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A socialist newsweekly published in the interests of working people
Vol. 65/No.43November 12, 2001

 
'Militant' and 'Perspectiva Mundial' tax refund
 
Socialist Workers candidate speaks out against U.S. war drive
 
lead article
U.S. assaults workers' rights, intensifies imperialist war
First of 1,000 jailed in U.S. dies in prison
Afghan civilian toll grows, U.S. steps up invasion
 
BY MARTÍN KOPPEL  
On October 26 President George Bush signed into law the "USA Patriot Act," a bipartisan measure that under the cover of fighting "terrorism" gives much wider latitude to the FBI and other political police agencies to conduct spying and disruption operations against individuals and voluntary associations, carry out arbitrary searches and seizures in private homes and businesses, and jail immigrants virtually indefinitely with no charges. The FBI and the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) have rounded up and imprisoned more than 1,000 individuals without charges since September 11 in connection with Washington's ongoing war campaign.

Three days earlier, a 55-year-old restaurant worker in Queens, New York, became the first of those 1,000 detainees to die in police custody. Muhammad Rafiq Butt, a Pakistani immigrant, died in Hudson County jail in Kearny, New Jersey, after being imprisoned for three weeks. Officials attributed his death to a "heart condition."
Socialist in Miami wins support in fight against political firing
Photo - see caption below
Militant/Eric Simpson
Socialist candidate for Miami mayor Michael Italie, left, with supporter. Go to article

"They didn't find anything against him except that his status expired," said Ahsanullah "Bobby" Khan of the Pakistani Community Center in Brooklyn, New York, reported Newsday. "The people of the United States should raise their voice that it is not fair what's going on."

U.S. officials have kept secret the names of most of the detained immigrants, whom they brand as "terrorism suspects." Most are being held for minor immigration infractions that previously would not have resulted in detention. Civil liberties groups say that many have been denied access to lawyers and that some are being kept in solitary confinement. The government has yet to file charges against anyone in relation to the September 11 attacks in Washington and New York.

One of those caught up in the "antiterrorist" raids was a 20-year-old New York student, about to begin his new semester at La Guardia College, who was dragged off a Greyhound bus by INS agents September 18 on his way back to New York from visiting relatives in Houston. The INS locked him up in Wiggins, Mississippi, where guards stood by as he was beaten bloody by three white inmates who called him "bin Laden." The cops refused to let him inform relatives by phone that he had been beaten, according to the October 3-9 New York Village Voice.  
 
Law will accelerate attacks
Since 1996, when then-President William Clinton signed a series of "antiterrorist" and immigration laws, the number of people jailed by the INS has skyrocketed, making immigrants the fastest-growing segment of the exploding U.S. prison population. The new law will be used to accelerate the attacks on foreign-born workers, as well as other working people.

In an October 25 speech, U.S. attorney general John Ashcroft bragged about the large-scale detentions, the sweeping nature of the new law, and how the Justice Department will use every possible existing law, even for minor infractions or applying obscure statutes, to lock up immigrants and others it deems "suspected terrorists" or "associates of terrorism."

He declared that his model was Democrat Robert F. Kennedy, who as President John F. Kennedy's attorney general in the early 1960s said he would arrest alleged mobsters for "spitting on the sidewalk." It "will be the policy of this Department of Justice to use the same aggressive arrest and detention tactics in the war on terror," Ashcroft stated.

Announcing that "we will defend civilization" against "barbarians," the top cop said, "Let the terrorists among us be warned: If you overstay your visa--even by one day--we will arrest you. If you violate a local law, you will be put in jail and kept in custody as long as possible."

In addition to the new anti-working-class legislation, government officials are continuing their moves to militarize the country. Taking advantage of a warning by federal officials about impending terrorist attacks, state governments have beefed up the deployment of National Guard troops. More than 1,500 troops and almost 500 state troopers are now deployed in and around New York City, at train stations, airports, bridges, and tunnels. New York governor George Pataki ordered an extension of the Guardsmen's active duty to 90 days and provided some with heavier weapons.

