The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Issue no. 664 — September 24 - October 8, 2001

Individual Terrorism, State Terrorism—Their Target Is the Same:
The Population

Sep 24, 2001

We may never know exactly how many victims the attack on the World Trade Center took–but its direct victims will be in the thousands, with everything that means for their families and friends. Its indirect victim is the American population.

With complete indifference, the organizers of this attack set out to kill people, people whose only crime was to work in those buildings or to travel on those planes–people who left home that morning thinking only that they were going to work.

Up until now, no one has claimed responsibility for this act. The U.S. government says that its author is Osama bin Laden and those directly connected with him. Whether or not this is true, one thing is obvious: no cause can justify such an action.

Whoever carried out the attack was ready to kill indiscriminately and randomly in order to demonstrate that symbols of American power could be attacked. Attacked the symbols may have been. But symbols can be replaced. The people killed and wounded cannot be.

Those who directed and carried out this disgusting attack are enemies of all the people, including the people they pretend to defend. People in Afghanistan and Pakistan were among the first to be attacked by them years ago.

The attack on September 11 may well serve to make American workers feel they have no choice but to give Bush a blank check to carry out the policies he today proposes: new wars overseas, more repression at home, and a demand for sacrifices made in living and working conditions. This would be a mistake. It’s the policies of U.S. governments which have finally led to this tragedy.

The news media showed us pictures of crowds in Gaza cheering the news of the attacks in New York and Washington. If there was such a reaction, it shouldn’t come as a surprise. The Palestinians have suffered for over a half century the bloody consequences of U.S. policy in the Middle East. The terrorism, the daily repression, the violence they have suffered at the hands of the Israelis has been paid for by the United States. If the U.S. is hated in many areas of the Middle East, it is precisely because the U.S. government carries the biggest responsibility for the destruction and desperate impoverishment of the Middle East.

Look at what Bush proposes today. He may say that the bombing strikes or other actions he intends to carry out are directed against bin Laden and the Taliban. But, in fact, like all terrorists, Bush is proposing to attack a whole population–the Afghan people–in order to get at their leaders.

This is nothing but terrorism, carried out with all the means of violence at the disposal of the most powerful state apparatus in the world. It is the very same state terrorism which the U.S. has carried out for ten years against the Iraqi people. The Gulf War–supposedly aimed against Saddam Hussein–not only has not toppled him from power, it was not even carried out in a way to do so. It has led to the deaths of more than one million Iraqis, half of whom were children under five. The whole Iraqi people have been held hostage to terrorism–caught in buildings bombed to rubble, burnt up, starved to death–so that Saddam Hussein, a former agent of U.S. policy in the Middle East, could be taught his lesson and put in his place.

Ever since the Gulf War, those who direct foreign policy have tried to convince us that the U.S. could carry out wars, attack people in other countries, without the U.S. paying a price. Well, a price has now been paid–and it wasn’t paid by Bush or Clinton or any of the never-elected people who, in the shadows, formulate U.S. foreign and military policy. The price was paid by the people who died or were wounded in the attacks in New York and Washington and Pennsylvania.

What the people of New York so terribly suffered on September 11, the people of Iraq have faced for 10 years and the people of Palestine for almost 60 years. This does not lessen the horror of what people here experienced. It does show the real and complete consequences of U.S. foreign policy.

Pages 2-3

What Would They Do if They Wanted Security?

Sep 24, 2001

The airlines say they need far more security to prevent another terrorist attack.

So what are they doing? They say they are going to lay off 100,000 workers. More security means more people, not fewer!

More skycaps who can be less rushed to handle luggage and therefore more alert to problems.

More ticket agents who will not feel the pressure of a hundred people in line, and can take more time scanning passengers’ tickets.

More workers with more time to clean the planes, and so, more time to question anything out of place. More baggage handlers, more ramp workers, more mechanics so the servicing of planes is not carried out in such a frenzied way.

Not to mention more mechanics and pilots so that the planes themselves are safe. We shouldn’t forget that far more people have been killed in plane crashes than in terrorist attacks on planes.

If the airlines were serious about security, they would not be laying off. Because you don’t plug security holes by making 100,000 more personnel holes. They would instead use this lull in traffic to reorganize all the work. They would add workers everywhere, to end what overwork and understaffing have created.

If they were serious.

Airline Bailout:
Welfare for Stockholders and Bankers

Sep 24, 2001

Within 48 hours of the attack, the airlines had gone to Congress asking for money. Air travel eventually was shut down, they had no idea what number of passengers would be flying when they reopened. But they were sure they wanted money. Congress obliged. It gave the airlines five billion dollars cash and said it would back another 10 billion dollars in bank loans if the airline companies weren’t able to pay them back.

Certainly, the shut-down cost them money. But if it really put them on the brink of bankruptcy, as some of them say, then it was because before September 11, they were in bad shape.

