Operation Infinite Madness

With violent anti- American demonstrations spreading from Pakistan to Indonesia and from the West Bank to Malaysia, Bush’s anti-terrorist rhetoric is becoming increasingly hollow. Rob Sewell exposes the hypocrisy of US/British imperialism and their coalition partners and reviews the deepening economic crisis worldwide.

“These rulers call themselves holy men, even with their record of drawing money from heroin-trafficking. They consider themselves pious and devout, while subjecting women to brutality. The Taliban has allied itself with murderers and given them shelter.”

George Bush, speech at the Pentagon, 11th October 2001.

With violent anti- American demonstrations spreading from Pakistan to Indonesia and from the West Bank to Malaysia, Bush’s anti-terrorist rhetoric is becoming increasingly hollow. After all, wasn’t it the United States that backed and financed these “holy men” and turned a blind eye to their heroin-trafficking and brutality towards women when they were fighting the Soviet-backed regime in Kabul during the 1980s? Did not the CIA and the Pakistan Secret Service give shelter to and ally themselves with Bin Laden and other murderers when it suited them?

Bin Laden was part of the anti-Soviet Mujahideen group that received at least $10m from the US. The Taliban Regime grew directly out of the generous funding that the US gave to Islamic Mujahideen groups in the 1980s. More recently, did not the US Administration give the Taliban government a donation of $43m, approved by Colin Powell, less than four months ago, despite all the drug-trafficking, brutalisation of women, and sheltering of murderers?

American Imperialism, as its record shows, is no friend of the ex-colonial peoples. It has backed every reactionary regime under the sun when it coincided with American interests. “I’m pleased with the outpouring of support - Jiang Zemin, Vladimir Putin,” said Bush, those well-known fighters for freedom. He went on to say the United States would “lead the world to victory” over terrorism. Over the past century it has precisely been the US that has engaged in terrorism to safeguard its interests from the bombing of Vietnam to the oppression of the Palestinians and the bombing of a defeated and bleeding Iraq. The Anglo-American war in Afghanistan is no different. And this is only the beginning. The Americans have already made it clear they reserve the right to attack other countries deemed sheltering terrorists. But as the old adage says: “One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.” It is a clear message to the masses of the third world that they had better do as the US says or else.

On 12th May on the US 60 Minute TV programme, the then Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, was asked a direct question about the effects of the bombing and embargo on Iraq over the last 10 years: “We have heard that a half million children have died. I mean, that’s more children than died in Hiroshima. And - and you know, is the price worth it?” Albright: “I think this is a very hard choice, but the price - we think the price is worth it.”

This clearly shows the murderous policies of American Imperialism. They are not concerned about the lives of millions of innocent people. They are seen as small change in the dirty world of US power diplomacy.

The US Ambassador in London, Tony Blair, continues to talk of a war for “democracy”, “freedom” and “justice”. He has gone on a tour of the Gulf and other areas to bolster the “coalition against terrorism.” He visited such vibrant democracies as the United Arab Emirates, headed by Sheikh Zayed. With a perfectly straight face, Blair said that the sheikh was “somebody who, because he has been in power for a considerable time, will have particular insights in terms of regional issues...” No one asked how the sheikh had been in power so long. Cynics may say it was to do with the lack of “democracy” in the UAE. He has visited the wonderful “democracy” of Oman, and has travelled to see the military dictator of Pakistan.

Now these great “fighters for democracy” are supporting the Northern Alliance - another gang of cut-throat murderers and heroin-traffickers. They were ousted from power by the Taliban as they were so corrupt and despotic they lost all popular support. Now they are to be included by the imperialists in the post-Taliban Regime that will govern Afghanistan. The 86 year-old exiled king in Rome has cracked a deal with the Alliance, already carving up ministerial posts in the new “democracy.”

