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Imperialists mass troops, ships: End war against Afghan people!
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A socialist newsweekly published in the interests of working people
Vol. 65/No.39October 15, 2001

 
Socialist Workers candidate speaks out against U.S. war drive
 
lead article
Imperialists mass troops, ships: End war against Afghan people!
Washington militarizes country with 'homeland defense'
 
BY BRIAN WILLIAMS  
More than 50,000 troops and 400 aircraft have been assembled near Afghanistan by the governments of the United States and the United Kingdom in preparation for a brutal imperialist assault on the peoples of that country. At the same time Washington is targeting working people at home, reinforcing a military "homeland defense" apparatus, deploying National Guard troops at hundreds of airports, and pressing with patriotic and "national unity" appeals for acceptance of sacrifice and fewer rights.

The U.S. imperialist rulers now have a military force of 29,000 sailors, airmen and troops, and more than 300 warplanes and two dozen warships deployed from the Indian Ocean to the Red Sea aimed at Afghanistan. Another 23,000 U.S. troops are in Egypt as part of what the military brass describes as a long-scheduled 10-country military exercise in the area. On October 1 the Pentagon ordered the Kitty Hawk aircraft carrier, currently in Japan, to sail toward the Arabian Sea. It will join two other aircraft carriers--the Enterprise and the Carl Vinson equipped with 75 fighter bombers. The Kitty Hawk, whose aircraft are staying in Japan, is to be used as a base of operations for thousands of troops along with helicopters to ferry them into battle zones in Afghanistan.

True to Washington's word, there has been little coverage of the troop deployments and military activity in the capitalist media, which has gone along with the virtual press blackout without a protest.

The British imperialists have also built up a significant force in the region, including more than 20,000 troops, an aircraft carrier, several other warships and dozens of aircraft. It's Britain's largest military deployment since sending troops to the Malvinas Islands off Argentina in 1982. In tying its fate to the outcome of Washington's military assaults, London hopes to gain an edge against its imperialist rivals in Europe, especially Germany and France, by providing cannon fodder in foreign wars of aggression.

According to an Iranian navy commander, there are now 41 U.S. and British warships in place in the Gulf and the Sea of Oman. This is in addition to U.S. forces now stationed in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan on Afghanistan's northern border and the special forces that have begun operating inside Afghanistan's borders. Through the war drive in the region, Washington is deepening its military relationship with Uzbekistan and its deployments on the soil of republics of the former Soviet Union. For the past several years U.S. special forces have been deployed in that country for training Uzbek Army units.

Building on the Clinton administration's establishment of a North American Command, for the first time organizing for deployment of U.S. military forces in the United States, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld this past week appointed Army Secretary Thomas White, a retired brigadier general, to be the Pentagon's first security coordinator for "homeland defense." He will be working with the new cabinet-level Homeland Security Agency set up by President George Bush September 20. The Pentagon announced that it has now elevated domestic defense to the first of the military's four "core missions."

The U.S. Constitution prohibits the U.S. military from operating on U.S. soil.  
 
National identity card
As of October 2, the total number of National Guard and other reservists now called up for active military duty is more than 20,000. Some 4,000 of them are being dispatched to the 420 airports across the country. Government officials and other ruling class figures are also floating proposals to impose national identity cards on working people and expand the powers of surveillance of federal police agencies.

Speaking to an audience at New York University's law school in Manhattan September 28, Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor spoke frankly about what course U.S. ruling class has been on, and will continue to pursue in the United States. In the aftermath of the attack on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, she said, "we're likely to experience more restriction on our personal freedom than has ever been the case in our country." She said these developments "will cause us to reexamine some of our laws pertaining to criminal surveillance, wiretapping, immigration, and so on."

