On the evening of 7 October, US imperialism, with the full support and participation of British imperialism, unleashed a brutal war of aggression against the Afghan people, already suffering the devastating effects of a proxy war waged by the very powers who are today raining death and destruction on Afghanistan on the pretext of the fight against ‘international terrorism’.
Declaring that “either you are with us or you are with the terrorists”, and that “the US will make no distinction between those who committed these [11 September] acts and those who harbour them”, George W Bush, with the enthusiastic support of his principal minion in Europe, Britain’s prime minister Tony Blair, has launched operation ‘Enduring Freedom’ (!!), subjecting the Afghan people to round-the-clock terror by showering them with cruise and tomahawk missiles, vacuum bombs, and anti-personnel cluster bombs. Taking part in this ‘humanitarian’ “crusade of civilisation against barbarism” are four US aircraft carriers, (the Enterprise, Carl Vinson, Kitty Hawk and Theodore Roosevelt – each carrier with about 75 fighter planes and leading a battle group of a dozen ships, including guided missile cruisers, destroyers, frigates and nuclear submarines) and the Royal Navy’s aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious and helicopter carrier HMS Ocean (with 27 other ships, including destroyers, frigates and three nuclear submarines). Add to this armada the B-52 bombers, capable of mass bombing or unleashing up to 20 cruise missiles, flying from Diego Garcia, which was cleared of its population in another act of ‘humanitarianism’ by Anglo-American imperialism some while ago; the Stealth bombers ($1 trillion a piece) flying direct all the way from Whiteman base in Missouri; and the whole panoply of intelligence gathering, communications and surveillance aircraft, you get an idea of the awesome firepower and the latest killing machines assembled by the world’s two most powerful imperialist countries against one of the most backward and poor countries – with an ability to shower death and destruction far in excess of that wrought by the civilian aircraft on 11 September – to which act this war is supposed to be a response.
The political representatives of imperialism as well as its ideologues, have variously asserted that the US is a ‘victim of terrorism’ and, as such, has a right to fight against it as a matter of ‘legitimate self-defence’, that ‘international terrorism’ is the scourge of humanity and that the US in its self-declared fight against ‘international terrorism’ is merely doing a difficult job on behalf of mankind, for which everyone should be grateful and line up in support of this ‘crusade of civilisation against barbarism’. “International terrorism”, declared the Financial Times’ leading article of 14 September, is “a threat to all civilised nations and one that must be eradicated” (‘Shoulder to shoulder’). In short, it is being claimed that the war being waged by Anglo-American imperialism against the Afghan people now (and any extension of it to other countries later) is a just war. The liberal imperialist Guardian is a typical representative of those making such assertions. In its 8 October editorial it declared that “…it needs to be said… that the US was entitled to launch a military response”, for it was “brutally attacked” on 11 September and “…a monstrous injustice against [it] remains unassuaged.” Further, “… military action can be justified not just as an act of justice, but as an act of legitimate self defence to protect our nations from further attack and further casualties.”
The words quoted immediately above, coming as they do from the organs of one of the most blood-thirsty imperialist powers, spoken as they are in the name of the two foremost imperialist powers, who between them have an unbroken record going back at least two centuries of unbridled aggression, the slaughter of tens of millions of people abroad and denial of national right of other peoples take the biscuit for their breathtaking hypocrisy. If there is any logic in these words, it is the logic of colonialist and imperialist brigandage, according to which powerful imperialist countries, armed to the teeth with the most up-to-date killing machines that modern science and technology are capable of furnishing, may attack any country which in the slightest stands in the way of imperialist plunder, while it is the destiny of weak countries and nations to suffer these outrages with resignation. If this war were truly to be aimed at terrorism, it would have to begin in the US, Britain and Israel – the world’s biggestterrorist countries. The truth is that US imperialism has terrorised the peoples of the world since the end of the 2nd world war to maintain its own hegemony and in an attempt to maintain the continued existence of decadent, parasitic and moribund capitalism. Since the end of the 2nd world war, it is reliably estimated that 30 million people have died in the wars waged by the three principal imperialist powers (US, Britain and France) against oppressed nations or in imperialist-inspired civil strife, and the organisation of economic blockades, undertaken by US imperialism. Here is a brief – and incomplete – list of the crimes and terrorism practised by US imperialism from the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki to the present war of aggression against Afghanistan.
