Iraq, Kosovo

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Between 16th and 19th December 1998, Iraq was hit by more cruise missiles than during the entire 1991 Gulf War. After threats which were not followed up in February and November 1998, the US has unleashed a new hell on an Iraqi population which has already been subjected to the terrible war of 1991 and the sanctions that followed, bringing in their wake famine, disease, and an intolerable poverty. When the Russian bloc collapsed in 1989, US President Bush announced "a new world order of peace and prosperity". Since then, we have seen increasing chaos, still more war, and an unprecedented chaos, still more war, and an unprecedented spread of poverty throughout the world. The recent bombing of Iraq has only added to the list. They also confirm what we wrote in the following article, which was completed before the last bombardment: "A bloody spiral of destruction in which the force employed by the US in defence of its authority tends to become more frequent and massive, the political results of these efforts more questionable, the generalisation of chaos and militarism more certain, the abandonment of common rules of the game more pronounced".

As the article demonstrates, the US is increasingly forced to act on its own account, without bothering to obtain the agreement of the UN, supposedly the guardian of "international law". This time, the bombing began during TV prime time in America, while the Security Council was still in session to examine the report drawn up by Richard Butler, head of UNSCOM, which was supposed to have been the pretext for the US intervention. This report is now notorious for being stuffed with lies, completely in contradiction with another report examined at the same time, drawn up by the International Atomic Energy Commission and which came to the conclusion that Iraq had complied with the UN�s decisions (1). The decidedly unenthusiastic reaction of the USA�s "allies" (with the exception of Britain (2)), including in particular Kofi Annan, to the US coup is a clear illustration that the American government has come rounund to a position long since adopted by a substantial part of the US bourgeoisie, represented especially by the Republican Party: undertaking unilaterally those interventions considered necessary to uphold US hegemony, rather than trying to obtain the agreement of other powers or of the UN (in order to hold them hostage). This disagreement within the US bourgeoisie as to the best means to uphold an increasingly beleaguered US hegemony in the world allows us to explain the "Monicagate" affair. In this sense, the abundance of "analyses" published in the press of other countries, explaining US strikes by Clinton�s desire to put off his impeachment, is solely intended to discredit US foreign policy by presenting it as sowing death and destruction to serve the president�s own sordid self-interest. In fact, Clinton did not launch unilateral strikes on Iraq because of Monicagate, rather there was a Monicagate because Clinton failed to adopt this line earlier, notably in February 1998. However, as the article that follows demonstrates, this new orientation of US policy will not be able to alter the essential given of international relations: growing chaos, and repeated use of armed force by the US to enforce its continually declining authority. Already, we can see that the only real success achieved by the American government is to have sabotaged the military rapprochement between Britain and the other European countries. As for the rest, the US strikes have only strengthened Saddam Hussein, while the diplomatic failure of Clinton�s journey to Israel and Palestine only highlights the limited success of the Wye Plantation agreement.

According to the bourgeois media, the year 1998 ended with an important strengthening of peace, international collaboration and the defence of human rights in the world. In the Persian Gulf, the threat of American and British force - backed up this time by the "international community" - imposed on Iraq the continuation of arms inspections aimed at removing weapons of mass destruction from the "irresponsible hands" of the bloody dictator Saddam Hussein. In the Middle East, the American sponsored "peace process" - on the verge of collapse - was salvaged by the Wye Plantation Agreement, through which US President Clinton, thanks to "endless hours of patient persuasion" pushed Arafat and Netanyahu to begin implementing parts of the "Oslo Agreement" based on the celebrated formula "land for peace". In the Balkans, NATO - again through the threat of violence - put an end to open, large scale military operations between Serbian and Kosovo-Albanian forces and imposed a fragile cease fire to be patrolled by international "observers for peace". And at the end of the year, U.S. and South African diplomacy launched a new offensive claimed to be capable of ending the war in the Congo, while the French President Chirac was even reready to shake the hand of the "Congolese dictator" Kabila at the Francophone African Summit in Paris, allegedly in pursuit of the same goal.

