On the 20th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York City’s World Trade Center and the Pentagon building near Washington D.C., Jose Maria Sison delivered a major speech, “On 9-11 and the US War on Terror” at a webinar on 13 September 2021. Prof. Sison is chairperson emeritus of the International League of Peoples’ Struggle.
9-11 AND THE US WAR ON TERROR
By Jose Maria Sison
International League of Peoples’ Struggle
September 13, 2021
Dear Comrades and Friends,
Thank you for inviting me as speaker in this webinar on 9-11 and the consequent US-proclaimed War on Terror.
Let me start by recalling the attacks carried out by the Al Qaeda in the US on September 11, 2001 and then l proceed to explore the motivation of the Al Qaeda, the so-called war on terror as license for the unbridled terrorism of the US, the war in Afghanistan, the wider scope of the war, the self-defeating costs of the war for the US and its coalition partners and the lessons that can be learned by the people of the world, especially in the global South where struggles for national and social liberation are being carried out.
1. The September 11 Attacks
On the morning September 11, 2001, nineteen men belonging allegedly to Al Qaeda’s Hamburg cell hijacked four jet airliners bound for California. They took control of the planes and told the passengers that they had a bomb on board and that no harm would happen if their orders were followed. The crew and the passengers had no idea that the jet planes were going to be used as suicide weapons for crashing into prominent buildings symbolic of American power and wealth.
In accordance with their plan, the hijackers crashed two jet airliners into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City. The two buildings collapsed within two hours from fire damage, destroying nearby buildings and damaging others. The hijackers crashed the third jet plane into the Pentagon in Arlington County, Virginia near Washington, D.C. The fourth jet plane crashed into a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania because the passengers and flight crew tried to retake control of the plane, after they noticed that the hijackers had redirected the plane toward Washington. D.C.
None of the hijacked flights had any survivors. A total of 2,977 victims, including the 19 hijackers perished in the attacks. Fifteen of the nineteen hijackers were citizens of Saudi Arabia and the others were from the United Arab Emirates and Lebanon. The two aircraft smashing and exploding into the Twin Towers did considerable damage. But many of professional structural and civil engineers as well as medical, legal and other experts hypothesize that there had been high-tech thermite explosives pre-installed within the three buildings by the neoconservative cabal in the US deep state.
On 13 September, after prompting from the US, NATO invoked Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty, which commits each member state to consider an armed attack against one member state to be an armed attack against them all. The invocation of Article 5 led to the launching of Operation Eagle Assist and Operation Active Endeavor. On September 18, 2001, President George W. Bush signed the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Terrorists.
2. Why Should Al Qaeda Carry the 9-11 Attacks?
It is not surprising if many people wonder immediately why the Al Qaeda headed by Osama bin Laden carried out the 9-11 attacks despite the previous fact that it had been developed and assisted by the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to embed itself among the Taliban in order to fight the Soviet social-imperialists when these invaded and occupied Afghanistan from 1979 to 1989.
At this point, it is necessary to explain the complicated history and complicated relations between US imperialism and the Islamic fundamentalists. They can easily agree on anti-communism but they retain their respective obsessions and contempt for each other. The Islamic fundamentalists like Al Qaeda are acutely aware that US imperialism is merely using them for its own hegemonic purposes but that they in turn can use it and attack it upon their own judgment.
The CIA has encouraged criminal jihadist groups to harp on the line of Islamic fundamentalism such as establishing a theocracy and the primacy of Islamic law, hating communists, atheists and non-Islamic believers and being extremely intolerant of or violent against those who espouse and exercise the freedom of thought and belief and the equal rights of women in opposition to the fine tradition of modernist Islam which is anti-colonial and anti-imperialist and which respects and allows the revolutionary united front of the Islamic believers with the bourgeois nationalists and communists and the establishment and development of a modern secular and democratic state..
In the course of the Cold War, the US promoted Islamic fundamentalism as a weapon of anti-communism against the trend of modernist Islam, which is for the establishment and development of a secular democratic state, allowing communist parties to exist and staying neutral between the US and Soviet Union. For example, the US succeeded in using the ultra-reactionary Islamic groups like Masjumi to stir up regional rebellions in Indonesia against the Sukarno government, destroy the NASAKOM united front of nationalists, religious believers, socialists and communists and cause the massacre of millions of Indonesians in 1965-67.