· Its war of aggression in Korea (1950-1953) claimed the lives of 4 million Koreans;
· That in Vietnam claimed the lives of 3 million Vietnamese;
· The overthrow of the progressive nationalist Sukarno regime in Indonesia in 1965 by the bloodthirsty tyrant Suharto resulted in the cold-blooded murder of 1 million Indonesians. The CIA not only inspired and aided the Indonesian military coup, but they also supplied lists of the Indonesian communists and other progressives earmarked for liquidation to the military junta;
· When in 1975 Indonesia invaded East Timor and killed 600,000 East Timorese within just two months of this invasion, it received the full support of US imperialism, it being the boast of its then ambassador to the UN, Moynihan, that he had rendered the UN “utterly ineffective”;
· The Gulf War against Iraq, the subsequent bombings that continue up to the present day, and the cruel sanctions against that country have prematurely sent 1.5 million innocent Iraqis to their deaths;
· In the short period of just over three years since the overthrow of the tyrannical and corrupt Mobutu kleptocracy, more than 3 million Congolese have been massacred, thanks to the intervention by Rwanda and Uganda at the instigation, and on behalf, of US imperialism;
· The overthrow on 11 September 1973 (exactly 28 years before the events of 11 September 2001), organised by the CIA and Henry Kissinger – who now fulminates against ‘terrorism’ – of the democratically-elected Chilean regime of Salvador Allende by the Pinochet military clique resulted in the deaths and disappearances of thousands of people;
· The counter-revolutionary wars waged by Renamo in Mozambique and Unita in Angola, both fully backed by US imperialism, have devastated the economies of these two countries and claimed more than 3 million lives;
· For years the US gave its full backing to Operation Condor, aimed at the assassination of opponents of the Chilean and Argentinean military regimes, resulting in the murder and disappearance of thousands of communists, trade unionists and other progressives;
· The US support of the Contras in Nicaragua and El Salvador, paid for through drug trafficking, and its support for countless dictatorial regimes in Latin America has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives;
· Close to 1.5 million people were exterminated in Afghanistan consequent upon the war inspired, instigated and funded by US and British imperialism;
· Only yesterday the warmongering neo-Nazi NATO alliance subjected tiny Yugoslavia for 76 days to terror bombing, which killed several thousands of people, caused material damage worth at least $100 billion, destroyed hospitals, bridges, railway lines, television studios, power stations and residential districts and left the country strewn with depleted uranium – just as in the case of Iraq;
· the US fully backed, as did Britain, King Hussein of Jordan’s massacre of 30,000 Palestinians during Black September (1970);
· US imperialism continues, as it has done all along, to give full political, diplomatic and material support to the murderous Zionist settler regime in Israel, with its fascistic and racist ideology, in the latter’s onslaughts on the Palestinian and Lebanese people, not to mention the support given by it to Israel during the 1967 and 1973 Middle East wars;
· It fully supports the Turkish regime’s repression and mass killings of Kurdish and Turkish workers;
· While supporting every tyrannical regime and tinpot dictator – from Suharto of Indonesia to Marcos of the Philippines and the medieval Gulf autocracies – US imperialism has targeted regimes which either stand in the way of its imperialist plunder or which are truly progressive and mobilise their people and organise production for satisfying the needs of the masses rather than attending to the greed of the few at home and abroad. Socialist countries such as Cuba and North Korea (DPRK), which have suffered from decades of US economic blockade, are two most important examples of the latter category of countries.
British imperialism’s record is equally hideous. Since the end of the 2nd World War, Britain’s armed forces have been involved in nearly 100 military interventions abroad, nearly 30 of these in the Middle East alone. The last statistic is not to be surprised at, since the Middle East is the repository of 60% of the world’s proven oil reserves. Oil is not merely the staple diet of modern industry, but on it depends the health and fabulous riches of the giant imperialist oil companies (two of which, BP and Shell, are British and Anglo-Dutch), as well as the armaments manufacturers, with whom the oil companies are inextricably linked through investment and interlocking directorships. No wonder, then, that nearly half of the British Forces are stationed abroad in close to 30 different countries, in strategic locations from which they are available at short notice to intervene in the interests of British imperialism. Britain’s human rights record, from Ireland to the Middle East and the Far East, is one of the worst.
Thus, far from being the defenders of freedom and democracy, Anglo-American imperialism are the worst possible enemies of democracy, executioners of other people’s liberties, and the protectors of medievalism all over the world. Far from being the enemies of ‘terrorism’, they are the chief perpetrators of terrorism and the principal patrons of every terrorist regime. For US and British imperialism now to pose as the friends of democracy, for Bush and Blair to now strut about as the warrior against ‘international terrorism’ is tantamount to the practitioners of cannibalism trying to pass themselves off as the champions of vegetarianism. When the imperialist propaganda organs refer to the events of 11 September as “the worst terrorist attack in history”, they only do so through a convenient lapse of memory about the bloody crimes and terror committed by imperialism.
Before we go on to indicate the real reasons for the present Afghan war, it is worth devoting a little space to the question of the Taliban regime, Osama bin Laden, the relation of the former with the latter, as well as the relationship of both of them with US and British imperialism – especially the former. It is presently the refrain of US and British imperialism that the Afghan regime violates human rights, harbours terrorists and terrorist networks, and that it must therefore be routed and the terrorists captured “dead or alive”. Let us see how the Taliban came to power and what role has been played by Bin Laden over the last two decades.
