The following is a slightly edited version of a submission to the War and War on Terror Discussion Board hosted by LabourStart.

Sorting Out Terrorism From the ‘War Against Terrorism’
by Bill Onasch

It’s hard to imagine any sane, civilized person condoning such a barbaric act as the attack on the World Trade Center. Those responsible for it need to be eliminated not just for vengeance but to ensure they don’t strike again. Sensible security precautions should be taken to prevent future such attacks—though it is hard to defend against men not only willing but eager to die as martyrs. 

I could agree with Eric Lee, and others, to support actions by the U.S. government to apprehend and deal with those who carried out the New York atrocity. But the “War on Terrorism” is a whole lot more than that simple quest for justice. 

First of all you have to decide on who is a terrorist. One person’s “terrorist” is often another’s hero. The Zionists certainly carried out terrorist actions during the British occupation of Palestine. Now they defend themselves against terrorist attacks by Palestinians frustrated by Israeli rule. Connolly and Collins may be terrorists in the memories of the English but are worshiped by many Celts. The ANC and PAC were called terrorists during apartheid; today the ANC rules South Africa and enjoys the confidence of world capitalism. In the 1950s the President of the United Electrical Workers in the USA was once denied entry into Canada to attend a union convention because the union was alleged to be controlled by red terrorists—an allegation subsequently dismissed in court. The respected Belgian economist and historian Ernest Mandel, a survivor of a Nazi death camp, was banned from many countries, including the USA, because his political organization, the Fourth International, had been falsely labeled terrorist. 

The Bush war room has reportedly identified “terrorist” targets in sixty countries. Clearly this goes far beyond the bin Laden network. It even transcends any connections to fanatical Islam. It is a blank check for Bush to intervene militarily anywhere in the world whenever he sees fit. I don’t know if he will try to pacify the terrorists in Ireland but he could under the bipartisan doctrine of the “War on Terrorism.” More likely would be intervention against terrorism in Colombia. What if Chavez gets too uppity in Venezuela? And then there’s that Castro fellow in Cuba they’ve never much liked. As Bush told the world in his speech to congress “either you are with us or you are with the terrorists.” 

This is a war without a clearly defined enemy, with no strategic objectives, with no way of telling when it has been won or lost. The “War on Terrorism” is really the resurrection of the U.S. as policeman of the world, prepared to intervene anytime, any place to make the world safe for what’s become known as Globalization. Since there is no longer a Red Menace of Communism to fight they’ll make do with fighting Terrorism. 

But the ruling class in the USA also has many domestic objectives as well as reasserting themselves on the world front. These include: 

Recovering Domestic Political Stability. The 2000 presidential election triggered the biggest political crisis in the U.S. in more than a century. Bush received fewer popular votes than Gore. His ultimate victory in electoral votes was tainted in Florida. Many felt the election was stolen and a nearly equally divided congress appeared headed for contentious battles. That’s all now been forgotten. Democrats and Republicans literally linked arms and sang God Bless America. As Americans bought flags (mainly made in China, by the way) in record numbers, and more than a few donned T-shirts with such slogans as “Nuke the Towel Heads,” Bush has gone from suspected imposter to the most popular President in the history of polling. 

Assigning Blame for the Recession. America was well into the opening stages of an overdue recession on September 11. Certainly there was much property damage and economic dislocation from the 9-11 attack. But the capitalist class as a whole has over reacted with massive layoffs, even in industries unaffected by the attacks, along with calls for government hand-outs and wide spread demands for wage cuts from their workers. 

As we predicted immediately after the attacks we have also seen assaults on the environment and civil liberties steam rollered through the new bipartisan unity in congress—proposals that wouldn’t have made it to first base on September 10. Soon we will see approval of Fast Track to speed up Globalization. 

These are all good reasons for what Eric Lee and others call a “knee-jerk” reaction from class conscious workers against the phony patriotism being whipped up by the bosses, their politicians, and their media. We’re against both real Terrorism and the cynical War on Terrorism.

October 18, 2001