Revolutionary Worker #1134, January 13, 2002, posted at http://rwor.org
"The next year will be a war year as well."
Pres. George W. Bush,
"For a war fought for almost three months with saturation media coverage on cable TV, the Internet, network TV and the print media, we actually know rather little about what happened in Afghanistan."
William M. Arkin, military analyst for Washington Post,
"We lived in Kabul near one of the Taliban military bases, where my father had a small grocery store. One day I was out with my father, when we saw planes roaring overhead and heard scary, loud sounds like thunder. When we returned home, my mother and younger brother were lying dead in a pile of rubble that was once our house. My father went into shock and lost his mind. Now I'm the one in charge of our household. I take care of my five brothers and sisters. We have no money and it's hard for me to find them enough food to eat."
Haziza, a 12-year-old girl
in a Pakistan refugee center
Buried under a Carpet of Bombs
For three months, the U.S. and British air force dropped an average of 300 bombs a day on a country the size of Texas. This air campaign flattened government centers and Taliban troop concentrations. It pounded villages, highways, and massacred hundreds of prisoners captured by pro-U.S. forces.
In a December 12 speech at South Carolina's Citadel military school, Bush laid out the doctrine behind this operation. He denounced the idea that "our military would be used overseas, not to win wars, but mainly to police and pacify; to control crowds and contain ethnic conflict." Instead, he said, "Our military has a new essential mission. For states that support terror, it's not enough that the consequences be costly; they must be devastating."
For Afghanistan, this war has, in fact, been devastating--including for the masses of people.
The war has killed thousands of civilians. After the U.S. bombed Pashtun tribal leaders heading to Kabul for the inauguration of the new U.S.-installed government --killing 60 people in a convoy of 100--the Defense Ministry of this puppet government called for an end to such U.S. air attacks. From Bush's Texas Ranch, the imperialist General Tommy Franks responded coldly: "We will not be pressed into doing something that does not represent our national objectives, and we will take as long as it takes."
The bombing and the advance of the hated Northern Alliance scattered thousands from their villages just as the harvests were ripening. The intense, brutal use of superpower weaponry has destroyed the fragile system for distributing food in the country.
One British journalist recently described the conditions in Maslakh, a camp of 350,000 internal refugees 30 miles west of Herat city. A hundred people a day die there of exposure and starvation--with conditions expected to worsen dramatically. One woman confronted him saying: "You are just taking pictures. You are not here to help. We can't eat pictures. We are dying. We need food and medicine."
As 2002 started, the U.S. air-land battle forces were prowling Afghanistan like police raiding a housing project--arriving with screeching tires and the clatter of propellers, kicking in doors, hauling away whoever they choose, blowing away anyone who opposes them.
Much of this is denied or hidden by the U.S. war machine and the highly supportive mass media. In the cartoon world of U.S. propaganda, the Pentagon's weapons and hit-squads seek "evil-doers" with laser precision. The new "heroes of America" are now supposed to be Special Forces assassins and CIA interrogators. And, people are told, their goals are "defending our way of life" and bringing freedom for all.
Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld says reports of bombed villages are Taliban propaganda--even as the deaths are confirmed by journalists from around the world. The advance of U.S.-supported warlords is portrayed as the liberation of Afghan women--even as every observer can see that the veils and burkhas and feudal patriarchs remain in place.
The U.S. attack leaves the battered land and its people in the hands of those local feudal warlords who have ruled all along (and who, in the South, formed a major base of support for the Taliban). The "new government" the U.S. talks of imposing was manufactured in Germany, airdropped by U.S. planes, and has no legitimacy at all, other than the naked backing of occupying foreign troops from the U.S., Britain and, soon, Turkey.
In short, the U.S. response to September 11 has been a "devastating" assault on one of the world's poorest nations--and it comes with the constantly repeated promise that any country that "harbors terrorism" faces the same. Since the U.S. government has announced that it believes at least 60 countries "harbor terrorism"--this is an open-ended threat of "devastation" aimed at much of the world, probably the single most arrogant war threat in the history of the planet.
Now that Afghanistan has "run out of targets," the focus of the White House and the Pentagon is shifting.
Putting Armies into Place
"Afghanistan is just the beginning on the war against terrorism. Across the world, and across the years, we will fight these evil ones."
