Issue 258 of SOCIALIST REVIEW Published October 2001 Copyright © Socialist Review


Barbarism of war

Celebrations of victory and liberation have proved premature. The war goes on, threatening further bloodshed and attacks on a seemingly endless list of states which are deemed to transgress the norms of civilisation set by the US government. Bombing of Afghanistan continues, with further civilian casualties. Hundreds of Taliban prisoners have been massacred by the Northern Alliance, aided by the US airforce, and US and British special forces. Russian, US, British and French troops are vying for influence in this wartorn country in a repeat of the 19th century 'great game' of the big imperial powers.

There is no pretence now at any humanitarian motive in this intervention--the Bush government is saying quite openly that it can have no part in helping the people of Afghanistan. Instead they are left to the mercy of various western-backed warlords, and faced with a winter of starvation and misery. War against Iraq by the Dr Strangeloves in the White House and the Pentagon is now much more a question of 'when' than 'if'. It matters little to these people that there is no evidence against Iraq of anthrax attacks, or the development of chemical or biological weapons. George Bush's ultimatum to that country is effectively a formality in the drive forward of the 'war against terrorism'.

The myth that Tony Blair is a restraining influence on Bush is likely to be tested by any such action. The British government is obviously much more wary about attacking Iraq. There would be uproar in the Middle East, the western powers' coalition would crack and the anti-war protests would grow. There is little sign that Blair would abandon his slavish following of the US, however.

Political solutions remain as far away as ever. The original goal of capturing Bin Laden and the Al Qaida network remains unfulfilled. The status of Bin Laden among millions of the world's dispossessed has grown stronger as a result of the west's actions. What will be the response of the advocates of war when further terrorist attacks arise as a result of this war? What will they say when there is growing instability throughout the south Asian subcontinent and the Middle East? Will they simply keep up imperial war and domestic repression as the world becomes ever more dangerous and divided?

These are questions to which our rulers have no answers because their policies created the problems in the first place. Global capital has wreaked havoc and its military wing has created deadly wastelands in Iraq, the Balkans and Afghanistan. Even in the richest countries, recession is heralding greater misery at home. Britain's New Labour government now tells working people they must pay more taxes to provide a half decent health service. Yet in two election campaigns Labour has said precisely the opposite. Britain's transport is a disaster, and pensions are the lowest in Europe. But Tony Blair prides himself on Britain's 'defence' role and hawks his armed forces to be used by the US anywhere in the world.

This war shows us everything about barbarism, but also points to the hope for a future based on freedom and equality for all. The anti-war movement contains within it the possibility of building that hope, particularly if it links to the anti-capitalist and working class protests which have grown in recent years as a result of neoliberal policies by governments around the world. Socialist arguments and involvement within that movement--showing the links between profit, imperialism and war--can be central to its growth and success

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