U.S. imperialism began its present predatory war against the people of Afghanistan on 7th October 2001. Begun in the name of waging a “war against terrorism”, it is actually the continuation of the terrorist war that U.S. imperialism has been waging against Afghanistan since the spring of 1979. In this war, 2.5 million Afghans, representing 10 per cent of the entire population, have been killed and a third of the population turned into refugees – either internally displaced or abroad.
Confining ourselves to the latest imperialist outrage against the Afghan people, we cannot help noting the preponderance of force employed by the world’s mightiest military power, armed with the most sophisticated weaponry, against the world’s poorest nation, with non-existent air defences and no weapons to match. In waging this war, U.S. imperialism mobilised five of its twelve aircraft carriers, with hundreds of aircraft flying thousands of sorties. In this high-tech bombing, which has become a central characteristic feature of all the wars waged by U.S. imperialism ever since the Gulf war, the ‘galant’ U.S. pilots have wreaked havoc on the Afghan people from a safe distance of 15 kilometers above the ground. Using satellite-guided ‘precision’ weapons, the U.S. air force, at conservative estimates, has been killing at the rate of 60 Afghans a day, bringing the total casualties close to 10,000.
In this “crusade of civilisation” against “barbarism” and “international terrorism”, hospitals, mosques, Red Cross warehouses, villages, schools, residential areas and refugee convoys have been sprayed with 450 kg cluster bombs – the resulting casualties being dismissed, with characteristic imperialist disregard for human life, as “collateral damage”. The massacres at Uruzgan (January 24) and at another village near the town of Gardez, as well as the cold-blooded mass murder of more than 500 prisoners of war in Mazar-i-Sharif stand as an eloquent testimony not only to the brutality and barbarism of imperialism, but also to its cynical hypocrisy, for it commits these crimes against humanity in the name of humanitarianism and portrays them as the highest achievements of humanity.
In this “war of civilisation” for the triumph of “good” against “evil”, thus far over 70,000 cluster bombs have been left unexploded; hundreds of buildings have been torched, hundreds of people, with their hands tied behind their backs, have been shot dead, and hundreds of thousands of Afghans have been forced to become refugees; 500 prisoners of war, shackled and masked, have been taken to a concentration camp in Guantanamo, Cuba, there to be put in cages, exposed to the elements and denied prisoner-of-war status contrary to the Geneva Conventions, and later to be tried in military tribunals in the U.S. where the normal rules of even bourgeois justice are to be suspended.
Even with all the military might and technological superiority on its side, to begin with, U.S. imperialism was reluctant to commit its forces on the ground – being forced instead to rely on the Northern Alliance, which owes little allegiance to U.S. imperialism, as the latter until only yesterday supported the erstwhile Taliban regime.
For all its devastating power, the bombing alone could not install a puppet regime of some sort in Kabul. For that to happen, soldiers’ boots had to come in contact with terra firma. Being unwilling to risk the lives of its own soldiers, U.S. imperialism reluctantly decided to adopt the risky strategy of helping the Northern Alliance forces by a heavy bombardment of Mazar-i-Sharif, Kabul and Kandahar, which in consequence were respectively captured by the Northern Alliance on November 9th and 13th and December 7th.
Meanwhile, as the remorseless carnage continued in Afghanistan, 4,000 miles away at St. Petersberg Hotel, near Bonn in Germany, under the watchful eyes of U.S. and German imperialism, a political conspiracy against the people of Afghanistan was in the making. Representatives of four factions – the Northern Alliance, those loyal to the former king, a Pakistani-backed group from Peshawar, and a group backed by Iran – attended the St. Petersberg conference. Absent from this conference were the true representatives of the people of Afghanistan.
