No peace for the Middle East

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In spite of the media hype about the arrest of the "bloody tyrant" Saddam Hussein with a scenario appropriate to a B-series western, the weakening of the foremost imperialist power in the world can be seen by the fact that the US is obviously bogged down in Iraq and is unable to impose its "road map" on the Middle East.

The principle intention of the American government in their intervention in Iraq was to continue and develop the strategic encirclement of Europe in order to counteract any attempt of their main imperialist rivals, Germany particularly, to advance towards the East and the Mediterranean. The aim of the crusade waged in the name of anti-terrorism, the defence of democracy and the struggle against the state presumed to be in possession of mass weapons of destruction was to provide an ideological cover for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and for the threat of intervention against Iran. Before intervening on Iraqi territory, the American bourgeoisie hesitated for a long time, not on the decision as such to go to war, but on the way to wage it: did the United States have to accept the dynamic that was pushing them to act in a more and more isolated way or should they try to keep and control a certain number of allies around them, even if such alliances have no stability today? In the end, the Bush team's strategy was adopted: intervene more or less alone and against all the USA's rivals.

In spite of the United States' demonstration of power, which crushed Iraq in the space of three weeks, America's world leadership has never been in such a parlous situation. Six months after the official "victory" of the intervention, this strategy has been shown to be a complete failure. The Americans are obviously incapable of securing the region. Since then the whole world has witnessed the American occupation army getting more and more bogged down in the Iraqi mire. Not a day has passed without the coalition army being the target of terrorist commandos. Increasingly murderous attacks are a regular occurrence even outside Iraq, and have gradually taken hold of the whole region (Saudi Arabia, Turkey, etc), targeting Iraqis as well as the "international community". The present occupation has already caused more deaths on the American side than the first year of the Vietnam War (225 "boys" killed in comparison with 147 in 1964). The climate of permanent insecurity among the troops and the "body bags" returning home have significantly cooled the population's patriotic ardour - which was anyway very relative - even in the heart of "Middle America".

Getting bogged down in Iraq has obliged the United States to change political orientation

At the time of the Vietnam War, the American bourgeoisie ended up deliberately abandoning the country but had succeeded in bringing China into the western bloc. In Iraq, nothing would compensate for an American retreat. Moreover, such a retreat would increase the ambitions of all the rivals and adversaries of the United States, big and small. In addition, the chaos which the Americans would leave behind them in Iraq, could spread throughout the region and would certainly discredit the USA definitively them in its role as world policeman. The stakes are that high. A pure and simple American retreat would mean a bitter and humiliating defeat.

The American bourgeoisie is therefore obliged to remain in Iraq militarily, while adjusting the conditions of its presence. Firstly, the White House has announced a partial and progressive withdrawal while bringing forward the proposal to set up an "autonomous" and "democratic" Iraqi government from 2007 to the spring of 2004. In the same way, it is pushing for the active participation of other Western countries in operations to maintain order and "security" in the region, whereas it had previously imposed a categorical veto on any interference in Iraqi affairs by those governments who had opposed the American intervention. The United States is now trying to force its main imperialist rivals to pay a price in human and financial terms for the Iraq war; but in order to do so, they have no choice but to reintroduce the wolves into the sheepfold, that is, to let into Iraq through the window French and German businesses and armies, which they had previously chased out the door. This is clearly a serious indication of US weakness.

In parallel with this re-orientation, the United States has attempted to take the initiative again: they have sent 3,000 men into Afghanistan to conduct a huge operation against the rebels; in Georgia they have replaced President Shevardnadze with a pro-American (a lawyer who has practised in the United States for a long period of time). This is the context in which the massively publicised arrest of Saddam Hussein was meticulously prepared and organised.

With the arrest, which is a boon for America, Bush can enjoy an immediate revenge. The "hard" line in the Bush administration, represented by Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz can save face. It also enables them to take the initiative diplomatically. For the time being the Bush administration is in a more favourable position to force states like France to accept a suspension or a moratorium on Iraqi debts. It is freer to impose conditions on an eventual participation of German and French businesses in the reconstruction of Iraq. Even the interim council of the Iraqi government, largely controlled by the Americans, has gained status in the eyes of international public opinion.

The arrest of Saddam Hussein took place in the wake of a weekend marked by disagreements between European nations. During the discussions on the constitution of the enlarged European Union, France and Germany had to confront Spain and Poland, both allies of the United States in Iraq, who have benefited to some extent from the notoriety attached to the capture of Saddam Hussein. These two countries profited from the weight that their support for the United States has given them to affirm their own interests in Europe and to put a spoke in the wheel of the Franco-German alliance.

There was another small victory for American propaganda. Five days after the announcement that Saddam Hussein had been captured, and after lengthy bargaining, Ghadhafi's Libya said that it was willing to destroy its weapons of mass destruction and to put a stop to any research in this direction.  So the United States was able to show the whole world that its perseverance, pressure and determination paid off.

The arrest of Saddam Hussein has definitely allowed the United States to gain points by lending a certain degree of legitimacy to its intervention in Iraq, However all the positive effects of these small victories can only be short term.

The American victory is relative and ephemeral

The images of the capture of the Rais[1] are double edged. Although it was a demonstration of American strength, the humiliation inflicted on the dictator excited indignation and anger among the Arab populations. Moreover, the pictures show that Saddam Hussein was not secretly controlling the Iraqi resistance. On the contrary he was buried in a hole underground, with no real means of communication and supported by a few faithful followers from his own village. His arrest changes nothing as far as the security situation of Iraqis concerned. The fifty deaths in the following days are a clear confirmation of this fact.

France and Germany counter-attacked immediately. After they congratulated the White House for its success in the most hypocritical way possible, the media in these two countries did all they could to tarnish the American image. A lot of publicity was given to the attacks the day after. The humiliating images of the Rais were accompanied by harsh, more or less underhand, criticisms implying that it was a provocation for all the Arab nations. The incapacity of Hussein to lead a guerrilla war from his hole was emphasised as frequently as possible. France and Germany did not hesitate to condemn the Bush administration's pressure on the future Iraqi tribunal, demanding the death penalty for the old dictator, as an illegal process, outside the rules of international law, while at the same time spreading massively the images of the prison camp victims in Guantanaomo in order to show the barbarism and iniquity of American justice.

So the arrest of Saddam Hussein changes nothing. The attacks will continue. Anti-Americanism will develop.

The current strengthening of the American position may turn into its contrary at short notice. In fact the chaos that the United-States is unable to control cannot be attributed to the actions of Saddam Hussein agitating in the shadows. The danger for the US is that it will become increasingly obvious that it is the consequence of American intervention, a fact which the bourgeois rivals of the United-States will not hesitate to exploit. Whatever form the American presence in Iraq will be obliged to take, whatever the military involvement the European powers may eventually have in a "peace-keeping" force, the stakes and the tensions towards war between the United-States and their European rivals can only increase dramatically in the region. The Iraqi population cannot expect to benefit from the eventual effects of reconstruction, which will certainly be limited to the state infrastructure and the roads and to putting the oil fields in order. In Iraq the war will continue and extend, the attacks will multiply. 

In spite of its immediate successes, the American bourgeoisie cannot reverse the historical exhaustion of its leadership. The contesting of American authority will not stop. On the contrary, every advance on the part of the Americans encourages a strengthening of anti-Americanism. As we wrote in our previous issue: "In fact the American bourgeoisie is in an impasse, itself an expression of the impasse in the world situation which, in the present historic situation, cannot be resolved by marching into a third world war. In the absence of this radical bourgeois solution to the world crisis, which would almost certainly result in the destruction of humanity, the planet is sinking into the chaos and barbarism which characterises the present phase of capitalist decomposition." (International Review n°115, "The proletariat confronts a dramatic deepening of all of capitalism's contradictions").

In Iraq as elsewhere, capitalism can only drag humanity into increasing chaos and barbarism.

Stability and peace are impossible in this society. The bourgeoisie wants to convince us to the contrary. This is the purpose of the huge ideological campaigns like the one launched in Geneva on the Middle East on the 1st December 2003. This "initiative" proposing a total solution to the problems of the Middle East, in contrast to the method of "small steps" and the "road map", was set up, even if not officially, by prominent personalities on the Palestinian side as well as that of the Israelis. It received the enthusiastic support of several Nobel Peace prize-winners, in particular ex-American president Carter and the ex-Polish president and old trades unionist, Lech Walesa. Kofi Anan, Jacques Chirac, Tony Blair and even Colin Powell, albeit rather timidly in the case of the latter, have also welcomed this initiative.

The message that has been hammered into the heads of proletarians at a time when imperialist wars have never been so numerous and so violent at an international level, is clear: "peace is obtainable in capitalist society. It's enough to regroup all people of good will and to put pressure on capitalist states and international organisms".

What the bourgeoisie wants to hide at all costs from the workers is that capitalist wars are imperialist wars that are as unavoidable for dying capitalism as for its dominant class. Left to its own logic, decomposing capitalism will inevitably drag the whole of humanity into generalised barbarity and war.

W.

[1] An Arabic word for president, one of the titles used by Saddam Hussein.