Behind the Fog of Deception
Washington's real war aims
by Lance Selfa
International Socialist Review, November-December
All U.S. military operations have justifications produced
for public consumption that serve to cover over the real explanations.
George Bush I cast the 1991 Persian Gulf War for oil as a noble
effort to show that "naked aggression would not stand."
In 1999, the U.S. sold a war to preserve NATO's "credibility"
as a humanitarian operation to save Kovosar refugees. George Bush
II's "war on terrorism" is no different. If Bush was
simply interested in "bringing to justice" the perpetrators
of the September 11 attacks, he wouldn't be launching a multi-year,
open-ended "war on terrorism." Bush's constant talk
about "defending freedom" and vanquishing "evildoers"
deliberately obscures the geopolitical and imperial aims of the
U.S. in this war.
The reason for these deceptions is simple to explain. If the
American people knew the real reasons for intervention-as they
came to understand during the Vietnam War-they wouldn't stand
for it. Strobe Talbott, who participated in these deceptions as
Clinton's special envoy to Russia during the Kosovo War, explained:
The American people have , never accepted traditional geopolitics
or pure balance of power calculations as sufficient reason to
expend national treasure or to dispatch American soldiers to foreign
lands. Throughout this [the twentieth] century, the U.S. government
has explained its decisions to send troops "over there"
with some invocation of democracy and its defense.'
At its most basic level, Operation Enduring Freedom is about
defending one kind of freedom-the continued freedom of the U.S.
to intervene around the world and to bend countries to its will.
Bush hopes Enduring Freedom will be his Operation Desert Storm,
the 1991 war against Iraq that his father described as the proving
ground for a U.S. policy of "what we say goes." Perhaps
in his wildest dreams, Bush II believes his "war on terrorism"
will become the 21st-century equivalent of the Cold War, with
"terrorism" standing in for "communism" as
the all-purpose rationale for U.S. imperial designs.
In its current phase as an attack on Afghanistan, Operation
Enduring Freedom has allowed the U.S. to advance several long-standing
geopolitical aims, of which three stand out: projecting U.S. power
into the "arc of conflict" in Asia, eroding Russian
influence in Central Asia to gain greater access to Caspian Sea
oil and gas resources, and strengthening U.S. hegemony in the
Asia The next frontier for U.S. domination
Since the end of the Cold War, the U.S. has placed a priority
on preventing or retarding the rise of a "peer competitor"
whose military and economic strength could potentially challenge
U.S. hegemony in the landmass that stretches from Europe to Asia.
Most U.S. military scenarios assign the role of "peer competitor"
to one of three Asian powers: Russia, China, or India. As the
administration's Quadrennial Defense Review, issued September
30, 2001, put it:
The possibility exists that a military competitor with a
formidable resource base will emerge in the region. The East Asian
littoral-from the Bay of Bengal to the Sea of Japan-represents
a particularly challenging area. The United States also has less
assurance of access to facilities in the region. This places a
premium on securing additional access and infrastructure agreements
and on developing systems capable of sustained operations at great
distances with minimal theater-based support.
The U.S. defense establishment believes that the most likely
"challenger" for regional hegemony in the next two decades
will be China. The U.S. views Asia as potentially the most unstable
region in the world, a characterization that gained credence when
regional foes India and Pakistan detonated nuclear weapons within
weeks of each other in 1998. Unlike Europe, where the end of the
Cold War brought a significant reduction of U.S. occupation forces,
Asia plays host to Cold War levels of 100,000 troops in Japan,
Okinawa, and South Korea. But recent regional developments-from
rapprochement on the Korean Peninsula to movements to kick the
U.S. out of Okinawa, have made U.S. bases in East Asia more uncertain.
What does this have to do with the "war on terrorism"
being waged in Afghanistan? Quite a bit. First, a look at the
publicly available map of U.S. army and naval deployments shows
that the U.S. is ringing the region with troops, ships, and other
military hardware. Whether the U.S. Iooks at deployments in Uzbekistan
and Tajikistan and its attempt to negotiate a return to a naval
base in the Philippines as permanent fixtures of its "forward
defense" remains to be seen. But they would certainly help
in the longer-term plan of the U.S. to redeploy even more of its
European-based forces to Asia.