Vice president Richard Cheney warned October 25 that many of these measures were not temporary but "will become permanent in American life." A New York Times headline declared, "Security Heightens, and Giuliani Advises: Get Used to It," referring to Mayor Rudolph Giuliani.

One example of the emboldened police and military presence that working people in New York are supposed to "get used to" was the brutalization of Gustavo Peñuela and Deyanira Herrera, a Queens couple who were arrested by cops at their home, handcuffed in front of their neighbors, and jailed for nine days on false cocaine possession charges.

A judge finally released them after determining that a package cops claimed was cocaine was actually therapeutic plaster send by relatives in Colombia for medical treatment. "They were jailed for nine days for no reason--only because they are Colombian," said the couple's attorney, Robert Spergel. The two have filed a civil rights suit against the police.  
 
'USA Patriot Act'
The USA Patriot Act was adopted by a bipartisan vote of 357-66 in the House of Representatives and 98-1 in the Senate. The law builds on the 1996 Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, the 1996 Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act, the 1996 Economic Espionage Act, and other measures adopted by the Clinton administration. It also concentrates greater powers in the hands of the attorney general and secretary of state.

The law includes the following provisions:

Police can sneak into someone's home or office and search the premises without telling the owner--a violation of the Fourth Amendment guarantee against arbitrary search and seizure.

Cops are granted expanded authority to wiretap phones, personal e-mail, and the Internet, supervised by special courts granting secret authorization. Agents can use roving wiretaps to monitor any phone used by an individual instead of requiring separate authorizations for each phone. Rules barring use of evidence obtained from illegal phone taps do not apply to wrongfully obtained e-mail "evidence."

The much-touted four-year "expiration date" in the legislation applies to only a tiny part of the 1,016-clause law, mainly the section on phone tapping.

The measure drops a prohibition on domestic CIA spying and allows prosecutions based on evidence obtained overseas by means that would be illegal under the U.S. Constitution.

Immigrants detained as "terrorist suspects" can be held indefinitely without charges for an unspecified series of "periods of up to six months" with the attorney general's approval. The attorney general or INS commissioner has the authority to determine who is a "suspect"--under the most tenuous claim of association with "terrorist" organizations--and order their deportation without presenting evidence.

The definition of a terrorist act is so broad that even throwing a rock through a window could fall into the category, according to Jeanne Butterfield, executive director of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. It also includes causing damage to mass transit, as well as computer hacking under the rubric of "cyberterrorism."

Strong penalties are set for "harboring terrorists" or raising funds for organizations deemed "terrorist" by U.S. authorities. The government could use these to target immigrant rights organizations or opponents of U.S. military intervention abroad.

The number of Border Patrol agents along the Canadian border will be tripled.

Democrats, not to be outdone by the Republican administration, are also pushing a bill, the "Bioterrorism Protection Act." In the name of fighting "bioterrorist attacks," it would among other things give the FBI access to Amtrak reservations and other private databases, add thousands of new border patrol agents, and beef up "military domestic crisis response teams."

Liberal civil liberties activists have responded to this offensive against workers' rights by calling for "vigilant oversight" of the implementation of these measures, but have largely accepted the U.S. government's prerogative to carry them out. The American Civil Liberties Union has stated it will "work with" the Bush administration to supposedly make sure civil liberties are not "compromised" by the new law.  
 
Targeting 'domestic extremists'
Meanwhile, the U.S. rulers have used their current anthrax scare to gain acceptance for their war against Afghanistan and assault on working people at home. In a front-page article in the October 27 Washington Post, FBI and CIA officials attributed the alleged anthrax attacks to "domestic extremists" rather than their previous implication of Osama bin Laden. The paper cited government officials who suggested "a wide range of domestic possibilities, including associates of right-wing hate groups and U.S. residents sympathetic to the causes of Islamic extremists."

A May 10 statement by then-FBI chief Louis Freeh to several congressional committees on the "Threat of Terrorism to the United States" gives an idea of who could be targeted by the political police under this pretext. Freeh pointed to the FBI's July 2000 arrest of 23 people in North Carolina who were accused of "providing material support" to the Lebanese organization Hezbollah. Under the category of "domestic terrorism threat," he said, "Anarchists and extreme socialist groups--many of which, such as Workers' World Party, Reclaim the Streets, and Carnival Against Capitalism--have an international presence and, at times, also represent a potential threat in the United States."

