Two Days in September

War and Ultimatums

A Time to Resist

Revolutionary Worker #1167, September 22, 2002, posted at

On the anniversary of last year's 9/11 attacks, President Bush visited all three crash sites. In front of the Pentagon, Bush swore, "Our generation has heard the call." That evening Bush stood again before cameras--this time in New York City, in front of the Statue of Liberty and an American flag. He said, "They have not died in vain"--wrapping himself and his war plans in the grief of September 11. Just out of camera view, in that same harbor, stood the detention centers where immigrants are still secretly held and interrogated by government agents.

Meanwhile, his government cranked up warnings of possible new attacks, encircled their capital with anti-aircraft weapons--and worked to keep fear alive and manipulate it for war.

A year ago, the attacks of September 11 were used to justify global moves by the U.S. government. Within a month, bombers were pounding the distant hills of Afghanistan--where tensions had long been building between U.S. interests and the local Taliban government. Inside the U.S., hundreds of people were rounded up. New police powers and new networks of informants were announced. The language of Big Brother has became the everyday language of government--homeland security, military tribunals, justifiable torture, permanent war without boundaries.

Now, a year later, the shock and grief of September 11 is being exploited yet again to justify the U.S.'s next phase of war.

The next day, September 12, 2002, President Bush swaggered into the United Nations and issued angry ultimatums to the world. His immediate target was Iraq, but clearly his larger theme was the acceptance of U.S. world domination.

Meanwhile, in the streets and in other gatherings, voices were raised in opposition. Signs often read, "Our grief is not a cry for war."

Two Ultimatums

"Throw out your guns, or we come in shooting."

Some bad cop movie

"We must have deadlines, and we're talking days and weeks, not months and years."

George W. Bush, September 13

In bully's language, the U.S. president used the UN podium to make sweeping demands on Iraq--for the destruction of weapons and "related material," for changes in its internal policies and external relations, for strict obedience to the U.S./UN embargo. These demands were designed to be so vague and sweeping that the U.S. can claim they weren't met, no matter what Iraq does.

Then, in a second ultimatum, Bush turned on the UN itself. The U.S., he said, was willing and able to go it alone, and if the UN wants to avoid being "irrelevant" it must approve the coming U.S. attack.

The U.S. demands that the UN Security Council set a deadline for Iraq that is only a few weeks away--so that it runs out as the U.S. moves its invasion force into place. The same demand was made of the U.S. Congress--the White House insists that Congress vote in favor of war before the November 5 congressional elections.

The U.S. may get its UN rubberstamp. The United Nations speaks for the oppressive governments of the world, not the people. Repeatedly, in the past, the United Nations has approved brutal and unjust wars-- including the U.S. war against Korea and China in the early '50s and the 1991 war against Iraq.

But meanwhile, among governments of the world, there remains great concern about a new U.S. invasion of Iraq. Reactionary Arab and Muslim governments fear it might provoke uprisings among their people. Germany, which is heavily dependent on Persian Gulf oil, worries that key oil fields could end up in flames. And everyone in the world can see that a U.S. victory in the Persian Gulf is aimed at the U.S. having tighter control over much of the world.

On September 12, Bush gave a gangster answer to such concerns: His government, he made clear, intends to wage war. Those who want to sit at the table when it is over, those who don't want to be "irrelevant," must sign on now.

Empty Pretexts

"The rhetoric of fear that is disseminated by my government has not, to date, been backed by hard facts that substantiate any allegations that Iraq is today in possession of weapons of mass destruction or has links to terror groups responsible for September 11 attacks on the United States."

Scott Ritter, UN inspector in Iraqfor seven years, speaking to Iraqi parliament, September 8, 2002

"Saddam Hussein has set an example of defiance, especially against the first President Bush, that other Arab leaders cannot and should not emulate."

General Ehud Barak, former Prime Minister of Israel

The U.S. justification for attacking Iraq has shifted from month to month.

Immediately after September 11, 2001 the U.S. officials tried to claim that Iraq was involved with the attacks. They couldn't produce any evidence, so their argument shifted.

Soon, the U.S. government was claiming that Iraq's weapons were a threat to the world. But other countries in the world--and even in that region, most notably the U.S. and Israel--have more missiles and weapons than Iraq, including fully developed nuclear arsenals.

The U.S. government said Iraq may be "close" to developing a nuclear weapon. But experts point out that there is no evidence Iraq has the uranium or plutonium needed. The U.S. has talked ominously about Iraqi purchases of switches for medical machines and aluminum tubing (that might help produce enriched uranium)--leading former arms inspector Scott Ritter to point out that buying aluminum tubing is no justification for invasion.

Finally, in front of the UN General Assembly, President George Bush produced a new, third set of pretexts. The issue now, according to Bush, is that Iraq has ignored UN resolutions. This argument served Bush's purposes at that moment, but doesn't have the advantage of believability.

If defying the opinion of world governments was a crime, the U.S. government should indict itself. The U.S. government has rejected the Kyoto protocol on global warming. It boycotted the UN conference in support of banning nuclear testing. It refused to sign the UN Convention prohibiting the state execution of children. It walked out of the recent UN conference on racism in Durban, South Africa. It rejected the draft UN agreement banning biological weapons. And it opposed the UN initiative against torture--because it did not want to see inspectors in U.S. prisons.

