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Economic and Philosophic Science Review

Only he is a Marxist who extends the recognition of the class struggle to the recognition of the dictatorship of the proletariat. This is the touchstone on which the real understanding and recognition of Marxism is to be tested. V. I. Lenin

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No 1418 4th January 2013


Fake-"left" confusion, muddle and outright anti-communism is increasingly exposed by horrifying civil war agony death and destruction set going by imperialism in Syria as part of its counter-revolution against the Egyptian and Tunisian revolution. Their brain dead opportunism and even outright capitulation to imperialist propaganda simply aids the monopoly capitalist counter-revolution deliberately provoked to break up and disintegrate another "rogue state" and keep world war atmosphere on the boil. Capitalism needs war to evade its responsibility for the catastrophic Slump disaster sweeping the planet like a hurricane. But the hollow fascist fraud in Syria has already fallen apart in a mess of violent squabbling for loot and warlord rivalries. Imperialism's proxies need soundly defeating to open up real revolution. Leninist perspectives ever more urgent

The chance for rising world rebellion to inflict a devastating blow in the Middle East on monopoly capitalism's world war drive, by defeating its disruptive and destructive civil war provocations against Syria, continues to be missed because of confusion caused by the opportunism, blinkered revisionism or outright Trotskyist anti-communism of the fake-"lefts".

Their misleadership, or in some cases total capitulation to the overwhelming Western propaganda onslaught (as over Libya), will ultimately have a valuable result for the working class, exposing even further the wretched posturing pretences of the "lefts" of all shades to have anything to do with Marxism, Leninism and the building of the vital revolutionary understanding which can lead the working class in the gigantic Slump and world war turmoil now unfolding (and which Syria is just a part of).

But for the moment it plays into the hands of imperialism, aiding its crisis-driven counter-revolution and world war plans and fragmenting and diverting the mass revolts which are rocking imperialism and its world domination to the core.

Either, like the philistine Trots, they astonishingly support the foul, nasty pseudo-rebellion directly (standing alongside the pompous threats of William Hague and the more sinister declarations of Hilary Clinton and ultra reactionaries like John McCain) or they get lost in detail about Syria itself like the revisionists, supporting the untrustworthy, vacillating and halfway house "anti-imperialism" of the opportunist Ba'athists.

Even those with an allegedly "balanced view" of the Damascus shortcomings, like the fence-sitting Fight Racism Fight Imperialism Revolutionary Communist Group, just limply declare "hands off Syria", more of the same fatuous social-pacifist empty misleadership from revisionism, that is both unachievable and, in practice, also "supports" the Assadites whatever caveats are made about the regime.

All this floundering incomprehension misses the central point that the fight set going by imperialism in Syria is only incidentally about toppling the Assad regime – especially as far as Washington, London and the other imperialist forces are concerned.

It is about the desperate monopoly capitalist ruling class's wriggling to avoid its responsibility for the gigantic world economic catastrophe now unfolding because of the intractable contradictions and failure of its own production for private profit system, taking the world into the greatest slump Depression, trade war collapse and penury in all history (euphemistically presented as "austerity" as if it were "morally improving" belt tightening instead of life and community destroying savagery).

The ruling class's "solution", led by the dominating American Empire, is to inflict total war conflict on the world, to blame the disaster and chaos on "others", whip up hatred, chauvinism and intolerance to divert the masses everywhere from revolution and put down both any rising rebelliousness and any major capitalist rivals who might challenge its shaken dominance and try to take its lion's share of world exploitation superprofits.

Third World War has effectively been raging since the 1998 NATO Serbian blitzing at least and rolling on through Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia, Libya and now Syria (by proxy).

War is the point.

Any war will do, but certainly "best" if it is in the most important and "unstable" areas like the resource rich Middle East, (though plenty more is raging in Africa in the Congo etc).

It is defeat for these international imperialist war provocations, and a bloody nose for imperialism itself that need to be underlined, not "defending" the Assad regime, even if for the moment it would be primarily the Ba'athist forces which are taking on the artificial "rebels".

Confusing support for the untrustworthy and weak Damascus nationalism with defeat for imperialism is disastrous.

It helps sustain the more understandable mistakes of the various local leaderships in the Middle East, who despite staggering bravery, doggedness and increasing militancy and fighting competence remain hampered by religious ideologies and sectarianism, which has filled the giant vacuum in revolutionary leadership left everywhere by decades of soft brained revisionist muddle.

The national liberation and anti-imperialist militant leaderships have led stunning and heroic achievements which have struck, and increasingly strike, telling and devastating blows against imperialism particularly in the Intifadas and anti-Zionist struggles.

But many of the Gazans, with some justification, declare their mistrust for all the bourgeois nationalist regimes surrounding the region, which have largely sat on their hands for decades as those within have taken the brunt of the genocidal Zionist occupation of their lands.

And their particular flavour of Muslimism has seen them denounce the Syrians.

But it makes no sense for the Palestinians, fresh from demonstrating yet again their incredible steadfastness and ever-deepening resilient refusal to be cowed even in the teeth of yet more mass murderous onslaughts and genocidal blitzing from the Nazi-Zionists, – in fact in the recent near invasion of Gaza showing greater fighting capacity, technical skill and organisation than ever before built on decades of revolutionary experience – to welcome the demise of the Syrian regime at the hands of imperialism and the alleged "rebels" it is funding to try to topple it.

It makes even less sense for their Hamas leadership to be on opposite sides to the Hizbullah fighters in Lebanon, equally determined, organised and ever better armed, and with the 2006 victory over Zionist blitzing in Lebanon to their name, who have quietly been joining the forces in Damascus to help battle against the disruption of the alleged "rebels".

The defeat of all imperialist skulduggery is the necessity above all, weakening its grip and therefore its ability to suppress revolutionary and nationalist struggles everywhere else.

And it does not matter who does it because the sole crucial question facing mankind is the continuing existence of monopoly capitalism, poisoning all human relations and pushing the world towards the brink of chaos.

Such damaging confusion remains unchallenged largely because not one of the "lefts" explains the overall world crisis context of the upheavals in Aleppo, Damascus and Homs, nor the world revolutionary ferment which it is designed to head off.

Their politics do not even allow for or encourage the debates and polemics that could explore the issues and begin to build (or rebuild) the scientific clarity which could face up to past errors and difficulties, and clarify the life-and-death issues of unfolding crisis events.

The gigantic spontaneous mass rebellions of Tunisia and Egypt, Yemen and the Gulf states have raised the ever increasing Third World revolt against US Empire dominated international monopoly capitalist exploitation and oppression to a qualitatively different level from the insurgencies, "terrorism" and heroic enough, if tragically costly, individual suicide attacks of the past.

