Fourth International Resolution

The September 11 Attacks and the Aggression against Afghanistan

[This resolution was adopted on October 29, 2001, by the International Executive Committee of the Fourth International, the worldwide organization of revolutionary socialists and labor activists.]

1. The imperialist aggression launched by the United States as a supposed retaliation for the attacks of 11 September 2001 — which struck the very heart of U.S. territory for the first time [since the American Civil War and the War of 1812] — is not an act of legitimate self-defense. It is an act of military vengeance against an entire people, who are being subjected to bombardment on the pretext of punishing their rulers—like the Serb people yesterday and the Iraqi people from 1991 up to the present. Nor is this aggression a means of eradicating “terrorism.” On the contrary, in responding to terrorism with imperialist state terrorism, it is increasing feelings of resentment and hatred among oppressed peoples. It is feeding the terrorist blindness of those who share with the oppressors the same contempt for any human life that does not belong to their own camp.

This third aggression [after the wars on Iraq and Serbia] is taking place at a time when U.S. military spending has once more been on the rise since 1999, after having stabilized for a few years at a level equivalent to the average level of the so-called “Cold War” period. For the third time in eleven years, the U.S. has thrown itself into a new, large-scale imperialist aggression, thus confirming its choice of a hegemonic and interventionist course in the post-Cold War period. A major new step has been taken, after the step taken with the Kosovo war, in transforming NATO into an interventionist military alliance without any geographical limitation.

2. However vile and abominable the dealings of the oppressor powers may be, they in no way justify massacring noncombatant civilians, and still less a mass murder as horrible as the one that took place on September 11, 2001.

What is in question here is not only revolutionary humanism, the basis of the moral superiority of the socialist and internationalist struggle against all oppressions. It is also an awareness of the nature of the struggle and its strategic preconditions.

Imperialist domination can only be defeated on two preconditions: mass mobilization of oppressed people in the dominated countries; and the pressure of a mass movement within the dominant countries themselves against the imperialist war their governments are waging.

From this point of view, vile attacks like those that took place on September 11, 2001, are doubly nefarious. (1) Carried out by conspiratorial networks, they reduce the people they claim to champion to the status of powerless observers of the confrontation between two logics of terror. (2) Killing indiscriminately people of the countries against which they are fighting, they rally these people to their governments and thus allow these governments to accentuate their warlike and repressive course.

These attacks have nothing to do with anti-imperialism, not even a twisted anti-imperialism. The use of mass terror is an expression of reactionary politics and movements that oppose the fundamental rights of peoples. Fundamentalists of the Bin Laden type support capitalism and defend it. They are or have been linked to bourgeois factions and to sectors of several reactionary state apparatuses, like the Saudi monarchy and the Pakistani and Sudanese dictatorships. These groups want to impose a discourse on Muslim populations that is fanatically religious, anti-Western rather than anti-imperialist, and anti-Semitic rather than anti-Zionist. They want to impose ultra-reactionary theocratic political regimes like the Taliban regime, and they use the Palestinian cause to disguise these reactionary objectives.

3. Symmetrically, the terrorist practices of imperialist governments and of the bourgeois dictatorships in dependent countries, in the name of “eradicating terrorism” and defending the civilian population in their own countries, only expose civilians to more and more serious risks. Violence in the service of political and social injustice engenders violence. The more crushing the means put to work by the oppressors, the more individuals will rise up among oppressed peoples who are ready to go to the worst extremes in order to inflict the most pain on the “other side,” necessarily targeting those who are most vulnerable, that is, the civilian population.

The true eradication of terrorism has as its indispensable precondition the eradication of all forms of terrorism, government terrorism as well as that of terrorist groups and networks. It can only be achieved on the condition that the political and social injustice perpetuated by physical violence be eliminated. Conditions must be created everywhere that give their full meaning to people’s right to self-determination: civil liberties and political democracy in every country, every people’s right to self-determination, and reorganization of international relations on the basis of law and peace.

Respect for human life cannot be selective:

4. The terrorist fanaticism that struck the U.S. on September 11 has its specific source in tendencies fostered and favored by the U.S. government. It and its oil bastion, the Saudi monarchy — one of the world’s most obscurantist and reactionary states — have propagated and used Islamic fundamentalism in their struggle against progressive nationalism and “communism.” This use reached its apogee in their common support for fundamentalist factions in Afghanistan for more than two decades. Acting as the sorcerer’s apprentice, they contributed in this way to train those who today are turning against them the methods that they themselves inculcated.

The Western imperialist powers are constantly revealing their boundless cynicism and hypocrisy. Sworn enemies of Islamic fundamentalism in the name of democracy and women’s rights when this fundamentalism puts on an anti-Western face, as in Iran, they do not have a word to say against the most total absolutism and the most vile oppression of women when Islamic fundamentalism wears the face of the Saudi monarchy, imperialism’s privileged tool in exploiting the resources of the Arabian peninsula, the world’s main reservoir of oil.

5. Oil — central sinew of the capitalist system and major cause of environmental disequilibrium — has always been an essential moving force of imperialist policy in this part of the world. This fact is all the more prominent when administrations take office that are as directly representative of oil interests as the administrations of George Bush senior and junior.

This is how the “fight against terrorism” has become the pretext for projects that have nothing to do with this pretension. The U.S. government has unilaterally appropriated the function of planetary judge, jury, and executioner, seeking to impose its fiat on the rest of the world while placing itself above the law and outside any form of international jurisdiction. At the beginning it presented its aggression against Afghanistan as a military police operation aimed at the destruction of a network of a few thousand “terrorists.”

The operation’s real objective emerged very quickly: to install another assortment of fundamentalists and reactionaries of all sorts in power in Kabul, docilely subject to the U.S. government. In short, the operation’s real goal today is to bring to its culmination the constant effort made by the U.S. for over a quarter-century to strengthen its domination of the whole region and establish its domination of Afghanistan, as a platform for its geopolitical designs, complementing the foothold it has next door in Pakistan. At first the main goal of U.S. intervention in Afghanistan [in the 1980s] was to destabilize the USSR. After the USSR’s collapse, the objective of U.S. oil companies and their government is to secure the fossil fuel resources of Central Asia in their own hands.

Only these economic and political designs explain why not only the bases of the Al-Qaida network are being bombed. In order to take control of Afghanistan, cities and other civilian concentrations are being bombed by the U.S. and British air forces, under the pretext of an “anti-terrorist struggle.” Besides the many deaths already resulting directly from the bombing, it is creating the conditions for a true humanitarian disaster, which is likely to cause hundreds of thousands of victims. Besides, the nebulous character of imperialist objectives in the current “war on terrorism” is such that it can lead to escalations of violence with incalculable consequences, notably through the use of nuclear weapons, which has already been discussed in U.S. ruling circles. The Western powers’ aggression is setting the match to several Muslim countries, of which Pakistan is the weakest link, thus creating conditions that could bring religious fanatics to power in that country, which has a nuclear capability.

6. The international radical left is facing today the urgent task of struggling on several fronts:

While respecting the diversity of the mobilizations and motivations of those in struggle, the international radical left has a duty to push forward all the mass struggles against these different aspects of capital’s global offensive.