Engraving of Lenin busy studying

Economic & Philosophic Science Review

Only he is a Marxist who extends the recognition of the class struggle to the recognition of the dictatorship of the proletariat. This is the touchstone on which the real understanding and recognition of Marxism is to be tested.--- V. I. Lenin

Back issues

No 1209 18th November 2003

Humiliating & rising death toll in "conquered" Iraq forces US discussion of "exit strategy". But blitzkrieging, which is creating more and more terrorists, remains the chosen US policy for world control in the face of the coming global capitalist economic collapse. Hence the planet is being pushed towards world revolution, despite the slowness of communist leadership to develop in place of blind, emotive, individual terrorism. Vastly changed circumstances make new US imperialist humiliation potentially more significant than its Vietnam debacle, crucially affecting the attempt to build a Leninist understanding. "Anti-semitism" CIA tactic has to be faced up to.

The question remains to be answered, exactly as the EPSR has posed it, — the answer potentially decisive for all our attitudes to everything, from terrorism to the Bush visit, from Blairism's fiasco to global trade war, from capitalism's "overproduction" economic crisis to the warmongers debacle in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Namely, are these humiliations for US imperialism just episodic pratfalls; or does this ludicrous chaos indicate a ripening of events which are going to have, for civilisation, the greatest conceivable historical significance of all time as they relentlessly mature, i.e. the first evidence of conditions leading to the world socialist revolution????

Cynicism will take the safe way out and amusedly jeer: "Where's the proof?"

But if the educational role of revolutionary theory (Marxist Leninist science) has any meaning at all as a concept, then surely the question has to be answered one way or the other.

Either the piecemeal developments recorded in headline news are part of an unstoppable imperialist warmongering crisis which is now completely at odds with the expectations and aspirations of the vast majority of mankind, thereby necessitating a revolutionary response and certain to get it; — or they are not.

Either way; the workers movement surely deserves to have clear positions put up for debate by all organised "socialists", either one course of action has to be prepared for in this turmoil, or a completely different course of action entirely.

Either a Leninist understanding needs to be spread if this is the imperialist system falling apart and needing to be seized by the throat; or Western capitalist world domination is merely humiliating itself with another series of shameful and damaging hiccups but will ride out the storm, in which case only further dollops of reformism and trade-unionism would be possible or appropriate, and Labourism, Revisionism, or other fake-'left' variations like the SLP or the Alliance, will be more than adequate to meet workers' needs.

The only alternative is to explain that support is still needed for trying to build a Leninist understanding but that the conditions for the possible real development and flourishing of this are still some time and distance off.

In which case it would be constructive to hear exactly which conditions need to be fulfilled, how that is likely to come about, and when all that is likely to happen.

This is nothing to do with crystal-ball gazing.

What the discussion would benefit from is specific alternative explanations to the signs of imperialist disintegration and a historic turning-point in civilisation's maturing revolutionary understanding which the EPSR strives to demonstrate and interpret.

Is it, for example, enough to just say about Iraq; "This ill-thought-out American venture arrogance is being humiliated. End of story".

Or enough, for example, to say: "The US is facing defeat in Iraq, but their defeat in Vietnam was far worse, and far more significant", etc, etc.

Quite the opposite, the analysis the EPSR has been struggling towards suggests that this volcanic eruption of blitzkrieg warmongering into the Middle East and beyond is CRUCIAL to the very survival of Western imperialist-system domination of the era; and that despite the smallness in number of American casualties so far and the chaotic incoherence of the resistance to the USA's invasions, the vastly different period of history between now and the Vietnam wars days, and the vastly different conditions dictating what becomes truly significant in different struggles, could mean that the Iraq debacle will end up with a far bigger meaning for history.

The USA went into this war in the full knowledge of a coming global economic collapse in order to hammer home TO THE WHOLE WORLD the message that "Whatever economic catastrophes lie ahead, and whoever is held responsible for the coming monstrous mess suffering and upheaval, — — the American imperialist warmongering system is going to remain in charge of international affairs VERY FIRMLY, and will deliver an armed assault on ANY state, nation, or coalition which dares to dispute the USA's right to rule the Earth or its military-technological ability to remain superior and do so."

Nothing remotely comparable was said about Vietnam; and the historical circumstances of world development then were completely different from now.

Then, the Socialist Camp and its revolutionary achievements were not effectively challengeable.

All, that US imperialism could do was, at huge cost, try to inflict such suffering on any attempted Socialist Camp expansion (by any means) so that the Revisionist-perspective communist revolutionary movement would, as a whole, think that the colossal costs of the Vietnam victory were not worth more major guerrilla war campaigns, especially since Stalinist "theory" was teaching that the whole planet would be "peacefully" falling into socialism's hands before too long, etc, etc, and that imperialism's ability both for economic expansion and global warmongering onslaughts would remain strictly limited, easily containable by Soviet "peaceful coexistence" overtures and Chinese "paper tiger" derision, etc.

Thus, although defeated in Vietnam, US imperialist plans to halt the "domino theory" prospect (of world communist development) by inflicting huge costs on the Socialist Camp, proved successful in the long run.

The imperialist task undertaken in the Middle East and beyond, however, is so vast and so difficult to achieve that even ending up with some kind of "victory" in Iraq, or at least some partial "successes", might not prevent THE GREATEST DISASTER FOR THE IMPERIALIST SYSTEM EVER from nevertheless unfolding.

Because the aim is no less than to achieve the TOTAL COWING OF the whole planet from all further serious resistance to American domination, — whether revolutionary, or terrorist, or arms-race economic rivalry.

Bush's notorious pre-emptive challenge warned the world: "Don't even think about trying to catch up with American firepower. We will stop you."

That meant everybody, friend or foe alike.

And just to rub the message home, Bush then warned every state on Earth that it could either declare itself "with America" or "against America".

And for any nation daft enough to earn the title "rogue state", there was just one message: "We are coming to forcibly "democratise" you".

And the USA is still spewing out this aggressive NAZI nonsense in Iraq today, even as a thin chorus of rational sanity is even being heard within Western imperialist bourgeois circles themselves suggesting that Washington's blitzkrieg policy is going disastrously wrong, reinforcing the minority arguments which said from the start that this warmongering was an unjust misguided strategy and could even prove to be unachievable.

But while now beginning to acknowledge all this, and to make apologies for the difficulties and the mistakes and the setbacks that this recolonisation programme has run into, the Washington-London-Coalition HQ high command has nevertheless spat out as its very latest policy reassessment this week:

"Strike even harder in Iraq at those resisting the military occupation.

"We are determined to enforce against the men of violence the right which all Iraqis have to self-determination."

Some "self-determination", enforced by Western imperialist bayonets!!!

The insanity of all this from Western imperialism's survival point of view is hugely added-to by the context in which this hysterical "greater security" alarm is being delivered whereby all the longer term talk is now only of a speeded-up "exit strategy".