After a great deal of haggling, and arm-twisting by U.S. imperialism, the conference, on 27 November, came up with what can only be called the Bonn stitch-up, which brought in the 30-strong interim council of Quislings to govern Afghanistan for six months prior to the convocation of a Loya Jirga (a council of tribal elders); the latter charged with the authority to appoint a transitional government for a term of two years followed by elections. Seventeen out of the thirty places on this council, including the ministries of defence, the interior and foreign affairs, have been allocated to the Northern Alliance. On 22 December, the interim governmet, headed by Hamid Karzai, an abject puppet of U.S. imperialism, was sworn in. As Hamid Karzai has no social base, nor does he command any forces of his own, to make his sojourne safe at the presidential palace in Kabul, the UN Security Council approved a ‘peace-keeping’ force, nominally under UN auspices. Lead by the UK, but under overall U.S. control, 5,000 troops from Britain, Germany, France and other countries are charged with enforcing security for the interim government.
Despite the massive presence of the imperialist forces in Afghanistan and the backing received by the puppet interim government from the principal imperialist countries, the writ of the Karzai government does not extend beyond the presidential palace. War lords in different parts of the country are fighting it out between themselves to gain control of different provinces, with the Karzai government looking on impassively. In fact, his own minister of defence, Mohammad Fahim, has been a party to the bloody clashes in the north and east of the country. The killing of his tourism and aviation minister, Abdul Rahman, was a devastating blow to Karzai, for Mr Rahman was killed in a vendetta, going back to Northern Alliance’s struggle against the Taliban, involving fellow ministers, generals, intelligence officers and members of the ministry of justice.
While Mr Karzai goes on an imperialist-inspired charm offensive abroad, travelling to Japan, China, Saudi Arabia, the U.S., Britain, India and Russia in a matter of less than three months, he has “… barely ventured deeper into his country than Kabul airport” (FT, 6 Feb. 02). “It is one thing”, stated the FT of 28 January, “for Mr Karzai to impress foreign dignitaries falling over themselves to support Afghanistan; it will be quite another to hold together his fast-fragmenting homeland – even with Mr Bush’s endorsement.”
The position of the Karzai government is so shaky and fragile that it cannot last even a few weeks without the prop of the imperialist soldiers. With U.S. imperialism insisting on Mr Karzai to head the transitional government that is due to assume office for 18 months in June, it is clear that imperialist troops are not only in for the long haul but that their numbers will have to be drastically increased if the government is to have even a semblance of authority outside of Kabul. It is widely accepted in diplomatic circles that the U.S. army is busy developing what it hopes will be a lasting presence in Afghanistan and in neighbouring countries. The U.S. has already secured bases in Pakistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. It is involved with its forces in the remote Philippine island of Basilan and is getting ready to send military ‘advisors’ to the former soviet republic of Georgia – all in the name of ‘anti-terrorist’ operations.
France and Britain, which less than two months ago insisted that they would not stay in Afghanistan beyond 15 April, have indicated that they will stay. More than likely, the mandate and the number of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), the lynch brigade of imperialism in Afghanistan, will be extended.
In fact, U.S. imperialism has taken up the mantle of Nazi Germany in a vain attempt to create a thousand-year American Reich. No country, which dares to assert its independence, is safe. Sixty-eight countries, not just Afghanistan, are in the frame of a war, say the spokesmen of U.S. imperialism, “that may not end in our lifetime” – waged in the name of “failed states”, “rogue states”, “axis of evil” and “humanitarianism”.
On 11 September 1990, first as the U.S. was building its counter-revolutionary coalition as a prelude to the Gulf war, George Bush senior, the then president of the U.S., vowed that the war to overthrow the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein would bring in “a new world order – freer from the threat of terror, stronger in the pursuit of justice and more secure in the quest for peace.” Of course these were absurd and hypocritical claims by the chief executive of the most aggressive, blood-thirsty and terrorist state known in human history, for how can the world be rid of the threat of terror, how can there be peace and justice, while imperialism, in particular U.S. imperialism, exists. Be that as it may, George Bush’s administration failed utterly in its endeavour to oust the Iraqi regime.