In combination with the Israeli Zionists, the US imperialists have also used in their interest the Sunni-Shia divide or the Arab-Persian divide as when they used the Saddam regime to attack Iran when it nationalized US oil and other enterprises. More relevant to our current topic, we must recall that the US assisted and used the mujahedin, the Taliban and Al Qaeda to oppose the Soviet invasion and occupation of Afghanistan. But the Al Qaeda never forgot that the US was always acting in its own interest as an imperialist superpower and as spearhead of the “evil crusade against Islam”.
3. The US War on Terror as License for Unbridled US Terrorism
On September 16, 2001, U.S. president George W. Bush used the phrase “war on terrorism” for the first time when he answered a journalist’s question about the impact of enhanced law enforcement authority given to the US intelligence agencies on Americans’ civil liberties: “This is a new kind of—a new kind of evil. And we understand. And the American people are beginning to understand. This crusade, this war on terrorism is going to take a while. And the American people must be patient. I’m going to be patient.”
Further, on September 20, 2001, during a televised address to a joint session of Congress, Bush said, “Our war on terror begins with Al Qaeda, but it does not end there. It will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped and defeated.” The term “war on terrorism” or “on terror” is a legal misnomer because the 9-11 attacks were crimes committed by a criminal organization like Al Qaeda and not by the army of an aggressor state or a belligerent force in a civil war.
The use of the misnomer, war on terror, ignited controversy because of its implications and consequences dangerous and prejudicial to the laws of war and human rights. In April 2007, the British government was the first government to announce publicly that it was abandoning the use of the phrase “war on terror” because it was misleading. Lady Elizabeth Manningham-Bullet, the former head of MI5, explained in a formal lecture that the 9/11 attacks were “a crime, not an act of war. So I never felt it helpful to refer to a war on terror.”
Probably because of his background as a Harvard student of law, U.S. president Barack Obama rarely used the term. But in his inaugural address on 20 January 2009, he stated: “Our nation is at war, against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred.” In March 2009 the US Defense Department officially changed the name of operations from “Global War on Terror” to “Overseas Contingency Operation” (OCO). In March 2009, the Obama administration instructed the Pentagon staff members to avoid the use of the term and instead to use “Overseas Contingency Operation”.
In May 2010, the Obama administration published its National Security Strategy which dropped the Bush-era phrase “global war on terror” and reference to “Islamic extremism,” and stated, “This is not a global war against a tactic—terrorism, or a religion—Islam. We are at war with a specific network, al-Qaeda, and its terrorist affiliates who support efforts to attack the United States, our allies, and partners.”
But inconsistently in May 2013, even two years after the killing of Osama bi Laden, Obama delivered a speech that used the term “global war on terror” put in quotation marks (as officially transcribed by the White House): “Now, make no mistake, terrorists still threaten our nation. … In Afghanistan, we will complete our transition to Afghan responsibility for that country’s security. … Beyond Afghanistan, we must define our effort not as a boundless “global war on terror,” but rather as a series of persistent, targeted efforts to dismantle specific networks of violent extremists that threaten America. In many cases, this will involve partnerships with other countries.”
Nevertheless, in the same speech, he emphasized the “legality of military actions” undertaken by the U.S., and stressed that the US Congress approved the use of force, “Under domestic law, and international law, the United States is at war with al Qaeda, the Taliban, and their associated forces. We are at war with an organization that right now would kill as many Americans as they could if we did not stop them first. So this is a just war—a war waged proportionally, in last resort, and in self-defense.” The use of the phrase “War on Terror” persists in US politics and US corporate media.
Despite the second thoughts and hesitations of some of the highest US and UK officials about the misnomer, war on terror or terrorism, the term terrorism has been adopted both as a hate word against Islamic jihadists and communist revolutionaries and as a legal and political term by executive officials, legislators, diplomats in the UN and other international bodies, academics, the mass media and others in the imperialist countries and in the client-states. The big irony is that the worst practitioners of aggression and state terrorism, especially US imperialism, are the most active users of the said term to generate Islamophobia and anti-communism.