In addition, the world's #1 violator of UN resolutions is Israel, which has defied the UN over 35 years, including repeated specific demands for Israel to end its occupations of the West Bank. Logic and consistency are not the point: The U.S. pretexts for war are supposed to apply when the U.S. says they do.

In fact, the real problem the U.S. has with Iraq is that it is a defiant regime sitting on 112 billion barrels of oil in the world's most strategic area.

While the Iraqi regime has a history of brutality against progressive movements and the Kurdish people, Iraq's government has also been a thorn in the U.S. side. It has been willing to directly attack Israel. Saddam Hussein even reportedly sent assassins hunting Bush Senior. The new world order envisioned by U.S. imperialists has little room for such a role model.

As one reporter put it: "Their argument rests more on Sadaam's intentions, than his capabilities."

The Deadly Doctrine of Pre-emption

Our security will require all Americans to be forward-looking and resolute, to be ready for preemptive action."

George W. Bush, West Point, June 2002

"No stages. This is total war. We are fighting a variety of enemies. There are lots of them out there. And all this talk about, well, first we are going to do Afghanistan, then we will do Iraq, then we will take a look around and see how things stand, that is entirely the wrong way to go about it. . . . If we just let our own vision of the world go forth, and we embrace it entirely, and we don't try to be clever and piece together clever diplomatic solutions to this thing, but just wage a total war against these tyrants, I think we will do very well, and our children will sing great songs about us years from now."

Former Reagan NSC advisor Michael Ledeen, at panel moderated by Rumsfeld adviser Richard Perle, October 29, 2001

"Advocating preemptive military action against Baghdad before it uses its alleged chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons, Mr. Bush is challenging United Nations rules on sovereignty and the acceptable use of force that have underpinned global relations for three generations."

Christian Science Monitor , September 12, 2002

Since June, the officials of the U.S. government have declared their right to "pre- emptive war"--saying they can (and will!) send troops anywhere any time they choose--without being provoked, without presenting evidence, without even informing the governments involved. ("Pre- emption" means attacking someone before they do anything, on the basis that they may "have the potential" to do something hostile later.)

On September 7, Secretary of State Colin Powell said that "Preemption has always been available as a tool of foreign policy or military doctrine." This is true. However in the past, this was usually called by another name: unprovoked aggression.

Many of the U.S. war plans now in operation were drawn up before September 11.For years, Washington think-tanks have argued that the U.S. was now the "hyperpower" in a "unipolar world"--and that it should better exploit its "unique position" much more aggressively--to create a locked-down, nightmarish McFuture ruled by dollars and smart-bombs.

NBC News has revealed that the plan for war against the Taliban was already on George Bush's desk on September 9, 2001-- two days before planes crashed into the two towers. CBS News has documented that within minutes after the plane struck the Pentagon, Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld told his aides to prepare war on Iraq. Since then, Bush has said that 60 countries are being investigated for possible attack. Rumsfeld adds that U.S. troops have the right to seize or even assassinate anyone they consider enemies, no matter where in the world they are.

No government in history has ever declared such a sweeping right of aggression. The U.S. used to call itself the "policeman of the world," now the self- appointed cop acts like self-appointed emperor--barking orders at the assembled representatives of the United Nations.

Not in Our Name

"Let it not be said that people in the United States did nothing when their government declared a war without limit and instituted stark new measures of repression."

From "A Statement of Conscience: Not in Our Name"

In this year since September 11, 2001, the U.S. government has bombed Afghanistan, occupied its cities and imposed a pro-U.S. government. They backed Israel's dismantling of the Palestinian Authority and occupation of the West Bank. The U.S. ruling class, which wanted more influence over Central Asia and Southeast Asia, now has new military bases from the Black Sea to Uzbekistan to the Philippines.

The U.S. government has started to label popular revolutionary movements as "terrorist"--so that wars of counterinsurgency can become part of their "war on terrorism." The State Department has targeted the Maoist parties of the Philippines and Nepal--so that these insurgencies against unjust governments are threatened with U.S.-trained troops, possibly U.S. commandos and international dragnets.

Iraq's people are being placed, once again, in the crosshairs of U.S. invasion. The experts say that deploying forces for a new invasion would now take between two and three months.

All these mounting crimes are being carried out in the name of the American people . And that makes it especially important--and powerful--for people to speak out here, within the U.S. itself. There are turning points where everyone is tested--and where a fearless stand can have a profound impact on the future of the whole world.


Bob Avakian, chairman of the RCP, wrote:

"We must bring forward the vision of a movement against the war acts and repression of `our own' U.S. government that is so powerful that it cannot be hidden from the masses of people all over the world--including in the countries and areas that are targets of U.S. imperialist aggression and are, justifiably, `hotbeds' of hatred `against America.'

"Imagine, what it would (and will) mean to those millions and millions of people when they see hundreds of thousands and ultimately millions of people in America itself, taking on the aggression (and repression) of their own government and standing with the people of the world against all that this government stands for and is doing and enforcing in the world. Imagine the questions that will raise in those people's minds, the "dialogue" (even if indirect) it will give rise to, among people all over the world with people in the U.S. itself.

"Imagine the inspiration it will provide and the potential realignment it will contribute to--with ordinary people worldwide finding common cause against the oppressors and bullies of the world, first and above all the rulers of America--who, it will be more and more clear, do not speak and act in the interests, or in the name of large, and growing, numbers of American people themselves."

Imagine... Strategize... Unite all who can be united... Realize the vision... The whole world is watching.

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