George W. Bush,
Fort Campbell, Kentucky,
The Washington Post reported (Jan.4, 2002) that Secretary Rumsfeld met with the top U.S. military commanders--the regional commanders in chief known as CINCs--and told them to prepare for military operations throughout the world. In a revealing piece, the New York Times reported that these CINCs, assigned to each region of the world, are also referred to as "Proconsuls"--using the title for military governors in the ancient Roman empire.
U.S. Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld has announced that the U.S. government does not need authorization from the UN (or anyone else) to attack anywhere in the world.
General Tommy Franks, the CINC for the Central Command (covering the Middle East plus Central and Southern Asia), remarked soon after New Years that his war-planners are working on possible battle plans aimed at Somalia and Sudan in East Africa, and Iraq on the Persian Gulf. Colonel Dan Smith of the Center for Defense Information think-tank said: "It is a clear sign that the Bush administration is thinking ahead to what it will do when it has finished in Afghanistan."
Three Marine Expeditionary Units, each with about 1,200 troops, are now moving toward the Arabian Sea--where they are scheduled to group for one week in mid-January.
Meanwhile, the Pentagon moved the command center of its 3rd Army out of Fort MacPherson, Georgia. It set up the new headquarters in Kuwait, the Persian Gulf country just south of Iraq. This 3rd Army provides the main ground forces for the U.S. Central Command. At the same time, General Powell's State Department flew in over a dozen exiled Iraqi military officers to organize their support for a possible U.S. move.
Over 20,000 U.S. military forces are now permanently stationed in bases in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. In addition, the equipment needed for outfitting four armored brigades is already pre-positioned in the region--one brigade's equipment in Kuwait, another in Qatar, two in the British base on Diego Garcia.
Yemen and Somalia
On December 21, President Bush announced that the U.S. was sending "help"--meaning war materiel and U.S. Special Forces units--to countries around the world.
Yemen, a country on the southern coast of the Arabian peninsula, is one country where such "help" was already in operation. Starting on December 18, tanks, helicopters and artillery pounded mountain villages and hillsides in Yemen's Marib province--killing dozens of people.
Now it is reported that preparations are being made to attack Somalia. After meeting with Donald Rumsfeld, a senior German official said that U.S. action against Somalia was not a question of "if" but "how and when." Vice President Dick Cheney told the Washington Times: "Clearly that's one we'll look at."
The transport minister of Somalia's transitional government, who was conducting negotiations in Nairobi with other groupings of his country, said: "If the Americans say there are terrorists in Somalia, they should tell us how they know this." The U.S. envoy to the region, Glen Warren, responded coldly by saying that the U.S. does not recognize "any government or regional government or any other sort of administration in Somalia."
In October 1993, the military defeat of "Black Hawk Down" forced the U.S. armed forces into a humiliating retreat from Somalia. Now as the movie about this defeat hits the theaters, the Pentagon may be preparing a lesson in "superpower payback"--attacking yet another of the world's poorest nations. One U.S. official told the Washington Post (Jan. 4, 2002): "It's also to make the point that the war isn't limited to Afghanistan."
The U.S., France and Britain have doubled military reconnaissance flights over Somalia, from British bases in Oman. The British Guardian said the flights were to identify bombing targets including port facilities. Britain has pressured neighboring Kenya to provide staging areas for military forces. There are reports that U.S. commando squads may be on the ground preparing assassinations and airstrikes.
General Richard Myers, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, said: "Somalia is one potential country--there are others as well--a potential country where you might have diplomatic, law enforcement action or potentially military action. All the instruments of national power, not just one." One Pentagon official said future attacks on Somalia may simply be kept secret: "It might be one of those things Rumsfeld describes as something you don't see."
Oil and the Threats to Iraq
"A short list of three options for attacking Iraq will be presented to President George W. Bush next month. The plans are being prepared by the Pentagon and the Central Intelligence Agency in a fresh sign that Mr. Bush is considering strong action against President Saddam Hussein's regime. With only isolated pockets of al-Qaeda resistance remaining to be tackled in Afghanistan, the time is fast approaching for Mr. Bush to make a decision on the next phase of the war on global terrorism."
