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WHAT WE THINK
Latest phase in the attempt to sell an endless ''war on terror''
Whipping up fear and racism

September 15, 2006 | Page 3

THE U.S. political establishment is whipping up fear and racism to breathe new life into their "war on terror."

George Bush used the lead-up to the anniversary of September 11 to hype a newly repackaged enemy in the "war on terror"--Islamists "driven by the values of tyranny and extremism, the right of a self-appointed few to impose their fanatical views on all the rest," he said in a speech to the American Legion. "They're successors to fascists, to Nazis, to communists and other totalitarians of the 20th century."

Bush's speeches were designed both to revive the Republicans' declining popularity and provide a new justification for U.S. war aims in the Middle East--and his fellow GOPers climbed right on board.

"I know that's a hard thing for us to grasp because, you know, we're a nation that's a tolerant nation," Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum declared during one ignorant rant that went on to misrepresent thousands of years of world history. "We're at war with Islamic fascism. Afghanistan and Iraq and southern Lebanon and every country around the world is a front."

The hypocrisy of such rhetoric is hard to stomach. What government would the people of Gaza--unable to leave their open-air prison because of the Israeli siege and faced with the growing threat of outright famine--say is "driven by the values of tyranny and extremism"?

Who would Iraqis or Afghanis or Lebanese or Palestinians identify as claiming "the right of a self-appointed few to impose their fanatical views on all the rest"? How many Arab Americans today would beg to differ that they live in "a tolerant nation"?

The real aim of this frantic talk about the threat of Islamic fascism is to smear the enemies of the U.S. government with an association that more people will oppose.

The right has responded as one to this new campaign--as if the White House sent out talking points directly to the cable TV news pundits, talk radio blowhards, down to local bigots.

In a grotesque highlight of the escalating racism against Arabs and Muslims, a collection of anti-immigrant groups, including the Minutemen and Save Our State, gathered in Los Angeles last weekend to carry out a mock lynching of an effigy of Osama bin Laden--in front of a mosque. Not surprisingly, the mainstream media took little notice of this "commemoration" of 9/11.

The mini-campaign about Islamic extremism culminated in a nationally televised speech by Bush on the five-year anniversary of September 11. Days before, another anniversary had passed--the Katrina disaster, nearly as deadly as September 11, and with a much broader impact on a wider number of people--but the Bush administration allowed this date to pass with a few modest photo ops.

The obvious reason is the political advantage that the Bush White House hopes to gain from hyping a new threat in the "war on terror." Faced with collapsing approval ratings, particularly on his handling of the occupation of Iraq, and with the Republican Party increasingly nervous about taking a beating in the November elections, the administration is turning to an old standby--fear-mongering.

The Bush White House knows no one in the Washington establishment will challenge them. The media have embraced every manufactured "terrorist" threat without a peep.

And the so-called "opposition" party in Washington, the Democrats, are busy trying to outflank Bush on the right. "[W]e're not doing the job in Afghanistan," Democratic National Committee Chair Howard Dean, the "antiwar" presidential candidate of 2004, said on Fox News Sunday. "We don't have enough troops in Afghanistan. That's where the real war on terror is...That is exactly why the Democrats think Iraq is a mistake. It is hurting our attack on the war on terrorists."

Dean's comments highlight why the Democrats won't challenge Bush's effort to revitalize the "war on terror" with a new enemy--"Islamofascism." Instead, the Democrats claim they will wage the "war on terror" more effectively.

Certainly, that war--five years after the September 11 attacks--is going badly. It has failed not only in its stated aim of making the world safer, as publications like Socialist Worker predicted from the beginning, but in the U.S. political elite's real aim of safeguarding and promoting U.S. domination of the oil-rich Middle East and beyond.

In Iraq, a summer that started with another supposed turning point--the assassination of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi--led to escalating violence, peaking in July with 1,855 killings reported by the Baghdad morgue. Attacks on U.S. forces and Iraqi security forces have continued to grow alongside the deadly sectarian violence.

U.S. officials predicted earlier this year that some 30,000 U.S. troops would be going home by this fall. But late last month, the Pentagon confirmed that troop levels had increased by 10,000 over the start of the summer.

Meanwhile, in Afghanistan--usually considered a success in the "war on terror" even by leading voices of the antiwar movement, who have shamefully remained silent about this U.S. occupation--a report by the mainstream international think tank, the Senlis Council, called the war a "failure."

The U.S. and British occupation has "inflicted lawlessness, misery and starvation on the Afghan people," reported the Independent newspaper, summarizing the report. Large areas of the country are again under the control of the Taliban, and at least a dozen refugee camps of up to 10,000 each continue to exist in the Helmand and Kandahar provinces.

Meanwhile, the growing threat to the U.S. occupation was underlined by reports of some two dozen casualties just this month among U.S. and NATO troops involved in fighting with guerrillas.

Add to this the Israeli-U.S. war on Lebanon that forced one-quarter of the population to flee their homes.

Despite the savage bombing campaign, Israel was unable to accomplish their strategic aim of defeating the Lebanese resistance organization Hezbollah. This was a huge setback for the U.S., too, since the war on Lebanon was explicitly viewed as a proxy war against Hezbollah's supporter, the Iranian government.

But neither U.S. imperialism nor its Israeli watchdog can afford to tolerate humiliation. This is why Bush is going on the offensive--and taking aim more and more explicitly at Iran, whose status as a regional power is growing amid the U.S. debacle in neighboring Iraq.

Ironically, it was the U.S. that promoted Islamist parties to power in Iraq in its bid to divide and conquer the country. Now, Bush wants to sell the war as preventing "Islamic extremists" from taking power in Iraq and beyond. It's a throwback to September 11, when Bush spoke of a "crusade" against al-Qaeda and Afghanistan, invoking the European efforts to conquer the Muslim world in the Middle Ages.

This time, anti-Muslim rhetoric is being used to politically prepare for a confrontation with Iran. As Bush's ally Santorum declared, "The Islamic fundamentalist structure is Iran. In 1979, Iran declared itself our enemy, and for the past 27 years they have proved that to be true."

A full-scale U.S. invasion of Iran--the fantasy of neoconservatives a few years back--is less likely in the near term, given the failed wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Lebanon. But the saber-rattling at Iran shouldn't be dismissed as a pre-election maneuver either.

It's precisely the scale of the U.S. failures in the Middle East so far that compel Washington to raise the ante even higher. At stake is the biggest imperial prize of all--control of the world's main oil reserves, and with it, the economic and political levers to maintain the U.S. as the world's sole superpower.

The racism, fear and lies to sell a war on "Islamofascism" is only the latest phase in a long-term effort to get working people in the U.S. to support--and fight and die in--an endless war for oil and empire.

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