Whose democracy and freedom?

LAST FRIDAY marked the 10th anniversary of the British military deployment in Afghanistan. On 7th October 2001 Anglo-American imperialism invaded Afghanistan to kick out the Taliban regime, which had provided a safe haven for the Al Qaeda terror network held responsible for the 9/11 attacks on New York and the Pentagon.

Ten years on British and American forces are still slugging it out against the Taliban in a losing battle to prop up a puppet regime, whose authority barely stretches beyond the capital, Kabul.

What have the imperialists achieved in the past ten years? Absolutely nothing, even by their own despicable standards. The American dream of world domination, which was going to begin in Afghanistan and proceed through control of most of the world’s oil supplies via Iraq, was shattered in the Tora Bora mountains and the streets of Baghdad. But over a million innocent Afghans and Arabs have died in the fight for freedom and more are being sacrificed to the gods of the big oil corporations in Libya today.

The Stop the War Coalition was set up in September 2001 to counter the hysterical support in the bourgeois media for the “war against terror” that Anglo-American imperialism was about to launch against the Afghans and anyone else who stood in their way.

At that time the Taliban administration was one of the most reactionary regimes in the world. The Islamic fundamentalist movement backed by Pakistan and Saudi Arabia had brutally executed the country’s former communist leaders. The Taliban had stripped women of all civil rights and imposed a version of Islamic law designed to uphold the feudal rights of the landowners and warlords who supported them.

But the Stop the War Coalition took the principled stand of unconditional opposition to imperialist aggression to build a mass movement that mobilised millions against the later invasion and occupation of Iraq.

Sadly that’s not been the case now. While several thousand did rally in Trafalgar Square last weekend the numbers were well down. And the reason is largely the confusion sown by some of the prominenti who have accepted on face value the claims of forces working hand in glove with imperialism in Libya and Syria, which hide behind the banners of “democracy” and the “Arab Spring”. They have abandoned anti-imperialism in favour of the bogus bourgeois theory of “ethics,” which is now used in Washington and the chancelleries of Europe to justify every act of aggression these days.

Double-standards blend easily with “ethics”. So Muslim fundamentalist fighters who are “terrorists” when they resist imperialism become “freedom fighters” when they serve Nato in Libya and “civilian protesters” in Syria when they work to bring down the progressive Assad government.

Colonel Gaddafi is branded the tyrant who opposed the Arab Spring and who deserves to be overthrown. But the autocratic King of Saudi Arabia can crush his own dissidents and send his troops to do the same in Bahrain with barely a word from the human rights gang that bleats on and on about the alleged crimes of the Syrian government to prepare the western world for yet another war.

The imperialists say they are fighting for “democracy” and “human rights” that only operates in their heartlands for the bourgeoisie themselves. In reality all they want is to get their greedy hands on more Arab oil.

Syrian and Libyan workers are far better off and possess — or possessed — more human rights than they could ever hope for under the thumb of some imperialist lackey.

But ultimately the issue isn’t about the merits of Syria’s popular front government or Gaddafi’s “green” committees, let alone the social system in Afghanistan. It’s about independence and the right of people to choose their own government without outside interference.

When the Italian fascists invaded Ethiopia in 1935 they claimed they were kicking out a barbarous emperor who brutally oppressed his people and fed prisoners to the lions in his palace. Haile Selassie was a feudal tyrant but Mussolini’s legions were not bringing “civilisation” to Ethiopia with their tanks, planes and poison gas. They were simply annexing another part of Africa for their colonial empire.

The Comintern took the principled stand of opposing Italian aggression and giving unconditional support for Ethiopia’s independence. They were right then and they were proved right by subsequent events.

Likewise the anti-war movement must be rebuilt on the demand for the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of all British forces from Afghanistan and Libya.