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

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No 1212 9th December 2003

History's most sinister concentration-camp torture; bombers wiping-out innocent village children on rumours of "a terrorist suspect somewhere"; "free" Afghanistan handed straight back to drugs warlords; fascist drug militias hired in Colombia; Gestapo-type death squads let loose on Iraq; unprecedented arms-race terror from the mightiest empire with the greatest counter-revolutionary violence on record; etc; etc; — no wonder US imperialism and its Zionist hitmen need the same Goebbels "Big Lie" to try to sweet-talk the world. But blitzkrieg colonial warmongering and all the SS/police-state trimmings has never changed in the whole history of monopoly capitalist world domination, and it is doomed to its worst defeat humiliation ever.

The sneer that criticism of Zionist aggression is merely anti-semitism in disguise is more than just a tactic to prevent the genocidal obliteration of the Palestinian nation from being discussed.

This "racism"-sneer smokescreen is effectively the same propaganda racket that protects the West's "right" to warmongering as a whole.

The big question is why should the armed might of Western interests be in the Middle East at all???

And the only answer is "because might is right", no different from when Western imperialism staged its last great outbreak of self-righteous militaristic domineering in the cause of a "new world order", namely World War II.

The German, Italian, and Japanese states then were just as "convinced" that their interests were threatened by "rogue state" misbehaviour, by "terrorism", and by general "amoral" international cultural influences,

Exactly the same way that the Bush clique's oil-monopoly, armaments-corporation, and "stop abortion" born-again Christian moralisers claim that "evil" must be vanquished by military mobilisation now.

And Hitler became Chancellor in 1933 by a far more "democratic" process than Bush did in 2000 to grab the presidency, (if this finance-dominated and establishment dominated "electoral democracy" fraud has ever deserved any credibility at all).

So what is the difference between big-power self-assertive blitzkrieging then and now????

There is none.

Jews hope their "anti-semitism" self-righteousness will win the day via exactly the same prejudices by which Western warmongering in general hopes to prevail.

"We are innocent. The terrorists are starting everything. We are guilty of nothing," etc, etc, etc.

This may continue to carry the argument temporarily in both cases, but history is preparing a different outcome entirely.

Essentially, the case for Western warmongering now and for the military preservation of "Israel" are the same historical issue.

Contrary to appearances, the aim of World War II was not to eliminate Western-imperialist-aggressive-warmongering from the governance of the planet, but to PRESERVE it, — rehabilitating the dominant monopoly-capitalist international system from its 1950s Depression-humiliation by switching from encouragement of Hitler Germany to wipe out the Soviet workers state (whose shining planned socialist revolutionary example was the one serious threat to capitalism's survival during its ghastly and shameful world slump to cure its economic "overproduction of capital" crisis)... to a temporary alliance with the USSR to defeat the "Axis" Western imperialist powers.

Thanks to the naïve philosophical-imbecility of Stalinist Revisionism, the trick worked; and the Soviet Union lulled the world into accepting that the now US-led "new world order" (of the same old Western imperialist military domination of the planet, disgraced even more by WWII than it had been by WWI), would henceforth become "safely coexistible-with".

The limitless warmongering insanity now escalating its grip over the planet, — of which the armed genocidal colonisation of the Palestinian homeland by Western-imperialist Jewish interests is not just a symbolic and typical instance but also now plays a key role, is the outcome of that temporary infantile regression in the steady evolution of world materialist philosophy.

It is precisely in the absurdly deluded shallowness of the stock western view of the post-1945 "new world order" that the Jewish religious-freemasonry interests hope to get away with muddying the clear picture today (of relentless Zionist-fascist aggression to genocidally wipe out the Palestinian homeland) — by labelling its depiction as "anti-semitism".

'If the postwar settlement by the "victorious allies" is now an accepted part of history which can no longer be challenged, — the Marshall Plan to "generously aid European reconstruction"; the establishment of "international law" by the UN; the Western pretence of "peaceful and democratic settlements universally"; etc, etc; — then a classic example of all these supposed benefits for mankind in operation, namely the "generous founding of a homeland for the Jews in the Holy Land to be called 'Israel' " is to be treated as similarly unassailable History now.

And every devious approach to this subject now tries to pull this same unstated stunt:— "Criticise any act you wish of the Israeli Government, just don't challenge the right of Israel to exist".

And every single slander of "anti-semitism" now works itself up into a lather via unstated reference to this assumedly "untouchable" question of "Why should Israel exist at all?".

Every argument which strays in that direction immediately gets the "anti-semitism" boot right in the face, just as all Palestinian and Arab resistance since 1948 to that armed colonisation of the Palestinian homeland has been getting a boot in the face (and much worse besides).

Notice how, despite all the new flood, now, of unprecedented anti-Zionist criticism in the Western bourgeois media, there is still never any addressing of the only serious question worth asking if there is ever to be any resolution to this never-ending horror story of genocidal warmongering "Israeli" tyranny, — namely, why has this armed colonisation been planted in the midst of the Palestinian Arab homeland at all??? And why does it go on receiving Western imperialist protection, the highest per-capita aid-rate of any country on Earth, and generous licence to have access to any weaponry, including nuclear weapons, uniquely among all countries which are outside the magic circle of the major Western imperialist powers??

The question never gets debated in the media because the whole of the Western world knows that there is not a single shred of historical justification for the armed establishment of "Israel" in the Palestinian Arabs' very midst, either then or now.

To any materialist rational-thinking historical judgement, the whole notion of planting a Western armed colony in 1948 right in the heart of the Arab Middle East is simply an utterly insane idea which will become one thing only in due course, — a festering sore of unendable warmongering conflict in the region.

And so it is now proving, exactly as the EPSR has always explained was bound to happen.

And the brainwashing nightmare to try to ensure that this questioning of the very existence of "Israel" should never get debated by a zombiefied world, — was also predictable too.

But like all propaganda stunts which go against the grain of history, this one too will in time crash in flames.

The postwar world HAD TO include some genuine elements of retreat from empire, otherwise the mythical nonsense of the "victorious allies" who would "respect peaceful coexistence" could never have been sold to a naive trusting world by Stalinist Revisionism (to get all-out war-revolutionary struggle put on the back burner, giving the delusions of "good imperialists" (as opposed to "bad, fascist imperialists") the chance to fall apart peacefully under their own "going nowhere" steam, etc, etc).

And this physical empire-dismantling (as opposed to the financial continuation of Western monopoly capitalist global empires) was what the armed colonial establishment of the "state of Israel" went right against the grain of.

It was, then, (and can only be, now), purely a matter of time before this armed colonisation implantation of Western Jewish monopoly-imperialist — (for that is the reality) — interests right in the heart of the Arab Middle East, (itself in inevitable all-out conflict with the West eventually, — out of the natural progression of incurable periodic capitalist-world "overproduction" crisis and warmongering sort-out), — became nothing but an endless explosion point in world politics.

To a Marxist historical perspective, the whole of Western history since 1945 (and the whole of world history, effectively) has been nothing but one long run-up to the moment when the West's monopoly-imperialist racket finally hits the buffers of Third World revolutionary resistance. That is the general historical period now being entered into with the reassertion of inter-imperialist conflict (the incurable crisis of the overproduction of capital — see EPSR box). And the racket of getting the world and the Arabs to swallow the colonising armed establishment of a warmongering Zionist imperialist tyranny in their midst, is bound to now be unravelling too. And all the bleating in the world of "But how can you sensibly compare this new US warmongering (against 'real' terrorists with Nazi Germany's inhuman WWII plans for mass subjugation and slaughter?" will cut no ice.

