Mar 02 2004

Occupation is not liberation

Category: Emancipation & Liberation,Issue 07RCN @ 2:46 pm

Reflecting on recent events at home and abroad, Nick Clarke examines whether the world today is a freer, safer place.

Freedom to profit

In the aftermath of the atrocities of September 11 2001, Bush and his ruling junta declared the start of the War on Terror. The subtitle for this crusade was to make the world a safer place, particularly for the freedom loving peoples of the world i.e. for global capital and its client states. The subsequent attack on the Taliban and the destruction of Afghanistan was about revenge. Although, it was less for the 3000 deaths at the World Trade Centre and more for the symbolism these attacks meant for the US military industrial complex. However, it was also about letting the world know that every corner of the planet must be open to US imperialism and the capital it serves. The freedom they are fighting for is the freedom to make profit. This doctrine provoked the attack on Iraq and a hundred other interventions – military and ‘diplomatic’ – around the world. Continued US state attempts to overthrow the elected left populist Chavez in oil-rich Venezuela shows that the excuse of ‘defence against terrorism’ is a sham. Similarly, the former death squad leaders of the notorious ‘Papa Doc’ Duvalier, who were prominent in the recent overthrow of Haiti’s populist President Aristide, also appear to have had clandestine US state backing for their efforts.

Meanwhile the ‘road map to peace’ in Palestine has hit a ‘brick’ wall – the so-called Israeli Peace Wall. ‘Apartheid Israel’ with its West Bank and Gaza Strip ‘bantustans’ now paves the way for something even more sinister – Palestinian ghettos, like Abu Dis, communities completely surrounded by Israeli policed walls, controlling all entrance and exit. Sharon’s government contains ministers who openly advocate a ‘final solution’, for the ‘Palestinian problem’ – mass ethnic cleansing. Israel is a state with an openly racist constitution; which illegally occupies Palestinian territory in defiance of UN resolutions; and is in possession of weapons of mass destruction. Far from being opposed by Bush and Blair, Israel receives massive amount of aid, as a loyal ally of imperialism.

Today, 2½ years since 9/11, one year since the official start of Gulf War Two and in the shadow of the devastating Madrid train bombs, is the world a safer place? Even to the casual follower of current affairs and international politics that aim has been perversely thrown into reverse. This has been demonstrated by events internationally and in Britain. The recent attacks in Madrid, which killed over 200 and injured 1,000, have shown that Islamic supremacist forces have increased their capacity to strike.

The attack on the British embassy in Istanbul on November 20th, designed to coincide with Bush’s state visit to the UK, was a warning of what was to come. The most likely culprits for this and other attacks in Turkey are forces formed from the Turkish state backed death squads. These were created to suppress the Kurds. Just as many current Al Qaeda operatives, received their initial training and finance from US and UK security forces in the 1980’s; so these shadowy Turkish Islamic supremacists, were armed by the Turkish military, which has received massive US and UK political and financial backing.

The attack on Iraq and the continued occupation of that country by thousands of US and British troops have definitely made the world a more precarious place on two levels. Firstly, as a direct result of US and British foreign policy over the last 3 years, international terrorism has multiplied. Those who live outside the metropolitan countries have had their lives made hard, brutish and short over decades of European colonialism and then imperialism. Since 2001 those conditions have been exacerbated. Secondly, the limited but hard-won democratic rights and freedoms that those in the metropolitan countries, such as the US, Britain and France, have come to expect are being snatched back. Safety fears and scares are being whipped up to justify these draconian measures.

Tool of imperialism

As each day passes, new revelations appear that support the claims made by anti-war protesters that the only way we could have stopped the attack on Iraq was by direct action. The UN role as a tool of imperialism has been reinforced; useful cover if it obeys instructions but discarded and discredited when it starts to produce the ‘wrong’ answers. Recent revelations of the bugging of Kofi Annan’s office illustrate the contempt they have for this body. The UN weapons inspectors, lead by Hans Blix, sent into Iraq by the Security Council came back with the clear message that there were no WMD with a launch time of 45 minutes or even 45 days. Recently Blix has stated that no WMD have been found in Iraq since 1994! The only person across the planet left believing that there are WMD’s in Iraq appears to be Blair.

Not only are experts with a certain independence, such as Hans Blix and Scott Ritter, repeating their claims from over a year ago, but they have now been joined by some of George Bush’s own appointees. Greg Thirlmann, former director of Strategic Proliferation at the US State Department claimed that the Bush administration had seriously misled the American people over Iraq and WMD through twisted, distorted, simplified intelligence; Paul O’Neill, Bush’s former US Treasury Secretary, saw no evidence Saddam possessed chemical or biological weapons and claims Bush was planning the invasion of Iraq from the moment he became president; David Kay, head of Iraq Survey Group, having spent months looking has also stated that Iraq has not had WMD for years.

Despite their recent cries to the contrary, Blair, Straw, Hoon et al based their arguments for war, both in the House of Commons and through the media, on the threat of these mythical WMDs. Their evidence – the two disreputable dossiers – produced with thin or obsolete evidence and fleshed out with much spin, were exposed during the proceedings of the Hutton Enquiry. Hutton’s findings cannot go unmentioned: a pillar of the British judiciary acting as crutch to a wounded Blair government. His conclusions almost produced gasps of disbelief from government ministers. They couldn’t believe their luck that he had blamed the BBC and Andrew Gilligan for everything as a result of his unscripted, slip of the tongue in an early morning interview with Radio 4’s Today programme.

