One year after September 11: The World Turned Upside-down

The events of last September were painful ones. But as the dust finally settles on the shattered ruins of the twin towers, a growing number of men and women are beginning to think and act for themselves. The terrible blows that shake the lives of the millions also help to knock out of their heads a hundred years of dust and cobwebs. Slowly, painfully, the fog is clearing from many minds and people are compelled to come face to face with reality. One year after September 11, Ted Grant and Alan Woods look at what has happened in the aftermath of the attacks.

Exactly one year ago two airliners crashed into the twin towers. The world was transfixed by the pictures of horror and death that appeared on the television screens. Over 2,800 people lost their lives in that towering inferno.

In an instant, the skyline of New York was changed forever. And the minds and lives of millions of men and women were also changed irreparably.

Today, as we cast our minds back to those tragic events, the politicians will deliver their speeches about patriotism. They will wring their hands and shed crocodile tears about the victims. And at the same time they will continue to pursue policies that will drag the world into new horrors of war, violence and terror.

The "Axis of Evil"

Taking advantage of the ghastly slaughter of civilians, Bush has systematically set out to whip up war fever. Ever since the destruction of the twin towers, there has been a massive propaganda campaign to convince the citizens of the USA that they are threatened by a "global terrorist threat". Osama bin Laden is presented as the mastermind behind global terror. But the argument that al Qaeda is a powerful enemy that is capable of presenting a serious threat to the United States is fit only for little children - and not very bright ones, at that.

At the present time the USA accounts for 37 percent of world arms expenditure and 40 percent of world arms production. That includes the overwhelming bulk of the production of the most sophisticated and modern weaponry. By contrast, Britain, France and Germany account for only 5 percent each of world arms expenditure, and Russia a paltry 6 percent. To compare al Qaeda or the Taliban to this giant is simply ridiculous.

There is a deadly logic behind all this. Ever since the collapse of the USSR, US imperialism has been in need of a suitable candidate for an external enemy - some kind of global threat that would convince ordinary American citizens of the need to spend lavish sums on arms at a time when the Federal budget is in deficit. In the eternal debate between guns and butter, it was imperative that the former should win. So now, instead of Reagan's Evil Empire, we have George W. Bush's Axis of Evil. Even the terminology is not original!

After the destruction of the twin towers, in a passable imitation of a John Wayne film, President Bush affirmed that he would get bin Laden, "dead or alive". However, twelve months later they are nowhere near even catching sight of their enemy, either dead or alive. And the US campaign in Afghanistan is bogged down in ever increasing difficulties.

However, the whole argument about the so-called "war on terror" overlooks a slight detail. It was the USA and its satellite the Pakistan military intelligence (ISI) that established, organized, armed and financed bin Laden, al Qaeda and the Taliban as the shock troops of Islamic counter-revolution in Afghanistan. The campaign of terrorism, murder and mayhem was not only approved of but also actively encouraged by Washington as long as it was directed against the USSR. But when, after the fall of the USSR, this terrorism was directed against America, it became mysteriously transformed into a sinister conspiracy of the forces of darkness against the forces of light

The spoilt children of wealthy families frequently turn into monsters that can turn with murderous intent against their parents. Cases of parricide are not unknown, and a mad dog can bite the hand that feeds it. To the degree that global terrorism exists it was born and bred in the United States - the brainchild of the CIA and the spoilt brat of the US Treasury and the Pentagon. In the same way, it was America that armed Saddam Hussein and encouraged him to turn against Iran following the anti-Shah revolution of 1979, in which a million people were killed. The biggest and most dangerous terrorist power on earth thus turns out to be - the United States of America.

Terrorism aids reaction

In general terrorist acts are an expression not of strength but of weakness. A gesture of despairing impotence, laced with fanaticism. With such methods you will never defeat imperialism. Far from weakening imperialism it has been strengthened by the "success" of September 11. This is the invariable result of individual terrorism. The results achieved are precisely the reverse of what was intended. When the terrorists of Narodnaya Volya in Russia succeeded in assassinating the tsar, they did not bring about the overthrow of the state but only the destruction of themselves and their own organization. Likewise, the first result of September 11 was to strengthen Bush. The second effect was to push the mass of ordinary Americans behind reaction. If anybody benefited from this madness it was Bush, the Pentagon and the military industrial complex.

