Horror and outrage are natural responses to the carnage in New York and Washington.

War in Afghanistan

Opposition to this war will grow

These emotions have swept the world, especially the US. President Bush and the American ruling class want to use this mood to mobilise public opinion, and governments internationally, to back their ’war against terrorism’. Support for Bush has gone from around 50% to over 90% in the opinion polls, the highest ever for a US president.

If the suicide attackers’ goal was to undermine the US ruling class, they achieved the complete opposite. Temporarily, the US capitalist class’s position is strengthened. Marxists always explain that individual terrorism is counterproductive and strengthens the ruling class’s position. This is a hundred times more the case with the atrocities in the US. They were a kind of mass terrorism in which thousands of innocent people died. We absolutely condemn this action.

In the immediate period most US public opinion will support Bush’s inevitable military action. This provides an opportunity, from the US ruling class viewpoint, to overcome the Vietnam syndrome. Since the movement against the Vietnam War (in which 50,000 US soldiers died over a decade) the US ruling class have been terrified of risking American soldiers’ lives. Now, with mass casualities in New York, they calculate the situation has changed.

However, even at present in the US, the mood isn’t uniform. Amongst sections of students and young people there is a questioning of the policies of the Bush administration, and a fear of the consequences of military action. Over time, as these consequences become clear questioning of - and outright opposition to - US imperialism’s policies will become the norm. The last few weeks have shattered the idea that the US can exist in a bubble, ignoring the consequences of US foreign policy. Ultimately, the US working class will have to confront the fact that US imperialism’s policies have led to the US being hated by millions in the neo-colonial world. For example, every month 6,000 children die in Iraq as a result of sanctions - as many as are estimated to have died in the World Trade Centre and Pentagon.

How quickly the US’s mood changes will partly depend on the nature of the military action taken. Internationally, the US has formed a widespread alliance in favour of a ’war on terrorism’, including many leaders of Muslim nations. However, there is extreme caution among many, including the major European powers of France and Germany about what this ’war’ will actually mean. Blair has acted as US imperialism’s quartermaster, rushing around trying to consolidate support for Bush’s proposals.

However, even the extremely short-sighted US administration has its divisions. One section, around the Defence department, favours widespread military action, including against Iraq "to finish off the Gulf War". Others, such as Colin Powell, who argue to ’limit’ initial action to Afghanistan, clearly have some concept of the devastating turmoil that could be created by US action in the Middle East. However, although the ’limited’ action proposed by Powell will be easier for the countries of the Alliance to support, it will still have devastating consequences. It will mean the death of thousands of innocent Afghans, and if ground troops are sent in, is likely to lead to US soldiers dying. The US may well manage to overthrow the Taliban, but any regime they help to power will be extremely unstable. What is more, it could lead to serious revolt in neighbouring Pakistan and the possible prospect of an extremely right wing ’Islamic Fundamentalist’ regime coming to power.

In Britain public opinion is already more mixed than in the US. Understandably, amongst the majority, there is a mood that ’something should be done’ against the attackers. There is a distrust of what Blair, and especially Bush, is proposing to do. Only 37% of people in Britain have ’a fair amount’ of trust in Bush to take the right decisions. If British troops are involved in action, opinion could temporarily harden behind the government’s policies. However, this won’t be true amongst the whole of society. A significant section of young people are already getting active against the war. Last Saturday 5,000 attended a demonstration advertised only by email and word of mouth. As socialists we will attempt to organise that minority and build for the national demonstration on 13 October. At the same time we will explain and analyse what is taking place, and why US and British imperialism’s policies, far from winning a ’war against terrorism’ will only create many more people desperate enough to carry out suicide attacks.

A real solution can only be found by building mass socialist organisations, which offer an alternative to the nightmare that capitalism means for millions on the planet.

Committee for a workers' International publications

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