Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/225/9204
Devastating Consequences Of War
FIVE DAYS after Blair declared that the Afghan people were not the enemy and that "[we] will do all we humanly can to avoid civilian casualties", the bombing of Afghanistan began.
The first targets were the cities of Kabul and Kandahar. Without question Afghan civilians, primarily those too poor to escape the cities, have died and been maimed as a result. Thousands more will have fled, adding to the mass starvation in the countryside.
We've heard talk of 'humanitarian' war before. In the Gulf war, a decade ago, it was claimed that missiles were so sophisticated that only military targets would be hit. Civilian deaths went virtually unmentioned in the British press throughout the war. In its aftermath, however, reality leaked out - around 100,000 Iraqis died.
Nor will the killing of more of the long-suffering Afghan people do anything to stop future terrorist attacks. Even the strategists of imperialism, when they talk about the war lasting months or years, have a hazy understanding that they are incapable of defeating terrorism.
It is likely that US imperialism will succeed in overthrowing the Taliban, which is extremely unpopular in Afghanistan, by using a combination of bombing, limited ground troops, funding the Northern Alliance, and attempting to split the Taliban itself.
But overthrowing the Taliban will not prevent future terrorist attacks. On the contrary, the current military action will massively increase instability in the region.
Within Afghanistan itself it is ruled out that the Taliban will be replaced by a stable, or genuinely democratic, regime. Imperialism appears to be looking to establish a government made up of an alliance of different forces, including the Northern Alliance and possibly with the ex-king (overthrown in 1973) as a figurehead. (The Northern Alliance is made up of minority ethnic groups and will therefore be unable to rule alone).
Initially Blair denied that imperialism were considering supporting the Northern Alliance coming to power. Now Geoff Hoon, the Secretary of State for Defence, has refused to rule out a Northern Alliance government, saying that "any administration that cut links with terrorism would be acceptable".
It is clear that the US are using the Northern Alliance to fight for them within Afghanistan.
The Northern Alliance is part of what was the Mujahidin. Robert Fisk, in The Independent, described their leaders accurately as, "a confederacy of warlords, patriots rapists and torturers". He goes on to describe how, when they took control of the capital in 1992, they "looted and raped their way through the suburbs of Kabul".
US imperialism bears a huge responsibility for the creation of the Mujahidin and its descendants - the Northern Alliance and Taliban. Throughout the 1980s they funded the different mujahidin warlords to fight against the occupying Soviet army. At one point the mujahidin as a whole were receiving around $1 million a day from the US.
Once the Soviet army left, the different warlords turned to escalating the fight between themselves for loot and territory. In the last twenty years over two million Afghans have been killed in a series of bloody conflicts.
The current military attacks on Afghanistan will fundamentally just replace one band of warlords who have carried out these bloody conflicts with another that is equally culpable.
In order to achieve this 'goal' US imperialism has made deals with anyone they can. For example, they have made an agreement with Putin to turn a blind eye to his continuing bloody war against Chechnya.
Who foots the bill?
The 'war on terrorism' will also massively increase instability far beyond the borders of Afghanistan.
US imperialism is already enormously unpopular amongst the masses of the neo-colonial world, both as a result of US foreign policy and the devastating economic exploitation of the predominately US-owned multinational companies and their tools, the IMF and World Bank.
The attacks on Afghanistan have already led to an outpouring of anger across the Muslim world. Any of the regimes that dare to back the US, risk being overthrown.
The Saudi regime, who in the past have openly supported US imperialism, are unable to do so, and are instead conducting a precarious balancing act.
In Palestine, Arafat, desperate to win the support of US imperialism leapt to support the attacks on Afghanistan. His police force have now shot and killed three anti-US demonstrators, including a 12 year old boy.
Arafat's rule is potentially facing its worse crisis ever. The US have are trying to broker a deal in Israel Palestine in order to make it easier for the Middle Eastern regimes to back their war. Instead their war is fuelling the bloody disintegration of the talks.
In Pakistan, demonstrations against Musharraf's support for the US are taking place across the country. In the medium term the possibility exists of him being overthrown and replaced by an extreme Islamist government.
Bush and Blair's war on terrorism is going to create incalculable turmoil and instability. It will be the mass of the population of the region who will bear the brunt of the resulting suffering.
Terrorism, far from being defeated, will increase. At the same time the working class in the West will be expected to foot the bill for the war.
The causes of terrorism lie in this unequal capitalist society; a society where the imperialist powers trample over the democratic, religious and national rights of billions.
It is only by fighting for a socialist society - a society based on the needs of all, not the obscene wealth and power of a few - that the terrorising and killing of humanity will be prevented.
In The Socialist 12 October 2001: