Who is the target of the anthrax hysteria?

HALIFAX (17 October 2001) -- Since the September 11 hijackings in the US, the rich have been unfolding a poisonous political struggle against the anti-war forces in Halifax, Canada's premier NATO port.

This reached new heights, or depths, on Tuesday, October 16. The rich and their media, locked in their so-called war against terrorism, somehow found no time to note the 31st anniversary of the last peacetime imposition of the War Measures Act by the Trudeau government. This was one of the largest pieces of sustained state terrorism ever unleashed in Canada, and Prime Minister Jean Chrétien had a front seat as a member of the federal Cabinet at that time.

" With the move to open warfare by the imperialists since October 6, the anti-war forces have been demonstrating and carrying out other public manifestations on virtually a daily basis."
Instead of stirring up any of these memories, with troops and destroyers readying to leave Halifax in 24 hours and a visit by Prime Minister Chrétien timed to coincide with the sendoff, a number of absurd and ugly local incidents echoing the "anthrax scares" in Washington, New York and Ottawa were all the media could talk about.

Police had swept the anti-war forces away from the entrance at the naval dockyard on the waterfront in the middle of the night early Sunday morning, to make sure the visit of the Governor-General on Monday to her troops in the dockyard would pass off without visible opposition. But the peace forces announced they would return, and in between they prepared the unveiling of an enormous "Peace!" banner from the centre of the Angus L. MacDonald Bridge spanning Halifax Harbour.

Instead of reporting these facts, the morning papers were full of a story about a bogus "white powder" scare which caused a shopping mall to shut down in the rural service centre of Bridgewater, 50 miles southwest of Halifax.

And a few moments after the Peace banner was general news throughout the community, the media announced the evacuation of Purdy's Wharf Tower II. Somewhere in this twin-towered skyscraper on Halifax harbour, which looks north to the bridge and now houses the US consulate, there was reportedly some mysterious substance, immmediately suspected of being anthrax.

The rich and their political prizefighters have been run off their feet looking for ways to divert the movement and mystify the obvious. Incapable of justifying imperialist aggression in or through open debate, they have resorted to using the mass media to terrorize the public into submission. Unleashing this mass hysteria through such means, however, presupposed the ability of the authorities to cow the media themselves into submission first. The response of the main TV networks to President Bush's phone calls asking they preview and/or censor communications from Ossama Bin Laden prior to going to air answered this decisively.

Even in a NATO port city, however, this time there is no monolithic public opinion ready to give Bush, Chrétien or any of the other imperialists a blank cheque. Within days of President Bush threatening massive retaliation against "the perpetrators" of the hijackings, there was a small demonstration outside the main downtown branch of the Halifax public library on Spring Garden Road demanding peace, just as there were demonstrations in many other cities.

A week later, September 22, the ranks of area youth, some of whom had participated in storming the barricades at the Quebec City Summit of the Americas last spring, were demonstrating in the dozens on the same site. The atmosphere had shifted from demanding peace on one's knees to opposing the actual sources of the war danger. In the ranks of this movement, the link between the latest danger of war against "terrorism" and the expanded militarization of the economy accompanying economic globalization is increasingly conscious and clear.

There followed two more weekends of public outdoor rallies, marches and the start of seminars and extended discussions of the various issues involved -- including the unresolved and increasingly chaotic situation unleashed by the Israeli armed forces against the Palestinian people.

With the move to open warfare by the imperialists since October 6, the anti-war forces have been demonstrating and carrying out other public manifestations on virtually a daily basis. The targets have included the US consulate and the very military base facilities from which the Chrétien government is sending naval contingents. Scores participate in the daily actions and these numbers swell to between 150 and 200 people on the weekends.

The real target of this anthrax hysteria is this reality, and these acts of resistance from the forces opposed to this war. That is the purpose which is becoming ever clearer on a daily basis.

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