In other words, this demented imperialist blitzkrieg policy is itself now being forced to think about the possibilities of DEFEAT.

That the invasion might have provoked UNBEATABLE resistance, daily creating thousands and thousands of new "terrorists" where there were only dozens before, has now begun to penetrate even the dimmest most gung-ho minds inside the White House's neo-conservative circles.

But what is the kneejerk response to ever mounting Coalition casualties???

Inflict even MORE monstrous arbitrary military-dictatorship TYRANNY on the Iraqi populace.

Even the pro-imperialist warmongering Western press is now spilling over with non-stop admissions that this NAZI brutality on the ground is on its way to alienating the WHOLE of Iraq, — Baathists, non Baathists, the lot:

AMERICAN F16s bombed "enemy" houses outside the Iraqi towns of Fallujah and Tikrit last weekend. The bombings were the first from the air since President Bush declared his mission in Iraq "accomplished" in May. They coincided with a visit by the American military commander, General John Abizaid. His visit, and the bombs, were to tell the ever bolder opponents of the American occupation of Iraq that "we are prepared to get tough".

The sound of each of these weapons smashing into Iraqi soil will have been music to the ears of al-Qaeda, or whatever murky allies it has in Iraq. Its ambition is to draw the Americans into what is already called the "Sharon option" of retaliatory strikes. F16s are what the Israeli Prime Minister uses on Gaza when he is really angry. The war in Iraq has taken yet another turn down an all too familiar path.

The noise of such bombs is not music to the ears of the Coalition Provisional Authority, now virtually imprisoned in Saddam's vast palace in Baghdad. Here lives a latter-day Lord Curzon, L Paul Bremer III. He is neat, handsome, coolly cerebral and utterly committed to his cause, to ruling Iraq until the natives have proved themselves a bastion against world terrorism. The challenge for Mr Bremer is vast. An entire generation of Washington neo-conservatives may live or die with him.

Bombs do not help Mr Bremer, who was summoned back to Washington last night for emergency talks. Indeed; as under the Raj, it is hard to ignore the emerging tensions between the different arms of the occupying power. There are moments when the military seem to have remembered nothing about "hearts and minds" since Vietnam. The ruled are still "the enemy". Sweets are delivered to children in tanks. Kit is threatening, helmets and body armour obligatory and no courtesy, not even a few words of Arabic, is used when shouting at Iraqis. As for soldiers kicking down the bedroom doors of Arab women, that must already have created a hundred martyrs for Islam.

In Baghdad on Monday I watched an Abrams tank trying to patrol Saadun Street in rush hour. Rommel might as well have rumbled down Oxford Street in a Panzer tank A car lay hideously crushed under its tracks, nearly killing the driver, while pedestrians screamed abuse at the soldiers. These incidents echo round Iraq. They are stupid, shattering the welcome the Americans initially received.

General Sanchez is supposed to deliver security and is manifestly failing: witness the cessation of foot patrols and the retreat of Mr Bremer and his staff into their compounds. It is insecurity that impedes reconstruction and fuels opposition back home.

Mr Chalabi promised that Iraqis would rush to kiss his feet, and Mr Rumsfeld believed him. This failure in Pentagon intelligence may prove far more costly than any illusions over weapons of mass destruction, now a dead topic in Baghdad. It is as if Eisenhower on the eve of D-Day had ripped up the Allied plan and decided to land in Calais and wait for the Germans to embrace him — all on the advice of a German exile.

Mr Bremer is having to rewrite the Pentagon plan by the day, albeit through clenched teeth. After dismissing some 450,000 soldiers and Baathists in May and making a million enemies in the process, he is now laboriously re-recruiting them — those not recruited by the other side.

A Baghdad artist remarked over dinner. "By the time the Americans go we should be back to where we were under Saddam."

In Iraq that now means sheikhs, Baathists and Shia clerics. The Baath party, secular and nationalist, was once the darling of the Americans, a tough non-religious movement able to hold Iraq together. It did so until horrendously polluted by Saddam. I would put money on its return in some shape or form.

Mr Bremer will doubtless tell his Washington masters that he is trapped. He cannot risk a walkout by the coalition of Shia parties and must meet their demand that any new constitution be prepared by an elected assembly. This puts Shias in a majority, still a nightmare prospect for Sunnis and Kurds. Yet Mr Bremer may have to concede it to have any hope of progress before the American elections next year. This would require a miracle. Iraqi politicians are already manoeuvring for position when Washington loses patience and goes. They have no interest in seeming pro-American just now. Nor can the Pentagon fly in 25 million well-behaved Democrats and Republicans to get democracy off the ground.

Like many colonial administrators, Mr Bremer likes to style himself "a historian". Yet nowhere in the world can history have found an odder helmsman than the man in this gilded cage on the banks of the Tigris. He seems baffled by a people he rarely meets and cannot understand how they can be glad Saddam is gone and yet eager for his own departure. He complains that "I just don't buy that we are unpopular", but he dare not walk the streets to find out.

Mr Bush's intention in all this remains obscure. The original threat of Saddam's nuclear menace was replaced by a desire to free Iraqis from Saddam altogether. Then came Mr Rumsfeld's idea of turning Iraq into a "neo-con" icon of security and democracy in the war on terrorism. Its new regime would harbour no killers, be nice to Israel and silence Islamic fundamentalism.

I am beginning to feel sorry for Mr Bremer.

In almost a week of operations in Tikrit and western Baghdad, the US military has brought into play some of its most sophisticated equipment, including jets, attack helicopters and AC-130 Spectre gunships, converted cargo planes with cannon mounted in their bellies.

All it has served to do is emphasise how the coalition and the Iraqi guerrillas are fighting different wars by different rules. The difference has been defined by language just as sharply as on the political front between 'occupation' and a 'military presence'.

Coalition press officers talk of attacking 'guerrilla hideouts' and buildings being used as 'meeting places' for the rebels, suggesting a guerrilla army living in the field, separate from the population. In reality, the hideouts are people's homes, their headquarters apartments and living rooms. It is clear is that the change in US tactics has been driven by the rapid improvement in the tactics of the Iraqi resistance.

'What we have been seeing is an increasing trend in sophistication in the devices being used against us that we have not seen before the past few weeks,' said one coalition officer. 'These are remotely initiated bombs, both electrical and mechanical.'

And the biggest risk of all is how the resistance is now playing with the most vulnerable Iraqi group: its youth.

'We have started noticing a new trend; the appearance of young guys attracted by a kind of glamour of being a fighter,' said Dr Iyad Alawi of the Iraqi National Accord, one of the rotating presidents on the Governing Council. 'When we interrogate them, they come up with some half-baked reason for being involved, like nationalism or religion, when it is a kind of youthful rebellion thing.

'There has been a breakdown of communication between the coalition and this group and we need to get to them quickly and explain exactly what concepts like liberation and democracy should mean to them.'