Afghanistan is a small but strategically-located country, most of whose 25 million population are illiterate. It has a proud history of being one of the half dozen countries in Asia, Africa and America which escaped the fate of being colonised by European powers. Britain fought, and lost, three wars against the Afghan people. In 1917, the then Amir of Afghanistan, Amanullah Khan, was the first to recognise the Bolshevik government. Britain did not rest until she had, through bribery and intrigue, ensured the overthrow of this Afghan monarch and his replacement by a more compliant personage.
More recently, in 1973, Prince Daud overthrew the monarchy and proclaimed Afghanistan a republic. In turn, Daud himself was overthrown in a national democratic revolution under the leadership of the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA). The new government cancelled some of the debts of the 11 million peasants, distributed land to 340,000 families, legalised trade unions, embarked on a huge programme of constructing schools, hospitals and clinics. During the course of the following ten years, 1.5 million Afghans of both sexes had gone through literacy courses. For obvious reasons, feudal landowners, monarchists, drug barons and suchlike shady elements opposed the regime. And for equally obvious reasons, US imperialism decided to throw its weight behind the above mix of the overthrown feudal landowners, smugglers and drug traffickers. The US intervention, be it explained, in support of the above reactionary elements started BEFORE the arrival of the Soviet army in Afghanistan. While President Carter signed his first directive for secret aid to the opponents of the pro-Soviet Kabul regime on 3 July 1979, the Red Army did not invade until 24 December 1979. Thus the claim then made by the Soviet government that it had sent its army to thwart American secret involvement (vehemently denied by the US until very recently) was absolutely true. We now have belated confirmation of the correctness of the Soviet claim in the memoirs (From the Shadows) of Robert Gates, the former director of the CIA, in which he says that the US intelligence agency started helping the Mujaheddin in Afghanistan 6 months before the Soviet invasion. Gates’ account has been fully confirmed by Zbigniew Brzezinski, Jimmy Carter’s National Security Adviser, in an interview which he gave to the French magazine Le Nouvel Observateur, published by the latter in January 15-21, 1998.
Be that as it may, the US supplied $6 billion worth of arms to the Afghan Mujaheddin during the period 1979-1989, the year when the Red Army withdrew from Afghanistan. In its war against a progressive regime, during whose existence boys and girls could have access to education, which brought health clinics to its people, the US enlisted the services of Pakistan, through which aid was funnelled and training provided. To a lesser extent, Iran, which officially had no relations with the US, was involved too (hence the Iran-Contra affair). Saudi Arabia, with full US support, exported its own extreme version of Islam, Wahabbism, to Afghanistan in order to undermine rival groups and to keep the anti-Kabul resistance movement under western (US) control.
Osama bin Laden was central to the US-imperialist inspired war in Afghanistan. He it was who oversaw the construction of the Khost tunnel complex, funded by the CIA, as a principal arms depot in 1986. Spreading the idea that the godless USSR had sent the Red Army to annihilate Islam, the CIA, using Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) as a cover, recruited close to 40,000 volunteers for this “crusade of Islam against Soviet communism and atheism.” Most of the money came from the production and export of drugs. As the ‘holy’ warriors captured more and more territory, they instructed the peasants to cultivate poppies. Under the watchful eyes of the Pakistan army and the ISI, heroin factories were constructed in Pakistan’s North West Frontier Province (bordering on Afghanistan). No wonder, then, that in the 1980s, Pakistan and Afghanistan accounted for the supply of two-thirds of the heroin consumed in the US.
In their counter-revolutionary war against the government, the Mujaheddin stooges of the CIA made a special target of the achievements of the regime in the fields of health and education. Driven by a mixture of obscurantism, a hatred for anything progressive, and their desire to discredit the government among the people, the Mujaheddin destroyed thousands of schools, several dozen hospitals and clinics, and dozens of cinemas. Many of them revelled in the practice of torture and skinning their victims alive. Bin Laden was part of this elaborate fundamentalist network set up by the CIA. His group received from the CIA $10 million (£6.8) during the 1980s.
The al-Qaeda, which we hear so much about today, was founded by a close ally of the Saudi royal family, and Bin Laden took it over only in 1989. It was not until the Gulf war that Bin Laden fell out with the US and the Saudi royal family. Dupes completely controlled by imperialism, Bin Laden and his fellow Mujaheddin seriously believed that they were the driving force in expelling the Red Army from Afghanistan. Once that had been accomplished, they believed they were powerful enough to drive the US out of the Middle East. After the invasion of Kuwait by Iraq, Bin Laden tried to persuade the Saudi royal family to raise a force, similar to the one he had led in Afghanistan, to defend Saudi Arabia against Iraq. Instead, the Saudi royal family opted for the stationing of US and British forces on Saudi soil as a prelude to a brutal war against Iraq in January 1991. Bin Laden was incensed. He fell out with the Saudi royal family and was forced to flee Saudi Arabia for Sudan in 1992. In 1996 he returned to Afghanistan. Ever since the Gulf War, Bin Laden has come to hate the US presence in Saudi Arabia as well as its overbearing intervention in the affairs of the Middle East. The CIA, for its part, attempted to kill Bin Laden in 1997, and the US tried to target him in the aftermath of the 1998 attacks on its embassies in east Africa. It is thus clear that it was neither Bin Laden’s fundamentalism, nor his sponsorship of terrorism, which turned the US against him. On the contrary, Bin Laden’s fundamentalism and terrorism alike were carefully sponsored and nurtured by US imperialism, which only became hostile to him because he grew too big for his boots and became hostile to US interests.