There are two answers.

Firstly, German imperialism was in reality not comparable to its "Nazi horror" historical characterisation anyway.

Every filthy trick from concentration camp slaughter, police-state torture, master-race genocide, and brainwashing propaganda; to blitzkrieg bombing annihilation, scorched-earth starvation, collective punishment-massacre disciplining, and hostage killing control, had ALL been well-tried and used by every major imperialist power in the field before Germany and Japan, — namely by the long-established (hundreds of years) continent-sized empires (frequently slave-powered) of Britain, France, Spain, Portugal, and the United States, to name but few.

Germany and Japan ended up doing it too, admittedly. But what was new and special about that??? Only that they were rising new powers, and their new found aggressiveness and industrial commercial might had put the old-established colonial empires noses out of joint; and they have been paying the propaganda penalty in crap misleading history ever since.

Secondly, who says this new US imperialist warmongering "cannot sensibly be compared to the fascist aggression of WWII"???

Washington's demented arms-race for ever-more-terrifying weapons of mass destruction and ever-vaster stockpiling of them, makes Germany's 1930s efforts look ridiculously tame by comparison.

And the USA's thug-like promise to pre-emptively crush any attempt, even, by any power to catch up with America's arsenal, makes Hitler Germany's endless whingeing about the unfair advantages which the unequal Versailles Treaty had left to rival imperialist powers (in armaments and defensive installations) sound like a bleating chicken.

And a whole Middle East blitzkrieg (with much more threatened to come for an overgrowing list of "rogue states") just because a handful of "terrorists" with a grievance have staged a couple of suicide stunts against American subjects or interests????????

This American "logical" joke and military aggression insanity makes EVERY "lebensraum" grievance and "protect German interests" provocation by Hitler Germany seem almost sane by comparison.

And if "which is the worst warmongering fascism" should be decided by the actual atrocities committed, then the USA has already left Nazi Germany far, far behind, — and before World War III has even properly started.

To begin with, the USA has already compiled a 400-war start on any Hitler imperialist comparison.

Estimates can vary wildly, but from 10 to 20 million innocents have ALREADY perished since 1945 from US imperialism's "might is right" aggressive master-race world domination, — before WWIII has even got started.

And now that this unrestrained blitzkrieging has at last got into its stride, the totally devastating "shock and awe" murderous annihilation has been on a cruel and indiscriminate scale as to make the Hitlerite bombings look like rank amateurishness.

Tens of thousands of totally innocent and uninvolved Afghani and Iraqi women and children have been massacred, — and are still being massacred daily, — by this fascist aggressive monstrousness.

And all for what??? In the disgusting pretence, only, of "dealing with terrorism", a propaganda stunt which might even have made Goebbels blush, and a blatant idiocy when the whole world can see that terrorist resentment arises from Third World poverty and injustice which are growing fast, as will terrorism.

Bizarrely, it is the Zionist-colonists themselves, — now so exposed themselves and obviously identifying themselves with the USA's reborn NAZI aggressiveness and warmongering propaganda in a desperate panic for any protective covering or like-minded lair that they can find, — who could most decisively ridicule this Goebbelsian "Big Lie" that total war 'shock & awe' is the way to "counter terrorism".

Terrorism has GROWN RELENTLESSLY precisely IN RESPONSE TO the Zionist merciless armed colonising of the Palestinian homeland.

The Jews blitzkrieging state-terror is designed for another purpose entirely, to help Western imperialism win World War Three, — starting with the crushing and intimidating of all state-organised resistance to Zionist aggression.

The Jewish religious freemasonry has its own particular propaganda routines with which to milk support from the post-1945 brainwashed Western populace, in step with the "good allies" imperialism feigning astonishment that the current "peacekeeping" and "justice-seeking" and "democracy-installing" and "terrorism-routing" blitzkrieging should remotely be compared to another fascist like round of warmongering aggression.

" Making the desert bloom"; "righting the eternal injustice to the Jewish people"; "fulfilling God's commands"; "collaborating to bring closure to Europe's difficult, painful, and shameful WWII tragedy"; "cooperating with the introduction of UN 'international law' "; "becoming a potential huge economic locomotive for the whole Middle East"; etc, etc, etc, etc, — all are part of the postwar Jewish myth.

Equally well-drilled are various degrees of Jewish "disowning" of the more blatant passages of state-terror tyranny by "Israeli" gun colonisation.

"How could you accuse us, the victims of the Holocaust and of endless Arab terrorism, of being anything but the innocent victims of this savage hostility by this hopelessly barbaric Palestinian Islamic extremism", etc, etc.

"Anyone unmoved by any of this has surely got to have an ingrained anti-Semitic agenda, just as has always persecuted the Jews throughout history", it goes on. This basic crude jingoistic shallowness then gets refined increasingly, all the way to the top of "liberal" Jewishness, where nothing so crude as defending "Israeli" tyranny is even attempted, but where any threat of too effective anti-Zionism is nevertheless cleverly knifed with the smear of "anti-semitism", as in this letter to the Guardian by an otherwise accomplished and progressive author:

Anti-Israel equals/does not equal anti-semitism: there is something a little Alice-in-Wonderland happening to this debate. John le Carré on Radio 4 last Monday said it was obscene that he can't be critical of Israel without being accused of anti-semitism (The Guardian profile, December 5). This, in turn, means we can't suggest someone is being anti-Semitic in the manner and tone with which they are being anti-Israeli, though we know in our bones that is the case.

Le Carré and Brian Klug (No, anti-Zionism is not anti-semitism, December 3) are applying reason to the irrational. There are many Jews, like myself, who are critical of aspects of Israeli policy; we also know there is, there most definitely, identifiably is, a molten flow of anti-semitism burning the air of reason and screened unreachably behind smoky anti-Zionism, complaining comfortably that to say otherwise is obscene.

Jews in all walks of life, university, the arts, bookselling — have stories of encounters where the questions posed and the criticisms levelled are couched in tight-lipped, hostile tones and phraseology that have nothing to do with the substance of purported concern. Anti-Semitism, like stupidity, is here to stay in the bloodstream of humankind; and like stupidity will assume many guises. In the good old days, anti-semitism used to be prefaced with a slap on the back and "some of my best friends are Jews"

Let's bring that one back. Arnold Wesker

It is Wesker's suspicions that require the explanation. The entire media debate is bending over backwards, as Le Carré did, to deliberately avoid the really challenging question: Why should "Israel" exist at all? — and to stress how pro-Jewish is the normal sympathy of the West.

But still the religious freemasonry is not satisfied; and the potentially devastating charge of "anti-semitism" is still outrageously and irresponsibly levelled, —- and for the obvious reason that there is no justification for "Israel", let alone for its state-terror criminal colonising, — nor can there be any justification, by Jewishness or by anything else.

And the test is not simply that if Wesker had any good arguments justifying "Israel" he would use them rather than resort to the filthy character assassination smear of "anti-semitism".

