Don't be fooled. The war is far from over. As Bush himself said it, "Afghanistan is just the beginning of the war against terror. ... Across the world, and across the years, we will fight these evil ones, and we will win." Dick Cheney says the administration has a list of "40 to 50" countries that "sponsor terrorism." Before looking at who is next in Bush's war, what happened in Afghanistan should be analyzed in depth.
Unexpected Collapse of the Taliban Regime
The rapid disintegration was an unexpected development; much of it has to do with the fact that many of the Taliban's soldiers are teenage conscripts who have no particular attachment to the Taliban ideologically. Thousands surrendered to the Northern Alliance; but the foreign fighters, people who had fought in the Mujahadeen against the Russians and stuck around afterwards were massacred and executed by Northern Alliance fighters.
The U.S. not only knew about this, its bloodthirsty leaders cheered it on. Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld told reporters, "My hope is that they [the non-Afghans] will either be killed or taken prisoner." The U.S. bombed a fortress/prison after foreign fighters, captured by the Northern Alliance, revolted against their abusive captors. Prisoners had their hands tied behind their backs and were being beaten and interrogated. U.S. planes and Northern Alliance tanks destroyed the prison, killing everyone inside. A CIA interrogater was also killed, and some U.S. soldiers were injured by bombs that flew off course.
The war in Afghanistan was nothing short of a slaughter: the world's richest, most well-armed nation went all out against one of the world's poorest, under-fed nation. The overwhelming majority of casualties were civilian casualties; the U.S. used "Daisy Cutter" bombs which destroy anything within a half mile radius. Clearly this is not "precision bombing" - it's terrorizing the Afghan people.
The media lapdogs showed pictures of Afghanistan "liberated" by the Northern Alliance, and made a big deal about women removing their burqhas. But as a reporter from the Guardian observed, "What the photos do not show is the women putting [the veils] back on again moments later. For the fact remains that the Alliance feels the same way about women as the Taliban did - they are chattel, to be tolerated but kept out of real life." As Tahmeena Fayral from the the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan put it, "They're just as bad as the Taliban, and in some ways, ever worse. They looted museums and hospitals and schools, and sold what they found. They raped women and even children. They committed the worst crimes in Afghan history." Women have protested, demanding the right to work. They will have to fight the Northern Alliance every step of the way.
The government looks like it will be an uneasy coaltion of warlords, the U.N., the exiled King, and various emigre-intellectuals. It also looks like that the government will be similar to what the U.S. has established in Bosnia, Kosovo, and other places it has intervened and occuppied. But whatever the pretenses and rhetorical remarks, rest assured that democracy is even further from Afghanistan than it was before now that the U.S. has its forces all over the region.
the Real U.S. Aims in Afghanistan
The easy defeat of the Taliban involved little to no U.S. ground troops, despite the fact that the overwhelming majority of American supported the war effort. The U.S. wants the ability to do what it wants, where it wants, and how it wants, without opposition or constraints abroad or at home.
Ever since the Viet Nam war, the U.S. has tried to rid itself of "Viet Nam syndrome" - which is the fact that millions of working class people will not allow themselves to be used as cannon fodder by the ruling class without a damn good reason. The ruling class wants American workers to go off and die not for any good reason, but because they were told to. As Strobe Talbott, Clinton's special envoy said:
The American people have never accepted traditional geopolitics
or pure balance of power calculations as sufficient reason to
expend the national treasure or dispatch American soldiers to
foreign lands. Throughout this century [the 20th - P.B.] the
U.S. government has explained its decisions to send troops "over
there" with some invocation of democracy and its defense.
So in the broader, long-term political arena, the U.S.'s main aim is to re-legitimize the use of ground troops at whatever the cost and whatever the reason. The U.S.'s aims in Afghanistan specifically were dominated by economic and military considerations.
Niaz Naik, former foreign secretary of Pakistan has recently said that the U.S. approached the Pakistani government in July about its desire to overthrow the Taliban and get Osama bin Laden. "The Americans indicated to us that in case the Taliban does not behave and in case Pakistan doesn't help to influence the Taliban, then the United States would be left with no option but to take an overt action against Afghanistan," he told reporters.
Ever since he took office, Bush has been trying to romance the Taliban. "Either you accept our offer of a carpet of gold, or we bury you under a carpet of bombs" is how one administration official reportedly put it. The U.S. even went so far as to block the FBI's efforts to investigate Osama bin Laden, prompting Deputy Director John O'Neil to resign in protest in July. "The main obstacles to investigating Islamic terrorism were U.S. corporate interests and the role played by Saudi Arabia," he said. This information is in a new book called Bin Laden: the Forbidden Truth, written by Charles Brisard and Guillaume Dasquie, two French intelligence analysts.