“All that talk of freedom, democracy and justice”, states the Financial Times, “inevitably jars when people - in the west as anywhere else - look at the motley collection of despots and autocrats enlisted to the cause of defeating terrorism.” (12th October)

The attempt to drop food packets on fleeing refugees is also seen as a propaganda ploy. The so-called “humanitarian aid” is far too little to help the starving millions fleeing from the Anglo-American bombardment. It has been described as killing the father and feeding the son. The bombing has compounded the terrible problems of famine and drought that has affected the country after years of war and civil war; it is nothing more than a Public Relations exercise. The bombing has made it impossible to complete the sowing of winter wheat. Drought has caused near-total failure of rain-fed crops in more than half the country. Half the irrigation land was fallow because of damage to irrigation systems.

The most advanced and richest country on Earth is bombing one of the poorest countries in the world. We are facing a “humanitarian catastrophe”, says the UN. According to the UN, out of a population of 21 million, 1.5 million Afghans face starvation and a further 7.5 million risk severe food shortages. “We do not want population movements”, says Andrew Natsios of the US Agency for International Development. This request seems a little futile as cruise missiles cause millions to flee for their lives. “Fifty percent of people will either die during the movements or when they arrive in the camps they will be so debilitated they cannot be revived”, he continued.

In a twist of irony, the United Nations, which has endorsed the bombing of Afghanistan, has just been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. It is like a story out of Orwell’s 1984, where the Ministry of Love is the war department.

Despite the round-the-clock bombing, US officials admitted that few or no guerrillas were present in the sites attacked from the air. Clearly Bin Laden has gone into hiding. In any case, many of Al-Qaeda’s members are not in Afghanistan, nor are they known. The actions of American and British Imperialism will not defeat terrorism, but is preparing a new wave of terrorism internationally. The root cause of this terror, which Marxists have always opposed, is the social and economic conditions plaguing the Third World. These have worsened as the imperialist powers have used their muscle to open up their markets and denationalise their utilities. On a capitalist basis, there is no way out of this impasse. On the contrary, the new slump that is facing the world will intensify these contradictions a thousand-fold.

Many commentators are saying that Bush and Blair have lost the ‘Propaganda War’ with Bin Laden amongst the masses of the Middle East and elsewhere. Because of their past policies, especially in the Middle East, there is enormous opposition to American Imperialism. Bin Laden, who is a reactionary demagogue, has cynically appealed to the masses to defend Islam against the attacks of The West. The imperialists have played into his hands by initially describing their campaign as a “crusade” against terrorism. The Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi added fuel to the fire when he made a comment about the “superiority” of western culture over Islam. Then they had to change the name of the campaign to one less offensive, and even now, officials have described British strategy plans as “The Bible.” Bush and Blair’s appeal to the Muslim masses has fallen largely on deaf ears. As the Financial Times stated: “Sultans and kings can be persuaded and cajoled into condemning Al-Qaeda. It is a lot harder to convince their subjects.”

Their bombing of Afghanistan, however, has met with growing opposition on the streets of the Arab capitals. The strategists of capital are terrified that this episode will simply increase the tensions and instability of the region. Pakistan faces the prospect of millions of refugees flooding across its borders, adding to the instability of the country. Many of the regimes in the Middle East are autocratic regimes with little popular support. Many are threatened with revolutionary overthrow. The bombing of Afghanistan has made matters worse for them. They are being forced to come behind the plans of American Imperialism, despite all the dangers that entails. Already, Arafat has taken measures to suppress dissent in the Palestinian Authority. Pakistan has clamped down on protests, so have other countries in the region. But how long can they do this for? With more bombing and the prospect of ground troops being used, the death toll will inevitably rise, causing greater opposition and protest. The autocratic rulers are treading a tight rope. That is the reason why Saudi Arabia refused to accept a visit from Tony Blair.

American Imperialism is taking advantage of the situation to extend its power in the region. There are important oil reserves, and the issue of a pipeline route, which has seen rivalry between the US and Russia. Although Russia is prepared to back a campaign against terrorism as it suits their struggle against Chechen rebels - condemned in The West, but now forgotten - it is opposed to the growth of American power in its backyard. Putin is taking advantage of the international crisis to flex his muscles further in Georgia, accusing the latter of harbouring terrorists. Likewise, Russia has denied airspace to US military fighters to attack Afghanistan, and has sought to extend its influence further over the former Soviet republics of central Asia. The Russians were obviously offended by the unilateral dealing of Uzbekistan and others with the United States. Teams of Russian generals have now flown from Moscow to Uzbekistan and Tajikistan to “co-ordinate” anti-terrorist actions with their counterparts. Competition and rivalry will undoubtedly increase, as the US announced it was giving $3m to Tajikistan to help private farmers. The Russians have now spoken of their own CIS missile defence system, under Russian management, inviting other countries to join.

