The "war on terror"--- an imperialist nightmare

Thousands of Afghan civilians have been killed in the past months of U.S./British bombing (one study of world press reports puts the number at nearly 4000). Thousands more have died , or will die, from hunger and cold. Bush and the military planners knew this would happen, just as Daddy Bush and Clinton knew that sanctions against Iraq would cause untold human suffering (as many as 1 million Iraqis have died as a result). And we're not supposed to even think about what happened to the thousands of ordinary Taliban soldiers, many of whom were forced into the army, who were mercilessly bombed with B-52s. Blowing them to pieces was allegedly "legitimate". So again we're seeing that human life is very cheap to the Washington political policy-makers and military planners. Their stingy relief efforts can never make up for the lives they've already destroyed, and will continue to destroy, in this holy "war against terrorism". What has driven them to act in this way?

Imperialist interests

Imperialist interests means the interests of monopoly capitalism. Since Sept.11 we've seen how this translates at home: a bipartisan $15 billion handout to the airline industry while it threw 140,000 workers out of jobs, an "economic stimulus package" which gives the rich $115 billion more in handouts, but no moves to extend the unemployment laws to cover the majority of workers who aren't even protected, or to raise the miserable minimum wage, or to do anything about homelessness. This is because the politicians of both parties represent the interests of the bourgeoisie, the owners of the mega-corporations and banks. They're stepping up the fight to ensure its profits.

Abroad it translates into the rape of Afghanistan. The underlying motive for this is to further expand imperialist interests to ensure more profits. But to achieve this U.S. imperialism must wage political struggles against rivals. Among these have been the would-be bourgeois rivals of Western imperialism in several countries, whose extreme wing is represented by the pan-Islamic Osama bin Laden group.

Behind the religious veil, this group stands for challenging the prerogatives of U.S. imperialism (similarly, the cleric Khomeini fought against the interests of U.S. imperialism on behalf of rising Iranian capitalism in the '70s). And the imperialists have been particularly concerned about Saudi Arabia, which sits on almost a quarter of the world's oil reserves. The importance of these reserves is increasing because oil production peaked in the non-OPEC countries several years ago. The Saudi royal family knows this, and a section of it wants to cut a better deal for itself in its dealings with the imperialists. This section also wants to work more closely with Iran and Iraq, and it's had a certain relationship with bin Laden in the past. With the King is dying, this faction is working to succeed him. But the Monarchy itself is in trouble. While the corrupt princes have fattened themselves the conditions of the masses have deteriorated. This has increased popular unrest. Demands for democracy, jobs, that U.S. troops get out of the country, etc., are being put forward as never before. Alongside this the Wahhabi clergy, a great many of whom support bin Laden, attack corruption and the stationing of U.S. troops from a fundamentalist angle. They and bin Laden have such a large following that the Monarchy is forced to make concessions to them. Meanwhile, al-Qaida was also supporting bourgeois oppositions in several other countries. So for these reasons bin Laden earned the hatred of Washington some years ago. Moreover, his group's launching of several terrorist attacks on U.S. political and military installations in the '90s only brought more hatred. The U.S. responded with missile attacks on Sudan and Afghanistan under Clinton, while at the same time using the U.N. to enforce financial and other sanctions against Afghanistan for harboring bin Laden. Thus, following the September 11 terrorist atrocity U.S. imperialism opted for war not only against the bin Laden group, but also the Taliban for not turning bin Laden over. Through this war U.S. imperialism also wants to gain a bigger military foothold in the region with which to threaten rivals in power if the need arises, or to attack revolutionary struggles of the oppressed people when they develop.

Many anti-war forces tend to reduce U.S. imperialism's war against Afghanistan to being a war for Unocal; that is, since the Taliban was making various demands in negotiations and tending to favor an Argentine giant instead, and since the big international lenders wouldn't finance either oil and gas pipeline proposal because of continuing instability in the country, U.S. imperialism used the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks as a pretext for wiping out the Taliban. Now monopolizing the petroleum resources of Central Asia is certainly something which the U.S. and other imperialist powers are striving to do. And they eventually need to get them to market. But seeing the U.S. war motives as centered on the issue of Unocal's pipeline proposals leaves out the main political motives discussed above (and one could add subsidiary ones). Moreover, it doesn't consider a number of other issues: Is British imperialism fighting for Unocal, or for its own broader interests? Clinton launched missile attacks against Afghanistan in 1998 despite the fact that this would heighten tensions with the Taliban and upset the Unocal plan (which it did). It seems that Clinton's overriding interest too was against bin Laden. Since the political situation in the country is even more unstable now pipeline plans have to be put off into an uncertain future. It's hard to imagine that the U.S. State Dept, CIA, and other government agencies didn't know this would happen.

To sum up: After the September 11 atrocity the imperialist fanatics in Washington immediately opted for war against Afghanistan. Certainly the Bush administration is packed with oil men well-versed in coldly calculating how the future profits of their industry can be assured, and this is an indirect motive in the war. But this leaves out that the government is comprised of politicians and experts whose business it is to calculate the strategic interests of all the U.S. monopolists in general. It also leaves out the Senate and Congress. Take the liberal Jim McDermott, a most "even-handed" man who can talk for hours on every side of a question. Why did he vote to give Bush and his right-wing fanatics a blank-check for a war he knew would kill thousands of innocents? The only answer is that he sees this as a way to achieve more fundamental capitalist interests. These include putting down the would-be capitalist rivals represented by bin Laden. The latter forces want to control petroleum resources when they exist in countries with them, but they also want to build up the Islamic banking system, etc., and generally monopolize the politics and culture of all the countries they're in. The dominant imperialists fear and hate this tendency.

