The war against Afghanistan has been going badly for the US and its allies. Every day last week brought news of another setback for Bush and Blair. Tony Blair's tour of the Middle East to shore up support for the 'coalition against terrorism' was a complete fiasco.
Back in Western Europe things didn't go much better for Blair. He tried to organise a meeting for a few selected European leaders. When excluded European leaders such as Silvio Berlusconi of Italy and Jose Maria Aznar of Spain heard of the meeting, they furiously demanded to come.
The shambles pushed one exasperated diplomat, according to the Financial Times, to say, 'It is difficult enough to keep the 15 European countries together. But when you have Blair ticking off who is worthy to be in the military club and who is not, it does little to foster solidarity.' More revelations also emerged this week about a raid by US commandos into Taliban territory on 20 October.
The raid was initially presented as an overwhelming success. The truth that has now come out is that the Taliban fiercely resisted the raid, seriously wounding three soldiers. The resistance forced the elite commandos to retreat and, according to a US officer, 'scared the crap out of everyone'. The initial response to these setbacks was for the US and its allies to step up the horror.
Newspapers like the Mirror last week compared the current war to that which the US waged against Vietnam in the 1960s and 1970s. In the Vietnam War the US response to setbacks in 1965 was to massively increase the level of bombing, send more troops in and inflict years of horror on the Vietnamese people. The first sign of a similar response came last week with the turn to indiscriminate bombing of Afghanistan by B-52 bombers.
The US and Britain have also responded to setbacks in their war by stepping up talk of supporting the Northern Alliance, a force which most commentators accept is hardly any better than the Taliban in the way it treats people. And Bush and Blair are also refusing any halt in bombing to allow food and aid into the country. With winter only weeks away the result will be the death by starvation of hundreds of thousands of Afghan civilians.
Faced with this the only possible response by those opposed to the war is to step up their efforts to build the demonstration on Sunday 18 November in central London.
Demonstration assembles at 12 noon in Hyde Park, central London, for a march to Trafalgar Square. For details of coaches from your area phone the Stop the War Coalition on 07951 235 915.
Our leaders tell us there is no alternative to their assault on one of the world's poorest countries if we are going to 'stop terrorism'. But the 11 September attacks did not come out of a vacuum. The people who carried out the attacks were sickened by the US's domination of the Middle East. They wrongly thought the way to challenge this was by carrying out attacks that killed thousands of innocent civilians.
But bombing will just create more people bitter and willing to strike back at the US. The way to undercut the roots of terrorism in the Middle East is to:
- Stop the sanctions on Iraq that have killed 500,000 children since 1991.
- Remove military and economic backing for the Israeli state, and provide justice for the Palestinians.
- Pull out the US troops in Saudi Arabia and end US domination of the oil resources in the region.
Paying for their war
Who will pay the price of war being waged by the US and Britain? The heaviest price will be paid by people in Afghanistan. But across the world ordinary people are being hit too. In Britain and other industrialised countries employers are using the war as the excuse to push through huge job cuts.
In the US some 415,000 workers were thrown on the dole in October. Japan has seen unemployment hit record levels. In Britain not a day goes by without workers being summoned into the personnel office to be told they have no future.
A growing number of those who keep their jobs are being told their pay will be cut (see page 15). The price paid by the world's poorest will be even heavier. The World Bank last week slashed its estimate for world growth for next year.
'Private capital flows to emerging economies will fall sharply producing the toughest financial conditions for these countries since the debt crises of the 1980s,' said the Institute of International Finance. The only solution the financial institutions that dominate the world have is more privatisation and market liberalisation. But these 'solutions' have already led to increased impoverishment throughout the Third World.
That is why the anti-capitalist movement that has challenged the governments and multinationals must continue to do so at every opportunity-such as the protests to mark the World Trade Organisation meeting in Qatar this week. The movement of which those protests are part can challenge the priorities of our rulers, both economically and militarily, and show there is an alternative to war and poverty.