The shock of September 11 has provided the perfect excuse to strengthen the state and particularly its repressive arm. The CIA and FBI have been overhauled and expanded. The CIA alone has received $1 billion in emergency cash. Its "counter-terrorism centre" has increased its staff tenfold - from 500 to 5,000. Hundreds of retired agents with specialist knowledge have been pressed back into service. George Bush wishes to establish a vast new Department of Homeland Security, which would combine elements of the secret service, the immigration service, the coastguard and a host of other currently unrelated agencies in a huge security apparatus, involving a 170,000-strong workforce with an annual budget of $37.5 billion.

This strengthening of the apparatus of state repression is not confined to the USA. In Britain the police have received an extra £87 million. Scotland Yard has said it intends to double the strength of its anti-terrorist squad. MI5 has intensified its surveillance of Islamist extremists, while MI6 has redeployed its officers and told its agents abroad to give total priority to al Qaeda.

The huge electronic surveillance centre, GCHQ, has switched its priorities, devoting as many as 40% of its 2,000 eavesdroppers, code breakers, and computer operators, to the crisis, and doubled the size of its counter-terrorism team. Cash, of course, is no object. The Treasury has agreed to release more than £100 million to the last-named three agencies and give them budget increases of more than 7% annually over the next three years. By then they will be spending more than £1.1 billion a year.

One year later, it is hard to see who is more reactionary and insane. All the tricks of the terrorists have a purely reactionary significance, playing into the hands of reaction and imperialism. In turn, the monstrous actions of imperialism serve to recruit many new terrorists and makes new terrorist actions inevitable.

However, the most negative result of terrorism is the effect it has on the consciousness of the masses. Marxism teaches that the emancipation of the working class is the task of the working class itself. The only way that the masses can liberate themselves is through the class struggle. Individual terrorism miseducates the masses and diverts their attention from he real revolutionary struggle. It thus invariably plays a reactionary role.

A provocation?

On September 11 a small group of determined individuals inflicted a terrible blow against the world's greatest super power. They accomplished this feat with weapons no more sophisticated than knives and cardboard cutters. So unlikely did it appear that such an action could succeed that suspicions have been voiced that it might have been the result of some kind of conspiracy or provocation. In our first article, written on the afternoon of September 11, when the first confused reports were still coming through, we wrote:

"How is it possible that the CIA was so ignorant and inept as to permit such a devastating attack on the nerve-centres of the nation? One possibility has not been mentioned - namely that it was the result of a provocation that went badly wrong. In the shadowy world of intrigue, provocation and counter-provocation that characterises the activities of the secret services, it is not beyond the bounds of possibility that a section of the US military Establishment decided to allow the terrorists to launch an attack inside America as a means of boosting public support for an aggressive policy and rearmament. This would explain the surprising failure of US intelligence, although the devastating nature of the attack would suggest that the provocation got out of hand." (From US Suicide Bombing - Terrorism Aids Reaction)

Later, when the full extent of the devastation became known, we discounted this hypothesis. But recent reports on the conduct of the US secret services and law agencies has renewed speculation that perhaps such suspicions cannot be dismissed out of hand. It is now fairly well established that the FBI and other agencies were warned in advance of the impending attack, but took no action, on orders from the higher echelons. It is just conceivable that elements at the top of the state apparatus were prepared to encourage a terrorist attack, although they were not aware of its extent until it was too late. History will settle the matter one way or the other.

In any case, such speculations add very little to the discussion and too easily degenerate into the murky realm of conspiracy theory - the most superficial and empty of all attempts to explain human history. It is equally possible that the astonishing failures of US security were the result of bungling and bureaucratic mismanagement (something that occurs in big capitalist corporations quite as much as it did in the Stalinist USSR). In the end, it amounts to much the same thing, since in both cases we are dealing with the category of an historical accident. What is important is not the accidents of history, however, but the profound processes that are expressed through the medium of such accidents.