The test is that until a sizeable volume of Jewish opinion publicly starts campaigning against the existence of "Israel" (which in factual political terms is nothing but an anachronistic armed Western-imperialist colonisation directed at the very heart of the Arab Middle East) as the only possible way forward from the WWIII warmongering crisis which demented US imperialist circles are now threatening the planet with, — then it will remain inescapable that in the late 20th century, the Jewish religious freemasonry, ended its long self-protection history by becoming just a stooge for renewed Western imperialist blitzkrieging as a "solution" to insoluble-economic crisis).

Inevitably in these circumstances, anti-semitism will spread like wildfire too, virtually indistinguishable from anti-Zionism.

But there does still remain a vast difference.

Let a single state of Palestine become one country again, letting EVERY Palestinian return to their old property, wherever possible.

Then let every Jew in this probable Arab majority state stay on as a fully participating citizen if invited, and make as much of the desert bloom as is legal, and be as religiously at home in "God's promised land" as any "chosen people" could wish to feel.

And as some smarter "Israelis" are already arguing (from a purely defensive point of view), if this colonising settlement land-grabbing genocide goes on for much longer, it will be impossible to physically separate the Jewish and Palestinian existences anyway, sooner or later.

So why not make a virtue of this and declare one state for all right now, whereby the Jews would at least massively benefit for generations to come from the huge skills, networking, organisational, political, and financial advantages they have already, — much of which would be a tad unfair for the Palestinians, but only a comparative disadvantage, easily digested in the face of the huge transformation in Palestinian lives that the establishment of a single state of Palestine, with returned lands and citizenship for all ousted inhabitants (since 1948, and even decades earlier under British imperialist tyranny) plus all their offspring, would achieve.

But nothing like this is going to happen, of course.

As can be seen from Wesker's sad contribution, the Jewish religious freemasonry has the imperialist-era conquest-chauvinism in its nostrils; and just like any imperialist-nationalism mentality (the USA's for example, which has been the mainstay in every way of "Israeli" jingoism), this empire-building can only now tyrannically drive on UNTIL DEFEATED.

And the best "liberal-Israeli" defensive position is worse than useless too, — granting the Palestinians a Mickey-Mouse joke "state" on a semi-desert pocket-handkerchief-sized quilt of reservations on just 20% of Palestine, all dominated by "Israeli" guns and roadworks, etc.

This would not reduce the apartheid tyranny of the occupied Palestine concentration camp, but only make it more humiliating and intolerable than ever.

Imperialist warmongering madness is taking the world to a completely different solution to its problems, the international socialist revolution for mankind's civilisation's only possible survival.

All "Israel" apologists of any description, however mealy-mouthed, are only offering a "victorious" World War III "solution" as a way out of the planet's insoluble monopoly imperialist economic and political contradictions.

To various levels of doubt that the incomparably wealthy and mighty US imperialist "new world order" might not yet find or impose some half-tolerable "solution" or other to the world's warmongering crisis, let the capitalist press itself admit how morally, politically, and economically bankrupt the whole "free world" racket has really become:

Israeli advisers are helping train US special forces in aggressive counter-insurgency operations in Iraq, including the use of assassination squads against guerrilla leaders, US intelligence and military sources said yesterday.

The Israeli Defence Force (IDF) has sent urban warfare specialists to Fort Bragg in North Carolina, the home of US special forces, and according to two sources, Israeli military "consultants" have also visited Iraq.

US forces in Iraq's Sunni triangle have already begun to use tactics that echo Israeli operations in the occupied territories, sealing off centres of resistance with razor wire and razing buildings from where attacks have been launched against US troops.

But the secret war in Iraq is about to get much tougher, in the hope of suppressing the Ba'athist-led insurgency ahead of next November's presidential elections.

US special forces teams are already behind the lines inside Syria attempting to kill foreign jihadists before they cross the border, and a group focused on the "neutralisation" of guerrilla leaders is being set up, according to sources familiar with the operations.

"This is basically an assassination programme. That is what is being conceptualised here. This is a hunter killer team," said a former senior US intelligence official, who added that he feared the new tactics would inflame a volatile situation in the Middle East.

"It is bonkers, insane ... we're already being compared to Sharon in the Arab world, and we've just confirmed it by bringing in the Israelis and setting up assassination teams:'

Nothing like the horrors of WWII imperialist military aggression??? The pro-imperialist rags themselves own up differently:

In India Block, as the block of punishment cells is known, "there were no windows. There were four walls and a roof made of tin, a light bulb and an air conditioner. They put the air conditioning on and it was extremely cold. They would take away the blanket in the morning and bring it back in the evening. I was kept in this room for one month. We'd ask them: 'Is this a sort of a punishment?' And the translator would say, 'No, this is being done on orders from the general.' "

As treatment for Mohammed's suicidal state of mind, US medics injected him with an unknown drug, against his will. "I refused and they brought seven or eight people and held me and injected me," he says. "I couldn't see down, I couldn't see up. I felt paralysed for one month — this injection, the effect, I couldn't think or do anything. They gave me tranquillising tablets.

They just told me: 'Your brain is not working properly.' They were forcing me to take these injections and tablets and I didn't want to do that. Some people were being injected every month."

In trying to learn what life is like at the US prison camp at Guantanamo, the few score of released detainees — almost all Pakistanis and Afghans — are among the scant sources available. Journalists are allowed to "visit" the facility; the Guardian has been three times, and I was offered a slot, but journalists, like family members, lawyers and human rights investigators, have no access to the detainees themselves.

Yet the testimony of those former detainees, together with rare scraps of information from censored mail, official statements and the odd comment from guards and others who have been inside, overlaps into a coherent portrait. In the almost two years since the Guantanamo prison camp opened to hold people seized by the US in what the Bush administration has designated "the war on terror", it has settled from a rough and ready, occasionally brutal place of confinement into a full-grown mongrel of international law, where all the harshness of the punitive US prison system is visited on foreigners, unmitigated by any of the legal rights US prisoners enjoy.

To this is added the mentally corrosive threat, alien to the US constitution, of infinite confinement, without court or appeal, on the whim of a single man the president of the US.

One of the few political statements to slip past the censors by a man still detained there is contained in a short postcard from a French prisoner, Nizar Sassi, to his family, dated August 2002. "If you want a definition of this place" he wrote, "you don't have the right to have rights."

US set about constructing, behind razor wire on a secure Caribbean island, an incarcerated model of what its "war on terror" rhetoric implies. It has gathered terrorism suspects from all over the world, imposed discipline and order on them, encouraged them to hate the US and kept them together for years. It was as if the Bush administration so wanted the Hollywood fantasy of a central terrorist campus to be true that they built it themselves.

Because the roughly 660 detainees still on Guantanamo have no voice, and because the US has never explained case by case why it locked them up, the outside world has only the accounts of their families and the catch-all US definition of "enemy combatant" to understand who they are and why they are there.

Most were arrested in Afghanistan but many were handed over to the US by other countries. "They are an extremely heterogeneous group. There are some 40 different nationalities.

There are some people who are extremely educated and westernised, and some people who, are not at all. There are some very young people and some very old and wise people. There are people who speak English well, people who don't speak English at all. There are some who go in with mental disorders . . .there are some very secular, and some deeply devout."

