By MICHAEL SCHREIBER
In the wake of the terrorist bombings of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on Sept. 11, President George Bush and a bipartisan Congress are ratcheting up the U.S. war machine with bloodcurdling threats of vengeance.
Bush and his top cabinet officers assert that the United States will use the reactionary terrorist murder of well over 6000 people to launch a series of “covert and overt actions” against still unnamed “enemies.” This will be linked with a crackdown on civil liberties at home.
Media-hyped jingoism permeates the still severely restricted political debate. Every major U.S. daily features screaming headlines with calls for retaliation.
The New York Post editorialized: “It’s time for random application of American power-tangible attacks on targets of opportunity.” A Post full-face front-page picture of Osama Bin Laden blared, “Wanted Dead or Alive.” And Post columnist Steve Dunleavy demanded, “Kill the bastards.”
The New York Daily News proclaimed, “Every one of us Americans is in this war now,” while the Philadelphia Daily News hollered that “nothing less than revenge is called for.”
But these calls for more bloodshed do not reflect the feelings of the millions of ordinary Americans, many of whom stood in candlelight vigils mourning the dead and calling for peace and tolerance.
Students across the country took the lead in organizing antiwar teach-ins and rallies. A National Student Day of Action on Sept. 20 saw events on close to 150 campuses. Peace rallies in mid-September involved thousands in New York, San Francisco, and Berkeley. Rallies are scheduled for Sept. 29 in Washington, D.C., San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, and other cities-and for Oct. 6 in New York and San Francisco.
Our democratic rights are under attack
The government is constructing the political framework for a massive assault on our democratic rights. U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft was quick to release his proposals for legislation legalizing FBI wiretaps on every phone, voice mail, and internet system in America. Democratic Party Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California introduced a similar bill into Congress.
Such wiretapping is formally illegal today unless authorized by a compliant judge who issues a court order legalizing what is in fact routine practice. A Pacific Bell phone company employee in San Francisco reported that the FBI has ordered the wiretapping of some 1500 persons with Arab-sounding names.
Even the desperate parting phone calls to their loved ones by passengers on the doomed airplanes apparently found their way to the government’s illegal wire taps.
Much of the groundwork for the current civil liberties crackdown was prepared following the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, initially blamed on unnamed Middle East terrorists as opposed to the eventually convicted bomber, Timothy McVeigh. Soon after Oklahoma City, the bipartisan Congress passed the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, which Clinton signed in 1996.
This new law essentially eliminated a central provision of the U.S. Constitution, the right to habeas corpus-that is, the right to appeal state court decisions to the federal judiciary based on the premise of presumed innocence.
The 1996 Anti-Terrorism Act, now hanging over the head of the best known U.S. political prisoner, Mumia Abu-Jamal, reverses this premise. Defendants are now presumed guilty when they appeal to the federal courts, and judicial review has been all but eliminated.
Horrendous rules restricting the rights of immigrants are also on the drawing board. Already hundreds of Arab and Muslim immigrants have been detained at airports or interrogated in their homes by armed police, FBI, and INS agents concerning their possible “connections” to terrorists. There have been instances of police pulling Arab and southern Asian immigrants off trains and airplanes and detaining them at gunpoint. (See story, page 14.)
These acts by U.S. authorities, along with the hysterical warmongering of the media, have incited bigots to take action against the Arab and Muslim communities-including assaults with guns, knives, and pipe bombs.
In Los Angeles an Egyptian woman shopkeeper was killed at work by racists doing their “patriotic duty.” A Sikh gas station owner was shot down in Phoenix. In Oklahoma, two men, a Lebanese immigrant and a Sikh, were murdered.
Bush has activated former President Clinton’s North America Command, a structure put in place in the last months of the Democratic Party administration. This agency will include U.S. armed forces, as well as local and state police and the National Guard, in order to patrol the U.S. “homeland.”
The agency will be presided over by Thomas Ridge, Pennsylvania’s “tough-on-crime” governor, who achieved national status by signing two warrants for the execution of Mumia Abu-Jamal.
In truth this new repressive institution is designed for use against the coming struggles of U.S. workers and their allies among the oppressed, who will mobilize in unprecedented numbers in the years ahead to defend their standard of living and to protect their right to protest.
Bin Laden “dead or alive”
Within the blink of an eye the Congress voted an additional $40 billion to pursue terrorists the world over. An initial 30,000 reserve troops were activated for deployment in the United States and worldwide.
U.S.-orchestrated assassinations, “done without anyone’s knowledge,” says Bush, will return to the U.S. tactical arsenal. While legislation is in place to formally outlaw such overt acts of murder, it has long been ignored by every U.S. administration.
Indeed, the U.S. stands out in the world today as the leading purveyor of terrorism, having reigned down death and destruction on the world’s people-from Hiroshima in 1945 to Iraq during the Gulf War-to a degree that far exceeds any other terrorist of modern times.
The prime target today is the CIA-trained Saudi Arabian millionaire, Osama Bin Laden, whom cowboy Bush wants “dead or alive” at any cost, and said to be in hiding in Afghanistan.
Bush asserts that the Afghani Taliban government’s request for proof before taking action against Bin Laden is “unacceptable. The U.S. administration has ordered heavy bombers and aircraft carriers to the Afghanistan area to prepare to pound an already impoverished and devastated nation into oblivion.