4. The US-NATO War on Terror in Afghanistan
The 9-11 attacks were preceded by the controversy in the US over allegations of fraud in the election of George W. Bush as president. They served to diffuse the controversy as Bush magnified the proportions of the criminal attacks as a war threatening the very existence of the US and requiring the US to carry a “global war on terror”, which was also dubbed as Operation Enduring Freedom. They succeeded in obtaining mass media and popular support for Bush as a war president and in capsizing the protest about his allegedly fraudulent election.
He found the outlandish expression “war on terror” convenient and fitting inasmuch as his father had proclaimed a “new world order’ following the collapse of the Soviet Union and the US was enjoying the status of sole superpower and the strategists of the US deep state were boasting of the neoconservative policy as complement to neoliberalism and as the way to ensure that Pax Americana reign in the 21st century with the high-tech military superiority of the US over any possible adversary.
As immediate reaction to the 9-11 attacks, George W. Bush delivered on September 20, 2001 an ultimatum to the Taliban government or the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan to surrender Osama bin Laden and other Al Qaeda leaders in Afghanistan or face attack. The Taliban riposted that evidence of bin Laden’s complicity in the September 11 attacks be presented and, if such evidence warranted a trial, the trial be done in an Islamic Court in a third country.
In October 2001, U.S. forces (with UK and NATO coalition allies) were ready to invade Afghanistan and to oust the Taliban regime. On October 7, 2001, the US and British forces began the invasion by conducting airstrike campaigns over enemy targets. The Taliban government was forced to withdraw from Kabul, the capital city of Afghanistan, by mid-November. The Taliban and Al Qaeda elements withdrew to the rugged mountains of eastern Afghanistan, mainly Tora Bora.
In March 2002, the U.S. and other NATO and non-NATO forces launched Operation Anaconda and failed to achieve the objective of destroying the Taliban forces and Al Qaeda forces in the Sha-i-Kot Valley and Arman Mountains. The Taliban could maneuver within the areas of the Pashtun tribes in both Afghanistan and Pakistan and carried out guerrilla warfare against the US-led coalition forces and built a government parallel to the Afghan puppet government of the US from late 2002 onwards.
The US-led coalition forces increased their armed strength and launched a series of military offensives but failed to destroy the Taliban. In February 2010, they launched Operation Moshtarak in southern Afghanistan, along with other military offensives, with the objective of destroying the Taliban once and for all time. But they failed and began to make offers of peace talks to the Taliban.
In September 2014, the US and the Afghan puppet government signed a security agreement, which permitted the United States and NATO forces to remain in Afghanistan until at least 2024. Ultimately, on February 29, 2020, the United States under Trump and the Taliban signed a conditional peace agreement in Doha, requiring the US troops to withdraw from Afghanistan within 14 months on the condition that the Taliban cooperated with the terms of the agreement not to “allow any of its members, other individuals or groups, including Al Qaeda, to use the soil of Afghanistan to threaten the security of the United States and its allies”.
The Afghan puppet government was not a party to the deal and rejected its terms regarding release of prisoners. When Joseph Biden became US president, he moved back the target withdrawal date to 31 August 2021. The Taliban timed their general offensive in 2021with the schedule of withdrawal of the coalition forces. It was able to defeat the Afghan Armed Forces and take over Kabul on August 15, 2021. On this same day, the president of the puppet government Ashraf Ghani fled from Afghanistan and the Taliban declared victory and the end of the war. On August 19, 2021, the Taliban once more proclaimed the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.
5. The Wide Scope of the War on Terror
The US war on terror or Operation Enduring Freedom became the pretext for immediate US military intervention in the Philippines, Trans-Sahara or Northern Africa, Horn of Africa and the Red Sea, for the full-scale war of aggression against Iraq and for military interventions in Pakistan, Yemen, Syria, Cameroon, Kashmir and elsewhere. The full-scale war of aggression against Iraq was even more costly than the war in Afghanistan. The pretext of the war was the lie that the Saddam Hussein government was developing weapons of mass destruction. But the war was emphatically in the interest of the US-Zionist combine in West Asia or Middle East.