There is Shafiq Rasul from Tiptop in the West Midlands, who took his wardrobe of designer clothes with him to Pakistan, was captured with his friends Asif Iqbal and Rhuhel Ahmed by the Northern Alliance, and was handed over to the US in Shebergan in northern Afghanistan in December 2001. Jamil al-Banna and Bisher al-Rawi, two refugees living in Britain, were arrested in the Gambia in west Africa, and handed over to the US by the Gambians. Moazzam Begg and Richard Belmar, two other Britons, were arrested in Pakistan and handed over to the US by the Pakistanis. David Hicks, an Australian, who had previously led a life of shark fishing and kangaroo skinning; and had fathered two children, ended up in the Shebergan prison after fighting with the KLA in Albania and the Kashmiri insurgency group Lashkar-eTaiba. Mehdi-Mohammed Ghezali, who grew up in the Swedish town of Rebro and whose father was Algerian and mother Finnish, had a promising career as a footballer ahead of him before turning up with the Taliban in Afghanistan and being captured. Nizar Sassi and Mourad Bechnellali grew up in Venissieux, a suburb of Lyons. Their lives came to revolve around the mosque on Lenin Boulevard before they travelled east. Ibrahim Fauzee, a citizen of the Maldives, was arrested in Karachi while staying in the home of a man with suspected al-Qaida links. Tarek Dergoul, from east London, thought to have been arrested during the battle for Tora Bora in southern Afghanistan, is reported to have had an arm amputated as a result of wounds. Sami al-Haj, a Sudanese assistant cameraman with the al-Jazeera TV station, was picked out and held while leaving Afghanistan for Pakistan after the fall of Kabul with the rest of his crew. They never saw him again. Another Briton, Martin Mubanga, from north London, was handed over to the US by Zambia. Jamal Udeen, from Manchester, born into a devout catholic home, and converted to Islam in his 20s and was seized in Afghanistan only three weeks after he left England. Airat Vakhitov, one of eight Russians on Guantanamo, thought he had been liberated when a reporter from Le Monde discovered him in a Taliban jail, where he had sat in darkness and been beaten for seven months on suspicion of spying for the KGB. But he only exchanged the Taliban prison for an American one. And there is Mish al-Hahrbi, a Saudi schoolteacher. After he tried to kill himself on Guantanamo, he suffered severe and irreversible brain damage.

The road for many detainees, including the small number who have since been released, began with, they claim, a non-combatant reason for being where they were when they were caught. Mohammed says he went to work for the Taliban as a baker; Razaq says he was a missionary. They were held by the Northern Alliance in northern Afghanistan, selected by the Alliance to receive a cursory interview from US special forces or the CIA, and flown to Kandahar, where they were held for weeks or months before being flown to Cuba.

Razaq, in his first interview with a journalist, told me he was convinced the only reason he was sent to Cuba was because he spoke English. He had been held by the Northern Alliance for a month in Shebergan prison, in crowded conditions with little food, when Alliance soldiers came and asked the group of Pakistani, Arab and Uzbek captives who among them spoke English. Razaq stepped forward.

His hands were tied and he was taken to a small room with mud walls where he was made to kneel on the ground in front of two Americans in uniform, one sitting on a mud bench projecting from the wall and the other standing. The interview took three or four minutes, and consisted of two questions: "What is your name, and why have you come to Afghanistan?" Afterwards he was taken outside. He just had time to see a group of bound men with hoods on their heads sitting in a row before he, too, was hooded. They were taken to an airfield and flown to Kandahar. No signal had passed between his interrogators and the soldiers who hooded him. In other words, on the basis that he knew English, the US had already decided to take him to Kandahar, whatever the result of this initial interview.

Another released Pakistani, Mohammed Saghir, a grey-bearded sawmill owner who is now 53, tells me that he had not even had a cursory interview at Shebergan before he was bound hand and foot, blindfolded and helicoptered to Kandahar.

Shah Mohammed was held at a prison in Mazar-i-Sharif, near Shebergan, before being sent to Kandahar. He met Hicks, the Australian, while he was there. There were early signs of the differential treatment, apparently according to national background and skin colour, that was to be one of the characteristics of the US handling of terror suspects.

"I spoke to the Australian, he knew a bit of Urdu; says Mohammed. "He said he had come for Jihad. He was asked a lot of questions [by the Americans], more than us. He was taken to a navy ship and I was taken to Kandahar." Mohammed was to see Hicks again.

The released detainees recount the roughness with which they were treated at Kandahar, from the moment of their transport there. "One thing I've learned about the Americans is they are very harsh when they transport people around," says Razaq. "They had tied up my hands so tight that for two months I couldn't use my right hand. They haul you from your neck and drop you off the plane in a very disrespectful manner. For a long time we didn't know it was Kandahar. We thought they were going to kill us there."

"They would just pick us up and throw us out [of the plane]," says Saghir. "Some people were hurt, some quite badly" Mohammed says. "They kicked us out of the plane and threw us on the ground.'

The accommodation at Kandahar was uncomfortable. Prisoners slept and sat in small groups under canvas canopies, on the bare earth, surrounded by razor wire and under constant surveillance. They were given a single blanket each. It was winter. Razaq says that the bottled water they were given to drink would be frozen in the mornings. He said that for the first 20 days, a strict no-talking rule was enforced. Saghir describes how no one had been allowed to sleep for more than an hour. "If someone slept for an hour they would yell at him: Get him up!"

The prisoners were interrogated steadily, with long intervals between sessions. "We used to ask them: 'Why are we being kept here?"' says Mohammed. "They would reply: 'You will be interrogated, and whoever is found innocent will be allowed to go. They never told us we would be taken to Cuba."

Razaq was one of the last to leave Kandahar. He saw the camp emptying around him. From his testimony, it appears that once a detainee was committed to Kandahar, the vast US military bureaucracy could only send people to Guantanamo. "I don't know what made them suspect me, but there were rumours that they arrested me because they thought I was a very senior Taliban official," he says. "In fact, in the last interrogation at Kandahar, the American interrogator gave me water to drink and assured me I would be released.

"This assurance was given to me on several occasions. I never knew where they were taking the people who disappeared. We asked the Red Cross, but they wouldn't give us any information. But there was this gate through which we could see people in red costumes in the distance. At the end, it seemed they just wanted to send everyone to Cuba and I was in the last group."

The last thing the US captors did before dispatching the Kandahar detainees to Cuba was shave off their beards, a process they found humiliating. Razaq was told it was because,
without showers, they had picked up lice. "We resisted, but four or five commandos came and they had a machine and just shaved off my beard and moustache," says Saghir.

For the flight to Cuba, the prisoners were given the orange jumpsuits familiar from television footage of their arrival at Guantanamo. They were bound hand and foot, blindfolded, gagged, and their ears were muffled. Once on board the military transport plane, their feet were chained to the floor, their hands bound to the handrests, and restraining straps stretched across their bodies. "The translator told us: 'Don't make any movement, don't worry, you are being taken home' " says Mohammed. "I don't remember how many hours but we left at night from Kandahar and arrived in Cuba in the evening. We stopped somewhere and changed planes."

Saghir says that, as with the arrival at Kandahar, the detainees, still bound, gagged and blindfolded, were thrown off the plane on arrival in Cuba — some had their noses broken, he says. "I got a bruise under my left eye where my face hit the ground."

The first prisoners were moved from the runway to a truck, from there to a launch across the bay, and from there to the bare mesh cages which would be their home for the first few months of 2002, the original detention centre, Camp X-Ray.

Cubans remember, if few others do, that the world's first concentration camps were built on their island by the Spanish in the 1890s.