A few weeks after September 11 bombs began to rain down on Afghanistan. President Bush called it the first war of the 21st century. But if it can be called a war, it was a very unequal one. One of the poorest nations on earth was invaded by the richest and most powerful state. Already many more people have been killed by the USA in Afghanistan than died in the September 11 attack. Yet almost one year later, America has achieved next to nothing. The chaos in Afghanistan is dragging on, with no end in sight.

The US involvement in Afghanistan is becoming an unwelcome drain. By May 2002 the Pentagon had spent $17 billion (£11 billion) on the war in Afghanistan. That has almost certainly risen to $20 billion by now. This figure does not include the contributions of the other coalition members. This is money down the drain. And they will have spent a lot more before they are finished.

Of course, the USA possesses huge military resources. An international flotilla is operating as a picket off the coast of Pakistan to prevent al Qaeda members escaping by sea. But all these measures cannot disguise the fact that the mightiest power on earth has failed in its attempt to destroy the enemy forces that continue to operate in Afghanistan and Pakistan with relative impunity.

What we predicted

All this is in sharp contrast with the triumphal march of the "allied forces" at the beginning. The fall of the Taliban was achieved with a rapidity that surprised the experts in Washington. In reality there was nothing surprising about it. Before the hostilities had even commenced, we wrote:

"The Taliban's image of indestructibility is a myth. In fact, the poorly trained religious students from Pakistan would never have been able to take Kabul without the help of the Pakistani secret services - the notorious ISI - and the CIA. The Taliban itself is an assortment of groups and individuals, which can easily fall to pieces when confronted by a serious enemy. […]

"They have maintained themselves in power, partly because of the inertia and exhaustion of the masses, but mainly because of the support of Pakistan. Once this support is withdrawn, they will collapse like a pack of cards. This is the calculation of Washington, and it is probably fairly accurate.

"However, there are a number of complications in this equation. The Northern Alliance is based on minority nationalities, mainly Tajiks, whereas the Taliban is mainly based on the majority Pasthuns. By putting forward the figure of the king, Washington hopes to enlist the support of Pasthuns and other groups. On the basis of a combination of threats, force and bribes, they may well succeed in detaching many of the local Pasthun tribal leaders who previously backed the Taliban, and will support anyone who grants them a license to plunder. The Taliban leaders will rapidly find themselves isolated and without perspectives. It is well that they trust in God, since no one else will help them.

"Will this be a good thing for the people of Afghanistan? No socialist or progressive person will mourn the fall of the murderous clique of Taliban counter-revolutionaries. But the return of the feudal warlords of the Northern Alliance will be no better. Let us remind ourselves that the Taliban succeeded in coming to power only because the masses were alienated by the constant robberies and rapes carried out by these 'freedom fighters'. To make matters worse, they will now be the open agents of US imperialism, which will, behind the scenes, run the country in its own interests.

"The Taliban will not immediately disappear from the scene. They can wage a guerrilla war from the mountains which can go on for years, with financial help from reactionary circles and fundamentalists in Pakistan, although this will be on the level of mere banditry." (From The First War of the 21st Century)

These lines have been strikingly confirmed by subsequent events. Now the first flush of victory has long worn off. One year later, not one of America's declared war aims have been achieved. Bin Laden, al Qaeda and the Taliban leadership are still at liberty. The puppet government in Kabul is highly unstable and lacks any real mass base in the population. It is hated by the Pashtuns who are the biggest nationality. The periodic outbreaks of terrorism, assassinations and attempted assassinations are just the most obvious expression of this instability. And all sorts of new explosions are being prepared.

On July 9 the Middle East Broadcasting Co. issued a statement purportedly from an al Qaeda spokesman warning of impending guerrilla warfare and assassinations. It claimed that the Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar was well and that the Taliban was also reorganizing and preparing for guerrilla war. On the same day, in an interview with the Algerian newspaper Al Youm, al Qaeda chief spokesman Sulaiman Abu Ghaith claimed al Qaeda would attack the puppet government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai. The recent assassination attempt on the Afghan President demonstrates that this is a fact.