After the withdrawal of the Red Army, the Najibullah regime managed to hold on for another two years. Forced by the desertion of some of his generals, he took refuge with the UN in Kabul, only to be captured later, gruesomely tortured and murdered. The fundamentalist groups came to blows with each other as soon as they had assumed power in 1992. It was in the vacuum created by this chaos that the Taliban, trained in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia and funded by them finally came to power in 1996. Only a few months prior to the Taliban entering Kabul, an official of the US State Department stated that “you get to know them and you find they really have a great sense of humour”. And within hours of the Taliban capturing Kabul in September 1996, Glyn Davies, acting State Department spokesman, said that the US saw “nothing objectionable” in the Taliban coming to power.
Cold commercial calculations
Cold commercial calculations lay behind the US stance towards the Taliban regime. The collapse of the USSR in 1991 brought into existence five independent states in Central Asia, in addition to Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia on the western seaboard of the Caspian Sea, which together are reliably estimated to be the repositories of 200 billion barrels of proven oil reserves and 50 trillion cubic metres of gas. These states, to the north of Afghanistan, (with three of them sharing borders with it) are particularly attractive to imperialist oil interests, for their reserves are not controlled by OPEC, which is dominated by the Arab states and, unlike the Arabs, the central Asian states have no objections to permitting foreigners to exploit their reserves.
Let it be said in passing that the need of all the imperialist countries, especially the US, for oil is greater than ever. If the US consumed 15 million barrels a day (mbd) in 1970, today in consumes 22 mbd, whereas the European Union, which in 1970 consumed 12 mbd, today consumes 15 mbd – and most of this must be imported. With increasing volatility in the Middle East, and the resultant instability and unreliability of some of the oil-rich Middle Eastern states, Central Asia’s energy reserves assume an unprecedented importance in imperialist calculations.
The problem, however, is that these states of Central Asia are landlocked and, in order for fabulous profits to be made, the gas and oil of the region must be transported through some third countries. It has been the endeavour of US imperialism for nearly a decade not only to grab the energy resources of Central Asia, but also to ensure that the pipes carrying oil and gas bypass both Russia and Iran, despite the existence in the former of a vast infrastructure built during Soviet times. The simplest, and much the cheapest, route would be through Iran, a route favoured by the oil companies as it would involve constructing a shorter pipeline up to the Iranian border and using the existing network in that country to transport it to other countries. With its hostility to the Iranian regime, the US has thus far blocked that transit route, promoting instead the longer, more expensive and ecologically dangerous Baku-Ceyhan pipeline project which runs across Turkey to the Mediterranean, carrying oil westward fromAzerbaijan, Georgia and other countries on the western shore of the Caspian. It also favours gas and oil pipelines from Turkmenistan and other Central Asian countries through Afghanistan and Pakistan. Afghanistan’s geographical position gives it a strategic importance as a transit route for the oil and gas of Central Asia.
For Pakistan, such pipelines through Afghanistan would mean not only handsome transit fees, but also a welcome addition to its fast-dwindling gas reserves. In view of this, a friendly regime in Kabul would suit both the US and Pakistan. Until 1997 it seemed that the US was on course for getting such a regime. According to Ahmed Rashid, the author of the authoritative and excellent study on the Taliban, between 1994 and 1996, the US supported the Taliban through Pakistan and Saudi Arabia because it considered the Taliban to be anti-Iranian, anti-Shia and pro-western. An additional reason for this support was US backing for the Unocal oil pipeline project from Central Asia through Afghanistan.
The US had hoped and expected that the Taliban would develop along Saudi lines. In the words of a US diplomat, “The Taliban would probably develop like the Saudis did. There will be pipelines, an emir, no parliament, and lots of Sharia law. We can live with that.”
Unocal welcomed the rise of Taliban and, in an effort to ensure the success of its pipeline project, it supplied them with funds. But in the end it all came to nothing. As the Taliban’s brutal policies gained international notoriety – in particular its treatment of women – Unocal was forced to put its pipeline plans on the back burner under pressure from American feminists. Contrary to US expectations, the Taliban refused to fall into line with US interests by failing to endorse the Unocal project. In addition, they incurred US wrath by supporting Bin Laden, who had meanwhile turned anti-US. Despite all this, and despite the Taliban’s appalling record of abuse, not only the US stooge Saudi Arabia, but also the US itself, have been the principal financiers of the Taliban regime – right up to almost 11 September. According to the Washington Post of 25 May 2001, the US government “Last week … pledged another $43 million in assistance to Afghanistan, raising total aid this year to $124 million and making the United States the largest humanitarian donor to the country”.