Twelve years later, his son and the present incumbent of the White House, has presented the predatory imperialist war against Afghanistan as the first phase of a global crusade which will only end when “every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped and defeated”. This is an absurd claim, for shorn of all euphemism, this assertion is nothing short of an attempt to delegitimatise all resistance to imperialist exploitation, plunder and oppression. If Bush Junior is to succeed in his attempts to rid the world of “terrorism” (read resistance), the causes of this resistance must be ended forthwith. This can only come about with the defeat and overthrow of imperialism – something which the chief executive of U.S. imperialism can hardly have had in mind. The people of the world would certainly pick up the gauntlet thrown at them by U.S. imperialism, intensify their resistance, and oppose the counter-revolutionary imperialist wars with revolutionary people’s wars against imperialism and its flunkeys.
The war in Afghanistan has nothing to do with terrorism. It is a war waged by U.S. imperialism to monopolise the oil resources of the vast region stretching from the Middle East to the eastern republics of the former USSR. Further, it is a war to establish unchallenged U.S. dominance over all parts of the world. The U.S. ruling class insists on hegemony over, not just the oppressed peoples, but also over rival imperialist powers – partly through overwhelming superiority in all kinds of weaponry and partly through control over the vast oil resources of the Middle East and Central Asia.
Consequently, the U.S. military expenditure is set to rise dramatically, From $280 billion a year in 2001, the U.S. defence budget shot up to $329 bn for the fiscal year 2002. U.S. defence secretary, Rumsfeld, plans to request the Congress for an additional $48 bn next year – bringing the total to $377 bn per annum. Not being contend with this, U.S. imperialism is planning, in flagrant violation of the ABM treaty, to build a National Missile Defence (NMD – the son of Reagan’s star wars) so as to make the US. invulnerable to a nuclear attack. The NMD alone is estimated to cost $150 bn. The NMD is presently considered to be unfeasible technologically; besides other nuclear powers, for instance Russia and China, will take notice and take necessary counter-measures. The point however is that U.S. imperialism is engaged in this Hitlerite attempt at world domination and its military expenditure today exceeds the combined defence budgets of the next 14 biggest military spenders in the world – including Japan, Western Europe, Russia and China. The gargantuan U.S. military budget is a harbinger of the wars of aggression which U.S. imperialism has in store for the peoples of the world, for, in the words of a U.S. general, “you don’t think we are going to spend all this money on the military and keep it parked in a garage, do you?”
It has dozens of military bases abroad where more than a quarter of a million U.S. troops are stationed (254,783 according to the FT of 18 January 2002). Of these 188,105 are posted in Europe; 91,670 in East Asia and The Pacific (40,217 in Japan and 37,605 in South Korea); 26,878 in the Middle East, South Asia and North Africa; and 14,015 in South America. With the planned defence budget increases, the U.S. is embarked on acquiring for its armed forces more ships, more equipment, air-to-air refuelling tankers, pilotless craft such as the Global Hawk and predatory spy drones, satellites, surveillance planes and aircraft listening to enemy communications, as well as precision weapons.
In addition, it will doubtless try to secure more military bases abroad, the importance of which has been reinforced by the use of Diego Garcia from where U.S. B-52 and B-1B bombers flew to shed their deadly load on the Afghan people.
The idea behind these high-tech schemes is that the U.S. should be able to wage a virtual war without endangering the lives of her military personnel. But the idea does not work in practice. It is one thing for the cowardly U.S. air crew to bomb with impunity from a safe height of 15 kilometers people who have virtually no air defences. It is altogether a different proposition to control and subdue the people who are the targets of this neo-Nazi blitzkrieg. For all its sophisticated weaponry, the narrowing of the sensor-to-shooter time and the information supplied by the U.S. special forces on the ground, the U.S. could never have captured Mazar-i-Sharif, Kabul and Kandahar without risking her own soldiers except with the aid of the anti-Taliban forces of the Northern Alliance. Thus at the very least, imperialism needs to combine massive use of force with allies on the ground. Not only is such an option not available to imperialism in every conflict (for instance in its continuing war against Iraq), in the end it is bound to prove insufficient, as the unfolding events are already proving in the case of Afghanistan. It is only too clear that the forces resisting U.S. aggression in Afghanistan, having recovered from the massive and indiscriminate U.S. bombardment, are beginning to regroup, with U.S. imperialism now poised for the far more dangerous phase – a guerilla war by the resistance forces which have dispersed across the country heavily armed.
