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The Terrorism of War

commentary on their war and what lies behind it
The Terrorism of War
In the past weeks we have heard and read plenty about the US "war on terrorism," especially in Afghanistan. What the media doesn't ell us, however, are the stories of the thousands of civilians rendered homeless at the onset of the Afghani winter, the women whose burqas may be lifted but who live in fear of rape and starvation under the reign of America's allies, and the near-certain starvation thousands of Afghanis now face, even if food aid is able to reach the areas these people are now struggling to survive. While US marines dig in outside of Kandahar to either fight the remaining Taliban forces, "clean up" after those forces surrender, or settle in for a long time to impose the US vision for the country, Northern Alliance forces are already fighting amongst themselves for positions of power. This fighting can quickly turn from the current verbal sparring to another round of civil war-a civil war that the US will most certainly have a more difficult time ignoring than the one preceding the current US campaign. In addition, as part of his "war on terrorism," Bush and his cohorts are ratcheting up their threats against other populations unless they do the Pentagon's bidding sooner rather than later.
This war has very little to do with defeating terrorism and much to do with attempting to establish permanent US domination of the world and its resources. Like the Athenian, Roman, and British empires before it, the US government and the interests it serves need easy and unchallenged access to resources, labor and markets to maintain not only a certain margin of growth (which means profit), but to continue to exist. Not since the existence of the Soviet Union and its allies has the capitalist world perceived such a threat to its rule. During that time, however, it was the ideology of Marxism-Leninism and national liberation that the US opposed because its adherents wanted the US corporations and its military out of their part of the world. Nowadays, politically-charged Islamic fundamentalism is the ideology which appeals to many of the forces opposing the US and calling for its defeat. Although what the west terms Islamic fundamentalism is socially much more regressive than Marxism-Leninism, its appeal to the oppressed in the Muslim world comes from the same dynamic and population groups. Despite the differences in their origins, both ideologies demand, on a very basic level, economic justice and an end to imperialist domination and both also consider armed struggle as a way to achieve these goals.
It is these demands that have led the US war machine to decide to fight this radical Islamic ideology using strategies very similar to those it used to fight the spread of Marxist-Leninism. Some of those tactics were/are: continual propaganda denoting the adherents to the "enemy" philosophy as either less than human (living in caves and tunnels) or superhuman (evil itself/evil empire); the creation and support of unpopular regimes and counter-movements whose sole purpose is to repress and fight grassroots movements opposed to US imperialism (Diem/Thieu in Vietnam, contras in Nicaragua and Angola/Fahd family in Middle East, KLA/Bosnian forces in former Yugoslavia); and the attempt to politically isolate those in the US who oppose this policy by placing them with the enemy (McCarthy/HUAC hearings and COINTELPRO/the USA-PATRIOT Act and new crime of domestic terrorism.)
Ironically, it was the US war against the Soviet Union and the various national liberation forces around the world that the SU supported that established today's scenario. Most of the forces currently battling in Afghanistan were armed and trained by the CIA and other US intelligence forces to fight the Soviet army in Afghanistan. The US supported Saddam Hussein for many years before the Gulf War as a way to counteract the aid he was receiving from the USSR. The Mubarak government in Egypt and the monarchy in Jordan would not exist without the massive US military and economic aid those regimes receive for their repression of any and all anti-US movements. The Saudi and Kuwaiti ruling families would not be as strong as they are without US support-a support most graphically illustrated during the slaughter of Iraqis in 1991 known as the Gulf War.
