Aug 04 2002

Colombia, the IRA, US and Manifest Destiny

Category: Emancipation & Liberation,Issue 03RCN @ 1:38 pm

Matt Siegfried, a socialist and trade unionist activist from Detroit, looks at the implications for the US government’s Plan Colombia

This article first appeared in Fourthwrite No. 10, Summer 2002.

The ruling class of the United States has long viewed everything south of the Rio Grande as its exclusive domain. The United States became a capitalist power based on the genocidal clearing of North America of its native inhabitants coupled with chattel slavery and culling of the huge natural resources existing between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. It became an imperialist power on the backs of Latin American workers and peasants as well as the wholesale theft of everything from the fruit that hung from the trees to the oil and metals that lay below them. Generations before the US became the global power it is today US marines were enforcing the rule of US corporations in Latin America and the Caribbean. The justifications have changed, but the relationship has remained the same.

Several recent events have brought the social crises now enveloping many parts of Latin America and the US’s role in them to the attention of the world. The orchestration of the, thankfully failed, coup in Venezuela to the US backed institutions, such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, impoverishing dictates to Argentina are examples of what living under the power of the Good Neighbour to the north means to the people of South America. Nowhere is that power more destructive in this hemisphere than currently in Colombia. The US government’s Plan Colombia provides for a massive infusion of money, weapons and training to a regime that presides over one of the most murderous places on earth.

Pax Americana

The target of this Plan is not simply the guerrillas of the ELN or the FARC. Its aim is nothing less than to pacify a continent reeling from global capitalism’s neo-liberal assault begun with the NAFTA and extended south through the machinations of the, as yet unfinished, FTAA. The reasoning for this intervention was first presented in the context of the US government’s War on Drugs begun in the 80’s. Never mind the fact that drug production in the Andean countries of South America is based on the unending appetite of the North American consumer. Never mind that US institutions like the CIA created drug markets, especially of crack cocaine, in impoverished American cities to fund right-wing paramilitaries and dictatorial juntas deemed essential to the Cold War struggle against popular movements in Latin America, bypassing restrictions implemented by Congress. From the Opium Wars of a hundred years ago to the Contra war against Nicaragua and the Prison Industrial Complex of the last decades, imperialism has always viewed the drug trade as a potential tool in its arsenal of subjugation whether as its purveyor or it opponent.

Now, with a new name, the unending war by the United States against the people of Latin America is heating up in Colombia. The FARC especially, but also the ELN, operate in large swathes of the Colombian countryside effectively putting those areas outside of the control of North America and the Colombian government. Whatever one can say about the politics of the FARC and the conduct of its war, they act as an obstacle to the regime of Pax Americana in Latin America, and indeed, the world. The United States will simply not allow a situation to continue where it’s rule is in question, all resistance must be confronted so as to make any resistance seem futile.

Let us briefly present what the US wishes to defend in Colombia through its $1.5 billion support to the Colombian government this year alone. [Sources on all statistics from the CIA Sourcebook and the Canada Colombia Solidarity Campaign] Unemployment was 20.5 percent officially in 2000 and has undoubtedly grown with the world wide economic recession. UNICEF reports that over 1 million abandoned children live rough on the streets of Colombian cities and that, as of 2000, 12 children are murdered every 24 hours by gangs contracted by local merchants who view these children as nothing but pests. The per capita income according to Colombian government statistics was just under US$2,000 a year in 2001. By 1999 22.7 million of Colombia’s 36 million people were living in dire poverty. 50% of all Colombian exports come to the United States and 35% of all imports into Colombia come from the United States for a trade of about US$28 billion annually. This combined with a debt of, in 2000, US$34 billion owed mainly to American banks and financial institutions as well as the private US investment of nearly US$6 billion in 2001 speaks volumes about American interests in Colombia.