We notice that operation ‘Enduring Freedom’ is intended to be won with the help of Pakistan, whose military rulers overthrew its civilian government at gunpoint, depriving 140 million Pakistanis of their freedom to choose their own government. It is launched with the support of the Gulf Autocracies, which deny their populations even the most elementary civil liberties. It has enlisted the support of the cut-throats of the Northern Alliance, whose fundamentalism and grotesque cruelties are not very far behind those of the Taliban. The start of ‘Enduring Freedom’ is accompanied by an assault on the civil liberties of the working class in the principal imperialist countries and attacks on foreigners and asylum seekers. It is accompanied by a propaganda barrage in favour of unbridled globalisation (i.e., imperialism’s right to exploit without any hindrance), whereby, in the words of Robert Zoellick, the US trade representative, any opposition to ‘free trade’ is unpatriotic and tantamount to support for terroism. Ironically, statements like this give the game away and reveal the real purpose behind the barbarity which parades as operation ‘Enduring Freedom’. It is imperialism’s total and unrestricted freedom to loot, exploit and commit aggression which is being fought for, and which the victims are to be forced to ‘endure’. This operation is nothing but the terror bombing of civilians by the imperialist ‘humanitarian coalition’ assembled allegedly for waging ‘war on terrorism’. It is a campaign in which every instrument in the counter-revolutionary armoury of imperialism – ranging from assassination, espionage, bribery to massacres and terror carpet bombing and pulverisation of the whole of Afghanistan – is being used without the slightest hesitation or compunction, in total disregard of all or any humanitarianism.
While claiming to be acting to avert a humanitarian catastrophe, Anglo-American imperialism, through 24-hour a day bombing, is creating a humanitarian catastrophe. In a cynical attempt to divert attention from their carnage, they are air-dropping pitifully small amounts of food in ‘flutter’ parcels, while their bombing prevents the real distribution of food by the aid agencies to areas where it is most needed and where the risk of famine is all too apparent. Aid agencies, ranging from Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) to Oxfam, Save the Children Fund and Christian Aid, have roundly condemned the airdropping of food, hand in hand with bombing, as a cynical cheap and disgusting propaganda tool to hide the truth that the airstrikes are an actual hindrance to the delivery of food in adequate volumes by the only means of getting it to the needy – overland truck convoys organised by the World Food Programme (WFP).
“‘What sense is there in shooting with one hand and distributing medicines with the other?’ an MSF spokesman asked. ‘How will the Afghan population know in the future if an offer of humanitarian aid does not hide a military operation?'”
According to the UN, 1.5 million Afghans face starvation this winter, while 7.5 million risk severe food shortages. Thanks to the imperialist-inspired two-decade long war, 1.5 million Afghans live in refugee camps in Pakistan, Iran and Uzbekistan, and another 5 million are internally displaced.
According to the WFP, northern and central Afghanistan are immediately in need of 30,000 tonnes of food. Two aircraft would need to make 12 runs every day to deliver just 250 tonnes of wheat. In view of this, US drops of ‘flutter’ packages in the south of the country close to Pakistan is an irrelevant cosmetic drop in the ocean.
While concentrating on subduing Afghanistan, US imperialism is planning a far wider war to include any country which it suspects of standing in the way of its plunder. The Financial Times of 14 September observed that:
“In effect, the US has pledged to mobilise its formidable resources – economic, political, military and technological – to waging a war without mercy against terrorist groups, their patrons, even their sympathisers. At face value, this suggests a sustained commitment against a declared enemy on a scale not seen since the start of the cold war …”
In a letter to the UN Security Council, the US ambassador to the UN, John Negroponte, ominously stated: “We may find that our self-defence requires further action with respect to other organisations and states.”
When Paul Wolfowitz, US deputy secretary of defence, called for the ‘extermination of states’ who sponsor terrorism, he can hardly have had either the US and Britain or Israel in mind. Countries such as Iran, Iraq, Libya and Syria are the obvious eyesores for imperialism in the Middle East, which it would dearly love to get rid of if it could.
Tony Blair told the House of Commons on Monday 24 September that:
“We are in this for the long haul. Even when al-Qaeda is dealt with, the job is not over. The network of international terrorism is not confined to it.”
Bourgeois ideologues and opinion makers are busy furiously beating the imperialist war drum. A certain David Pearlmutter warns that if certain states do not go along with Washington’s demands, they must “prepare for the systematic destruction of every power plant, every oil refinery, every pipeline, every military base, every government office in the entire country… The complete collapse of the economy and government for a generation” (‘Give war a chance’, Philadelphia Enquirer).
