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WHAT WE THINK
The U.S. and its allies have made the world more dangerous
Why the "war on terror" is a war of terror

September 1, 2006 | Page 3

THIS SEPTEMBER will mark the fifth year of the U.S. government's "war on terror"--a war that, even more than the Cold War against the former USSR, knows no boundaries and no end. In its name, the U.S. and its allies have inflicted misery and suffering across the Middle East and around the globe--and made the world a far more dangerous place.

The "war on terror" was launched after the September 11 attacks in New York and Washington. While the death toll was still being calculated, Bush administration officials were preparing to exploit the tragedy to implement long-held plans for extending U.S. military and political power.

Then-National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice ordered her staff to "think seriously about 'how do you capitalize on these opportunities' to fundamentally change American doctrine, and the shape of the world, in the wake of September 11th," wrote New Yorker magazine's Nicholas Lemann.

The first stop in the "war on terror" was Afghanistan--where the most fearsome military power in history unleashed its arsenal on one of the world's poorest countries, devastated by two decades of war. Following the rapid collapse of the Taliban government, U.S. political leaders claimed that they had, in Bush's words, "saved a people from starvation and freed a country from brutal oppression."

But the new regime put in place by the U.S. was dominated by the corrupt warlords of the Northern Alliance, notorious for their record of looting, raping and mass executions of civilians. Bush's sudden conversion to the cause of women's liberation as a justification for the Afghanistan war proved to be a charade--the new government's widely hyped Women's Bureau was starved of funding.

Today, Afghanistan still bears the scars of the U.S. bombing campaign, the economy is a shambles, and American forces are facing an intensifying battle with resistance forces.

If Afghanistan was the first front in the "war on terror," the latest was Israel's onslaught against Lebanon. Using the pretext of the capture of two of its soldiers, Israel put into effect its plans for a war to wipe out the militant group Hezbollah.

The U.S. government wasn't a passive bystander. It green-lighted Israel's campaign months before, and it sped up delivery of high-tech weaponry when Israel's all-out bombing campaign started to run low.

But Israel miscalculated--and suffered an unprecedented failure in Lebanon, as Hezbollah fighters stopped Israeli forces from taking and holding territory in Southern Lebanon. Under the cover of the ceasefire brokered by the United Nations, Israel is probing for ways to retake the initiative--and re-launch military operations.

Between Afghanistan and Lebanon, the "war on terror" has been used as the justification for military intervention, violence and repression around the world--from the intense pressure on Iran to fall in line with Western governments' dictates; to Israel's iron-fisted war on the Palestinians; to U.S. saber-rattling against Venezuela's Hugo Chávez; to Russia's scorched-earth campaign against Chechen rebels; to all manner of government efforts, in the U.S., Europe and beyond, to shred civil liberties and clamp down on dissent.

Bush claimed in 2001 that the perpetrators of September 11 "hate our freedoms." But he and his fellow warriors-on-terrorism are the ones tearing up the Constitution.

The centerpiece of the "war on terror," of course, was the disastrous U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. Today, every justification for the invasion--Iraq's supposed "weapons of mass destruction," Saddam Hussein's nonexistent links to al-Qaeda--has collapsed.

The Bush administration claimed that U.S. soldiers would be welcomed by grateful Iraqis, but it, too, miscalculated--and American forces and their collaborators face mounting resistance operations.

By any number of measures--widespread unemployment and grinding poverty, electricity and sanitation systems still a shambles, the constant humiliation of living under occupation--life for ordinary Iraqis is at least as bad as under the old regime, even after a decade of brutal economic sanctions. And Washington's best hope for maintaining its grip has been to promote sectarian conflicts, pushing Iraq ever closer to civil war.

This is the reality of Iraq today--in the country that Bush promised would set an example of democracy and freedom for the "new" Middle East.

The "war on terror" hasn't made the world a "safer place." On the contrary, the world is a far more deadly and dangerous place.

It certainly is for the people of Iraq, living under the boot of occupation. And for Palestinians and Lebanese, dying under missiles made in the U.S. and fired by Israeli warplanes. And for Syrians and Iranians, who could pay the price if the U.S. politicians baying for new wars get their way. And for millions of Arabs and Muslims who live in fear of arrest, detention or deportation in the U.S. or Europe--for speaking the wrong language or wearing the wrong clothes in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Today, the death and destruction is being borne mostly by the people of the Middle East. But the U.S. government's imperialist aggression is setting the stage for more wars, more conflict and more deadly violence everywhere in the world.

The face of Washington's aggression since September 11 has been George Bush and his Republican administration. But the "war on terror" is a bipartisan war, with Democrats vying to declare their commitment as fiercely as Republicans.

The Democrats' criticism of the Bush administration is limited mostly to the war and occupation of Iraq--and there, the differences are mainly about tactics. For the Democrats--as for an increasing number of skeptical Republicans--the administration's determination to invade Iraq "diverted" resources from the "real" war.

"If you look at the president's defense record, here is his record over the past five and a half years," said Democratic National Committee Chair Howard Dean, addressing the Iron Workers International convention in August.

"Iran is about to get nuclear weapons, which is a terrorist government, North Korea has four times more nuclear weapons than it did when George Bush took office. Osama bin Laden is still running around in northwest Pakistan, evidently able to convince people they ought to blow up American airplanes. And we are bogged down spending half a trillion dollars in Iraq."

Unfortunately, the antiwar movement in the U.S. has seen little advance since the invasion of Iraq--despite the huge swing of public opinion against the war and against Bush--because its leading organizations have tried to tailor the movement's message and activities to suit its supposed allies in the Democratic Party.

That has meant staying largely silent about the ongoing U.S. war on Afghanistan, resisting the connection between Israel's wars and Washington's, and even retreating from the one demand that unified the antiwar movement--for the immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.

Any antiwar movement worth the name must respond to every instance of violence and oppression connected to the Washington war machine. That means taking a stand against the "war on terror" on every one of its fronts--from Iraq to Afghanistan to Lebanon to Palestine, and beyond.

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