The “war against terrorism”---
Endless imperialist wars
In his warmongering State of the Union speech Bush used the September 11 terrorist atrocity as pretext for threatening a series of military adventures abroad, stepped-up building of an American police state, increased militarization of society, and more handouts to the rich while the masses of people are squeezed. This response represents the class strivings of the American bourgeoisie, a ruling class dominated by the owners of the monopolist corporations and banks. The laws of the capitalist system of production force them to fight for economic domination on a world scale, which also means political and military domination: of rival and would-be rival capitalists, and of the workers and others they exploit at home and abroad (the ultimate source of their wealth). Hence imperialism and war is built into the system, whether it’s led by Democrats or Republicans.
Today the U.S. still has the biggest and most powerful economy in the world, but other giant economies have been growing up relative to it, particularly in Europe and East Asia. They too strive to push their way and dominate (struggles between the European Union and U.S. in the WTO are a reflection of this.) Against this background the U.S. bourgeoisie isn’t voluntarily going to give up its privileged position as the world’s chief exploiting class any more than any other great power has ever abandoned its drive for domination. And although U.S. imperialism’s economic strength has been declining in a relative sense, it’s military strength has not. It’s the unrivaled military super-power, accounting for 36% of world military spending, more than the total of the next nine largest spenders combined! But this is not enough. The government is using the threat of terrorism to push the sky-high military budget even higher, and in ways which have nothing to do with tracking down what are really only a relative handful of terrorists in the world. Some brief comments on this:
It’s a source of big profits for the military contractors as tax-dollars squeezed from the masses are diverted to it--- one of the best games in town.
As the world’s largest arms merchants the U.S. imperialists work to prop up the exploiting classes against the working masses in all the countries they export to (Saudi Arabia, Israel, Indonesia, Philippines, Colombia, etc., etc., etc. In this way they defend the capitalist world order against revolutions of the oppressed.
In mid-December Bush announced he would be tearing up the 1972 arms control treaty, something which he could not have done without the backing of the establishment. To think this has anything to do with capturing a dead or hiding bin Laden, etc., would be absurd. Instead it reveals that U.S. imperialism is intent on military domination of the world, including vis-à-vis its traditional rivals, but also Russia, and particularly the up-and-coming state-capitalist China. This could rapidly lead to a new arms race, including the militarization of space.
Thus when Bush argues for $48 billion more in military spending next year (which would make the biggest war budget in two decades) by saying this is about “not cutting corners” in the so-called war against terrorism he's lying. In general, the “war against terrorism” is a policy of resurgent imperialism, whereby the U.S. seeks to settle a series of foreign policy problems by direct military means. In this way it wants to ensure and expand its spheres of influence, be in a position to exploit even more of the world’s working people, and further plunder the Earth’s natural resources.
Afghanistan: rape an entire country, then move on
To wipe out its former “freedom fighter” bin Laden the U.S. military has destroyed the little remaining infrastructure of one of the poorest countries in the world. It has turned hundreds of thousands of people into refugees, killed more than 4000 innocent civilians, and caused the starvation of untold numbers of people. (That more people didn’t perish from starvation is in large part attributable to winter coming late, and being less harsh than usual.) Of course the “brave American warriors” also blasted thousands of ordinary Taliban soldiers to smithereens from 30,000 feet, but that was all “legitimate” according to the maniacal war propagandists. We’re not supposed to think that many of these young men were sons of workers and peasants who had been coerced into a military which they had no love for, or had joined it as one of the only ways to survive in that ravaged land. Moreover, the deaths and suffering are in no way over.
Thus U.S. imperialism has brought another disaster to the people of Afghanistan. And it’s not the first time. The United States’ major foreign policy operation of the ’80s and very early ’90s was the CIA-led dirty war in Afghanistan. The objective was never to liberate the Afghan people from oppression, but only to bleed the U.S. imperialism’s world rivals head-quartered in the Soviet Union. With this aim tons of money, arms, and other support were given every imaginable fundamentalist and reactionary cut-throat, including to the precursors of the Taliban, and to Osama bin Laden and Co. And these forces used their new-found strength to crush progressive opposition to the Soviet-backed regime. Thus when the Soviet social-imperialists were forced to vacate Afghanistan the U.S. imperialists no longer gave it much interest (what interest remained was focused mainly on the proposed Unocal natural gas pipeline). More serious interest was only renewed over the Taliban giving refuge to bin Laden and other al-Qaida leaders, especially as the latter became more active. But now with bin Laden either dead or in deep hiding, and al-Qaida severely mauled, U.S. imperialism is again preparing to abandon Afghanistan to the forces it has brought forth.