Second, if China is the main "strategic competitor"
of the future, U.S. military operations in Afghanistan help to
place China into a vise. U.S. military might is now deployed in
Japan, Korea, and the Strait of Taiwan on China's eastern flanks
and in Central Asia to China's west. China doesn't have the power
to stop U.S. projection into Central Asia, and it dare not cross
the United States. So it decided to take a limited role of support
to the U.S. war in Afghanistan because it
would extend Chinese influence in Central Asia and thus balance
the American extension in the region; it would win gratitude from
the U.S., and in the process a new confidence could be built between
the two countries. All these benefits would play in Beijing's
favor on the Taiwan or Xinjiang issues.
China, Pakistan's ally for more than 50 years, has played
a key behind-the-scenes role in gaining Pakistan's cooperation
with the U.S. China's long-term goal of becoming a regional power
in Asia in the future depends on keeping the U.S. at bay today.
So, temporarily at least, China's interest in preventing the U.S.
from becoming an enemy coincides with the United States' interest
in keeping China in check.
The U.S. knows that "stability" in South Asia depends
on its finding some way to navigate between Pakistan and India.
Since the end of the Cold War, India-a rival to China-has craved
a role as one of the chief partners of the U.S. in Asia. It was
the only major country besides Israel to hail Bush's May 1, 2001,
speech outlining his Star Wars plans. So it came as no surprise
that India offered basing rights, intelligence, and political
support for America's war on "Islamic fundamentalism."
As two establishment military analysts explained the U.S. interest
in South Asia:
The United States expects to maintain indefinitely a strong
security presence in East Asia and in the Persian Gulf It would
like this presence to be regarded favorably by India, and it would
like India at least to understand and preferably to share its
view of how to strengthen the security of the region around the
The United States looks on the Indo-Pakistani dispute, with
its nuclear dimension, as the biggest threat to the region's security,
with the dangers of terrorism and of a weak Pakistan close behind.
In all these issues, India's policies are crucial to regional
But the U.S. couldn't fully take up the Indian offers. Instead,
it oriented primarily to its old Cold War ally Pakistan. Throughout
the 1980s, Pakistan served as the main subcontractor to the U.S.
proxy war against the USSR in Afghanistan. Pakistan's military
intelligence trained most of the mujahideen fighters in Afghanistan,
making a special project of the Taliban. Now, the U.S. has forced
Pakistan to pull its support from the Taliban. Ideally, Pakistan
would like whatever postwar Afghanistan government emerges from
the rubble to be a vassal that it can control. Because of Pakistan's
obvious influence in Afghanistan, the U.S. has chosen to orient
primarily to Pakistan-and to encourage its support with a $1 billion
International Monetary Fund loan and a multibillion-dollar aid
package. But to be able to exploit whatever advantages from either
rival it can, the U.S. Iifted sanctions against both India and
The Caspian Sea oil rush
Afghanistan sits at the crossroads of an area that may hold
the second-largest deposits of oil and gas in the world, behind
only the Persian Gulf. For that reason, all of the major and minor
powers-the U.S., Russia, China, France, Britain, and Germany-have
schemed for a decade since the USSR's collapse to get their hands
on the area's resources. The U.S. staked its claim with a well-publicized
1997 military operation-the deployment of 500 U.S. paratroopers
from the 82nd Airborne Division in North Carolina to the deserts
of Kazakhstan. This, the longest airborne operation in military
history (7,700 miles), was meant to show the world that "there
is no nation on the face of the Earth that we cannot get to,"
in the description of the operation's commander, Marine General
John Sheehan. Today's B-2 bombing runs, where U.S. bombers take
off from Missouri, bomb Afghanistan, and return to base in a single
flight, exceed the global reach of the 1997 operation.
Because the Caspian riches are located hundreds of miles from
international waterways, they have to be piped to market. Just
what route those pipelines take will determine who the real winners
and losers from the Caspian oil rush will be. Since the collapse
of the USSR, the U.S. has tried to use its power to make sure
that the pipelines reward its friends and bypass its enemies.
So, despite the fact that the shortest and most economically viable
shipment route would lie through Iran to the Persian Gulf, the
U.S. has campaigned for an 1,100-mile pipeline from Baku, Azerbaijan,
through Georgia to the Turkish port of Ceyhan. This pipeline (and
other similar routes) is aimed to keep Caspian Sea oil and gas
away from Iran and the Soviet-era routes that run through Russia.