For the moment they have been contained, with the compromising Muslim Brotherhood presidency in Egypt and state suppression in the Gulf states, but threaten to recur constantly.

But none of the "lefts" remotely grasps the significance of these latest events because none of them have ever had any real understanding of revolution at all, nor deep in their petty bourgeois souls, want it, being in thrall to the perceived power of the imperialist ruling class.

Universally they have condemned past and continuing "terrorist" upsurges as the "wrong way to struggle" or "criminal", as they all did in the aftermath of 9-11 for example, with a few museum-Stalinist revisionists later changing their tune (after EPSR criticism), but still seeing and analysing them only as partial and episodic fights for "national liberation" in Afghanistan for example or "Iraq", and now once again, Syria (as the Lalkar/Proletarian group do for example).

They all fail to connect to connect these events together as one gigantic ferment, brewing what will become the greatest transformation of all human history once it finds conscious clear leadership – once it builds Leninist scientific understanding in other words.

Behind that seething humanity they fail too to see the historic watershed which has been reached by the entire 800 year long capitalist order, whose economic and political system of monopoly capitalist exploitation has hit a brick wall – its own internal and unavoidable contradictions imploding in the greatest catastrophic failure of all time.

The inevitable crisis of overproduction will always return, as Marx long ago analysed, for as long as human affairs and economic activity are guided by the interests of accumulating all profit and wealth in the hands of a tiny minority (see quotes on EPSR box, or in more detail the Communist Manifesto, Capital, Imperialism the Highest Stage of Capitalism by Lenin and more one hundred volumes of Marx, Engels, Lenin, other Bolsheviks, Mao Zedong, Ho Chi Min as a starting point).

His grasp and the revolutionary conclusions that follow have been incontrovertibly proven by the now devastating and unravelling crisis, which is only being held off in its very worst effects by the insane printing of paper dollars in the multi-TRILLION (one thousand thousand million) Quantitative Easing programme, flooding the world with completely valueless additional dollars on top of the already vastly diluted and polluted constant dollar printing of the entire long "boom" decades. Potentially even greater sudden economic lurches are to come, bigger than even the pant-wetting bank and finance failures of 2008 (and which article after article in the bourgeois press constantly hint at, spelling out that "nothing has been solved" in the Euro crisis, or the US "fiscal cliff, just deferred) and which have already devastated entire countries where they are too small to resist having the burdens forced onto them.

Lives have been shattered, and ruined with despair, penury and hopelessness throughout Greece, Ireland, Portugal, and Spain, and increasingly many of the larger countries too, leading to suicides, hunger, homelessness and broken up families, even before much of the Depression "austerity" has been imposed by the arrogance and greed of the ruling class.

The world is confronted with a completely unsolvable conundrum of "austerity" (meaning disastrous Depression deeper than the 1930s ever saw) for as long as the capitalist class rule system continues.

But no ruling class ever gave up the world stage willingly and the most powerful and brutal ruling class of all human time will stop at nothing to stay on top to keep its wealth, luxury, power and might intact.

So the shock of the giant upheavals in Egypt particularly, the most populous and potentially explosive countries of all the Middle East, with a powerful history of nationalist and anti-imperialist struggle post-war, has induced the panicked bourgeoisie – seeing the entire region potentially spinning out of control – into desperate counter measures.

Within Egypt that has meant subversion and manipulation of the spontaneous revolution, relying on the compromising of the Muslim Brotherhood to block any more radical demands, and leaving the street level mass trapped with continuing revisionist influenced illusions in a vague "fight for democracy" instead of any clear grasp of the need to take power and overturn capitalism or even to build a revolutionary party to fight for that understanding.

The new president Mohamed Morsi, carefully manoeuvred into place by an electoral and "legal" procedure controlled by the former Muburak controlled military, which ruled out most of the candidates and their more dangerous talk, may not be first choice for imperialism and next door Zionism but has already demonstrated sufficient compliance to imperialist needs to be acceptable – pushing through "austerity" in return for IMF loans and continuing the Egyptian side blockade on the Gaza Palestinians.

Better this compromised "Islamism" keeping the lid on that continuing turmoil and the potential for communist overturn is Washington's reasoning, confirmed by Morsi's willingness to help mediate a "peace agreement" in the recent Zionist onslaught before it too stirred up even more anti-imperialist ferment.

Alongside its meddling in Cairo, imperialism's emergency response has been to activate long-laid but still unripe plans for subversion and provocations to create "rebellions" in various hated countries surrounding Egypt, and with them to intimidate and pressure the revolt which threatens to spread throughout the Middle East.

It has been done using the clever pretence that this counter-revolution itself is more "Arab Spring".

The chosen victims have been the main regional demonised "rogue states" which have failed to comply fully with US Empire plans, notably Syria and the Gaddafi's bourgeois nationalist revolutionary Libya before that.

But it has been desperate stuff activating unfinished or reserve strategies and forcing an abrupt about turn on previous plans to bully and bribe the inconsistent anti-imperialism of Gaddafi and the Assads, the former already persuaded to abandon nuclear research plans and forced into compromise deals with British imperialism for example over the Lockerbie incident (getting various token subversive anti-Gaddafi reactionaries handed over to Libya by MI6 as part of the deal for example - now causing endless further complications for British imperialism), and the latter Ba'athists, like Saddam Hussein for years, contained and tolerated as long as they did not push their anti-Zionism posturing beyond levels needed to pacify the "Arab Street".

The hollowness of this giant fraudulent hodge-podge counter-revolution was quickly proven in Libya where the thinly populated whipped-up street demonstrations, violent from the start in their attacks on police stations etc, were a complete contrast to the tens, even hundreds of thousands spontaneously and peacefully filling Tahrir Square in Egypt.

It was all an obvious stunt despite the best efforts of the Western media's close-cropping film techniques to inflate a few dozen Benghazi "marchers" with schoolboy level theatrical "Freedom" slogans on their carefully handed-out banners, into a "mass demonstration", and consciously lying hyperbolic news "reporting" of every hearsay allegation of "atrocities", never verified, cross-examined or checked or actually filmed.

The preposterous "rebellion" almost immediately faltered despite its receiving arms (from where??), the self-declared monarchists, petty bourgeois lawyers, doctors, dealers, middle class reactionaries and aspiring collaborators with Western oil corporations, all a complete joke of fascist macho bravado and shouting, mostly well away from any front line, descending ultimately into the degenerate racist mayhem, gangsterism, tribalism, warlordism and squabbling for spoils which has replaced Gaddafi's anti-imperialism.

NATO Nazi blitzing of LibyaThe landing of Western special forces (US, British, French) and arms was needed to pull it together and keep the momentum going but even then it was necessary to throw in the weight of a hugely expensive NATO blitzkrieg for the Nazi warcrimes destruction of Gaddafi because the "revolution's" spineless pretence constantly threatened to peter out.

