State of Their Union: A State of War

Revolutionary Worker #1138, February 10, 2002, posted at  

“The men and women of our armed forces have delivered a message now clear to every enemy of the United States: Even 7,000 miles away, across oceans and continents, on mountaintops and in caves, you will not escape the justice of this nation.”

George W. Bush, State of the Union speech, January 29, 2002

George Bush's State of the Union speech started by noting that his military had made an example of Afghanistan in the last four months--wrecking one of the world's poorest countries from the air, deposing its previous government, airlifting in a pre-fab puppet government, and rounding up some of the Islamic fundamentalists. As Bush bragged about this, the assembled congressmen, senators, military brass, supreme court judges, and cabinet ministers cheered.

But this speech was not mainly a report on a war. It was the declaration that a continuing state of war would be used to forge a world order that is even more firmly dominated by the U.S. Bush made several key points to flesh out this vision:

He said again that this war is only just beginning and is likely to continue, open ended, for years- -even beyond his presidency.

He announced again that many things will not "return to normal," that this level of threat, suspicion, and surveillance must be accepted as a new normalcy.

He unveiled the largest single military budget increase in over 30 years--even bigger than the staggering Reagan increases of the 1980s when U.S. imperialism went whole hog to prepare world nuclear war against the Soviet Union. This Bush increase would be about $48 billion, larger than the total military budget of any other country.

Most significant of all, Bush crudely expanded the target of this war. The U.S. is no longer just threatening "terrorists and those who harbor terrorists." Now, Bush announced, his government is preparing war against a whole new category of countries--any "regimes who seek chemical, biological or nuclear weapons."

He named names--Iraq, Iran and North Korea. And he coldly threatened preemptive war: "We will be deliberate, yet time is not on our side. I will not wait on events while dangers gather."

Not wait on events--this implies that the U.S. government will not wait for a specific crisis or specific acts of war (the so-called casus belli) before attacking other countries. This so-called "Bush Doctrine" asserts the right to attack anyone in the world at any time without provocation of enemies or the approval of allies.

And this speech has made even clearer the urgency for the people to build a powerful anti-war movement: a movement that can send a message to the people of the world that here--in the very country which is unleashing suffering and bombs on their heads--there are people who will not go along with this oppressive program; a movement that extends our hands to people around the world and says that these acts of war and domination, of murder and injustice, are not in our name and we have a responsibility to stop them.

Recasting the World

"You are either with us, or against us."

The Bush Doctrine in its slogan form

"The gun laid on the table by this political dramatist will go off in the next act."

Columnist William Safire, New York Times, January 31

The U.S. has attacked and imposed its will on Afghanistan. It is settling into new war bases in Pakistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan. It has sent hundreds of commandoes into Somalia, Yemen, Indonesia, and the Philippines--while announcing that it has more quietly sent missions and supplies to dozens more countries.

This opening wave of worldwide warfare was aimed first at countries that reportedly had camps of the Islamist fundamentalist group al Qaida (i.e. Afghanistan, Yemen and Somalia) or else had pro-U.S. governments eager for counter-insurgency support (Indonesia and the Philippines).

But now, without provocation or incident, without debate or preparation, the U.S. president has announced that his armed forces are preparing to attack three other countries who they consider hostile--none of which has any connection to the September 11 events.

In one sense, obviously, all this started on September 11. But in a more profound, underlying sense, the actions of the U.S. government and military that were unleashed after that day are focused on long- standing and intensely felt world strategic interests and goals of the U.S. capitalist-imperialist ruling class.

In the speeches of George Bush and his high command over the last month, September 11 is more openly described as an "opportunity" for deep changes--changes in world relations, changes in military balance, changes in military doctrine, and changes in the culture within the U.S.

Just one example from the State of the Union speech: Bush said, "For too long our culture has said, 'If it feels good, do it.' Now America is embracing a new ethic and a new creed: 'Let's roll'.[3 dots] We have been offered a unique opportunity and we must not let this moment pass."

It may never be known who exactly carried out September 11, or who knew about it or whether in some way it was "allowed" to happen. And, like a gangster who took a hit, the U.S. lashed out and brutalized Afghanistan as an example to the world. But it has become more and more clear that the U.S. ruling class has seized on this event, treating it as "a unique opportunity" to carry out a whole recasting of the world.

What we are living through is not a "just war against terrorism," but a growing, unjust attempt to recast world relations--in the interests of a capitalist-imperialist ruling class. They have many strategic goals, including: getting a monopoly over the world sources of oil, maintaining nuclear superiority over potential adversaries, having access to key global markets and vast sources of raw materials, and creating the conditions for the unchallenged exploitation of hundreds of millions of laboring people worldwide. Achieving these imperialist goals, across a vast planet of roiling contradictions, requires a strategic plan, a global military and the imposing of a whole structure of relations on the rest of the world.

