[Marxism] Pakistan: Can "imperialist war" and "war on terrorism" be separated?

Fred Feldman ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Sun Mar 21 07:34:00 MST 2004

The article that follows highlights the way the imperialist war against
Al Qaeda terrorism -- and there is such a war -- becomes an inseparable
part, it seems to me, of their overall struggle for world domination.

There is no doubt in my mind that Al Qaeda is a murderous antihuman
organization which plays a reactionary role in world politics -- not
because of its religious beliefs, but because of its deeds.  Al Qaeda
basically derives from the period in the 90s when the international
struggle against imperialism, in my opinion, really hit bottom.  Al
Qaeda is not a product of the current rise in resistance to imperialism,
which stemmed from the period immediately preceding the invasion of Iraq
and its aftermath.  

But Al Qaeda continues to exist in this world and it continues to have
some credibility in a period when the struggles in the semicolonial
world have an overwhelmingly defensive character.  I can't think of a
single semicolonial country where the oppressed are on the offensive
today, aside from Venezuela where their gains are modest and stem from a
grinding battle against the steady, fierce resistance of the ruling

The imperialists and working people both have interests in putting a
stop to Al Qaeda, in my opinion, but they both have other interests as
well that can come into conflict with uniting against them.  The
situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan highlight the problem.  In
Afghanistan, the opposition to Al Qaeda across class lines came up
against the drive by the imperialists to upend the Afghan government, a
reactionary government whose overthrow by foreign troops and the
subsequent opposition has been a blow to the sovereignty of the country.
Sections of the population in the countryside and in exile have fought
back, apparently in   alliance with Al Qaeda.

In Pakistan the issue of for or against Al Qaeda gets tangled with the
question of the independence of Pakistan, with the army now carrying out
operations for Washington in an area -- not the only one in the Middle
East -- where Al Qaeda has some mass popularity or acceptance.

I have no doubt, by the way, that the imperialists want to break Al
Qaeda's destructive capacity, although this is not their highest
priority.  I also reject the idea that the US rulers were complicit
directly in organizing or allowing the attacks on the Pentagon and the
United States.  If the ruling class ever concludes that the Bush
administration, to advance its war policies which the US rulers have
supported, deliberately organized or permitted the Sept. 11 attacks --
which have cost them countless  billions in various ways and have given
the world an terrifying and unforgettable image of the vulnerability of
the imperialist heartland -- the administration will be removed from
office IMMEDIATELY by any means necessary and their punishment would be
unlikely to stop there.

But the fact that imperialism and the working class both have an
interest in opposing Al Qaeda doesn't mean that these play out in
practice as common interests.  The class interests that come into
conflict penetrate this question from all sides.  For imperialism, the
fight against Al Qaeda is a pretext BUT ALSO A REASON for fighting to
tighten domination over  Pakistan, Indonesia, the Philippines, Iraq,
Afghanistan, and elsewhere.  It is a reason for imperialism to make
itself even more intimidating and terrifying to the oppressed of the
world.  For the working people of the world, Al Qaeda is a reactionary
organization that takes anti-imperialism as an excuse for mass murder
and thus endangers the struggle against imperialism everywhere.

Given these sharp conflicts of interest, I doubt that a united front
against Al Qaeda-type terrorism worldwide has much future, even though
in the abstract collaboration between imperialism and the oppressed in
putting a stop to Al Qaeda does not seem like a bad idea at all.
Fred Feldman

Deathly Silence Descends on Pakistan's South Waziristan

Asia Times
March 17, 2004


South Asia

Deathly silence descends on South Waziristan

By Syed Saleem Shahzad

KARACHI - Villagers in Pakistan's South Waziristan
agency have left their homes, fearing the United States
will soon begin dropping bombs, while aircraft from the
Afghan side of the border fly overhead. On the ground, burnt-out
military vehicles litter the landscape. The fighting has stopped and an
eerie silence prevails over the area, said Zafar, a resident of Wana who
gave an eyewitness account to Asia Times Online from Watchadana, which
borders Afghanistan.

But the present calm is just the beginning of a new
storm. Tuesday's deadly clash between Pakistani forces
and local tribespeople marks the first time in the last
several operations, when Pakistani troops came down
forcefully in South Waziristan, that they have been
humiliated by the tribals - along with the Islamic
militants who have already converged in the area and
view the situation as a holy war. South Waziristan is
one of seven federally administered tribal areas where
fiercely independent tribes have been allowed to govern
their own affairs. Al-Qaeda and the Taliban enjoy
widespread popular support in the mountainous and
isolated border areas, the poorest and most religiously conservative
parts of Pakistan.

Well-informed sources tell Asia Times Online that about
250 people, including a member of the North West
Frontier Province (NWFP) constabulary, the staff of a
local political agent and members of the Khasa Dar force
have been taken hostage by the tribespeople. Aside from
the 10 soldiers killed in Tuesday's encounter, the
bodies of 10 more people, including a confirmed soldier
of the Pakistan Army, have been sent to a camp in Wana
by the tribals. These were said to have been hostages
who were killed in captivity.

At present, the area from Zarian Noor to Azam Warsak is
in complete control of the tribals and Islamic
militants. Sources confirmed that US aircraft near Azam
Warsak can be heard flying in the distance and there is
also a mobilization of US troops in Afghanistan near the Pakistan-Afghan

Though not confirmed, there are strong theories that US
forces are taking position to strike inside Pakistani
areas bordering Afghanistan. As a result, the hundreds
of tribals and Islamic militants have also taken
position and have arranged suicide squads in case US
troops make a move. Informed sources in the NFPT tell
Asia Times Online that in the neighboring tribal towns
of the Bajur, North Waziristan and Mohammand agencies,
tribals are getting their act together.

In South Waziristan, funeral prayers are going on in
army camps as the tribespeople again draw their line
with a warning that whoever crosses it will face certain
death. Both sides of the conflict are now in position.
While all is quiet at the moment, it is likely that a
further push from the Pakistani Army will set off more fireworks in the
tribal areas.

Pakistani President General Pervez Musharraf a few days
ago visited NWFP where he addressed tribal elders and
warned them that if any operation is prevented in tribal
areas against al-Qaeda, Pakistan would face dire
consequences from the wrath of the United States. But
the dire consequences of Tuesday's operation left the
Pakistani forces with no face-saving option - except
denial. Despite the obvious fact that the Pakistani Army
is stationed in tribal areas and has launched an
operation, the Pakistan Army as an institution is still
denying its involvement.

Speaking to Asia Times Online Wednesday morning from
Rawalpindi by telephone, the director general of Inter
Services Intelligence (ISI) public relations, Major
General Shaukat Sultan, refused to admit that the
Pakistan army had anything to do with Tuesday's

"No Pakistani troops are involved in South Waziristan
now and the whole operation carried out [Tuesday] was
done by Frontier Constabulary, a para-military force,
and the secretary of the federally administered tribal
areas is the right person to ask about the
operation,” said Shaukat Sultan.

The manner in which Pakistan's armed forces disowned
both the operation and the level of the insurgency shows
the military is fully aware that the situation is out of control. But at
the same time , these denials also reflect that the armed forces do not
want to take the blame for a clash between Pakistani forces and
Pakistani citizens in which both sustained casualties - especially when
they are fighting a war for somebody else on Pakistani soil. The
situation clearly hints the future course of action - and who is now
really dominating the Pakistani Army: the US.

(Copyright 2004 Asia Times Online Ltd.


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