Has the bourgeoisie - at the end of a century during which it smashed the Communist International and turned the world into a gigantic imperialist slaughterhouse - begun to rule society according to the peace keeping charter of the United Nations and the humanitarian principles of Amnesty International? The propaganda of the ruling class, whether concerning the democratic crusade against Pinochet or the alleged peace established in The Middle East or in the Balkans, does all it can to place the imperialist conflicts of the present in this deceptive light. But the reality of these conflicts reveals exactly the opposite: the aggravation of the militarist barbarism of a capitalist system in agony, the continuing explosion of the imperialist struggle of each against all, the growing necessity for the USA to employ military force in defence of its global authority.

Behind the imposition of the "authority of the United Nations" (UN) on Iraq, the imposition of "negotiations" between Serbia and the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), or of "land for peace" on the Israeli and Palestinian bourgeoisie, there lies the counter-offensive of American imperialism, against the global undermining of its authority. In reality, America has imposed itself in Iraq and in Kosovo precisely througrough a demonstrative disregard for the "rules" and "authority" of the United Nations, which in the past years has been increasingly employed against American interests.

Iraq: the US humiliates France and Russia in the UN Security Council

This in turn marks an important turning point in American policy towards the rest of the world, towards a more aggressively "unilateral" pursuit of its national interests. It was the USA itself which, in preparing a new military strike against Iraq in November, threw in the dustbin of history the charade of "unity" and "international legality" of the UN so dear to the heart of bourgeois propaganda. This was not always the US position. After the collapse of the world order of Yalta with the disintegration of the Russian imperialist bloc, it was the USA itself- at the height of its authority as the sole remaining world power - which used the UN and its Security Council to force the Gulf War on the rest of the world. By luring Saddam into invading Kuwait, Washington was able to present this war as a necessary defence of "international law" (which in class society has always been the right of the strongest), legitimised by the "international community". Saddam was trapped: he could not pull out of Kuwait without a fight, as this might have led to the fall of his regime. But with Saddam, the rest of the imperialist world, and above all the other main powers of the now the now defunct Western bloc were also trapped: obliged to take part in or pay for a war aimed in reality at crushing their ambitions towards a greater independence from the USA.

A year ago Iraq, having drawn the lessons of the Gulf War, turned the tables by itself using the UN and its Security Council against America. As opposed to the question of the occupation of Kuwait, Saddam now placed at the centre of the new Gulf crisis the obstruction of the UN armaments inspections: a secondary question which made it difficult for Washington to justify a common military action, and easy for Iraq to back down at any moment. This time the US, not Iraq was trapped, enabling the allies and advisors of Baghdad in the Security Council, France and Russia, and the UN Secretary General Annan to implement a "diplomatic solution", the main result of which was to prevent the deployment of American and British armed force, and thus humiliate the world�s leading power. This was the high point to date in the undermining of the authority of the sole remaining super-power, which already became manifest soon after the Gulf War when a recently re-united Germany sponsored the independence of Croatia and Slovenia and thus the break-up of Yugoslavia, against the will of Washington.

It is in response to this undermining of its leadership that the American counter-offensive is now responding, shaking off the shackle represented by the UN iUN in the process. In an attempt to shake off the embargo against Iraq and profit from the conflict of interest within the UN Security Council, Saddam again deployed the obstruction of the arms inspections in order to provoke a crisis, and again backed down at the last moment to prevent an American military strike. But this time Saddam had to back down so fast and under such humiliating circumstances, that the outcome of this crisis was undoubtedly a strengthening of America�s authority world wide. The difference this time was that the US, as opposed both to the Gulf War and to the crisis a year ago, no longer gave a damn about getting permission to strike from the UN. The "sympathy" and "understanding" which the other major powers showed for Washington�s "impatience with Saddam" - presented by bourgeois propaganda as a revival of the spirit of unity among the "great democracies" - is explained solely by the fact that the US was visibly no longer in the mood to be stopped by anybody. Openly criticising the aggressive American policy under such circumstances, while lacking the concrete means to obstruct it, would for the other powers have been equivalent to publicly sharing in the humiliation imposed on Saddam.