In the first few weeks of Camp X-Ray's existence, the regime was even harsher than it looked from the pictures of tiny cages. The prisoners were not allowed to speak to each other, not even in a whisper. "I spent the first month in utter silence," says Mohammed.

According to Saghir, in this initial, relatively brutal phase of Guantanamo, there was little tolerance for the practice of Islam, with its requirement of prayer five times a day.

"I tried to pray and four or five commandos came and they beat me up. If someone would try to make a call for prayer they would beat him up and gag him. After one-and-a-half months, we went on hunger strike."

US officials at the camp have admitted hunger strikes did take place there — in some cases, prisoners were force fed — but in the minds of the detainees, they leave been associated with protests that have achieved results. According to Saghir, it was only after a mass four-day hunger strike that the no-talking rule was lifted.

Razaq, who arrived after Camp X-Ray had already shut down, said that the culture of protest was a feature of life in Guantanamo. "In the beginning there was a mass hunger strike, but later on there were individual cases of people not eating," he says. In other cases detainees would take off their plastic tags carrying their US identification codes and throw them at the guards, or would bang on their metal benches. Sometimes the guards would use a disabling gas in response.

"When we threw off our tags the guards asked us to hand over our blankets, but two of our colleagues didn't oblige, so they sprayed them to make them unconscious, tied them up and took them to the punishment block; during that transfer they were quite brutal" says Razaq.

2x3 metres with walls of wire mesh, concrete floors and metal ceilings," wrote Eriksson, outside their cells they wear hand and feet restraints. The handcuffs are fastened to a belt around their waist allowing them only restricted movement with their hands and arms. [Ghezali] only just managed to drink water from a mug with hand restraints on.

"The leg restraints mean that when detainees are moved they have to move forward taking very small steps. One of the guards keeps a hand on the back of the detainee's neck the whole time, bending the detainee's head forwards so that he is looking at the ground the whole time he is being moved.["]

In April 2002, the prisoners were moved to new accommodation, Camp Delta. The cages are about as long and wide as a tall man lying down, and contain a metal bunk, a tap and a toilet. There is Delta Block, where prisoners with mental problems are kept under special observation, and India Block, and possibly one other block, which contain the punishment isolation cells.

The Guardian has also learned that a very small number of prisoners, thought to be between two and five, are kept permanently isolated in a special, super-secure facility within Camp Delta.

Mohammed, Saghir and Razaq all had experience of the punishment cells. Saghir says that he was locked up in one of the windowless metal boxes for more than a week when an Arab spat at a guard and the entire line of 24 cages was punished with solitary.

There has been an enormous amount of interrogation; each prisoner has typically been questioned between 10 and 20 times, which would, assuming interviews last 90 minutes on average, have generated some 15,000 hours of transcripts, containing perhaps 200 million words, the equivalent of around 250 Bibles. Yet without exception, the detainees say they were questioned by different interrogators each time, and each time the questions were the same.

Prisoners describe the interrogation room as a small, windowless, air-conditioned, plywood space, lit by fluorescent ceiling tubes. There is a metal ring fixed to the floor; while they are being interrogated, the prisoners sit in a chair and have their chains fixed to the ring.

"They would ask: Where is Osama? Do you know any of the al-Qaida leaders? Have you met them?'Things like that," says Saghir. "They would not get angry with my answers. We would ask them and they would say: 'We don't know when you will be let free. Only our bosses know, we are here to do our job.' "

Sometimes it seemed that the interrogators wanted the detainees to show sympathy with the victims of 9/11. Saghir was once told by a translator that he had got closer to being released by giving a "right" answer. "In my last interrogation I was asked: 'These people who attacked the twin towers, would you call them Muslims?' I answered: 'I won't call them Muslims, but I'm not a religious scholar, I couldn't judge these people.' The translator then said: 'You have gone one stage further, there will be no more interrogations.' " Razaq said detainees who refused to answer questions were sometimes put in isolation cells as punishment.

The interrogated and the interrogator do attempt mind games with each other. In one interrogation, the interrogators effectively told Razaq he was free to go. "They said: '0K, your file is clear. Where do you want us to drop you?' "

Daring to hope, Razaq answered: "Peshawar?" Immediately, the interrogators began questioning him again as if for the first time, and made him take a lie-detector test. "Maybe this was one of their tactics," says Razaq. "They first made me happy and accept that I will be free, then they changed direction."

Guantanamo is a bleak, dull, repressive place for its inmates. Yet there is something about it which may not be immediately apparent to Europeans dismayed by the level of security, the chains and the punitive, degrading way the prisoners are caged.

By focusing on physical conditions, there is a risk of missing the unique aspect of Guantanamo — the arbitrary, unprecedented and unfair way in which President Bush and his administration have confined hundreds of people without either any idea how long they are to be locked up, or any way to plead their case. It is this which the legal establishment in the US and Europe finds most menacing. It is this which causes the greatest mental torment to the prisoners and their families. And the strange Pentagon creatures that have been set up to try some detainees, the military commissions, are, the Guardian has learned, troubling even the uniformed lawyers signed up to make them work.

"It's horrible being a prisoner . . . when I read about your British detainees, and families being concerned that people are being tortured because they are depressed, I wish I could tell the families it doesn't need torture to make someone depressed in prison. Just a normal prison environment produces profound alteration in mental states, suicide and depression.

"But at Guantanamo there's an added level of stress, and I think that is the thing that's somewhat unique. . . Inmates in a normal prison are focused on how much time they are going to serve, on contacting their lawyers, on being able to take constructive efforts to get out; these are important ways prisoners deal with the stress of confinement, and these guys can't do anything."

"You kidnap people who may be totally innocent, you take them all the way around the world in hoods and shackles, you hold them incommunicado for two years, you don't give them a lawyer and you don't tell them what they're charged with. It's not a matter of what's wrong with it, it's a question of what's right with it. And it achieves nothing."

Shah Mohammed was given no apology or compensation when he was released, just a three-paragraph letter from a unit based at Bagram airport in Afghanistan; called CFTF180Detainee Ops. It is signed by a soldier with a rank lower than corporal, Joseph P Burke. It reads: "This memorandum is to certify that Shah Mohammed Alikhel [his tribal name], ISNUS9PK-00019DP, was detained by the United States Military from January 13 2002 to Mar 22 2003." The letter is dated May 8; in other words, Mohammed was kept prisoner two months longer than the US wanted him.

Despite interrogating him nine or 10 times, the letter goes on to say that the US has no record of Mohammed's place of birth. The letter concludes: "This individual has been determined to pose no threat to the United States military or its interests in Afghanistan or Pakistan. There are no charges pending from the United States against this individual . . . the United States government intends that this person be fully rejoined with his family."

"If they kept me for 18 months and sent me a letter to certify I'm innocent, then why did they keep me there for 18 months?" asks Shah Mohammed. "Don't they have any duty or obligation to me?"

Even less than a duty — a nameless grudge: despite declaring him harmless, the US military transported him home to Pakistan as it had brought him to Cuba — in chains.


But merely "first time aggressive-leadership awkwardness by a country more used to helping the whole world than harming it"????

Since 1945, US imperialism has slaughtered up to 20 million in an unparalleled reign of imperialist counter-revolutionary terror:

SOUTH DAKOTA, 1890(-?) Troops: 300 Lakota Indiana massacred at Wounded Knee.

ARGENTINA,1890 Troops: Buenos Aires interests protected.

