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What we said as the war began in Afghanistan

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Issue 2768
Marching against the war in Afghanistan in 2009
Marching against the war in Afghanistan in 2009 (Pic: Guy Smallman)

George W Bush’s speech to the US Congress last week was a chilling combination of threats, arrogance and hypocrisy.

“Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists,” he warned.

If Bush had thought about it, that was a declaration of war on more than half the world.

Billions of people across the globe hate what the US government stands for. They hate what the US does through its domination of the IMF, World Trade Organisation and World Bank.

These organisations impose crushing austerity programmes on Third World countries and hold millions in the deadly vice of debt.

They hate the US state’s military interventions from the Gulf to Somalia to Panama—all for Western power and profit.

Bush delivered an ultimatum to Afghanistan. It was issued in the certainty that it would be rejected.


The Afghan government was required to allow US troops free movement within their country and to hand over anyone the US defines as a “terrorist supporter”.

It is the sort of ultimatum that Austria-Hungary used against Serbia to start the First World War and that Hitler delivered to Czechoslovakia in 1939.

Bush’s war will not stop at Afghanistan. He said openly that it would include any state the US believed was supporting terrorism.

US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld claims there are over 60 countries where “terrorist networks” operate, and that “you take care of the Afghanistan situation and move on to other areas”.

Just a month ago the US Senate voted to extend for five years a law punishing anyone who trades with Iran because of its “terrorist links”. This is the same Iran which British foreign secretary Jack Straw was trying to tempt into the “alliance against terrorism” this week.

This alliance is a living hypocrisy. It includes Vladimir Putin, the Russian leader who allowed the slaughter of tens of thousands of Chechen civilians.

It includes China, which cracks down on opposition and holds Tibet in chains.

And at its centre is the US government, which has spread violence across the globe.


In his Congress speech Bush said he mourned those who had died in the World Trade Centre “from countries such as El Salvador and Iran”.

He did not mention the 40,000 people who died in El Salvador during the 1980s as a result of US backing for death squads.

He neglected to mention US support for the murderous Shah of Iran during the 1970s, or the two decades of attempts to undermine the Iranian government.

The US and its allies will not bring any sort of freedom and justice.

Their war on Afghanistan will see thousands more innocent people killed, and spark a huge refugee crisis.

Bush and Rumsfeld threaten to create a new and terrible twist to the conflicts in the Middle East, and the nuclear arms race between India and Pakistan, and to fan the flames of every smouldering hostility across the world.

Amid this horror the hope is the anti-capitalist movement which has sprung up in the last two years.

It is a good sign that across the globe much of this movement has thrown itself into organising against the war.

The stronger the anti-capitalist movement the more we can block the warmongers.

It also offers a powerful focus which draws people away from terrorism, and towards a mass collective assault on our rulers and the system.

This text is taken from Socialist Worker, 29 September 2001. The front page headline was “Stop this war now”

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