The airlines have already announced 100,000 layoffs or about 20% of their workforce. These workers will be getting only unemployment compensation, which is typically about a third of their normal pay check. The government is providing nothing for these workers to bring their pay up to what it was before September 11.

For years, the airlines have been going into debt, buying each other up. This past year American Airlines bought TWA, issuing debt to do it, and assuming the debts that TWA had rolled up. This added to American’s interest payments, cutting into the profits it has left for the stockholders. This is only the latest in a string of such purchases. And it had nothing to do with the events of September 11. But using the anxiety caused by those events, American, along with other airlines, is coming to demand taxpayers’ money to help them out.

Of course, Congress, which gave no money to “bailout” the 100,000 or more workers whom the airlines want to lay off, was more than ready to open the treasury. In order not to appear too generous, it, however, did set some conditions: The airlines can’t raise the pay of executives who make $300,000 or more a year, and they can pay them only two years of severance pay if they lose jobs! No unemployment checks for them!

They are just like the electrical utilities in California. They use a crisis to shake down the taxpayers to bail them out.

If there really are problems, they are of the airlines own making, and more generally capitalism’s making.

If the price of jet fuel has gone up, force the oil companies who make superprofits out of their investments in the Middle East to reimburse the airlines–and all the rest of us.

Let the banks that received billions of dollars in interest payments out of the profits made by the airline workers each year for the past decade now make a sacrifice by doing without interest payments. Let the stockholders who received dividends all these years and a rising price of their stock, now make a capital contribution out of their own pockets to the airlines they own to keep them in the sky. Let the top executives receive the pay of a baggage handler or a counter agent–it will give them an incentive to understand the need for workers’ wage increases. It’s a lot less of a sacrifice than those rescue workers made who ran into the World Trade Center.

And if they don’t do that, then let government money be used to keep all the workers employed. No layoffs, not a hundred thousand. Not a thousand, not one.

Politicians and Media:
They Promote Bigotry

Sep 24, 2001

Violence against people of foreign descent in the U.S. has soared since the terrorist attacks of September 11. People who look even vaguely like they might be of Middle Eastern descent have been particularly at risk of attack. The FBI admits that at least three murders may have resulted.

Hundreds of people who appear Middle Eastern have been violently attacked at their homes or businesses; thousands have been harassed in the last two weeks on the street, in their neighborhoods or at work.

Of course, Bush makes the disclaimers that not all people of Middle Eastern descent or Islamic faith are terrorists or terrorist supporters. But the overall impression given since the first hours of this tragedy, first by Bush’s cabinet and then by media reports is unmistakable: foreigners are out to get us.

The most directly disgusting prejudice displayed by a politician was the statement by Louisiana Congressman John Cook during a radio interview. Cook said that anyone wearing “a diaper on his head and a fan belt wrapped around the diaper” ought to be “pulled over” for extra questioning at airports.

No matter that other politicians say they are shocked or even disagree. Cook is merely going along with President Bush who has declared he wants bin Laden and other terrorists dead or alive–in other words, Bush is calling for execution on the spot of “suspicious people.”

In his speech to the nation, Bush also said that every other government in the world has to either declare itself in support of a U.S.-led war against terrorism, or be considered on the side of the terrorists. If other governments hesitate about going to war the U.S. wants–which certainly is to extend much further than a few terrorists, then by Bush’s logic, they are presumably eligible for immediate military attack by the U.S.

But Bush’s tactics don’t originate with him. The U.S. government, with their lap-dogs in the media, have been blaming “Arabs” for decades. Far away people who were supposedly Arab–and not like us, even though millions of Americans are of Arab descent–had somehow harmed American drivers when gasoline prices went up. Yet nowhere did the blame ever rest squarely with those who set the prices through their control of sales, production and distribution: the big oil companies.

Who does this bigotry serve? Only the capitalists. They would like us to accept the slaughter and death our sons and daughters in the military will have to carry out against anyone they choose to brand as terrorist.

They Propose to “Protect”our Freedoms by Taking Them Away

Sep 24, 2001

Congress is considering a new law proposed by the Bush Administration. Its aim–supposedly–is to give the government weapons to combat terrorism. Under this law, immigrants not yet citizens of the U.S. could be detained and imprisoned simply on the order of the Attorney General with no real evidence of wrong-doing by the imprisoned individuals, and no charges placed against them. And the person so detained or imprisoned would have no right to ask for a hearing in the courts to review the case. In other words, a person can be imprisoned without proof, without a trial–exactly as in a police state.

It would become legal for the FBI and other law enforcement officials to tap almost any phone call or Internet communications–of citizens or non-citizens. They would not have to demonstrate to a judge, as they now are required to, that they have reasonable cause to suspect that the person to be spied on has been involved in a crime. They just have to say they are carrying on an “investigation.” We know how they carried out investigations of Martin Luther King, for example, even when they had no legal right to do this. We can imagine what would happen when they had the legal right.

