The Guardian • Current Issue

OP-ED

The wane of the West

US Tomahawk missile strikes on a pharmaceutical factory in Sudan, destroying it.

How many millions of innocent civilians have died in retaliation for what is usually a considerably lesser number of people attacked and killed by a terrorist action?

In my own lifetime, I knew of the Nazis who, towards the end of the Second World War, retaliated against French resistance actions. The most infamous being the Oradour-Sur-Glane Massacre, where 643 villagers were massacred for the assassination and capture of SS-Sturmbannführer Helmut Kämpfe by the Maquis (French resistance). The Germans even referred to the resistance members as “terrorists.” There are, no doubt, many other examples of man’s inhumanity to man. However, I’m only interested in the futility of such a mindset and the utter, mindless cruelty of such actions.

Why is a “terrorist” – who is most likely fighting for the freedom of the liberation of their peoples – demonised when we know the real reasons that produce terrorists in the first place? It’s an endless, vicious circle perpetrated at the highest levels. What can be done when the US President comes out with such a vengeful statement as this:

“To those who carried out this attack, as well as anyone who wishes America harm, know this: We will not forgive, we will not forget, we will hunt you down and make you pay. We will respond with force and precision at our time, at the place we choose and at the moment of our choosing.”

The twin towers weren’t the first blood for Al-Qaeda. In 1998, the group bombed US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. Clinton retaliated with a dozen Tomahawk missile strikes on a pharmaceutical factory in Sudan, destroying the factory, killing the nightwatchman and wounding several others. Later, it was shown to be the largest producer of medicines in a country under sanctions. But, of course, the American intelligence (wrong again!) believed it was producing nerve agents for Al-Qaeda . Sound strangely like weapons of mass destruction in Iraq? One wonders what imaginary Chinese evil will be used to justify attacking China. There is no rationale, no logic for “war on terror,” besides the subjugation of developing nations to plunder their resources.

When a nation with the military might of the USA retaliates against terrorist actions by killing thousands of innocent civilians, it creates more terrorists. When it places its troops and weaponry on foreign soil in order to maintain corrupt dictators, it creates terrorists. This is happening in Africa now with ordinary people who swell the ranks of al-Shabaab in preference to starving under their dictators.

And the excuse for Afghanistan? To liberate women and build an “inclusive democracy” – who are they kidding? Whose democracy? What democracy? This has become the most maligned word in today’s most undemocratic societies.

Is what we see in 2021 capitalism in its final imperial stage?

Lenin, in his book, Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism – A Popular Outline, quotes Driault, the historian, whose book, Political and Social Problems at the End of the Nineteenth Century, contains the chapter titled “The Great Powers and the Division of the World,” which says:

“During the past few years, all the free territory of the globe, with the exception of China, has been occupied by the powers of Europe and North America. This has already brought about several conflicts and shifts of spheres of influence, and these foreshadow more terrible upheavals in the near future. For it is necessary to make haste. The nations which have not yet made provision for themselves run the risk of never receiving their share and never participating in the tremendous exploitation of the globe which will be one of the most essential features of the next century (i.e., the twentieth)”.

The only consistency in the justification for wars – moral or geopolitical – is the imperialist certainty. Those people querying this certainty must be weak-kneed communists – and terrorists!

It is interesting to note that, in the preface to the French and German editions of his book, Lenin proposed that revolt against the global capitalist system would be effected by the “thousand million people” of the colonies and semi-colonies (the system’s weak points), rather than with the urban workers of the industrialised societies of Western Europe. Perhaps Afghanistan will be proved to have been the starting point?

There will be little honest reflection on the failures in Afghanistan. I’m still waiting for a similar mea culpa regarding Vietnam and Iraq. And still, they never learn! Biden’s response to the attack at Kabul airport was the response one would expect from a Roman Emperor! Perhaps American presidents have become the modern equivalent?

And now, with AUKUS, Australia is again being dragged into another premeditated conflict: one threatening our strategic relationship with a country likely to be the most powerful economic force globally within a decade. China must be bristling at this example of Western arrogance. Australia must surely realise that the actions of America abruptly withdrawing from its mess in Afghanistan reveals its contempt for its allies? Do we think the ANZUS Treaty gives Australia any guaranteed support from our America, or are we simply one huge base for its troops in readiness for its next failed war?

We’ve become complacent, and our foundational thinking is flawed. We’ve had it too good for quite a while and think our partners share our values. It’s obvious that China follows its own 2,000 year history of values and, with its increasing economic power, will not be bullied by our US ‘mates’. We pull the dragon’s tail at our peril.

What we keep seeing – cheered on by the bloodlust of the Murdoch media (another empire) – has nothing to do with ending terror or liberating women, but everything to do with monstrous, military revenge on soft targets with no recourse to justice. This will not wash with China.

The twin towers terrorist attack has done nothing to bring any reflection into the way Americans see themselves – especially politically. There are none so blind as those who will not see.

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