Martin Wolf of the Financial Times, describing certain states as “failed states”, Afghanistan in his view being one of them, has called for some sort of imperialism. In other words, he is calling for “a chance to reorder the world” and “transformation in our approach to national sovereignty – the building block of today’s world”. In his view, a “failing state” is “a cradle of disease, source of refugees, haven for criminals or provider of hard drugs”, and thus lacking “the essential parts of honest government – above all coercive apparatus”, which “must be provided from outside”. He adds “this is what the west is doing today in the former Yugoslavia. To tackle the challenge of the failed state, what is needed is not pious aspirations but an honest and organised coercive force” (Financial Times, 10 October 2001, ‘The need for a new imperialism’). His colleague, Philip Stephens, in the Financial Times of 28 September, also calls for a new – benign – imperialism. Thus it can be seen that the most intelligent representatives of capitalism in its decadent and moribund state make a case on behalf of imperialism whereby the latter arrogates to itself the power first to designate at will any state as a “failed state” and then to apply to it coercive apparatus, i.e., aggression, to reorder the country concerned. These representatives of freedom and democracy, these fighters against international terrorism, these advocates of reordering failed states, would have been quite at home in Nazi Germany. The fact that they don’t wear uniforms or swastikas on their lapels is of no consequence whatever.
Thus it is clear that this war has nothing to do with the ‘fight against terrorism’. It is merely using the events of 11 September not only to wreak vengeance on any weak people it can lay its hands on, and against whom it has no evidence whatever, but also as a pretext for carrying out its wild ambitions of subjugating the entire region, stretching from the Middle East, through Afghanistan, to the eastern republics of the former USSR. While, through the incorporation of former socialist states of Eastern Europe, NATO has reached Russia’s western borders, it has ambitions to encroach upon its southern border through control of Central Asia via Afghanistan – with the ultimate aim of breaking up Russia, the only country which can destroy the US in a matter of minutes. The Financial Times of 3 October correctly remarks that “…the US is pitching its tent in Russia’s backyard. The ‘great game’ – the 19th century tussle for influence in Central Asia – could have many more rounds to go yet.”
Of course, everything may go horribly wrong with US imperialism’s plans and all its wild ambitions may end up in smoke, for there is many a slip betwixt the cup and the lip. The lies of Blair and Bush, who today strut around as Field Marshals and five-star generals, could wash them up in an Afghan imbroglio of their own creation. Unlike the Great Game of the 19th century, which witnessed two imperial powers – Russia and Britain – battling for control of Afghanistan and Central Asia, the present Great Game has a number of players, including Russia, the US, China, Iran, Pakistan and India, as well as the Central Asian states and the giant oil multinational corporations – all in the quest to tap the vast oil reserves of Central Asia. Every attempt by the US to gain control of these vast riches is contested and opposed by Russia, Iran and China, if not by India too, in just the same way as Russia, Iran and India prevented the Taliban, at the time thought to be close to the US, from gaining complete control of the country. As Rashid correctly observes:
“It was in the interests of Iran and Russia to keep the region unstable by arming the anti-Taliban alliance, so that US pipeline plans could never succeed.” If the US fails, as is only too likely, in the present war to gain control of Afghanistan by installing a puppet regime, the whole concept of the new world order – the world rearranged in the interests of international financial capital under the domination of US imperialism – will be “relegated to the realm of imaginative literature”, to use the words of Mr John Chipman, director of the Institute for Strategic Studies, a London think-tank.
As these lines are being written, the war has been going on for three weeks. All the reports suggest that, while the US has spent huge amounts of ordnance, subjected Afghanistan to terrible non-stop bombing and killed several hundred innocent Afghans by hitting such ‘military’ targets as hospitals, fuel depots, a power station and ordinary villages (including one controlled by their allies of the Northern Alliance) and twice bombed Red Cross warehouses containing food and other aid, it has not had much luck in either killing the Taliban leadership or causing its collapse. As the war continues, public sentiment even in the imperialist countries and, more importantly, in the Middle East will turn violently against this carnage, especially if the bombing is continued during the coming month of Ramadan, which it must do if the US is to stand any chance of success before the winter, soon to be upon us, and if the US military juggernaut is not to be brought to a grinding halt with its soldiery in the mess it has so long feared and tried to avoid after its experiences of Vietnam, Lebanon and Somalia.
Already there have been huge anti-war protests in London, Rome, Athens, Barcelona, Berlin, Naples, Amsterdam and even Washington. Pakistan’s military is barely able to control anti-war protests. There have been such protests in Indonesia, Iraq, Iran, Oman and Palestine – with the protesters frequently shouting ‘Death to America’ and ‘Death to Israel’. 200 people died during clashes in the northern Nigerian city of Kano. These clashes took place in the week following the start of the war and were triggered by protests against US air strikes against Afghanistan and the resulting anti-American sentiment among the population.
