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From The Socialist newspaper, 16 November 2001

Stop this brutal war

HUNDREDS OF innocent civilians killed and maimed; millions facing starvation; millions of refugees without adequate food, shelter, sanitation or medical care. These are the horrific results of six weeks of brutal war in Afghanistan.

And yet, we were told, this 'war against terrorism' could still go on for months if not years.

No wonder that support for the war has become more fragile everyday. In Britain 54% of people want to see a pause in the bombing; in France support for military attacks fell from 66% to 51%; in Germany 65% want the bombing to stop as do 69% in Spain. Even in the US, where backing for military action has been overwhelming, only 52% are in favour of a long war if it entails the possibility of many casualties.

No to terrorism

Recent military developments in Afghanistan will not bring peace nor end terror (see below). Immediately after 11 September we condemned the terrorist attacks which resulted in so many lost lives. But we also explained that there was no way that war against Afghanistan would prevent further attacks in the future.

Even if the Taliban are overthrown; even if Al'Qaida bases in Afghanistan are totally destroyed; even if Osama bin Laden himself is captured or killed - the conditions which gave rise to terrorism will still exist around the world.

No to exploitation and oppression

It is the policies of Bush and Blair and the unequal and oppressive capitalist system which they - and other political leaders - represent and promote internationally that create the conditions for terrorism to grow.

For years they have trampled on the rights of people around the world and in the Middle East in particular, in order to bolster their own economic interests, power and prestige.

US imperialism has given its backing to brutal, dictatorial Arab regimes throughout the Middle East, including at one stage Saddam Hussein. Of course when he threatened their oil interests in the region they turned against him.

Because of their economic sanctions at least half a million Iraqi children have died in the last ten years. Israel, which has viciously repressed Palestinian rights, is the main recipient of US aid internationally - amounting to $2 billion a year.

With every bomb that falls in Afghanistan; with every day that this savage war continues, anger against US and British imperialism is growing in the neo-colonial countries.

This anger must be channelled into building mass parties which can represent the interests of workers and the poor and oppressed. If not, some will turn in desperation to terrorist methods.

Build the anti-war movement - fight for socialism

The 18 November demonstration in London against the war is just one of many taking place around the world. The longer the war goes on, the more people are questioning its aims and purpose. The potential exists to build a successful, large-scale anti-war movement. But we can't leave it there.

We also want a peaceful and stable future for the people of Afghanistan and the working class and poor in Britain and internationally.

This is not possible on the basis of capitalism and the rule of profit. We have to fight for socialism to ensure a world free from poverty, war and terror.

Military Victories Will Not Bring Peace

THE CAPTURE of Mazar-i-Sharif, Herat, Kabul and other cities in Afghanistan by the Northern Alliance marks a new stage in the war. It is undoubtedly a victory for the US and the coalition.

They desperately needed some kind of breakthrough to try to justify the bombing after two 'wobbly' weeks when opposition to the war was growing.

But these military successes will not necessarily be the prelude to a swift, overall military victory in Afghanistan, let alone a stable peace. If anything they compound the political problems facing US imperialism and its allies.

Inside Afghanistan the US is more dependent than ever on the Northern Alliance - a bunch of faction-ridden warlords with a bloody history of violence and torture (see page three).

There is no guarantee that the US will be able to keep them under control.

Jack Straw said that the coalition would make a "huge effort" to ensure that the Northern Alliance doesn't repeat previous massacres of civilians in Mazar-i-Sharif and elsewhere. But what could they do? Already reports of massacres are appearing in the press.

The Pashtun population will be living in fear of bloody reprisals. If they do take place, this would shatter the US's plans for a broad-based, multi-ethnic Afghan government including Pashtuns who are the largest ethnic group.

Power vacuum

FOR SIMILAR reasons the US didn't want the Northern Alliance to go beyond the gates of Kabul until a political settlement was in place. But defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld admitted that they didn't have enough forces on the ground to stop them.

The Northern Alliance have entered Kabul as a power vacuum has emerged. Captured Taliban supporters, particularly non-Afghans, have been summarily executed. Northern Alliance control of Kabul is no guarantee of peace. Last time forces involved in the Alliance had control of the Afghan capital, 50,000 civilians died as rival forces turned on each other.

These warlords have changed sides and fallen out with each other on many occasions and are likely to do so again.

The military victories expose the inability of the US and the coalition to piece together any viable post-Taliban government. Any government eventually installed in Kabul by outside powers, even under the flag of United Nations, will not bring peace or stability to Afghanistan.

Capitalism no way forward

THIS COULD still be a long, drawn out and bloody war. Afghanistan could be effectively divided with the Northern Alliance 'in control' of the north and west and the Taliban entrenched in its power base in Kandahar and the south. Many in the Northern Alliance are reluctant to move south to take on the Taliban.

Bombing will probably continue in the south but on its own may not dislodge the Taliban. This raises the prospect of large numbers of forces deployed on the ground in a lengthy guerrilla war, with the possibility of many casualties. This could further undermine support for the war internationally.

If, on the other hand, the Taliban collapse more rapidly, this could strengthen the hand of the 'hawks' in the US administration and their campaign to widen the war to Iraq and other 'rogue' states. Any attempt to do this would ignite the fury of Muslims throughout the Arab world and beyond.

Whatever happens in the immediate period, it is clear that capitalism and imperialism can offer no way forward for the working class and poor of Afghanistan or anywhere else in the world.

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In The Socialist 16 November 2001:

No To War: Fight For A Socialist World

Jobcentre safety dispute: Demanding A Safe Workplace

Stop this brutal war

Port Talbot Steelworks Explosion: Make Safety Not Profit First Priority

No To The Graduate Tax - Fight For Free Education

150,000 Say "No To War" In Rome

Kashmir: US Policy Is Destabilising Region

Why We Need International Socialism

A 'Call To Arms' Against Privatisation


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