Remembering how the Africans and indigenous people, those most exploited by rising capitalism in the new world, were demonized, we can see that it had a need for bogeymen long before the age of imperialism and monopoly capitalism. But under these modern conditions of decadent capitalism, the need for such bogeymen becomes acute owing to the intense level of exploitation, the need to justify imperialist aggression all over the globe, and the need to combat the crisis of capitalist overproduction with a continuously rising military budget.
One way they created this illusion of the "communist menace" was to lump all progressives, socialists and activists of all types together as big "C" "Communists" with the implication that anyone so named was an agent of "Moscow Central." Similarly, they painted every liberation or national liberation movement around the world with Left or communist leadership as part of a plot to extend Soviet hegemony.
The rug was pulled out from underneath all of this when the Soviet Union fell apart, largely because of its own betrayal of communism. Without the USSR to kick around, and with the domestic Left in such an impotent position, there just wasn't enough there there to effectively continue the illusion of "The Communist Menace," but the social need for a bogeyman was greater than ever. What to do?
Then it was "Islamic Terrorism," "Nine-Eleven" and "al Qaeda" to the rescue!
The "War on [Islamic] Terror" did not come into focus right after victory was declared in the "War on Communism." First there came the "War on Drugs," a term created by the noted anti-communist propagandist Richard Nixon. The "War on Drugs" allowed for the militarization of police forces, increased military spending and it gave good cover for the continued suppression of national minorities at home and insurgencies in drug producing countries aboard, but in the end, it proved inadequate given the massive bogeyman needs of US social stability.
Ironically, the imperialist's own policies help give rise to what might be called Islamic anti-imperialism. Everywhere, from the 1950's through the 1980's they were busy undermining, if not destroying, as much of the Left or progressive leadership in the people's movements as they could, particularly in those countries where the heel of imperialism came down the hardest. Everywhere this created voids which more right-wing elements were quick to exploit. In the Muslim countries of North Africa and the Middle East this breathed new life into reactionary religious beliefs and those opportunists that profit from them. Actually it did this everywhere but in MENA it gave rise to an Islamic jihad against Western imperialism.
Before 11 September 2001, the global threat of "Islamic Terrorism" was a very hard sell in the United States. The death and destruction done on that day and the success the government and media had in blaming it on "Islamic Terrorists" in general, and a group called al Qaeda in particular, gave the propaganda effort real legs. Suddenly, it provided justification for wars in Afghanistan and Iraq that they wanted to do anyway, and allowed for the creation of new tools for control in the class war at home.
The "Communist Menace" at least had the material reality of several thousand Soviet nuclear warheads aimed at the United States, it had communist parties in many countries that were part of an international organization, and it does ultimately have the push of history on its side. The fact that the imperialists could so seamlessly and completely replace the "Communist Menace" with "Islamic Terrorists" is a testimonial to how little the reality of either impacted the versions of each manufactured by the imperialists for mass consumption.
The reality is that the Islamic jihadists are not a long term threat to anyone. Certainly they are no threat to imperialism and there is no viable way forward for either the caliphate or the society they prophesize. They have some traction among the people only because the present is so terrible and the future so murky, that the past can look very appealing. Although they are capable of causing much short term pain and disruption, their illusions contain no program for the future.
However, the fact that the Islamists lack anything like the future prospects or military power of the communists in the real world, hasn't troubled the opinion makers too much when it came to substituting one for the other in playing bogeyman.
After 9/11 "Al Qaeda" became the official sponsor of all Islamic terrorism. Whatever al Qaeda may be or not be as a real organization, it grew to something else entirely in the "War on Terror," in became an American Brand name. It became a marketing tool in the "War on Terror."
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A dozen years after 9/11, not only has this group, once estimated to have no more than 300 members, not been defeated by NATO, it has grown even more powerful as a brand. This is a very good thing for NATO who otherwise would need to find a new bogeyman. Whatever the real size and reach of the group once led by Osama bin Ladin, the illusion of "al Qaeda" as a brand has now grown to a worldwide menace rivalling the communist conspiracy of the last century owing largely to a vast network of "affiliations" and "association" attributed to it by the US military-industrial-intelligence complex.
There are probably as many different takes on Islamic jihadism and groups that represent them as there are and were communist and socialists groupings on the Left, with not dis-similar networks of co-operation and competition between them. But complex social relationships do not good bogeyman make. So just like all imperialist's enemies on the Left needed to be branded as "Communists," all anti-imperialist Islamists need to be branded as "al Qaeda."
As a result we now live in a media world in which the brand name "al Qaeda" is very loosely applied to just about any Islamic extremists, whether they have any formal organizational ties to the group founded by Osama bin Laden or not. This is especially the case today with regards to the conflict in Syria where Assad's opposition is accused of being al Qaeda ridden.
No sooner than George Bush was replaced by Barack Obama as president of the United States than Bashar al-Assad started peddling his value to US imperialism as a friend in the "War on Terror." Syria was already on the terrorist list as a result of Assad running the ratline for Sunni jhadists fighting the US in Iraq, and his support for Hezbullah and Hama. Now he sought better relations and saw support for the US "War on Terror" as key. Intelligence sharing and special renditions followed.