The U.S. has sought ways to drive wedges between the former Soviet
republics and Russia so that they will sell their natural resources
to the West. This U.S. concern with promoting "independent,
sovereign states that are able to defend themselves" (one
of Sheehan's explanations for the 1997 airlift) serves the purpose
of further weakening the ex-superpower in Moscow. To prevent this,
Russia has tried to assert its remaining power over the Central
Asian republics (Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan).
U.S. policy in Afghanistan is wrapped up in this scramble
for oil riches. In fact, the U.S. and Pakistan sponsored the Taliban's
rise to power as a means to create "stability" in the
country to pursue these schemes. Today, the Wall Street Journal
has joined the rest of the U.S. media in calling for the Taliban's
heads. But in 1997, the Journal declared, "Like them or not,
the Taliban are the players most capable of achieving peace in
Afghanistan at this moment in history." The Taliban's success
was crucial to secure Afghanistan, "a prime transshipment
route for the export of Central Asia's vast oil, gas and other
natural resources," the Journal noted. The most audacious
plan, by Unocal, to build a pipeline across Afghanistan to transport
natural gas from Turkmenistan to Pakistan "was based on the
premise that the Taliban were going to conquer Afghanistan."
To the U.S., the Taliban offered "stability" that
could assure that Unocal's plans were realized. However, the U.S.
began to reverse its policy after the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings
in Tanzania and Kenya. It became increasingly convinced that the
Taliban would no longer accept the subservient role the U.S. had
assigned. Therefore, the U.S. began to look for ways to replace
the Taliban with a more pliant Afghan government-three years before
the September 11 World Trade Center attack.
By 2000, it could be said that "the United States has
quietly begun to align itself with those in the Russian government
calling for military action against Afghanistan and has toyed
with the idea of a new raid to wipe out Osama bin Laden. Until
it backed off under local pressure, it went so far as to explore
whether a Central Asian country would permit the use of its territory
for such a purpose." In Operation Enduring Freedom, the U.S.
went ahead with its plan. With Russian cooperation, the U.S. gained
access to two Soviet-era bases in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.
This collaboration between the U.S. and Russia could mark
the most significant geopolitical shift to develop from the Afghan
crisis. Russian president Vladimir Putin quickly offered his support
to Bush after September 11. Then he overrode the objections of
his military chiefs to line up the Central Asian republics to
provide basing to U.S. military forces. Some reports suggest that
Russian special forces troops are participating with the U.S.
in the war in Afghanistan. And certainly, Russia (along with Iran)
used its pull over the Northern Alliance to cement it behind the
Western attack on the Taliban.
Putin's actions amounted to an about-face of Russian strategy
that had viewed the U.S. and NATO as a hostile force." Particularly
since NATO humiliated Russia in pulverizing its ally Yugoslavia
in 1999, Putin had used the war in Chechnya to reinforce Russian
control over its former empire. Clearly, Putin hopes his service
to the West will be rewarded with more than a free pass in Chechnya.
He wants-as does his main conduit to Europe, Germany-a transformed
relationship with the West. Bush national security adviser Condoleezza
Rice, an old Cold Warrior and Sovietologist, held out the possibility
of a "fundamentally altered" relationship with the West.
Putin even floated the possibility of Russia's joining NATO- an
amazing development, since one of NATO's chief missions has been
to counter Russian influence in Europe.
However, Putin (or at least his military chiefs) may rue the
day they ever agreed to U.S. basing in Central Asia. On October
7, the U.S. completed an agreement with Uzbekistan pledging to
defend the republic from outside intervention. The agreement "all
but removes any impression that the U.S. military presence in
the region will be short-lived. It allows U.S. ground forces to
remain for a year, and is likely to be renewed, say officials
familiar with the talks," the Wall Street Journal reported.
The agreement is a step toward making "the entire region
a Western energy preserve."
Reasserting American hegemony in the Middle East
The last time Afghanistan figured prominently in U.S. attentions,
President Jimmy Carter declared his "doctrine." Following
the 1979 USSR invasion of Afghanistan, Carter asserted openly
what all U.S. administrations since the 1 940s had believed: "An
attempt by any outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf
region will be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of
the United States of America, and any such assault will be repelled
by any means necessary, including military force."
The U.S. didn't seriously believe the Soviet Union was using
Afghanistan as a staging area for a thrust into the Persian Gulf.
The "Soviet threat" justified a new policy of direct
U.S. intervention into a region made more unfriendly to U.S. interests
after the 1979 Iranian Revolution tossed out the main U.S. strongman.'
