The US-led "war on terror", declared by President Bush in the wake of the September 11 attacks five years ago today, and endorsed by New Labour, expresses the arrogance of regimes which mistakenly think they can forcibly remake the world in their image.
Leaving aside the ludicrous idea of a war on an idea, we see states that desperately seek an authority and a legitimacy that they have lost. They have ceded control over economic and financial affairs to ultra-powerful transnational corporations. Their social policies are determined by the application of the market and profit. They have no answers to the threat to the planet from climate change. Fewer and fewer people endorse them at the polls.
Let us not forget that not long after September 11, popular support for the US government plummeted when the energy corporation Enron collapsed overnight, throwing thousands out of work and destroying their pensions. The "war on terror" could not have come at a better time for Bush and Blair. What better than an endless conflict against a hidden, external enemy? To ask the question is to answer it. This is the stuff of despots down the ages.
Bush and his co-crusader, New Labour’s very own Tony Blair, show by their monstrous attacks on civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan and by the green light given to the Israelis to visit collective punishment on the Palestinians, that they are guilty of a series of crimes against humanity. Their acts of state terror include:
- launching the invasion of Iraq on a lie and a pretext
- killing as many 100,000 Iraqi civilians since 2003
- creating the break-up of Iraq into warring communities
- enabling major corporations to get rich at the expense of the Iraqi people
- killing an unknown number of Afghan civilians
- allowing the return of opium growing in Afghanistan
- setting up the Guantanamo concentration camp in Cuba
- destroying democratic rights and building surveillance states in their own countries
- targeting and vilifying Islam, the religion of many of the world’s poorest people
- through their actions building support for Islamic-inspired terrorist groups
- making their own countries a target for further terrorist attacks
It is no surprise, therefore, that only a tiny minority – just 7% - of British people believe that the US and UK are winning the "war on terror", according to a YouGov poll published today. More than three-quarters (77%) of those questioned said that the government's policies in the Middle East had actually made Britain more of a terrorist target.
But another poll finding indicates that two-thirds believed that the "war on terror" would continue beyond their lifetime. This would be unacceptable. The causes of terrorism, with its reactionary targeting of innocent people, are complex. Terror actions like those of September 11 divide communities and reinforce the state. Military force as a response is clearly not a solution. Taking control of our destiny means creating a new, truly democratic state in place of the warlike regimes we live under today. Then we would give ourselves the opportunity to address September 11 in a sane and rational way.
Paul Feldman, communications editor