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The 'war on terror' and the war for resources

The unfolding disaster at the In Amenas gas facility in Algeria, alongside the Anglo-French military adventure in neighbouring Mali, reveal once more the futility of the “war on terror” and with it the West’s total inability to chart an alternative path.

One gruesome result is that workers from around the world have been placed in the firing line at the BP-run plant, caught between the jihadists led by Mokhtar Belmokhtar and an Algerian regime that in practice is impervious to human life.

Negotiations were ruled out and helicopter gunships blasted away indiscriminately. Requests from prime minister Cameron to be informed before military action was taken were treated with disdain.

Since the military annulled the Islamists’ victory in the Algerian elections in 1992, over 250,000 people are thought to have perished in subsequent terror and counter-terror operations. Belmokhtar, Algerian-born, himself returned from fighting Soviet forces in Afghanistan – no doubt with US backing – to take up arms against his country’s regime.

Naturally, Algiers learned from its old colonial master, France. In the post-war period, the French military and police conducted a vicious and sinister war against the national liberation movement. This colonial “legacy” found its echoes in the conduct of Algerian governments after independence was achieved in 1962.

A half a century later and François Holland, the Socialist Party president of France, recently visited Algeria, made a half-baked apology for his country’s history and got what he wanted – deals to exploit the country’s vast gas and oil reserves and support for his war in Mali.

France’s foreign minister has announced that Algeria has allowed French fighter planes to overfly the country en route to bombing Malian rebels across the border.
As to Mali, you’ve probably guessed the country has mineral wealth that has to be  protected/exploited. This time it’s gold and oil. So no way are the major powers going to let a bunch of jihadists take control, even if they are Malians. Self-determination? Out of the question.

Belmokhtar’s is only one of many jihadist groups involved in cross-border actions in the region. Their presence is testimony of the attraction of terrorism to a generation dispossessed economically and, just as importantly, politically.

The major capitalist powers were always content to play along with authoritarian secular regimes in Algeria, Syria, Egypt and Iraq as well as the oppressive autocracies of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf. The legitimate claims of the Palestinians were essentially ignored. Defence of energy supplies and strategic allies like Israel have always trumped human rights and political freedom. 

As a result, the West has, not surprisingly, come to be seen by new generations of Muslims as a bearer of bad news in every respect. The invasions of Afghanistan and then Iraq, with all their horrific consequences, only served to confirm this viewpoint.

The globalised capitalist system in truth has nothing to offer – either to its own citizens, who are increasingly impoverished as a result of the economic crisis – or to people in the Muslim world.

Democracy? Ah yes. The kind of “democracy” which produces gross inequality, mass unemployment and a loss of political rights as the corporations and banks call the tune? Culture? What the ruling elites mean by this is turning every country into a market-driven, consumer society fuelled by gross advertising (and debt). 

The fact remains that present capitalist society cannot propose a progressive secular alternative to those attracted to the jihad. In any case, the “war on terror”, because it has no end in sight, is a convenient sideshow for Washington, London and Paris at times of social unrest.

So when the political class sheds tears over the deaths of hostages, they are surely of the crocodile variety.

Paul Feldman
Communications editor
18 January 2013

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