Which Western imperialist 'hanging chad' and 'buy your way into office' corrupt fraud is to be IMPOSED on the Iraqi people (whether they want it or not) by the NAZI-perfected means of mass terror bombing, midnight booting-in of doors, manhandling of women and children, and arbitrary seizure of all likely Iraqi men for concentration-camp incarceration in the Abu Ghraid equivalent of Guantánamo where they are just left to rot without trial, without recourse to law, without any family visits.

So there is an ever greater build-up towards the possibility of an imperialist DEFEAT in Iraq.

But this threatens to have catastrophic effects far far beyond even the massive setback that was its Vietnam defeat for American imperialism.

A large part of the whole point of going into Iraq was simply to demonstrate that IT COULD BE DONE.

Having delivered a warning to the whole world after Sept 11 when US imperialist global domination finally became certain that the insoluble economic crisis threat to its world rule was also inevitably going to be accompanied by endless armed revolts as well from even the most backward and unlikeliest of sources, — the Washington circles of the most supreme monopoly-capitalist arrogance resolved to put into full operation their longstanding plans to make use of the USA's now unique "superpower" status to MILITARILY impose America's "New World Order" as well as continue to. manipulate all the international "democracy" agencies to Western imperialism's advantage (the UN, IMF, World Bank, WTO, etc, etc), — and specifically to the United States advantage, of course.

And so scapegoats were needed immediately, and a whole range of "rogue states" were needed to be put on warning as to future blitzkriegs for them too if they did not all fall immediately into line with the USA's strategic world-control requirements.

Afghanistan and Iraq were the obvious first two targets, two of the most widely despised and unpopular regimes on Earth.

"Shock and awe" were supposed to deliver everything that this renewed all-out imperialist warmongering strategy needed to achieve.

The crisis-ridden imperialist 1930s came up with EXACTLY the same "world domination" delusions for preserving its arrogant racist "superpower" and even "master-race" global control desperation via German, Japanese, and Italian aggression during the terrifying Great Depression of the inter-war years, culminating in World War II.

And much the same bullying jingoistic bravado accompanied the "overproduction" crisis build-up towards World War I.

But World War III for the establishment and confirmation of the USA's lone-rule hegemony over all world affairs in order to "control" the crisis, (in reality uncontrollable), was supposed to be over almost as soon as it had started.

The fly-blown Middle East was expected to welcome America's attention and the anticipated generous aid and reconstruction money, etc, etc, with flowers and open arms.

And if there was any resistance, that was going to be crushed with such "awesome" severity that no other nation would ever again DARE to challenge or even question America's right to rule the world however it thinks fit.

THAT insane programme is what is now in total trouble.

And it can be seen as unleashing a chaotic hiatus a thousand times worse than the ignominious failure of the German-Japanese "thousand year Reich" which resulted in bitter resistance and the spread of revolution from the (Soviet) world's first workers state to half way round the world.

For one immediate question is going to be: What can the West's control-desperation do for an encore???, — — — if the chaos in Washington really does decide to scuttle away from this particular "unmanageable mess" in favour of pretending that the next "rogue state" to get it will "really be made to suffer", etc, etc, etc, (just as the NAZI warmongering occupations used to warn when inflicting "collective punishments" for retaliation against any acts of resistance or defiance).

In Iraq and Afghanistan, the spirit of the Third World (the spirit of the age) is what is showing that it will not be bullied around by Western imperialism any longer. It is nothing whatever to do with any "special powers of resistance" or to any "special conditions" supposedly resident in Afghanistan and Iraq, but not existing elsewhere.

Elsewhere, surely it is clear now, any continuation of Western aggressive warmongering as a "crisis-solution" policy is going to get even more of a hostile reception than it has received so far in the Third World.

And indeed, the Palestinian experience is always the very best and most incontrovertible proof of this understanding, in that the Palestinians are now fighting Zionist military tyranny and occupation more successfully than ever before, in spite of having been daily butchered and brutalised for more than 55 years, and in spite of now ALL living behind barbed wire in what is virtually ONE GIANT CONCENTRATION CAMP, with no rights whatever.

Elsewhere in the world, that same spirit is going to give Western imperialist domination an ever bigger and bigger bloody nose the more that monopoly capitalism tries to crush and intimidate the entire Third World (and beyond) in its demonic NAZI "crisis solution" blitzkrieg policy.

It already ISN'T working. And it is NEVER going to work any better. And the pro-warmongering press's admissions themselves are now endlessly making this same point again and again:

It was here, nine years ago, that a one-eyed cleric named Mohammed Omar called together a few local men, told them to get their guns and led them out to end the anarchy that had gripped the region since the end of the war against the Soviet Union. It was the core of the hardline Islamic militia movement that became known as the Taliban. Within two years, they had swept to power. Now it is 25 year-old Mullah Akhtar's turn to use Sangesar's only mosque's only microphone. 'The Taliban are good men trying to do good things for our country,' he says.

He is right to use the present tense. On the northern horizon, jagged hills are just visible. They are the stronghold of men loyal to Mullah Omar. Despite two years of effort by the US-led coalition, the cleric remains free. Indeed, he is more than just free. The hi-tech onslaught, that followed the 11 September attacks in America appeared to have consigned the Taliban to the overfull dustbin of Afghan history. But in recent months they have crawled out again. The Taliban are back. And if for the moment they are confined to a few isolated, inaccessible, lawless mountain valleys, their power, military and political, is growing.

Last week the resurgent Taliban began striking into the cities and against heavily armed coalition troops. Their efforts were once limited to hit-and-run attacks on far-flung government outposts or aid projects and the assassination of moderate clerics. But in the past eight days they have attacked a column of armoured vehicles near the Pakistani border, killing a Romanian soldier, and detonated, a series of bombs in Kandahar city itself and in Qalat, capital of Zabul province. The Taliban's leaders are also refusing to surrender a Turkish engineer who was kidnapped two weeks ago while working on the key road from Kabul to Kandahar. Instead, they issued threats to kidnap Western journalists.

The Taliban are expanding fast. The deputy governor of Zabul admits most of his province is now controlled by the militia. Most of Oruzgan province and around half of Kandahar province is now beyond government authority.

Even in supposedly loyal areas there are many loyal to Mullah Omar.

The number of the new Taliban is unclear. A US-led operation in September, which claimed 300 'kills', seems to have had little impact. Some estimate that several thousand fighters have been mobilised in the Taliban-controlled areas.

But who are they? Are they supported by local people or by elements in neighbouring states? And how can President Hamid Karzai's fragile government rectify a situation which analysts agree is deteriorating fast?

THE NEW TALIBAN can be split into four groups. There is the senior leadership who escaped the war of 2001 and are now largely based in Pakistan. Then there are the 'fighting' commanders inside Afghanistan. They too have often been involved with the Taliban for years. One of the most senior such men is the former Taliban Interior Minister, Abdul Razzaq, 35, who is. operating in the hills visible on the horizon to the north of Sangesar.