Only the most diehard anti-communist Trots could swallow this ludicrous stunt at face value – as they did, oblivious to the massed ranks of the world bourgeoisie supporting the entire joke pretence from day one with the carefully choreographed phrases about "dictators" and "shooting his own people" etc etc.

It required the greatest philosophical gymnastics from them to keep on pretending it was a "people's movement" and that the support of world reaction was "compromising" it, not least since the "rebels" themselves were demanding Western aid and intervention from the start, a rather significant giveaway.

Apart from anything else, what were these people supposed to be "rebelling" against??

Muammar Gaddafi made an anti-monarchist revolution 40 years ago, and while his weird and wonderful "Green Book" crypto-socialist philosophy and relatively egalitarian wealth distribution was actually a million miles from revolutionary clarity, maintained an essentially anti-imperialist stance for his entire existence. Libya was a thorn in the side for imperialism, previously bombed by Reagan-Thatcher, and absolutely hated by Washington's neocons.

There was no multi-billion annual subvention for him, unlike the annual US transfusion into Hosni Mubarak's vicious gangster dictatorship (as well as the fanatical Zionist Nazis next door) and huge European Union infrastructure and economic development funds to keep the Cairo middle class quiet.

This much alone would be a major indication of the nature of the resistance against it – i.e counter-revolutionary.

It requires the utmost wilful blindness not to see the falsity of the Libyan "revolt", possible only with the philistine shallowness of the Trotskyist groups so eagerly taken in by any CIA "rank-and-file street movement" stunt or supposed "self-determination" struggle, however thin and with whatever reactionary and poisonous character it might display.

As long as it is against a workers state (Hungary 1956, Czechoslovakia 1968, Solidarnosc in Poland 1980s onwards helping precipitate the counter-revolution against the USSR), or at least against one of imperialism's victims deemed insufficiently compliant and stooge-like, from Serbia in 1998 (supporting the Albanian mafia riddled pro-NATO Kosovans as a "self-determination" struggle), Mugabe's Zimbabwe, to Sudan, or Myanmar (Burma as the arrogant West insists on calling it still), to the remaining revisionist workers states of Korea or Cuba, and above all China, they are for it.

But not one indication suggested the Libyan revolt could be, or become, a communist movement, the only basis for justifying any "left" support.

Nor would it be, since a Leninist communist movement in Libya would have worked out that imperialism was by far the overriding enemy whatever criticisms it might have had of Gaddafi's erratic behaviour and understanding, and would have held off, knowing that any revolt would weaken the fight against imperialism (let alone one actively calling for Western blitzing!!!).

As Lenin long ago demonstrated at the time of the August 1917 Kornilov monarchist assault on the Russian February bourgeois revolution, the task is to focus on the main problem, imperialism and reaction, the source of all conflict and antagonism in the world anyway.

It was vital to stand alongside any resistance to the greater evil, threatening to destroy everything and re-impose autocracy, even while keeping the working class constantly aware of the failings and potential treachery of the bourgeois Kerensky parliamentary government.

That could be dealt with subsequently when the big threat had been seen off, and was by the Bolshevik revolution of October.

No "rebellion" in Libya at this moment and especially in the context of the giant events in the whole region could do anything but play into imperialist hands.

The same philistine Trotskyist befuddlement also swallows the notion that Syria is a "movement against dictatorship", a confused petty bourgeois conceit built, in the last resort, on the fear in these petty bourgeois dilettantes of the dictatorship of the proletariat, their hostility to it and shallow illusions in "democracy" in the abstract.

"Democracy" in the bourgeois world is nothing but a veil for the dictatorship of capital, a hoodwinking racket to keep the masses quiet with the nonsense that they have some say in things.

It will only be changed by the establishment of working class rule and common ownership of production under which dictatorship of the majority, real universal participation in society can gradually be opened up for all, as the residual antagonisms, unfairnesses and confusions of capitalist brainwashing and inequality are replaced by rational scientific clarity and consciousness.

The great contradiction of history is that only such mass class dictatorship, led by Leninist struggle for scientific leadership, and suppressing the reactionary minority of the old ruling class (which will use any depravity and viciousness to try and regain power) can ultimately remove all class differences and therefore the need for coercion of any kind.

Syria is only the extension of the Libyan stunt, hemming in and intimidating the genuine Egyptian revolt from the other side and equally obviously false, despite the Western intelligence agencies and the obvious intervention of the highly efficient Zionist intelligence services having managed to tap and provoke some of the sectarian tensions within Syria which Ba-athism and its local capitalist order have never been able to deal with (and never can while capitalism prevails in the world).

There is not the remotest sign that any of the rebellion in Syria is any more progressive and will either take things forwards or at least free up conditions for communism to emerge.

But neither will merely supporting the backward Ba'athists as the Stalinist wooden-tops advocate (and by implication all the "Hands off" stop-the-war shouting does too).

The world is not going to be changed by relying of the possibility of reformist handouts from a minor nationalist bourgeois which only has any "principles" at all because of its proximity to the deadly Zionist entity and the enormous pressure of the ordinary population in the "Arab Street" (or to be more accurate the "Arab and Persian" Middle Eastern street) which detests and hates the monstrous land-stealing Jewish-settler cuckoo planted in the nest by the imperialist controlled and be-stooged United Nations in 1947-8.

Neither is it going to be the midwife for revolution, by fostering, or at least creating the social conditions for, the development of working class socialism and least of all Leninist (revolutionary) movement, despite the notional existence of a "communist" party in Syria.

The Syrian CP is tolerated by the Ba'athists only because its revisionist-saturated class-compromising "peace struggle" mentality long ago abandoned any revolutionary perspectives domestically or worldwide, as has all the Third International.

The world will be changed in the only possible way forwards for human history, the complete ending on a world scale of the production for private property system and its grotesque and distorting accumulation of all wealth in ever fewer hands, backed up by non-stop violence, torture, surveillance and persecution of anyone who tries to resist it or fight back against it.

It need to be replaced with planned socialism, seizing the factories, mines, farms and finance houses, and running them under common ownership of all society to serve all of society.

It is possible only by achieving the firmest of working class control in the greatest and most titanic of revolutionary struggles in all history, to overturn the bourgeois class and hold it, and its poisonous greed and self-seeking, down while the great majority rebuilds society.

The fight is brewing and the Middle East turmoil is a huge part of it.

Already maturing throughout the Third World for decades, the gigantic transformation of cowed and awed colonially dominated humanity into the sophisticated and determined masses of modern times, still desperately exploited but increasingly less acceptingly, has seen huge eruptions of struggle in a hundred different forms.