And indications are that the destruction will not stop there. According to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, any state that supports or “gives sanctuary” to forces that the U.S. deems to be “terrorist” is now subject to attack. He refused to rule out moving to overthrow any governments that refuse to change their behavior. (Newsday, Sept. 19, 2001.)
Which governments might that be? The State Department’s “watch list” of states that allegedly support terrorism includes Iran, Iraq, Syria, Cuba, Libya, North Korea, and Sudan.
A Sept. 20 New York Times article entitled, “Bush Advisers Split on Scope of Retaliation,” reports that Bush’s top aids are “pressing for attacks on so-called terrorist bases in Iraq and Lebanon.”
This time, the article reports, the idea is to oust Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, who first came to the attention of U.S. imperialists when he was enlisted as the U.S. surrogate to wage war against the 1979 Iranian Revolution that removed the U.S.-backed Shah of Iran. That U.S.-instigated war took the lives of almost two million Iranians and Iraqis.
Washington has warned all the nations of the world that they must sign on to open themselves to U.S. intervention in still unstated forms-in the name of fighting terrorism-or they will be labeled the enemy.
The Pakistani military regime, threatened with invasion, bent to U.S. pressure and proclaimed to its citizens that it would join the hunt for Bin Laden. But opposition to U.S. intervention in Afghanistan remains strong in Pakistan. All of the major cities have seen protest demonstrations of up to 12,000 people.
Billions for new weaponry
The sheer sight of the horror unleashed by four passenger airliners in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania, has made the U.S. population aware, perhaps for the first time, that real war cannot be excluded on American soil.
The notion that any system of “Star Wars” missile defense can be devised to prevent either terrorist attacks or the explosion of nuclear weapons in U.S. cities has been made even more absurd by this terrible tragedy.
But in U.S. military and political circles it remains necessary to perpetuate the myth of invulnerability to justify the continued expenditure of trillions of dollars on weapons.
These expenditures are designed to both police the world in the interests of U.S. imperial designs and to inject billions of dollars to prop up failing U.S. corporations that, in the era of superpower economic competition, have found it increasingly difficult to operate in the red in the “survival of the fittest” economic wars of our time.
The terror bombing has also been used to pressure the Palestinian people to forever forsake their right to self-determination against the Zionist settler state of Israel.
The daily terror bombing of unarmed and innocent Palestinian civilian populations and routine assassinations carried out by Israeli troops and death squads do not figure into the U.S. definition of terrorism, just as they did not figure when former Israel leader Ariel Sharon orchestrated the massacre of 2000 Palestinian refugees in the camps of Sabra and Shatilla in 1983.
The U.S. decision to send ground troops to the former Soviet Republics in Central Asia has opened new debates in these nations as well as in Russia. The stated pretext is that the troops will be used to rescue U.S. pilots downed in Afghan operations-as if the Taliban or Bin Laden’s forces, without imperialist aid, could inflict anything but minimal damage against the world’s greatest superpower and its allies.
Washington has more strategic designs in these areas. These include securing oil and pipeline concessions as well as a more permanent military base to support the pro-capitalist Stalinist bureaucrats in the ex-USSR against the coming mobilizations of the masses-who are reeling under the impact of their first taste of capitalist deprivation and misery.
Mass antiwar rallies planned
Within days of a virtual Congressional declaration of war, antiwar forces began to mobilize.
Sept. 29 protests are now set for Washington, D.C., San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Chicago. The Washington action was initially called by the International Action Center as an anti-Bush protest. Its focus has been properly shifted to a fight against the U.S. war threats and against the attacks on civil liberties and on Arab and Muslim communities. Hundreds of groups have joined this mobilization.
Mass antiwar actions on Oct. 6 are also planned in New York and San Francisco. The San Francisco rally and concert was initially organized as a fight for the freedom of Mumia Abu-Jamal. But it too has been shifted to an antiwar focus.
In virtually every instance, local authorities have sought to impose new regulations to prohibit or severely restrict these protests. San Francisco police refused to grant a permit for the Sept. 29 antiwar rally for more than one hour. They have banned outright any marches in the downtown area.
On Sept.20 a new Bay Area coalition of many organizations-including Socialist Action, the International Socialist Organization, the Green Party, Global Exchange, and the Arab American Anti-Discrimination Committee-initiated a mass meeting that called for an Oct. 7 teach-in and an Oct. 20 mass protest.
Antiwar planning meetings drew several hundred both in New York and Chicago, with broad forces seeking to unite in common struggle. A new antiwar coalition in Chicago has called demonstrations for Monday, Sept. 24, as well as on Sept. 29.
It is clear that the U.S. rulers and their allies have decided to use the shock created by the terrorist attacks in Washington and New York to try to overcome popular resistance to military intervention designed to maintain their world order. For these purposes, they have unleashed a world political crisis. The outcome may be decisive for the fate of the human race for many years.
The next weeks will be a crucial test for all those who defend democratic and human values. It is imperative to build broad-based united front coalitions to organize mass actions that can confront the real terrorists and undermine their capacity to unleash the U.S. arsenal of death and destruction.