Protecting huge profits

To protect the huge profits the US extracts from Colombia a reign of terror has been unleashed on the Colombian people. Nearly half of all trade unionists killed every year in the world are Colombian, 112 in 2000 alone. 2.1 million people are internally displaced, only Afghanistan and Palestine have larger refugee populations. The death squads of the AUC are responsible for the deaths of 76% of all those civilians killed in the last 3 years, amounting to over 14,000 noncombatants killed (10 times the number of combatants killed). Rape as a tool of repression by both the AUC and the Colombian military has been widely reported, and though no reliable statistics can be found it is estimated that the AUC has grown by 70% since 1999, the year US military support to the Colombian government began in earnest. The Colombian military and the AUC, far from being opponents, have an organic relationship – they both serve the same master. The Colombian ranchers and capitalists and the American ruling class need both the legal military and the extra-legal death squads. Any talk of separating the two is a shell game and the responsibility for the atrocities committed by the AUC lie squarely at the feet of the US and Colombian governments. Of course the FARC and ELN have committed, not just mistakes, but serious crimes and should be held accountable by the Colombian people for their actions, but to make a moral equivalent of the violence of the oppressed with that of the oppressor makes a mockery of justice. As the statistics above should make clear joining the guerrillas in many parts of Colombia is, regardless of the specific actions of the FARC and the ELN, seen by many as a decision based on the legitimate need of self defence.

Last summer three men were arrested in Colombia by the government and accused of being members of the IRA training the FARC in the use of mortars and explosives. The 3 men have been held for nearly a year in a prison where violence is notorious and in urgent need of protection from the AUC, which has stated its desireto kill the three, as well as any internationals coming to Colombia in order to show solidarity with those in struggle with the regime or those who suffer as a result of the war. This includes human rights delegations, trade unionists, environmental activists and aid agencies. No evidence has been presented that would pass muster in any legitimate court in America or Europe to prove the guilt of the three, but evidence is not needed to use them as a political tool. The Colombian government has paraded them before cameras to prove that the intentions of the FARC are warlike and opposed to negotiation. The Unionists (Peter King of the DUP was elicited by the Colombian government as an expert advisor) and some British officials are using the three’s capture to show that the IRA have broken their cease-fire, are still involved in terrorism, should be barred from Stormont and the Good Friday Agreement renegotiated without any but the most pliant nationalists. The Southern Irish ruling class has used their arrest in an attempt to stymie the electoral rise of Sinn Fein in the South. With howls about democracy prohibiting political parties from being connected to armed groups. Pretty rich when you consider the history of Fianna Fail and Fine Gael to say nothing of those same parties current connection to the Irish Army and the Gardai (as far as I know both of those groups are still armed) as well as the Irish government as a whole’s new relationship with NATO (another rather well armed group) with the Partnership for Peace.

Expanding the War on Terrorism

So what then was the agenda of the US Congress when they opened highly public hearings into the relationship between the IRA and the FARC? It is hard to imagine the reasoning of the US Congress in the context of the Peace Process in Ireland. Why, after the long road of bringing Sinn Fein into bourgeois legitimacy through a process where Sinn Fein and the Provisionals shed nearly every principle which put them in conflict with imperialism that the US government would want now to make them illegitimate? Sinn Fein’s acceptance of British rule and the Unionist veto in Ireland are the lynch pin upon which the Good Friday Agreement is predicated.

Since September 11th and the beginnings of the War on Terrorism the United States has been seeking to expand the targets of that war beyond that of Al Qaeda and Afghanistan. The US has long been looking down the barrel of the gun at the FARC and insurgency in general in Colombia and Latin America. They have known that, on its own, the Colombian government is incapable of re-conquering the country and that public opinion in the US has long been opposed to sending troops to Latin America. In the aftermath of Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua and the Dirty Wars in Brazil, Argentina and Chile even the notoriously ill informed US public has turned against many of the most brutal policies employed by the US government south of the Rio Grande. It is in this context that the US seeks to make Colombia another front in its War on Terrorism, but clearly there is no tie organizationally or politically between Al Qaeda and the FARC. The United States is attempting to portray Colombia (at least where the FARC operate) as Afghanistan and the FARC as the Taliban to legitimize the continued and intensifying war on the Colombian people.

