Write us!

December 2001 • Vol 1, No. 7 •

Students and Youth Declare War on War

by Ann Robertson

A student protester leader shouts slogans during a rally Nov. 9, 2001, near Sasebo port, southwestern Japan, from where a flotilla of Japanese warships departed earlier in the day. The banner reads "Stop dispatch of Japanese warships! Down with (Prime Minister) Koizumi's government beginning to enter the war! Oppose U.S., British invasion in Afghanistan! Zengakuren (the name of leftist students organization)." Photo by Katsumi Kasahara (AP)

Since the U.S. commenced bombing Afghanistan on October 7, anti-war demonstrations, often spearheaded by youth, have swept across not only this country but also across much of the world.

In Iran 20,000 young demonstrators vehemently denounced the U.S. war, frightening their own government by their numbers and determination.

In Palestine some 2000 students of the Islamic University in Gaza City organized an antiwar rally where some of them engaged in running gun battles with the Palestinian police. Two protesters were killed by the police, signaling the worst internal fighting the Palestinians have experienced in years and reflecting the mass opposition to Arafat’s pro-imperialist policy.

The Islamic Youth Movement in Indonesia has organized protests throughout the country.

There have been countless teach-ins and demonstrations organized across the United States by students who have remained unconvinced by the government’s justification of a war waged with horrific violence.

And aside from the youth, the working class itself has risen up in protest in many countries to say no to this war. A hundred thousand protested in London. In Rome 160,000 demonstrated. And in Berlin, at a demonstration of 10,000, banners could be seen declaring, “Against repression and war” and “The American way of life is too expensive for our world.”

Anti-war demonstrations have swept much of the Middle East, Asia and Africa. The war is so unpopular in Pakistan that there are almost daily protests.

But while many students in the U.S. are mainly driven by a desire for peace and by the conviction that the war is simply a misguided quest for vengeance on the part of the U.S. government, a growing number of students here along with protesters from the Middle East and Asia have adopted a more sophisticated perspective, recognizing that the war is emanating from deeper motives.

“The Americans are not coming for the sake of Afghanistan,” a protester from Kandahar, Afghanistan was quoted as saying. “They are trying to create a base here to control this region and the whole Muslim World.”

And a cleric in southern Lebanon observed, “The Americans cover their colonial aims with hollow slogans such as war against terrorism … while everyone knows that the real American motives are not that.”

In Indonesia, a representative of the Islamic Youth Movement assured an interviewer, “We don’t hate the American people. We hate imperialism, vanity and arrogance.”

As protesting students here in the U.S. try to make sense of this ugly war where the world’s wealthiest, most powerful superpower bombs one of the world’s poorest countries, it will become increasingly apparent that the “war on terrorism” is a slick veneer covering a campaign that is determined to pursue economic interests in the Central Asian region, regardless of the cost in human lives.

In fact, the very concept of the U.S. government conducting a war on terrorism, were it not for the tragic toll on innocent lives, should evoke gales of laughter as one pictures the U.S. government entirely mired in a swamp of hypocrisy.

First, bombing innocent civilians, rather than alleviating the threat of terrorism, will, if anything, only serve to heighten it as the victims and their sympathizers seek their own justice. In fact, a member of the Bush administration inadvertently revealed that the chance of a terrorist attack against the U. S., after the bombing had commenced, jumped to 100 percent.

Second, a genuine attempt to eliminate terrorism would attack its root causes—poverty and despair created by capitalism. Rather than dropping bombs on the little remaining infrastructure of Afghanistan, thereby pushing the country further into poverty, the U.S. could provide massive aid, not only to relieve the population of an impending famine, but to establish a solid infrastructure so that the people there would be completely equipped to provide for themselves.

If the U.S. government were truly intent on eliminating terrorism, it would terminate the abundant aid it supplies to Colombia since the military there routinely allows death squads hired by big landowners to roam the country and murder the civilian population. It would terminate aid to all the Middle Eastern regimes in which non-elected “kings” simply execute political opponents. It would terminate all aid to the state of Israel which has adopted a policy of targeted assassinations, of bulldozing houses of innocent people, and of murdering children who throw rocks at tanks. Not only does the U.S. government fail to offer a mild rebuke for this state-sponsored terrorism, it supplies the Israeli government with the military equipment to perpetrate these atrocities.

The deeper interest, underneath the anti-terrorism rhetoric, that currently drives the U.S. war machine is—once again and not surprisingly—oil and natural gas. With 5 percent of the world’s population and 3 percent of its oil supplies, the U.S. devours 25 percent of the world’s daily consumption of oil.

Consequently, because the Middle East contains more oil reserves than the entire rest of the world, the U.S. government has established a strong presence in the region. For example, even though it has never taken much interest in defending Jews against anti-Semitism, the U.S. government has provided billions of dollars annually to Israel in order to create an enduring and powerful ally. It has placed Iraq into a suffocating stranglehold. And it is propping up a corrupt monarchy in Saudi Arabia in order to insure access to its oil and the profits derived from it.

Middle Eastern oil reserves are by no means a trivial pursuit in the machinations of U.S. foreign policy.

Student demonstrators march past riot police Friday, Nov. 9, 2001 outside the main gate of Sasebo U.S. Naval Base.Photo by Katsumi Kasahara (AP)

On a Frontline program aired in November, James Baker, former Secretary of State, declared to the interviewer: “As I told you, I worked for four administrations under three presidents. And in every one of those, our policy was that we would go to war to protect the energy reserves in the Persian Gulf. That is a major and very significant national interest that we have.”