To enforce the "Carter Doctrine," the U.S. created the
Rapid Deployment Force, later renamed the U.S. Central Command
(CENTCOM). CENTCOM oversaw U.S. efforts to "pre-position"
tons of U.S. military hardware and thousands of troops in friendly
states around the Gulf. This deployment in the Gulf gave the U.S.
the power to respond immediately to any crisis that threatened
its access to oil, and to "hold" the situation until
a more substantial U.S. force could be assembled for war. Operation
Desert Storm, the U.S.-led war in Iraq in 1991, represented the
culmination of the Carter Doctrine and CENTCOM's mission.
The Gulf War rescue of the Kuwaiti monarchy established a
"Bush doctrine" as well: "pledging defence assistance
to oil-rich conservative regimes against any force that threatens
them." Indeed, the three major war-fighting scenarios of
the U.S. for the Persian Gulf focus on containing Iraq; preventing
Iran from closing the Strait of Hormuz, the Persian Gulf's "chokepoint"
as it empties into the Indian Ocean; and defending the Saudi regime
from internal unrest or overthrow. These scenarios, plus enforcing
sanctions against Iraq and maintaining the "no-fly zones"
over that country, further justified the presence of about 25,000
U.S. troops either on land or on ships in the region (with another
155,000 on alert for rapid deployment). Despite the overwhelming
U.S. presence in the Gulf, the U.S. suffers from two Achilles'
heels in its role as regional superpower. One, it has been unable
to solve the Palestinian question, which again threatens to explode
the delicate balance in the region. And two, its own massive military
intervention has rendered the Gulf monarchies even more unpopular...and
Added to these problems are tensions with U.S. allies that
have built over the decade since the Gulf War. These include European
and international oil-firm resentment at U.S-imposed sanctions
on Iraq and Iran and Saudi attempts to strike a more independent
position from the United States. The current crisis in Afghanistan
and the "war on terrorism" offer the U.S. a chance to
arrest this erosion of its authority in the Persian Gulf. The
largest buildup of U.S. forces in the Gulf since the Gulf War
has accompanied Bush's "war on terrorism."
Contradictions the war will uncover
In launching Operation Enduring Freedom, the U.S. is taking
a huge gamble. It is throwing its power into the middle of one
of the most unstable regions in the world. Its geostrategic aims
in the current war may be apparent, but they are no guarantee
that the U.S. will reach its goals. Bush may have promised that
"we will not fail," but the contradictions inherent
in the situation may blow the whole thing up.
First, the enormous fault lines in Bush's coalition can erupt
at any time. Bush has assembled a coalition of convenience whose
members share fundamental antagonisms to each other. Pakistan
and India remain on hair-trigger alert, ready to go to war over
Kashmir. As Pakistan cracks down on Islamist militants, they could
strike back with attacks in Kashmir, goading India to respond.
Only days before the U.S. went to war, Islamist militants launched
the biggest car-bomb attack ever in Srinigar, killing 35. Since
the war began, Pakistani and Indian forces have launched attacks
across the "line of control" in Kashmir.
Georgia and Russia may be united with the U.S. in the "war
on terrorism," but Russia accuses Georgia of giving sanctuary
to Chechen rebels. Only days after war began, it took its war
against Chechnya into Georgia. In response, Georgia threatened
to withdraw from the Commonwealth of Independent States and to
send its forces to retake Abkhasia, a breakaway province that
the Russians currently patrol.
Second, pre-September 11 disputes between the U.S. and its
"coalition partners" that have been pushed under the
rug will emerge again. Russia and China are riding the "war
on terrorism" horse as far as it will take them. But will
the U.S. give up national missile defense (NMD) in exchange for
future Russian and Chinese collaboration? That's unlikely. In
fact, Bush has already started to repackage NMD as an "antiterrorist"
weapon. And even if the U.S. issued a number of behind-the-scenes
promises and guarantees to Russia, will it give up its plans to
route Caspian Sea oil and gas away from Russian control or allow
Russia into NATO? Again, highly unlikely. And with a U.S. military
foothold in Central Asia, it's even less likely to give up its
Caspian Sea schemes. So Russia and China could as easily revert
to their pre-September 11 roles as the biggest challengers to
the U.S. in the Eurasian area.