The Karzai government is comprised of men who long ago exposed themselves as sadistic mass murderers and rapists---in the war against the reactionary Soviet occupation, in their war against the medieval Taliban, in the pockets of the country they held prior to the U.S. attack, etc. Hated by the masses, they have only come to power thanks to months of U.S. bombing. More, this “interim government” has little power outside the Kabul area. It rules the rest of the country on the basis of shaky alliances with competing warlords and Taliban elements who have switched sides. And since the driving out of the Taliban the nature of these “gentlemen” has been further exposed: looting of food warehouses by their militias, giving false intelligence to the U.S. war machine so that rivals get wiped out, pillaging the masses at gun-point, etc. This is what “victory” in the “war against terrorism” looks like.
With the U.S. gone, British, German and other imperialists, the UN, etc., will supposedly clean up the wreckage by “peace-keeping”, and several billion dollars in aid from governments around the world. (In the Tokyo donors’ conference the U.S. initially pledged $296 million---only a third of the cost of one month’s war. The EU pledged $1 billion over four years. Kofi Annan said he wants $10 billion over five years, very little considering the devastation of the country wrought by outside powers.) The lesser imperialist powers are no doubt partly playing this role because of U.S. pressure, but there’s also the issue of their willingly paying for the “services” provided by the U.S. military/intelligence establishment in doing the dirty-work of imperialism in general in the world (from wars to put down rivals in exploitation, to wars against the exploited and oppressed peoples themselves). In this way they can avoid social risks at home by appearing to have clean hands. They also get to train their own militaries in the arts of crushing dissent while prettifying military expenditures (saying it’s all about “peace-keeping”, fighting “terror”, etc.).
Why the war?---
The main reason the U.S. and British imperialists invaded Afghanistan was to settle accounts with their would-be bourgeois rivals in several countries, whose extreme wing was represented by the pan-Islamic Osama bin Laden/al-Qaida group. Behind the religious veil this group has worked against 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’ particular concern is the Saudi Arabian government, which presides over almost a quarter of the world’s oil reserves. (The importance of these reserves has been increasing as oil production in non-OPEC countries peaked several years ago.) The Saudi royal family wants to cash in on its good position, and a section of it wants to cut a much better deal in its dealings with the West. This section also wants to work more closely with Iran and Iraq, and it had certain relations with bin Laden in the past. Moreover, it’s working to succeed the dying King. But the monarchy itself is in trouble. While the corrupt oil-princes have fattened themselves they’ve also presided over an unprecedented deterioration of the living standards of the masses in recent years. Popular unrest has broadened. Demands for jobs, democracy, that U.S. troops get out of the country, etc., are being raised as never before. Meanwhile the fundamentalist Wahhabi clergy, a great many of whom have supported bin Laden, attack corruption, call for U.S. troops to get out, call for a bigger share of the oil revenues, etc., but from an exploiter’s standpoint. Nevertheless they’ve gained such a large following that the monarchy is forced at times to make concessions to them. This, plus the fact that al-Qaida also supported unfriendly bourgeois oppositions in several other countries earned it hatred in Washington. And the bin-Laden group’s launching of several terrorist attacks on U.S. military and political installations in the late ’90s brought matters to a head. Under Clinton the U.S. responded with missile attacks on Afghanistan and Sudan. It also used the UN to enforce financial and other sanctions against the Taliban for protecting bin-Laden. After the Sept. 11 terrorist attack Bush immediately opted for war to wipe out the power of al-Qaida, and doing this had to involve war on the Taliban as well. Through this war U.S. imperialism also hoped to get a bigger military foothold in the region; to use against rivals in power if the need arises, or through which to attack the revolutionary struggles of the oppressed people when they inevitably develop. It has gained such a foothold.