The U.S. hoped that the Taliban would be pliable enough to allow a U.S. corporation to allow a pipeline from the fantastically oil rich Caspian sea to be built through its territory. It also hoped to gain a foothold in the region in order to cut out China, India, Iran Russia, and the other great powers from the immense oil profits and the great strategic leverage that control over the oil would impart on whoever controlled it. But it became increasingly clear that the Taliban was not responding to the "carrot", so the U.S. began to use the stick.
September 11th merely provided the Bush administration with the pretext it need to carry out an attack it had planned all along.
Who Is Next?
The easy victory in Afghanistan will only make Washington's warmongers more thirsty for blood.
Right now, the next target in Bush's new war will most likely be Iraq. The pretext will most likely be the fact that Saddam refuses to allow weapons inspectors into the country since Iraq had absolutely nothing to do with September 11th. But if the U.S. bombs or invades Iraq, it will most likely split the broad coalition that was built before the bombing of Afghanistan. Already Tony Blair, Bush's right-hand man, has warned Bush that he shouldn't take the "war on terrorism" to Iraq; Iran has made similar statements, and most of the Arab governments would be under tremendous pressure from their peoples not to go along with the U.S.
The New York Times has even speculated that the next target could be North Korea or Somalia. Why? Not because they represent any sort of threat to the U.S., but simply because they are the weakest and most defenseless countries that the U.S. doesn't like.
War Abroad, War at Home and the Recession
The war abroad is connected directly to the attacks on civil liberties and the racist scapegoating.
With almost zero opposition, the Bush administration rammed through the USA-PATRIOT act, which gives the FBI, the CIA, and the Justice Department more power to spy on the American people than it has ever had in history. Now the FBI can search your home without telling you; they can tap your email and monitor the websites you visit; they can get your financial, student, medical, and criminal records, and the institutions are forbidden to tell you that they've surrendered this once private information; and they can do all this without probably cause The INS can jail non-citizens without charging them for an indefinite amount of time, and already almost 1,000 mostly Arab/Muslim men have been arrested, with no contact with their families, have been fed food that their religion forbids them to eat, some have been beaten while the authorities looked the other way, and others have had their conversations with their lawyers monitored by the government. The Bush administration has set up military tribunals that can use secret evidence; the defense lawyers, the judge, jury and prosecution will all be chose by John Ashcroft; and there is no civilian oversight and no appeals process.
In the name of "Enduring Freedom", the Bush administration has taken away every single right guaranteed by the Constitution.
This is the face of the war at home. Arabs, Muslims, any group that "intimidates the government to change its policies" (i.e. protest) and anyone who has ever engaged in "violence" (i.e. resisted arrest at a protest) can be jailed under the USA PATRIOT act. Anyone who opposes any government policy for any reason what so ever is at risk.
These measures are not to "protect the American people." NOT ONE PERSON THAT THEY'VE ROUNDED UP HAS BEEN CHARGED WITH ANYTHING TO DO WITH SEPTEMBER 11TH. When the U.S. interred thousands of innocent Japanese-Americans, did it save a single life? No.
These measures are nothing short of racist: why didn't the U.S. round up every white guy named Tim after the Oklahoma city bombing? These measures are being taken by men who cannot be trusted to deliver justice: Ashcroft opposed school desegregation and is a Confederate flag lover; Bush executed innocent people in Texas, some of whom had their lawyers fall asleep at their trials! Do you trust these men to deliver justice with their military tribunals and their secret evidence?
With the U.S. in recession, millions of workers are going to be laid off (if they haven't been already). Billions of dollars are being pumped into Pentagon coffers and corporate pockets. This will create an especially volatile situation since the cuts in welfare that Clinton enacted will begin to take effect this year; and only 33% of the workforce is eligible for unemployment benefits, due to a myriad of state regulation. So the question will have to be asked: why is this government spending billions on killing people abroad while there are hungry mouths to feed right here at home?
Despite what Bush and Ashcroft want, this is not the 1950s, and the "war on terrorism" will not be a repeat of the Cold War, where the U.S. used the boogeyman of "communism" to intervene all over the world. Unlike the 50s, this is not a period of unprecedented prosperity and capitalist expansion; more and more workers are getting screwed harder and harder. Workers are going to have to fight a lot harder just to stay where they are, much less make some gains and move forward. The polarization of wealth that led to the global justice movement and millions of Americans to vote for Nader is only going to get worse.
The anti-war movement was disoriented after the Taliban collapsed so unexpectedly. But less people will support the war the longer it goes on, and the more remote from September 11th it becomes. We in the movement have to incorporate class demands alongside our anti-imperialist demands. In addition to: "stop the war!" and "U.S. out of the middle east!" we should add: "money for jobs, not for war!" or "no blood for oil"!
The only way that we're going to get any justice is by opposing the aims and means of the U.S. Another world is possible - but we have to fight for it.