Despite all the propaganda, the US army has not succeeded in bringing the country under control. US troops in practice control only the towns where they have bases, and then only in daylight, while the Karzai government controls only parts of Kabul. This is a far weaker position than the Russians had in the past. The guerrillas are now moving their campaigns into the cities, as is shown by a series of spectacular assassinations and attempted assassinations. Following the assassination of Afghan Vice President Haji Abdul Qadir on July 6, the US military decided to take over security for Karzai - a fortunate move to which he owes his life. But this is hardly the sign of a solid regime!

The war continues

In the article The First Casualty of War that we published on October 30, 2001, we wrote:

"Some of the Taliban leaders may be slightly unbalanced, but fools they are not. They understand perfectly well the futility of engaging the might of the US army on its own terms. Most likely, they will not attempt to defend the urban areas, or only put up token resistance. They will adopt other tactics, which will put the US forces at far more risk - that is, guerrilla tactics.

"When they finally pluck up enough courage to go into Afghanistan, the Americans will find that the enemy has just melted away. But they will come back when it suits them. They have an abundance of hiding places, and can pick and chose when they strike. Herein lies the real danger, and all the technology in the world cannot prevent it. After twenty years of war, the Afghans know all the caves, gullies and tunnels. But the most important hiding place is none of these. It is the Afghan people themselves."

What is the situation now? Stratfor recently reported that the Taliban and al Qaeda were regrouping in preparation for a major escalation of fighting in Afghanistan, threatening a steep increase in fighting over the coming months. This is not surprising. Petty bourgeois movements like al Qaeda must move from success to success, or risk losing their support. Bin Laden must achieve some new spectacular success in the near future to maintain the morale of his followers. He has plenty of options, above all in Afghanistan, where his forces have now recovered from the initial shock of the fall of the Taliban regime. They can melt into the local populace in Afghanistan. They can shelter inside Afghanistan as well as in Pakistan and Iran. They have internal lines of supply and well-stocked weapons caches.

The war, far from winding down, is spreading to new areas. Resistance to US forces and the Karzai government, which was previously confined to Kandahar, Khost and Paktia provinces, has spread over the summer to Oruzgan, Helmand, Kunar, Nangarhar and is raging in nearly all the areas where the Pashtun are in a majority.

The forces fighting the US army are not necessarily the Taliban or al Qaeda. They are ordinary Afghan tribesmen who have been alienated by the actions of the foreign invaders who bomb wedding parties and kill innocent men, women and children. Since the Americans cannot distinguish between Taliban or al Qaeda fighters and other Afghans, the stage is set for further massacres of Afghan civilians, which will pour petrol on the flames of hatred for the invaders and win new recruits for the resistance.

The resentment against the Americans is not confined to the Pashtuns. Some Tajik, Uzbek and Hazara field commanders are reported to be seriously considering targeting US forces. Far from being captured "dead or alive" by the Americans, bin Laden is firmly back in control of al Qaeda, which has been regrouped and reorganized. The shock and disruption of the initial US attack against the group has worn off and al Qaeda has regained confidence, re-established ties with the Taliban and is preparing for a protracted war of attrition in Afghanistan.

The US forces inside Afghanistan already are under constant attack, and according to many different sources are taking more casualties than are officially admitted. Sources in Russian and Indian intelligence separately estimate the US military has suffered between 300 and 400 killed in Afghanistan, with an unknown number wounded. The Pentagon, on the other hand, says substantially fewer than 100 have been killed. There is no way to independently confirm any of these claims. But it seems clear that US losses are being systematically downplayed. Many clashes are not being reported at all.

The Soviet experience

As we have repeatedly pointed out, it was singularly stupid on the part of the Americans to imagine that they could achieve in Afghanistan what the Soviet Union failed to achieve in more than a decade of fighting. Just like the Russians, the Americans took Kabul without much difficulty. Their problems began later, when the resistance began in earnest.

The rebel forces concentrated their attacks on the Soviets' Afghan allies, who presented easy targets. This compelled the Soviet troops to take charge of security operations themselves, destroying the illusion of partnership with a local regime. The same thing is now happening with the Americans. The tactics used by the US-sponsored fundamentalists against the Soviet army are now being used against the US army to great effect.