Usually written off or condemned by the fake-"lefts" as "not the proper way" or "criminal terrorism" or just "counter-productive suicide bombing" or "not political correct" (because allegedly too "homophobic" or not "feminist" enough, or perhaps "racist" or too violent and destructive) these are all part of a ferment of struggle alerting the world to the increasing discontent and hatred of the contemptuously dismissed (mostly) "little brown people" majority on earth.

They will no longer tolerate the misery imposed on them by the tyrannical domination of imperialism and its non-stop expropriation and exploitation of the world's labour power and raw materials.

The "shock and awe" stamping ogre repression of US capitalism, as its own crisis collapse has emerged, has accelerated this process.

Washington's attempts to bully and intimidate the world into continuing its tribute despite the total bankruptcy of the US Empire has not only been a disastrous failure in Afghanistan and Iraq, failing to suppress the "terrorist threat", and leaving a legacy of corruption, instability and destroyed and fragmented communities, instead of the promised "rebuilding and establishment of 'democracy and the rule of law'", but has soaked up economic and human resources, producing a constant stream of body bags homewards.

Much more importantly it has driven tens of thousands more into the militant and insurgency ranks, including now women in even the backward traditional patriarchal societies in Afghanistan:

An Afghan female police officer has shot dead a US adviser in police headquarters in Kabul, the first attack on foreigners by a woman serving in the national security forces.

"Today at 10am a female police constable opened fire on an American adviser with a pistol," Daoud Amin, deputy provincial police chief for Kabul said on Monday. "He was seriously wounded, they took him to hospital and he passed away there."

The woman has been arrested, and Amin said police were investigating the shooting, the latest in a string of insider attacks on foreign troops by Afghan police and soldiers that they mentor and fight alongside.

There have been very few female combatants among insurgent ranks in conservative and male-dominated Afghanistan, although the Taliban did not immediately claim responsibility for the attack. A spokesman said the group was investigating.

More than 60 soldiers and civilian advisers have been killed in 46 shootings this year, compared with 35 deaths in all of 2011. They account for nearly one in six of all Nato casualties in Afghanistan, and risk undermining the entire mission as it shifts towards a bigger focus on training.

However, it was unprecedented to have a woman pulling the trigger and unusual to have an attack at such a high-level office.

In a bid to tackle the growing problem there are now intelligence agents undercover in many Afghan army units to seek out insurgent sympathisers, with Nato creating a system of "guardian angel" – soldiers who watch over fellow troops when they are with armed Afghan forces.

Whether this is a one off or not, the overall picture is disastrous, in Kabul, throughout Pakistan, and further afield, where either active recruitment or mass sympathy has built up against the monster imperialism.

But it has now reached a new level in the Middle East where the bursting of the impoverished population through the tight lid of repression, torture and police state rule of the Mubarak decades (like Saddat before him) despite the enormous multi-billion Washington subventions paid year by year to keep his gangster dictatorship in place, has utterly terrified the world ruling class.

And despite the confusion its plans are floundering in the degenerate mess produced in Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, Afghanistan and now Syria.

So far away from any genuine struggle is the stew of street bravado, gangsterism and fanatical sectarianism that the "Free Syrian Army" umbrella organisation – which has all the hallmarks of a classic CIA setup - has already fallen apart, to be replaced by a new front organisation recently and brazenly cobbled together by the West.

Even the bourgeois press, which pumps out endless alleged lurid hearsay stories blaming the Assad government for every massacre, has recently found it difficult to swallow the most demented of the Western propaganda, such as the latest fantasy that Damascus was on the verge of using "chemical weapons" for which there was not even as much credible evidence as the infamous WMD allegations against Iraq in 2003.

That does not stop such deliberately inflammatory speculation such as this tacked into the latest Guardian report of UN figures of 60 000 allegedly killed in the conflict (by which side???):

The real death toll is likely to be greater because reports containing incomplete information were excluded and a significant number of killings may not have been documented at all.

"There are many names not on the list for people who were quietly shot in the woods," said Rupert Colville, a spokesman for the human rights commissioner, Navi Pillay.

But this stuff is increasingly crude .

Such classic "weasel" phrasings are based on no evidence at all and prove nothing except the deliberate propaganda bias of the Western media.

If killings were "not documented" than how does the journalist know they happened "at all"?

And how does the UN "human rights" commissioner's man know about further killings if they are "not on the list" and were "quietly shot"???

Has he been walking "in the woods"???

This total fantasy, gratuitously added to inflate the picture without any basis whatsoever, is typical of the foul shit stirring by all the capitalist circus and its "international bodies", pumped out non-stop to keep the mayhem going.

It is absolutely par for the course, for everything that has been crapped out by the Goebbels lie machine to inflame the conflict and stir it up from the very beginning.

But even so things are going so badly in Syria that some accounts appear, even in the capitalist press, of how disastrous it is:

It wasn't the government that killed the Syrian rebel commander Abu Jameel. It was the fight for his loot. The motive for his murder lay in a great warehouse in Aleppo which his unit had captured a week before. The building had been full of rolled steel, which was seized by the fighters as spoils of war.

But squabbling developed over who would take the greater share of the loot and a feud developed between commanders. Threats and counter-threats ensued over the following days.

Abu Jameel survived one assassination attempt when his car was fired on. A few days later his enemies attacked again, and this time they were successful. His bullet-riddled body was found, handcuffed, in an alley in the town of al-Bab.

Captain Hussam, of the Aleppo military council, said: "If he had died fighting I would say it was fine, he was a rebel and a mujahid and this is what he had set out to do. But to be killed because of a feud over loot is a disaster for the revolution.

"It is extremely sad. There is not one government institution or warehouse left standing in Aleppo. Everything has been looted. Everything is gone.">

Captured government vehicles and weapons have been crucial to the rebels since the start of the conflict, but according to Hussam and other commanders, and fighters interviewed by the Guardian over a fortnight in northern Syria, a new phase has been reached in the war. Looting has become a way of life.

"Spoils" have now become the main drive for many units as battalion commanders seek to increase their power.

The problem is particularly pronounced in Aleppo, according to Abu Ismael, a young lieutenant from a wealthy family, who ran a successful business before joining the fight against Bashar al-Assad.

Many of the battalions that entered the city in the summer of this year came from the countryside, he said. They were poor peasants who carried with them centuries-old grudges towards the wealthier Aleppans.

There was also a lingering feeling that the city – where businesses had been exploiting cheap peasant labour for several decades – had not risen up quickly enough against the Assads. "The rebels wanted to take revenge on the people of Aleppo because they felt that we had betrayed them, but they forgot that most of the people of Aleppo are merchants and traders and a merchant will pay money to get rid of his problem," Abu Ismael said. "Even as the rest of Syria was gripped by revolution, the Aleppans said, why should we destroy our business and waste our money?"