According to the Department of Justice, some 500 individuals are now being held in detention by authorities across the country--148 by the INS and the rest by federal, state, and local cop agencies. Among those detained are three college students arrested in San Diego--Yazeed al-Salmi of Saudi Arabia, Mohdar Abdallah of Somalia, and Osama Awadallah of Jordan. They were ordered held indefinitely by a federal judge in California in proceedings that were sealed and the news media banned from the courtroom. The three, who are all in the country legally, were forced to appear in a New York courtroom in a sealed meeting because they are accused of knowing one of those who hijacked the airliners September 11.

The roundups, detention of immigrants, and other moves against working people since September 11 have all been carried out under a range of legislation put on the books under the administration of President William Clinton in the 1990s.

New legislation demanded by Attorney General John Ashcroft has met with some resistance in Congress. After some wrangling, and repeated appearances by Ashcroft urging the bill be passed to thwart other imminent terrorist attacks, the Democratic and Republican negotiators did agree to a more limited package of measures that target workers' rights dubbed the "Patriot Act."

The proposed law would allow cops to detain immigrants for up to seven days without being charged; put e-mail communications on the same level with telephone communications and expand surveillance of both; and allow only the attorney general or the commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service to decide whether individuals should be listed as suspected terrorists. The Bush administration sought unlimited authority to expand wiretapping, but the House bill puts a two year limitation on it, at which time it could be renewed by congressional approval.

Also being discussed are proposals to permit military personnel to assist in patrolling the nation's borders, to triple the number of INS cops on the Canadian border, to limit student visas, and to tighten up other immigration procedures.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat from California, for example, has proposed a six-month moratorium on issuing new student visas, initiating comprehensive background checks on foreign students, and increased police role for school officials in verifying whether students are in compliance with terms of their visas.

The Department of Transportation is pushing for a measure that would harass truck drivers by requesting that state police agencies pull over every truck with hazardous materials placards to check the drivers' credentials and paperwork. Millions of pounds of toxic, flammable, or explosive chemicals and fuels are transported on U.S. highways and railways every day, with some 80,000 companies involved in hauling this material.  
 
NATO invokes collective defense clause
Representatives of NATO's 19 member nations meeting in Brussels October 2 agreed to invoke the alliance's collective defense clause in relation to the United States. This states that an attack upon one member is an attack upon all. This clears the way for Washington to now utilize military resources and bases of NATO member nations for its assault on Afghanistan.

The U.S. rulers say that their target is Osama bin Laden, who they claim commands "up to 10,000 in 55 camps and other centers," according to the Financial Times, and the overthrow of the government of the country. But workers and peasants in Afghanistan--a country exploited by imperialism, making it one of the poorest in the world--know they will be immediately targeted and millions are trying to leave urban centers to escape the imperialists' bombings and assaults they know will come.

Many working people in Afghanistan are already suffering from the effects of an ongoing drought and lack of food after relief agencies have pulled out of the country. The U.S. rulers are using food as a weapon in their drive to topple the Taliban-led government. U.S. officials are considering an airlift of food and other aid to "Taliban-free" areas of Afghanistan, stated an unnamed U.S. official to the Wall Street Journal. In addition to international propaganda to portray concern for people in the country, the aim is to draw Afghans out of areas under the control of the Taliban rulers. As part of this effort, the chief of the Agency for International Development, Andrew Natsios, "is expected soon to name Bernd 'Bear' McConell, an Air Force veteran and former Defense Department official, to head a Central Asia Task Force," noted the Journal.

Sizable protests against Washington's military attack against Afghanistan continue to occur in towns and cities throughout Pakistan. This sentiment has forced Washington to back off for now from stationing U.S. troops in Pakistan, though the Pakistani president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf has opened up the country's air space and bases to the U.S. military. According to the New York Times, in a poll conducted in the country September 28 individuals were asked whether they would support the United States or Afghanistan in a war. "Seven percent said America and 67 percent Afghanistan," the Times stated. Four days later after a speech by President Musharraf "those who said they would side with the United States remained the same."  
 