The purpose of the campaign of assassinations of government ministers in Kabul now becomes clear. The killing of US stooges in Kabul has already forced the US army to take over the job of defending the lives of its friends. But this means that all pretence of an independent regime in Kabul with Pashtun Quislings at its head falls to the ground. Karzai stands exposed as an American puppet who is only kept alive by his American bodyguards.

Just as with the Russians, the conflict is developing into a protracted war of attrition. The US troops have only a tenuous control of the towns. If they venture outside their well-protected garrisons they face ambushes on the highways, in villages and in the mountains. US and Afghan officials now admit that US troops will be in the country "for years". There are now about 16,000 US and coalition troops in the Afghanistan area of operations. If we bear in mind the fact that the Soviet army of occupation reached 118,000 at its peak and was still able to control no more than the towns it occupied, the real position of the US forces becomes quite clear.

The US military have an advantage over the Soviet Union, insofar as they can theoretically attack the enemy forces over the Pakistan border. But to do so would mean in practice bringing down the government in Islamabad, expanding the conflict into Pakistan.

The "war on terror"

On September 11, President Bush suffered a severe attack of nerves, and hastened to put a very safe distance between his person and the scene of the carnage. However, upon returning to Washington, he immediately declared war. This was quite unprecedented, since he declared war on nobody in particular and everybody in general. This was merely an excuse to give the USA the right to intervene militarily against any government or country that was not to its liking, under the slogan: He who is not with us is against us!

We initially thought that the target would be Iraq. This was not wrong. A section of the Bush administration (Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz) wanted to attack Iraq from the very beginning, even though to this day not a shred of proof has ever been produced to link that country to the events of September 11.

This unfortunate detail was pointed out by Colin Powell, who eventually succeeded in getting his colleagues to postpone - but not abandon - the aim of waging war on Iraq. The reason for this change of heart was purely tactical. The USA needed allies to back its "war on terror". But the allies, both in Europe and the Middle East - were demanding proof of guilt before action was taken. Since no proof was available to pin the crime on Saddam Hussein, Washington was reluctantly obliged to restrict its attentions - for the time being - to Afghanistan, where Osama bin Laden had taken up residence.

The reason for the enthusiasm of the ruling clique for war with Iraq can be explained in several ways. Since the fall of the USSR, the USA has become the sole world superpower. It feels able to intervene militarily in areas where it was previously impossible without risking a war with Russia. Now the USA "bestrides the world like a colossus". Having defeated Iraq (a former ally of the USSR) in 1991 and marched unopposed into Yugoslavia (formerly a Soviet sphere of influence), they now think they can do anything.

Hegel once wrote that interests move the life of the peoples. And what more interesting thing can there be today than the "black gold" known as oil? The general unpredictability of the Middle East, where the biggest known reserves of this precious commodity are situated, make the control of oil supplies a question of burning importance to the USA. The American appetite for oil has increased, not decreased, as a result of the economic recession. The US government is desperate to promote an economic recovery and thus terrified of any increase in the price of oil. The largest proven reserves of oil are in Saudi Arabia. The second largest supplies are in Iraq. However, there are large quantity of oil in Central Asia, especially Turkmenistan, and the Caspian.

American imperialism is clearly engaged in a push to increase its presence in Central Asia and the Caucasus (Georgia). This inevitably brings it into conflict with the interests of Russia. Although Putin has so far played the Americans' game, in the long run, this central conflict must emerge. Before the invasion of Afghanistan, the Russians sent a minister to the Central Asian republics to put pressure on them to keep the Americans out. These manoeuvres were taking place even while Putin and Bush were smiling before the cameras.

The real content of the "war on terror" is that it gives the USA the right to throw its weight about, to bully, threaten and blackmail supposedly sovereign governments to do Washington's bidding. The real crime of Saddam Hussein is not that he is a dictator (the USA has supported many dictators), or that he has killed many people (the USA has killed many more) or that he possesses weapons of mass destruction (the USA has the world's biggest arsenal of such pleasant toys). The real reason is that he is not willing to do exactly what America wants.