The third category are Taliban 'fellow travellers', armed tribal bands led by those with their own reason for opposing the new central government. Significantly, an appeal issued last week by Mullah Omar was directed at warlords who have yet to side with either the Taliban or the government. The fourth and most numerous category comprises young footsoldiers such as Abdullah, whom The Observer interviewed in prison in Kandahar.

Abdullah, 21, left his home in rural Helmand province this summer. He travelled to Quetta, the Pakistani city just across the border from Kandahar, to further his education. It was easy for him to slip across the virtually unguarded frontier. As the school in his village was in the mosque, it was natural for him to seek out a medressa, or Islamic school, in Quetta.

While there, he says, he was persuaded by a senior cleric to join the jihad in his homeland. By September, with a few thousand rupees from the mullah in his pocket, he headed back over the border into Afghanistan. With two others, he made his way to a rendezvous, met a group of Taliban and was issued with weapons. 'They had everything there,' he said. 'Satellite phones to talk to each other and to people in Pakistan. Guns. Ammunition. Everything.'

Other captured Taliban tell similar stories. Some say they became involved for the money offered by the clerics in Quetta. Others wanted to 'liberate' their homeland or fulfil their religious homeland or fulfil their religious duty. Over iftaar, the dusk meal that breaks the fast of Ramadan, Yousuf Pashtun, the governor of Kandahar, said that three camps have been set up in Pakistan from where groups of up to 40 Taliban, many of them very young, are sent into Afghanistan to strike at coalition forces, government institutions and aid workers.

Pashtun says the Taliban are only '50 per cent to blame' for the problems: 'We must take half the blame. We have done nothing to deal with the root causes of the Taliban movement. It should be no surprise that they are back.'

The Taliban were always a cross-border phenomenon. The medressas now producing young Taliban — the name derives from the local word for 'student' — are all in Pakistan and funded by charitable donations from the Middle East. Offering a free education to poverty-stricken Afghans, they are extremely popular.

Thousands of such medressas, most of them run by clerics from the conservative Deobandi strand of Islam, have been established over recent decades and are factories of young radicals with views very different from the traditional moderate and tolerant Islam of most Afghans. A political party representing the Deobandi sect is part of a coalition of radical Islamic groups that now govern much of south-west Pakistan after winning elections last year on a surge of anti-Western, and anti-central government, feeling.

All this means that the Taliban have a safe haven and a steady flow of funds — two of the prerequisites for any successful guerrilla movement. A third requirement is local support. The Taliban and their opponents are aware of this.

In June, Mullah Omar set up a 10-man leadership council to coordinate a new strategy aimed at cutting south-eastern Afghanistan off from the rest of the country.

SO FAR, THE strategy is working. International aid organisations are restricting their operations in the southeast. 'It's just too damned dangerous these days,' said one NGO security officer.

'Since this council was setup, the Taliban jihad has much improved,' Mullah Abdul Rauf, a Taliban official, said in a telephone interview. The result is an increasingly divided Afghanistan. In Kabul, aid money, private investment and a relatively secure environment have sparked a boom. Though many citizens remain destitute, the city is transformed.

But the growth has yet to reach the southeast, the region which has been hardest hit by the recent droughts. The new Afghan constitution, though welcomed by most in Kabul, means little in this back country 300 miles from the capital. Much of the new economic activity in Kandahar is fuelled by the cultivation of the opium poppy — and next year's harvest is predicted to be the biggest ever.

'We have a lot of traffic on the roads now, which is good,' said the governor of Kandahar. 'It's a shame that one in 10 vehicles is carrying drugs.'

'There's a serious risk that this country will become a narco-state,' one senior ministerial aide told The Observer. In the southeast that has already happened, at least locally. The chief of one district begged The Observer to ask the government to send him a replacement for his police chief who, he said, was running 20 opium shops.

'Drugs people here are too powerful for me alone,' he said. Traffickers — keen to prevent Karzai's government from gaining enough strength to crack down on their business — are thought to be helping the Taliban.

TACKLING THE resurgent Taliban is a problem compounded by the ethnic complexities of Afghanistan. The Taliban are almost exclusively drawn from the country's majority Pashtun tribes, whose heartland is the south-east. Karzai, the President, is a Pashtun, but the government is dominated by Tajiks, a minority largely centred on Kabul and the northeast. The increasing alienation felt by Pashtuns makes them receptive to the Taliban's chauvinistic message.

The Taliban are also able to draw on the general anger of many Muslims at the course of 'the war on terror'. The Taliban used to be wary of Osama bin Laden and his brand of hardline internationalised militancy. Their project was limited to Afghanistan and they bore no ill-feeling to America or the West. Now they see themselves as a key element in the supposed struggle by Muslims against an aggressive 'Zionist Crusader alliance'.

'Bin Laden is the greatest mujahid [holy warrior] and all Muslims think he is their ideal,' said Rauf, the Taliban official. 'All those fighting a jihad anywhere in the world against the cruel infidels are our brothers and allies.'

In Vietnam, the West's defeat was to the known communist 'enemy' which was already on the receiving end of the PERMANENT Cold war embargo which was always going to last the lifetime of the Socialist Camp (or forever whichever came sooner), — a seriously "alternative world" which would either prevail or succumb to imperialist boom sabotage in time. So a great humiliation, but not necessarily world shattering, because the Socialist Camp was still being ruled by Revisionist "peaceful coexistence" stupidity in spite of general aid to the Vietnamese revolution, — and no new major revolutions necessarily had to follow on from Vietnam. None did. But can the imperialist warmongering setback in Iraq and Afghanistan end there?????

Now it is imperialist economic crisis time, and a crisis without end unless WAR can once again come to the rescue of this sick periodically-destructive system of exploitation and domination. And so Washington has duly announced "war without end", effectively, — warning all that American domination will now control the planet henceforth.

But it hasn't worked. There is even confirmation from the best possible hostile source of all, — namely the Zionist "chosen people" master-race of colonial brutalisation and smiting:

IN A damning critique of Ariel Sharon's Government, four of Israel's former security chiefs gave warning yesterday that the Jewish state would face "catastrophe".

Speaking to Yedioth Ahronoth, Israel's largest-circulation newspaper, the four retired Shin Bet directors, Avraham Shalom, Yaakov Peri, Carmi Gillon and Ami Ayalon, voiced particular concern about the humanitarian effects of imposing curfews and roadblocks in Palestinian towns.

Mr Shalom, Shin Bet director from 1980 to 1986, said that if Israel insisted on holding on to the occupied West Bank and Gaza, in the process "debasing" Palestinians held behind roadblocks and checkpoints, there could be no political progress.

"We must, once and for all, admit that there is another side, that it has feelings and that it is suffering, and that we are behaving disgracefully," he said. "Nobody can take this. We, too, would not take it if it were done to us."