An indirect motive in the war was control over petroleum resources, particularly in Saudi Arabia. Much farther down on the list was the proposed Unocal pipeline. Since the Taliban had been making various demands in negotiations, and tending to favor an Argentine giant instead, and the big international financiers wouldn’t back either project with continuing instability in the country, many political forces reduce matters to the U.S. imperialists using the Sept. 11 attack as pretext to clear the Taliban out of the way so Unocal could go ahead. But this leaves out the political motives just outlined, ignores why it was that British imperialism was so eager to attack, ignores why it was that Clinton wasn’t concerned about launching missile attacks in 1998 even though this would further scuttle any serious talks with the Afghan government, ignores that for much of the ’90s the U.S. government favored a multi-pipeline strategy vis-a-vis Caspian Basin oil and gas, and, after 1997, started promoting a particular pipeline proposal which wouldn’t run through Afghanistan at all, etc. (And now of course, there can be no serious talk of an American, Argentine, or any other pipeline through Afghanistan for what may be a very long time.)
Lastly, there is another side of the story which we cannot forget: Despite two decades of war, hunger, and brutal repression brought by the Soviet-backed governments, the fundamentalist opposition, the Taliban, and now the U.S.-installed regime, the masses of Afghans still live, and work, and struggle. Moreover, within their ranks still exist organized groups of revolutionaries who organize against the Karzai government and warlords, just as they did against the Taliban. This shows that the power of the foreign imperialists and domestic exploiting classes has limits, even in a very poor and backward country. It also provides an inspiration for us to step up the struggle against our and the Afghan people's common enemy here in this country.
The U.S. government and Pentagon war-planners have been debating where they should launch a new major war for some time. Politically, they’ve conjured up an “axis of evil”, while stepping up the attempt to round up allies for attacking Iraq. Meanwhile, from Yemen, to Somalia, to Colombia, they’ve had their military and intelligence personnel on the ground preparing for possible larger interventions, while continuing to funnel military and other assistance to the reactionary governments and other “friends”. But the most dramatic event of the recent period has been the sending of 660 American troops to the Philippines. These “advisors” are to be armed and active in the countryside. While claiming to be there just to assist the government of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in fighting the Abu Sayyaf terrorists, the U.S. will in fact be assisting her in suppressing the masses of people for the benefit of Filipino, American, and other capitalists.
As a matter of fact the Armed Forces of the Philippines have been waging war against not only Abu Sayyaf, but also the Maoist Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army it leads. (Washington also lists the latter forces as “terrorist”.) Moreover, although the Philippine governments of the past two decades have been forced by the Bangsa Moro armed rebellion to reach various ceasefires and grant limited autonomy, these have repeatedly broken down (on the government’s part it was a matter of its not putting its money where its mouth was while continuing many of the same old policies in new forms). This rebellion has been led by groups much, much larger than Abu Sayyaf, and which were founded long before it. But through the mouths of its press and politicians the Philippine bourgeoisie portrays all opposition to its policies against the Muslim people concentrated in the Southern Philippines as being the work of Abu Sayyaf terrorists. Question them about the several groups there and they say “they’re all the same”! Macapagal-Arroyo has plans for a National I.D. system, she’s increased the military budget by 25% this year, and she’s now brought in American troops. Clearly the intent is to use increased violence against those the bourgeoisie considers “all the same”, I.e., any opposition, whether reactionary or progressive.
The Bangsa Moro struggle is just, but in a leaflet we can only treat it briefly. Our defense of the struggle is not the same thing as endorsing its present leaders, however, nor is it an endorsement of their politics, or of the Moro class forces these politics represent. Our unity is with the oppressed masses.