The proposed law would dramatically expand the government’s right to perform secret searches of anyone under surveillance without informing them that a search was being conducted–that is, they could go into your home or business when you weren’t there and never let you know they’d been there. It would also allow the government to seize the property of almost any accused person BEFORE proving that person to be guilty of anything.

It’s just like after the Oklahoma City bombing when a whole series of measures were rushed through under the pretext of fighting terrorism. Those measures had almost nothing to do with terrorism, but they did give the police many more rights against ordinary people.

Now, once again, in the name of fighting terrorism, the police and other law enforcement agencies are to be given further means to intimidate and control the whole U.S. population.

We know how such means were used in the past even when they weren’t legal: against workers who organized and led strikes, against black people who fought to get rid of Jim Crow, against people who opposed U.S. wars around the world.

This is how they will be used again. The government simply wants to be freer to openly act as a police state!

Pages 4-5

The Middle East Powder Keg:
Created by Imperialist Domination

Sep 24, 2001

The attacks on September 11 in the U.S. are a consequence of the explosive situation in the Middle East, a region that has been ravaged by wars and conflicts that often last for decades and that feed on themselves. What has turned this region into such a powder keg has been its domination by the great outside imperialist powers that have literally sucked the wealth out for their own enrichment, at the expense of the vast majority of people, who are forced to live under abject poverty. To ensure the continual flow of profits, the big imperial powers have invaded and occupied parts of the region with their own troops, imposed dictatorial regimes over the population and set the different peoples against each other.

The division of the Middle East

Their domination dates back over one century. By the end of the 19th century, the big Western European powers, as well as the U.S. and Japan, began to reinvest outside their own countries their growing profits from exploiting their own working classes. They divided up and colonized big parts of Africa and Asia.

In this first period of imperial conquest, the Middle East was a target of Britain, France and to a lesser extent Germany and Russia. It was a very important prize, not just because of its natural resources, including oil and such agricultural products as cotton. Because the Middle East sits astride three great continents, Europe, Asia and Africa, it also had a unique strategic importance both for trade and the military. The big imperial powers fought not only the people living there, but each other for control of this region. Already by 1869, the 100-mile-long Suez Canal that linked the Mediterranean to the Red Sea was opened. French investors first controlled the canal, but they were soon supplanted by the dominant imperialist power of the time, the British.

Up until World War I, most of the Middle East remained under the control of the old Ottoman Empire, which for centuries had been in a state of decline and decay. World War I hastened its collapse. The victors of that war, the British and French governments, divided control of the Middle East between themselves. To France went today’s Syria and Lebanon, while Britain got a territory covering today’s Iraq, Jordan, Israel and Egypt. These borders were drawn not by the people of the region, but by the imperial powers, simply to suit their own interests. Of course, all this was taking place under the suspicious eye of the U.S., the rising imperialist power, which in the coming decades would begin to play a more and more dominant role in the region.

The impending collapse of the Ottoman Empire and the temporary weakening of the grip of the other imperial powers as a result of World War I, combined to generate great expectations among the Arab masses throughout the region. With the end of the war, demonstrations, strikes and revolts against foreign rule took place in Egypt, Lebanon, Palestine, Syria and Iraq. Despite brutal repression by British and French troops, these revolts often lasted months. This led the colonial powers to search for Arab leaders, whom they could rely upon to defend their interests. Thus, the British imposed King Faisal, who had come from Syria, to rule over Iraq. The French selected a religious minority in Lebanon, the tiny Maronite Christian bourgeoisie, to rule over Lebanon.

By the early 1930s, the U.S. began to make inroads in the Middle East at the expense of its two main rivals, by gaining control over the potentially vast oil reserves in Saudi Arabia. At the time, Saudi Arabia was the most backward country in the Middle East and it was the only area in the region that had remained unaffected by the power games of the imperialist rulers. But under the financial pressure brought on by the Great Depression, the feudal rulers of the country, the Saud family, were forced to sell off an oil concession covering 500,000 square miles. This prize was won by a joint venture of the Standard Oil Company of California and Texaco. Together, they formed Arabian American Oil Company, or ARAMCO, which held the monopoly control over oil production in Saudi Arabia.

Altogether, on the eve of World War II, eight companies controlled all the oil production and prospecting rights in the Middle East: five were American, one British, one French and one Dutch. Thus, the great wealth being produced in the Middle East was already being sucked out of the region, to enrich the great imperial powers.

The creation of Israel

Among the vast numbers of refugees created by World War II were hundreds of thousands of Jewish refugees, who survived the Nazi concentration camps and the persecutions at the hands of many governments in Europe. They had no home to return to, but neither did they particularly want to settle in Palestine despite the call of Jewish nationalists, the Zionists. If they ended up in Palestine, it was primarily because the rich countries barred most of them from entering their territories.