The unprecedented broadside at Mr Sharon's hardline "security-first" policies included a warning by one former head of the Shin Bet security service that the country could no longer "live by the sword". Others accused Mr Sharon's rightwing coalition of acting "contrary to the desire for peace" and using demands for an end to "terror" attacks as "an excuse for doing nothing".

"We are heading downhill towards near catastrophe. If nothing happens and we go on living by the sword, we will continue to wallow in the mud and destroy ourselves," said Yaakov Peri, echoing the leaked concerns of Israel's Chief of Staff, Moshe Yaalon, that such measures fuelled Palestinian hatred.

The criticisms range from individual policies — building a barbed wire fence around the West Bank, threatening to expel Yassir Arafat and failing to support Mahmoud Abbas, the reformist Palestinian Prime Minister — to wider ethical issues.

Mr Ayalon, a former general who has co-authored an unoffcial peace plan with Sari Nusseibeh, a Palestinian intellectual, said that the administration was "taking very sure and measured steps to a point where the state of Israel will not be a democracy or a home for the Jewish people".

He called for a unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, home to 1.1 million Palestinians and a few thousand Jewish settlers, saying that dismantling illegal settlements would encourage the Palestinian leadership to "come to the negotiating table".

Government officials were quick to counter the criticisms. Raanan Gissin, Mr Sharon's spokesman, conceded that the quartet were entitled to their views but said: "All these doomsday scenarios don't really contribute to finding a solution. These people have the right to debate but the full responsibility of how to protect the state of Israel lies on the shoulders of the elected, democratic Government."

However, Mr Gillon said that it was precisely the Government's focus on security, that prolonged the violence.

"The political agenda has become solely a security agenda. It only deals with the question of how- to prevent the next terror attack, not the question of how it is at all possible to pull ourselves out of the mess that we are in today."

One Israeli intelligence analyst said: "It is meant as a huge red light to Sharon. They are saying that just fighting terror, without any political horizon, is not a solution.

"Because each of them has been 'Mr Counter-Terrorism' and has the knowledge and experience them are hoping what they are saying is much stronger than someone on the street saving it, or even an army general," he added.

However the critique is unlikely to persuade Avi Dichter, the present head of Shin Bet. Like Shaul Mofaz, the Defence Minister, he recently opposed removing checkpoints, fearing that it would ease the passage into Israel of suicide bombers.

Now, obviously, the last thing that is going to happen is that the US-Zionist warmongering axis is going to call a halt to its blitzkrieging tyrannies. As the EPSR has always argued, it is ONLY imperialist rottenness and savagery which CAN educate the MASS of the world population towards revolutionary consciousness. And it will inevitably carry on doing so under its most influential monopoly-capitalist ruling circles because imperialism consists of NOTHING BUT domination and exploitation, always more brutally so than ever, at times of unresolvable global economic contradictions (see EPSR box).

But what is the significance of this???? On one side, the irresistible force of desperate warmongering imperialism, in incurable economic crisis which is threatening to lose the system everything of its world control unless drastic pre-emptive measures of ENFORCED GLOBAL CONTROL are imposed.

But on the other side, the immovable object of a Third World of five thousand MILLION people who are showing every sign of refusing to be militarily subjugated by Western invasion tyranny, and generally of no longer wanting to live under Western imperialist world economic and cultural leadership anyway.

Enough of the Third World had already had a fill of this warmongering destructive imperialist nonsense by 1917 to make the world's first communist revolution and proletarian state.

Even more had had enough by 1945, after inter-imperialist World War II, to spread the communist revolution half way round the planet.

Now the question is: Which part of the planet is NOT now ready to tell the dominating Western imperialist warmongers to go to hell with their rotten divisive destructive economic injustice and their grotesque exploitative domineering and murderous arrogance????

Of course there is no communist leadership now, and of course nothing worthwhile anti-imperialist can be COMPLETED until a new international revolutionary understanding is built.

But what else is civilisation going to find to fill the vacuum being left by the approaching warmongering collapse of the bourgeois imperialist system, bar workers states?????

And why would it do so??????

A great and growing industry is one where all kinds of bourgeois degeneracy is shown up for having got its vicious anti-communism catastrophically WRONG:

His blue uniform and beret badge may lend him an air of authority, but at heart he harbours the same grudge as the thousands of protesters who have been standing outside the parliament this week, demanding that the president quit. The country has fallen apart, and President Eduard Shevardnadze is to blame, they say. "Were it not for this uniform, I too would be protesting," Abazar mumbled. "He has to go".

The endemic corruption, frequent power cuts, vicious poverty, monthly wages of about $30 (£18), anarchy in the regions and absence of any real leadership are not that rare in the struggling outer reaches of the former Soviet Union. Yet this state of incredible beauty and cultural talent is run by a former master of international and domestic politics.

Georgia's people expected more from Mr Shevardnadze, a former Soviet foreign minister who has boasted of helping to end the cold war and unite Germany.

But yesterday the former advocate of democracy was barricaded on the 11th floor of his offices. The roads around the building are blocked by buses and the security services. Inside his compound, burly men are preparing for a fight, donning camouflage smocks beneath police jackets: outside a unit of young men in riot body armour stands waiting.

These scenes do not reflect a man confident of popular support. The protests, which have often swelled to about 10,000 in size, started after the results of parliamentary elections were announced last week. The results, which claimed that the pro-government bloc For A New Georgia was ahead with about 20% of the vote, were denounced as seriously flawed by the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe. It reported numerous incidents of violence and ballot-stuffing. The belief that the president had rigged the election, which many saw as the key to deciding his successor in 2005, sent Georgians to the streets.

"The peoples disillusionment is almost complete," said a senior western diplomat. But already the protests, which have blocked Tbilisi's Oxford Street, have brought the country to a near standstill. Rail freight traffic is down by 50%, the ports are at a standstill, investors are shaky, say officials. When troops were drafted into Tbilisi from policing the lawless Pankisi gorge, on the border with war-torn Chechnya, locals blocked their route with fallen trees. The protesters are refusing to go home until the president quits, and the government has shunned a compromise, raising fears that only bloody conflict can follow.

The protesters see no ulterior motives. "I want him gone," said Tamara, 21, a student who joined a march down the central Rustaveli Prospect yesterday. "I pay £500 a year to learn history, but shave no prospects of a job. Shevardnadze has been president for 12 years and done nothing." Manana Inozaridze, a chemist, 44, was sick of a culture where you have to bribe someone to get a job. The demonstrators are endur-[quote breaks here. ed]]

[...]opposition leaders said them were ready for last ditch talks, as some protesters kept up a hunger strike. But most analysts say a peaceful end is unlikely. The president has often met opposition leaders, without success. "He told him he was like Ceaucescu [the ousted and executed Romanian dictator] and would go the same way as him."

