this incident will depend on America's initial reaction. If there is a bloody show of force against Islamic groups, then at the end of the action, a new diplomatic cycle to bring peace between the two sides based on a new military equilibrium will begin, as we saw after the attack on Iraq. But the question of Palestine and the Arab-Israel situation are more deeply rooted in local realities. Peace in Palestine is not feasible without a move to the Left in both Israeli and Palestinian societies. To achieve peace, the forces of secularism and justice must prevail over religion and ethnic bigotry in both sides of the conflict. The Palestinian question does not have a military solution. Intimidation is futile. Consequently, if the views of both societies towards each other and the balance of power between Left and Right in each do not change, the question will remain.
Question: In recent Western media publicity, these terrorist attacks have been portrayed as a confrontation with democracy and have somehow placed some 'Islamic countries' in this confrontation. Is it possible that this might lead to the growth of racism in the West?
Mansoor Hekmat: We have witnessed a limited reference to Huntington's thesis of the 'clash of civilisations' in the Western media; that this is a battle of 'civilisations,' an attack on the Western 'way of life,' democracy, etc. have been heard here and there. But the response of mainstream society and even spokespersons of the American government show that this view does not hold. I am not worried about the rise of racism following this incident. Racists will definitely become more active and aggressive for a while, but Western society will drive them back. On the contrary, the people of America, as far as can be seen from afar, have up to now conducted themselves with admirable dignity and humanity in the face of such a shocking disaster. I think that the American people will not easily accept an indiscriminate military response against the people of Middle East. This incident is too big to lend itself to typical clichés and propaganda. In my opinion, Western society will have a more mature and sophisticated approach in dealing with this incident. Today's communications technology has made it more difficult to keep people in ignorance and feed them bigotry. The same television that showed the New York disaster to the world will also broadcast Kabul's destruction. Those who have mourned the New York disaster cannot easily cheer its repetition in Kabul.
Question: The WPI's communiqué has pointed to the New York disaster as another step in the escalation of a terrorist contest, a contest in which on the one side the majority of the world's states and on the other side reactionary and particularly Islamic movements are taking part. How can this race be restrained and in your opinion what role must the WPI play in the fight against terrorism?
Mansoor Hekmat: Ending terrorism is our task. It is the task of us who fight for people's equality, for their rights and dignity. State terrorism will end by overthrowing terrorist states. Non-state terrorism must be eradicated by putting an end to the hardships, discrimination, exploitation and suppression that lead people to desperation and make them fall prey to reactionary and inhuman organisations. It can be eradicated by exposing religion, ethnicism, racism and any reactionary ideology, which has no respect for people. Our response is to fight for the creation of an open, free and equal society in which people, their lives, dignity and well being are valued. The Worker-communist Party of Iran and political parties like ours will confront both sides of this terrorist contest - reactionary states as well as reactionary movements and parties. But for now, it is they that define the world's image. We must bring to the fore freedom loving and progressive humanity against the totality of this situation. Until then, this state of affairs will continue.
The above first published in International Haftegi, Number 71, September 14, 2001. The English version is a reprint from WPI Briefing.
Translators: Maryam Namazie and Fariborz Pooya