Speech on the War on Afghanistan - November 5, 2001
At the outset of my presentation I want to make it absolutely clear that
I am not a pacifist and never have been. And yet I absolutely refuse to
support this war.
There are many reasons why I refuse to support this war. To start with
I cannot and will not join in unity, national or otherwise, with those who
are waging this war and the financial elite who stand behind them. They do
not represent my interests as a worker and never have and never will. They
are not protecting my interests or the interests of workers in general while
waging this war and there is no reason whatsoever to believe they ever will.
One only needs to consider this fact in relation to the mass layoffs and
the surging growth of unemployment that is happening as this war unfolds and
ask what will they do in response? More specifically, will they tell the
corporations implementing these mass layoffs not to lay workers off for the
sake of achieving unity in support of the war effort? No. Will they ensure
that these same corporations do not take advantage of the worsening economic
crisis by permanently downsizing their workforces. Of course they will not.
What they are willing to do is to use this war to promote their own
agenda and attack civil liberties ostensibly to fight terrorism. One need
only consider that while the bombs are reigning down on Afghanistan the Bush
Administration is ready to try to take advantage of the situation and his
stronger political position due to it. He intends to do this by ramming
through the U.S. Congress the passage of Fast Track trade legislation that
will expedite the negotiation of the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas
And both the U.S. and Canadian governments are enacting measures that
will sharply curtail civil liberties. Specifically, the Chretien government
is determined to pass Bill C-36 into law. That legislation will give police
powers of "preventive arrest" even in the absence of legal charges. It will
also compel individuals to give self-incriminating evidence against
associates at a secret "investigative hearing".
George W. Bush's exploitation of the war to secure legislation to
facilitate the negotiation of the FTAA is especially significant and
a connection between this war and efforts to globalize free trade. This is
particularly indicative of the fact that Corporate America's interests guide
U.S. foreign policy and the interests of Corporate America extend into
Central Asia, including Afghanistan. This is in fact the objective,
overriding reality within which this war must be situated if its full
significance is to be fully grasped.
And if one does this one inevitably comes up against the question of
the massive and rich oil and natural gas reserves in Central Asia. These
reserves can only be most cost effectively accessed, according to major oil
lobbyists who publicly appeared before the U.S. Congress a couple of years
ago, by way of a pipeline through Afghanistan to the coast of neighboring
Just consider these facts taken directly from the same oil lobbyists'
testimony. They stated that Central Asia has 236 trillion cubic feet of
proven natural gas reserves and over 60 billion barrels of known oil
reserves. In view of this can anyone imagine this not looming large in the
thinking of U.S. foreign policymaking circles with respect to the future of
Central Asia and Afghanistan in particular. I certainly cannot.
Furthermore, taking this into consideration makes even more sense if one
considers that such a pipeline is viewed as critical to supplying Asia's
expanding oil and natural gas markets. And given that bringing such large
quantities of oil and natural gas onto the market will inevitably increase
global supplies and put downward pressure on oil and natural gas prices with
obvious and far reaching macroeconomic effects. It follows that not
accessing these large energy reserves will have the exact opposite effects
oil and natural gas prices especially considering there is a well documented
decline in the world's oil supplies underway.
Of course such considerations go completely unmentioned in the mass
media in relation to this war. And the conclusion is never drawn that
installing a U.S. and investor friendly government in Afghanistan would be
the best way to secure cost effective access to these energy reserves.
Instead we are being fed a carefully crafted and uncomplicated
interpretation of what the reasons for this war are. And it is one that is
not subject to serious, critical scrutiny. Serious, critical scrutiny
would, for example, question why the U.S. and, even more so Russia, are
backing the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan. It would ask why anyone would
back an organization that has a worldview essentially the same as the
Taliban's, particularly with respect to issues such as the severely
position of women in Afghan society, and with a long track record of heavy
involvement in Afghanistan's heroin trade?
Questions like this compel one to ask what the point of this war
really is if the end result will be an Afghan government wholly, or in large
part, led by another gang of Islamic reactionaries? I ask you. Does this
justify a war? And will putting the Northern Alliance in power constitute
any way just retribution for what took place on September 11? I certainly
not think so. Furthermore, I would argue that if we really want to
effectively rid the world of the likes of the Taliban and the likeminded
Islamic reactionaries who rule Iran we should be doing everything possible
support the secular opposition in those countries. Incidentally, such
opposition is especially strong in Iran and includes a potent labour
movement. We will not rid the world of such reactionaries by supporting a
war waged by those who do the bidding of Corporate America and who are drawn
from the ranks of Corporate America like George W. Bush.
To wrap up there is one other issue that must be addressed. This is
the matter of bringing the Saudi Arabian millionaire Osama bin Laden and his
accomplices to justice and whether a war is necessary to rid us of these
people who, for many years, were directly allied to the U.S. To answer
question I simply want to note what fate befell the person who was the
world's most wanted terrorist before Osama bin Laden.
Namely, I am referring to Carlos the Jackal. Today he is locked up in a
French maximum security prison serving a life sentence. And a protracted
did not have to be waged to capture him.
I would also argue that the underlying issues that have been generating
terrorist acts must, more than ever, be seriously and conclusively
Most notably, the Palestinian question and the right of the Palestinians to
a state of their own. If the Palestinian question is effectively resolved
a way satisfactory to the Palestinians there is certain to be a dramatic and
sharp decline in the incidence of terrorism. This is certain to occur
because terrorism is fueled by a combination of both oppression and
desperation and, arguably, no other nationality, with the possible exception
of the Kurds, continues to experience circumstances as adverse and as
desperate as the Palestinians.
St. Catharines & District Labour Council