Third, the war will pour gasoline on political fires already
burning around the Middle East and Asia. The sight of the U.S.
bully pounding one of the poorest countries in the world, forcing
millions to flee or starve, will enrage millions more. The Islamist
oppositions from Egypt to Saudi Arabia to Central Asia will gain
more recruits to launch more serious attacks on U.S.-allied governments.
And any Israeli atrocity against Palestinians carried out while
the U.S. is bombing Afghanistan will heighten the outrage. Civil-war
conditions could develop in countries throughout the region. Only
days after the U.S. and Britain commenced bombing, Pakistani forces
shot down demonstrators in cities across the country. And the
Palestinian Authority (PA) faced its most serious confrontations
with Islamists since 1994, prompting PA police to request riot
gear from Israel!
Of all of these hot spots, the most troublesome for the U.S.
are Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, the Taliban's two main sponsors.
Within days of the first air strikes over Afghanistan, Pakistani
dictator General Pervez Musharraf purged the army to remove potential
coup plotters. In the face of large demonstrations and a destabilizing
refugee flow from Afghanistan, Musharraf has already called on
the U.S. to wind up its war before November, the Muslim holy month
of Ramadan. Saudi Arabia's interior minister Prince Raif denounced
the war against Afghanistan. The normally pliant Saudi regime
has refused the use of its bases to launch attacks on Afghanistan.
As the London Guardian explained,
Officially, the state department in Washington remains "very
satisfied" with the Saudi approach to the crisis, but this
masks increasing alarm not merely about the governmental response
but about potential insurrection that could endanger the Saudi
These tensions will jump enormously-and the coalition will
fracture -when the U.S. moves on to its next "anti-terrorism"
target. Already, hawks are pushing for Sudan, Iraq, Iran, Libya
and Lebanon to be added to the hit list. For U.S. imperialism,
it won't be good enough simply to bomb Afghanistan from the sky.
Its leaders want to reestablish the notion that the U.S. will
dispatch ground troops to enforce its will. But Afghanistan and
the Taliban-the world's most isolated government-won't be a big
enough prize. To really show that the U.S. can enforce its will
anywhere, it will move against another "rogue state."
If all of the media chatter and clamor from the right is any indication,
Iraq would be the most likely target.
In an incredible editorial, National Review editor Richard
Lowry laid out the right's fantasy program for Iraq. It's not
simply the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, but the imposition of
a U.S.-run colony modeled on the nineteenth-century British Raj
An American occupation would not last years, on the model
of a MacArthur regency in Japan. Instead, the U.S. would quickly-say,
after less than a year- hand control over to a U.N. protectorate,
with some Arab input to soothe feelings and a non-American-some
anodyne European, such as a Swede-running the show. He would in
effect act as Iraqi dictator, but without the brace of pistols.
After five years or so...the baton could be passed off to an Iraqi
The entire effort would represent a return to an enlightened
paternalism toward the Third World, premised on the idea that
the Arabs have failed miserably at self-government and need to
The goal...would not be perfection, bur a pro-Western and
reasonably successful regime, somewhere between the Shah of Iran
and the current government of Turkey...
It would guarantee the West's access to oil, and perhaps
help break up OPEC (the ill-gotten gains from which fund repressive
dictatorships and, indirecty, terrorists). And it would be a nice
economic benefit to the United States: If the Teamsters like drilling
in ANWR [Arctic National Wildlife Refuge], they should love occupying
Whether the administration's plans are as far-reaching as
Lowry's, we can't say at this point. But there's no doubt that
some in the administration share his views. What's more, the administration
has already announced plans to conduct a similar "nation-building"
operation in Afghanistan, tossing aside Bush's campaign criticism
of former president Bill Clinton for "nation-building"
in Somalia, Haiti, and the Balkans. Making such a scheme succeed
portends a Kosovo-like occupation of Afghanistan for decades-a
military task that will be "lengthy, costly, and ultimately
A U.S. campaign against Hezbollah in Lebanon will not confront
an isolated and ragtag band of terrorists, but a substantial political
movement that is heavily integrated into Lebanese society. What
is more, Hezbollah's role in driving Israel out of southern Lebanon
brought it national hero status, cutting across Lebanon's religious
and political divides.
Any move to expand the war to the Middle East will put further
pressure on the already tenuous alliance between the U.S. and
the so-called moderate (read "pro-U.S.") Arab states.
