Workers Vanguard No. 1117
8 September 2017
All U.S./NATO Forces Out Now!
Trump Escalates Imperialist War in Afghanistan
On August 21, President Trump announced yet another escalation in America’s never-ending war in Afghanistan. Speaking at the Fort Myer Army base in Arlington, Virginia, Trump vowed to lift restrictions on “our war fighters” and to expand the authority of commanders in the field. Within days, General John W. Nicholson, commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, announced in Kabul that an increase in air power and personnel was already underway.
In his speech, Trump declared that the U.S. would no longer be “nation building” in Afghanistan but “killing terrorists.” In fact, killing Afghans in the name of the imperialists’ “war on terror” has been the M.O. since the U.S. first bombed Afghanistan following the 9/11 attacks. Waged by both Democratic and Republican administrations, the war has racked up a staggering human toll: More than 150,000 civilians have been killed, close to three million people have fled the country and more than a million have been displaced internally. Over one million U.S. soldiers have left their boot imprints on the country, with 11,000 currently deployed. This figure does not include nearly 30,000 “military contractors” in Afghanistan.
We demand the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of all U.S. and NATO troops, mercenaries and bases from Afghanistan and the Near East. When the first U.S. missiles rained down on Afghanistan, we declared: “It is the obligation of the proletariat internationally, especially workers and minorities in the U.S., to defend Afghanistan in the face of the imperialist attack” (WV No. 766, 12 October 2001). We also pointed out that the reactionary nature of the Taliban regime then in power “does not in any way diminish the duty of revolutionaries to stand in military defense of small countries like Afghanistan against the most deadly imperialist power on the face of the planet.”
As Marxists, our starting point is proletarian class opposition to the U.S. rulers and the capitalist-imperialist system as a whole. The U.S. working class must be won to the understanding that its enemy is its “own” ruling class and that it needs to oppose imperialist aggression abroad as key to the struggle to overturn the capitalist order through socialist revolution.
Defend North Korea!
Fresh off the Ft. Myer speech, the Trump gang has brazenly upped its military threats against the North Korean bureaucratically deformed workers state, threatening to take the world to the brink of nuclear war. North Korea continues to develop weapons and delivery systems that can provide deterrence against imperialist attack. On September 3, the Pyongyang regime announced the successful testing of a hydrogen bomb. Secretary of Defense James Mattis immediately threatened a “massive military response.”
It is U.S. imperialism that is the real danger to the world’s masses. In “Hands Off North Korea!” (WV No. 1116, 25 August), we noted that “not only is the U.S. the only country to have ever used atomic weapons, it also came close to using nuclear weapons in the 1950-53 Korean War—hindered mainly by the Soviet Union’s own nuclear arsenal.” Our article declared:
“It is vital for the international proletariat, not least in the U.S., to stand for the defense of North Korea and China against the predatory U.S. rulers, their Japanese allies and their South Korean underlings. The overturn and expropriation of capitalism in these countries are historic gains for the international working class. Their unconditional military defense against imperialist attack and capitalist counterrevolution is integral to the cause of world socialist revolution.”
All U.S. forces out of South Korea and Japan! Down with UN sanctions against North Korea! Down with U.S. imperialism!
Obama-Trump: Imperialist Continuity
Contrary to Trump’s campaign blather that he would pull the U.S. out of Afghanistan—and with no one in the military-political establishment even claiming to have a winning strategy—U.S. imperialism continues to maintain its presence in this strategically located country as an assertion of its global military domination. Echoing the Obama administration, Trump in his speech threatened Pakistan for its “harboring of militants and terrorists.” Pakistan has indeed been a haven for reactionary Islamists—the same forces that were nurtured, funded and armed by the CIA during the Cold War against the Soviet Union.
Trump’s invective against Pakistan and praise of its archrival India as the “world’s largest democracy” were also implicitly directed against China, a deformed workers state that has long been allied with Pakistan. China’s huge investments in Pakistan include a $62 billion project building a corridor from Xinjiang in northwest China to Gwadar Port, giving China access by land to the Arabian Sea.
The Obama administration had already courted India under Narendra Modi’s Hindu-chauvinist government as part of its “Pivot to Asia”—code for the drive to militarily encircle China. The ultimate aim of this campaign is to throttle the most powerful of the deformed workers states that have survived in the aftermath of capitalist counterrevolution in the Soviet Union a quarter-century ago.
Trump’s commitment to beefing up military forces in Afghanistan was generally met with a sigh of relief in U.S. ruling circles. Preceded by the administration’s ouster of “alt-right” enabler Steve Bannon, who had cautioned that involvement in the Afghan quagmire ran counter to the isolationist “America First” credo, Trump’s speech signaled that the generals were in the saddle and that he was finally doing what an imperialist Commander-in-Chief is supposed to do.
Meanwhile, aside from a few outliers like California Congresswoman Barbara Lee who call for a military withdrawal, the Democrats have made clear that any differences they have with Trump over Afghanistan boil down to how to bring the country to heel. Fresh from a trip to Kabul in early July with her Republican senatorial colleague John McCain, Elizabeth Warren demanded that the White House add some “economic and diplomatic” gloss to the military effort. And while Bernie Sanders, that darling of the reformist left, has met Trump’s troop increase with silence, he had no trouble voicing support for the troop presence in Afghanistan when the Democrat Obama was calling the shots. The “socialist” Sanders is in fact an imperialist politician who has time and again given his support to U.S. wars and occupations.