What is the common denominator here? I hesitate to say it, because it is so obvious-oil and the profits it creates. Clearly, this is the primary reason any government in the world would be interested in this region. Since the end of World War I, when the victors created new nations out of the desert to serve their individual desires, the Middle East and its oil has been one of the primary causes of imperial interest and the consequence of that interest-war. After World War II and the creation of Israel as a US-sponsored garrison outpost in the region-a creation which displaced millions of Palestinians already living there-the importance of the region only increased, as did the non-Israeli population's resentment of western meddling. By now, this western meddling was mostly US meddling, because of its clear domination of the capitalist world after the second world war.
Up to this point I have been writing only about the Middle East, as if movements and regimes in this region were the sole targets of the US "war on terrorism." Unfortunately, this is not the case. Other nations with large Muslim populations and insurgencies (Somalia, Indonesia, Sudan, too name a few) are also being mentioned by the White House and the Pentagon, as are the seemingly permanent enemies of the US establishment-northern Korea and Cuba.
Another target in this war against GW's bogeyman are the revolutionary forces in Colombia (FARC/ELN). Indeed, recent statements by the US Ambassador to Colombia and State Department spokespeople compared these forces to Bin Laden and the Al-Quedda network and called for "appropriate" armed intervention. The FARC-ELN have been fighting the oligarchy in Colombia for over thirty years. Along with a few other now-defunct revolutionary groups, they tried armed insurgency for several years and then, in an attempt to bring peace along with justice, lay down their arms and formed political parties. After winning many local elections and several seats in the Colombian legislature, they found themselves being killed off one by one in the early 1990s by paramilitary and military forces aligned with the government and the oil/coffee/drug cartels it represents. So, the remaining forces returned to armed struggle. Since that return, the war has intensified, as has US involvement. In 1999 Plan Colombia began--a multi-billion dollar US strategy that includes aerial spraying of coca and poppy crops (along with whatever and whoever happens to be in the surrounding areas), more military aid, increased involvement of the CIA and its fronts, and the presence of US advisors and commandos. Since September 11th, the aid provided by Plan Colombia is being supplemented by additional counterterrorism funds.
This increased US involvement has brought more environmental destruction of the countryside, greater repression of labor and social justice activists including murder by paramilitaries, the displacement of tens of thousands of Colombian citizens because of aerial spraying and fighting between revolutionary forces (FARC/ELN) and the military and paramilitaries aligned with rightwing elements in the government, and the deaths of thousands of mostly poor Colombians. Why? Once again, to establish, expand and maintain US markets and domination in the region, and to exploit Colombia's resources and plentiful cheap labor. Indeed, in the opening paragraphs of Plan Colombia, it states that very clearly: "The plan also involves the implementation of measures that would serve to encourage foreign investment and further promote trade expansion. These
include the completion of the necessary steps to comply with existing Uruguay Round agreements, especially those dealing with customs valuation, intellectual property protection, and investment measures, as well as implementing business facilitation measures proposed in the FTAA negotiations." Also, once again, that resource that defines most of the US's wars, comes into the picture: oil. In fact, according to Americas.org, ''Colombia's petroleum production today rivals Kuwait's on the eve of the Gulf War. The United States imports more oil from Colombia and its neighbors Venezuela and Ecuador than from all Persian Gulf countries combined."
Which leads me neatly into the current strategy in South America known as the "Andeazation" of the war against anti-US elements in the region. Much like the regionalization of the war against the people of Southeast Asia in the 1960s and 1970s, the United States is now expanding its military and counterintelligence operations in Latin America. It is the Pentagon's hope that it can defeat the FARC and ELN, while simultaneously keep their supporters, both governmental (Cuba, the Chavez government in Venezuela) and nongovernmental, at bay. Already, sources in the contested and revolutionary-held regions of Colombia report a drastic increase in paramilitary and military activities since September 11th (including massacres of peasants and labor leaders.)