In Palestine, which was under the control of the British, local Zionist groups had been demanding an independent state since the 1930s. Of course, the local Arab population was also fighting to get out from under imperialist domination. But instead of joining forces with the Arabs, not only against the imperialist powers, but also against all the reactionary and brutal dictatorships in the region, the Jewish leaders decided to fight for a Jewish state–against the British and against the Arab population.

After World War II, the Zionist rulers sought the support of the big imperial powers to proclaim a Jewish state. However, those powers were divided on the issue. The British, who were trying to hold onto control of Palestine, opposed the idea, and continued to try to repress the Zionist movement, including by fomenting anti-Semitic sentiments amongst the Arab population. But the U.S. supported the Zionists, partly in order to weaken British control over the region.

A three-year civil war ensued, in which heavily armed Zionist terrorist groups, thanks largely to U.S. financial support, carried out a kind of “ethnic cleansing” campaign against the Arabs, to drive them off their own land and out of their own towns and villages. Meanwhile, both Jewish and Arab nationalists did everything to make it impossible for the two populations to join forces against imperialist domination. For instance, among many other examples, the Jewish Irgun bombed the Haifa oil refinery, one of the few workplaces where Jewish and Arab workers were still working side by side. Arab nationalists, on the other hand, murdered a Jewish dockers’ union leader who advocated the setting up of a Palestinian state in which Arab and Jews would live on equal terms. In this way, two oppressed peoples were driven to fight against each other. A wall of hate was built up between them.

In May 1948, Israel, a Jewish state, was declared, and British troops left. Troops from Arab countries attacked the newly independent state, but they were no match for the better armed and organized Israeli army. The new Israeli state refused to allow vast numbers of Arab refugees to return to their lands. Thus, while Jewish refugees from Europe were pouring into Israel, a new population of Palestinian permanent refugees was being formed, outcasts destined to try to survive in refugee camps in the surrounding Arab countries, suffering from terrible poverty, misery and disease.

In every respect, the setting up of the reactionary, religious-based state of Israel was a catastrophe for the population of the entire region. It defused the postwar anti-imperialist struggle in Arab countries by deflecting it against Jewish settlers. It also allowed the Arab rulers to divert toward Israel the discontent against their own rule. Thus, right from its inception, the state of Israel emerged as a valuable instrument for imperialism. Israel became completely dependent on the U.S. for large subsidies to keep its economy running, as well as vast amounts of military aid. It is now a U.S. client state, a U.S. outpost in a very explosive, but vital region.

As for the Jewish population, Israel was far from the refuge that they sought. The Jewish people who settled there were besieged by a hostile Arab world that surrounded them. And they were forced to sacrifice in war after war, which served only to maintain the imperial world order.

Continued Arab upsurges–and their containment

Starting in the early 1950s, a new nationalist wave broke out amongst Arab peoples in country after country. They opposed the domination of the region by imperialism, including in Iran, Egypt, Syria and Iraq. But while these revolts often had the broad support of the masses, they never were able to fully break from imperialist domination. Some of the new regimes, like in Iran, were overthrown by the CIA. At most, other regimes were able to gain a small distance from imperialism for a limited time, while they remained dictatorships against the population.

But at the end of the 1960s, the revolt of the Palestinian people really threatened to upset imperialism’s domination in the region. Since the late 1940s, the Palestinians, who were pushed into refugee camps, had been promised by the big Arab powers that they would one day be allowed to return home. But in 1967, Israel defeated a coalition of Arab armies, in a sweeping victory that allowed Israel to gain new territory, including the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Now, there were hundreds of thousands of new Palestinian refugees, and any illusions that the Palestinian peoples had in the promises by the big Arab powers were dashed. This led to a growing Palestinian movement in the refugee camps that dotted Jordan, Lebanon, Syria. The movement held out the potential to spread to the poor Arab masses throughout the Middle East. The Palestinians often lived and mingled amongst these masses of people. The fact that they organized themselves into militias, and that they were armed, led others to look to them for inspiration in fighting against their own discredited, corrupt regimes.

Sensing this, the rulers of many of these Arab countries moved to crush the Palestinians. This started in Jordan in 1970, when King Hussein’s army attacked the Palestinian refugee camps during what was called Black September. Thousands were massacred, and most of the Palestinian refugees were expelled to other countries.

But in Lebanon, a few years later, when the Lebanese ruling class tried to do the same thing to the Palestinians, it touched off a broader revolt, in which the poor of Lebanon joined with the Palestinians for a short time. Unfortunately, this unity was broken first of all by the nationalist Palestinian leaders, who feared a more sweeping revolt by the poor, and whose aim was only to seek an accommodation with imperialism and the other regimes of the region. They managed to break the unity of the poor; this caused the revolt in Lebanon to degenerate into a civil war between the different ethnic groups. Eventually, order was imposed in Lebanon by the surrounding powers, Syria in the north and Israel in the south, and the Palestinians were once again crushed.

