Socialist Worker

Gaza, Afghanistan, Iraq... The bitter fruits

Issue No. 1852

THE devastating bomb attacks in Saudi Arabia and Morocco shattered 75 lives, and with them the great lie at the heart of George Bush's 'war on terror'. We were told the wars against Afghanistan and Iraq would 'make the world a safer place'. The US government, and Blair, have all but abandoned the pretence that invading Iraq was about weapons of mass destruction. Instead, Bush says Saddam Hussein was a key player in the 11 September 2001 attacks.

That claim is so fanciful that it is comprehensively rubbished even by British military intelligence. The only connection between the attack on Iraq and terror is this. The US and British invasion was itself an act of terror and deepened the bitterness of hundreds of millions of across the globe. It has created the conditions for some to look to terrorist methods in return.

The anti-war movement predicted that. So did some of those who went along with the attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq, which claimed thousands of lives. The pro-Western autocratic ruler of Egypt, Hosni Mubarak, said invading Iraq would 'create 100 Bin Ladens'. Now, tragically, that is being proved true.

In the space of five days last week we saw:

  • A suicide attack in Chechnya aimed at its Russian-installed ruler.
  • The attack on foreigners' compounds in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
  • A second suicide bombing in Chechnya.
  • Bomb attacks on 21 Shell and Caltex petrol stations in Pakistan.
  • The explosions in Casablanca, Morocco.

The US State Department and British Foreign Office issued warnings of more attacks anywhere from the Atlantic coast of North Africa, through East Africa and the Middle East, into parts of Central Asia, and down to Indonesia and Malaysia.

Whatever the accuracy of those warnings there is no doubt that that whole area, and most of the world beyond, is seething at the arrogant power of the US state. The bitterness is also directed at those seen to be part of what the Bush gang calls their drive for 'the New American Century'. By hitching himself to the neo-conservative warmongers in the US, Tony Blair has put this country in the front ranks of the hated.

What breeds that hatred is not some Islamic 'backwardness', as the thinkers behind Bush's imperialist drive claim. It is the devastation wrought by corporate power, capitalism and their biggest defender - US military might. The suicide bombers in Morocco came from the slums surrounding the city of Casablanca.

Daily they could see, but not enter, the upmarket restaurants in the city centre. Morocco's authoritarian ruler, King Muhammed VI, has allied himself with the US. He has banned demonstrations in support of the Palestinians, while hypocritically pretending, as a descendant of the founder of Islam, to be a defender of Arabs against oppression.

There are 31 million people in Morocco, and one million migrate every year into the teeming cities. There they are pushed to the margins, servicing the local rich and international visitors. When the poor have organised and risen up, they have faced crushing repression. The military budget is a staggering 14 percent of government spending. It has largely gone on maintaining Morocco's occupation of neighbouring Western Sahara, which is tolerated by the West.

Living standards have declined as the conspicuous consumption of the rich has increased.

That is even more true of Saudi Arabia. Income per head in the world's largest oil producer was £17,250 in the early 1980s. It is now £4,450. More than 80 percent of Saudi Arabia's 23 million people live in the cities of Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam. The slums there are full of the new Saudi poor. Even the middle classes have been hit hard. Unemployment stands at 25 percent. Graduates cannot get jobs.

At the same time the ever expanding Saudi royal family - there are now over 20,000 'princes' - sucks billions from the oil industry. The rest goes to Western firms. The tiny state of Chechnya, where two middle aged women blew themselves up last week, has suffered more than almost any country outside Africa over the last decade.

The Russian invasion and occupation has cost tens of thousands of lives and reduced the capital, Grozny, to ruins. Standing above the global ocean of suffering is the US state, its military and its allies.

People in north Africa and the Middle East got to see the appalling results of US bombing in Iraq and Afghanistan, which were largely kept from our screens. They read the stories of the 2,400 Palestinians who have been killed by Ariel Sharon's Israeli state over the last three years.

They hear Bush threaten to show those who stand against him 'the meaning of American justice', and have not forgotten Guantanamo Bay or the suffering in Iraq and Afghanistan. They see all this suffering, and the complicity in it of their own local rulers, and they become enraged.

A few become so desperate they decide to throw back a portion of the barbarism inflicted on them by strapping explosives to themselves and blowing themselves up.

Thet cannot hit the true targets. So yet more innocent people suffer. But some people will be prepared to step forward for more such attacks for so long as they are ground down. Bush's vow of extending the 'war on terror' will only leave more people desperate to lash out.

The global movement against Bush's war and against the misery inflicted by the system he defends points in another direction. It has the potential to reach out to millions of workers and the poor and show that mass, collective action can resist the US war machine and its local minions.

Reality behind Al Qaida

THE impression given by much of the media and politicians is that all these suicide attacks are carefully coordinated by Osama Bin Laden and his Al Qaida network. It conjures up a convenient image of a James Bond style 'evil genius' plotting world destruction. In fact, Al Qaida is little more than an umbrella label for scores of groupings that have been driven into terrorist methods.

The 1970s saw an array of political Islamic movements grow as Middle Eastern leaders made their peace with the West. Those movements were largely beaten off the streets or co-opted by the local regimes. The main Islamist party in Morocco is a respectable parliamentary party.

Another group faces systematic repression and has been incapable of developing a mass following. It is a similar story in Egypt, Jordan and other countries. Across the Middle East and elsewhere this has left small Islamist groupings isolated from mass forces, even though they can win considerable passive support.

They are often drawn from middle class layers that have been to university but find that all their education leaves them with few prospects. This layer of people have formed the core of the disparate terrorist groups, believing their actions can substitute for those of masses of people. But, as the attacks in Morocco and Chechnya show, others are also turning to desperate methods.

Some of the poorest people now feel their life is so terrible that it is worth sacrificing. Far from isolating an international terror network, US military action has encouraged dozens of local networks to form.

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Sat 24 May 2003, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1852
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