We are told that terrorism is a threat to civilised values; that all freedom-loving and civilised nations must unite against it. In truth, the multiplication of terrorist attacks, from New York to Moscow, from Bali to Tel Aviv, reveal how absolutely rotten present day civilisation has become.
Terrorism was once - at best - a misguided response of the oppressed against the rich and powerful. Today it hafs become a major weapon in the arsenal of the state - an instrument of imperialist politics, of inter-capitalist war. Terrorism today is not only an arm of weak and 'failed' states like Afghanistan under the Taliban, or Iran under the Mullahs, or occupied Chechnya, not only of aspiring would-be states like the Palestinian Authority or the IRA, but also and above all, of the world's most powerful, most democratic, most civilised states.
- Of France, for example, which has links to the Basque terrorists of ETA, and is even more notorious for its sponsoring and training of the Hutu death squads which massacred hundreds of thousands of Tutsis in Rwanda.
- Of Germany, which armed the Croatian ethnic cleansers in Bosnia or the Albanian UCK in Kosovo.
- Of Great Britain, whose secret services are involved in a dark web of intrigue with the paramilitary loyalist killers in Ulster.
- And last but not at all least, of the USA, which uses the IRA to prod at Britain's flank, which has set up veritable universities for training Latin America's covert death squads, and which created Osama bin Laden in its war against the USSR.
In short, every capitalist state, involved in an insane war of each against all, no longer has any hesitation in employing the most insidious, ruthless and murderous methods in the defence of its national interests. And the victims of these methods are always the civilian populations - whether, like the Palestinians, they are blown apart by the missiles and shells of official armies, or, like the Israelis, by suicide bombers manipulated by shady terrorist gangs which in turn act in the interests of various regional or global powers. The chief victims of the September 11 attacks in the USA were the mass of employees working in the vertical factories of the World Trade Center. The majority of the victims of the USA's brutal response in Afghanistan were unwilling conscripts in the Taliban armies, civilians buried under the rubble left by US 'smart' bombs, or starved to death in panic flight from the cities and farms. Today the US prepares another war against another sponsor of terrorism, Saddam Hussein, and once again the principal victims will be Saddam's own principal victims - the exploited and the oppressed of Iraq. At the moral level there is absolutely nothing to choose between the terrorist gangs and the official masters of state violence. Between Hamas and Sharon. Between Bush and bin Laden. Between Tony Blair and Saddam Hussein. The sinister conspiracies of imperialist states
But there is more and there is worse. Not only do all the civilised states use terrorist groups and terrorist methods against the populations of rival states. There is growing evidence that they are perfectly prepared to turn their own populations into hostages and victims of terrorist attacks.
The notion that the US state 'allowed' September 11 to happen in order to whip up support for its global 'war against terror' - a war planned long in advance of the assault on the Twin Towers - is no longer in the domain of outlandish conspiracy theory. The Observer (27.10.02) published a four page feature by Gore Vidal cataloguing the succession of 'errors', 'breakdowns in communication' and 'failures to act' by the US military and security services which add up to a case so damning that mere incompetence or negligence cannot explain it. The German weekly Die Zeit published an article on the same subject, concluding that "the American investigators knew that terrorist attacks were being prepared, but they let the suspects act�" (cited in Le Monde, 5 October). As Vidal notes, there is a historical precedence for exactly such intrigues: the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, which again was 'allowed to happen' so that the US could mobilise a reluctant American population for war.
As we show in the article on page 4, there are equally suspicious circumstances surrounding the terrorist bombings in Bali, which left nearly 200 dead and many more gravely injured. Our article focuses on the 'benefits' these events can provide to Australian imperialism, but it also points out that behind Australia stands the USA, which in addition has plans to establish a much more direct presence of its own in the region. In the period leading up to the bombings, there were a number of visits to Indonesia by top US officials, including Colin Powell and the director of the FBI; moreover, well-known 'hawks' like Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz. have been demanding an official resumption of US military aid to Indonesia, which was suspended in 1992 following massacres by the Indonesian forces in East Timor. In October the issue was debated in Congress, having received a letter from Indonesian human rights organisations opposing the resumption, given that there was no improvement in the country's human rights record. The letter also argued that the threat of terrorism - which the Bush administration was citing as the main reason for unblocking restrictions on military aid - was "very much exaggerated".
Add to this the fact that there have long been very tight connections between the radical Islamist groups and the Indonesian secret services and military forces, then suspicions can only increase that the bombings are extremely 'timely' for US imperialism, enabling it to strengthen its arguments in favour of military aid, of using Australia as a local gendarme, and of establishing a much more direct presence itself. This would allow the US to impose its version of 'stability' on a political entity which is vital strategically but divided up into a myriad of islands, many of which are agitating for independence from Jakarta; at the same time a direct military presence in the region would allow the US to begin the effective encirclement of its principal imperialist rivals in the region, China and Japan. Little wonder that the Bush administration wants to blame the bombings on groups linked to al Qaida and thus integrate its Indonesian strategy into the global 'war on terrorism'.
In a parallel way, there is every reason to suppose that Russian imperialism will be the first to profit from the recent terrorist crimes in Moscow. The fact that 40 heavily armed Islamic fighters found it so easy to drive through Moscow and take over a theatre in the centre of the city already poses serious questions, especially when we recall that the most recent Russian offensive in Chechnya was justified as a response to a previous terrorist outrage: the mysterious bombings of apartment buildings in the capital which killed hundreds of workers; to this day there are plenty of reasons to think that these bombings were a provocation by Russia's secret services. If the Russian forces again step up their bloody 'pacification' of Chechnya, this would only make it more likely that the hostage crisis in Moscow was indeed "our September 11" as Russian politicians put it.
The comparisons with September 11 have another purpose, as do the efforts to find links between the Chechen gangs and al Qaida: Putin's regime is very anxious to get the Americans to recognise the Chechen war as the equivalent of the USA's 'war on terrorism'. In other words, he wants some underhand deal whereby Russia will not act as too much of an obstacle to US military adventures like the proposed attack on Iraq, if the US keeps quiet about Russian atrocities in Chechnya. He has good reason to put his hopes in such a deal; two years ago, when the Russian offensive was at its bloody height, both Clinton and Blair made it plain that they supported Putin, since they had no wish to see a succession of independence movements pulling the Russian Federation to pieces; and already both the US ambassador in Moscow and Tony Blair have expressed their approval of Russia's handling of the latest crisis, despite the high death toll among the hostages.
What the outcome of the crisis really showed is that the Russian state cared as little for the fate of the hostages as did the Islamist terrorists who were no doubt ready to slaughter them all. The revelation that the vast majority of the hostages who died were killed by the opiate gas used to prepare the storming of the theatre; the failure to provide adequate emergency aid to the victims of the gas; the refusal even to release details of the gas to medical staff so that they could treat the victims with a suitable antidote�all of this was testimony to the brutal indifference of the Russian state to the welfare of its own citizens.
The media in the west has blamed this on the fact that Russia still hasn't completely thrown off its 'Communist' habits. It's quite true that the corpse of Stalinism still infects the structure of the present regime. But when it comes to the state callously sacrificing its own citizens in order to advance its imperialist interests, Russia is a rather crude amateur compared to the professionals in the democratic west.
The truth is this: in all countries, the proletarians and the oppressed are permanent hostages of capital, which in its death throes is spreading war and chaos across the planet. Today, no less than at the time of the Cuba crisis which took place precisely 40 years ago, capitalism holds a gun to the head of humanity. And there are no 'special forces' waiting in the wings to set us free. The proletariat must itself break the chains that bind it, by waging a revolutionary struggle against this entire system of war and terror.