The Looming War Danger

October 6, 2001

September 27—Over two weeks have passed since our
nation was attacked on its own soil by fanatical terrorists for the
first time since 1812, and 7000 unsuspecting people senselessly lost
their lives. Since then shock waves of fear, anger, and concern about
the future have spread across our land.

In that horrific instant on September 11th, the potential
of a wider war spread over our country and the world’s horizon. Indeed,
in the wake of the terrorist attack, the struggle for peace and against
the danger of war has become the overarching issue of our time and a
precondition to eliminating terrorism in all of its forms. No issue
at this moment and for the foreseeable future looms larger.

The struggle for jobs and economic justice, civil liberties
and rights, tax relief and an economic stimulus plan that benefits working
people, fully funded Social Security and Medicare, tolerance and against
racial profiling, and, above all, an end to terrorism – all are inextricably
connected to, and intersect with, the struggle against the danger of

In a few words, the struggle for peace will profoundly
touch nearly every aspect of our lives, livelihoods and future.

President Bush’s speech to the joint session of Congress
last week was exceedingly tough, saber-rattling, and provocative. There
was nothing statesmanlike or sober-minded about it. It only inflamed
passions around the country and world when more subdued emotions and
serious reflection should prevail. And – perhaps most frightening of
all-it brought us no closer to a solution to the indisputable new danger
of terrorism.

Rather it sets the stage for a massive military campaign,
perhaps even the introduction of ground troops, against the Taliban
government and Afghan people to begin with.

In an era when weapons of mass destruction are available
to states and terrorist networks, Bush’s speech rests on the long-discredited
and exceedingly dangerous notion that violence can resolve conflicts
between peoples and nations. Furthermore, it takes no rocket scientist
to predict that if military power is employed, the loss of innocent
Afghan and other lives would be followed by counter reprisals, but on
a far bigger scale and on all sides. Our borders are porous and their
militarization will not alter that fact.

So we can’t agree with this tough talk, with Bush’s
crusade against terrorism.

This, however, doesn’t mean that anyone should minimize
in the slightest way the danger of terrorism to humankind. To the contrary,
terrorism is morally and politically reprehensible, whether it comes
from extremist on the right or left or backward fascistic clericalism
or is state sponsored.

We make a mistake if we see simply patriotic zeal motivating
the Bush administration’s war against terrorism. In fact, hiding in
the shadows and outside the public discourse are other political motives
that in turn determine the objectives and conduct of the Bush administration’s
approach to fighting terrorism.

What are these other motives that inform Bush’s plans?

First, the Bush administration would like to construct
an arc of unchallenged political and economic dominance stretching from
West Africa across the Middle East and the southern regions of the former
Soviet Union and as far east as Indonesia.

This region is rich in exploitable labor and resources
– particularly oil, which abounds across this wide swath of territory,
generates enormous profits for US transnational corporations, and is
a critical strategic resource to the smooth functioning of the world
system of capitalism.

Is it any wonder that the Bush administration, which
not coincidentally is closely connected to oil and energy interests,
wants to establish its undivided sway over this part of the world?

Another Bush objective is to utilize the anti-terrorism
war to impose its reactionary domestic program on a reluctant nation
and to consolidate the political power of the extreme right and its
corporate backers in the 2002 elections and then two years later in

Had the terrorist attack not occurred, the Bush administration
would have been forced to retreat this fall. After all, his standing
in the polls was dropping precipitously, the federal budget surplus
was disappearing; the regressive and harmful nature of his tax giveaway
to the rich was becoming more apparent, his promise not to touch Social
Security was putting him in a bind and his misnamed "anti missile
defense" system was coming under close and critical public scrutiny.

This political calculus, however, changed two weeks
ago, on the day that commercial airplanes were turned into lethal and
incendiary weapons of war. Overnight political initiative shifted to
the Bush administration and his extreme right wing counterparts in Congress,
which they now intend to exploit.

The third objective of the Bush’s war against terrorism
is to reassert US imperialism’s single superpower status in every region
of the world and to gain advantage over its imperialist rivals.