Around the region, millions know the U.S. has maintained a genocidal
sanctions regime against Iraq. They know that the U.S. props up
dictatorial regimes throughout the region. And they know the U.S.
provides political cover and weapons to Israel's repression of
the Palestinians. Whether they support Islamists or not, they
aren't likely to accept a revival of nineteenth-century colonialism
under the racist assumptions of "enlightened paternalism."
If the U.S. moves to impose a colonial regime on Iraq or any other
country, it will ignite a national liberation movement greater
than anything it has seen since the Iranian Revolution. Those
with Lowry's delusions should recall what happened to the Shah
A new American century?
The U.S. begins the 21st century in a position of world strength
that rivals the great empires of the past-from ancient Rome to
Victorian Britain. Its economy accounts for 22 percent of world
output, and it leads the world in all of the most cutting-edge
technologies. Its military spends more than the next largest 15
militaries in the world combined. And the combined spending of
the U.S. and its most loyal allies-the NATO countries, South Korea,
and Japan-outdistances military spending in the rest of the world.
This dominance has bred the kind of imperial hubris that contributes
to dreams like Lowry's.
Yet every empire that thought it could reorder the world in
its image has ultimately fallen by the wayside. Imperialism has
always generated resistance to it-either from other potential
rivals or from peoples and nations it tries to subjugate. Right
now, the most likely U.S. "peer competitors," Russia
and China, are lined up with the "war on terrorism."
But it doesn't take too much imagination to see that they will
not accept U.S. Ieadership forever. And if the U.S. pushes its
advantage in Central Asia, it could push them into opposition
to U.S. plans again. Russia and China, who counterposed a vision
of a "multipolar" world to a U.S.-dominated "unipolar"
world before September 11, might push themselves (or themselves
and other countries) forward as rivals to the U.S. in world politics.
Even more immediately, U.S. blustering will provoke opposition
from within its own empire. Its power depends on alliances with
some of the most corrupt and repressive regimes in the world.
Inevitably, the victims of these regimes will fight back-threatening
not only the regime, but U.S. power as well. If today's Saudi
Arabia is truly facing an insurrectionary threat that the U.S.
can't suppress, the U.S. faces the prospect of one of its biggest
foreign policy disasters since the Second World War. The overthrow
of the Saudi regime may not be imminent, but even talk about the
possibility suggests an underlying fragility to U.S. dominance.
As the world's only superpower, the U.S. interposes its power
into conflicts around the world. As it did in Vietnam, when it
took over France's colonial administration, U.S. intervention
"Americanizes" conflicts and makes the U.S. a target
of any people fighting for self-determination. If the U.S. pursues
an out-and-out imperialist policy of the type Lowry advocates,
then these challenges will simply multiply. Many fear that the
U.S. is already setting itself up for a Vietnam-like quagmire
in Afghanistan. If it takes its "war on terrorism" to
Lebanon or to the Philippines or to Indonesia (as some administration
officials have hinted), it could face two, three, or many Vietnams.
Finally, and most importantly, the U.S. is likely to find
opposition at home, and not just from a self-identified antiwar
movement. Bush's "war on terrorism" is unfolding in
the context of a world recession. In the U.S., unemployment levels
have hit 10-year highs and the slowdown in industrial production
is the worst since the Second World War. This means that as Bush
ramps up the war, millions of workers in the U.S. will be paying
for it with job cuts, welfare cuts, and cuts in social spending
to fatten the military contractors' bottom lines. As the socialist
leader Eugene V. Debs put it in 1918,
[The] working class who fight all the battles, the working
class who make the supreme sacrifices, the working class who freely
shed their blood and furnish the corpses, have never yet had a
voice in either declaring war or making peace. It is the ruling
class that invariably does both.
In the space of a few days in September, politicians' promises
of Medicare prescription drug benefits and "saving Social
Security" disappeared. Then the Congress handed out nearly
$15 billion in aid to airline bosses, while refusing to do anything
to help the more than 100,000 laid off airline workers. "Corporate
America is waving the flag with one hand and stuffing their pockets
with the other-at the expense of working people," a UAW official
aptly explained. As the war drags J on and the economy worsens,
more people will come to the realization that they have no interest
in this war drive. Then Bush will be exposed for what he did-cynically
manipulating ordinary people's outrage at the September 11 attacks
to push through his own right-wing agenda. That's the kind of
opposition that Bush fears the most.
Lance Selfa is a regular contributor to the International
Socialist Review and a member of its editorial board.