The Bush team has an angry complaint about the last eight years of U.S. policy. They claim the Clinton government squandered the victory over the Soviet Union and was not nearly aggressive enough in reshaping the world--its military alliances, trade relations, spheres of influence, etc.

The Bush team complains the Clinton administration gave allies veto power over U.S. actions and got bogged down in "peacekeeping" actions in non-strategic areas, like Somalia and the Balkans.

They say this moment demands decisive action to seize control of the world's main oilfields and knock down second rank governments that keep defying the U.S. And they have been concerned that Islamic fundamentalist forces--built up and armed by the U.S. government in the 1980s--have increasingly posed a challenge to U.S. interests in strategic regions of the world.

A year after this Bush team emerged on top they have swept aside treaties like the ABM arms control pact and the Geneva Conventions. They have announced that they will not be constrained by either NATO allies or the United Nations. They have put relations with dozens of countries on a war footing--either preparing war on those countries, or injecting the U.S. into wars within those countries.

These are not policies in response to September 11. Instead, September 11 gave this ruling class crew "a unique opportunity"--a chance to ram through a host of changes to decisively establish U.S. domination over the whole world order, and especially over the most valuable and strategic parts of that world.

Blank Check for War

Reporter's question: "When will we know when we have won?"

Secretary Donald Rumsfeld (laughing): "I'll let you know."

On the sixth day of Hate Week, in George Orwell's 1984, it is suddenly announced that Oceania is at war with Eastasia --and that the war has always been with Eurasia. Never mind just days ago, this endless war had another name and another target. Thanks to doublethink, hate simply transfers to the enemy of the hour. The officially recorded atrocities of that last enemy are now remembered as the crimes of a new one.

Many people were drawn into this "war on terrorism" because they thought the U.S. military might give some justice--that the CIA interrogators and Green Beret killers might "do some good" by hunting down those responsible for the attack on the two World Trade Towers. But now, on January 29, Bush announces a new enemy--an "axis of evil" involving Iraq, Iran and North Korea. The word Axis (meaning core alliance) is the name given to the imperialist war bloc of Germany, Italy and Japan during World War 2.

Much doublethink is needed here:

First of all, none of these three governments had any connection to September 11. The governments of both Iran and Iraq are well-known opponents of Sunni-Islamic fundamentalism. The Sunni fundamentalist forces in Afghanistan were notorious for mass killings and rape of Iran-allied Shiites within Afghanistan. So far, all the attempts by rightwing CIA and Pentagon plotters to manufacture a link between al Qaida and Saddam Hussein have failed to produce any credible evidence.

Second, these three countries don't form an axis of anything. Iraq and Iran are long time adversaries. Instigated by the U.S., they waged a bitter war not long ago. And North Korea does not have an alliance with the other two.

Never mind the lack of evidence of "terrorism," these countries are now threatened with all-out attack, the destruction of their economies and militaries and the toppling of their governments--which is what Bush meant by "you will not escape the justice of this nation." Their supposed crime: That they have tried to develop "weapons of mass destruction." Let's discuss this charge about WMDs (as they are called in Pentagon lingo):

First: All of these countries have been threatened by U.S. weapons of mass destruction for decades. The U.S. has crammed more nuclear weapons into the Korean peninsula than anywhere else on earth--U.S. soldiers there even have "knapsack nukes." Iraq has been bombed with U.S. weapons of mass destruction and embargoed by U.S. warships for almost a decade--and the civilian deaths from these attacks are in the hundreds of thousands.

It is supposed to be "evil" for poor countries to seek modern weapons to answer threats, while it is supposed to be "justice" when the U.S. actually uses these weapons. Doublethink anyone?

Iran is accused of recently trying to supply the Palestinian authority some weapons capable of destroying Israeli tanks. However, even if true, what is so unusual about a government like Palestine buying such minor weapons, or about Iran selling them? After all, the U.S. sells such weapons for hundreds of billions of dollars.

It is the Palestinians who face constant threats by weapons of mass destruction--since Israel has nuclear weapons, modern jets, and so on. Why does Iran become "evil" because it is suspected of supplying one shipload of low- level weapons to a people being attacked by the local mini-power?

The real "crime" of these three governments--Iraq, Iran, and North Korea--is that they are in strategic regions and have (in various ways and to various degrees) defied U.S. demands over several decades. These governments may be oppressive and reactionary (from the point of view of the world proletariat and the people of their countries) but they are certainly not any more so than dozens of regimes that are armed, defended and prettified by the U.S.

The threats against Iran and Iraq are a continuation of the U.S. demand to have firm, stable, unquestioned and permanent control of Persian Gulf oil. The threat against North Korea is a reassertion of U.S. superpower control over East Asia--the most rapidly developing source for exploitable human labor in the world.

Second: Targeting three countries for weapons which they apparently don't yet have makes a threat against other, more powerful countries who do already have such weapons.