The three unlucky Irishmen are a convenient tool in this endeavour. Colombia is now as dangerous to world peace as Afghanistan and if you want proof we will concoct enough evidence to prove that not only the IRA, but ETA, Cuba, even Iranian and Zimbabwean terrorists are training there. From their bases in Colombia these internationals terrorists, who on the surface seem to have nothing in common, will return to their countries to fly planes into building just for the sake of it. Truly a Terrorist International to be frightened of! If the consequences of US threats weren’t so deadly real it would be laughable. The fact that the War on Terrorism is so consuming for some policy makers in the US that they would consciously undermine other foreign policy efforts (and in their terms successes like the Irish peace process) is an indicator where politics is currently at in the United States. After Afghanistan, Iraq. After Iraq, Colombia. After Colombia, another and another.

While this writer would find it difficult to call the IRA criminal, if they were in Colombia to assist in the fighting capacity of the FARC against the thugs of the AUC and Colombian military, we cannot assume that is what they were there for. What we do know is that fundamentally the War against Terrorism is not about terrorism at all. Colombians and the rest of Latin Americans have suffered through the early, and God ordained, Manifest Destiny of the North Americans. They have been cruelly exploited during the Good Neighbour Policy of Franklin Roosevelt that smiled as it stole. Acts of genocide were committed as the barbarous hand of the United States smashed the popular aspirations of the Latin American workers and farmers in the Cold War struggle against the Soviet Union. The War on Drugs reinforced and deepened US control over the continent as use by American consumers, and consequently production in the Andes, continued to prove that even in the heart of rich and democratic America millions sought escape from their own misery through drug use. And now the US is telling the people of the world, and of Colombia, that they are either with the US government or against it, with the ashes of Afghanistan as an example to fear.

The War against Terrorism is a continuation of a never ending war by the wealthy nations against those that have made them wealthy through their exploitation. What horror it will bring to Colombia, and the effect it will have on places like Ireland we are just beginning to see. Whatever they chose to call it, the Latin American masses call it by its right name – Yankee imperialism and they are against it.

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Aug 04 2002

Unfinished Business: 11 September, one year on

Category: Emancipation & Liberation,Issue 03RCN @ 1:30 pm

Twelve months after the attacks on New York & Washington, Nick Clarke examines what their impact has been internationally

It is now one year since two passenger jets were piloted into the World Trade Centre’s Twin Towers, while another was diverted into the Pentagon and a fourth crashed in Pennsylvania. The images of the attack were broadcast around the world, having a profound and disturbing effect. The fact that they were continuously played and replayed on national television added to the heightened sense of shock and foreboding of what was to follow. The Republican Communist Network, like many on the left, opposed these attacks. Our pamphlet September 11th and The War after the War put those events in context and explained why. It concluded with an assessment of what it would mean for global politics and particularly for the left in the UK and internationally. It is important to collate what has happened in those 12 months; what has the effect been on global politics and the anti-imperialist and revolutionary left. We need to be alert to immediate, and longer term, imperialist threats, and to develop our response.

In recent months, the imperialist alliance between Bush and Blair has succeeded in shifting the political and media focus away from Afghanistan, the Taliban and Osama bin Laden. Instead they are concentrating on how to rid Iraq of the usual Western scapegoat Saddam Hussein and his Baathist dictatorship in Baghdad. From the very outset the US was determined to link, no matter how spuriously, the September 11 attacks and al-Qaeda with Saddam, but none of their accusations held any credibility. In fact, prior to 9/11, the CIA probably had more contact with the Taliban than the Iraqi leadership. The US also tried to blame al-Qaeda and Saddam for the outbreak of anthrax attacks that swept across America almost a year ago. Now the evidence points to someone working at Fort Dettrick, the top secret US biological weapons establishment. Most of the briefings coming out of Washington are not about whether there will be a substantial attack on Iraq, but when and how. As a result of Blair’s determination to stand shoulder to shoulder with Bush and the US, he has been publicly parroting the same line. However, it is clear that opposition to war with Iraq is appearing in military and ruling circles. Before dealing in any more depth with the imminent situation regarding Iraq, what has the War on Terror meant in the last 12 months?