But because of the potential instability of the Middle East, where the rate of corruption is only exceeded by the rate of poverty and where the imperialist Israeli repression of Palestinians continually threatens to explode, the U.S. government has been eager to identify alternative oil supplies. Recently huge oil and natural gas reserves were discovered in the Caspian Sea region in countries that formerly lay within the Soviet Union borders. But with the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1989, these supplies suddenly became accessible to western corporations and they have eagerly rushed in.

In 1993, Chevron concluded a historic $20 billion 50/50 joint venture with Kazakhstan to develop the Tengiz oil field. In April 1996, Mobil announced that it had purchased a 25 percent share from the Kazakh government in the consortium developing Tengiz. Phillips also acquired a “sizable stake” there and British Petroleum has invested billions in the region. It is no wonder that Tony Blair has been such an enthusiastic accomplice.

But the problem confronting these corporations revolves around how to transport the oil and natural gas to markets. Some pipelines already exist, but they are woefully inadequate to handle the available level of volume. Intense pressure to build more pipelines has consequently been mounting, since otherwise billions of dollars in investments lie idle, a horrifying prospect for corporate heads who only understand profits.

In 1997, Unocal, another U.S. oil company, offered to construct a pipeline that would have transported oil from Turkmenistan to Pakistan through Afghanistan. All three countries had signed on to the project. But in 1998, Unocal was forced to withdraw, in part because of the instability created by the civil war in Afghanistan. So the U.S. government has had an abiding interest in ending the civil war, creating a U.S. corporate-friendly government, and maintaining its security with U.S. military might.

Antiwar students will have to understand that this corporate-driven policy of war is not simply an anomalous excess which a few reforms can remedy, but is generated by the very mechanism of capitalism itself. As long as capitalism exists, the world will descend into deeper and deadlier wars of destruction.

In the capitalist system, enterprises compete against one another. If one of the contenders has a higher profit margin, then it gains the competitive edge and it can use this increment to undersell its competitor in the market place, or purchase advanced technology, or increase advertising, all with the hope of eliminating its competitor. Consequently, in this deadly struggle, each company is compelled to maximize its profits or risk perishing. As competition proceeds and the victorious contenders swallow up their less successful rivals, small companies begin to evolve into giant corporations which then employ their huge resources to continue this battle with their equally huge competitors, both nationally and internationally. Hence, corporations scurry across the globe, seeking the lowest wage scale for workers, the cheapest raw materials, and an unimpeded hand in polluting the environment.

But once they establish their holdings in other countries, corporations become particularly vulnerable to political vicissitudes that can bring unwelcome tidings, especially when they have settled into a Third World country where poverty is rampant. Occasionally it occurs to the people there that they would be much better off if the profits of these corporations remained in their own country so that they could begin to raise their standard of living. And then they talk about nationalizing foreign corporations, a concept that strikes horror in the hearts of corporate owners. Nationalization means that the country in which the foreign corporation is situated will take it over and run it in its own interests so that U.S. corporate owners, for example, are compelled to pack up and leave.

Egyptian demonstrators shout anti-U.S. and Israeli slogans in downtown Cairo near the U.S. Embassy, Monday, Sept. 10, 2001. Several hundred demonstrators protested U.S. support of Israel and called for the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador in Cairo. Photo by Amr Nabil (AP)

Whenever this threat is looming, corporate American has called on the U.S. government to come to its rescue, and because politicians owe their positions to the huge campaign contributions of big money interests, the U.S. government has eagerly complied.

During the 20th century alone, and using the most modest method of calculation, the U.S. government launched military invasions into at least 40 different countries on at least 80 different occasions in order to defend U.S. corporate interests. The huge U.S. military “defense” budget has little to do with defending the U.S. population—it has been used to create the world’s deadliest arsenal which is positioned and cocked, ready to attack any country that dares to impede U.S. corporate interests.

The correlation is clear: Corporations that dominate global capitalism today have historically had at their disposal the most powerful military forces, and they have employed those forces brutally.

Students and youth throughout the U.S. have admirably jumped into the leadership of building the antiwar movement, the first step in stopping this deadly cycle of ruling class violence. And they have quite correctly undertaken the task of constructing an independent power base—independent of both Republicans and Democrats who have equally been bought off by corporate America—by organizing peaceful mass protests, not in city halls but in city streets. These kinds of demonstrations were crucial in ending the U.S. war in Vietnam.

As these demonstrations grow larger, students and youth here will be able to reach out in solidarity with antiwar demonstrators all over the world, not only in Europe and the Middle East, but throughout Asia and Africa as well, so that the majority of the world’s population can begin to say “no” to a corporate agenda which delivers higher profit margins to a small, wealthy minority while condemning the rest of the world’s population to increasingly lower standards of living and environmental degradation.

If, in this process of expanding the antiwar movement, protesters come to realize that a system such as capitalism—which has produced billionaires, but where one-fourth of the world’s population lives in a state of desperate poverty—will inevitably lead us into war and must be replaced by a democratic form of socialism, then we will not only succeed in stopping this war, but we will succeed in ridding humanity of the scourge of war forever.





Write us!