A War to Recover US Power
President Bush has declared war. In a vote of 420 - 1, the US Congress on September 14th approved a resolution authorizing Bush to use force against nations, organizations or persons that, in America's view, support terrorism. Congress also approved a special budget of $40 billion to implement the new policy and repair the damage caused by the terrorist attacks of Sep. 11th.
At the same time, the US pressured its European allies to invoke Article 5 of the NATO Charter for the first time in the organization's history. According to this, all NATO member states are now at war because one member (US) was attacked. This is an ironic twist. Article 5 was framed as an American guarantee to the European countries: if the USSR were to attack them, the US would back them militarily. Now, it seems, the roles have changed.
The World is at war, “the first war of the 21st century,” Bush himself called it in a speech to the American people. But what kind of war is this? Against whom? For what reasons? What are its goals? What result can suffice to end it?
British PM Tony Blair adopted the Bush attitude, calling it a war between Good and Evil. This is nothing new. All wars in history have been waged in the name of "good" against "evil." Humanity has always paid the price.
Until the demise of the Soviet Union, the "evil" camp, according to America, was that of the Reds and their allies. The good guys were all the “others”, including corrupt dictators. Now the Reds are gone and only “others” remain. Among these “others” we find forces that, in better years, were mobilized by the US in its crusade against the Soviet Union. Through the front of Pakistani intelligence, the CIA trained a hundred thousand Islamic fundamentalists, including Osama Bin Laden. During the eighties, they were America's proxies in the “holy war” against the Soviet presence in Afghanistan. At that time, their religious fanaticism played right into the hands of the CIA. It did not seem dangerous. The fundamentalists' crackpot otherworldly motives were just as strong as they are today. Yet this didn't prevent Ronald Reagan from calling them freedom fighters.
This policy has grievously backfired. The fanaticism was supposed to remain in Asia, but now it has popped up in the heart of the US. Americans suddenly find themselves threatened by a faceless enemy that strikes without regard for the lives of innocent people.
The ODA condemns the terrorist attacks of September 11. As socialists, we vehemently oppose such horrible methods. Such tactics were never used by revolutionaries in Cuba or Vietnam when fighting to free their nations from imperialist repression and genocidal acts. We also know that terror against civilians can only lead to chaos.
Evil Attacked Evil
The Pentagon is the nerve center of evil. It is the site where wars are planned. Here originated plots against the legitimate governments of many countries. When some tried to re-organize their wealth in a fairer system, America intervened. It armed and financed groups to topple elected leaders and install dictators instead. Cuba, Chile, Iran, East Timor, Nicaragua, and Iraq have all been subject to American campaigns of destabilization. In the Middle East, the American-sponsored Oslo accords have proved to be a deadly trap for the Palestinians. In Iraq, the American policy of sanctions has killed over half a million children.
In addition to the attack on the Pentagon, two planes smashed into the twin towers of the World Trade Center. The suicidal terrorists saw before them the symbol of American economic dominance.
The attacks are a setback for the campaign against America's economic dictatorship. Yet the good fight must continue. American multinational corporations have spread poverty and unemployment throughout the world. After interventions by the IMF (controlled by the US), some twenty African countries are deep in crippling debt. Their resources have thus been cheapened for easy exploitation by the multinationals, while their peoples die of hunger and AIDS. Latin America, for similar reasons, has lost its future under the burden of debt.
At the time of the attacks, America's selfishness and arrogance had only just begun to be challenged by other forces and for better reasons. In Seattle, Genoa, and Washington people have organized and demonstrated against global capitalism. The latest actions of terror negate and contradict this anti-capitalist movement. They represent a blow to the workers and the poor. They do not challenge the capitalist system. On the contrary, as of this writing, one week after the attacks, they appear to stem from groups advocating a fanatic ideology of Islamist supremacy.
Islamic supremacists could not thrive without the help of America’s best and oldest ally in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia. Only three countries recognize the Taliban government in Afghanistan. Saudi Arabia is one of them. This is a fact the American administration tends to hide. Saudi money sponsored many of the covert actions undertaken by Islamic groups against countries that were under the Soviet and later the Russian aegis. The US also needs Saudi Arabia's agreement to maintain a military presence on its land, near the all-precious oil fields. In order to keep up the pretext for this military presence, the US continues to demonize Saddam Hussein and perpetrate horrendous crimes against the Iraqi people. How odd, then, that the US fingers the Saudi-sponsored Taliban regime as the backer of terrorism against itself!