What Bush’s New World Order and the ‘Coalition against terrorism’ have meant is the proliferation of state sponsored terrorism around the world. It has legitimised and sponsored the use of official death squads to eliminate internal opposition in all parts of the globe. Whereas before such activity was kept under wraps and the preserve of the darkest dictatorships or murky black ops teams, now we have those same dictators, along with democratically elected governments around the world in every continent, proudly and publicly announcing military action against their own citizens or their neighbours. Bush’s justification for carpet bombing Afghanistan and pursuing regime change in that impoverished divided country has allowed Russia to use the same tactics against the Chechens, India against the Kashmiris, Colombia against the FARC and of course Israel against the Palestinians. US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has given permission for US Special Forces to use lethal force in countries the US is not at war with. He has also sanctioned the boarding and searching of suspicious (sic) vessels in international waters.

So what has happened in the past year?

Afghanistan

The Taliban, the stooges of two US allies (Pakistan and Saudi Arabia), were driven from power in Afghanistan by a combination of US carpet bombing, hi-tech surveillance and Northern Alliance forces on the ground. After years of warlordism and the Taliban, ordinary Afghans hoped things would change. What has replaced it? Hamid Karzai’s US-sponsored coalition government was formally endorsed by the Loya Jirga in June. The situation on the ground seems to be as volatile as ever. Tribal and ethnic warlords police their people, while vying for power and influence. The real scope of Karzai’s power goes little further than Kabul. Symbolic of the lack of unity and trust in his coalition government is his decision to replace his Afghan bodyguards with US Special Forces, following the killing of other government ministers.

If reports are to be believed then the main targets of the US, Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar, are still alive and active. So that’s one of the Coalition’s goals not achieved. This is a double-edged sword for the US. On the one hand eliminate them and claim victory. On the other keep them, and their myth, alive. This justifies US forces patrolling the world, stamping their imperialist prejudices and values with the alibi of making pre-emptive strikes against potential terrorists and enemies of the United States.

The view from Afghanistan is that the US and its local agents are rapidly losing any popularity that they had in the aftermath of the overthrow of the Taliban. Promised international aid for the country’s reconstruction has been very slow in coming. Combine this with the rising collateral damage inflicted through continuing attacks on Afghan civilians and villages by US forces, and the post- Taliban euphoria and goodwill is draining away. The routine intimidation, humiliation and interrogation of Afghans by American forces continues. In June, the bombing of a wedding party in Uruzam killed 55. No wonder the backlash has started as Americans come under attack almost every night.

Palestine

Israel continues its ruthless occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. Even the independent Bantustans, created by Oslo, have been shown to be worthless. The Israeli-biased Oslo agreement is dead. The US, with Israel’s goading, is attempting to get Arafat replaced, as the leader of the Palestinians. Although this is likely to backfire on them. While the US is unilaterally prepared to go to war with Iraq over a flagrant breach of UN resolutions, it positively condones and connives in Israel’s flouting of 30-year-old UN resolutions. Such hypocrisy is breathtaking. The last few months have thrown up example after example of Israeli atrocities against the Palestinian people: the attack on the Jenin refugee camp, the use of civilians as human shields by the IDF, continual destruction of civilian housing, the routine killing, maiming and brutalisation of Palestinian children, the daily assassination of militants and the exiling of relatives of militants. The list is endless.

