Central Asia war accelerates
attacks on workers' rights
U.S. sets up Afghan military bases,
prepares next stage of war
Bush approves military tribunals, courts float use of sedition laws
BY BRIAN WILLIAMS
Above, crew of Arabian Sea-based aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson prepare Tomcat fighter jet for attack on Afghanistan. U.S. air and ground forces are preparing offensive in southern part of country. Below, Northern Alliance troops execute wounded Taliban soldier on drive to Kabul. The soldier had surrendered and pleaded for his life.
Washington is deploying more troops on the ground and establishing military bases and airfields in Afghanistan and Tajikistan as part of the next stage of the imperialists' Afghan war. The Pentagon is sending thousands of troops, ships, and bombers to the region, and using AC-130 gunships to fight Taliban forces retreating from the country's major cities.
This is "far from over," insisted Rumsfeld, as the Pentagon dispatched an additional 1,000 ground forces from the Army's 1st Cavalry Division based at Fort Hood, Texas, to join the more than 3,000 U.S. soldiers stationed in Kuwait, part of an extensive U.S. force throughout the region.
The collapse of Taliban defenses under daily heavy bombardment by imperialist forces, including carpet bombing by B-52s bombing by B-52s and the use of antipersonnel cluster bombs, has given the imperialists a partial victory in their brutal war. But they do not control the country, since many of the Taliban forces have retreated to more remote and mountainous areas in the south.
The opening of U.S. military bases in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan--the first ever on the soil of the former Soviet Republics--marks a new stage in Washington's drive to gain a military foothold in Central Asia. As Washington prosecutes the war, the British, German, Italian, and Japanese imperialists are increasing their military commitments to the assault.
With the taking of Kabul by Northern Alliance forces, U.S. elite troops have begun landing at the Baghram military base near that city, reports the Pakistani newspaper Dawn. Washington has had about 100 commandos on the ground working with the Alliance forces, including troops "who apparently wear no uniforms [but] have set up a camp in Dara-i-Suf, a remote village in the mountains south of Mazar-i-Sharif," reports the New York Times. U.S. commandos are also operating in south-central Afghanistan and around the Taliban stronghold of Kandahar.
The Russian government, headed by Vladimir Putin, has become a key ally in helping U.S. imperialism further its military aims in the region. Moscow has supported Washington's assault on Afghanistan and backed the deployment of U.S. troops to the former Soviet republics of Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, provided invaluable intelligence information to U.S. military authorities, and given weapons worth tens of millions of dollars to the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance.
New multiple rocket launchers, small arms and mortars, trucks, and other equipment from Russia have poured into Afghanistan for use by the Northern Alliance forces. Photographs of Alliance troops operating evidently new Russian tanks have appeared in several newspapers.
Putin has also offered Russia--the world's third-largest oil producer--as a long-term supplier of oil and gas to the U.S. economy. A strong foothold in the Central Asia would give the U.S. rulers the ability to tap into and control the vast oil and natural gas resources in the Caspian Sea area, and establish pipelines through Afghanistan and Pakistan.
This new, "very different relationship" with Moscow, noted Condoleezza Rice, the president's national security adviser, "will be based on growing economic ties and an expanded role for Russia in the West's security." In a three-day meeting with George Bush in both Washington and Crawford, Texas, Putin sought to further cement these ties.
The Russian president has offered support for amending the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty, thus allowing Washington to proceed with its plans to build a missile defense system. The two leaders agreed to significantly reduce the number of nuclear weapons in their arsenals. Bush announced a unilateral cut of two-thirds of U.S. missiles over the next 10 years to between 1,700 and 2,200 warheads. Putin said that he planned similar cuts. Washington currently has 7,300 such weapons and Russian 6,100.
Taliban forces retreat from main cities
Over the course of a five-day period from November 9 to 13 Taliban forces abandoned their control of the strategic northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif, the capital city of Kabul, and a number of other cities and towns across northern Afghanistan. The opposition Northern Alliance moved in swiftly to take control of this entire section of the country.
In a November 11 communication, Mullah Muhammad Omar, the Taliban's central leader, ordered his troops to withdraw from these cities in order to preserve their forces and halt the U.S. bombardment of Afghan cities. "Defending the cities with front lines that can be targeted from the air will cause us terrible loss," he stated.