David Wastrell, Washington Correspondent
of British Telegraph, Dec. 23, 2001
"The hidden stakes in the war against terrorism can be summed up in a single word: oil. The map of terrorist sanctuaries and targets in the Middle East and Central Asia is also, to an extraordinary degree, a map of the world's principal energy sources in the 21st century."
San Francisco Chronicle,
September 26, 2001
Since September 11, powerful forces within the U.S. ruling class have insisted that this is the moment for a major military assault on Iraq--to install a new government more willing to serve the U.S. ruling class. The U.S. has now field-tested in the caves of Tora Bora the "bunker-busting" bombs they developed to assassinate Saddam Hussein. Will they now send these bombs toward Iraq's capital Baghdad?
While the air is filled with constant official talk about "ending terrorism," the intense threats against Iraq prove that the current U.S. military moves are shaped by global imperialist interests--including the control of the world's resources--and not just their reported goal of "rooting out al Qaida."
It is quite clear that Iraq's government had no connection to the September 11 events or to the al Qaida forces that the U.S. blames for these events. And it is equally clear that anthrax spores in various envelopes came from U.S. military labs, not from Iraq. Iraq's Baathist government has never been aligned with Islamic fundamentalist forces. In fact, those fundamentalists were built up during the 1980s by Saudi Arabia and the CIA, in part as a counterweight to secular forces like Saddam Hussein.
So, while an attack on Iraq is being demanded as part of the so-called "U.S. war on terrorism," these threats and preparations are really, quite clearly, part of a major new global power grab by the U.S. By threatening Iraq the U.S. is seeking, once again, to tighten its direct power over the Persian Gulf. Control over the oilfields there are, quite simply, necessary for a superpower seeking to maintain permanent domination over the whole world.
The U.S. itself is not dependent on Persian Gulf oil--but Germany and Japan are. To maintain long-range power over potential imperialist rivals, the U.S. intends to seize and hold control over that region of the world.
This has been hard to establish. The three major oil-producing countries of the Gulf--Iraq, Iran and Saudi Arabia--have each, in their own way and in differing degrees, presented obstacles to U.S. interests. In the 1970s, the infamous Carter Doctrine declared that the U.S. was prepared to nuke any power that threatened U.S. control of the Persian Gulf. In the 1980s, the U.S. backed an Iraqi attack on Iran, to reestablish control there after the overthrow of the Shah. In the early 1990s, as the Soviet Union fell apart, the U.S. seized the moment to lead a massive attack on Iraq and to establish permanent bases in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, and Kuwait. Now, a decade later, powerful voices in the U.S. ruling class are complaining that even their long-time ally, the Saudi monarchy, has proven to be an unreliable friend.
In Washington today, the intense ruling class policy debate focuses on how to use this post-September 11 moment to finally, somehow, hammer down firm, permanent U.S. domination over this key region.
After months in which the U.S. ruling class debated whether to attack Iraq, now, if press reports and leaks can be believed, it seems as if their debate has shifted to how to attack.
One scenario, associated with the CIA and Paul Wolfowitz, the Pentagon's Deputy Defense Secretary, aims to apply their "Afghan model" to Iraq--planning to shatter Iraq's armed forces from the air, using U.S. commandos to guide the bombs while pro-U.S. Iraqi puppet forces take positions on the ground.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff reportedly assume that the overthrow of Iraq's government would require much more direct attack by foreign forces--with U.S. invasion armies seizing the oilfields of southern Iraq while Turkey takes over Iraq's northern Kurdish region and the oilfields around Mosul.
Such major attacks--on a highly populated oil-producing Arab country in the heart of the Middle East--would be highly provocative and risky. Important voices within the ruling class, including Secretary of State Colin Powell, have expressed fear that such a war would be far more difficult than the fly-by bombing of Afghanistan and that it could cause major political problems for pro-U.S. regimes throughout the Middle East.
It is widely reported that the Bush White House is now focusing on what to do next.
In any case, it would reportedly take several months to mobilize forces for an attack on Iraq--including both the deployment of U.S. forces, the difficult problem of mobilizing allies, and the arming of troops among Iraqi opposition forces. The massive U.S. air attack on Afghanistan has temporarily depleted the available reserves of million-dollar cruise missiles. The Pentagon has asked Boeing to step up their production of the air-launched versions.