But this did not spell the end of revolts against imperialist domination. In the late 1970s, while the civil war in Lebanon simmered, the long repressed people in Iran revolted against the corrupt and extremely repressive rule of the Shah. The revolt encompassed the majority of the working class, students, the urban population. By 1978, the country became more or less ungovernable. Oil workers seized control of their production sites and refineries. The urban population was in a state of constant mobilization. In January 1979, the Shah left the country. The poor classes had overthrown one of the most brutal dictatorships in the Middle East.

Unfortunately, they were then robbed of their victory when the opposition unified behind the Ayatollah Khomeini and the mullahs. Khomeini carefully made sure to keep the old repressive state apparatus; it was now run by a new hierarchy dressed in the robes of Islam. He then promptly turned on the population and imposed an equally repressive regime on them.

Permanent Warfare: Imperialism Triumphant

The following two decades have been characterized by wars, fueled by rivalries amongst the different regimes, as well as by imperialism.

To try to take advantage of the disorder in Iran and grab contested territory, neighboring Iraq, led by Saddam Hussein, invaded Iran, with the encouragement and support of U.S. imperialism and its allies in the region, like Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. For the U.S., the Iran-Iraq War, that lasted through most of the 1980s, was a means to first of all use the Iraqi regime to bleed the Iranian Revolution, while at the same time, weakening Iraq. For this reason, the U.S. funneled support first to Iraq, then to Iran, and then back to Iraq. The result: over one million people were killed and both countries were drained and bled, opening up both regimes to be more “reasonable”–that is to say, weaker–in their dealings with the U.S.

After the war, a desperate Iraqi regime invaded neighboring Kuwait, in order to secure more favorable terms both for the huge debts that it had built up during the war, and for the sale of its main export, oil. The U.S. then used this invasion to crush Iraq with the Persian Gulf War. It then continued to use the excuse of Hussein remaining in power to keep bombing the country and to impose terrible economic sanctions. Iraq, once one of the more prosperous Middle Eastern countries, was turned into an impoverished land, in which over half a million children have died before they reached five years old.

And while the Palestinian population has quite remarkably revolted twice more: once in 1987 and then again starting last year, they too have been repressed by the Israeli government with the use of U.S. jets, helicopter gun ships, rockets, bombs and bullets. Today, the Palestinian population has been relegated to what amounts to bantustans, or reservations. Their youth are being shot down in the streets, their homes are bulldozed, their leaders are openly assassinated. Young and even some middle-aged Palestinians with families, have carried out suicide bombings, that is, blown themselves up in acts of sheer desperation.

The ordinary Israelis also face a desperate situation, since increasingly, they have become the targets of this terror. Although they have suffered only a tiny fraction of the casualties of the Palestinians, they too are forced to live under the shadow of daily violence and terror. For them too, Israel has become a kind of prison, from which there is no escape.

The balance sheet of imperialist domination

In other words, imperialism has turned the Middle East into a land of permanent warfare, impoverishment and misery. They have turned it into a land that is under the constant surveillance and patrol of the U.S. and the other big imperialist powers. Not only does the U.S. have bases surrounding the Middle East in Turkey and Greece, it also has 26,000 troops stationed in Saudi Arabia, along with 30 warships and 325 aircraft. The Sixth Fleet is now permanently stationed in the Persian Gulf. There has not been such an imperialist garrison in the Middle East since the last years of colonization after World War II, and it is now being reinforced by more naval task forces, bombers and troops.

Of course, this massive U.S. armed presence in the Middle East is not, in any way, meant to protect the interests of the ordinary people in that country. On the contrary, it is there to defend the enrichment of a handful of massive companies.

This enrichment is paid for first by the peoples of the Middle East. But it is also paid for by the working people of this country, not just with our tax dollars, which could be going to pay for schools, health care and other social services, but with the lives of our young people in the military–and, now with the bombings of September 11, the lives of thousands of ordinary working people.

Working people in this country have every interest to oppose the foreign adventures of this government. Our side is with the people in the Middle East who have to face not only their own dictators (and terrorists), but most of all U.S. imperialism.

Pages 6-7

Afghanistan and the Taliban

Sep 24, 2001

Today there are about 25 million people living in Afghanistan, one of the poorest countries in the world. An additional 4 million live in refugee camps outside the country. Today one of four children die before the age of 5, life expectancy is about 43, infant and maternal death rate is the second highest in the world and only 12% of the population has safe water. Only 30% of men and 15% of women can read and write.

The regime in power, called the Taliban (the Islamic students), has slaughtered civilians, burnt homes, and destroyed crops in the villages and towns it conquered. It deprived women of education and jobs, and has administered beatings and even mutilations for punishment of religious laws. The situation of Afghanistan has been spoken of a lot recently in this country. What hasn’t been so well known is that the Taliban’s seizure of power from 1994 to 1996 was supported by the Clinton administration, which funneled military and financial aid to the Taliban, through Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. Nor is it well known that support for this regime continued under the Bush administration.