The comparisons with Nicolae Ceaucescu epitomise [how] the man who helped to end the cold war [has] changed. Rumours abound of his exhorbitant wealth, despite the country's
poverty. His spokesman admits that the elections had abnormalities, but says they were Georgia's best yet.

Behind Mr Shevardnadze's friendly face, many say, there lurks a political situation like that of dictatorial central Asian states. The country of four million has tens of thousands of police and interior ministry troops.

"These protest show that he has built a democracy in Georgia — a place where there really is freedom of expression."

But the MP Vakhtang Khmaladze puts it differently.

["]And here corruption is now a genie unleashed from its bottle. If there is the slightest chance of him retaining a post similar to that of president, he will take it. For him, everything he does is for power."


Fighting is on a heavier scale, with US helicopters and aircraft conducting almost daily raids on Taliban groups. Swathes of the south have become no-go areas for UN aid workers and NGOs. More than 350 people have been killed by Taliban attackers or US air raids since August, a death toll greater than in Iraq.

In 1981, Kabul's two campuses thronged with women students, as well as men. Most went around without even a headscarf. Hundreds went off to Soviet universities to study engineering, agronomy and medicine. The banqueting hall of the Kabul hotel pulsated most nights to the excitement of wedding parties. The markets thrived. Caravans of painted lorries rolled up from Pakistan, bringing Japanese TV sets, video recorders, cameras and music centres.

The Russians did nothing to stop this vibrant private enterprise.

Of course, Kabul was an invaded city, but most residents-did not seem worried. Baghdad-style bomb attacks on Soviet troops were rare and the mujahedin who fought the Russians in the countryside never approached the capital. Unlike the Americans in Iraq, the Russians had enough intelligence from locals to forestall sabotage attempts.

I was no supporter of the Soviet invasion. Although nominally a response to an invitation from Afghan leaders, the despatch of Soviet troops in December 1979 was foolish and illegal, as I vigorously argued against an official from the Soviet embassy at a protest meeting at the LSE a few days later. But what I saw in 1981, and on three other visits to several cities over the 14 years that the People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) was in charge, convinced me that it was a much less bad option than the regime on offer from the western supported mujahedin.

It's a view that surfaces continually. "Those were the best times" said Latif Anwari, a translator with an NGO in Mazar. Now in his late 30s, he studied engineering in Odessa from 1985 to 1991. "There was no fighting, everything was calm, the factories were working" he said. I asked him about Mohammed Najibullah, the PDPA leader who ruled for more than three years after Soviet troops withdrew. He's universally known as "Dr Najib".

"He's still popular. If Dr Najib were a candidate in the presidential elections, he would easily win. No one likes the mujahedin," Latif said.

Or take Margaret Knill, a doughty Christian missionary from Britain who has worked at Kabul's Vocational School for the Blind since 1983. She has seen every regime for the past 20 years and has no hesitation in saying the 1980s was the high point. "The Russians re-opened the school in 1979. We had up to 130 pupils when I came. In 1993 the building was destroyed destroyed by shelling between the mujahedin factions. We moved closer to the centre but, under the Taliban, girls and the six women teachers were excluded.'

The Russians removed a PDPA autocrat, Hafizullah Amin, and installed a more benign ruler from a different wing of the party. But by then the damage had been done. The PDPA's modernising agenda was easy for local tribal leaders and rural landlords to portray as anti-Islamic. Internationally, the Soviet move was denounced as a push for global expansion. The west, which had already been covertly supporting anti-communist rebels, now massively stepped up its efforts to arm the fundamentalist resistance.

This was not a war of Russia v Afghanistan, but a civil war in which the Russians supported secular, urban Afghans against Islamic traditionalists and their Arab and western backers. Kabulis supported their agenda.

For a foreign journalist to make that case at the time was a lonely, unpopular business. Had to PDPA given more visas, they might have done better. Instead, they got a diet of romantic stuff about treks with the mujahedin: The west's greatest mistake was not that it armed the mujahedin but that after Soviet troops pulled out, it failed to back UN efforts to broker a coalition between the PDPA and the mujahedin. Washington wanted revenge for defeat in Vietnam, and George Bush senior was not ready to accept a communist role in government, however much educated Afghans preferred that to victory for the fundamentalists.

Washington is worse off than Moscow was. For the Russians, the jihadi warlords were an external enemy, propped up from outside. Now they are in the country, and even in government, resisting modernisation.

The fiercest armed opponents — the Taliban — are not getting as much foreign backing as the anti-Soviet mujahedin did. Most Afghans have learned from their parents' mistakes. The mullahs' ability to manipulate people into mistrust of the world has faded.

Why did Afghans fight the Russians 20 years ago but not the Americans now. I asked Nasir Rahman, a doctor. "Because they were ignorant" he said. "They didn't know the Russians were bringing schools and hospitals or that neighbouring countries would use Afghanistan to put pressure on Russia for their own reasons.

Now people wish they hadn't caused all this suffering. People are tired of war." I don't expect western leaders will revise their ideological image of Afghan history or accept that arming the mujahedin was a blunder.

The latter admissions remain disgraceful ones for their refusal, even now, to accept that what was really at fault throughout the Cold War was ANTI-COMMUNISM ITSELF, — and not just its more ludicrous prejudiced extremes where a slightly less-biased rationality might have preserved a certain few Third world backward spots from "unnecessary" counter-revolutionary excesses, as disingenuously argued here.

But while such a crab-like approach (to admitting that anti-communism was the great tragedy for human history, not communism) will never replace ideological constipation with any real political progress any MASS turn by any state back TOWARDS communism (after having once given it up under the sour influences of local opportunist petty bourgeois mentalities like Shevardnadze's plus the worldwide propaganda impact of Western "freedom" garbage and shallow temporary "economic miracle" glitz), — WILL have a colossal effect on world thinking.

That, of course, is still not communist leadership, but the EPSR has always maintained the view that the essence of that is the elaboration of a correct UNDERSTANDING of where the world is heading because of its international balance of class and national forces at the stage of historic development they have reached and are approaching, with every changing condition taken into account wherever possible.

If those ideas are correct and can find sufficient expression, then they can catch on.

Once the understanding catches on, then building a Leninist party of leadership should not be too difficult in a world which once boasted an international communist movement nigh hundreds of millions strong.

Which brings it all back to which understanding should the EPSR put forward?????

One subsidiary question (to the main world perspective problem) which has surged up again for instant re-examination is the "anti-semitism" issue.

It looks as if a key imperialist counter-revolutionary planning decision has been made by the CIA to use reluctance to face "race prejudice" smears as a major propaganda weapon for taking the pressure of popular hatred off of the vicious colonial warmongering tyranny inflicted by Zionist ("Israeli") aggression against the WHOLE of Arab and Muslim nationalism, and genocidally against the Palestinian people in particular.

