Bloody Missiles, Bloody Motives

U.S. Bombing of Afghanistan and Khartoum

Revolutionary Worker #971, August 30, 1998

On August 20, at least 75 Tomahawk cruise missiles launched from U.S. warships hit Afghanistan and Sudan. The missiles reportedly killed and injured dozens of people in Afghanistan. In Sudan, the government said the U.S. bombs exploded in an industrial/residential area in the city of Khartoum, destroying a pharmaceutical factory and causing civilian casualties.

Bill Clinton appeared on national TV to sell this latest high-tech assault by the U.S. military as a justified act of "self defense." He declared that the target was a "terrorist network" headed up by the Islamic fundamentalist leader Osama bin Laden. Clinton claimed to have "convincing" intelligence information that bin Laden was behind the car bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, and that he was in Afghanistan planning further anti-U.S. attacks. He alleged that the factory in Khartoum was connected to bin Laden and manufactured components for chemical weapons.

Clinton's speech was meant to rope in the people in the U.S. into supporting the cruise missile attack--and future U.S. military action against "terrorism." But why should anyone believe any of Clinton's pretexts for the bombing? It's not just because the White House scandal has exposed Clinton as a habitual liar. There's a whole history of presidents lying through their teeth to justify U.S. bombings and invasions. To name just a few examples: Lyndon Johnson manufactured the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin incident to escalate the U.S. war in Vietnam. Ronald Reagan ordered the 1983 invasion of the Caribbean island of Grenada under the phony pretext that U.S. citizens were being "threatened." George Bush made up stories about "danger to American lives" in order to justify the 1990 invasion of Panama.

Clinton said that the U.S. "war against terrorism" is "a struggle between freedom and fanaticism." This statement comes from the head of a government that has thrown hundreds of thousands of poor people off welfare and criminalized a whole generation of youth in this country.

Clinton claimed that the U.S. wants "peace, not lift lives around the world, not take them." These words come from the top representative of a world power that launched 50,000 bombs against Iraq in 1991, in a war that killed hundreds of thousands of people. A world power that just wiped out a factory that reportedly made half the medicine in the desperately poor, famine-stricken country of Sudan.

Clinton declared that the U.S. has become a target because it stands for "democracy." As RCP Chairman Bob Avakian says, "In the world today the most horrendous crimes are committed in the name of democracy."

When Clinton talked about "self defense," he did not mean defending the interests of the common people in the U.S. He was really talking about defending the interests of his class--the class of monopoly capitalists who control wealth and power and rule over the people in this country. This same class of imperialists goes around the world exploiting, dominating and killing our oppressed sisters and brothers. Whatever the truth may be about Osama bin Laden, the masses of people should not allow themselves to be fooled into backing the moves of the U.S. ruling class--moves based on imperialist interests and motives.

What are the interests and motives behind the cruise missile attacks on Afghanistan and Sudan?

First, this is an attempt to send a brutal message that the U.S. remains the only superpower with the will and capability to strike militarily anywhere around the world--even with a president beset by scandal. The recent events reminded many people of the movie Wag the Dog--in which White House aides and a Hollywood producer manufacture a phony war to divert attention from a presidential scandal. But the missile attack was the decision of the U.S. power structure as a whole--there was almost unanimous support among top ruling class politicians for the move.

Second, the U.S. government is setting outrageous new precedents for future bombings and interventions by its military forces. The U.S. has accused countries such as Iraq or Libya of being "rogue states" and carried out military attacks against them. Now, the U.S. has blatantly violated the sovereignty of Afghanistan and launched a missile attack on its territory--on the basis that Osama bin Laden has camps within the borders of that country. The pretext was even more flimsy for the attack on Sudan, since bin Laden was not even physically there. Countries are now apparently subject to unannounced U.S. military attack for providing "sanctuary" to accused "terrorists," or even allowing investments by them! The attacks on Afghanistan and Sudan openly flaunted international laws. But the U.S. Department of Justice declared that the missile strikes were "legal" under U.S. laws--specifically, the "anti-terrorist" law signed by Clinton.

What all this amounts to is that the U.S. imperialists have given themselves a blank check for military aggression anywhere around the world, under the pretext of "striking back at terrorism."

Third, the U.S. government is preparing ground for new repressive measures against the people here in this country. Already, "security experts" are saying that civil liberties might have to be curbed in order to fight this "war on terrorism."

Fourth, the U.S. wants to demonize and criminalize all opposition to U.S. imperialism as "terrorism"--and portray U.S. military actions against such opposition as a struggle for "democracy and freedom." The reality is that there are all kinds of political forces, all over the world, who oppose U.S. imperialism. Some Islamic fundamentalists, who are based on very backward ideology, have developed sharp contradictions with the U.S. But people all over the world have many just grievances against the U.S. In the Middle East, there is deep anger at the U.S. war and economic sanctions on Iraq which have killed millions of Iraqis, especially children. And this is just the latest U.S. crime in the region: For decades, the U.S. imperialists, its corporations, and its agents like Israel have dominated and robbed the Arab world--stealing their oil, invading their land, and forcing the people into lives of poverty.

This is why the U.S. is so deeply hated around the world--and why its embassies, military bases and other instruments of its empire become targets of attack. People need to understand this, and not get sucked into calls by the ruling class to back U.S. military aggression to retaliate for such things as the bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

There is a saying among the Chinese people: "The emperor can burn down villages, but the people are forbidden to even light a candle." The oppressors claim the right to commit huge crimes against the people, but come down with brutal violence when the people respond in any way. The U.S. government condemns anyone who uses violence against them as "terrorists." But the masses of people need to make a clear line of distinction between the unjust violence of the oppressors and the just violence of the oppressed.

In the 1980s Osama bin Laden, originally from Saudi Arabia, was a key figure among the Islamist forces in Afghanistan fighting against the Soviet occupation. These forces received huge amounts of weapons, military training, and other aid from the U.S.--it was the largest CIA operation in history. In fact, some of the guerrilla bases hit by cruise missiles on Aug. 20 were said to be originally built by the CIA.

In more recent years, bin Laden and other Islamists have come into increasing contradiction with the U.S. for a number of reasons. In 1990, the U.S. stationed troops in Saudi Arabia for the war on Iraq. Thousands of U.S. troops are still in Saudi Arabia, where two of Islam's holy shrines are located--and this has caused much anger among Islamists like bin Laden. Other U.S. moves--such as support for Israel and continuing attacks on Iraq--have also fueled the conflict between the Islamists and the U.S.

Whether bin Laden had anything to do with the embassy bombings in East Africa is unclear. But the contradictions between forces like bin Laden and the U.S. is an example of what Malcolm X said about "chickens coming home to roost"--the violence that the U.S. imperialists carry out around the world often comes back to haunt them.

In his TV speech, Clinton said that "terrorists" target the U.S. "because of what we stand for." People all over the world know what the U.S. stands for--a beastly drive for profit and imperialist power that has devastated countless lives. The cruise missile attacks on Afghanistan and Sudan are the latest in the long list of U.S. crimes.

The U.S. government is leaving open the possibility of more military attacks under the pretext of going after Osama bin Laden. The people need to condemn and oppose any such moves by the U.S. imperialists--the biggest and most vicious perpetrator of reactionary violence in the world.

This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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