Afghanistan: Borders drawn by imperialism

Afghanistan today is a mixture of eight main ethnic groups, further divided by the languages they speak. Even its overwhelmingly Muslim population is split between the 80% Sunnis and 20% Shiite. The border of Afghanistan is the Durand line, named after Montagu Durand, the British high commissioner, who directed the imposing of borders to serve British strategic interests in the late 19th century. This border cuts right through the Pashtun people, splitting them between Pakistan and Afghanistan, and that has been a major source of conflict between the countries ever since. Another people, the Baluchis, are split between these two countries and also Iran. Also the border cuts the Tajik, Turkmen and Uzbek minorities in half between those in Afghanistan and those in neighboring countries.

In the 1950s the monarchy that ruled Afghanistan tried to get a big increase in U.S. aid. But the U.S. turned it down because it didn’t want to jeopardize the U.S. relationship with Pakistan, the rival of Afghanistan. So Afghanistan turned toward the USSR, which by the late 1960s gave two-thirds of all military and technical aid received by the Afghan monarchy. Afghanistan became part of the USSR’s sphere of influence, and none of the western governments protested.

In 1979 the Peoples Democratic Party of Afghanistan took power, based on educated petty bourgeois people from the cities, who wanted to fight the aristocracy’s monopoly over economic and social life. They undertook a series of reforms, including a land reform that ended feudalism. But even when these reforms benefitted the poorer classes, the new regime used brutality and repression, rather than on relying on the conscious agreement of the people they sought to help. These actions enabled the religious leaders to stir up the people against the regime. Rebel groups sprung up in every area of the country and entire areas practically broke away.

Intervention by the USSR

The Soviet Union decided to send its army into the country in December 1979. The USSR’s goal was to reinforce the existing regime. It hoped to prevent political instability on the border of the USSR, and to stop Muslim fundamentalism from affecting Muslims in its own Central Asian republics.

But the effect of this military intervention was to increase the Afghani population’s opposition to the regime and to throw the people into the hands of the fundamentalists, who presented themselves as liberators against a brutal foreign occupation.

The war in Afghanistan bogged down the USSR just as the U.S. had been mired down in Viet Nam.

In neighboring Pakistan, the military government established some 2,500 religious schools, which were funded by Saudi Arabia and backed by the U.S. Some 225,000 children who went to these schools were trained to fight as guerrillas in Afghanistan. Pakistan’s political police, the ISI, opened up guerilla training camps–also funded by the U.S. The U.S. may have been fighting Islamic fundamentalism in Iran, but it was happy to rely on fundamentalist warriors that it had financed in Afghanistan. By the time the Soviet Union withdrew from Afghanistan in 1989, the U.S. and Saudi Arabia together had spent 40 billion dollars. Not a penny was spent in defense of the Afghan people. This war left one million of them dead.

In April 1992 the various guerrilla armies took over Kabul, where they promptly started fighting among themselves for power. There were street fights in the capital, battles for control of strategic positions. The U.S. encouraged and enabled Pakistan and Saudi Arabia to support one faction called the Islamic Party, whose army had destroyed most of Kabul in 1993. Iran, Russia, India, Turkey, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan chose other factions to back. For the next three years, the United States would support first one, then another fundamentalist faction in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, the people suffered, caught in endless civil war.

The rise of the Taliban to power

Around 1993, the Pakistani government became interested in opening up trade with the new Central Asian republics that split from the old USSR. But the warfare in Afghanistan blocked the roads. A way to end the warfare was needed.

The Pakistan government once again set up schools for guerrillas, masked as religious schools. They recruited from the Afghan refugee camps. The leaders who would become the Taliban developed in these schools and camps.

By the summer of 1994 the first grouping of guerrillas was ready. It was led by older religious teachers and Pakistani soldiers, and armed by Saudi Arabia, with the cooperation of the CIA. The arms, food and four wheel drive vehicles gave the Taliban the material means to grow rapidly, against those less equipped.

The Taliban were only one more armed reactionary band in a country with a lot of them. Yet in a couple of years they were able to take power. They profited from the advanced decomposition of the state apparatus and were able to take entire cities without combat. Some of the war lords preferred to join the Taliban, while others fled instead of fighting.

But the Taliban also benefitted from direct aid from Pakistan and, behind it, the U.S. Imperialism worried that the war between the Afghan factions could extend to the new states of central Asia with their tremendous oil and natural gas reserves. The U.S. therefore wanted an end to the de-stabilization in Afghanistan. It encouraged Pakistan to reinforce the Taliban, so they could bring the country under control.

The Taliban presented themselves as champions against corruption and against the rule of war lords. They appeared as austere, disinterested combatants, opposed to pillage and respecting private property. They received at least the resigned consent of the population to end the civil war, even if that meant giving up the most basic liberties.

The Koran was already the law of the land, and rights of women hardly existed. The Taliban rescued village girls from soldiers who kidnapped and raped them. They reopened roads from war lords who had extorted tolls to pass.