The continuation of the war will only serve to intensify the protest movement. Even more importantly, it may end up in causing the collapse of some of the regimes which are so crucial to the war coalition assembled by US imperialism through cajolery, bribery and intimidation. General Pervez Musharraf’s military regime is in deep trouble not only with the Pakistani people, most of whom oppose this war and Pakistan’s participation in it, albeit only through making its territory and air space available for the US military. It is opposed too by a sizeable section of the army at the highest level. General Musharraf, fearful of the consequences of the policy shift involved following his new alliance with the US, especially their ramifications in the armed forces, on 7 October replaced General Mehmood Ahmed, who was the key coup-maker in 1999, as head of the ISI which had played such a crucial role in training the Mujaheddin and funnelling US aid to them in their war against the Soviet-backed regime in Afghanistan. The same agency which had played such an important role in installing the Taliban in Kabul is now asked to fight against it on the orders of US imperialism, whose commercial interests earlier demanded support for the Taliban, but whose very same commercial calculations now demand the overthrow and destruction of the Taliban. It is not difficult to realise the predicament General Musharraf finds himself in. As leader of a government that came to power in a military coup, he must realise more than most that there is only a short distance from being a much-lauded international statesman to being locked up as a common criminal in the Lahore Central Jail if one has trodden on the toes of one’s fellow officers a little too much.
Then there are the Gulf statelets, especially Saudi Arabia, who must feel vulnerable because of the US war of aggression against Afghanistan, on the one hand, and the brutal actions of Zionist colonialism against the occupied Palestinian people on the other hand. The dwindling oil revenues have meant reduced incomes for ordinary Saudis. If the per capita income in Saudi Arabia was $16,000 (£11,000) per annum in the early 1980s, today it is only $7,000 – with an increasing differentiation between the rich and the masses of Saudis. “The riches of downtown Riyadh,” says the Financial Times of 8 October 2001, “with its US-style malls and luxurious boutiques, stand in sharp contrast to the poverty of the South of the city, where some women beg in the streets.”
While the unemployment rate stands at 35% of the workforce among Saudi males and 95% among females, there is little industrial development to absorb the increasing army of the unemployed. Out of a mixture of fear of its own people and lack of vision vis-à-vis the need for industrial development to relieve the country of the risk of relying on a single commodity (oil), wealthy Saudis, including the 5000-strong ruling al-Saud coterie, have stacked close to $1,000 billion in imperialist banks abroad. This wealth abroad, which benefits imperialism to the disadvantage of the Saudi and Arab people, is also a source of resentment to an increasing number of Saudis.
Since the events of 11 September, the ruling Saudi family is finding it increasingly difficult to continue its balancing act of pursuing a pro-imperialist policy without undermining the religious and conservative, not to say medieval and feudal, basis of the Saudi state, for most of the youth, which constitutes the overwhelming majority of the population, are deeply suspicious of the US.
Officially there are 5,000 US troops in Saudi Arabia, although their actual number is reliably reported to be 25,000. Vast layers of the Saudi population, especially the youth, regard the US forces in Saudi Arabia as an army of occupation. They resent this army of occupation. The extent of this resentment may be gauged from several bomb blasts that have taken place over the years against US targets in Saudi Arabia, the most important being the 1996 truck bombing of al Khobar near Dahran, which killed 19 US soldiers. The opponents of the Saudi regime, with considerable mass support, desire to weaken US-Saudi relations, as well as the Saudi royal family’s grip on power. Bin Laden gives expression to these aspirations, which have become more ardent since 11 September and the start of the Afghan war. The involvement of so many Saudis in the Washington and New York events of 11 September is, on the one hand, a sign of Saudi resentment against US imperialism and, on the other, exerts enormous pressure on the Saudi autocracy to reform the system of government and address the grievances that drove so many to join the struggle against the US.
“The attacks” of 11 September, says a Riyadh businessman, “…are a wake-up call to address the social fabric: if Saudis are involved, how many more are there? Where are they?” (quoted in the Financial Times of 8 October 2001).
As the US and Britain get more and more bogged down in an unwinnable war, as Israel intensifies its onslaught on the Palestinian people, as the Gulf autocracies, shakier than ever, get destabilised, as the Arab national revolutionary democratic and anti-imperialist movement gathers further momentum, the Afghan war, horrible though it is, may still spring some pleasant surprises for those struggling against imperialism. “Out of the shadow of this evil, should emerge lasting good” to use the words so hypocritically uttered by Tony Blair at the Labour Party Conference in Brighton. There is much irony in these words. His words may turn out to be true – only not in the way intended by him.
In conclusion, this war has absolutely nothing to do with the fight against international terrorism, whose chief perpetrators and sponsors are none other than US and British imperialism – the very powers who are busy waging it. It is the quest to grab Central Asia’s oil reserves that makes Afghanistan, because of its strategic location, of such vital interest for imperialism. The nature and composition of the government in Kabul will largely determine who gains ownership and control over the distribution of one of the world’s largest oil and gas reserves of the Central Asian states which lie to the north of Afghanistan.