The problems and dangers in Afghanistan are multiplying by the day. Yet the Americans chose this moment to prepare an attack on Iraq. And after Iraq, what? Bin Laden has said that al Qaeda was preparing for a decade-long campaign in Somalia. There are US troops in Yemen as well as Saudi Arabia. Not content with preparing an invasion of Iraq, Washington threatens Iran. All this spells more instability, more wars and more terrorism, not less.

The mood in the USA

On the anniversary of September 11 the mood in the USA is sombre. The latest polls show a decline in George Bush's public approval rating in the USA. The American people are understandably nervous at the prospect of more foreign military adventures, bringing with them new instability and insecurity, and the threat of new terrorist atrocities. Except in the most chauvinistic sections, there is no enthusiasm for a military strike against Iraq. This is in spite of all the attempts of the administration to inject a frenzied atmosphere over the issue of Saddam Hussein.

A New York Times/CBS poll found that while 68 percent of people agreed with taking military action against President Saddam, 56 percent felt it was important to give the United Nations more time to try to secure the return of weapons inspectors. Sixty-four percent said they believed the Bush administration had failed to explain its position in regard to Iraq and why military action was required.

Overall, the poll found that 63 percent approved of the way Mr Bush is doing his job. This is down three points on his rating of 66 percent in the summer and down 24 points on his 87 percent approval record soon after the attacks of September 11. The poll found 54 percent support for his foreign policy. Yet only two months ago 68 percent approved of his foreign policy and last autumn the level of approval stood at almost three-quarters.

President Bush's speech to the UN will open the door to a possible new round of inspections, a move that would represent a victory for Mr Blair's approach and a setback for the more hawkish elements in the White House. But the idea peddled by Blair of giving Baghdad "one last chance" is really only a more subtle way of justifying military action.

Sir Jeremy Greenstock, Britain's ambassador to the UN, is busy working on a new resolution that would include the idea of a specific deadline for Baghdad. It may give four weeks for the readmittance of "coercive'' inspectors and set a target for total disarmament within one year. It is a kind of ultimatum to Iraq - an invitation to join in a kind of minuet that will inevitably end in someone's feet getting stepped on, preparing the way for a fight.

The real aim of Bush and Blair is not inspection but "regime change". The so-called Iraqi opposition is playing a treacherous role. Exiles have told the Americans that they could tolerate "federalisation" of their country to include Kurds and Marsh Arabs, but they will not tolerate the break-up of Iraq. However, that is the logic of a war in which the American imperialists will try to use these national groups as pawns and cannon fodder. In order to get the Kurds to risk their lives in a bloody war against Saddam Hussein, the Americans will have to make them a suitably attractive offer. That will have to be nothing less than the promise of a Kurdish state. However, a Kurdish state will not be to the liking of Turkey, whose support is equally vital to the Americans.

In order to entice the Turkish ruling class into the war, Washington will have to offer Ankara more than a box of Turkish delight. The oilfields of Mosul and Kirkuk would be the most acceptable gift. Unfortunately, since these oilfields lie in the Kurdish area of Iraq, there will clearly be a conflict of interest between America's two main allies. The solution to this problem is obvious: once the war is over, the Americans will take the oilfields for themselves!

The trouble is that the Americans are distributing the spoils before victory has been won. Despite the illusions of Washington, a war against Iraq will not be easy. In the long run imperialism cannot succeed. They will not benefit. Their military adventures will inevitably boomerang. Not only will they face stiff military resistance form the Iraqis, but also they will face growing opposition from the anti-war movement at home. The elements of such an opposition can already be seen now - before a single shot has been fired.

The UN and the Labour Movement

The whole issue of the dis-United Nations is, as usual, a gigantic fraud. Yet, as usual, some on the Left are banging the drum for the UN. This is short sighted in the extreme. As we have explained many times, the UN is just a forum which the imperialist powers sometimes use to settle matters of a secondary importance. But where serious questions are involved, the UN is powerless. Worse still, it can be used as a fig leaf to disguise the real intentions of the imperialists.

In Korea and the Congo, the imperialists intervened under the banner of the UN. The UN also approved the Gulf War ten years ago. Now again, those misguided elements who have been demanding that the Americans consult the UN may find themselves trapped into supporting a war that has the blessing of the UN!