The spokesman in Britain for Zionist tyranny, Rabbi Sachs, was given a ludicrously soft propaganda platform on "Today" to spin the exact mirror-image of the original NAZI Big Lie when Hitler and Goebbels claimed that the Jewishness of international monopoly finance capital was responsible for all of its anti-human evilness and damaging-to-humanity destructiveness.

Worldwide anti-Jewish actions recently "have nothing whatever to do with" Israel's tyranny against Palestine (which is sickening the whole world), this apologist for the Jewish international freemasonry solemnly lied.

On and on he was allowed to whine, unchallenged, that the world's problem was not the NAZI-genocidal Zionist butchery of the Palestinian nation, (which is crucially allied-to and influential-on the Western imperialist decision to develop its own blitzkrieg intimidation of the Arab nationalist and Muslim Middle East, echoing frequent earlier Jewish blitzkrieg strikes on defenceless Arab nations out of its colonised-Palestine fortress), — — but the resurgence of "anti-Jew race prejudice and persecution around the globe".

But this utter garbage is going to now come pouring out of every Nazi-CIA propaganda orifice (such as the BBC) non-stop from henceforth, wherever considered "appropriate".

The pressure now is going to be put on the anti-imperialist struggle everywhere to come to a decision at long last about whether there is any worthwhile meaning any more in distinguishing the international Jewish freemasonry from the international Zionist freemasonry, or whether continuing to do so just plays into the deliberate political-confusion hands of reactionaries like Sachs to try to double slander the worldwide anti-Israel movement as both "terrorist" and as "racist".

Since the armed Jewish colonisation of Palestine began, what further use is the old distinction between "Jew" and "Zionist" since the number of Jews who do not believe in their right to a homeland in "Israel" are no longer worth counting as a significant international or domestic factor in politics.

All that the vast majority of "anti-Zionist" Jews want to do is separate themselves from the vicious Nazi-aggression tactics of the non-stop warmongering which has created their "Israeli national home" from the very beginning.

But an utterly negligible number come out to agitate for an end to the foul nonsense of an "Israel" altogether.

In which case "Jew" and "Zionist" are now completely interchangeable.

Nevertheless, there is clearly still a "racist" element in the terrorist attacks on synagogues in Istanbul, for example, or on Jewish schools in France, or Jewish cemeteries anywhere.

But what can be done about that, and what deserves to be done about that, in the light of the conscious deliberate international NAZI-aggression role that has been played by the Jewish colony to constantly be the tail wagging the US imperialist dog towards ever-more-escalated warmongering tyranny against Arab and Muslim nationalism throughout the whole of the Middle East and beyond???

Are not these anti-Jewish terrorist "outrages" exactly like the "outrages" committed against American subjects abroad everywhere????

There is obviously not a scrap of humanity, justice, or justification on any "rational" basis, in any one of these acts of terrorist vengeance perpetrated against innocent individuals just because of their nationality or their religion.

But there never has been. There was no such rational "justification" for the Twin Towers attack on Sept 11, or for any of the IRA bombing casualties in many London and Ireland "atrocities" in the past.

Nor for any of the attacks on Red Cross or UN personnel going on in Iraq now, etc, etc, etc.

But what hypocritical line is being drawn here?????

The Jewish homeland can butcher the Palestine nation all it wants in total NAZI blitzkrieg and concentration-camp style for 55 years and NOTHING has been done about it BY ANYONE, or will be done.

This gets admitted all the time, — by everyone, Jews included, and by the imperialist press which supports "Israel":

The annual olive harvest in the occupied territories has once again been rocked by Jewish settlers and their now routine assaults on Palestinian pickers to plunder their crop. This year, the settlers have gone to new lengths which have brought unusual denunciations from the prime minister, Ariel Sharon, and even criticism from the settlers' own leaders.

Armed Israelis are systematically wrecking trees that have stood for hundreds of years and frequently provide the only livelihood for Palestinian families.

Rights groups estimate that more than 1,000 trees have been damaged or destroyed in recent weeks, some planted in the Roman era.

Among the victims are Mr Yusuf and his neighbours in Sawiya village, south of Nablus. "We used to think they just wanted our olives, but it's about land," he said. "They want to expand their settlement: by cutting the trees, they car. say the land is neglected and no one is taking care of it. And it's their excuse for getting their hands on it"

The assault on Mr Yusuf's trees came from an outpost of the Jewish settlement of Eli. "It was the first day of picking and we worked for three or four hours," said Mr Yusuf, the head of Sawiya's council. "I myself had picked five sacks when the settlers came down the hill with knives and guns. They slashed open our sacks and emptied the olives on to the ground. They put guns against our heads and made us stand there while they did it.

"The settlers have built a road near the bottom of the hill. They told us that we are not allowed to cross the road any more and that all the land the other side, all our olive trees up the hill, are now theirs."

The people of Sawiya met that night. The village had already lost large chunks of land snatched to build the settlements. and people were reluctant to surrender more. But they knew from bitter experience that, if there was violence, it would not matter who was responsible; it would be the Palestinians who would be punished with curfews or worse.

They sought protection in numbers, and returned next day with a larger group of pickers from surrounding villages. The settlers stayed away, but came down that night. Over two hillsides, they sawed and hacked trees, tearing off branches and slicing through trunks with power saws. Some larger branches were tossed to the ground still bristling with fruits. The higher the hill rose toward the settlement, the greater the destruction — mostly of the fertile branches which will take a decade to grow back and start producing again.

"Next morning we stopped an Israeli police patrol," Mr Yusuf said. "The jeep went up to the settlement and told them not to do it again. Next night they were back, and the police didn't do anything."

The people of Sawiya estimate that 250 trees, the livelihood for 10 extended families, were badly damaged or destroyed. But, as it is too dangerous to climb near the settlement, they cannot count precisely.

Settlers at Eli declined to be interviewed, but other Jewish communities in the area have justified driving Palestinians from their land.

But, as Yitzhar's spokesman, Yossi Peli, readily admits, the settlers' intent goes beyond security. "The trees grow back and ultimately we hope to harvest them in the place of the unwanted inhabitants of the area," he said. Yitzhar and its outposts have been responsible for some of the worst destruction of recent weeks, with attacks on the groves of the village of Einabus, five miles north of Sawiya.

Men from Yitzhar, a religiously militant settlement with a history of violence against Palestinians, have terrorised olive pickers from their land with guns and clubs, and destroyed hundreds of trees. In one incident, the settlers beat a 70-year-old man, stripped him, and forced him to walk back to his village naked.

The destruction of trees has drawn fire from Mr Sharon and the settlers' council. But the Yesha council qualified its criticism by saying that, while wrecking trees is wrong, it is acceptable for settlers to loot the olive crop — because Jews are entitled to harvest the produce of non-Jews in what the council defines as the "Land of Israel", which includes the West Bank.