When the rebels entered the city and started looting the factories, a source of money dried up.

"In the first month and a half the rebels were really a united revolutionary group," Abu Ismael said. "But now they are different. There are those who are here only to loot and make money, and some still fight." Did Abu Ismael's unit loot? "Of course. How do you think we feed the men? Where do you think we get all our sugar, for example?"

In the chaotic economics of the war, everything has become a commodity. Abu Ismael's unit, for example, took a supply of diesel from a school compound, and every day his unit exchanges a few jerrycans of the precious liquid for bread.

Because Abu Ismael has a supply of food and fuel his battalion is more desirable than others in the sector. Commanders who are unable to feed their men tend to lose them; they desert and join other groups.

Bullets are equally important. When military installations and warehouses are looted the battalion that captures ammunition grows by cannibalising smaller, less well-equipped units that have no bullets to hand.

In a dark apartment in the Salahuddin neighbourhood of Aleppo we sat with a group of commanders who were discussing the formation of a new brigade that would bring their various battalions together. They soon turned to the topic of loot.

One of the commanders present had led an operation into the predominantly Kurdish neighbourhood of Ashrafiya in Aleppo, but according to several fighters who were there the action failed when the army counterattacked because the rebel support units that were supposed to reinforce the front instead turned their attention to looting.

"I want to know exactly what you took that day," the commander of a small unit told the leader of the assault. The commander opened a notebook to write, while another man held a flashlight above his head. "As long as one fights while the others are busy collecting loot we can't advance," he said. "The loot has to be divided equally."

The leader started to list the luxury cars and the weapons his units had found and taken, while the other commander wrote them down in the notebook. Some of the cars would be sold back to the owners – if they paid out a hefty ransom.

The war in Aleppo is not only funded by what can be appropriated by the various units, but also by the patronage that they can attract from sponsors outside Syria, a factor which has also contributed to the myriad forming and re-forming of units, all of which control individual fiefdoms in the city.

All of this has fuelled rivalries and ever-shifting allegiances, factors that have undermined the struggle to defeat the forces of the Syrian president.

Fighting units often exist only because of their sponsors. If a sponsor loses interest a battalion is dissolved and the men join another, better-funded battalion. Battalions are often named after historical Arab or Ottoman figures in order to help lure money from the Gulf kingdoms or from Turkey.

One Friday afternoon after prayers a group of the most senior commanders fighting in Aleppo, 32 in all, gathered in part of a sprawling former government compound, the building's once polished marble floors now covered with puddles of water, its walls blackened by soot. Sitting in low leather chairs around a large table, many of the men carried the scars of two years of fighting – missing eyes, lame arms, crippled legs.

The meeting was chaired by Abdulkader al-Saleh, a leader of the Tawheed brigade, one of the biggest and best equipped rebel battalions in Syria.

First on the agenda was the task of reintroducing the men to each other, as many had switched battalions since their last meeting in the endless game of musical chairs of the Syrian revolution.

A who's who of the revolution followed, each commander stating his name and his unit. Some battalions were huge, with hundreds of men, artillery pieces and tanks. Others consisted of fewer than 50 fighters.

"Haji, I thought you were with Halab al-Shaba'a brigade," Haji Marea said to one of the men. "No, we have reformed. We are a new battalion," the man said.

"Brothers, we have a grave situation ahead of us," interjected Abdul-Jabbar Akidi, a defected colonel who leads the military council of Aleppo. Formed to channel supplies to the rebels, the council was supposed to be the overarching command structure for the Free Syrian Army in Aleppo. Instead, it soon became one more faction among many competing for influence.

"The battle has stagnated here," he said. "There has been no real progress on the fronts and that has affected our sponsors, who haven't been sending us ammunition.

"Even the people are fed up with us. We were liberators, but now they denounce us and demonstrate against us. We have to unite and form an operations room for all the battalions."

Soon, however, the conversation took a familiar turn, moving on to complaints about units keeping equipment to themselves.

A short, clean-shaven commander in a leather jacket spoke up: "The problem is that some battalions have artillery and tanks and they are keeping them for themselves and not participating in the attack. Bring me the pieces that were captured from the base of the 46th brigade [a government unit] and I will take over the secret police buildings in Aleppo without having to send my men to die in front of government snipers."

The second item on the agenda concerned the formation of a revolutionary police force.

As the revolution in Aleppo stagnated and the rebel commanders settled in to rule their "liberated" neighbourhoods, each battalion had started forming its own revolutionary security service, or Amn al-Thawra, manning checkpoints and detaining people, which had led to a spike in kidnapping.

The commanders put forward proposals for how they could create a single disciplined security force.

One moustachioed former colonel in a brown suit began reading what sounded like a Ba'ath party manifesto: "I call for the formation of a secret bureau of revolutionary military security service," he said.

Many of the men in the room had been detained and tortured by Assad's security services and sank into their chairs as the former colonel spoke.

"We fought against the regime because of these secret security forces," said a man with a thick rural accent.

Another battalion commander with a soft voice and a neat blue turban began to speak. "I call for the formation of a small unit of our brothers, the religious students," he said. "Their job would be to advise the people before the need to use force."

He added: "They will be armed with their wisdom and religious teaching and it should be called the committee of ruling with virtue and the prevention of vice. It will be the first step in preparing the people for an Islamic society."

At this, a young fighter shouted from one end of the room: "The problem is not with the people. The problem is us! We have battalions sitting in liberated areas who man checkpoints and detain people. They say this person is a shabiha [a government militiaman] and take his car, or that man was a Ba'athist, take his house.

"They have become worse than the regime. Tell me why those men are in the city, in liberated areas, why are they not fighting at the frontline?"

As the room choked with the smoke of cigarettes, the commanders agreed to form one unified security force. Yet weeks later, there would be little evidence of that force.

There were many further stories of looting heard during the our time in Aleppo. A pharmacist who had volunteered as a medic in one of the rebel field hospitals explained why he was running short of penicillin.

The rebels had taken over the warehouse of a leading pharmaceutical company and then had resold the stock back to the owners, shipping all the drugs back into government-held territory, he claimed.

He added: "I went to the warehouse to tell them they had no right to the medicine and that it should be given to the people and not re-sold. They detained me and said they would break both my legs if I ever went back."

In Saif al-Dawla district a commander who was furnishing a new headquarters for his newly formed battalion walked into a school compound with a few of his men.

A group of civilians stood watching in the late afternoon as the men trawled through the school. Burned and torn pictures of Assad lay on the floor. Desks and chairs were upturned and broken, and plastic flowers and students' projects were strewn around.

The men ferried some of the tables, sofas and chairs outside the school and piled them up at the street corner. Computers and monitors followed.