Kosovo: the US lays down the law via NATO

Long before the Iraq crisis of last year, the use of the UN against Washington was already clearly demonstrated by the different military conflictconflicts in ex-Yugoslavia in the early 1990s. Here already, the principle big power backers of Serbia - Britain, France and Russia - used the UN in order to prevent the United States, for as long as possible, from playing a leading role, especially in the Bosnian conflict. And this is why, when the USA finally succeeded (momentarily) in imposing its authority on its European rivals in Bosnia via military strikes and the Dayton Agreement, this was done, not through the UN but through NATO, once the specific military organisation of the US imperialist bloc, and the one which Washington is still able to dominate. Alongside its show of might in the Gulf, the threat of a NATO military intervention in Kosovo and the rest of Serbia under US leadership constituted the second pillar of the American counter-offensive in defence of its leadership. The principle American success was not that it obliged Milosevic to withdraw troops from Kosovo: in reality Washington allowed the Serb army to remain there long enough to severely weaken the German backed Kosovo-Albanian KLA. Its success lay above all in obliging its pro-Serb NATO ex-Allies Britain and France to line up in support of its intervention threat against Serbia - a repetition of its success in Bosnia and, as far as France is concerned, during the Gulf War. Just like Saddam, Milosevic had to back down on time to prevent American missiles raining on his head. And here again (as with Iraq), the anti-American strategy of demanding a UN Security Council mandate for the use of military force against Serbia, a card openly played in the Kosovo crisis above all by Russia, was foiled by Washington�s newly pronounced "unilateralism". In view of the coming winter and the homelessness of the war refugees in Kosovo, declared Clinton, there could no longer be any question of the world�s leader waiting for "permission" to strike from the UN, Russia or anybody else.

The UN and NATO: the leftovers of the post-World War II world order become battlefields of the great powers

The United Nations, like its predecessor the League of Nations, is not a peace-keeping organisation uniting the capitalist powers under a common international law, but an imperialist den of thieves, the role of which is completely determined by the balance of power between the main capitalist rivals. It is precisely for this reason that the evolution of the policy of the USA towards the UN is not without significance. During the Cold War the UN, strictly divided between the two imperialist blocs, mainly served bourgeois pacifist propaganda, although it could sometimes be used by the Western bloc with its clear majority among the permanent members of the Security Council (composed of the winning powers from World War II). After 1989, the capacity of the USA to exploit the UN for its own interests was to prove short-lived. Tlived. The Gulf War, that dramatic demonstration of the superiority of the US over the rest of the imperialist world, was quickly followed by the explosion of "every man for himself" in the relations between capitalist states, and thus the undermining of US leadership. Since, in a world without imperialist blocs, chaos and "every man for himself" inevitably became the dominant tendency in the world, the UN itself inevitably began to be used to undermine American authority. This is why the American bourgeoisie, throughout the 1990s, has taken an increasingly hostile stance towards that organisation, regularly refusing to pay its membership fees. Nevertheless, until the present American offensive, the Clinton Administration hesitated to write off the United Nations as a possible instrument for the mobilisation of other powers behind itself. Indeed, the dissatisfaction of important parts of the American bourgeoisie in the face of these hesitations partly explains the recent pressure on Clinton through the Lewinsky Affair. Present US policy towards Iraq and Serbia shows that the US has indeed been obliged to pursue much more of a "go it alone" policy than at the time of the Gulf War or even Dayton. In reality, this policy is the admission by the world�s super-power itself that the dominant trend is towards every man for himself, not American leadership. Of course, when the United States sets its armed forces in motion, there is no power in the world capable of opposing it. But in so doing the US, while enhancing its status as first power, will only undermine its own leadership, and increase international chaos.

