Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The roots of Islamic terrorism spring from the soil of US foreign policy

by Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired

When I was young I took a train from Ankara to Baghdad.  It went down through southern Turkey, through the tip of Syria and down through northern Iraq, through Mosul, Nineveh, Babylon to Baghdad. After a brief stay in Baghdad I took the bus to Basra where I met Goan traders and ate and drank with them. I felt such joy at sitting with people whose ancestors had sailed this region trading their goods for thousands of years.

Throughout the journey, Turks, Kurds, Syrians, Iraqis were kind to me despite the dirty role British imperialism had played in the area.  No Muslim accosted me or was rude to me whether Shia or Sunni although I wouldn’t have known the difference. I remember as a 21-year old sleeping on the floor in the compartment on the train going along the border between Turkey and Syria.  People would get in with goats and chickens, perhaps going to market, I assumed. I woke up one morning and the first sight I saw was a Muslim woman feeding her child right there, breast and all.  There were a number of men in the compartment but no one batted an eyelid, it seemed to me as normal procedure although not something I saw very much back home.

I thought of these days and the tragic situation in that part of the world today as I read Obama’s speech at the UN, the institution representing global capitalism.  I was disgusted as usual thinking firstly of how the workers of the Arab and Muslim world must feel. The words of Obama as the representative of US capitalism carry no weight among the workers of the world especially the former colonial countries.  The so-called coalition the US has clobbered together to bomb Syria (a sovereign country) without discussion with its government is laughable, a right den of thieves. Qatar?  This is a private business dressed as a nation state that brutalizes workers, especially those most desperate workers form the poorest countries.  Hundreds of them die there due to the barbaric working conditions. It is a humanitarian and environmental nightmare.  Jordan Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the Emirates, these are the flunkies whose place at the apex of their societies is guaranteed by US troops, weapons and money.

No God condones this terror,” Obama said referring to ISIS, yet another new group that is determined to take away our freedoms. But this is not a new group at all, just the re-gathering of former flunkies the US has used in the past.  No grievance justifies these actions. There can be no reasoning – no negotiation – with this brand of evil., Obama adds.

But surely some gods do justify terror.  ISIS is relatively small potatoes in the terror department when history is observed.  US capitalism slaughtered some 3 million Vietnamese, poured highly toxic chemicals on their food in order to place in to power a puppet government that couldn’t get elected by its own people. The Vietnamese never threatened or harmed America. Is Obama saying the Christian version of god didn’t condone that? After all, the US is a “Christian” country. If god didn't should he apologize on our behalf?

Did Jesus “condone” the US imposed sanctions in Iraq that caused the deaths of 500,000 civilians, mostly women and children?  Madeline Albright, the former US secretary of state did. She told ABC news the deaths were “Worth it”.

Obama went on (don’t laugh) “…the future belongs to those who build not destroy.”  Unless he was talking about building weapons of mass destruction I have a hard time believing this.  When I flew from Vienna to Skopje in the late 1990’s it was in a prop plane.  The advantage is that you fly much lower and can see more.  The beautiful “blue Danube” as Strauss called it was full of concrete and steel all the way down as the US and maybe it’s then coalition (the Boy Scouts of America I think it was) had bombed all the bridges.  The US bombing here had driven 30,000 refugees in to the area I was staying.  The US bombed Iraq in to the stone-age, it destroyed Fallujah using white phosphorous on the population in the process. US capitalism recognizes no borders or sovereign states barring those that can fight back.  Russia hasn’t been bombed, nor China, and North Korea with nuclear capabilities wasn’t invaded.  This country lost 10% of its population the last time the US terror was unleashed on it.

Obama called for a, “…new compact among the civilized peoples of this world to eradicate war at its most fundamental source: the corruption of young minds by violent ideology,”. Perhaps the “civilized” people’s of the world could put a stop to the crappy TV shows that come out of the US and the children’s video games that the US military help design. They’re good for future drone operators and that’s about it.

Obama promises that the US will not become an occupying power, simply a bombing enthusiast which is much safer as fewer Americans are killed that way. It’s bad enough that the cost of these corporate ventures fall on the US taxpayer’s shoulders, but our sons and daughters coming home in body bags might lead to some social unrest sooner than later. America will, “ a respectful and constructive partner” says Obama.  What he means by this is that US construction firms, Bechtel, Halliburton etc. will rebuild a society after the US has bombed it.  The US will not “tolerate terrorist safe havens” Obama stated, affirming that sovereign states and borders are no defense against US warplanes or drones.  The F22 is being tested in real killing for the first time in Syria; one has to test one’s equipment doesn’t one?