A fighter registered the loot in a big notebook. "We are keeping it safe in a warehouse," he said.

Later in the week I saw the school's sofas and computers sitting comfortably in the commander's new apartment.

On the frontlines of the Ameriya neighbourhood, south of Aleppo, we met Abara and his men.

Abara is young and short, in his early 20s, with fair hair and few pimples scattered on his face. He had defected from the army a year earlier. We had first met three months earlier when he was leading his men through the alleyways of Salahuddin, and many of those fighters had been killed or maimed since then.

He was now sitting with the survivors on a cold concrete floor in an abandoned building a block away from government troops. Between the men was a jar of greasy-looking green olives, a bag of bread, a plate of olive oil and some thyme. "It's much worse now," Abara said of the war. "Now it's copper and wheat that commanders are after instead of liberating the city."

He added: "The problem when people stop fighting – I liberate an area, I need resources and ammunition, so I start looting government properties. When this has finished I turn to looting other properties and I become a thief."

The physical ground that, at the moment, lay between him and the government line consisted of a series of shattered buildings where snipers from both sides appeared to shoot at almost anything that moved.

"When the army attacked us last week the unit that was here abandoned their posts and withdrew," he said.

Now, he said, in order to regain the lost territory he would have to fight house to house. "Why should I, when the rest are looting?"

He added wearily: "One day when the war against Bashar is over, another war will start against the looters and thieves."

A few commentaries even tease at the underlying war agenda of capitalism now become glaringly clear, even if rather late in the day. This one still considers this in isolation - "another target" – and still falls for the fake-"left" nonsense that the "uprising" was initially "genuine" but brings out some of the glaring manoeuvring:

Once again, the west is preparing to escalate military intervention in the Arab and Muslim world. This time the target is Syria. Since the US presidential election, the warnings have multiplied. First, in a breathtaking reprise of the falsehood that paved the way for the invasion of Iraq, US and British leaders claimed the Syrian regime might be about to use chemical weapons against rebel forces, and threatened dire consequences.

Then the US authorised the stationing of Patriot missile batteries along the Turkish-Syrian border. Ostensibly intended to protect Turkey from stray Syrian artillery fire, they could rather more plausibly be used to help enforce a Libya-style no-fly zone. There has since been a flurry of media briefings about increased covert US arms supplies and rebel training, along with plans for intensified intelligence and special forces deployment, or even all-out air and naval power support. Direct intervention, US and British officials are reported to insist, is "now inevitable".

Next Britain followed France in recognising the new opposition Syrian National Coalition, stitched together under Nato and Gulf tutelage, as the "sole legitimate representative of the Syrian people". Since the coalition clearly isn't the sole representative of Syrians, the declaration (which goes beyond even what was said during the Libyan war) sets a precedent that is likely to come back to haunt them. But it was followed by only a slightly less sweeping statement from the US and around 100 allies.

What such support can mean on the ground is demonstrated in the latest real-life horror video circulating among Syrians. It shows two captured officers from President Assad's Alawite sect being beheaded with a machete in the street, apparently by western-backed Free Syrian Army rebels, one of them a child.

Of the tens of thousands who have died since last year's uprising morphed into armed revolt, the majority have certainly been killed by regime forces. But there's also no doubt that atrocities have been committed on a large scale by both sides. And they have mushroomed as jihadist groups have grown in importance and Iraq-style ethnic cleansing, kidnapping, revenge killings and sectarian attacks spread.

Rampant torture and summary executions by opposition as well as regime forces have been condemned by human rights organisations, along with widespread rebel conscription of child soldiers. Last week Channel 4 News uncovered evidence that more than 100 Alawite civilians killed in the town of Aqrab may have been massacred by rebel forces rather than, as initially reported, by government troops.

You might imagine the multiplication of such incidents and the advance of fundamentalist groups in Syria would give western governments reason to pause before bolstering their support for the rebels. But in fact that's exactly why they insist they need to step up their involvement.

David Cameron told parliament this week that there was now a "strategic imperative" to act because the Syrian war (which the west and its Gulf allies have been fuelling) is "empowering al-Qaida-linked extremists". There is an "opportunity", he says, for Britain, the US and autocratic regimes such as Saudi Arabia and Jordan to "shape" the Syrian opposition.

Of course, both the US and Britain have been funding, training and attempting to funnel Gulf arms through Turkey and Jordan to their favoured factions for some time. Now the Obama administration has branded a leading Syrian jihadist group a terrorist organisation, to Syrian opposition fury. The aim is intervention for influence, both before and after the expected fall of the Assad regime – dressed up, as in Libya, in the language of "protecting civilians".

It's all of a piece with the rebranded war on terror. In the wake of the disaster of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, there were to be no more boots on the ground. Intervention would again take the form of "humanitarian" air campaigns, targeted drone attacks and a return to the proxy and covert wars of the past.

But as demonstrated by Nato's campaign in Libya – which helped boost the death toll by a factor of at least 10 and gave air cover to ethnic cleansing and indiscriminate killing – wars to "protect civilians" do nothing of the kind. Deeper western intervention in Syria will certainly escalate, not end, the killing, as well as taking Syria's future out of the hands of its own people.

What began in Syria nearly two years ago as a popular uprising, brutally repressed by the Assad regime, has since increasingly taken on the character of a sectarian conflict and regional proxy war, as Saudi Arabia and its western backers have seen the chance to bury Iran and Russia's main long-term Middle Eastern ally.

But the expectation that the government is about to fall is almost certainly premature. With neither side strong enough to prevail, the likelihood instead is that the country will go on bleeding, as external intervention deepens the conflict. Even if the regime were to implode or retreat to its strongholds, the civil war would very likely continue.


The lame conclusion following that "the only way out of an increasingly grim conflict is a negotiated settlement, with regional and international backing", does not draw out the point that such an outcome would reflect the defeat of imperialist subversion for the time being, though at the expense of the total destruction of Syria's infrastructure and much of its military and economic strength, (which is part of imperialism's aim in the first place).

Neither does it grasp that in general there is no end to the warmongering because capitalism has no other way out of its disaster.

It also harbours possibly a variety of illusions in Putin's Russia, and revisionist China, both uncritically approved of by the Stalinists because they have blocked the greatest excesses of Western intervention in the UN.

But this fosters further disastrous illusions in the working class; Russia is driven not by some righteous refusal to bow to Western interference but by its own imperialist ambitions as a restored oligarch capitalist state under Putin's Bonapartist pretensions, and some quite specific strategic considerations fearful of Washington eroding its periphery.

Beijing's calls for "peaceful resolution" of the situation, reflect its disastrous "don't rock the boat" revisionism which continues feed out the illusion that the world can avoid war and disaster as long as "everybody calms down" and is driven by its own specific interests.