Another sign of the importance of "oil politics" in the current U.S. war moves is that the White House has appointed Zalmay Khalilzad, a former high-level adviser to the Unocal oil company, to be the U.S. special envoy to Afghanistan. Khalilzad has long been involved in Unocal plans to run a natural gas pipeline from the former Soviet republic of Turkmenistan across Afghanistan to Pakistan and India. He was a key figure in encouraging close relations between Unocal, the U.S. government and the Taliban during the late 1990s. More recently he has served as an adviser to Donald Rumsfeld at the Pentagon, and Condoleezza Rice at the White House National Security Council.
The New York Times reported (Dec.15): "The State Department is exploring the potential for post-Taliban energy projects in the [Central Asian] region, which has more than 6 percent of the world's proven oil reserves and almost 40 percent of its gas reserves...Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said he was 'particularly impressed' with the money that American oil companies were investing there. He estimated that $200 billion could flow into Kazakhstan during the next 5 to 10 years."
The Emperor Has No Clothes
"Everything a war lets you do, the president has been seizing on."
Top Bush adviser, Washington Post,
January 3, 2002
The "war on terrorism" is the banner--the excuse, the justification--under which the deeds of an aggressive empire are now taking place.
Wiretapping email and infiltrating religious and political groups? Needed for the "war on terrorism."
Overthrow troublesome third world governments? Needed for the "war on terrorism."
Rewriting the law, criminalizing immigrants, creating networks of informants? Needed for the "war on terrorism."
Donald Rumsfeld has said "One of the unpleasant aspects of war is the reality that innocent bystanders are sometimes caught in the crossfire." And it is mind-boggling how many "innocent bystanders" have now been caught in that crossfire. It is worth looking, for just a moment, at three major aftershocks of the U.S. "war on terror."
First, the people of Afghanistan have suffered intense new devastation--coming after decades of civil war that arose from the U.S.-funded proxy war of the 1980s. Over 3,500 civilians have been killed by U.S. bombs. And an estimated six million people face a winter of starvation, without reliable sources of food.
Second, the reactionary Sharon government of Israel has been unleashed in the most systematic campaign of attack on Palestinian people in decades--rolling tanks into Arab towns, shutting down roads until whole villages wither in isolation, unleashing his troops to shoot into crowds and assassinate from helicopters. Naturally, all of this terror is being done in the name of the "war against terrorism"--with U.S.-supplied armaments and diplomatic support. The unrestrained assault on both the Palestinian people and on Israel's alleged "partner for peace," the Palestinian Authority government, has left many people wondering if the preparations are being made for some horrible new act of ethnic cleansing in which Palestinians would be driven from their remaining lands.
Third, the U.S. war on Afghanistan has produced shockwaves that are shaking the entire Indian subcontinent--inflaming the conflict between India and Pakistan. Almost two million soldiers are now squared off along the borders of South Asia--and hundreds of millions of people are in "the crosshairs" of a possible war between countries armed with nuclear weapons.
These deadly results of the last three months show how nothing the U.S. has done leads to justice, or security, or an end to fear.
And it is worth repeating, over and over, that the original attacks of September 11 were themselves, fundamentally, a case of civilians being put "in the crossfire" by U.S. war and imperialist policies.
If George W. Bush wants to meet the "evil-doers" who stand behind the Islamic fundamentalists of South Asia, he can start by going home to Kennebunkport and chatting with his Dad. For decades the U.S. was deeply involved in the recruitment and training of extreme Islamic fundamentalists in the Muslim world. It was the CIA who created and funded the Afghan mudjahideen, who first recruited Osama bin Laden and his "al Qaida Arabs" to go to Afghanistan, and who supported the rise of the Taliban in the 1990s. Traveling the world--to bomb Somali or Yemeni or Iraqi people--will not change that fact.
The Iraqi people have already suffered over a million dead as a result of U.S. attempts to dominate their country--including over 500,000 children who have died as a result of a decade of U.S.-imposed sanctions. How many more is the U.S. ruling class now willing to kill to control the world's oil resources and cement its dreams of a new U.S.-dominated global order?
This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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