In other times, other dictators had waged fierce struggles against "the communist" opposition as a way of beckoning imperial support. In these times this dictator prefers to see his opposition as 100% al Qaeda. As Syrian Foreign Minister Walid A1-Moualem told the United Nations General Assembly yesterday, the Assad regime was fighting the good fight and "The war on terror is not only Syria's war." His remarks to the UN made it clear that as far as the Assad regime was concerned, there was no democratic or moderate opposition, they are fighting terrorism, pure and simple, and have been ever since the Arab Spring came to Syria:
What is happening in my country has become clear to everyone. Yet, some countries do not want to recognize that A1-Qaeda, the most dangerous terrorist organization in the world, and its many offshoots, like Jabhat A1-Nusrah, the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, the Brigade of Islam and many others, are fighting in Syria. The scenes of murder, manslaughter and eating human hearts were shown on TV screens, but did not touch blind consciences. In my country, Mr. President, there are innocent civilians whose heads are put on the grill just because they violate the extremist ideology and deviant views of A1-Qaeda.He told a lot of al-Qaeda tall tales but he failed to mention the government shelling of civilian communities with tanks and long range artillery, the use of helicopter gunships for "crowd control", or the Syria air force dropping everything from cluster bombs and barrel bombs and something like napalm on neighbourhoods. He didn't mention the Assad regime's use of Scud missiles or criminal gangs and he certainly didn't own to their use of poison gas. He failed to speak about the real purveyor of mass death in Syria in favour of highlighting the few crimes of the opposition.
One depraved FSA commander took a bite out of a dead Syria soldier's heart after watching the man's rape & torture trophy videos on his cell phone. It was terrible, as many things in war are. He recorded and uploaded it and it went viral and although it may be replayed a million times it only happened once and does not characterize the uprising.
The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant [ISIL] is probably the only major group with an organizational affiliation with al Qaeda, in fact they split from the much more Syrian-based al Nusra over just that question. Now there is a lot of movement among the Syrian Islamic fighting groups with the Syria based groups, and they are the majority, organizing themselves to fight for a new Islamic Syria and against the foreign jhadists affiliated with al-Qaeda, but those promoting "The War Against Terror" and the al-Qaeda brand can admit to no such nuanced behaviour. The Assad Regime doesn't even admit to a civil war, let alone a revolutionary insurrection by its own people. Walid A1-Moualem continued:
There is no civil war in Syria, but it is a war against terror that recognizes no values, nor justice, nor equality, and disregards any rights or laws. confronting this terror in my country requires the international community to act in accordance with relevant resolutions on counter-terrorism,According to the Syrian government this "War Against Terror" which has so far cost over a hundred ten thousand Syrian lives, needs the support of the world body so that it can crush this "terrorist" opposition. On that basis, it appeals to the US for support. After all, we started the "War on Terror."
The people New York have witnessed the devastations of terrorism, and were burned with the fire of extremism and bloodshed, the same way we are suffering now in Syria. How can some countries, hit by the same terrorism we are suffering now in Syria, claim to fightThis mythology that women were coming to Syria to perform "Sexual Jihad" is another lie the Assad Regime and its supporters have spread to discredit the opposition. It has already been thoroughly debunked by David Kenner in Foreign Policy and Sana Saeed in PolicyMic among others. Moreover it has been revealed that the video "confessions" were coerced from young women kidnapped by the regime. Unedited versions showing how they were directed by men in background have also emerged.
terrorism in all parts of the world, while supporting it in my country? The claims about the existence of moderate militants and extremist militants have become a bad joke. Terrorism means only terrorism; it cannot be classified as moderate terrorism and extremist terrorism.
Therefore, I would like to ask you, what do you call those who kidnap children in order to sell their body organs outside the country? How would you describe those who recruit children and prevent them from going to schools, and instead train them on shooting and killing? How would you describe those who spread perverted fatwas such as "Sexual Jihad" and "Incest Jihad"?
a follow up report by Ian Pannell on the bombing of a school near Aleppo by the regime with a "napalm-like" incendiary that left 30 people with burns over more than 50% of their bodies. Bombing schools and play grounds is an important part of the Assad Regime's campaign of ethnic cleansing, a theme I developed in Assad's New Strategy: Nothing Makes People Flee Like Murdering Their Children.
The day before the Syrian Foreign Minister made these statements before the United Nations General Assembly, the Syrian air force bombed another school, killing 16 teachers and students. Human Rights Watch commented on this and other Assad regime attacks on schools today:
Maria Calivis, UNICEF Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa is "appalled by the reported deaths" but the UN has no plans for stopping Assad from doing this again and again. Even if he does give up his chemical weapons, he will retain the ability to slaughter students and come before the UNGS and lie about who is stopping Syrian children from going to school.
Syria children risk death just going to school: HRW
October 01, 2013 02:15 PM
BEIRUT: The army's bombing of a Syrian high school has shown that even attending the first day of school can be fatal for students, a rights watchdog said Tuesday.
On Sunday, the attack outside a school in the northern city of Raqa killed up to 16 people, mostly teachers and students.
Human Rights Watch researcher Priyanka Motaparthy said this was "the latest in a long string of government attacks that hit schools and killed students."
"These attacks have cost many children their lives, and have taught others that they risk death by going to school," she said in a statement.
"The blast wounds and flash burns visible on victims in videos and photographs, coupled with the body positions and few shrapnel wounds, indicates the use of fuel-air explosives (FAE), also known as 'vacuum bombs,'" HRW said.
The Syrian army has used this type of conventional weapon since 2012, it added.
The New York-based group said these bombs "should never be used in populated areas" because of their "highly indiscriminate" nature.
Attacks on schools "are serious violations of international humanitarian law (the laws of war), and individuals who intentionally commit such violations are responsible for war crimes." More...
9/29/2013 - School bombed in #Syria by #Assad forces. At least 12 children killed and many more wounded. pic.twitter.com/PqIK34Yxim
— Syria Updater (@SyriaUpdater) September 30, 2013
What I find even more "appalling" is that this counter-revolutionary mythology that the only thing going on in Syria now is a just government war against terrorism and al-Qaeda, has found so many echoes on the Left and the joke is that many who are supporting this murderous "War on Terror" in Syria call themselves communists.