Bush’s war against terrorism is a high stakes gamble.
That Bush and his advisors choose this course of action should surprise
no one. While there seem to be some more sober-minded elements in the
US ruling circles, and even in the administration, the politically adventuristic
seem to have the upper hand and have no hesitation about manipulating
this new political climate to their advantage under the guise of fighting

However, the path ahead for the Bush administration
is not uncluttered- in fact, the plans for a war against terrorism could
be an instance of political overreach and are fraught with unspeakable

Bush’s intention to use the overwhelming power of the
US military to fight terrorism will meet opposition around the world.
Soon after the NATO declaration, which expressed unconditional support
for the Bush administration’s plans, leaders of the Western European
governments, save Tony Blair, began to qualify that support.

In the Middle East and South Asia, the opposition to
military action will be fierce and broad in scope. Not only will counter
attacks result in all probability, but some fragile and unpopular right-wing
governments could topple under the weight of mass protests. Clearly,
Pakistan falls into this category. Protests in other parts of the developing
world will be substantial as well.

At home, the emerging labor-led people’s movement against
Bush’ right wing corporate agenda is regrouping in the aftermath of
September 11.

Let’s face it, the struggle against a the extreme right
and for a progressive agenda that accents peace as well as economic
security, equality, and democracy unfolds in a far less favorable situation
now. The political atmosphere has been poisoned somewhat, the pressure
to rally behind the Bush plan is nearly overwhelming, and the political
agenda has changed significantly.

New issues like the sweeping curtailment of civil rights
and drastic increases in military appropriations for the Pentagon and
the intelligence agencies have surfaced while, at the same time, old
issues like prescription drugs and health care have fallen off Congress’s
radar screen for the moment.

Indeed, the pressure from the ruling class on progressive
and moderate forces is not simply to rally behind Bush and his war drive,
but also to mute the differences on every other democratic and class

Understandably, elected officials and mass leaders are
proceeding cautiously in this atmosphere-first of all, out of respect
and profound sorrow for the victims and their families, and secondly,
because they correctly understand that the American people find partisan
and strident appeals unseemly at this tragic moment.

Nevertheless this won’t last much longer. With each
passing day the atmosphere gets a little less charged thereby allowing
broad class and social forces the opportunity to revisit issues like
jobs, Social Security , racial profiling, the environment, reproductive
rights and so forth that animated them before September 11as well as
more soberly consider a sensible response to the new terrorist danger.

Even some sections of the Democratic Party are beginning
to have second thoughts about their political posture as the struggle
moves from rhetoric to legislative bills and appropriations, as the
costs of this new war become more apparent.

The labor and people’s coalitions should not concede
the Congress as an arena of struggle to the ultra right. To the contrary,
they should bring mass pressure to bear on Congress as well as other
mass leaders who remain reluctant to join the struggle.

The only question is how labor and its allies should
combine economic justice and democratic right with pressure to restrain
the war drive of the Bush administration.

At a moment, it seems obvious that local and grassroots
activity is imperative. Admittedly, there are some tough tactical problems
to solve, but they can be overcome. There have been marvelous mass vigils
for peace and justice occurring in cities across the country, and there
is broad concern over assaults on people of Arab ancestry and immigrants.
In just a few short days, peace activities were organized on 140 college
and university campuses. Great concern is expressed in many quarters
over the potential erosion of civil rights and democratic liberties
under the guise of a war of terrorism. And just this week, the AFL-CIO
has announced plans to organize union members and their allies around
an economic recovery program that benefits working men and women.

Or to put it differently: we must not conclude that
we are at the doorstep of a long dark period of political reaction and
far right wing domination of our nation’s political life. Such a conclusion
confuses momentary difficulties with the long-term prospects of the
labor and people’s movement.

The broad labor and people’s coalition that actually
denied Bush a popular vote plurality in the 2000 elections, is stirring
and regaining its political balance and initiative. How successful it
is depends in no small measure on its ability to curb the war drive
of the Bush administration and the extreme right while fighting for
its immediate political and economic needs.


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