At the end of July a 1 tonne missile dropped from an F16 into a residential area of Gaza City, killed 15 and wounded 145. Their target was Salah Shehada, the leader of Hamas’ military wing. The other casualties were just the collateral damage that the US and Israel tolerate, as long as they are Palestinian bodies and not Jewish or American. Sharon bragged that the operation as one of the great successes, stating that Israel cannot reach any compromise with terror; terror must be fought. As the worldwide condemnations of these Israeli actions started to fly, so even the US was sceptical of the shrewdness of this attack. Sharon, the butcher of the refugee camps and the racist leader of an apartheid state, had to apologise for the loss of life. However, this apology was small price to pay for his achievement in destroying a ceasefire that was about to be announced. It had been brokered by, amongst others, EU diplomats, who had got a commitment from the secular wing of the Palestinian liberation movement (the Tanzim militia and the Al Aqsa brigades) to stop using suicide bombers against Israeli cities. Even Hamas stated, before the missile was dropped, that they would do likewise if Israeli forces withdrew from the West Bank and Gaza and stopped targeting civilians. The F16 relies on components supplied from the UK, indirectly to Israel, via the US. Therefore the British government are complicit in these indiscriminate attacks on residential areas. Did anybody really believe Robin Cook, Blair’s first foreign minister, when he laid out the principles of Labour’s ethical foreign policy?

Since September 11 there is no pretence. Jack Straw, Cook’s replacement, does not even bother to try and throw up a smokescreen on this issue. At the height of the recent India-Pakistan tension he was happy to encourage British arms producers to supply the latest military equipment to either, or preferably both, sides – more profit to be made. British arms sales to Israel in the last two years have been £22.5 million – double what they were before the start of the current intifada.

Truth is the first casualty?

Objectivity in reporting and analysis is another casualty of the Twin Tower attacks. Journalists of the calibre of John Pilger, and Robert Fisk are rare gems in the reams and reams of mediocrity and the lazy parroting of government press releases and prejudiced conviction. Murder bombers seems to be the newly-spun term for suicide bombers. While not condoning the use of suicide bombers, it is important to understand the despair, the hopelessness, the alienation that drives young men and women to such ends. At least Cherie Blair tried to show some understanding of the issue and was widely condemned for expressing her thoughts. Steve Earle, the US rock musician, has recently released a song called John Walker Blues, which tries to give some understanding to the actions of the American Taliban, who was captured at Mazar-I-Sharif. Walker has been more vilified than Oklahoma bomber Timothy McVeigh, who killed hundreds of Americans. There have been threats of organising a boycott of any radio station that dares play Earle’s song.

Spain

Another attack on opposition and dissent has been taken up in Spain. Echoing the British government’s gagging of Sinn Fein in the 1980s, as well as Franco’s oppression of the Basques, the Spanish government has banned Batasuna, the most radical of the Basque nationalist parties, because of their alleged links with ETA. In June, a law was passed outlawing parties deemed to be actively supporting terrorism. At the end of August, the Supreme Court suspended the party’s activities for 3 years: closing its offices, banning demos and rallies. This is a party that has almost 1,000 elected representatives at various levels.

Colombia

In Colombia Alvaro Uribe, the newly-installed, right wing president, is one of Bush’s newest and enthusiastic recruits to the War against Terrorism. Their joint aim, with the help of right wing paramilitaries, is to crush the FARC army, which controls large areas of the country and number at least 17,000, and the smaller ELN. Their strength, and threat to the Colombian government, was highlighted by their disruption of the new president’s inauguration ceremony, causing a great deal of embarrassment to Uribe and Bush. In standing shoulder to shoulder with Uribe, Bush has lifted restrictions on £1 billion of military aid from the US to Colombia, which was initially earmarked for the War on Drugs, to pay for the Colombian War on Terror and has pledged more if Colombia increases its own military spending. On August 13, the new president announced a state of internal commotion (emergency), an additional 3,000 elite troops, 10,000 new police and a million strong militia who will act as informers, in an effort to defeat the FARC. No doubt US arms manufacturers will be rubbing their hands with glee, knowing they will be at the front of the queue when new weapons contracts are handed out.