Presenting either as "steadfast and resolute" as the Stalinists do, is the most monstrous misrepresentation, particularly in the light of Beijing's initial willingness to go along with Washington's sanctions on Libya, and its abstention on the "no-fly zone" which paved the way for the blitzkrieg.

It is typical of the Lalkar/Proletarian cover-up of past errors, and the great tangle of contradictions it gets itself into because of the total failure to tackle its mistakes, small and large, recent and all the way back to Stalin.

How does it justify its uncritical support for Assad and simultaneously for Hamas in Palestine (after years crawlarsing behind the bourgeois nationalist opportunist Palestinian Authority whose compromises and corruption began way back under Yasser Arafat and eventually emerged in the degenerate acceptance of CIA and Zionist military and security training and financial aid)??

It cannot, only make yet more cover-ups. Only revolutionary Marxist perspectives of the world crisis driven catastrophe can make sense of things.

The discussion needs to be started, openly and in front of the working class, building the Leninist party to do it.

Don Hoskins


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Splits and divisions on Europe: British ruling class paralysis expressed

Article written for the "Green Socialist" paper

The Libor interest rate fixing scandal may well prove to be one of the greatest financial crimes in the history of capitalism. The revelations that have emerged so far are shocking in their magnitude and scope. However, the real lesson from this is not that capitalism is a cess-pit of corruption and greed. Everybody knows that already. Its real significance is that it exposes the panicked desperation of the British ruling class in the face of the rapidly intensifying trade war consequences of the Great Crash of 2008.

Intensive competition from capitalist rivals forced the British ruling class to ditch its manufacturing industry in the 1980's and place all its hopes for survival onto the finance and service sectors. All manner of fraud, corruption and malpractice were allowed to flourish in the name of "deregulation" in a desperate rush to turn the London Stock Exchange into "the world's number one financial centre"; and it had some success, especially under the gilded "greed is good" years of Blair's "New" Labour when huge amounts of easy credit was allowed to flood the market and artificially inflate the British economy.

Capitalism's rapidly disintegrating crisis has both intensified such fraudulent practices in all the world's markets and brought them out into the open. British imperialism's weak global position has made its financial sector easy pickings for resurgent German imperialism and an American imperialism menaced by its own economic woes and war defeats. Although the recent exposures of financial manipulation are global, with investigations taking place in Canada, America, Japan, the EU and Switzerland, it is the British banking sector that is currently in the firing line. The subsequent uncovering of money laundering by Standard Chartered and investigations into RBS only serves to compound the difficulties faced by the British ruling class.

Germany has long been resentful of the dominant financial status of London. Recent moves by Merkel to introduce an EU-wide financial transaction tax can only be interpreted as a trade war manoeuvre to wrest business from the London Stock Exchange and transfer it to Frankfurt as London would be the only exchange to suffer detrimental (and potentially terminal) damage.

Similarly, aggressive American capitalism is smelling blood and will opportunistically use the financial scandals to tear away as much trade from London as it can, and deflect attention away from its own economic stagnation.

The British ruling class has been periodically tearing itself apart over its relationship with the European powers and America ever since the turn of the twentieth the century when the growing industrial might of the major European imperialist powers started to emerge as a serious threat to its colonial system and monopoly dominance in world trade.

During the Slump conditions of the 1930s, large sections of the ruling class, fearful that the titanic revolutionary example of the Russian Bolsheviks in 1917 would inspire the British working class into agitating for revolution at home, and its colonial "subjects" to throw off colonialism abroad, became mesmerised by the theatrics and anti-communism of European fascism.

Overt fascist dictatorship was not a lunatic fringe concern. It was a serious consideration in a time of crisis; an option to be left on the table should British capitalism be threatened by revolution. The British fascist leader, Oswald Mosley, was at various times mooted by senior establishment figures from across the bourgeois political spectrum (Tory and Labour), corporate magnates, media mogals and royalty as a potential future strongman leader.

Britain didn't go down this path of overt fascism because, despite its stagnant economy, its ruling class was still in a position to head off the emergence of a revolutionary movement by intensifying the exploitation of its colonies and using its reserves to ensure that basic services continued to provide a "safety net" for the working class. Also, the Labour party had by that time been thoroughly corrupted by the Empire and consciously sought to steer the working class away from communism.

German and Italian expansionism proved to be more immediately threatening to British imperialism's interests than revolution. Furthermore, the vengeful Versailles Treaty conditions imposed on Germany after World War One had completely sabotaged their economy and any realistic hope that they would emerge out of the crisis as the dominant world power. Isolationist US imperialism, despite the Great Depression slump, was in the ascendency and the British ruling class, with its world power pretensions and desperation to maintain its status, began to gravitate towards them. By 1934, the pro-German impetus began to ebb away.

The subsequent World War, eventually brought to an end by the victorious Red Army of the Soviet Union, was the physical sorting out of these trade war rivalries to determine who will emerge as the top dog in the post-war period. US imperialism won out and the British ruling class emerged permanently weakened and facing the defeat and collapse of its Empire system by revolutionary national liberation and communist insurgencies, American inter-imperialist sabotage and, from the 1970's onwards, the re-emergence of Germany with the European Union as a major world power and rival.

The British ruling class is now in turmoil again over how to respond to the latest and most devastating phase of capitalism's crisis. For decades, it has vacillated over whether its best interests lie with Europe or America. As long as America was able to maintain economic and military world dominance by perpetually printing billions of dollars to prop up all manner of reactionary stooge regimes, the pro-American wing of the British ruling class were able to determine Britain's position on Europe. Despite this, Britain's close business interests with Europe meant that it needed a foot in the European Union as well.

The rapidly degenerating capitalist crisis has made this balancing act far harder to keep up. All national alliances are under immense strain as the ruling classes of each country move to ensure that the burdens of the slump is forced on to weaker nations (Iceland, Greece, Portugal, Spain, etc). Britain's weak economic position means that it is frozen out of all major decisions concerning the EU. America, with the most to lose, is set to lash out in all directions and Britain, despite the poodle role to US warmongering it has played for decades, is particularly vulnerable.

The paralysing splits within the British ruling class over Europe are so deep and acrimonious that they are even reflected in the politics of the far right, with Nick Griffin's inter-imperialist swipes at the English Defence League's "US neo-con financial backers".

Britain's rulers are in trouble and they no longer have an empire to fall back on. Britain is rapidly shaping out to be "the sick man of Europe". The last faded imperial power to be given that label was Tsarist Russia, and we all know how that story ended. Phil Waincliffe


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World Revolutionary Socialist Review

(edited extracts from a variety of anti-imperialist struggles).