Washington is moving rapidly to put in place military troops under UN cover to take charge in Kabul. Turkey, Jordan, Indonesia, and Bangladesh have all offered troops as part of a "Muslim-led force"--in reality, troops that will serve imperialist interests. Contrary to promises they had made earlier to Washington that they would surround but not enter Kabul until a more broad-based U.S. backed government could be put in place, Northern Alliance troops have occupied all major government buildings in the city and are patrolling the streets.
As the Northern Alliance entered the cities of Mazar-i-Sharif and Kabul, the capitalist media has reported extensive looting, abductions of civilians, and summary executions. Cable News Network reported that about 600 people had been killed by Alliance troops, the majority of them Pakistani and Kashmiri fighters."
The Pentagon has begun to make use of one airfield near Mazar-i-Sharif and another just north of Kabul as bases of operation. U.S. military engineers have begun work on making the land route from Uzbekistan into northern Afghanistan more usable for the transport of heavy military equipment as well as troops.
Washington is also in the middle of a major construction project to upgrade and expand the Khanabad air base in Uzbek-istan, where 1,500 to 2,000 U.S. troops are currently stationed. A large compound is under construction to house these troops and a $2 million "perimeter improvement project" is also under way. According to reports from local residents, Uzbek police agencies have forbidden people who live near the base to have guests in their homes, supposedly as a security precaution.
In addition, the Pentagon has secured the use of three military air bases in neighboring Tajikistan. One of them is being readied for immediate use for U.S. combat missions. A senior military officer stated that Gen. Tom Franks, the U.S. commander for the war against Afghanistan, has prepared a group of 50 to 70 additional aircraft to be stationed in Tajikistan. Basing planes there could triple the daily rate of bombing raids Washington conducts over the area to close to 300 sorties.
The U.S. air forces are continuing their bombardment of Taliban forces in retreat to Kandahar and the country's mountains--an assault that is similar in approach to the "turkey shoot" the U.S. military carried out in Iraq in 1991 among retreating Iraqi troops on the road to Basra. Rumsfeld described the retreating Taliban forces as "attractive targets." Since the start of the bombing campaign in early October more than 8,000 bombs--some as large as 5,000 to 15,000 pounds--have been dropped on Afghanistan.
'A killing zone'
While additional U.S. Special Operations forces are operating freely in southern Afghanistan, plans are openly being discussed for deploying a significantly larger U.S. ground force there. An article in the Wall Street Journal suggests Washington "seize an airfield in the south" that "could be used as a kind of magnet" to draw Taliban troops into "a killing zone." Estimates for conducting such an operation range from 2,000 to 15,000 troops.
Washington now has more than 50,000 soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines deployed in the region stretching from the Red Sea to the Indian Ocean. The number of National Guardsmen and reservists mobilized for action since September 11 has risen to nearly 53,000.
Some two dozen U.S. warships are operating in the North Arabian Sea, including nuclear-powered submarines and three aircraft carriers--the USS Theodore Roosevelt, USS Kitty Hawk, and USS Carl Vinson. A fourth aircraft, the USS John Stennis, which set sale for the Arabian Sea November 12 with 8,500 sailors and marines on board, will also add to the hundreds of fighter jets that can be deployed for more bombing raids.
Washington has agreements that allow it to use military facilities inside countries controlled by six of the monarchies reigning in the Gulf state region--Saudi Arabia, Oman, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates. Bahrain, an island whose southern half is taken up by military installations, serves as the headquarters of the U.S. Navy Fifth Fleet and the logistics-and-command center for the aircraft carriers in the northern Arabian Sea that launch most of the U.S. bombing raids.
Other imperialist powers pledge troops
While the overwhelming majority of bombing attacks have been carried out by U.S. forces, with a close supporting role played by Britain, other imperialist powers, anxious to join the fray, are offering troops and military equipment.
London has put thousands of troops on 48-hour standby for possible duty in Kabul and other newly-captured Afghan cities. British defense secretary Geoffrey Hoon publicly confirmed November 11 that British troops are also operating inside Afghanistan alongside those from the United States.
The German government has assigned 3,900 soldiers, including 100 special operations officers, to take part in the country's first military deployment outside Europe since World War II.