The battle now raging in the Shahi-Kot mountains is proof enough of the inability of imperialism to subdue resistance without involving its own soldiers. Operation Anaconda, involving over a thousand U.S. and other imperialist troops, not to speak of several thousands from the Northern Alliance, is beginning to look a disaster for U.S. imperialism. Eight American servicemen were killed when a Chinook helicopter was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade as it tried to land a reconnaissance team on the ground in the first week of March.
The battle for Shahi-Kot is a turning point in the present Afghan war. If the imperialist forces do not win this battle, it will doom their Afghan adventure to utter disaster and encourage resistance to the imperialist occupation forces all over the country. The resistance at Shahi-Kot is also the most serious challenge so far to the puppet Karzai interim administration. Further, operation Anaconda, with its reliance on such large numbers of American soldiers, is a reflection of the realisation that the combination of U.S. air strikes and Afghan ground troops is not enough to put an end to the Afghan resistance. The FT of 6 March captures the predicament in which U.S. imperialism finds itself in the following words:
“As the U.S. becomes increasingly engaged in … operations around the world – including the remote Philippine Island of Basilan and the Pankisci Gorge amid the caucasus mountains of Georgia – a familiar ghost is emerging from conflicting reports in hostile territory. A slip of the tongue by Tommy Franks, the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, gave an unwitting glimpse of what has been uppermost in the minds of the military planners.”
“Speaking to reporters on Monday [4 March], he said: ‘First let me say that our thoughts and prayers go out to the families and the friends of the service members who have lost their lives in our ongoing operations in Vietnam.'” (Friends and Foes)
After the Vietnam experience, U.S. imperialism’s ability to take casualties has been severely curtailed; hence its reluctance to commit ground forces. U.S. fears were further confirmed when the Lebanese resistance killed 242 U.S. marines in a massive explosion, which forced a humiliating U.S. withdrawal from that country. The Somalian debacle of 1993, when Somali patriots killed several U.S. soldiers and dragged their dead bodies through the streets of Mogadishu in front of the world’s television cameras, only served to strengthen these fears. Afghanistan, with its unfolding and expanding conflict, cannot fail to teach U.S. imperialism a lesson that it will not easily forget.
As if all this is not enough, the deepening crisis of imperialism is sharpening the inter-imperialist contradictions to levels not seen since before the Second World War. The crisis of overproduction, which made its appearance in the guise of a currency crisis in Asia in 1997 and spread to Russia in 1998, before jumping continents and infecting Brazil, continues to do its destructive work. The Japanese economy, which has been in deep trouble for a whole decade, declined 3% in the first quarter of last year, with the decline accelerating to an annualised rate of 10% of the Japanese GDP in the second quarter; the U.S. economy, the engine of the world economy for a whole decade, is in recession; growth in the European Union is just above zero. This is increasingly leading to trade disputes and protectionism, notwithstanding the grandiloquent phrases about the wonders of an open world economy uttered by the representatives of the rival imperialist camps and their ideologues. The latest duties imposed by the U.S. on imported steel are merely a tip of the iceberg and a harbinger of the disaster to come.
While expressing verbal solidarity with the U.S., its rival imperialists are most unhappy with the current state of affairs whereby U.S. imperialism pushes them around and treats them with contempt. Germany is most unhappy about the command of foreign troops, including the so-called peace force, in Afghanistan and has demanded the separation of the peacekeeping mission from the U.S.-led Enduring Freedom military mission.
