Every day there’s another voice added to the chorus of criticisms of the bombing of Afghanistan. Not only is there CND, the Stop The War coalition, various MPs and left-wingers, but also major newspapers. “THIS WAR IS A FRAUD” read the front page of the Mirror (29/10/1). The Guardian has queried the objectives of military action, asked what the bombing has achieved so far, and if food deliveries can be increased, maybe with a pause in the bombing. There is opposition to the use of cluster bombs, calls for a greater role for the UN and concern for ‘innocent victims’ and ‘non-military targets’ such as hospitals, old peoples’ homes, Red Cross warehouses and UN facilities.
Many individuals want to do something against the war on Afghanistan, against the spread of the ‘war against terrorism’ - even if it’s not yet clear to them what would actually be effective against the insatiable appetites of the militarists.
But it would be wrong to have any illusions in any MP, editorial writer or those who dominate the ‘anti-war’ movement and insist on their ‘humanitarianism’ or ‘socialism’ when they add their few words of reservation on British foreign policy, as they are all just outpourings from a class of warmongers.
‘Criticisms’ of war that suit the ruling class
It is, for example, taken for granted by ‘critical’ MPs (and others) that the UN should take a significant role in the ‘war against terrorism’. It is also an assumption of US policy that any eventual post-war (post-Taliban?) regime in Afghanistan will be enforced by the UN, rather than having blatant US puppets in power. The UN will continue to be a tool of the major imperialisms, as it has been ever since its foundation.
Labour ‘critics’ say they’re worried about ‘innocent victims’, pretending to be shocked at discovering the capitalist war machine functions with indiscriminate brutality - as well as justifying the murder of anyone they deem ‘guilty’. All the fuss about ‘cluster bombs’ rather implies that death by other means would somehow be preferable. Paul Foot (Guardian 30/10/1) refers, in passing, to “daily military blunders in Afghanistan” - but fewer ‘blunders’ can only mean greater ‘efficiency’ in the process of destruction.
Foot was defending MP Paul Marsden from accusations of being like those who ‘appeased’ Hitler in the 1930s. They were both upset that anyone could suggest there was anything suspect in their anti-fascist credentials. Anti-fascism was one of the main ideologies used by the ruling class in Britain to mobilise the population to die in the service of British imperialism in the Second World War - a ‘just’ war in Foot’s view.
Marsden himself, in his own report of the interview with Hilary Armstrong, showed no reluctance in supporting the war: “the UN should take charge of the military action, not the US. It would be much more effective. By all means send in the SAS, but lets get the UN onside first”. His difference with the Labour leadership is only a matter of emphasis, a quibble over tactics.
There are other MPs who say they are concerned that US action is gradually spreading beyond the initial focus on bin Laden. This is hardly controversial within the British ruling class as Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon, for example, has just been in Washington saying exactly that. One of the reasons that Britain has been running with the US is to try and influence the extent of US imperialism’s campaign - in the interests of British imperialism of course.
Whenever you scratch the noted ‘critics’ of the government you find a warmonger. In 1991 George Galloway got a lot of publicity for his thoughts on Iraq. This time round he has suggested that “if military action was seen as unavoidable, the target should have been the Arab legions in the mountains” (Guardian 20/10/1). On a historical note Galloway identifies with Aneurin Bevan and his criticisms of government policy during the Second World War. Bevan, like his latter-day followers, had no quarrel with British imperialism’s war aims, just the means to achieve them.
Meanwhile, the Mirror (29/10/1), answered the stock ‘what’s the alternative to bombing?’ question, with the example of Northern Ireland, and how brilliant it was that Britain “did not react by sending fighter jets to Belfast”. Their praise for British strategy, the use of MI5, MI6, the SAS and other regiments will not impress those who have lived in Northern Ireland during the last 30 years and witnessed the extensive militarisation of society. Paul Foot as well, “can suggest to Bush, Blair and the rest of them a whole series of policies” (Socialist Review November 2001). There’s this alternative for British imperialism to consider, for example: “Should not the entire diplomatic and political efforts of our government be directed instead to solving the crisis in the Middle East?” (Mirror 18/10/1)
Against all the lies which make out that somehow US militarism is an exception to the pattern of imperialist strategies, that capitalism can exist without war, that wars can take place without casualties, communists defend one essential truth. Only the international revolution of the working class is capable of destroying the economic system that gives rise to wars, and creating a society based on relations of solidarity, a human community. Bev 1/11/1