The 5-6 million Philippine Muslims inhabit several southern islands, Mindanao being the largest. By Philippine standards they’re very poor, with most being peasants or fisher folk. And their regions have increasingly become the focal point for expansion of Philippine capitalism. Historically, this has meant such things as government resettlement schemes whereby Christian settlers were sent into the Muslim areas. The native peasantry resisted this, and the government responded by attempting to disarm them, arming the settlers, and stepping up its military occupation of these regions. In these conditions the fairly secular Moro National Liberation Front was formed in 1972. It organized an armed struggle for self determination which resulted in then-president Marcos sending 70% of the military to Mindanao. More than 100,000 people were killed, and 200,000 people turned into refugees. But the struggle was too strong to crush by military means alone. Thus Marcos maneuvered by “recognizing” the right of the Moros to self-determination (the Tripoli agreement) while keeping the military pressure on. Subsequent Philippine governments have continued to maneuver, including with the 1996 a peace agreement with the MNLF which conceded limited autonomy to some Moro areas. But the government maintained many prerogatives, as well as not coming through with many of its initial promises. Moreover, the elected MNLF governor (Misuari) showed himself to be blatantly corrupt. Meanwhile, in 1977 a number of clerics had split from the MNLF to form the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. They too were able to raise an army of many scores of thousands, but with a more religious appeal. The MILF was not part of the 1996 agreement, and engaged in heavy fighting in 1997, 2000, as well as earlier. But the government was maneuvered to make several agreements with it as well (the most recent being under Macapagal-Arroyo in August, 2001). Despite such agreements, in the 21st century the demands of the Moro people remain unmet while the government accelerates the building of its repressive military machine.
Abu Sayyaf was formed in 1991 by fundamentalists, several of whom had fought in Afghanistan (Reagan’s “freedom fighters”). Its fundamentalist appeal has not resounded widely among the Sunni Muslim Moros, and it therefore remains very small. But it’s gained notoriety for high-profile kidnappings and ransoming, murder and beheadings of innocents, etc. (including while a Philippine government agent operated in its ranks). Thus it provides the convenient excuse for the Philippine bourgeoisie to build a military machine to ultimately use not only against (or not mainly against) the reactionary Abu Sayyaf, but against all the progressive struggles of the Filipino workers and peasants. (The nature of the Philippine military/police apparatus is shown by the recent exposures of high-ranking officers grabbing a share of Abu Sayyaf’s ransom money in exchange for favors.)
This is what Bush’s “war against terrorism” means for the Philippines. The people sense it, and it’s why they immediately came out in protest against the sending of U.S. troops and war materials. (Well-attended demonstrations of Filipinos in the U.S. have also taken place.) And in the latter regard, the U.S. imperialists were forced to abandon their large military installations in the Philippines in 1992. If another reason for sending troops there now is to test the waters for possible development of new facilities (as some commentators claim) they’ve already seen that massive resistance would surly break out against such a move.
The anti-war movement in the United States
The capitalist-imperialist system with all its infamies---brutal exploitation of labor, attacks on democratic rights for the masses, environmental ruin, and imperialist wars--- is bringing into being as never before its grave-digger, the modern proletariat. This class shares common interests in every country, from Afghanistan to the Philippines to the U.S., including no interest in fighting and dying in reactionary wars against its fellows. Some anti-war activists belittle this reality, and therefore its implications on what needs to be done. And many are so blinded by the might of U.S. imperialism they forget to ask themselves why it is that when Bush was greeted by a thousand angry protestors in Portland the capitalist news media 180 miles away said nothing (instead it gave long quotes from Bush’s speech!), or why it is that after 9/11 a number of journalists were fired or harassed for not toeing the government line, or why the U.S. imperialists are afraid of American war casualties (and hide them when they occur), or what (besides opposition from major allies) is preventing Washington from extending the “war against terror” to Iraq? The reality is that behind all the lies, hypocrisy, news black-outs, jingoism, police-state legislation, and "tough-talk" rhetoric lies real ruling-class fear of the anti-war movement developing in a powerful direction. We, on the other hand, want to bring this about. Decisive in this is for anti-war activists to deepen a working-class critique of imperialism, and to go among the working people and youth with it to organize. This approach is lacking in our movement today, and one of the main factors holding it back. Yet we should have confidence in it. The steps in this direction taken by activists in the movement against U.S. imperialist aggression in Vietnam had profound effects. We simply have to go farther.
Raise the anti-imperialist consciousness of the masses!
Solidarity with the workers and oppressed people of all countries!
Seattle Anti-imperialist Alliance, February 9, 2002