The Democrats gave near-unanimous support to the Afghanistan war when it was launched 16 years ago by George W. Bush. On Obama’s watch, the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan grew to 100,000 at peak. Extending the reach of the “global war on terror,” his government waged an unprecedented campaign of killings by drones in South and Central Asia, the Near East and Africa while trampling on democratic rights “at home,” including by massively increasing domestic surveillance. In Obama’s last year in office the U.S. dropped 26,171 bombs—three every hour, 24 hours a day. Obama also oversaw the building of more nuclear warheads than any president since the Cold War. In continuity with his Democratic predecessor, Trump is spending billions to develop new nuclear cruise missiles and to replace aging Minuteman missiles.
Afghan Women and the Red Army Intervention
Supposedly, it was a 1972 picture of women in miniskirts walking the streets of Kabul that convinced Trump to jack up U.S. forces in Afghanistan. Leaving aside the very notion that Trump has concern about the condition of women anywhere, the lie that the U.S. military is the vehicle by which Afghan women will be liberated has been recycled by Republicans and Democrats. Indeed, cities like Kabul were not always run by woman-hating Islamist cutthroats. When the left-nationalist People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) came to power in 1978, the U.S., under Democratic president Jimmy Carter, began funding fundamentalist forces waging “holy war” against the gains women were making.
Among other reforms, including redistributing land to poor peasants, the PDPA regime lowered the bride price, made schooling compulsory for girls and launched literacy campaigns, building 600 schools in just over a year. These relatively modest reforms—which are powerfully portrayed in Kathleen Foster’s 2007 documentary, Afghan Women: A History of Struggle—were nothing short of revolutionary in Afghanistan, sparking a fierce insurgency. The earliest bloody confrontations were over women’s education. PDPA cadres and women literacy workers had acid thrown in their faces, and many were driven from villages and killed.
Faced with this onslaught, the PDPA requested Soviet aid. Fearing the collapse of its PDPA allies and acting to defend its southern flank, the Soviet Union sent thousands of troops into Afghanistan in December 1979. While the Moscow Stalinist bureaucracy did not aim to effect a social revolution, the military intervention opened up the possibility of bringing Afghanistan into the modern world. By the late 1980s, women were serving as soldiers and commanders in the Afghan army. Some 40 percent of doctors were women, as were 60 percent of teachers at the University of Kabul.
In what became a decade-long proxy war against the Soviet Union, the CIA massively increased its aid to the mujahedin. In the biggest covert operation in U.S. history, the CIA armed and trained the Islamic reactionaries to kill Soviet soldiers. Among Washington’s Afghan “freedom fighters” were those who went on to found the Taliban, Al Qaeda and its ISIS offshoot. As Trotskyists who stood for the unconditional defense of the bureaucratically degenerated Soviet workers state and who champion women’s liberation, we proclaimed: Hail Red Army in Afghanistan! Extend social gains of the October Revolution to the Afghan peoples! But instead of fighting to finish off the mujahedin, the Kremlin bureaucrats temporized, vainly hoping to appease the U.S. In 1988-89, Moscow withdrew the Soviet Army, a betrayal that destroyed any prospect for social progress in Afghanistan and helped pave the way for the destruction of the USSR itself.
While the gut-level response of radical leftists should have been support for the Red Army intervention, most of the left echoed the imperialists’ anti-Soviet hue and cry. Among the most vociferous was the International Socialist Organization (ISO), followers of the late Tony Cliff. Cheering the withdrawal of Soviet troops, the ISO’s Socialist Worker (May 1988) declared that “the defeat of the Russians in Afghanistan” will “give heart to all those inside the USSR and in Eastern Europe who want to break the rule of Stalin’s heirs.” A few years later, when Boris Yeltsin’s imperialist-backed forces of counterrevolution staged a coup in Moscow, the Cliffites rejoiced that “Communism has collapsed” (Socialist Worker [Britain], 31 August 1991). The destruction of the Soviet Union and East European deformed workers states turned those countries into hellholes of mass unemployment, homelessness and ethnic slaughter, and reinvigorated the U.S. imperialists in their drive to dominate the planet.
Afghanistan today is a shattered country. According to the UN’s Human Development Index, it ranks near the bottom in every social category: infant mortality, life expectancy, caloric intake, per capita income, literacy, electricity usage, etc. Women continue to suffocate in the burqa, and forced marriages and “honor killings” of women are rampant. Only proletarian revolution can break the grip of imperialism in the region, defeat the local forces of reaction and chart a course toward a socialist future. While within Afghanistan there does not exist an industrial proletariat, powerful proletarian concentrations exist in neighboring countries such as Pakistan, India and Iran. The Afghan peoples have much in common with those across the borders, which were artificially drawn up by the imperialists.
The key to social emancipation is an internationalist communist perspective pointing to the seizure of power by the proletariat standing at the head of all the oppressed. To carry out this program, revolutionary workers parties must be built as sections of a Trotskyist Fourth International, providing leadership to the working masses in struggle against imperialist domination, capitalist exploitation and all forms of religious reaction and social oppression. Such struggles must be linked to the fight for proletarian revolution in the imperialist heartlands, which will lay the basis for an internationally planned economy that harnesses the most advanced economic forces to lift the masses from want. In pursuit of this goal, the SL/U.S. is dedicated to building a multiracial workers party that will lead the proletariat in overthrowing the American imperialist beast from within.