In January 2002, the US Special Operations Command-Pacific deployed a contingent to advice and assist the Armed Forces of the Philippines in combating Filipino Islamist groups like the Abu Sayyaf group and the Jemaah Islamiyah. The US and Philippine forces formed the Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines which disbanded in June 2014. In 2017, the US launched Operation Pacific-Eagle-Philippines (OPE-P) and sent a contingent to support the Philippine puppet government and the military in their supposed efforts to isolate, degrade, and defeat the affiliates of ISIS within Philippine territory (collectively referred to as ISIS-Philippines and other “terrorist” organizations, including the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army. Since 2018, there have been as many as 300 advisers at the head of the US military contingent.
Operation Enduring Freedom-Trans Sahara (OEF-TS) took the name Operation Juniper Shield, when it was extended there by the U.S. and its coalition partners in the Sahara/Sahel region of Africa, consisting of “counter-terrorism efforts” and policing of arms and drug trafficking across central Africa. The conflict in northern Mali began in January 2012 with radical Islamists (affiliated to Al Qaeda) advancing into northern Mali against the new Malian government which requested support from France for combating the Islamic militants in January 2013. France deployed troops in Mali and launched Operation Serval on January 11, 2013, with the hope of dislodging the Al Qaeda-affiliated groups from northern Mali.
In October 2002, the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa was established in Djibouti. It consisted of some 2,000 personnel from U.S. military and special operations forces (SOF) and coalition force members. It included ships from a shifting group of nations, including Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Pakistan, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. The primary objective of the coalition forces was to monitor, inspect, board and stop suspected shipments from entering the Horn of Africa region and affecting the United States’ Operation Iraqi Freedom.
The biggest US-NATO war of aggression in the sham war on terror was against Iraq. It began in March 2003 with an air campaign and was immediately followed by a US-led ground invasion. The Bush administration invoked UNSC Resolution 1441, which warned of “serious consequences” for the lie that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction. Bush arbitrarily made Iraq the target of the war on terror. In fact, the Saddam Hussein government was hostile to the Al Qaeda.
Following the Battle of Umm Qasr on March 21, 2003 in which the British, U.S. and Polish forces combined to seize control of the port city of Umm Qasr, the US troops captured Baghdad in April 2003 and the Saddam government disintegrated. On May 1, 2003, Bush announced victory and the end of major combat operations in Iraq. But armed resistance led by Saddam’s Baath party arose against the U.S.-led coalition and the post-Saddam government. It killed a great number of coalition troops and became stronger in 2004 even as Hussein had been captured by US forces in December 2003 and would be executed in 2006.
The U.S. launched offensives on strongholds of the rebellion in cities like Najaf and Fallujah and relied heavily on the support of troops of the newly-installed Shiite government as well as on the Peshmerga from the Kurdish region of Iraq. In 2007, the US made a troop surge but this led to the US making separate compromises with both Shiite and Sunni groups in order to reduce the level of violence and avoid more US casualties.
In 2009 the US under Obama declared the end of US combat operations in Iraq but in 2011 surreptitiously assisted the formation of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), otherwise known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), to challenge and destabilize the Shiite Iraqi government. And in 2014 the US began redeploying its forces in Iraq under the pretext of fighting the ISIS. Take note that the CIA organized the ISIS as its tool for opening the way to the redeployment of US troops but eventually the US would attack the ISIS after this discredited itself with the beheading of Christians and other atrocities.
Immediately after the 9-11 attacks, the US pressured the Musharaff government in Pakistan to collaborate with the US in fighting the Taliban and Al Qaeda. Out of fear that the US and India would team up to attack Pakistan, Musharaff complied and became active in speaking and acting against the Taliban and Al Qaeda as extreme Islamists. In 2004 the Pakistan Army deployed 80,000 troops in the Waziristan region against them. But in the long run, the Pakistani authorities could not stop the Taliban from being favored by the good cross-border relations of the Pashtun tribes in Afghanistan and Pakistan. They assisted the Taliban eventually and at the same time extracted aid concessions from the US.
In the name of the global war on terror, the US conducted a series of airstrikes on Al-Qaeda militants from 2001 onward and in Iraq and Syria against ISIS in 2014 after using it in previous years. On September 21-22, 2014, the combined forces of the US, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE, Jordan and Qatar carried out air strikes against ISIS in Syria. In October 2014, the U.S. Department of Defense openly classified military operations against the ISIS as being under Operation Enduring Freedom.