Colombia is also willing to play its part in the co-ordinated discrediting of anti-imperialist and liberation movements across the world. Following the arrest last year of three Irish men in Colombia accused of training the FARC, Luis Osorio, Colombia’s prosecutor general, has blamed the IRA for hundreds of deaths in the country. Sinn Fein has condemned his accusations as a disgrace, and Mitchel McLaughlin, Sinn Fein’s national chairman, has questioned whether the three can get a fair trial in Colombia. Very unlikely I would think. It seems as if the concept of a fair trial is becoming a thing of the past, as the Western bourgeois democracies suspend established civil rights and encourage, collaborate and pander to their totalitarian allies. There are a number of examples of the US delivering al-Qaeda and terrorist suspects to Egypt, Syria, and Jordan, on the understanding that they will use torture to extract information and confessions from such hostages, which will then be passed back to the US. Thus minimising the US‘s direct human rights’ abuses, but getting the required confessions!

Venezuela

Venezuela has also received the unwelcome attentions of Bush’s administration. In April, a military coup led by the country’s business elite, with the backing of the US, overthrew the elected president Hugo Chavez. However within 48 hours Chavez was reinstated through the mass mobilisation of the country’s poor. The coup started with a protest organised by the country’s business federation, demanding the reinstatement of the pro-US management at the country’s state-owned oil company. A confrontation between the demonstrators and Chavez supporters, set up by the coup leaders, gave them the opportunity they wanted. As snipers opened fire on both sets of protestors, General Vasquez announced on TV that the military had taken over, claiming that Chavez supporters had opened fire on an unarmed crowd, and to give the coup legitimacy claimed that Chavez had resigned. Within hours, Pedro Carmona, head of the country’s confederation of business and industry, an oilman, had been installed as president. His first acts were to suspend elections and laws regulating big business, he dissolved the elected national assembly and the Supreme Court, at the same time declaring a pluralistic vision, democratic, civil and ensuring the implementation of the law. To the delight of the foreign oil companies, big business and the big plantation owners he scrapped 49 laws regulating big business. Following the mobilisation of the masses in huge street demonstrations and serious splits in the armed forces, 36 hours later Chavez was restored to the presidency. Carmona’s US sponsored government had been crushed.

Venezuela is a key supplier of oil to the US, and therefore its stability is vital. Linked with this is Chavez’ willingness to supply oil to Cuba, his opposition to both the free trade agenda of the World Trade Organisation, and the attempt by the US to draw South America even further under its economic control. It is not difficult to find the White House’s fingerprints all over this failed coup. Senior officials in the US government with experience of the Central American dirty wars of the 1980s include John Negroponte, Elliot Abrams and Otto Reich.

These events illustrate the lengths that the US is prepared to go to prevent a critic such as Chavez from challenging their world view and economic interests. So the lesson for more and more countries around the world is that you can have a democracy but only if it coincides with US imperialist interests.

Russia

At the end of August Russian helicopters bombed villages in northern Georgia while trying to attack Chechen separatist fighters in the Pankisi Gorge. Their targets allegedly have links with al-Qaeda. So how did the White House respond: Ari Fleischer its spokesman, stated The US regrets the loss of life and deplores the violation of sovereignty he was deeply concerned about credible reports that Russian military aircraft indiscriminately bombed villages…resulting in the killing of civilians. The hypocrisy of such comments defies belief. What about Afghanistan, Iraq, Sudan, Palestine, Venezuela, Somalia, Panama, Grenada, Cuba, Vietnam…the list is endless. The harshness of the condemnation might also have had something to do with revenge for the recent signing of a large trade agreement between Russia and Iraq. Back to the Bush administration’s main focus on the War on Terror: Iraq. As with most of Bush’s policy initiatives he tends to open his mouth without thinking. He is committed to regime change in Baghdad.