In particular, Bush's speech is an unspoken-but- unmistakable threat against China, the largest country in the world, which actually does have a few nukes that could possibly reach the U.S. mainland. The British Guardian wrote, "Every twist in the war on terrorism seems to leave a new Pentagon outpost in the Asia-Pacific region, from the former USSR to the Philippines. One of the lasting consequences of the war could be what amounts to a military encirclement of China." The French newspaper Le Monde wrote, "It is sufficient to point out that China and Russia are the most important exporters of weapons to Iraq, Iran and North Korea."

Third: The Bush announcement of new targets brushes aside decades of diplomacy--and inserts naked war threats in its place. These pronouncements were taken without consultation or consideration of many countries that will be deeply affected.

One example: The South Korean government of Kim Dae Jung, a close U.S. ally, has staked its whole politics on the so-called "sunshine policy" of developing new peaceful relations with North Korea (which is officially called the Democratic People's Republic of Korea). This imperialist policy had made progress over the last years--with the goal of easing the north into the U.S.-dominated world order step by step. The day after Bush's state of the union speech, South Korea's stunned ambassador to Washington said, "As a result of the persistent pursuit of the sunshine policy, the tension level on the Korean Peninsula is at an all time low." In fact, the Bush decision to threaten war was so harsh and sudden that Torkel L. Patterson, the White House senior director for Asian Affairs in the National Security Council, resigned suddenly last week.

Supremacy Doctrine:
Mission over Coalition

The day after Bush's speech, U.S. War Secretary Donald Rumsfeld repeated a key principle that now guides policy: "The mission determines the coalition," he said. "The coalition does not determine the mission."

The meaning of this slogan is not widely understood. It means that the U.S. will not allow other imperialist powers (and certainly not the governments of various U.S.- dominated third world countries) to have a veto over its aggressive military actions. Once the U.S. ruling class decides a "mission" (Pentagon speak for some new aggression), based on a cold assessment of U.S. imperialist interests, it then intends to offer its allies a choice: "Are you with us or against us?"

The price of remaining on close terms with the world's superpower is signing a blank check-- acknowledging the U.S. right to attack anyone, anywhere, anytime.

This Bush Doctrine does not reject all alliances--it has merely announced that the U.S., and the U.S. alone, will decide who gets hit next and how hard they get hit.

This is a demotion of allied imperialists to a clear, humiliating second tier status. It is a statement that the U.S. intends to carry out strategic moves that may be unpopular among its allies--exactly because it cements U.S. control over them. U.S. control over the oil of the Persian Gulf and the Caspian Sea, for example, is a threat of control over the lifelines of the German and Japanese economies.

It is related to the sweeping U.S. rejection of international treaties. The new U.S. war has not been waged through the United Nations, or through the NATO alliance. And in these same "four short months," the U.S. has shocked the world by tearing up the ABM treaty (and with it the whole inter-imperialist legacy of nuclear arms control) and has crudely ignored the Geneva convention on the treatment of prisoners of war.

In the name of this "war against terrorism"--the U.S. is not just settling business with those it considers "rogue states" in the third world, it is also unilaterally recasting its power relations with other imperialist powers--who it is treating as both potential rivals as well as potential allies. The clashes of coming days, months and years will shape the future, across this planet, for decades to come.

Whose Future? Which Path?

"As we gather tonight, our nation is at war, our economy is in recession, and the civilized world faces unprecedented dangers. Yet the state of our union has never been stronger."

George W. Bush, State of the Union speech, January 29

"Never do governments stand in such need of agreement with all the parties of the ruling classes, or of the 'peaceful' submission of the oppressed to that rule, as in time of war."

V.I. Lenin urging revolutionary resistance during World War 1

The U.S. took an impoverished country, Afghanistan, and made it a public example before the world--flashing the global reach and explosive power of a new generation of weapons. And now, after "four short months," the White House is announcing a new list of enemies for "Phase two" of an unlimited war.

Those ruling the U.S. seem literally drunk and giddy with power, acting like a huge juggernaut, threatening to mow down anything that challenges them.

Certainly the Democratic Party officials made their stand clear, by loudly declaring their "whatever-ism" after the State of the Union: full-throated support for whatever war Bush wants to make next. Tom Daschle, the Democrat Senate majority leader, said: "If it takes pre-emptive action, I think Congress is prepared to support it." And as the Democrats quibbled about tax levels and "job creation," they embraced global atrocities, showing once again their fully imperialist character.

The U.S. rulers are making an aggressive, shameless and serious claim to world domination. Bush's State of the Union speech unveiled the vision of a serial killer--who even as he crouches over one victim has his eye on the next.

This U.S. war on the world is not about hunting down the masterminds of September 11. It is not about bringing security to people, and certainly not about bringing anyone freedom or justice.

It is about who will control the future of humanity and what kind of a future that will be. The Bush White House envisions a nightmarish world defined by unrestrained capitalism and a semi-permanent state of war--where the U.S. ruling class freely reshapes regions, governments and cultures with the tips of their missiles.

This is against the interests of literally billions of people across the planet. And we are called on to carve out a path to a different future.

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