One leftwing Israeli member of parliament, Ephraim Sneh, visited the scene, and blamed the government. "Who did this? The residents of Hilltop 725," he said. "That is a settlement outpost the government of Israel undertook to remove, but didn't; now the army is forced to guard it. We're talking about a group who live at the state's expense, with the state's protection, and do things no Jew can accept:"

Other Israeli critics warn that lawless attacks on Palestinians and their property will backfire.

And it is with deliberate and blatant RACIST "state laws" that JEWISH policy is inflicting this tyranny, helping the build-up to World War III.

The racism is inevitably sown by Jewishness itself.

The Palestinians are going to have to find a way of fighting back themselves, and they now HAVE found a way, — the only one possible in their dire circumstances of incarceration inside one giant virtual concentration camp, — the weapon of suicidal terrorism. More strength to them. It is working. Zionist tyranny is backing off. Let the identical Jewish tyranny stop playing word games internationally, and back off too. End this tyrannical fascist nonsense of "Israel" immediately, for good.

And support for this anti-Jew terrorist weapon is bound to grow worldwide. It is identical to the anti-West terrorist weapon. Let it grow. End Western imperialist domination of the planet.

The Palestinian people have been in situ for more than 1,500 years, longer than any Western nationality has been in existence.

Leave them there. Let the colonising members of the multinational international Jewish freemasonry go back to their American, British, Polish, Russian, etc, homelands and cultivate their property interests and their pro-imperialist warmongering passions there.

This continued colonial warmongering onslaught on the Middle East is a powder keg waiting to blow the whole world apart.

But this crisis driven imperialist tyranny is now inseparable from this Middle-Eastern Jewish colonial tyranny.

And the reactionary irrelevant jeers of "anti-semitism" are protecting them both. Build Leninism. EPSR


Back to the top


World Socialist Review

(edited extracts from a variety of anti-imperialist struggles)


The imperialist dollar eggs on its counter-revolutionary killers to new bloodbaths.

THREATS against Colombian human rights activists reached a new height in September when President Alvaro Uribe linked them to guerrilla groups during a public speech.

FARC fighters killed by soldiers in ColombiaUribe's speech has raised fears among the country's human rights activists, who routinely have their lives threatened by right-wing, military-supported paramilitaries. According to Amnesty International, more than 170 Colombian trade unionists were murdered last year. Years ago, the leftist party UP (Union Patriotia), a coalition of the Communist Party and other democratic organisations, was wiped out because the coalition was accused of having links with FARC. Two presidential candidates, some senators and almost all the elected UP representatives, as well as more than 5,000 militants, were killed in few years.

Given the situation in Colombia, Uribe's remarks are effectively a death sentence for human rights activists, with the always willing right-wing paramilitaries as the executioners.

Uribe made his accusation after the publication of El Embrujo Autoritario (The Authoritarian Spell), a report launched by a group of NGOs that reveals a dramatic increase in human rights violations, poverty and erosion of democracy under the first year of Uribe's presidency. The Colombian president's reaction to the report was given during a ceremony hosted by the Colombian Air Force, when Uribe pronounced during a vehement speech that NGOs were "terrorist" in nature and agents of the rebel groups.

Two human rights activists living under threat are Luz Peru Córdoba, who represents the National Agricultural Union, and Julio Abella, a political and human rights activist. Neither of them seems surprised by Uribe's latest outburst. "What we are experiencing is the strengthening of a fascist government, of a totalitarian government, that does not allow any kind of critique or any opposition to the plans imposed by the United States or the Colombian elite. That is the reason why we have become a target for the government," explains Perli Córdoba.

Julio Abella's experience of prosecution has been even more direct. He was arrested and imprisoned last year, along with another five trade unionists and human rights workers, and accused of rebellion — a charge that entails membership of a guerrilla group.

'It was a set up against social and union leaders, left-wing people, human rights defenders and members of the opposition," he says. 'Their evidence comes from their informers' network. The prisons are full of people awaiting trial. Their objective is to keep us two or two-and-a-half years in prison and then we have to be released because it all is based on nonexistent evidence. In our case, as they did not manage to keep us in prison, they are considering the next step: physical elimination. In July 2002 they tried to kill me. Two of our colleagues were killed while in jail.'

The prosecution of human rights activists and social and political leaders is not a new phenomenon in Colombia. However, Perli Córdoba and Julio Abella feel that Uribe's presidency has worsened an already bad situation. "He is ignoring the little rights that we had managed to achieve after many years of struggle, disappearances, deaths," says Perli Córdoba. "It was not the benevolence of the government that passed the 1991 Constitution and some of the most progressive legislation. They were the product of struggle. But Uribe is ignoring all this legislation. He is undermining civil liberties to handle special powers to the security forces.'

Uribe is a man of tarnished reputation. Before his election, there were some comments on his friendship with an important landowner who was being investigated for links to drugs trafficking. During his time as governor of the province of Antioquia, Uribe effectively legalised the right-wing paramilitary groups in the area, which became "security cooperatives". Human rights activists had always pointed out the link between the Colombian state and the rightwing paramilitary groups, via the military. Human Rights Watch calls these paramilitary groups the Sixth Brigade of the army. However, this is the first time that the link between a president and the death squads has been so direct.

In February 2002, just months before the presidential elections in Colombia, negotiations between the Colombian government — then headed by Andrés Pastrana — and the FARC guerrilla group were called to an end by the administration. During his electoral campaign, Uribe had already announced that his solution for the Colombian conflict would not be based on negotiations, but on military engagement. Since then, the war or the "conflict" as Uribe likes to call it, has been as bloody as ever.

Uribe is, however, ready to negotiate with his the right wing paramilitaries, and his plans include an amnesty for all members of the death squads. "He is negotiating peace with the right-wing paramilitaries. But really, what he is up to is to wash the face of the establishment, because these paramilitaries have been doing the work that once upon a time was the responsibility of the army,' says Pedi Córdoba.

'We are talking about massacres, targeted disappearances, and torture. These paramilitaries are acting under the wing of the army, sheltered by the state. And now they are talking about amnesty for these people... The negotiations of Uribe with the paramilitaries are called by everyone in Colombia 'the negotiations between me and me' because the president is talking to his own people."

A handful of Washington lawmakers have finally started recognising Uribe's sympathy for Colombia's right-wing paramilitaries, despite the fact that critics have repeatedly pointed out his past connections to the militias. At the end of September, 56 members of the US Congress sent a letter to the Colombian president stating their concerns about his plan to let right-wing paramilitaries escape justice by paying fines instead of going to prison.

There were even reports that State Department officials wanted to put a little distance between the Bush administration and the now tarnished Uribe. As a result of his amnesty plan and his recent verbal assault against NGOs, some Washington lawmakers have begun to question their support for Latin America's golden boy and the Western Hemisphere's most outspoken supporter of the Bush administration's invasion of Iraq.

By contrast, the Bush administration has given its full blessing to Udbe's plan, even promising to provide $3 million in funding this year for the initial phase of demobilisation.

Return to top