In response to the mass arrests of immigrants, a coalition of immigrant advocacy activists called a picket line in New York November 1 in front of the Varick Street INS detention center in Manhattan. The leaflet for the action said it would "protest denial of rights for those being detained as part of 9-11 federal investigations."
 

*****
 
Afghan civilian toll grows, U.S. steps up invasion
(front page)
 
BY PATRICK O'NEILL  
The U.S. imperialists, backed by London, intensified their bombing of Afghanistan this week, leading to a rising civilian death toll in the country. As repeated bombardment of the frontline Afghan government forces failed to break their defenses, and the opposition Northern Alliance proved incapable of mounting an offensive, Washington and London are sending in larger numbers of troops to prepare a wider ground war.

Protests in Pakistan against the war continue to grow and encompass broader layers of working people, in spite of severe army and police repression. Around 8,000 people marched to the Afghan border October 27, planning to join the fight against the invaders. "I cannot tolerate the bombing and the cruelty of Americans. I must go," said 18-year-old volunteer Mamoor Shah.

A group of 4,000 armed men blocked the Karakora Highway from Pakistan to China, the former silk road trading route, and seized an abandoned air strip, demanding that President Pervaz Musharaff step down. The military ruler, who has provided bases to imperialist troops and warplanes being used in the daily assault, said October 26 that although his government is "part of the coalition," military action must be "brought to an end as soon as possible."

The Pentagon reported that 70 jets took part in the bombing on October 29, the 23rd day of the assault, aiming at front-line Taliban positions in the north for the ninth straight day. The following day, reported the New York Times, 80 percent of the bombing missions targeted military posts. The mounting toll of civilian casualties from the continual bombardment--1,000, according to Afghan government estimates--is helping to fuel protests in the region and nervousness among those governments which have backed the war.

"As long as the Americans are hitting civilians, things will become more and more complicated," said Yemen's minister of information. Some 30,000 people demonstrated in the Yemeni town of Amran against the war and the government's crackdown on dissent on October 20.

Some officials of the United Nations have sought to distance themselves from the assault as civilian casualties grow. "Airstrikes have to be focused, in a specific way, to bring down terrorist camps, and to bring down those supporting them in the Taliban leadership," Ruud Lubbers, the UN high commissioner for refugees, said October 30. "We need to get self restraint."  
 
Use of cluster bombs
The cluster bombs Washington is using in the raids have proven particularly devastating. "Each cluster bomb contains 200 smaller bombs, full of metal shards able to pierce armor," reported correspondents in Pakistan and Afghanistan for Granma, the Cuban daily newspaper. Each bomblet explodes independently, spewing red-hot metal shards at the speed of a bullet. Those bombs "that do not explode...can mutilate and kill civilians years later," wrote the Cuban paper.

The Associated Press reported on October 24 that unexploded bomblets have trapped residents of the village of Shaker Qala in their homes. "The villagers have a lot to be afraid of because these bomblets, if they did not explode, are very dangerous," said Daniel Kelly, a UN mine removal expert in Afghanistan.

U.S. bombs hit a bus terminal in Kandahar on October 25, reported Granma. The city's electricity supply has already been knocked out. Twenty people died in the village of Ishaq Sulaiman, near the city of Herat, when it came under attack on the same day.

"In this, the first month of winter," read the newspaper, "the U.S. bombardment has forced the exodus of hundreds of thousands of Afghan people." UN figures show that "23 million Afghans face food shortages, 7.5 million of them need help desperately."

Forced out of her Kabul house by bombing raids on October 18, 20-year-old Mahtab joined many others who fled to Pakistan's border city of Peshawar. The New York Times reported, "When she is told that the United States is trying to minimize civilian casualties, she answers with a list of neighborhoods where innocents have been killed: Khuja Bughra, Maidan Hawai and others." U.S. attacks killed at least 13 civilians in the capital on October 28.

