Five years after the attacks on the World Trade Center, the ceremonies to remember the dead from September 11th have been overshadowed by furious arguments about the effects of the ‘war on terror’.
The events of 9/11 were truly horrific: 3000 killed in two hours in New York with another 189 in Washington and 44 in Pennsylvania. 70% of the 40,000 people in the vicinity of Ground Zero have been left with World Trade Center cough. Those affected include not just the survivors of the event, but those working in the clean up afterwards who breathed toxic dust particles. They are slowly dying from the effects, but without any public funding for treatment of the condition. Since then there have been further terrorist outrages in Madrid, London and Mumbai, to name but three. Everywhere the chief victims of the attacks are workers who are left to pay the high price of the violent conflicts between bourgeois cliques.
This has not only been the subject of hypocritical sympathy from George W and other world leaders, it has also been the pretext for the ‘war on terror’. Despite the fact that the US and Britain had been discussing the invasion of Afghanistan the previous summer, the attacks of 9/11 were given as the ‘cause’ of the war; and despite its real, geo-strategic motives, it was portrayed as a crusade to destroy the terrorists of al Qaida and the Taliban. The apparently endless ‘war on terror’ has now become the excuse for every war and act of aggression since. It’s not just the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq that have been justified with this ideology, and it’s not only the USA which has used it. Israel in attacking Lebanon, Russia in Georgia and Chechnya, or India in Kashmir have all repeated the same mantra.
Iraq shows the reality of the ‘war on terror’
The ‘war on terror’ appears to be put in question by the initial leaks of a US secret services document, National Intelligence Estimate on Trends in Global Terrorism. It is, of course, an open secret that “The Iraq conflict has become the ‘cause celebre’ for jihadists, breeding a deep resentment of US involvement in the Muslim world and cultivating supporters for the global jihadist movement” as the report says. It was clearly a major motivation for the Madrid and London terror attacks, despite Tony Blair’s initial efforts to pretend otherwise. However, the selected extracts published by the Bush government show that the USA not only recognises the difficulties of its policy in Iraq, but also claims it has damaged the leadership of al Qaida and aims to make further gains from maintaining the struggle against it: “Should jihadists leaving Iraq perceive themselves, and be perceived, to have failed, we judge fewer fighters will be inspired to carry on the fight.” No wonder they wanted to publish these extracts as well!
The intelligence report also repeats the usual lies about bringing stability and democracy to Middle Eastern nations: “Greater pluralism and more responsive political systems in Muslim majority nations would alleviate some of the grievances jihadists exploit… If democratic reform efforts in Muslim majority nations progress over the next five years…”. The reality of this “progress” is that the country has been brought to the brink of civil war at the cost of between 43,000 and 48,000 civilian casualties (iraqbodycount.net). The civilian death rate has risen from 20 a day in the first year after the war to 36 a day in the third, with the death toll in the last 2 months at 100 a day according to the UN. Attacks on the coalition forces have increased, as have sectarian killings. Torture is worse than under Saddam, carried out by all sides from the sectarian gangs to the British soldiers who ‘think it’s Christmas’ and the inquisitors at Abu Graib.
And the death toll is certainly not limited to the body count of those who have died violent deaths. The disruption of the infrastructure also has its casualties, which no-one has tried to estimate since the Lancet article estimated an overall total of 100,000 deaths as a result of the war two years ago.
Afghanistan, another new ‘Muslim democracy’, is similarly afflicted. The ‘defeat of the Taliban’ announced in 2001 now sounds rather hollow as more and more British and US soldiers are killed by suicide bombings in Kabul or Taliban fighters in regions in which the central government has lost all authority.
Capitalism breeds state terror and terrorism
The ‘war on terror’ was never going to put a stop to terrorism, and has even stimulated more suicide bombers. But putting a stop to terrorism was never the aim of the war in the first place. To defend its interests as the world’s only remaining superpower, the USA has resorted to a series of wars which allow it to constantly remind its rivals of its overwhelming military superiority. The global strategy of the USA has been “to achieve total domination of the Middle East and Central Asia, and thus to militarily encircle all its major rivals (Europe and Russia), depriving them of naval outlets and making it possible to shut off their energy supplies” (‘Resolution on the international situation’ IR 122). It has also developed a policy of explicitly preventing any regional power from getting strong enough to mount a challenge to it. So, as Iran has become relatively stronger due to the smashing of its neighbours, Iraq and Afghanistan, it has been assigned to the axis of those ‘evil’ countries aspiring to nuclear weapons. India, on the other hand, nuclear weapons or no, is a ‘good’ country since it may be used as a counter-weight to China.
Alongside the USA’s grand design to maintain its position “sometimes subordinated to it, sometimes obstructing it - the post-1989 world has also seen an explosion of local and regional conflicts which have spread death and destruction across whole continents. These conflicts have left millions dead, crippled and homeless in a whole series of African countries like the Congo, Rwanda, Sudan, Somalia, Liberia, or Sierra Leone; and they now threaten to plunge a number of countries in the Middle East and Central Asia into a kind of permanent civil war. Within this process, the growing phenomenon of terrorism, often expressing the intrigues of bourgeois factions no longer controlled by any particular state regime, adds a further element of instability and has already brought these murderous conflicts back to the heartlands of capitalism (September 11, Madrid bombings…)” (ibid).
Every country is fighting to maintain its interests on the imperialist chess-board, just as much as the USA. Britain has joined in the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq because it has interests in keeping a foothold in these countries. The difference between the USA and the smallest Iraqi faction is not one of good or bad, terrorist or anti-terrorist, imperialist or resistance, but of size and firepower. Generally speaking, the weaker imperialist states, proto-states (like Hizbollah or Hamas) or jihadist gangs use the methods of the suicide bomber, the assassination or the ambush because they lack the means to carry out the ‘shock and awe’ tactics favoured by countries with massive armies and aerial and naval power. But the biggest countries also use clandestine terrorist gangs as tools when it suits them – such as the manipulation of Loyalist paramilitaries by the British in Ulster, or the USA’s use of the Contras in Nicaragua or….bin Laden in Afghanistan in the war against the Russians.
Like the war against the Prussian or Russian knout in 1914-18, like the wars for ‘democracy’ against fascist or ‘communist’ totalitarianism between 1939 and 1989, the so-called war against terrorism is an ideological cover for a social system that has long outlived its usefulness to humanity and which, in its death throes, threatens to engulf the entire planet in war and destruction. To end war, to end terror, we must put an end to the capitalist society which secretes them from every pore. WR 30/9/6