There is another equally important element to the US empire's need to dominate the world. That element is the creation of and access to consumer markets for goods made for US corporate profit. From movies and music to tennis shoes and cigarettes, the culture profiteers need to expand their reach. Interestingly enough, in another parallel to the Marxist-Leninist national liberation movements and governments of the cold war era, Islamic radicals also oppose this aspect of US capitalism. Just as the communists saw the culture of capitalism to be a culture that emphasizes the dollar over content, the individual over the common good, and uses the objectification of women and the glorification of hedonism as the way to market a culture that would otherwise have little appeal since it has so little content, the Islamic fundamentalists frame their opposition in somewhat similar terms. To put it succinctly, the US export of its capitalist culture is nothing but spreading propaganda for a way of life that requires greed, egocentrism, murder and war to thrive. In addition, the technical sophistication, pervasive marketing, and appeal to humanity's most elemental instincts used by the propagandists makes more conventional appeals to reason and history virtually irrelevant to much of the world's population who have neither the time nor the inclination to examine the alternative.

The War at Home

The other front in this war against enemies of the US plan for global domination is right here in the USA. It wasn't more than two or three days after the tragedy of September 11, 2001 that Attorney General Ashcroft and his fellow lawmen started calling for a curtailment of the remaining civil liberties in this country. While they rounded up hundreds of men of Middle Eastern origin, they were formulating a new office with the rather Orwellian name Office of Homeland Security. Subsequently, a new law curtailing our rights to private conversation and protest was enacted by Congress known as the USA-PATRIOT act, and the establishment of military tribunals for suspected "terrorists" is underway. Although most members of Congress succumbed to the hysteria fanned by Ashcroft and his cohorts when it came time to vote for the USA-PATRIOT bill, even some of them are questioning the use of military tribunals. Of course, the only way they might be convinced to forbid their use is if masses of people pressure them to do so. Even then, the fact that these tribunals are being set up via an executive order makes it extremely unlikely even this type of pressure will make much difference. Given this, it is extremely likely that other dictatorial measures curtailing our freedom of movement and expression will also be carried out by executive fiat.
These moves are less about war and more about control. Before the occurrences of September 11, 2001 and the subsequent combat overseas, the US corporate plan for economic hegemony was under attack. The protests and riots in the streets at every meeting of the world's capitalist leaders were but the most obvious aspect of this opposition. Just like the number of protestors in the streets at these meetings, the opposition was growing. It was growing so quickly, in fact, that the governments and corporations who had much to lose from the growing popularity of the protestors' demands had to do something. The use of live ammunition by police in Gothenburg and the killing of a protestor in Genoa were indications of what lay ahead for protestors planning on attending the demonstrations against the IMF and World Bank in Washington, DC on September 29, 2001-meetings that were cancelled in the wake of September 11th. The bullets used by the police and fences constructed around these meetings are a metaphor for the legislation demanded by the corporations of the governments they control. It is necessary to silence the protestors by any means necessary. The terrorist attacks gave the authoritarians the opening they needed. Now citizens of both Britain and the United States have fewer rights than they did in the summer of 2001.
Under the USA PATRIOT Act, the Secretary of State could designate any group that has ever engaged in protest activity designed to prevent an action from occurring a "terrorist organization" - whether it be Operation Rescue, Greenpeace, or People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. Such a designation forbids the group's non-citizen members from entering the United States, and makes payment of membership dues a deportable offense. Under the bill, people can be deported regardless of whether they knew of the Secretary's designation and regardless of whether their assistance had anything to do with the group's alleged terrorist activity. Furthermore, US citizens are subject to prosecution under a part of this new law that could re-define many direct action tactics(lockdowns, street blockades) as domestic terrorism. Parts of this provision give law enforcement agents the ability to charge anyone who provides assistance to a person charged with domestic terrorism with harboring a terrorist. They also now have the authority to wiretap the home of anyone providing assistance. In addition, this provision gives the federal government the authority to prosecute violations of state law, which should be prosecuted in state courts, not in federal court.
This act also allows law enforcement agencies to enter a house, apartment or office with a search warrant when the occupant is away, search through her/his property and take photographs, and in some cases seize physical property and electronic communications, and not tell the victim of the search until later. It allows highly personal student information to be transmitted to many federal agencies that could lead to adverse consequences far beyond the stated goal of the anti-terrorism bill.
What about military tribunals? According to Bush and Ashcroft, these are necessary to preserve national security. As for the right to a trial by jury and to cross-examine witnesses, forget it--immigrants who the state thinks are terrorists have no right to these niceties. In short, in order for the US to preserve its "freedoms", the government now finds it necessary to curtail those freedoms for certain people who may be accused of a crime. The current government seems to think that the right to a fair trial is a uniquely American right that does not apply in all cases to US citizens and certainly not to non-citizens. However, they are incorrect. The UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights clearly states:

Everyone has the right to an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him by the constitution or by law.
No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.
Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him.
Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defence.

The military tribunals supported by Bush and Ashcroft provide none of these guarantees-which is exactly why they are going to be used. Once again, the people who run this country have proven how little regard they have for the human rights the founders of this country (with all their faults) fought for. No longer does the judicial branch and an independent jury stand between the government and the accused. In lieu of those checks and balances central to our legal system, non-citizens face an executive that is now investigator, prosecutor, judge, jury and jailer or executioner. If these trials do take place without great protest, there is a very real fear some US citizens could also be facing the tribunals.

What is the solution? I don't claim to have the answers, but here are some commonsense thoughts that might prevent future attacks by terrorists. First and foremost, the attack on Afghanistan must end and all troops, planes and warships in the region must return to the United States. Secondly, the United States must sign on to the various mechanisms being designed to prosecute war crimes like the US use of cluster bombs and the training of death squads and other international actions against humanity like that of September 11th. Although these mechanisms have their shortcomings, they are still better than war and its accompanying terror and murder. It must be the ultimate goal of all nations and peoples to design a truly fair and representative mechanism for solving disputes between nations and peoples and for trying crimes against the human race.
In the long run, the US needs to change its foreign policy. It must consider the needs of all people in the developing world, not just those reactionary forces it prefers to deal with and put into power (or support once they seize power). It must end its financial support of Israel's expansionist policies that ignore the reality of the Palestinian people. I honestly believe that if these two elements changed in Washington's foreign policy, the majority of the people in the middle east and central Asia-along with those folks in predominantly Islamic nations-would no longer consider extremist philosophies to be the answer to the injustices they face. However, these changes are not going to come about by themselves. Indeed, the American people need to inform themselves and make a fairer foreign policy a key to getting elected in this country. Unfortunately, our foreign policy has been decided by oil companies and other corporations for too long. The US can no longer act as if the world is its real estate. It is essential that we put human needs before corporate desires. The drive for profit is not only bad for the earth's environment and its people, it puts the American people in real danger. Bombing and fighting wars against other countries (or groups within those countries) only makes the situation worse. It is up to the people of the world to demand that bombing and other offensive actions end now and forever.