Socialist Worker

'War on terror' sees new victims lined up

Iran and North Korea could be next on the US hit list argues Kevin Ovenden, even while the chaos goes on in Afghanistan and Iraq

Issue No. 1855

THE neo-conservative warmongers in the White House have taken critical steps towards attacking more countries even as occupation brings further suffering to the peoples of Iraq and Afghanistan. The two states next on George Bush's 'axis of evil' list are Iran and North Korea.

The most hawkish members of the Bush gang are turning to the same lies and propaganda they used before the invasion of Iraq to now prepare for possible war against these two countries. And on the same day last week the neo-conservatives moved to make war more likely.

US deputy defence secretary Paul Wolfowitz announced on Tuesday a redeployment of US troops in South Korea to allow an attack on North Korea with fewer US casualties.

His boss, Donald Rumsfeld, threatened Iran with 'serious' consequences, claiming it was trying to develop nuclear weapons. There has been a marked increase in US threats against Iran recently. Tony Blair added to these on his visit to Iraq when he directly warned Iran against 'interference' in Iraq.

The US-led administration in Iraq has again signalled what its occupation is all about. Its senior adviser to Iraq's ministry of industry and minerals announced that dozens of Iraqi state-owned companies are to be privatised within a year. The administration had previously said it would wait until the creation of an elected Iraqi government before beginning the sell-off.

But Paul Bremer, the imposed governor of Iraq, last month cancelled a national conference of Iraqi political parties and groups which was supposed to pave the way towards elections. There is to be no delay in 'steering a clear course' towards a free market economy, as Bremer puts it.

The Iraqi ministry controls 48 state companies. Foreign businessmen from the Gulf states and mainly US multinationals are lining up to take them over. The arrogance of the occupiers, combined with daily suffering, has fuelled rising resistance from ordinary people across Iraq.

People in the city of Fallujah, in central Iraq, last week demolished a police station in protest at the occupation. It was attacked the day before by a rocket-propelled grenade, killing one US soldier. The US military was aiming to establish a base of operations there. It is pouring 1,500 extra troops into Fallujah to crush the local population.

Townspeople have repeatedly attacked US forces since troops opened fire on a protest one week into the occupation, killing 18 unarmed Iraqis. Standing in the rubble of the station Arkan Habib told journalists, 'The rocket-propelled grenade attack was a warning to the Americans. 'We have told them more than once that this is a residential area and we don't want them here.'

Unemployed Mezher Al Jumeili said, 'We are not loyal to Saddam. He was a dictator and a tyrant. Now he has gone, but the Americans are acting like dictators themselves.'

Attacks on occupation forces are increasing in small towns and cities, including Baghdad. The US military is suffering a higher rate of casualties than it did during the war. The occupation forces have been unable to establish law and order, but instead are turning their fire on political opposition.

In Fallujah the majority are Sunni Muslims. US troops targeted a key force among Shia Muslims when they raided the Baghdad office of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq at the weekend.

Two days earlier US forces seized 20 members of the group in the town of Baquba. Bremer had promised the group would be part of a coalition government. The US military has now admitted it will have to leave larger numbers of troops than expected in Iraq.


Ready for 'pre-emptive' strike?

THE strategic redeployment of US troops is part of the necessary preparations if the US chooses to go to war again. It has caused near panic in South Korea and nearby Japan. The US has stationed troops on the border separating North and South Korea for 50 years, since the end of the Korean War.

It is now pulling them back to bases deeper into South Korea. That will leave them out of range of North Korea's army should the US decide to launch a war. However, the South Korean capital, Seoul, will not be out of range. It is just 37 miles from the border and within the sights of huge North Korean artillery. North Korea's main strategic deterrence over the last 50 years has been to threaten to turn Seoul 'into a sea of fire' should the US and South Korean forces attack.

US undersecretary of state John Bolton repeated calls for the use of 'pre-emptive military force' last week against North Korea and other states. Wolfowitz added that it would not be enough for North Korea simply to abandon its nuclear programme for the US to lift its economic blockade and threats to attack. It would have to change 'in other ways as well'.

Bolton widened the target list, saying, 'The logic of adverse consequences must fall not only on the states aspiring to possess weapons of mass destruction, but on the states supplying them as well.'

He and the neo-conservatives have accused Russia and China of supplying the means to make such weapons to Iran, Libya, North Korea and other states. Part of the thinking behind the troop redeployments is to put pressure on China and Russia as well as to police what one US official calls 'an arc of instability' from the Balkans through the Middle East and Central Asia across to the Korean peninsula.

Some 80,000 US troops are to move from Germany to bases further east in Poland, Bulgaria, Hungary and Romania - Washington's little Warsaw Pact on Russia's doorstep.

US forces are moving out of Saudi Arabia, also a target for the neo-conservatives, into new bases in the Gulf state of Qatar and in Iraq, a ground assault away from the heart of Iran. The US presence is quietly increasing in Central Asia - bordering Russia and China.

Thailand has volunteered to take thousands of US troops from bases in Japan, which would put them back in South East Asia in large numbers for the first time since the end of the Vietnam War.

The excuse for all these aggressive moves is the 'war on terror'. But they are part of a strategy which long predates 11 September 2001 and was laid out in neo-conservative think-tanks such as the Project for the New American Century. It is about projecting US power across the globe and facing down any potential military and economic competitors.

But it also means the US state putting itself face to face with the immense feeling of hundreds of millions of people across the globe against imperialism and rule by the multinationals.


Afghanistan

Karzai begs for troops and cash

BRITISH generals leaked to the media at the weekend that they feared getting bogged down in a 'quagmire' in Iraq. Eighteen months after the fall of the Taliban, that is precisely what has happened in Afghanistan.

A bomb attack killed four German soldiers in the capital, Kabul, at the weekend. Afghanistan's president, Hamid Karzai, was in London receiving an honorary knighthood from the queen and begging Tony Blair for more troops and cash. Karzai has been dubbed the mayor of Kabul as his rule does not touch the rest of the country, which is under the control of rival warlords.

One of them, Gulbuddin Hektamtyar, is suspected of the attack at the weekend. He was once the Afghan warlord most favoured by the US. He has now allied himself with regrouped Taliban elements who fought a serious battle with forces loyal to Karzai last week, resulting in the deaths of 49 people.

US troops have pulled back from most of the posts they had occupied on the Pakistan/ Afghanistan border. The Kabul bomb attack shows the hold of Karzai and the Western forces sent to shore him up is weakening.


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