By tossing aside the rules of the game of the UN, Washington has effectively rendered this dinosaur from the end of the last World War more or less irrelevant. But this development will benefit not only America, but also its most important rivals: the vanquished powers of World War II, Germany and Japan, both excluded from the Security Council. More important: from now on NATO itself will become the most important political body within which the rivalries between the ex-allies of the Western Bloc will be fought out. It was not least in response to the imposition of US policy towards Kosovo via the NATO that Germany�s new foreign minister Fischer called for a renunciation of the alliance�s first strike nuclear strategy (3), and that Blair at the summit meeting with the French government in St. Malo officially committed Britain to what is called "strengthening the European pillar of NATO" - at the expense of America of course. This represents a raising of the stakes in the conflict between the great powers. NATO, like the UN, is a left over from a past world order. But it is a much more important remnant, still representing the main instrument of America�s military presence in Europe.

The Wye Agreement: an American warning rning to its European rivals

But if the threat of war against Saddam and Milosevic is an expression, not of unity but rivalry between the great powers, surely the Wye Plantation Agreement between Clinton, Netanyahu and Arafat is a triumph of peaceful persuasion, warmly welcomed in Europe? In reality Wye, however modest and fragile the agreement between Israel and the PLO, is another victory for US imperialism, not least because the CIA has officially been charged with implementing part of it. Nor was the "persuasion" exercised by the USA quite so peaceful: the American military mobilisation in the Gulf at the same moment was intended, indirectly, as a warning to Netanyahu and Arafat as much as to Saddam. Above all, it was a warning to the European rivals of America not to poke their noses too closely into one of the strategically most important and explosive zones of the world, where America intends to maintain its dominance at all costs.

Such warnings are more than necessary. Despite the present US offensive, the struggle of the other powers to shake off American domination can only sharpen. Precisely because the US is militarily able to impose its interests at the expense of any other existing power, none of these other imperialisms have a basic interest in a further strengthening of the American position. This also goes for Britain, which has common interests with America in relation to Iraq, but oppos opposed interests in Europe, Africa, and not least in the Middle East. The other powers are condemned to contest the USA, whether they want to or not, thus plunging the world into barbarism. The US, as the sole possible representative of capitalist world order, is condemned to impose its order, thus plunging the world into barbarism. The basis of this contradiction is the absence of blocs. When blocs exist, the strengthening of the leader enforces the position of the other bloc members against the rival bloc. In the absence of such a rival, and thus of imperialist blocs, the strengthening of the leader contradicts the interest of the others. This is why the explosion of each for himself, as well as the counter-offensives of the US, are a given of the present historical situation. Today, as during the Gulf War, the US is on the offensive. Although no American missiles were fired against Iraq or Serbia this time, today�s situation represents not a repetition of the early 90s, but an escalation. A bloody spiral of destruction in which the force employed by the US in defence of its authority tends to become more frequent and massive, the political results of these efforts more questionable, the generalisation of chaos and militarism more certain, the abandonment of common rules of the game more pronounced. The rivalry between the "western democracies", the alleged "vanquishers of Communism" is at the very heart of this barbarism, which in the long term threatens the survival of humanity even without a Third World War. Understanding the essence of this imperialist barbarism must become part of the proletariat�s class consciousness and its determination to destroy the capitalist system.

6 December 1998

1)In fact, we have since learnt that the report was written in close collaboration with the US government. Nor is this the first time that the latter has produced falsified evidence to justify military action. For example, the 5th August 1964 attack on two US destroyers by the North-Vietnamese fleet, which served as the pretext for beginning the bombardment of North Vietnam, turned out afterwards to have been a pure fabrication. The technique is as old as war itself, and one of its best-known cases was the famous "Ems telegram" of 13th July 1870, which allowed Bismarck to push France into declaring war on Prussia - a war which the latter was sure of winning.

2)Although we should note that Blair�s support for US action was not unanimously approved by the British bourgeoisie, being severely criticised by much of the press.

3)Existing NATO strategy envisages being the first to use nuclear strikes.

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