The pressure continues to build

The substance of Gilligan’s report was true. After Hutton’s exoneration of Blair, the pressure has continued to build. Poll after poll showed Hutton’s findings to be totally discredited in the eyes of the British public. Katherine Gun, a GCHQ whistle-blower, has hurriedly had her court case dropped, when her legal team asked to see the government’s legal justification for war. The Official Secrets Act was again defied when Claire Short went public over the bugging of the UN. To compound Blair’s discomfort, lawyer Michael Mansfield has lodged a case with the International Criminal Court accusing Blair of war crimes.

Instead of putting the Iraq war behind him, Blair has had to announce another enquiry, this time headed by another champion of truth and justice, Lord Butler. His restricted remit is to look at the role of the security and civil services in the lead up to the war, in other words the systems and processes. This is such a sham that even the Tories have withdrawn from it. Butler will go nowhere near examining any of the political questions such as the Attorney General’s legal justification for war. Butler, like Hutton, is another safe, dependable and loyal member of the British establishment who does not like to see the truth get in the way of expedient government and ruling class interests. So while Blair took the decision to go war against the advice of so many including the millions in the anti war movement, he will continue to pass the buck of responsibility hoping it won’t land on his desk. He is already trying to change the casus belli by taking the credit for the downfall of the tyrannical Saddam, but regime change had never been the Blair government’s public justification prior to the attack. Furthermore, as Milan Rai in his book, Regime Unchanged: Why the War on Iraq Changed Nothing, has made clear, it is only the thinnest layer at the top of Saddam’s regime – ‘the 52 cards’ – who have been removed. Many senior Baathist officials, with an atrocious record of human rights abuses, have been quietly rehabilitated by the occupation regime. Their ‘skills’ are still needed!

Chaos & devastation

While all this goes on in Britain, Iraq and ordinary Iraqis face devastation. The chaos and confusion created by the US/UK attack and occupation has allowed the Islamic supremacists of Al Qaeda to gain a cause and credibility in Iraq. Despite some US claims, informed opinion states that Al Qaeda never had any links with the secular Saddam regime. However, it seems that their co-thinkers are now descending on Iraq to fight the Jihad, not just targeting the forces of occupation or those they identify as collaborating with those forces, but trying to set the three main interest groups – Kurds, Shias and Sunnis, against one another. Indiscriminate massacres such as the car bombing of a Shia festival in Karbala and Baghdad will only increase the prospect of communal violence.

This movement co-ordinated by Al Qaeda stretches from Kashmir thorough Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Saudia Arabia, the Gulf States, Yemen and right through to north Africa. It is gaining a substantial footing in the Central Asian Republics of Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgystan, through such organisations as the IMU. The current conditions in this area provide an ideal breeding ground for such a movement. The dire poverty of the entire population ruled by a small scab of extremely wealthy, politically corrupt and dictatorial elite. Perhaps the worst example is Uzbekistan, where President Karimov operates an excessively repressive regime tolerating no dissent. It is so bad that, in 2002, Britain’s ambassador there delivered a speech that included an open attack on the brutality of that government. He argued that Karimov’s human rights abuses, including the boiling to death of opponents, were as bad as those of which Saddam was accused. However, despite such a record, (some might say because of such a record) Karimov still enjoys the financial, military and political backing of Washington. Some reasons for this include the use of Uzbek territory by the US military during the attack on Afghanistan, the US plans for an oil pipeline from the region, the vast reserves of oil and gas waiting to be exploited by transnational oil companies and lastly it also gives them a ‘friend’ and a bridgehead in Russia’s backyard – an opportunity too good to turn down, despite the brutality. US attitudes to such tyrants justify the collective cynicism to Bush’s ‘War on Terror’ and his safer world catchphrase. When do ordinary Uzbeks get their share of the ‘freedom and democracy’ being championed by Bush, Blair and their disciples?

Hysteria

By riding shotgun for Bush’s attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq, Blair’s government has undoubtedly made Britain a priority target for Islamic supremacist groups looking for their own revenge. Fear has been stoked up to the advantage of the British state to enable it to implement draconian and anti-democratic measures that interfere with many aspects of life in Britain. Hysteria is the Labour government’s new weapon in the war on freedom. Sheffield’s ‘loony-left’ council leader of the 1980s, David Blunkett (Home Secretary), appears to take great delight in being even more authoritarian and extreme than some of his most severe Tory predecessors. As part of the general xenophobia being whipped up around asylum seekers, Blunkett’s Home Office has recently endorsed the forcible repatriation of Iraqi asylum seekers back to Iraq, presumably on the basis that that country is now a stable, democratic bulwark in the Middle East. Tell that to the Iraqi trade unionists that have had their offices smashed up by the occupying forces, or the many that continue to die or are injured through the continual violence fuelled by the occupation, or those who have, or will, suffer from the tonnes of depleted uranium and cluster bombs that pepper the Iraqi landscape causing cancers and amputations.

Other measures being implemented or up for consideration in Britain include the detention without charge of terror suspects, with Belmarsh Prison being an urban, British reflection of the Guantanamo Bay gulag, the recruitment of more spies to MI5 and trial without jury.

In the last two and a half years the world has become a more dangerous place. The thirst of imperialism for markets and profit, particularly in the medium developed and developing countries has caused a backlash. In a large strategically important section of the world, this backlash has taken the form of Islamicisation. Angry, alienated and impoverished masses have had enough of living as the victims of western imperialism and their local client puppets. Today, the mosque and the mullahs seem to be increasingly offering a ‘solution’. Our role internationally must be to show that real freedom, democracy and a valued life are best achieved through the fight for socialism, which can achieve a genuine emancipation and liberation. In the imperialist countries the role of the socialist and working class movement is to overthrow the class that survives and expands by sending other people’s sons and daughters to fight their wars.

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