CHILE, 1891 Troops: Marines clash with nationalist rebels.

HAITI, 1891 Troops: Black workers' revolt on US-claimed Navassa Island defeated.

IDAHO, 1892 Troops: Army suppresses silver miners' strike.

HAWAII, 1893(-?) Naval, troops: Independent kingdom overthrown, annexed.

CHICAGO, 1894 Troops: Breaking of rail strike, 34 killed.

NICARAGUA, 1894 Troops: Month-long occupation of Bluefields.

CHINA, 1894-5 Naval, troops: Marines land in Sino-Japanese War.

KOREA, 1894-8 Troops: Marines kept in Seoul during war.

PANAMA, 1895 Troops, naval: Marines land in Colombian province.

NICARAGUA, 1898 Troops: Marinas lend In port of Corinto.

CHINA, 1898-1900 Troops: Boxer Rebellion fought by foreign armies.

PHILIPPINES, 1898-1911)(4) Naval, hoops: Seized from Spain, killed 600,000 Filipinos.

CUBA, 1898-7902(-?) Naval, troops: Seized from Spain, still hold Navy base.

PUERTO RICO, 1898(-?) Naval, troops: Seized from Spain, occupation continue.

GUAM, 1898(-?) Naval, troops: Seized from Spain, still used as base.

MINNESOTA, 1898(-?) Troops: Army battles Chippewa at Leech Lake.

NICARAGUA, 1898 Troops: Marines land at port of San Juan dal Sur.

SAMOA, 1899(-?) Troops: Battle over succession to throne.

NICARAGUA, 1899 Troops: Marines land at port of Bluefields.

IDAHO, 1899-1901 Troops: Army occupies Coeur d'Alene mining region.

OKLAHOMA, 1901 Troops: Army battles Creek Indian revolt.

PANAMA, 1901-14 Naval, troops: Broke off from Colombia 1903, annexed Canal Zone 1914-99.

HONDURAS, 1903 Troops: Marines Intervene in revolution.

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC, 1903-04 Troops: US Interests protected in Revolution.

KOREA, 1904-05 Troops: Marines land in Russo-Japanese War.

CUBA, 1906-09 Troops: Marines land in democratic election.

NICARAGUA, 1907 Troops: 'Dollar Diplomacy' protectorate set up.

HONDURAS, 1907 Troops: Marines land during war with Nicaragua.

PANAMA, 1908 Troops: Marines Intervene in election contest.

NICARAGUA, 1910 Troops: Marines land in Bluefields and Corinto.

HONDURAS, 1911 Troops: US Interests protected in civil war.

CHINA, 1911-41 Naval, troops: Continuous occupation with flare-ups.

CUBA, 1912 Troops: US interests protected in Havana.

PANAMA, 1912 Troops: Marines land during heated election.

HONDURAS, 1912 Troops: Marines protect U5 economic interests.

NICARAGUA, 1912-33 Troops, bombing: 20-year occupation, fought guerrillas.

MEXICO, 1913 Naval: Americans evacuated during revolution.

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC. 1914 Naval: Fight with rebels over Santo Domingo.

COLORADO, 1914 Troops: Breaking of miners' strike by Army.

MEXICO, 1914-18 Naval, troops: Series of interventions against nationalists.

HAITI, 1914-34 Troops, bombing: 19-year occupation after revolts.

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC, 1916-24 Troops: 8-year Marine occupation.

CUBA, 1917-33 Troops: Military occupation, economic protectorate.

WORLD WAR I, 1917-18 Naval, troops: Ships sunk, fought Germany.

RUSSIA, 1918-22 Naval, troops: Five landings to fight Bolsheviks.

PANAMA, 1918-20 Troops: 'Police duty' during unrest after elections.

YUGOSLAVIA, 1919 Troops: Marines intervene for Italy against Serbs in Dalmatia.

HONDURAS, 1919 Troops: Marines land during election campaign.

GUATEMALA, 1920 Troops: 2-week intervention against unionists.

WEST VIRGINIA, 1920-1 Troops, bombing: Army intervenes against mineworkers.

TURKEY, 1922 Troops: Fought nationalists In Smyrna (Izmir).

CHINA, 1922-7 Naval, troops: Deployment during nationalist revolt.

HONDURAS, 1924 Troops: Landed twice during election strife.

PANAMA, 1925 Troops: Marines suppress general strike.

CHINA, 1927-34 Troops: Marines stationed throughout the country.

EL SALVADOR, 1932 Naval: Warships sent during Faribundo Marti revolt.

WASHINGTON DC, 1932 Troops: Army stops WWI vet bonus protest.

WORLD WAR II, 1941-5 Naval, troops, bombing, nuclear: Fought Axis for 3 years; first nuclear war.

DETROIT, 1943 Troops: Army puts down Black rebellion.

IRAN, 1946 Nuclear threat: Soviet troops told to leave north (Iranian Azerbaijan).

YUGOSLAVIA, 1946 Navel: Response to shooting-down of US plane.

URUGUAY, 1947 Nuclear threat: Bombers deployed as show of strength.

GREECE, 1947-9 Command operation: US directs extreme right in civil war.

CHINA, 1948-9 Troops: Marines evacuate Americans before Communist victory.

GERMANY, 1948 Nuclear threat: Atomic-capable bombers guard Berlin Airlift.

PHILIPPINES, 1948-54 Command operation: CIA directs war against Huk Rebellion.

PUERTO RICO, 1950 Command operation: Independence rebellion crushed in Ponce.

KOREA, 1950-3 Troops, naval, bombing, nuclear threats: US and South Korea fight China and North Korea to stalemate; A-bomb threat in 1950, and vs China in 1953. Still have bases.

IRAN, 1953 Command operation: CIA overthrows democracy, installs Shah.

VIETNAM, 1954 Nuclear threat: Bombs offered to French to use against siege.

GUATEMALA, 1954 Command operation, bombing, nuclear threat: CIA directs exile invasion after new government nationalises US company lands; bombers based in Nicaragua.

EGYPT, 1956 Nuclear threat, troops: Soviets told to keep out of Suez crisis; Marines evacuate foreigners.

LEBANON, 1958 Troops, naval: Marine occupation against rebels.

IRAQ, 1958 Nuclear threat: Iraq warned against invading Kuwait.

CHINA, 1958 Nuclear threat: China told not to move on Taiwan Isles.

PANAMA, 1958 Troops: Flag protests erupt into confrontation.

VIETNAM, 1960-75 Troops, naval, bombing, nuclear threats: Fought South Vietnam revolt and North Vietnam; 1-2 million killed in longest US war; atomic bomb threats in 1968 and 1969.

CUBA, 1961 Command operation: CIA-directed exile invasion fails.

GERMANY, 1961 Nuclear threat: Alert during Berlin Wall crisis.

CUBA, 1962 Nuclear threat: Naval blockade during missile crisis: near-war with USSR.

LAOS, 1962 Command operation: Military build-up during guerrilla war.

PANAMA, 1964 Troops: Panamanians shot for urging canal's return.

INDONESIA, 1965 Command operation: Million killed in CIAassisted army coup.

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC, 1965-6 Troops, bombing: Marines land during election campaign..

GUATEMALA, 1966-7 Command operation: Green Berets intervene against rebels.

DETROIT, 1967 Troops: Army battles Blacks, 43 killed.

UNITED STATES, 1968 Troops: After King is shot; over 21,000 soldiers in cities.