The rise of the ISIS in the Middle East encouraged the formation of similar jihadist formations elsewhere in the world. In the Philippines, the Maute group arose from the ranks of former Moro Islamic Liberation Front members who called themselves the Dawlah Islamiyah and swore loyalty to the ISIS. It began clashes with the troops of the Manila government and staged some bombings. On 23 May 2017, it attacked the city of Marawi and began the Battle of Marawi which lasted for five months.
Taking advantage of a power vacuum in the center of Libya, far from the major cities of Tripoli and Benghazi, the ISIS expanded rapidly over the next 18 months from 2014 onward. Local ISIS members were joined by jihadists from the rest of North Africa, the Middle East, Europe and the Caucasus. It seized the coastal city of Sirte in early 2015 and expanded to the east and south. By the beginning of 2016, it had effective control of 120 to 150 miles of coastline and portions of the interior and had reached Benghazi. But US air strikes and Libyan rebel groups fought and decimated the ISIS.
6. The Costs of the Global War on Terror to the US
By killing and injuring civilians more than the armed personnel of any state, the Al Qaeda, ISIS and other such fanatical groups may be legally described as murderers or with some rhetorical flourish mini-terrorists in relation to the real mega-terrorism that US imperialism has engaged in to react to them with the use of far more powerful weapons. The term “global war on terror” has been used by the US and its NATO allies to engage in the worst forms of terrorism, such as wars of aggression, the killing and wounding of millions of civilians and the destruction of social infrastructure in various countries.
Despite the use of aerial bombs and other powerful weapons, the US has deliberately kept low the estimates of the number of people that were killed in the prolonged full-scale wars of aggression in Afghanistan and Iraq and in lesser military operations elsewhere. But the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War and the Physicians for Social Responsibility and Physicians for Global Survival have given total estimates ranging from 1.3 million to 2 million casualties.
A Brown University study in 2019 places the number of indirect deaths caused by the War on Terror at 3.1 million or more. A 2021 report from Brown University’s “Costs of War” project concluded that over 38 million people have been displaced by the wars fought by the United States since 2001. In comparison, US military casualties were only 10,960 killed and 249,000 wounded in Afghanistan from 2001 to 2020 and 4,430 killed and 31,994 wounded in Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom. The US Department of Veterans Affairs diagnosed more than 200,000 American veterans with PTSD from 2001 onward.
The US and its coalition partners in the global war on terror have suffered only a few casualties in comparison to the casualties on the side of their armed adversaries and the civilian population in the countries attacked. But they cannot claim victory because the armed resistance that gains popular support can continue indefinitely and has prevented the US from gaining stable economic territory for profitable extraction of raw materials, exploitation of cheap labor, investment of surplus capital and trade of surplus goods and so on.
And the money cost of the war have risen so high as to create unsustainable public debt bubble which is about to burst in the US alongside the corporate and household debt bubbles. For two decades, it looked like the US economy was favored with the US government making large orders for weaponry from the military industrial complex. And indeed, such corporations as Boeing, Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics and Northrop Grunnman flourished. But the US national treasury and the whole US economy proved to be big losers. Thus, the necessary US withdrawal from Afghanistan and Iraq because of the unbearable costs.
According to the Costs of War Project at Brown University’s Watson Institute, the US stands to spend on the War on Terror $10.2 trillion: $8 trillion for operations between 2001 and 2022 plus $2.2 trillion in future costs of veterans’ care over the next 30 years. The costs of operations have reached $2.313 trillion for Afghanistan, $2.058 trillion for Iraq and Syria, and $355 billion for other war zones. The remainder was for the Department of Homeland Security ($1.1 trillion).
The heavy self-defeating costs of the US-instigated global war on terror are not only the military, financial and the immeasurable costs to US casualties and their families, but also the aggravated ill-repute of the US as aggressor and mega-terrorist and the further degradation of the US social, political and legal system. It has adopted policies, laws and mechanisms for inflicting acts of terrorism on US citizens and other peoples of the world. It has raised whole generations of US youth torn between the superficial glamor and good pay for participating in push-button wars and the painful realization that the US state terrorism eventually devours its own children.