The conclusion seems inevitable: When Bush promises to punish all countries that harbor or support terrorism, he should include Saudi Arabia among the first. But nothing of this sort will happen. The Saudis don't finance only the Taliban. They also aid America’s crusade against Russian influence in the Balkans and the Caucasus. If we look at America's friends in those areas, namely, Bosnia, Kosovo, Chechnya, and Dagestan, who do we see among the fighters, aiding the cause of American global dominance? Islamic fundamentalists!
This is only one of the strange contradictions that President Bush is facing. Bush wants Russia to help him in this war. Yet ever since the fall of the Soviet Union, American policy has aimed to isolate Russia and marginalize its influence. In the Balkans and in the basin of the Caspian Sea, America wages war on Russia’s allies. Bush has been pushing for an anti-ballistic program; it is to be aimed, above all, at Russia, which has its own desires for regional hegemony. Given this background, it is doubtful whether Russia would support the deployment of NATO forces at its borders in Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, thus helping America to invade Afghanistan.
It will also be difficult convincing Europe to launch a long and costly war against vague targets. European leaders (except Britain's Tony Blair) are aware of America's role in arousing Arab hatred through its biased support for Israel and its crimes against Iraq. They will question the justification for dragging Europe into war. Traditionally, Europe has been more even-handed than America with regard to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It has long pushed to end the sanctions against Iraq. A harbinger of Europe's position may be found in a remark by the Danish PM, responding to the call for war: the way to erase terrorism, he said, is by eradicating poverty.
Above all, Pakistan finds itself in a double bind. The military rulers of that country are the chief sponsors of the Taliban. These rulers came to power under a rigid Islamic program, coupled with a strong anti-Indian policy. They are allies of the US, but Washington has recently cooled its relations with them in order to strengthen its ties with India. Having pumped so much Islamism into their regime, any support the Pakistani leaders give to the Americans will cause major internal opposition, perhaps even civil war.
These are but a few examples to show that America has become a victim of its own international policies. It thought military might and economic superiority would suffice to bend the world to its will. The demise of the Soviet Union gave America a unique opportunity to demonstrate what it means by the words "democracy" and "free market". The poor and oppressed have learned what it means indeed. After a decade of globalization, "the American way of life" is benefiting less than 20% of humanity, while more than half the world's population, some three billion people, try to get by on less than $2 a day.
The attack on New York and Washington demonstrates nothing but madness. It is a madness, however, that Bush himself has perpetuated. One cannot fight poverty with Tomahawk missiles or despair with sophisticated bombs. America is not dealing with the Hitler of World War II, nor with the Soviet Union of the Cold War. Its enemy knows no boundaries – it even grows up in America, bombing the Federal Building in Oklahoma City. It enemy is global. Wherever there is destitution or unemployment, you will find the despair that leads to fanaticism. Those who cannot find meaning in this life look for it in another. Regardless of how many people America kills in order to satisfy its lust for revenge, it will never be won by military force.
This war comes at a time when the capitalist economy in its main industrial centers is going through a deep structural crisis. Despite the promise of the “New Economy” that was to result in an “endless technology boom”, the economies of the US, Germany and Japan are in serious trouble. The world economy has been in a state of retreat ever since the markets of South East Asia collapsed in 1997. We were promised that the new technology would overcome the contradictions of the capitalist system. This has proved wrong. Globalized capital has not been able to stop the advancing recession. Even before September 11th, people were beginning to have nightmare visions of a return to 1929.
Political and social problems are coming to the fore. In times of crisis, people lose confidence in the political process – they feel insecure. Just so, in Europe today, we see isolationist trends. Fascist Parties raise their heads. In Italy and Austria these forces are part of the government. Bush's war, while touched off by the terrorist attack, has its deeper background in the economic crisis. America intends to tie up the loose ends of the last decade: to re-impose its hegemony.