They have also pledged special armored vehicles, field hospitals and medical evacuation units, air transport facilities, and ships to patrol sea traffic lanes. The Green party joined its coalition partner, the Social Democratic Party, in backing this troop deployment, although it was not clear that all Greens would vote in favor in parliament. German defense minister Rudolph Scharping described the broad scope of this deployment as being in "the Arabian peninsula, middle and central Asia, and northeast Africa and neighboring sea regions."
The Italian parliament voted to deploy a force of 2,700 for use in land, sea, and air operations, including house-to-house fighting. Some 1,000 of these ground troops are scheduled to be assigned to the security operations of any post-Taliban regime.
Tokyo has sent 1,000 troops and three destroyers to the Indian Ocean to transport supplies for U.S. forces in the Indian Ocean, the first such use of Japanese troops abroad since World War II. While having taken steps to send troops into action abroad in a noncombat role, the three leading ruling parties in Japan are now also seeking to dispatch its "self-defense" forces as full participants in UN military occupation forces.
Bush approves military tribunals;
courts float use of sedition laws
BY MAURICE WILLIAMS
Washington's imperialist war in Afghanistan and Central Asia is accelerating the U.S. rulers' assault on workers' rights at home. Over the past week the Bush administration announced new steps that threaten the rights of working people. These include plans for establishing special military tribunals to try noncitizens, and rounding up for questioning 5,000 people from Middle Eastern countries who entered the country legally over the past two years. Last week federal prosecutors also cited a Civil War–era law on sedition in the case of a student being detained in New York.
U.S. attorney general John Ashcroft announced November 8 he was putting the Justice Department on a "wartime footing." Among the moves disclosed by the attorney general was a plan that allows prison officials to spy on conversations between inmates and their lawyers, including in cases where no charges have been filed but the government claims the eavesdropping is needed to prevent violence or terrorism.
The new rule also authorizes the government to intercept mail between people in custody and their lawyers for up to one year. The monitoring can be conducted without obtaining a court warrant, whenever the attorney general deems that "reasonable suspicion" exists to judge that an inmate allegedly may be trying to use communication to "facilitate acts of terrorism."
According to the New York Times, the government is also considering imposing other measures to crack down on workers' rights, including new "guidelines" to assist prosecutors in opposing bail for people who are under suspicion of involvement in "terrorist activities," even if they are charged with minor or unrelated crimes. The White House also announced November 9 that an additional 1,800 National Guard troops will be deployed at airports across the country over the next 60 days. The additional guardsmen will supplement the 7,300 already in place.
Military tribunals target immigrants
President George Bush signed an executive order November 13 establishing military tribunals to try noncitizens. Under the order a person can be rounded up and tried in a military court if the U.S. president declares "there is reason to believe" the individual, "is or was a member of the organization known as al Qaeda; has engaged in, aided or abetted, or conspired to commit, acts of international terrorism, or acts in preparation therefor"; or "has knowing harbored one or more individuals described" above.
Proceedings in such courts can be done in secret and those accused are not necessarily allowed to see the evidence against them. The tribunals do not provide for proof of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. "Those accused in such courts would have fewer rights than a person would in a court martial," said Eugene Fidell, president of the National Institute of Miliary Justice. The suspects would not get jury trials and could be subject to long pretrial detentions. "Experts in military law said the tribunals would severely limit the rights of any defendant even beyond those in military trials," the New York Times reported.
This assault on civil liberties has its precedent during World War II when U.S. president Franklin Roosevelt had German saboteurs tried by a military court and six of them were executed. "Traditionally military commissions have been hanging courts, they have an extraordinary record of convictions and death sentences," opined Peter Raven-Hansen, a professor at George Washington University.
More than two weeks before Bush's executive order, ultrarightist politician Patrick Buchanan stated, "If we are serious about this war on terrorism, Congress ought not only to declare war, but warn that any terrorist caught in the U.S. on a mission of massacre will go before a military tribunal and be put to death quickly and in secret, as were those German saboteurs." Buchanan urged Homeland Security chief Thomas Ridge to enact an "immediate moratorium on all immigration," expand "the Border Patrol to 20,000," and "expedite the deportation of the eight-to-11 million illegal aliens." The rightist concluded, "The enemy is inside our gates, and we must ferret him out." After Bush's announcement, Buchanan's web site reposted the article, with a headline, "Ahead of the game."