If the Taliban’s punishments were often cruel, they at least seemed no worse than the war lord’s while bringing more benefits.

After the Taliban took control of Kabul in September 1996, Glyn Davies, a State Department spokesman, said that the United States saw "nothing criticizable in the measures now taken by the Taliban movement to impose Islamic law in the zones which it controls." U.S. imperialism saw the Taliban as establishing order. Unocal, the giant California-based oil company, looked forward to being able to build a giant pipeline across the country.

After coming to power, the Taliban again opened training camps for recruits from fundamentalist groups around the Middle East, Africa and Asia. Today when U.S. imperialism points to these camps, it can hardly be surprised. After all, the camps that the U.S. supported were successful in leading the Taliban itself to power.

Who Is Osama Bin Laden?

Sep 24, 2001

Osama bin Laden is blamed as the mastermind of the hideous attacks in New York and Washington on September 11. Of course, the U.S. government has a LONG history of lying to the public, especially as a war is beginning. But whether or not he did recruit, finance and plan this terrorism, it’s interesting to look at his history.

Born in 1957, Osama bin Laden was the son of an extremely wealthy Saudi Arabian who has accumulated billions from his investments in the infrastructure and construction businesses there. That means bin Laden grew up as one of a very small elite in a country ruled by the Saudi monarchy.

The Saudi regime is one of the most repressive governments in the world. It was set up in 1932 by British imperialism, to safeguard the oil found there. It not only decides who among its favorites will make money; it denies the majority of the population any civil rights, from voting to expressing their opinions. The working class, predominantly made up of immigrants from poorer countries in the Middle East, is attacked by this government if it attempts to fight back in any way. The edicts of these dictators are cloaked as religious law; it is the religious courts which hand out torturous punishments to anyone who doesn’t toe the line.

Saudi Arabia has long been one of the main supports of U.S. government policy in the Middle East, just as the Saud monarchy once was the lynchpin of British imperialism when it ruled the world.

Bin Laden comes from the background of those who, although not royal, have always benefitted from their ties to the Saudi regime, and through that regime to the U.S. The state apparatus, secret services and military in Saudi Arabia are trained, funded, and currently watched over by the U.S. military. Such ties allow young men from the Middle Eastern elite to serve U.S. foreign policy when they choose to fight in "holy wars," specifically the one in Afghanistan.

Bin Laden was one of those who, encouraged by Saudi Arabia and the United States, went to Pakistan to organize paramilitary forces which carried out terrorist actions not only against the Soviet troops which had invaded Afghanistan in 1979, but against Afghan civilians.

The U.S. government was not interested in Islamic holy wars, of course, but it was perfectly willing to encourage a policy which tied up the Soviet Union in a vicious war abroad, similar to the way in which the U.S. government had been tied up for a decade in a vicious war in Viet Nam. At no time was bin Laden active in a fight which called on the Afghan people to find a method to fight for real independence.

During the early 1980s, the Pakistani government, which had its own interests in what took place in neighboring Afghanistan, set up military camps for those training to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan, with funds and arms supplied by the U.S. government and overseen by the CIA. In other words, bin Laden’s skills at recruiting other young men and soliciting funds for the Afghan war served U.S. policy at that time so well that he became one of the great "freedom fighters" praised by Ronald Reagan and subsequent presidents.

Like many others, bin Laden was welltrained to carry out the dirty policies which would terrorize different parts of the Afghan population during the next ten years of civil war. In this way, bin Laden’s own hatreds served the Saudi theocracy and the U.S. policymakers.

But in 1990, bin Laden seemed to have turned on his creators. He vigorously opposed, not the war against Iraq, but the stationing of U.S. troops on Saudi soil, as they began to arrive for the Gulf War. In fact, bin Laden criticized the Saudi government, calling for a holy war against any Americans in Saudi Arabia: "The presence of the American crusader forces in Muslim Gulf states ... is the greatest danger and the most serious harm, threatening the world’s largest oil reserves. Pushing out this American occupying enemy is the most important duty after the duty of belief in God. "

Since the U.S. troops were there because of the deals made between the Saudi and U.S. governments, bin Laden’s words were at least embarrassing to the Saudi government. They threw him out in 1994.

Since then, the U.S. government has considered bin Laden as the source of several bombing attacks, including ones at the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998 and one against the USS Kohl, a ship stationed in the Gulf area in 2000. Less known is the fact that his followers have carried out terrorist actions supporting the Pakistan government in their war with India over a region called Kashmir, which is on the border between the two countries.

It’s difficult for anyone to know with certainty what bin Laden is responsible for. The people who today accuse him certainly know what he is capable of. They once trained and used him.

If Osama bin Laden did indeed carry out what the U.S. government says–unspeakable attacks which required not only planning, funding, high levels of skills, but also the willingness to kill thousands of civilians, then he learned at a school run by the best masters of terrorism in the world: the CIA.