Spokespeople for the U.S. government refuse to divulge the civilian casualties of their bombing campaign. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld accused Taliban spokespeople of manipulating the news. "When there's a bomb that goes down, they grab some women and children and pretend the bomb hit women and children," he said.

One administration official indicated the lower value the warmakers feel they can place on Afghan lives when he commented on the publicity given victims of anthrax in the United States. "The lesson we're learning" from the controversy, he said, "is that you can bomb the wrong place in Afghanistan and not take much heat for it. But don't mess up at the post office."

One "wrong place" was the Red Cross building in Kabul, hit by U.S. bombs for a second time in 10 days on October 26. The U.S. central command blamed "a human error in the targeting process" for the attacks by Navy fighter-bombers and B-52s, which demolished warehouses storing tons of food and blankets for civilians. Another U.S. bomb hit a village in Northern Alliance-held territory the next day, killing one person and wounding eight others.  
 
Northern Alliance largely ineffective
The alliance's commanders have applauded the increased U.S. strikes on Taliban lines. In spite of the bombing support, however, "the alliance lost ground earlier this week around Mazar-i-Sharif, a city the alliance was thought to have had a good chance of taking," reported the October 29 New York Times, concluding that the alliance "appears increasingly to be a largely ineffective political and military force."

Washington is dropping weapons and supplies to alliance troops, and has sent in Special Operations forces. Rumsfeld said they are helping to establish supply routes, improve communications, and target Taliban positions for air strikes.

"U.S. eyes Afghan foothold," read a New York Post story reporting Pentagon plans to set up a "forward base inside Afghanistan as a staging area for helicopter attacks and commando raids." The paper speculated that the base might be located near Mazar-i-Sharif. Alliance forces have also reportedly began preparing a gravel airstrip near Kabul.

Sen. John McCain added his voice to the continuing chorus of politicians, academics, and media commentators calling for larger-scale commitment of U.S. troops. "The immediate problem needs to be addressed with all the might of the United States' military power," he said on October 27. He called for a "very, very significant" force, large enough to hold territory, and opposed any cessation of attacks during Ramadan.

"Let's not go there yet," said President Bush's chief of staff, Andrew Card when asked about plans for a larger troop deployment. The U.S. command has not admitted to any more raids of the type carried out on October 19 against offices of prominent Taliban figure Mullah Muhammad Omar. "The limited value of the intelligence collected--as well as what the raid showed about the Taliban's continued ability and willingness to resist--may be part of what led Bush administration officials to make gloomier assessments about the pace of the war," the New York Times reported.

Omar told the Algerian newspaper El Youm that the Afghan forces have not yet begun the "real war against the Americans because of their technological power." Once the ground war begins, he said, "We will never welcome them with flowers. They will receive a tougher lesson than that of their Russian predecessors."

The bombing has accomplished no "significant achievement that the Pentagon wished to achieve, except the genocide of Afghanistan people," said the Afghan ambassador to Pakistan, Abdul Salam Zaeef.  
 
CIA assassinations
Rumsfeld asserted the right of the U.S. government to target individuals for execution, declaring "'You bet your life' when asked if American might assassinate terrorist bad guys," according to the New York Post.

On October 26 the British government announced that it will base 200 commandos, many of whom have received special training in arctic and mountain warfare, on warships off the coast of Pakistan, and place another 400 on standby in the United Kingdom. Special forces already operating inside Afghanistan will have their numbers strengthened.

The Australian government is among the few who have committed forces to the coming ground war. New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman commented on Washington's lack of a broader coalition. "My fellow Americans," he wrote, "I hate to say this, but except for the good old Brits, we're all alone.... With the money Japan paid, we actually made a profit on the gulf war.... This time we'll have to pay our own way, and for others."

The imperialist powers are negotiating in the United Nations and with the former Afghan king, other Afghan figures, and regional governments to give shape to the protectorate they want to impose in Kabul. United Nations diplomats have announced a plan for an "interim administration made up of 12 Afghan ministers who would hold a rotating, figurehead presidency for one month each," reported the Financial Times.

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