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Bruce Allen
Praxis1871@aol.com

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 (FTAA).

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 suspected 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 reflects 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 Pakistan.

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 on 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 oppressed 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 in any way just retribution for what took place on September 11? I certainly do 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 to 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 this 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 war 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 addressed. Most notably, the Palestinian question and the right of the Palestinians to a state of their own. If the Palestinian question is effectively resolved in 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.

Thank you.

Bruce Allen
1st Vice-President
St. Catharines & District Labour Council

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