I will not join in unity, national or otherwise, with those who are waging this war and the financial elite who stand behind them. They are not protecting my interests or the interests of workers in general, and there is no reason whatsoever to believe they ever will.

One only needs to consider this fact in relation to the mass layoffs and the surging growth of unemployment and ask what will they do in response? Will they tell the corporations implementing these layoffs not to lay workers off for the sake of achieving unity in support of the war effort? No.

Will they ensure that these same corporations do not take advantage of the worsening economic crisis by permanently downsizing their work force? Of course they will not.

What they are willing to do is to use this war to promote their own agenda and attack civil liberties. One need only consider that while the bombs are raining down on Afghanistan, the Bush administration is trying to take advantage of the situation to ram an agreement on the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) through Congress.

Both the U.S. and Canadian governments are enacting measures that will sharply curtail civil liberties. Specifically, the Chretien government is determined to pass Bill C-36, which will give police powers of “preventive arrest” even in the absence of legal charges. It will also compel individuals to give self-incriminating evidence against associates at a secret “investigative hearing.”

George W. Bush’s exploitation of the war to facilitate FTAA negotiations is indicative of the fact that Corporate America’s interests guide foreign policy and their interests extend into Central Asia, including Afghanistan. This is the objective, overriding reality within which this war must be seen if its significance is to be fully grasped.

If one does this, one inevitably comes up against the question of the rich oil and natural gas reserves in Central Asia. These reserves can only be effectively accessed, according to major oil lobbyists who appeared before the U.S. Congress a couple of years ago, by way of a pipeline through Afghanistan to the coast of neighboring Pakistan.

They stated that Central Asia has 236 trillion cubic feet of proven natural gas reserves and over 60 billion barrels of known oil reserves. Can anyone imagine this not looming large in the thinking of U.S. foreign policy circles with respect to the future of Afghanistan?

This makes even more sense if one considers that such a pipeline is viewed as critical to supplying Asia’s expanding oil and natural gas markets. Bringing such large quantities of oil and natural gas onto the market will inevitably increase global supplies and put downward pressure on oil and natural gas prices with far reaching macroeconomic effects.

Not accessing these large energy reserves will have the exact opposite effects on oil and natural gas prices. Of course such considerations go unmentioned in the mass media and the conclusion is never drawn that installing a U.S. and investor-friendly government in Afghanistan would be the best way to secure cost effective access to these energy reserves.

Instead, we are being fed a carefully-crafted interpretation of what the reasons for this war are. And it is one that is not subject to serious, critical scrutiny. Serious, critical scrutiny would, for example, question why the U.S. and Russia are backing the Northern Alliance, an organization that has a worldview essentially the same as the Taliban’s with respect to issues such as the position of women in Afghan society, and with a long track record of heavy involvement in Afghanistan’s heroin trade.

Questions like this compel one to ask what the point of this war really is if the end result will be an Afghan government wholly, or in large part, led by another gang of Islamic reactionaries? Does this justify a war? And will putting the Northern Alliance in power constitute in any way just retribution for what took place on Sept. 11?

If we really want to effectively rid the world of the Taliban and the like-minded Islamic reactionaries who rule Iran, we should be doing everything possible to support the secular opposition in those countries.

Such opposition is especially strong in Iran and includes a potent labor movement. We will not rid the world of such reactionaries by supporting a war waged by those who do the bidding of Corporate America and who are drawn from the ranks of Corporate America , like George W. Bush.

There is one other issue that must be addressed. This is the matter of bringing the Saudi Arabian millionaire Osama bin Laden and his accomplices to justice and whether a war is necessary to rid us of these people who, for many years, were directly allied to the United States.

To answer this question I simply want to note what fate befell Carlos the Jackal, the person who was the world’s most-wanted terrorist before Osama bin Laden. Today he is locked up in a French maximum-security prison serving a life sentence. And a protracted war did not have to be waged to capture him.

Bruce Allen is the 1st vice-president of the St. Catharines and District Labor Council in Canada.