On the pretext of preventing further attack on the US similar to those of 9/11 attacks, the Bush Administration adopted measures to prejudice the democratic rights of American citizens in the name of national security. It created the US Department of Homeland Security in November 2002. It obtained the USA PATRIOT Act of October 2001 to drastically reduce restrictions on law enforcement agencies’ ability to search telephone, e-mail communications, medical, financial, and other records; and on foreign intelligence gathering within the United States.
The act expanded the authority of the Secretary of the Treasury to regulate financial transactions, particularly those involving foreign individuals and entities; and broadens the discretion of law enforcement and immigration authorities in detaining and deporting immigrants suspected of terrorism-related acts. The act also expanded the definition of terrorism to include domestic terrorism, thus enlarging the number of activities to which the USA PATRIOT Act’s expanded law enforcement powers could be applied, including the tracking of the finances and monitoring of global telecommunication usage.
On 30 July 2003, American Civil Liberties Union filed a formal complaint against Section 215 of the Patriot Act, which allows the FBI to violate a citizen’s rights under the First and Fourth Amendment of the US Constitution, and right to due process by granting the government the right to search a person’s business, book store, and library records in a terrorist investigation, without disclosing to the individual that records were being searched.
Following the September 11 attacks, the US government has brazenly engaged in acts of terrorism such as the illegal and forced “rendition” or abduction of suspects from one country to another and to so-called black sites for the purpose of torture, interrogation and indefinite detention.
The United Nations considers the act of abducting the citizens of another country a crime against humanity. In July 2014 the European Court of Human Rights ruled against the Polish government for collaborating with the CIA in so-called extraordinary rendition and ordered it to pay restitution to the men who had been abducted, taken to a CIA black site in Poland for interrogation and torture.
The CIA has also maintained black sites in the European Union in violation of the European Convention on Human Rights and the UN Convention Against Torture. They were closed down only after they were reported and exposed in 2005 by the Washington Post, Human Rights Watch and by the European Parliament. But in violation of the First Amendment of the US Constitution, the US government has prohibited the mass media from reporting the black sites and the “floating prisons” or prison ships maintained by the CIA to interrogate, torture and dump the victims to the sea.
To this day, the most notorious black site of the US is its Guantanamo detention camp in gross violation of the international law on human rights, despite worldwide protests of the people and human rights organizations.The Guantanamo Bay naval base itself, created through a very unequal treaty forced by the US in 1934, is a long-festering sore on Cuban sovereignty and the most glaring symbol of the US’ monstrous violation of international norms of conduct.
7. Lessons for the People in the Imperialist Countries and the Global South
The economic, financial, political, social and moral costs incurred by US imperialism in the “global war on terror” should provide important lessons to the American people. They should be aware that these costs have accelerated the strategic decline of US imperialism, have aggravated the crisis of the US ruling system of the monopoly bourgeoisie and have escalated the conditions of exploitation and oppression, especially at this time of the Covid-19 pandemic.
They should hasten the development of the revolutionary party of the proletariat and mass formations, wage mass struggles to oppose imperialism, neoliberalism, state terrorism and fascism and wars of aggression and move in the direction of socialism. What they must do in the US, the peoples of other imperialist countries must likewise do because their governments are complicit with the US government in carrying out the “war on terror” and suffer from the same basic problems inflicted by monopoly capitalism. The people in all the imperialist countries must fight imperialism and all reaction in solidarity with the people in the global South.
There are plenty of lessons that can be learned by the peoples and movements for national and social liberation in the global South from the victorious struggles of the peoples who have prevailed over the global war on terror unleashed by US imperialism and its allies in Afghanistan and Iraq, the two main war zones in the so-called global war on terror. Such lessons can be major and minor or strategic and tactical. I will try to cite the major and strategic lessons.
To prevail over a war of aggression and occupation by US imperialism, such as in Afghanistan and Iraq, there must be a resolute national leadership of the people’s resistance. Such a leadership arose first in Afghanistan through the mujahedin in the period of struggle against the Soviet social imperialist aggression and invasion and against the puppet Afghan government and subsequently through the Taliban in the period of struggle against the US-NATO aggression and occupation and the puppet government.