He also made it clear what all this activity is really about when he reminded US capitalism’s rivals at the UN that after a good bombing session, “..we will expand our programs to support entrepreneurship, civil society, education and youth – because, ultimately, these investments are the best antidote to violence.”.

We know the victims of this policy abroad don’t believe, or more accurately, have nothing but contempt for the public proclamations from US capitalism, but surely US workers can’t believe it. Over the past few years public education and anything associated with it has been savaged. Fees at public universities have risen so much it has put an education out of reach for so many working class youth and student debt at more than $1 trillion is greater than credit card debt. Workers wages, benefits and living standards continue to decline and the youth that capitalism has abandoned have been thrown in to prison by the hundreds of thousands. The police in the urban centers are killing black youth at will and expanding their activities beyond this traditional hunting ground preparing for the social unrest that is inevitable as US capitalism places the cost of its corporate wars squarely on the shoulders of US workers, youth, the poor and middle class.   Manufacturing workers in the US are becoming more attractive as a source of low waged employment, a Caterpillar (the source of the equipment that destroys Palestinian homes) plant in London Ontario shut down, fired its workers and moved to the US Midwest where wages are 50% lower. As we’ve said before, you can’t have guns and butter.

The most important point in the last quote is the one that tells of the real reason for the endless warfare the US government is conducting and that is the “programs to support entrepreneurship”.  The US wars are market driven.  Since the ending of the bi-polar world with the collapse of Stalinism and the rise of market oriented nation states especially China and to a lesser extent India and Russia, US capitalism’s influence on the world stage has waned----new competitors are on the scene and that means increased tensions between capitalist nations. The US is still the most powerful economy and definitely the most up to date military having the most advanced weapons of mass destruction and being the most prolific arms producer and dealer in the world, producing more than the rest of the world combined.

With small weaker nations it is attempting to bomb, unsuccessfully, the free market in to ascendancy and as part of US imperialism’s sphere of influence.  What did Marx say about the capitalist class?  This class, “….must nestle everywhere, settle everywhere, establish connections everywhere.” The problem is that in a globally integrated economy consisting of separate nation states, it is not only the US capitalist class that charts this path.

As my opening remarks point out, the area of the world that US imperialism has so destabilized was safe and not unfriendly in the main.  In Iraq I felt safe and was treated decently. Some Iraqi’s I once met in London later on after I moved to the US were angry that their struggle for a more open democratic society was made all the harder by the US’s support for the dictator Hussein. But even under Hussein, Iraq was one of the more secular regimes that had women in government.  The rise of Islamic fundamentalism has been hastened by US foreign policy.  Dominant figures in this movement are well known to the US foreign policy planners.

The undermining of national democratic movements and political movements for self-determination in these regions as a matter of US foreign policy while in turn financing and arming reactionary Muslim tribes and Mullahs as in Afghanistan, is what has given religious fundamentalism its energy.  The government of Mohammad Najibullah and his People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan which ruled briefly after the Soviet occupation should have been critically supported by US workers, our organizations and political parties. Instead, the US supported and armed the reactionary Mullahs and the Taliban that eventually crushed the regime, castrated Najibullah and hung his body from a street lamp. Up until 1999, every Taliban government official was on the payroll of the US government.

Obama is boasting now about the Islamists having no place to hide and that there will be no negotiation with terrorist etc.  But the US has always negotiated with terrorists. The US has been arming Syrian oppositionists but accuses Russia of supporting Ukrainian separatists.  The Obama administration recently threatened the parents of the US journalist beheaded by ISIS that if they attempted to pay a ransom to terrorists they would be criminally liable, perhaps they could be terrorists themselves.

There is no permanent way out of this mess on the basis of capitalism, not Russian, European or American capitalism. We may yet see more sectarian crises in the advanced economies and efforts to break up existing nation states.  What we are witnessing is capitalism in decay.

Working people have no nation. We own no industry. We control no military and we have no political power which means we have no diplomatic missions or means of communication with workers in other nations outside of existing unions and political parties.  The only negotiations that take place about issues that decide who lives or dies, who eats and who doesn’t who gets water and who doesn’t is negotiation between representatives of capitalism; a squabble among thieves and among thieves we know there is no honor.

It is difficult to imagine a state or government that is a government of, for and by those who do the work in society, who work for wages. But the capitalist class hasn’t always held state power, capitalism had no future in that situation, it could not develop in to what it became. The capitalist class had to fight for state power and they did. They made history and advanced the forces of production.

But their time is over; their system cannot even feed billions of human beings despite having the resources to do so. The capitalist mode of production and the political structures that have arisen from it cannot advance humanity only destroy it, it has passed its expiration date.

The choice then is not just democratic socialism or barbarism as was once said, but socialism or the end of life as we know it.

It’s OK though, it’s doable with a little effort.

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