Of course, the European Union under German leadership and Japan are not in a position to take U.S. imperialism on militarily, for one thing they do not possess nuclear weapons. But they do have the industrial, financial and technological ability to acquire these weapons. Their economic strength has grown enormously during the last 50 years. Whereas after the Second World War, while Japan and Europe lay literally prostrate, with their economies ruined and industry devastated, the U.S. emerges as the strongest imperialist power, accounting single-handedly for 45% of the global GDP. This combined with the victories of the Red Army, the triumph of the Chinese Revolution, and the emergence of the socialist camp, put the fear of god into the hearts of the European and Japanese bourgeoisie and made them accept without questioning U.S. leadership as the only way to avoid collapse and ward off the spectre of communism.
The situation, however, has changed drastically. While the EU and Japanese economies have surged forward, the U.S. economy, relatively speaking, has declined. Presently it represents about 27% of the global GDP. In contrast, the economy of the EU is equal to the size of the American economy, and Japan, for all her troubles during the post decade, alone accounts for 17% of the global GDP. Thus it is clear that both the EU and Japan, especially with the demise of the USSR and the eastern bloc, and the resultant disappearance of the socialist threat, are in a position to say no to the U.S. and are increasingly saying so. Both German and Japanese imperialism have insisted on, and secured, the right to deploy their armed forces outside of their respective national frontiers.
Clearly three rival imperialist blocs are being formed – with the U.S. strengthening its grip on North and South America, Germany in central and eastern Europe, and Japan in Asia Pacific – as prelude to encroaching upon each other’s patch and in the last resort fighting it out.
There is no way of telling at the moment if Germany and Japan will go nuclear, if so when. For its part U.S. imperialism is determined to prevent them from doing so. Alternatively, it is not beyond the realm of probability that either Germany, or Japan, or both of them make an alliance with Russia, which does have the weaponry to confront the U.S. In this context, it is worth taking serious note that chancellor Schröder of Germany has advocated Russia’s inclusion in the EU as well as NATO, both of which ideas are opposed by the U.S. for the obvious reason that they present a challenge to its hegemony within NATO.
Whatever the advocates of the opportunist Kautskyite theory of ultra imperialism, now rechristened as the theory of collective imperialism by bourgeois ideologues and reformists in the present-day working class movement, may say, the various imperialist blocs are limbering up for a fight not because of any malice on anyone’s part, but because the uneven development of capitalism and the crisis of imperialism are inexorably pushing them in that direction. It is inconceivable that either Japanese or German imperialism, neither of whom have any independent access to oil, which is the staple diet of imperialist industry and war machines alike, will allow U.S. imperialism to grab the oil resources of the vast region stretching from the Middle East to Central Asia, which the present Afghan war is all about.
In the light of this, the outcome of the Afghan war will be just the opposite of that intended by U.S. imperialism. Afghan resistance, coupled with serious rifts in the imperialist camp, are more than likely to crown the Afghan resistance with victory. What is more, people elsewhere too, taking advantage of inter-imperialist quarrels and rifts, will go on to score spectacular victories against imperialism. With the deepening crisis, imperialism is bound to intensify its attack on the working class at home in an effort to pass all the burden on to the shoulders of the working class, which in turn cannot fail to create the conditions for mass opposition to imperialism in the leading imperialist countries. But this will not happen automatically. The parties of the proletariat have much work on their hands. Let them undertake this the most urgent and noble task of teaching the working class and inculcating in it the spirit of irreconcilable hostility to imperialism, and bonds of unbreakable solidarity with the opressed peoples in the latter’s struggle against imperialism.
In the immediate, the working class of all the imperialist countries is duty-bound to oppose the predatory war being waged by imperialism against the Afghan people. It has a duty to work for the defeat of imperialism by all possible means.