“War is politics continued by other (i.e., forcible) means”, said Lenin, following Clausewitz. In order to judge the justness or otherwise of a given war, one must make an historical study of such a war, which must be analysed from the point of its substance. “…if the ‘substance’ of a war is … the overthrow of alien oppression… then such a war is progressive as far as the oppressed state or nation is concerned. If, however, the ‘substance’ of a war is re-division of colonies, division of booty, plunder of foreign lands” then such a war is an imperialist war.
Continues Lenin: “How, then, can we disclose and define the substance of war? War is the continuation of policy. Consequently, we must examine the policy pursued prior to the war, the policy that led to and brought about the war. If it was an imperialist policy, i.e., one designed to safeguard the interests of finance capital and rob and oppress foreign colonies and foreign countries, then the war stemming from that policy is imperialist. If it was a national liberation policy, i.e., one expressive of the mass movement against national oppression, then the war stemming from that policy is a war of national liberation.”
As if having in mind our present-day counter-revolutionary philistines of the type represented by the Trotskyists of the Weekly Worker, who have effectively aligned themselves with US imperialism, Lenin adds:
“The philistine does not realise that war is ‘continuation of policy’, and consequently limits himself to the formula that ‘the enemy has attacked us’, ‘the enemy has invaded my country’, without stopping to think what issues are at stake in the war, WHICH classes are waging it, and with what political objects” (Lenin, A Caricature of Marxism and Imperialist Economism, August-October 1916, Collected Works, Vol. 23 p.28).
Anyone who has followed the diplomatic history of the US during the last two decades, especially during the decade since the collapse of the USSR, anyone who has the least knowledge of US involvement in Afghanistan for the last 20 years, cannot fail to grasp that the substance of US policy has been to use Afghanistan as an instrument for weakening the USSR, and since the latter’s demise, to turn it into a launching pad for grabbing the oil-rich regions of Central Asia. In other words, the substance of the policy pursued by the US ruling class has been the plunder, robbery and oppression of foreign lands (in this case Afghanistan and Central Asia) with a view to safeguarding the interests of US finance capital. It is precisely this policy which is now being continued by other (i.e., forcible) means in this war. There is nothing surprising in this, for imperialism can have no foreign policy other than an imperialist one.
The present war is merely a continuation, and the latest instalment, of a campaign of terror – which has stretched from Korea to Vietnam, from Iraq to Yugoslavia – waged by the United States. This is a war about oil, about gas and oil pipelines; this is a war about conquering the oil-rich Caspian and Black Sea republics of the former Soviet Union; this is a war about causing the disintegration and dismemberment of Russia; in other words, THIS IS A WAR AIMED AT ESTABLISHING UNCHALLENGED HEGEMONY OF US IMPERIALISM.
This being the case, it is the duty of the proletariat in the imperialist countries to oppose this war and wish, and work, for the defeat of their own government in this shameful war, whose sole objects are the plunder and robbery of foreign lands in the interests of finance capital. It is to be hoped that the events of 11th September in New York and Washington, as well as the war of aggression now underway, will serve to become the starting point for the proletariat in the imperialist countries, particularly in the US and in Britain, to start a vigorous campaign against the imperialist aggression and brigandage of their own ruling classes and the policies of their own governments. Equally it is to be hoped that people who profess to be the vanguard of the working class in the centres of imperialism will rise to the occasion and provide leadership in building precisely such an anti-imperialist movement, for in the absence of such a powerful movement, imperialism will always feel bold enough to perpetrate aggression abroad and suppression at home.
There will never be peace, there will never be an end to terrorism, unless imperialism is overthrown. This is a task that the workers in the imperialist countries should attend to instead of being dragged into supporting an imperialist war against oppressed peoples in the name of the fight against terrorism.
In Britain the working class has a bounden duty to condemn our own government which, in lackey service to Anglo-American imperialism, is participating in this carnage to re-divide the world. This Labour government is one of the most bloodthirsty imperialist governments – even by the standards of previous Labour governments. In fewer than 5 years it has undertaken 5 imperialist wars of aggression and dropped more bombs than were dropped during the 18 years of Tory rule. And yet the counter-revolutionary Trots and revisionist renegades tell us to support Labour because, they say, it is better than a Tory government. Yes, it is better than the Tories at imperialist brigandage abroad and screwing the vast masses of the underprivileged at home. The people of Iraq, Yugoslavia and Afghanistan will confirm this, as will the disabled, single mothers, the unemployed, the blacks and asylum seekers in Britain. It is high time the shameless Troto-revisionist gentry stopped this sick game of Labour being better than the Tories. More importantly, it is overdue for the working class to break with the imperialist Labour Party and its ‘left’ advocates – the Trotskyists, revisionists and their darlings, the ‘left’ Labour MPs. Without such a break, all talk, any idea, of building a mighty proletarian movement for opposing war and overthrowing capitalism alike are empty chatter.
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