Endless war in Afghanistan

Enrique Roman

THE war in Afghanistan has the strange property of frequently disappearing from the headlines, despite being the longest waged by the United States and, to date, having cost half a trillion dollars, the lives of 2,000 U.S. soldiers and close to 1,000 of the accompanying coalition forces. And the lives of tens of thousands or more of Afghanis, combatants and civilians.

Undertaken to dismantle the Al Qaeda forces and locate Bin Laden, it became a giant operation to defeat the Taliban movement - not anti-U.S. - and, for its followers, a liberation movement of longstanding against the Soviet occupation and for restoring the power lost by the Pashtun ethnicity, to which it belongs, among the many others in Afghanistan.

With the retreat of the Taliban and Hamid Karzai, a minor Pashtun leader, in power, and the goal of finding Bin Laden unfulfilled, the war, subsequently involving the presence on the ground of 100,000 U.S. troops and a further 40,000 from other countries in a sudden armed coalition (including soldiers from New Zealand, Iceland, Tonga, and Luxembourg), the war became virtually bogged down and forgotten: Iraq was the real goal for the neoconservatives of the Bush administration.

This oblivion had its costs. When Barack Obama became President, the Taliban had reemerged and controlled more than half of the country, the Karzai government was sinking in a mire of accusations of corruption at the highest level and, although Al Qaeda had disappeared from the map of Afghanistan (reappearing in other countries like Yemen), Bin Laden and his whereabouts continued to be a mystery.

It was no longer clear what the objective of the war was: to combat terrorism, prevent the return of the Taliban? Or more illusory: to build a centralized state, an unnatural state in a multiethnic country subject to influences from Pakistan, Iran Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and even China and India? Nevertheless, Obama decided to dispatch an additional 30,000 troops there, nato extended its presence in the country through 2014, and the permanence of a good part of the occupying forces until 2020 or beyond.

While military operations - accompanied by scandals such as the insults directed at President Obama by General McChrystal, commander of forces in Afghanistan - have ousted the Taliban from certain regions, there is no sign whatsoever that its forces have diminished or that they would be prepared to lay down arms. Their contacts with the United States - they are not disposed to talk with Karzai - have not produced any results and Taliban leaders have promised that armed struggle will increase.

According to U.S. sources, the degree of violence this year has increased by 15% in relation to 2011. Taliban sanctuaries in Pakistan are virtually intact.

The new Afghan army, the training of which is the principal justification for a prolonged foreign military presence, comprises an enormous fragmented mass, given its ethnic and tribal structure, forces which will define their future loyalties once left to themselves, and whose members are being trained by foreign forces who have no understanding of the country's cultural complexities. While there has been news about Afghanistan in recent days, these items have focused on the death of U.S. soldiers at the hands of elements within this army.

The withdrawal of 33,000 U.S. soldiers is scheduled for the end of 2012. Approximately 100,000 American and NATO troops will remain. The war will continue to drag on. Stephen Biddle, professor of political science at George Washington University, states that the possibility of the United States bringing the war to a successful conclusion on the battlefield is zero at this point.

In one of his few references to the Afghanistan war, on June 22, Obama spoke reluctantly but with realism about the issue. In essence: Bin Laden is dead, Al Qaeda is being disbanded in the country and the troops can begin to withdraw.

At one rate or another, it could be added. A false victory could be declared and this strange and cruel war declared over. Afghanistan would continue immersed in an interminable civil war, which foreign intervention has done nothing but foment. And it would return to its condition as a forgotten country, with its population decimated, devastated by more than a decade of occupation and more than 30 years of diverse wars.

..for the United States, Afghanistan will once again become the remote and impoverished country it always was.And the troops of the United States and its allies will become yet another of the many foreign armies who have had to withdraw with their dead from this seemingly undefeatable country.


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World Revolutionary Socialist Review

(edited extracts from a variety of anti-imperialist struggles).

The United States of America - the "assassination nation"

by Manuel E. Yepe

..the United States has had a program of selective assassinations for more than 50 years, drawing more attention now with the unprecedented use of drones, unpiloted remote-controlled warplanes, to attack targets around the planet.

The fact that a list of people to kill exists, and is approved at the highest level of U.S. government, has drawn extensive media coverage. A Washington Post editorial noted that "No government has ever relied so extensively on the secret killing of individuals to advance the nation's security goals."

The New York Times described Obama's role as "without precedent in presidential history, of personally overseeing the shadow war..."

Former President James Carter insisted, in a recent guest column in The New York Times, "We don't know how many hundreds of innocent civilians have been killed in these attacks, each one approved by the highest authorities in Washington. This would have been unthinkable in previous times."Drone assassinations are now routine by Western imperialism

The fact is that these long-distance homicides and selective assassinations with Presidential approval, have been taking place secretly for at least 50 years. The only novelty in recent revelations about hit lists, and the use of drones, is the openness with which they are discussed.

"Those who are mortified by the latest revelations of Obama's hit lists have much to learn from a more comprehensive, historical perspective on U.S. killing around the globe," says Doug Noble, a long-time antiwar activist.

The author summarizes 50 years of massacres, selective assassinations committed by the U. S. First [he]describes the lethal Phoenix program developed in Vietnam,...the original source of terrorist strategies and tactics used later. Second... the well-known kill lists of people in Latin America and those less publicized, targeting individuals on other continents. Third...the resurrection of the Phoenix program in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as in a growing number of countries with which the U.S. is technically not at war.

The Phoenix program was top secret when it was developed in 1967 by the cia to "neutralize" the Vietcong's internal structure by assassinating South Vietnamese civilians suspected of supporting Vietcong fighters in the North.

Although then cia director William Colby told Congress in 1971, "Phoenix is not a program of assassinations," he later admitted that its agents killed 20,000 people between 1967 and 1972. The My Lai massacre was just one of the program's operations.

Noble describes the impact the program had on Latin America with a wealth of facts, showing how the U.S. intelligence community adapted Phoenix as the supersecret Project X. Phoenix methods were used in Operation Condor to assassinated hundreds of thousands of Latin American patriots. Organized crime, in practically all the countries involved, facilitated the gathering and exchange of information and collaborated in the repression of struggles and ideas opposing U.S. hegemony in the region. During the Carter administration, the implementation of Project X was halted because of human rights violations, but quickly revived under Reagan.

Noble writes, "The U.S. drone killing program has come out of the closet. Those of us protesting U.S. drones for years have correctly focused on the use of drones as illegal, immoral and strategically counter-productive. We have abhorred the schizophrenic ease of remote killing, the uniquely frightening horror of a drone strike, and the unavoidable (even intentional) killing of countless civilian "terrorist suspects" in "signature strikes." We have also warned of the proliferation of drones in countries around the globe and of their procurement by U.S. police forces and border patrols, for surveillance and 'non-lethal' targeting."

The Phoenix program has gone global, and the US is an 'assassination nation.' •

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