CAMBODIA, 1969-75 Bombing, troops, naval: Up to 2 million killed in decade of bombing, starvation and political chaos.

OMAN, 1970 Command operation: US directs Iranian marine invasion.

LAOS, 1971-3 Command operation, bombing: US directs South Vietnamese invasion; 'carpet-bombs' countryside.

SOUTH DAKOTA, 1973 Command operation: Army directs Wounded Knee siege of Lakotas.

MIDDLE EAST, 1973 Nuclear threat: World-wide alert during Middle East War.

CHILE, 1973 Command operation: CIA-backed coup ousts elected Marxist president.

CAMBODIA, 1975 Troops, bombing, gas: Captured ship, 28 die in helicopter crash.

ANGOLA, 1976-92 Command operation: CIA assists South Africanbacked rebels.

IRAN, 1980 Troops, nuclear threat, aborted bombing: Raid to rescue Embassy hostages. 8 troops die in helicopter-plane crash. Soviets warned not to get involved in revolution.

LIBYA, 1981 Naval jets: Two Libyan lots shot down in manoeuvres.

EL SALVADOR, 1981-92 Command operation, troops: Advisors, overflights aid anti rebel war, soldiers briefly Involved in hostage clash.

NICARAGUA, 1981-90 Command operation, naval: CIA directs exile (Contra) invasions, plants harbour mines against revolution.

LEBANON, 1982-4 Naval, bombing, troops: Marines expel PLO and back Phalangists, Navy bombs and shells Muslim and Syrian positions.

HONDURAS, 1983-9 Troops: Manoeuvres help build bases near borders.

GRENADA, 1983-4 Troops, bombing: Invasion four years after revolution.

IRAN, 1984 Jets:Two Iranian jets shot down over Persian Gulf.

LIBYA, 1986 Bombing, naval: Air strikes to topple nationalist government.

BOLIVIA, 1986 Troops: Army assists raids on cocaine region.

IRAN, 1987-8 Naval, bombing: US intervenes on side of Iraq in war.

LIBYA, 1989 Naval jets:Two Libyan jets shot down.

VIRGIN ISLANDS, 1989 Troops: St Croix Black unrest after storm.

PHILIPPINES, 1989 Jets: Air cover provided for government against coup.

PANAMA, 1989-90 Troops, bombing: Nationalist government ousted by 27,1100 soldiers, leaders arrested, 2000+ killed.

LIBERIA, 1990 Troops: Foreigners evacuated during civil war.

SAUDI ARABIA, 1990-1 Troops, jets: Iraq countered after Invading Kuwait; 540,000 troops also stationed in Oman, Qatar, Bahrain, UAE, Israel.

IRAQ, 1990(-?) Bombing, troops, naval: Blockade of Iraqi and Jordanian ports, air strikes; 200,000+ killed in invasion of Iraq and Kuwait; no-fly zone over Kurdish north, Shiite south, large-scale destruction of Iraqi military.

KUWAIT, 1991 Naval, bombing, troops: Kuwait royal family returned to throne.

LOS ANGELES, 1992 Troops: Army, Marines deployed against anti-police uprising.

SOMALIA, 1992-4 Troops, naval, bombing: US-led United Nations occupation during civil war; raids against one Mogadishu faction.

YUGOSLAVIA, 1992-1 Naval: Nato blockade of Serbia and Montenegro.

BOSNIA, 1993-5 Jets, bombing: No-fly zone patrolled in civil war; downed jets, bombed Serbs.

HAITI.1994-4 Troops, naval: Blockade against military government; troops restore President Aristide to office three years after coup.

CROATIA, 1995 Bombing: Krajina Serb airfields attacked before Croatian offensive.

ZAIRE (CONGO), 1996-7 Troops: Marines at Rwandan Hutu refugee camps, in area where Congo revolution begins.

LIBERIA, 1997 Troops: Soldiers under fire during evacuation of foreigners.

ALBANIA, 1997 Troops: Soldiers under fire during evacuation of foreigners.

SUDAN, 1998 , Missiles: Attack on pharmaceutical plant alleged to be 'terrorist' nerve gas plant.

AFGHANISTAN, 1998 Missiles: Attack on former CIA training camps used by Islamic fundamentalist groups alleged to have attacked embassies.

IRAQ, 1998(-?) Bombing, missiles: Four days of intensive air strikes after weapons inspectors allege Iraqi obstructions.

YUGOSLAVIA, 1999(-?) Bombing, missiles: Heavy NATO air strikes after Serbia declines to withdraw from Kosovo.

YEMEN, 2000 Naval: Suicide bomb attack on USS Clyde.

MACEDONIA, 2001 Troops: NATO troops shift and partially disarm Albanian rebels.

UNITED STATES, 2001 Jets, naval: Response to hijacking attacks.

AFGHANISTAN, 2001 Massive US mobilisation to attack Taliban, bin Laden. War could expand to Iraq Sudan, and beyond.

But surely, it is argued, "this was always a start towards making a better world, however wrong-headed; and now that rivalling Soviet influence is no longer a complicating factor, surely the USA will get most things right in future??? "

But franker bourgeois voices report that the exact opposite is happening, and is in fact getting worse, to the whole world's enormous damage:

In early November 2001, as the war in Afghanistan was getting under way, the United Nations held a press conference in Islamabad to announce the latest scores in the global drug eradication effort. Those journalists who bothered to attend were surprised to learn that the previous year the Taliban had all but eradicated the opium poppy from the areas it controlled.

To discover that the Taliban had eradicated the opium poppy did not fit the picture of unhallowed evil that the moment demanded. The story made little impact. Even if it was true — as it undoubtedly was — there was a feeling that the Taliban did not really mean it: they probably had their fingers crossed. Praise was politically impossible.

Besides, if the story had been given more play it might have been noticed that in those parts of Afghanistan controlled by the Northern Alliance — who had successfully auditioned for the parts of noble heroes in the melodrama of the war against evil — opium production had risen sharply. Had too much attention been paid to that, it might have raised the question of what would happen if our new friends, the warlords, had the whole country in which to plant their favourite crop.

We know the answer to that now. After the fall of the Taliban, Afghanistan swiftly recovered its position as producer of two-thirds of the world's heroin and main supplier to Europe, including the UK.

Hamid Karzai, the president of Afghanistan, has banned it of course, but the gesture is futile. If the latest UN estimates are correct, opium brings in twice as much to Afghanistan as foreign aid does. (That's after the country became a priority case for assistance — or rather for promises of assistance.)

Opium revenues are equivalent to half of the country's GDP. Its agriculture, roads, communications arid irrigation systems are in such bad shape that many farmers see little alternative to the poppy. And whatever Hamid Karzai says, the warlords are hardly going to suppress a crop that offers them such quantities of easy money.

The trouble is, what are they doing with the money?

They are doing what warlords do: consolidating their power, buying arms, making sure that the central government doesn't get above itself.

Belatedly, though, the US seems to be worried that the wrong people might be getting hold of the revenues. The US Drug Enforcement Administration has launched an urgent initiative — Operation Containment — which is supposed to get the traffic under control.

To wage an effective war against drugs, however, the US will have to confront some of its major allies in the war against terror, and that is unlikely to happen. It complicates the narrative of good and evil for one thing. As the administration well knows, the words war and drugs are closely related, but not always in the way we like to pretend. The pompously titled "war on drugs" — a meaningless umbrella term that covers a variety of policies — has been a resounding failure by most rational measurements. But the close association between drugs and war is as strong as ever.