Conservative columnist William Safire came out opposed to Bush's move in a November 15 article. "Misadvised by a frustrated and panic-stricken attorney general, a president of the United States has just assumed what amounts to dictatorial power to jail or execute aliens," Safire wrote. "He seizes the power to circumvent the courts and set up his own drumhead tribunals--panels of officers who sit in judgment of non-citizens who the president need only claim 'reason to believe' are members of terrorist organizations."
The same day Bush signed the order on the kangaroo courts, the Justice Department announced it has directed cops across the country to round up 5,000 immigrants, mostly from the Middle East, for "interviews" in the investigation of the September 11 hijackings. The interrogations will be based on lists compiled from immigration and State Department records of people who lived in the United States since Jan. 1, 2000, and entered the country on tourist, student, or business visas. Only men aged 18 to 33 are being put on the list, according to the Times.
The government has already detained some 1,200 people since the September 11 events. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Homeland Security Director Ridge acknowledged that investigators still had no evidence that any of these individuals are connected with those attacks.
Washington's assault on democratic rights also includes probes on using sedition laws. Prosecutors have cited the laws in the case of Osama Awadallah, a Jordanian student being held in jail, supposedly in connection with the government's investigation of the September 11 hijackings. Prosecutors in Manhattan announced in early November that a federal grand jury was investigating whether there was a "seditious conspiracy to levy against the United States" on the part of the student, who supposedly knew one of the suspected hijackers.
The Civil War-era law imposes up to 20-year prison terms when two or more people "conspire to overthrow, put down, or to destroy by force the government of the United States, or to levy war against them." It was used in the 1980s against four Puerto Rican nationalists, convicted of planning to plant a bomb at a Marine training center and an Army Reserve facility, and against a Muslim cleric and co-defendants who the government claimed planned to blow up the United Nations building. In both cases no acts of violence were carried out.
The first sedition laws were passed in 1798 by U.S. president John Adams and the Federalist-controlled Congress. The Alien and Sedition Acts were imposed only seven years after the U.S. constitution was finally ratified by the states, a process delayed until the Bill of Rights was included in the document. The legislation punished by imprisonment and fines, anyone who spoke, wrote, or published anything that brought the president or Congress "into contempt or disrepute."
The first victim of the act was Congressman Matthew Lyon from Vermont, who fought in the Revolutionary War. In a letter to a newspaper in the state he had attacked the Adams administration for its "unbounded thirst for ridiculous pomp, foolish adulation, and selfish avarice." Lyon was arrested and marched under guard into a 12-by-6 foot cell.
Thomas Jefferson called the laws an "unconstitutional reign of terror." The laws were allowed to lapse under a storm of opposition.
During the labor upsurge following World War I, a number of states passed sedition laws to use against union organizing and to quash support for the Russian Revolution. The state of West Virginia adopted laws prohibiting "unlawful communications" and flying the red and black flags of the Russian Revolution and socialist movement of the day. The law remains on the books, as does one prohibiting speaking or writing "in favor of the propriety, duty, and necessity of crime, violence, or other unlawful methods of terrorism as a means of accomplishing economic or political reform."
These historical examples help show why various sedition laws have been dubbed "thought-control legislation" by working people and defenders of democratic rights.
Patrick Buchanan, hammering away at the rights of working people, praised the 1920 Palmer raids in which federal agents "swooped down on immigrant enclaves, collared anarchists, roughed them up and booted 3,000 out of the United States." Encouraged by the direction of the Justice Department, Buchanan in a November 9 column urged, "Let the 'Ashcroft Raids' begin."
Feds probe campuses
In the past two months since the attacks on September 11, FBI or Immigration and Naturalization agents have gone on more than 200 college campuses to snoop on students from Middle Eastern countries. The government plans to expand this surveillance activity. A survey conducted by the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers reported that 220 colleges had been contacted by the FBI or INS at least once with questions about the status of foreign students. Nearly all the universities officials readily supplied answers to the spy agencies, surrendering the students' right to privacy.
With an aura of intimidation government agents have appeared on campuses to interrogate dozens of students. One student from Saudi Arabia at the University of Colorado at Denver said two agents from the FBI and another from the INS appeared at his apartment unannounced and asked him his classes, activities, and politics. "I was afraid," he said. "I know they can do anything they want to you." He said federal investigators ended their interrogation of him saying, "Expect to see us again."