There was a Marxist-Leninist-Maoist formation in Afghanistan that had come from the Progressive Youth Organization that arose in 1965. It was good at opposing Soviet modern revisionism and social imperialism and its puppet party, the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan. But it did not do well in developing a united front with other secular progressive and patriotic forces. It was also good at opposing the ultra-reactionary anti-communist groups. But it did not do well in developing a united front with modernist Islamic groups that were truly patriotic and progressive.
It is not enough to adhere to the ideology of Marxist-Leninist-Maoism. It has to be applied in the concrete analysis of concrete conditions in a particular country and must be translated into a political program of action that targets the basic problems of the people and that can guide the arousal, organization and mobilization of the masses. A dogmatic party that knows only to spout anti-revisionist and anti-religious slogans cannot arrive at the correct mass line in the sphere of revolutionary politics.
The Maoists were burdened principally by the lack of correct mass line to overcome the mujahedin’s Islamist line of anticommunism and anti-atheism and only secondarily by the lack or paucity of means, such as the weapons and funds more readily available to the mujahedin from US sources and were sidelined by the mujahedin’s Islamist line of anticommunism and anti-atheism. Resources are gained by advances in the people’s war and in the building of a people’s government in the countryside.
The Taliban was an offshoot of the mujahedin and was able to assume leadership of the Afghan government from 1996 to 2001. It was able to retreat from Kabul to preserve its forces and regroup itself for guerrilla warfare and maintain a government parallel to the US-NATO occupation and the Afghan puppet government. It persevered in national resistance for 20 years and frustrated the attempts of the US to destroy it and to profit from the colonial domination of Afghanistan.
In the case of Iraq, when the US and NATO forces carried out their invasion in 2002,
there was no revolutionary party of the proletariat but the pro-Soviet communist party which was docile to the Saddam regime. The foreign aggressors used their military superiority to succeed in their aggression and then proceeded to augment their strength by turning the Shiites and Kurds against the Sunni-dominated Saddam regime. Eventually, the Baath Party of the fallen Saddam struggled fiercely in Fallujah against the US and the Shiite dominated government and made it costly for the US to continue fighting on the ground.
The US continued to use the Shiite-dominated government against the Sunni resistance. But eventually the Iraqi government became more assertive, became friendly to the similarly Shiite-dominated government of Iran and did not let the US to take over the oil wells of Iraq and to maintain 15 military bases as the US had earlier wished. It became clear to the US after a few years that its aggression against Iraq was unprofitable despite the massive destruction of lives and social infrastructure wrought by US weapons of mass destruction.
The resolute leadership in the national resistance must have a general political line to unite the broad masses of the people against the foreign aggressors and their puppets and must have the correct strategy and tactics to make the enemy bleed from a thousand wounds. Extensive and intensive guerrilla warfare for as long as necessary is the way to fight the enemy that has the large military formations and the high-tech weaponry.
It is also the way to build a resistance government parallel to the puppet government of the aggressors and lay the basis for the larger units for mobile guerrilla warfare, which will in turn develop into the strategic offensive to clinch total victory. The enemy has expensive high-tech weaponry but his best weapons in the sky can be brought down by far cheaper means, like the Vietnamese bringing down 10,000 US helicopters and other aircraft in 1969 and the Afghan mujahedin bringing down the Soviet planes with the US-made Stinger.
Most decisive in the resistance against the militarily superior but unjust enemy is to have the participation and support of the broad masses of the people. To obtain this, the leadership of the resistance must have the correct political line to arouse, organize and mobilize the people and to build alliances of definite patriotic parties, mass formations and communities. Marxist-Leninists are renowned for having a revolutionary class line in building the united front. But if there is no competent Marxist-Leninist party to take the initiative, the available patriotic party and movement will certainly develop the ways of uniting the people against the enemy.
If in a given period in the history of a country like Afghanistan or Iraq the revolutionary party of the proletariat cannot yet assume the leadership, the basic problems, the class contradictions and crisis of the domestic ruling system will persist and will generate the conditions and opportunities for the Marxist-Leninist party to arise and develop. The people in the global South who have not yet achieved full national and social liberation and continue to suffer oppression and exploitation will be impelled by their own needs to wage revolutionary struggle and to respond to the call for revolution as the crisis of the domestic ruling system and the world capitalist system worsens. ###