The US has considerable financial leverage in the UN (they pay the bills), and also in relation to countries like Russia and China. In public the latter display the most intransigent opposition to war, but they will be holding out their hands under the table. At the UN tomorrow Bush will argue that the UN passed a resolution in 1991 at the time of the Gulf War ceasefire stating that "all available means" must be used to eliminate chemical, biological and nuclear weapons from the area.

In 1998 relations with Iraq broke down and the inspectors were withdrawn. The actions of the "inspectors" (who behaved like spies and US agents - which they undoubtedly were) eventually provoked the Iraqis beyond endurance. Now the whole issue of "inspection" is being fished out of the dustbin, dusted down and utilized for the purpose of organizing a new provocation.

Blair proposes giving Iraq an ultimatum on the question of the return of the "inspectors". The real intention has nothing to do with inspection. It is to create an excuse for an invasion that would give the UN an excuse for backing it. The idea is put forward of "coercive inspections" but this is just a smokescreen for an inexorable descent into a full war. The idea is to push Iraq into a provocation that would justify war. The inspectors would be given the right to roam freely everywhere in Iraq. The scope for provocation would be enormous. The US would go through the motions of going to the UN with the aim of proposing to Iraq something it could not accept. Then, when Iraq has been pushed into a refusal, the UN would declare war on America's behalf. This is a cynical ploy aimed at overcoming resistance to US aggression by its "allies".

The mood of the labour movement remains sceptical or openly hostile to the idea of war. Even right-wing trade union leaders expressed scepticism about military action. At the TUC conference in Blackpool, Bob Crow, the left-wing general secretary of the RMT rail union, accused Mr Blair of being "out of step with the trade union movement, out of step with the Labour Party and out of step with the British people." A statement agreed by the TUC general council (not generally noted for militancy) expresses deep concern at the "increasingly bellicose'' words from "some parts" of the American administration. A more radical anti-war resolution was only narrowly defeated.

If this is the mood at the tops of the unions, then the mood at rank and file level is far more critical. When the reality of war eventually sinks into the consciousness of working people, there will be a blazing anger against those leaders who dragged the world into a new conflict at behest of US imperialism.

A turning point in history

September 11 was a turning point in history. It brought home to millions of people in the USA and on a world scale the explosive nature of the world in which we live. For the first time in their lives, ordinary people started to examine with critical eyes the kind of society that could produce such barbarities. People began to ask questions, and they are still asking questions. For the most part, they have not come up with any answers, or those answers they possess are like an incomplete jigsaw puzzle.

The main gain, however, is that the questions have been asked at all. People are no longer prepared to take on trust the lying speeches of their leaders. They suspect that behind the smiling, reassuring faces on their television screens, there is something else that they are not being told. And they are not wrong.

The events of last September were painful ones. But as the dust finally settles on the shattered ruins of the twin towers, a growing number of men and women are beginning to think and act for themselves. It is the beginning of a process of growth and development, the beginning of what Hegel used to call Self Consciousness. The terrible blows that shake the lives of the millions also help to knock out of their heads a hundred years of dust and cobwebs. Slowly, painfully, the fog is clearing from many minds and people are compelled to come face to face with reality.

Reality tells them this: that in such a world as this it is impossible to live. And it also tells them that another, better kind of world is possible: a world in which the lives of the millions are not dominated by the greed of a few; in which lives come before profits; in which men and women are able to live in peace and harmony and not driven like beasts to tear at each others' throats for reasons they do not even understand.

The horrors of September 11 should serve to stiffen our resolve to fight for a new world order in place of the present bloody chaos. That new world called socialism is slowly taking shape in the minds of a growing number all over the world. The hundreds of thousands who have demonstrated against global capitalism, the Italian, Spanish and Greek workers who have participated in general strikes, the British trade unionists who have moved to kick out the old right-wing leaders: all this is an indication that things are changing and that the working class is on the move again.

Under such conditions, even the horrors of war can have the effect of rousing the masses to struggle. The idea is beginning to take shape in their minds that another kind of world is possible and necessary. When such an idea grips the minds of millions, no force on earth can stop it.