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IS IT REALLY A "WAR AGAINST TERRORISM?"



Hi, everyone--

I was going to wait on posting this till people return from break next week,
but Jerry Bracey's telling post about the Bush's connections to the Carlyle
group brings up the question of the larger context in which education
policies are made and education programs funded.

This post is an editorial from the Nov. '01-Feb. '02 double issue of New
Democracy.

Dave Stratman
Editor, New Democracy
<A HREF="newdemocracyworld.org">www.newdemocracyworld.org</A>
5 Burr Street
Boston, MA 02130
617-524-4073
*******
IS IT REALLY A "WAR AGAINST TERRORISM?"
A New Democracy Editorial

In the wake of the horrific events of September 11 our political leaders
declared a "war on terrorism" which they claim will last "for fifty years"
and may include as many as 60 countries as enemies. President Bush's $379
billion Pentagon budget includes $48 billion for fighting terrorism.
Why would the government launch such a vast undertaking? Nothing is as it
seems in this war. The government is lying about just about everything.
Beneath the rhetoric about terrorism and "the clash of civilizations," their
real goals are very different and have more to do with controlling the
American people and working people around the world than they have with a
real strategy to fight terrorism.
What is the US government really trying to accomplish? Three things:
1) Ratchet up social control in the US to dramatic new levels.
2) Project military power more aggressively to places around the globe
where elite power is threatened.
3) Establish a permanent US military presence in Central Asia, to secure
that region's vast resources–read "oil"–for US needs.
Of these goals, number one is the most important. But since the other two
are more easily explained, let's look at them first.

PLAYING "THE GREAT GAME" FOR OIL

For more than a century Afghanistan was the object of the "Great Game" played
by the British Empire and Russia for control of this crossroads of Asia. When
it recruited and armed the mujahadeen in Afghanistan to attack Russian
invaders in 1979, the US became a key player in the game.
Afghanistan has even more importance now than it did in the nineteenth
century. Central Asia and the Caspian region hold the greatest proven
reserves of oil and gas in the world after Saudi Arabia–from 60 to as many as
200 billion barrels of oil and 236 trillion cubic feet of natural gas,
according to John Maresca, Vice President of UNOCAL Corporation, in
Congressional testimony of 2/12/98. The difficulty is getting these vast
reserves to market. Afghanistan is the best route for an oil pipeline to
deliver these products. The chief obstacle to construction of the pipeline
has been political instability: "Construction of the pipeline... in
Afghanistan could not begin until a recognized government is in place that
has the confidence of governments, lenders, and our company."
The US media have of course kept mum about the oil pipeline, lest
Americans suspect that the real goals of the government in this war are not
as pure as it claims.

PROJECTING US POWER

The ferocious bombing of Afghanistan, complete with cluster bombs and 15,000
pound "daisy cutters," the largest non-nuclear device in the US arsenal,
provided an awesome display of the military might of the US elite and an
object lesson to any country on Earth that may have ideas about bucking the
New World Order. The message is pretty clear: The US has unchecked,
unmatchable firepower. Get out of line and you will get a taste of what
Afghanistan has got.
The US is also using the war to project military power more aggressively
to "hot spots" around the globe. Since there is no longer a credible
Communist threat, the US is using "Islamic terrorism" to legitimize global
intervention on behalf of local elites and US and European investors. The US
is filling the power vacuum in Central Asia left by the collapse of the
Soviet Union, establishing military bases at key points in Uzbekistan and
Tajikistan, as well as in Pakistan in South Asia, where there is growing
instability. The US has announced that these military emplacements are
long-term. In mid-January the US dispatched 660 troops to the Philippines,
having supposedly discovered a link between Al Qaeda and Moslem rebels there.
The government has also found supposed links between Al Qaeda and Colombian
"terrorists," by which it means not the right-wing death squads which work
hand-in-glove with the US-supplied Columbian armed forces, but the peasant
guerillas who have been fighting for over thirty years against the wealthy
elite of Columbia.

WAR AND SOCIAL CONTROL

Near the end of the Cold War, as the Soviet Union was about to self-destruct,
Boris Yeltsin made a very revealing comment to the US government. He said,
"We are going to do something very terrible to you. We are going to deprive
you of an enemy."
What did he mean? The 50-year long Cold War had proved extremely useful
for both the Soviet and US elites. The "Soviet threat" justified gigantic
military budgets and a world system of US military bases. It legitimized US
attacks on popular revolutionary movements in Central America and Indochina
and other places too numerous to mention and the installation of US client
regimes by the CIA in Iran and Guatemala and elsewhere. The "Soviet threat"
gave much-needed cover to repression in the US against militant trade
unionists and against the early civil rights movement and the anti-Vietnam
war movement. The Soviets, of course, used the "capitalist threat" in similar
ways, to justify anti-democratic repression in Hungary and Poland and
throughout Eastern Europe and in the Soviet Union itself. If the Cold War had
not existed, Soviet and US ruling elites would have had to invent it.
The use of war by ruling elites for social control is hardly new. In a
recent article in Le Monde, Philip Golub says, "Indeed, every war has both a
foreign and a domestic agenda; Aristotle [writing 2400 years ago] reminds us
that a tyrant declares war ‘to deny his subjects leisure and to impose on
them the constant need for a leader.'"
The US has needed a new Cold War to take the place of the Soviet threat
for over ten years. Sure, the government tried to pump up Saddam Hussein as
"worse than Hitler," but how seriously can you take an enemy which is
defeated in a few weeks with fewer than 80 American battle deaths? The
government tried to scare us with images of "rogue states" like North Korea,
but North Korea is on life support. Not a very credible threat.