A "new kind of war" which will go on indefinitely makes no sense if it's really only a war to defend the U.S. from terrorist attacks. With bin Laden and other al-Qaida leaders dead or on the run, dealing with scattered terrorist cells is a matter of police work, not war. "Unending war'' only makes sense if it means a series of wars to overcome constraints to U.S. imperialism's agenda for world empire. And this requires suppressing domestic opposition.

Repressing dissent

The bi-partisan "Anti-Terrorism" Act includes such features as search and seizure without warrants or warning, almost unlimited rights for the government to snoop anywhere and seize assets (the judicial "overview" is almost meaningless), the right to "disappear" someone it arrests for 7 days, etc. It also puts the CIA back in the business of domestic spying. And if you're an immigrant, forget about any rights whatsoever. In the days after Sept. 11 the Feds grabbed more than 1100 people. Some they summarily deported with no right to defend themselves. Others were held in secret locations. The government wouldn't release the names of most, it interfered with the right to counsel, it didn't charge anyone with anything to do with Sept. 11, and for 6 weeks or more many family members couldn't find their relatives. Some of these detainees have now been released, but many others still remain locked up. Although it's possible a tiny handful of these people had some connection to Sept. 11, it's also possible that none of them did. If there are no charges then everyone should be released immediately. More, at minimum the government should financially compensate these individuals for loss of homes, apartments, income, jobs, schooling, etc., due to their imprisonment.

Along with the post-Sept. 11 legislation we're also confronted with numerous executive orders, Justice Department and CIA rule changes, etc. The looting of Somali-owned businesses in Seattle was carried out under executive order 13224 (of Sept. 23). On Nov. 1 Bush ordered that past or present presidents can block access to White House papers forever (a "hide the evidence" order). In mid-November Bush issued another order allowing military kangaroo courts to try, sentence or execute non-citizens the executive branch claims it has "reason to believe" are members of terrorist groups. If that's not enough, these military panels can sentence someone to death even if a third of the members think the person is innocent! Meanwhile the Attorney General has issued a rule that allows the government to listen in on conversations between prisoners and their lawyers, and to intercept mail between them. Thus from the bi-partisan legislation to Ashcroft's latest rules we're seeing the stepped-up building of an American police state. The pretext is Sept. 11, but since this is a class government the results will ultimately be used against the struggles of the working class, environmental activists, or anyone organizing to oppose imperialist war.

Ending Terrorism

The "war on terrorism" can't end terrorism. The ruling class knows this, and to quote a former British Intelligence officer speaking at an anti-war rally in London: "I don't know of one officer who thinks it's possible to beat terrorism with terrorism". For example, the Israeli state has been built on murdering, driving out and terrorizing the Palestinian Arabs since its inception---a more than 50-year long "war against terrorism" by what has become the most militarized state on Earth. But the ordinary Jewish people are not any more secure because of it. The terrorist policies of their state only give rise to resistance. And because of the desperate conditions the Palestinian Arab masses are forced to live under, some are attracted to clerical and bourgeois-nationalist trends (like Hamas) which include terrorist murders of Jewish civilians in their arsenals.

In Afghanistan the medieval Taliban (which the CIA once supported and the State Dept. initially welcomed to Kabul) has been fractured. Bin Laden, the former U.S.-supported "freedom fighter", is holed up awaiting martyrdom. And thousands of ordinary people have been killed by today's unrivaled military superpower. Thus new seeds for further rounds of terrorism have been sown. Meanwhile, all the old ones continue growing: the decade-long starvation of Iraq, wheeling and dealing with the rich and corrupt monarchies and other repressive regimes in the Middle East while the living conditions of 100 million people deteriorate, support for the terrorist state of Israel, troops in Saudi Arabia, etc. Moreover, in order to maintain its prerogatives in the region (and in South and Central Asia) the U.S. has for years worked to undermine and wipe out the secular-democratic movements of the masses against the reactionary regimes (its business partners) by supporting religious fundamentalists. It's thereby helped create the fundamentalist monster which gives rise to most terrorist attacks.

Presently the big powers are trying to finesse a "broad-based" Afghan government; "broad" in the sense that it represents warlords, corrupt politicians and generals from the several ethnic groups or religious sects, not in the sense that it represent the interests of the broad masses of people. This cabal includes former president Rabbani (whose forces murdered 50,000 people when forced out of Kabul in 1996), General Dostum (notorious for tying rebellious soldiers to tank tracks and shredding them to pieces), southern warlords ideologically close to Hekmatyar (the ultra-reactionary founder or the Wahhabi Islamic Party and main U.S. ally for years), and others. They're all murderers and terrorists in their own right, and all of them will be angling to grab the lion's share of food-aid for their militias. All vie to exploit and oppress the masses of people. Some favor doing away with the burqa, others are as bad or worse than the Taliban. But none are going to wage a serious fight for equality of women or other democratic demands.

The imperialist "solution" to terrorism won't work. The only realistic solution is the development in these regions of democratic and revolutionary political trends fighting in the interests of the oppressed and exploited masses. This is the alternative to the reactionary fundamentalism of bin Laden and other would-be exploiters. And it ultimately involves uniting with the working people of all countries to not only resist, but to overthrow the biggest terrorists of all: the imperialists. In Afghanistan our allies in this world-historic struggle are represented by the leftists and revolutionary democrats who continue to struggle in underground conditions. Their ranks may be small and scattered, but they represent the future of the people.

This is a winter of mass hunger, starvation, and continued bloodletting in Afghanistan; a winter of new attacks on the living standards, democratic rights, and environment of the masses of American people; a winter of discontent. Let us stand up and denounce the imperialist overlords who have caused this. Let us unite to build the anti-war movement on a firmer foundation. Let us unite to build a social movement intent on doing away with the imperialist system itself.

-- Seattle Anti-Imperialist Alliance, December 14, 2001