The workers and the oppressed of the world cannot sit idly by. We must take destiny into our hands. The Anti-Capitalist Globalization Movement (ACGM) that appeared on the world scene in Seattle in 1999 was a ray of hope. It was a sign of new revolutionary energy among workers and youth inside western countries, including the US itself.
This movement today faces a major challenge. The slogans of Seattle and Genoa are not enough. They cannot stop Bush’s war on the poor of the earth. The ACGM must fight not for an institutional change but for a political one. It is the US government, its national and international policies, that must be challenged – not just the WTO and the IMF. In the USA, the bipartisan system must be exposed as the fraud that it is. Democrats and Republicans alike are responsible for the present tragic reality. (It was Bill Clinton, a Democrat, who continued the war against Iraq and led the NATO war against Serbia.) Military strikes, according to capitalist thinking, must translate into economic dominance. Behind the drums of war lurk the giants of Wall Street, among them the oil companies, that strive to control the world for their profits. Bush, Clinton and their White House forebears are mere civil servants, executing the will of big capital.
America Wants to Re-impose its Hegemony
The ODA (www.odaction.org/challenge/), a Marxist Party based in the Middle East, considers itself part of the ACGM. It seeks to contribute to the new agenda, necessary for combating Global Capitalism and its wars. Here in the Middle East, the Palestinian people will be the first to taste the bitter flavor of this war. Israel will feel free to escalate its repression. It is expected that under the new conditions the Palestinian Authority will accept the unacceptable. If Arafat wants to join the "Children of Light" against the "Children of Darkness," he will have to sign a final humiliating agreement, as he did in the aftermath of the Gulf War. Palestine will remain a Bantustan controlled by Israel.
Bush and Colin Powell are pressing hard on Sharon and Arafat to come to terms. They want the Arab states to be part of their new "crusade," as Bush has called it. These states will not be able to do so, however, if conflict continues between the Palestinians and Washington's protégé, Israel.
The finger pointed at Afghanistan is misleading. Behind the scenes Iraq remains Washington’s main target in the Middle East. The Americans are trying to renew the coalition with the Arab states against Iraq and its people. This coalition vanished because Arab public opinion was against it. America shouldn't forget, however, that its embargo on Iraq is another major motive of Arab resentment.
One year ago the Intifada shook the Arab world, proving the pax americana to be a fake. The ODA did all it could to organize opposition to this unjust peace. But, we also warned that our conflict was not merely local, but a global one. We encouraged progressive people around the world to move not just in defense of the Palestinians, but to look more broadly into the global problems arising in the heart of the industrial world. We predicted that so unbalanced a global regime would result in war.
Now we are at war. We call upon our comrades in the working class movement and the ACGM to move, to take to the streets, in opposition to Bush’s plans of aggression. The destiny of humankind is at stake. We cannot allow Bush and Sharon to drag us into Armageddon.
The establishment of a socialist system in Russia in 1917 was an attempt to build a better society, where human beings, not profits, would be at the center. The achievement of the Soviet state in providing its citizens with housing, employment and a high level of education shows how positive a force socialism can be. While we must continue to learn from the faults of the Soviet experience, it remains a cornerstone for further progress. The fall of that country was a victory for capitalism – yet how short the life of that victory has been! With hindsight, we can see that the Soviet Union had a stabilizing effect. It provided for the needs of many smaller peoples. In its absence, the contradictions and defects of Capitalism stand forth more clearly than ever before.
The ODA believes that the only way to prevent war is to achieve a full and fair redistribution of wealth, so that all people on this earth may have equal opportunity. Modern Socialism is the only sane political and economic response to the present system, which is breeding another global catastrophe. * The ODA (Organization for Democratic Action) held its fourth convention on November 12-13, 1999. Soon afterwards we published a book in Arabic and Hebrew based on the convention's themes. Entitled The Palestinian Question and the Socialist Alternative, the book has three parts: The first engages in a discussion with the Palestinian National Movement and especially with the Palestinian Left. The second relates to globalization and the crisis of capitalism, emphasizing the latter's need to make war in order to rule. The third part looks into globalization as it affects the Middle East and discusses a possible agenda for a solution to the Palestinian question. Many activists and scholars have urged us to translate the book into English. We have are finally in the last stages of this project