Iraq

At present there is quite a debate going on amongst the higher echelons of government and the military both in Britain and the US. Bush states that America is prepared to go to war with Iraq alone. It does not need UN resolutions or an international coalition. Bush, with his eager and vociferous hawks, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz, believe that the USA, as the world’s only superpower can thunder around the world, like a rogue elephant, imposing its will in any hemisphere or region it chooses, irrespective of international mandates, clear war aims or the chaos and carnage that results. However some caution is being sounded in some unexpected quarters and must go someway to showing the unease in a substantial section of the American ruling class to Bush’s warmongering. The following Republican Party heavyweights have made comments suggesting they are against unilateral US action to overthrow Saddam: James Baker, George Bush senior’s Secretary of State, Lawrence Eagleburger, Baker’s successor and Brent Scowcroft, Bush senior’s National Security Advisor, the current Secretary of State Colin Powell, General Norman Swarzkopf. In Britain, while Tony Blair publicly supports the Bush plan, opposition is growing. This includes significant sections of the government, the Labour Party, the military and public opinion polls: Robin Cook, Margaret Becket, Douglas Hurd, Clare Short, former chief of the defence staff, Lord Bramall and a large number of back bench MPs. Most importantly though is the swelling anti-war mood on the streets. In recent weeks there has been conjecture as to whether Blair will allow a debate in the Parliament, before any commitment of British troops to a war against Iraq. Under the Royal Prerogative, Blair, as Prime Minister, has powers that mean he neither needs to consult his cabinet nor parliament before declaring war. Internationally, apart from the Australian government (who have already pledged troops), most countries oppose unilateral, precipitative US action. In the words of Hosni Mubarak, President of Egypt, If you (US) strike at the Iraqi people because of one or two individuals and leave the Palestinian issue unsolved not a single Arab ruler will be able to curb popular sentiments.

There might be repercussions and we fear a state of disorder and chaos may prevail in the region.

Mubarak, considered one of the most pro-Western Arab leaders, spoke for most rulers in the region. King Abdullah of Jordan delivered a similar message to Bush in his summer visit to the White House. Pakistan’s Musharaf, an early convert to the War on Terror, warned against a unilateral US attack. Saudi Arabia is saying that Saddam should be dealt with diplomatically. These are all Usfriendly leaders. Their opposition to an attack is based primarily on the popular revolt such US aggression would unleash in their own states, against their despotic regimes.

It is not just the Middle East where official opposition is public. Many European leaders, including Chirac and Shroeder, see the danger of a US attack on Iraq without the fig leaf of a UN resolution. Even prior to any new Gulf War, Iraq is already devastated. Ten years of sanctions have meant premature death to more than a million Iraqis, due to lack of food, good quality water, medical supplies and drugs. Then there also the massive rise in numbers of cancer sufferers, brought on by the huge quantity of depleted uranium ammunition used by the coalition forces in the 1991 Gulf war. This spent, contaminated ammunition still pollutes the towns and cities of Iraq and is responsible for much illness. Due to the sanctions, the Iraqis cannot clean up these radioactive killers.

The role of communists, socialists and the international revolutionary left must be to build a mass, working class movement against imperialist aggression – military, economic and political. Here in Britain, it is not enough just to oppose and rail against Bush and US imperialism, the main focus has to be our own ruling class and its complicity with the New World Order. A mass movement has to be built in Britain, in Europe and worldwide to prevent the ruling classes in all states from engaging in such state terrorism in our name. Neither Washington, London nor Baghdad. It is not enough just to be against such aggression. The bottom line is that capitalism in its imperialist stage cannot act in any other way. It has to be replaced. We have to develop a positive, communist alternative. An alternative based on an emancipation from exploitation and a liberation from oppression, where humanity can really call itself civilised.

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