The drug business can be both a motive for armed conflict and a means of sustaining it. A cursory glance at the history of Afghanistan — and of conflicts elsewhere reveals it is not just the guys in the black hats who have found it useful. Afghanistan's drug trade took off in the 1980s, when the CIA was sponsoring the mojahedin war against the USSR. The cocaine trade in Central America flourished when the US administration was backing the Contras to fight the Sandinistas in Nicaragua. Clandestine flights that took arms to Central America returned with other illegal cargoes: It helped the wheels of the war go round.

It helps the wheels go round in Colombia too. The writer Robin Kirk estimates that the New York street price of a kilogram of cocaine pays the wages of 250 Colombian fighters for a month, or buys 180 AK-47 rifles, or 120 satellite telephones. And given that some 6 million Americans spend at least $46bn on cocaine and heroin a year most of it from Colombia there's plenty of life in the war yet.

The US government is pouring money into the civil war in Colombia on the pretext of fighting drugs. In this rather simple scenario, the rebels the Farc and the FLN — are "narco-terrorists" and the Colombian army must be helped to defeat them. But the army is closely allied to paramilitary forces who are paid, fed, clothed and armed by drug money, and the Colombian legislature is full of senators and congressmen whose electoral campaign expenses were funded by drug money. If defeating the Farc and the ELN resulted in the end of the Colombian drugs business, the age of miracles would truly be upon us.

But surely the "desert-blooming Jews" will never make such a crass and clumsy mess of things, but will win round Palestinian cooperation eventually???

Not in these pro-imperialist press admissions by one bourgeois Jew:

At some level, I suspect feelings like these animate the attitude of most diaspora Jews, however disillusioned or assimilated to Israel. You may despair over its idiotic invasion of Lebanon, its complicity in atrocities such as the massacres at Sabra and Shatila, its countless human rights abuses, its reckless and frequently disproportionate use of force, its paranoia, its sheer bloody-mindedness.

But somewhere inside there is always a small, persistent voice saying: these people are putting their necks on the line, making sacrifices, doing ugly things so that there will be a sanctuary for you if ever you need one. Who are you to criticise?

Nothing you have read quite prepares you for the provocativeness of the settlements, the sheer one-in-the-eye, fuck-you-ness of them. There are the familiar statistics, of course: some 200,000 settlers hogging a wildly disproportionate share of the land (20% of Gaza alone), with 2.9m Palestinians squeezed into the rest. But you don't quite get it till you see it: the boxy orange-roofed homes plonked on to hilltops like Monopoly houses, little patches of greenery dotting the drab brush of the Judaean hills, shiny black roads leading down to the broad, smooth highway, specially constructed to allow settlers to travel through the West Bank without having to pass through Palestinian areas.

As we speed past, our Palestinian guide points out the ones that have been built since the Oslo agreement in 1993, and you can't help wondering: why? Why, when peace was so close, did Israel continue to poke these concrete fingers in the Palestinians' eyes? Yossi Beilin, the former Israeli minister who was instrumental in the Oslo negotiations, says settlement expansion was a price Labour felt it was worth paying for the support of its rightwing coalition partners. Now he's not so sure: "We believed peace was so close that talking about settlements that were not going to be there seemed irrelevant . . . What happened was that we don't have peace but we do have settlements. "

Poorer and more concentrated, Gaza is far more instantly shocking than the West Bank. The stench hits you first — the area's only sewage plant has long been out of commission. Then the claustrophobia. With more than a million people packed into an area roughly the size of the Isle of Wight (20% of whose land is occupied by 6,500 Jewish settlers) Gaza would be a claustrophobic place at the best of times. Sealed off, as all Palestinian territories have been since September, it feels like nothing more than a self-governing prison camp. In the West Bank, thousands of Palestinians defy the Israeli cordon, walking over the hills to get to work each day in Israel. In Gaza, much of which is surrounded by an electric fence, closure means closure.

On one day in Gaza, we meet a man whose home has just been bulldozed by the Israeli army, visit a part of the Khan Yunis camp where 32 homes were flattened by the Israelis a few weeks earlier, and witness a rocket attack on a Palestinian Authority building in Gaza. But somehow these are less shocking than the everyday degradations and indignities of life under closure. We have seen the bulldozings and the rocket attacks on TV; the sheer brutality of closure only emerges from the steady stream of stories you hear as you travel through Gaza and the West Bank.

Stories such as the one told to me by a Palestinian woman, call her Sarah, I met over dinner in east Jerusalem. Since the intifada, her mother, who lived in Ramallah, had been unable to travel to east Jerusalem to see her or her children. So Sarah and her husband had moved to Ramallah to keep the family together. There was just one problem: since Sarah and her husband were technically Israeli Arabs, they were not supposed to be in Ramallah. Any time they travelled into Jerusalem, they risked being turned back when they tried to go home.

As someone who grew up under apartheid, I have always resisted the glib comparison with South Africa. But hearing stories like this, it's hard to avoid the parallels. "It's worse than apartheid, actually," one Palestinian said when the analogy inevitably came up. "Right now it's apartheid without the pass system."

Travelling through Gaza, hearing stories like Sarah's, seeing the settlements, you can't help asking the same question: how can Jews behave like this? How can a people that has for so long been oppressed allow itself to become an oppressor? It's a naive response, of course; at the core of Israel's identity has always been the idea of the muscular New Jew, determined never to allow a repetition of the catastrophe that befell European Jewry, even if it meant treading on others to make sure.

Talk to any Israeli about why Israel behaves the way it does, why it is a nation that feels it is fighting for its very existence despite its overwhelming military and economic superiority over its neighbours, and pretty soon you come back to the Holocaust. Over dinner, an Israeli novelist described how the Shoah defined every aspect of Israeli life: "We survived to live and now we live to survive. We cannot escape it and it's very destructive: "

If the Holocaust is one overwhelming influence on the Israeli psyche, the other is the deeply held suspicion that the Arab world will not be satisfied until it has pushed the Jewish interlopers into the sea. It's a view that frequently slides close to paranoia, as when one Israeli sympathiser pointed down from a hilltop vantage point at east Jerusalem and told me: "It's not the Palestinians we're worried about, but how would you feel if there were Iraqi troops down there?" But it's not entirely paranoid. When I pressed Hassam Khader, a senior Fatah figure in Nablus, on whether Palestinians would ever be completely happy with the return of only the West Bank and Gaza, his reply would not have reassured Israelis: "Sooner or later the Palestinian people will liberate their homeland. Now Israel is supported by the United States and Europe, but that will not continue for ever and sooner or later there will be a big battle between the Palestinians and Arabs and Israel. "

"It will be two or three years, at least," said Nimrod Novik, a former aide to Shimon Peres. "Both sides need to shed more blood." A Palestinian academic, arguing that the Palestinians should pursue a policy of attrition rather than negotiation, thought it would take much longer. "We can stand this for a long time. The Israelis are used to the European life and they will not want to live like this. The only question is who will break first, and we are already broken. We have been broken for 50 years. "

And this is exactly what will happen. This "Israel" 'historical abortion is doomed. And it is far closer to "anti-semitism" in practice to deny it, than to admit it. Build Leninism. EPSR supporters.


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