WHY NOW?

The "war on terrorism" represents a dramatic escalation of the strategy of
social control undertaken by the corporate elite in 1972 as a
counteroffensive to the revolutionary upsurge of the 1960s and early ‘70s.
The essence of that strategy was to introduce insecurity and fear into
people's lives at every possible point. Now the government has taken the
extraordinary step of promising us "a generation of war." This war on terror
is designed to terrorize us, with threats of a sinister enemy from whom we
have to be protected, and to grant the government limitless powers to police
us. If we raise our voice against the government, we ourselves are under
threat of being identified as "with the terrorists."
It is important to see this new elite strategy in historical perspective.
At the close of WWII, governments here and in Western Europe adopted a
"welfare state" approach to pacify their citizens. While there were still
great inequalities and injustices, the lot of most Americans improved. But
what was expected to be a period of social peace erupted in the 1960s into a
"revolution of rising expectations" here and abroad.
In 1972 the government and corporate leaders went on the
counteroffensive, to lower expectations and tighten their hold on society.
For 30 years now they have attacked people in every area of their lives in
the name of "the free market" or "globalization."
In the last few years, however, this strategy has reached a dead end.
Everywhere they look, the corporate and government elite see growing
resistance to their rule:
–The growing anti-capitalist, anti-"globalization" movement. The mass
demonstrations against the World Trade Organization that took place in
Seattle, Quebec, Sweden, and Genoa represent the emergence of something which
has not been seen for 100 years: an international anti-capitalist movement
not controlled by Communists. The demonstrations are concrete expressions of
the emerging agenda of people around the entire globe. It is true that this
movement is an extremely mixed bag and has not formulated any clear answers
or widely-accepted vision of what a new society to replace capitalism might
be or how we might get there, but these are the questions with which it is
concerned. As the depredations of capitalism on human society become ever
more obvious, the tendency of the movement to pose revolutionary answers to
these fundamental questions will only grow.
–An end to belief in capitalism as a system. Millions of people, perhaps
billions worldwide, have lost their confidence in the future under
capitalism. This ironically is an inevitable effect of thirty years of
corporate attacks on people's security, but the rulers had no other choice.
They had to lower people's expectations and they did. The absolute conditions
of life for most of the world's people have worsened dramatically in the last
decades, and their relative conditions, compared with the wealthier people in
their own societies, have grown even worse. Loss of confidence in the system
is very dangerous for elite rule; it leads people to search for alternatives.
–A growing willingness to see the system as the problem. Ten years ago,
when the few of us who founded New Democracy began talking with each other,
it struck us that the problems people were then experiencing—high
unemployment, homelessness, health care priced out of reach—seemed to many
people to be like the weather. No one was responsible for them, they were
just there: "Shit Happens." Few people actually saw these things as functions
of government or corporate policies. The political movements of the time
mostly revolved around "identity politics"–gay rights, feminism,
multiculturalism and such.
Now this has changed. Millions are aware that the rich have stacked the
deck. They see Enron executives cashing out and leaving their employees
robbed of their life savings. They see the corporate hand behind attacks on
health care and job security and public education.
This new restiveness isn't just in the US, of course. Capitalism has
devastated wide swaths of the globe in these years. In Eastern Europe and the
former Soviet Union, promises of a better life through capitalism have proved
hollow. China has experienced decades of social dislocation and increasing
inequalities which some experts believe presage uncontrollable social
upheavals. The standard of living in Mexico and some other Central and South
American countries is less than a third of what it was in 1982. In Argentina
mass resistance to capitalist measures toppled four governments in December,
2001 and threatens to spread to other countries.
Where is all this leading? It's not clear. It is not that the elite
expect revolutionary upheaval tomorrow, but they see the possibility of
revolution growing larger on the horizon. The elite understand that they
cannot continue to rule in the old way, with democratic liberties and a world
at substantial peace. The "war on terrorism" is how they are preparing for
the future in a society which is rapidly discovering that it has no future.
This new elite strategy is an admission of profound, potentially terminal
weakness.
The fact that capitalism has nothing to offer but endless war does not
mean that the system will collapse of itself or that we necessarily will
succeed in creating a new society. Revolutions are built on hope, not
despair. We can only find our way to a new society if we make this our goal
and if we have a path to take us there.