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Under the Pretext of a Fight against International Terrorism, the Capitalist Class Is Making War on the American Working Clas

Sep 24, 2001

Everyone tells us we have to be ready to make sacrifices in this war against terrorism that Bush pretends to be leading. To make the point really clear, Bush tells us that this won’t be a short-term effort–that it will take years and years and that we have to be ready to do what’s necessary.

Everyone has to be prepared to sacrifice–that’s what he said, but it’s not what he meant.

The workers, of course, are being asked for big sacrifices. Listen to the roll call of job cuts already announced. For the bosses, it’s another story. The airlines, which rushed to announce they were cutting 100,000 jobs, are to get 15 billion dollars of our tax money to prop up their balance sheets.

It seems very clear: not everyone is being asked to make sacrifices.

What Bush would have said–if he were speaking the truth–is that the capitalist class will continue to profit while we make sacrifices.

It’s not just the big companies. Bush says that he is now ready to put his hands on the whole Social Security surplus in order to “jump start” the economy–that is, to bail out the stock market. The same man who has been trying to convince us that Social Security money should be put into the stock market is now draining its funds to help out this very stock market which, as everyone who has a 401(k) knows, has been in a steep nose dive.

Day after day the television is filled with patriotic images and sounds–while politicians, newscasters and ministers call on us to “sacrifice for your country.”

They are cynically playing on the genuine horror and grief we feel. Waving the flag, playing the “Star Spangled Banner” and “American the Beautiful,” they repeat over and over that it will take years and tons of money to rebuild, and longer years and more tons of money to uproot these terrorist networks around the world.

They want us to forget what our real interests are: that is, a better life for all working people. Don’t do it. Don’t let them make us forget how we have been used in the past fighting wars which were not in our interests and not in the interests of the people we were sent to kill.

Don’t let us forget what the rulers of this country, and the corporations they serve, have done to create the situation we are in. Draining profits out of the economy, speculating widely, the capitalists have created an economy which cannot provide a decent life for everyone. Directly attacking people around the world, and paying hired guns to attack many more, the U.S. government has made the world unsafe for everyone to live in.

Don’t let the rulers of this country play on what we feel to make us forget their responsibility for the mess we are in.

The Capitalist System:
More Destructive than Any Terrorist Bombs

Sep 24, 2001

The headlines in the papers said, “A Body Blow to the Economy: A Gradual Slowdown Becomes a Wrenching Halt” and “Some See Recession as Imminent After Terrorist Assaults.” By Friday, September 21, the major stock indexes seemed to bare this out, as they dropped 14% for the week, one of the steepest stock market drops in this country in history.

Yes, certainly economic activity was crippled for a few days, and the airline industry has been hit. But why should that make the capitalists, the captains of industry and finance, worry? After all, won’t the reconstruction effort mean a lot more fat contracts, with fat profits built in? The worries about war, haven’t they always cynically told us that war is supposedly good for the economy, trying to make us think it is a great big festival of death that we should welcome with open arms because it creates demand for goods, jobs, etc.?

So, why are the capitalists suddenly turning around and saying the exact opposite? Because they have to blame someone for all the job cuts that they had already been carrying out. They have to blame someone for the fact that the financial bubble they created is bursting.

It’s true that events outside the economy can sometimes trigger an economic collapse–this has certainly happened in other countries. But when this happened, it was because the economy was already on the brink.

For nine years the capitalists and their friends in the U.S. government, media and academia trumpeted what they called an era of unprecedented growth. Never mind that most working people never saw any of this growth, only insecurity and speed-up. But leaving that aside, what was all that supposed growth based on, but a financial bubble, concentrated largely in the stock market, bond market and real estate prices. As the prices on these markets rose, they not only attracted more money, they also created a mountain of credit and debt–especially among the capitalists themselves. Over and over, the capitalists borrowed heavily, in order to multiply their profits by speculation. This mass of fictitious money existed only in the computers of banks, brokerages, etc. Built into the financial structure is something more explosive and destructive than anything any terrorist could detonate: trillions of dollars in debt.

Everyone knew that this couldn’t go on forever, even if no one wanted to admit it publicly. Over the past year and a half, that is well before the terrorists struck, the stock market, led by the once beloved high tech sector, turned down.

In the first week of stock trading following the terrorist attacks, one of those little financial explosions publicly hit the headlines. The Bass brothers, sons of Texas oil millionaires, were forced to sell two billion dollars in Disney stock in order to cover margin loans on other stocks that were being called in by the lenders. This, in turn, caused Disney’s stock to plummet. In the financial world, where most of what happens goes on in secret, behind the scenes, this little publicly exposed episode should be taken as a warning that there are a lot more of these loans secretly going bad, as the stock market drops. Speculation–the very mechanism that drove stock prices higher, leading to untold riches in the financial sector–could be in the process of going into reverse–with a vengeance.

Could we be heading into a financial collapse? If we are, it’s because the capitalists prepared the way for it.

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