Economic crisis

This military, diplomatic and political crisis is coming in the wake of a deep economic crisis. Before the 11th September, the world economy was slowing down. The attack on New York and Washington served to plunge the world’s stock markets into steep decline, and drive down demand in the US. Consumer spending in the US declined by two and-a-half per cent in September, the steepest plunge since the government began compiling figures in February 1992. Unemployment has risen sharply, as layoffs are announced in a whole range of sectors. The Airline Industry internationally is expecting 200,000 job losses, and tourism is being badly affected. Some commentators believe the US economy is already in recession. This is having a knock-on effect on the rest of the world, especially on countries that are reliant on exports to the States.

“The third quarter earnings season, just getting under way, was bound to be bad. According to Thomson Financial/First Call, 421 companies had already warned about their earnings before September 11, and analysts were expecting the blue-chip companies in the Standard & Poor’s 500 index to report profits down nearly 15 per cent”, stated the Financial Times.

“Since the attacks, those estimates have been revised sharply downwards to a decline of 22 per cent. Analysts have lowered their forecasts for all but two of the 11 S&P 500 sectors. For the first time since 1990-91, the US companies are on course to report four consecutive quarters of year-on-year profit declines.” (11 October)

However, the recent rallies on Wall Street have raised the hopes of investors that all is now well. “Crisis, what crisis?” is the thinking. But what we have just experienced is a “sucker’s rally” that often occur in bear markets. “The underlying fundamentals have deteriorated markedly,” says HSBC’s Rudd. “There will be some very nasty profit numbers coming through from US corporations in the next couple of weeks.”

According to Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein, reported profits for S&P 500 companies fell 60 per cent year-on-year in the second quarter and, of the 222 third-quarter S&P preannouncements, 139 have been below expectations.

In the developing world, things have been thrown into turmoil. Having partially recovered from the 1997 crisis in S.E. Asia, these economies have once again been pushed to the edge. In Singapore, exports fell by 30 per cent last month. In the Philippines, 20,000 jobs were shed in the micro-electonics sector over the summer because of the fall in US export demand. This has been compound by the continuing economic crisis in Japan, which has also engaged in a series of trade disputes with China, with punitive tariffs being used in retaliation. Japan’s stock market has fallen by 30 per cent in the last six months, causing a sharp fall in the bank’s capital. Indonesia is in deep trouble struggling with a massive debt burden. Any conflict in the Middle East will send oil prices through the roof, further exacerbating the economic crisis.

The sharp decline in commodity prices over the past period is having major effects on developing countries in a rapid deterioration in their terms of trade, squeezing their ability to service external debt. “There is already evidence that low commodity prices are causing forced migration, forcing parents to take children out of school, and worsening hunger in these areas”, comments the Financial Times.

The deepening economic crisis will have far reaching consequences. The epoch opening up is one of chronic instability. Once again, war, slump, and insecurity are on the order of the day. Human consciousness is enormously conservative, however, the events that are unfolding are having a dramatic effect on it. This will provoke revolutionary situations and uprisings in different parts of the world. Globalisation has meant global crisis, global slump and global turmoil. This changed objective situation will demonstrate again and again the inadequacies of the ‘market economy’ to millions of people. Only Marxism has the answers to the problems facing the world. Increasingly, the working classeas of Marxism will receive a growing audience. There is no end of history, as Francis Fukuyama has again claimed. Only when the profit system is eradicated can we eliminate the real evils of hunger, unemployment, poverty, misery and war. Only then can we develop a system based upon international cooperation and brotherhood. It requires the socialist reconstruction of the globe. A task begun in 1917, and which now falls upon our generation to carry through to the end.