Northern Alliance and a former king
The U.S. government is stepping up its aid to groups seeking to overthrow the Taliban government in Afghanistan, with a large chunk of these funds going to the Northern Alliance, a group that controls a small section of northern Afghanistan. These moves are an acceleration of steps already begun by the Clinton administration three years ago when CIA operatives sought to cement ties with Ahmed Massoud, the leader of the Northern Alliance until he was recently assassinated.

Washington is also working with Mohammad Zahir Shah, the 86-year-old former king of Afghanistan who was deposed in 1973 under mounting protests by working people in the country of his corrupt and backward regime, to cobble together forces they can claim will be the next government of the country. After meeting with U.S. government representatives who tracked him down in a villa outside Rome, the former monarch and the Northern Alliance issued a joint statement announcing that they would convene an emergency "Supreme Council" by the end of the month to form a new transitional government or declare itself to be the new rulers of the country.

Meanwhile fighting has escalated inside Afghanistan between the Northern Alliance and Taliban forces. The Afghan Islamic Press agency reported that the Taliban had recaptured the Qadis district in the Badghis province of western Afghanistan, which was taken several days earlier by opposition forces. The news agency also reports that about 60 Northern Alliance fighters had defected to the Taliban in the Namak Aab area in northern Takhar province after the fighting there had ended.

The government of Russia, which has pledged to provide military aid the Northern Alliance, is maintaining 10,000 troops and armored units in Tajikstan on Afghanistan's border.

Scaling down their hopes for a "grand alliance" to back Washington's assault on Afghanistan, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, writing in a New York Times Op-Ed column September 27 now describes this alliance as "floating coalitions of countries, which may change and evolve."

The defense secretary was reacting to the difficulty the U.S. rulers are having even under the guise of fighting terrorism, of putting together a broad-based coalition to back Washington's military attacks on Afghanistan. In an article titled "Arab Allies Not Jumping to Join U.S. Side," the Times noted, "Only Iraq, among all Arab countries has so far failed to condemn the strikes on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. But not even close American allies in the region, such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia have said clearly that they would enlist in the American-led campaign against terrorism."  
 
British official's mission fails in Iran
The governments of Syria and Iran have objected to this U.S.-led campaign. Iran's supreme religious leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, stated September 26 that his country will not be joining the U.S. military campaign, charging Washington with trying to gain a foothold in Central Asia. "How can America which has tampered with Iran's interests, demand help from Iran to attack the suffering, oppressed and Muslim nation of Afghanistan?" he stated. "No we are not with you, and we are not terrorists," he added.

His comments came one day after British foreign secretary Jack Straw made the first visit by a high British official to Iran since the 1979 revolution there that ousted the Shah. Straw's visit failed in its aim to win Tehran to back Washington's military attacks on Afghanistan, and the U.S. imperialists. Sending Straw to do its work was not lost on the Iranian people, who waged mighty battles coming out of World War II against the British imperialists in order to regain control of the country's oil and other resources.

Seeking to shore up support in the area, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld departed for the Mideast October 2 for a trip to Saudi Arabia, Oman, Egypt, and Uzbekistan. According to an unnamed senior Pentagon official quoted in the New York Times, Washington "had encountered 'bumps in the road' in working out military arrangements in the region."

Meanwhile, U.S. and British warplanes continue what has become near daily bombings of Iraq. The attacks occurred in the southern part of the country October 2 and 3. For the past decade U.S. and British aircraft have conducted this bombing operation, as they patrol "no-fly" zones unilaterally imposed by Washington over large sections of northern and southern Iraq.

Israeli military forces rolled tanks and bulldozers into the Gaza Strip October 3, killing six Palestinians following an attack on an Israeli settlement in the Gaza Strip by two members of Hamas. Palestinian security officials also said Tel Aviv launched missiles from the sea at six Palestinian National Security outposts in the northern Gaza Strip.

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