What does it mean that thousands of people stormed the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, Egypt, and the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, leading to the death of four U.S. officials there?
On the one hand, it is a slap in the face to U.S. imperialism in North Africa. On the other, militarist forces in the U.S. ruling class can try to use the event as a pretext for further direct intervention in the region. Already two U.S. warships are heading to Libya’s coast and 50 Marines to Tripoli, its capital.
It is vital to working-class interests that the 99%, that is, all those who suffer the consequences of U.S. militarism, prepare themselves to fend off the avalanche of propaganda that the corporate media are sure to promote. Ruling-class forces here may even try to justify a military attack on Iran or Syria based on this phony pretext.
Remember that the George W. Bush administration used the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks as the pretext for invasions and occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq. These military adventures destroyed both countries and cost the lives of more than a million Iraqi and Afghan people, plus thousands of U.S. soldiers, and cost more than $3 trillion so far.
To evaluate the Sept. 11, 2012, events, we must examine not only what happened that day in Cairo and Benghazi, but the recent U.S. role in the region, the impact of anti-Islamic propaganda within the U.S., and the relationship between U.S. imperialist strategy and groups like al-Qaida.
The first step in understanding these events is to remember that the United States is an imperialist country. It, its NATO allies and Japan, by their very character, exploit and super-exploit the other countries and peoples of the world. As long as these countries continue to oppress peoples, they will arouse resistance, and that resistance is justified.
The immediate spark for the assaults on the embassies apparently came from a crude anti-Muslim film produced in the United States about a year ago by extreme, reactionary elements. This film is an open provocation to devout Muslims, an insult guaranteed to generate anger. Coptic Christians in Egypt demonstrated against the film in solidarity with their Muslim compatriots. Even the U.S. Embassy in Cairo tried to apologize and gain some distance from this film.
While such crude anti-Islam is not official U.S. policy, the official persecution of Muslims in the United States and the corporate media’s heavy anti-Muslim propaganda have created an atmosphere that allows the crudest and most reactionary groups to thrive here.
Answering what they saw as a cultural and religious assault, 3,000 Egyptians marched on the U.S. Embassy. Many stormed the building, tearing down U.S. flags and burning them. The demonstrators called on Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi to ban the film in Egypt and to demand an apology from the United States.
In Benghazi. the storming of the consulate had graver consequences. Apparently a gun battle broke out between those in the consulate and armed groups among the marchers. The result was that the consulate and a nearby safe house burned; U.S. Ambassador to Libya J. Christopher Stevens and three other U.S. personnel died in the fire.
U.S. officials claim the attack was premeditated and a group like al-Qaida did it. What they left out of the statement was that groups like al-Qaida are exactly the same as those the U.S. encouraged, armed and threw into battle against the legitimate Libyan government of Col. Moammar Ghadafi in 2011.
This maneuvering with extremist groups is nothing new for Washington. In the 1980s the U.S. armed al-Qaida and assorted “warlords” against the progressive Afghan government. Today it’s doing it once more against the Syrian government.
U.S. imperialism faces a dilemma in its attempt to reconquer the former colonial world — which is exactly what is going on in Africa and Western Asia. If it carries out a military occupation with U.S. troops, a resistance movement arises that inflicts heavy casualties on the occupiers and awakens opposition at home. See Iraq and Afghanistan.
If Washington limits its direct intervention to use of drone strikes and then uses divide-and-conquer tactics to incite religious or sectarian warfare, and if it arms groups like al-Qaida to fight more progressive forces, it can face a response like the one in Benghazi.
For the workers and oppressed in the U.S. — the 99%, including people in the rest of the world — the best resolution of this dilemma is for the U.S. to stop interfering, exploiting and oppressing the peoples of these countries and for the 99% to be in the streets to press these demands. That is the meaning of Benghazi, Sept. 11, 2012.