Iraq war sows the seeds of new conflicts

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The euphoria of victory didn't last very long. The images of happy crowds lining the streets to greet their British and American 'liberators' are already a distant memory. Since the fall of Baghdad we have seen enormous Shiite demonstrations chanting slogans like 'No to Saddam, No to Bush - Yes to Islam' and calling for an Islamic state. In Mosul, within the space of two days in late April, American troops fired on two marches of Iraqi civilians demanding that the Americans pull out. Nearly 20 people were killed and many more injured. This will add to a death toll from the war which will certainly run into thousands, especially when we include the as yet unknown numbers of conscripts obliterated by the carpet bombing of Iraqi military positions. The collapse of the Saddam regime resulted in widespread looting in which much of Iraq's priceless archaeological heritage was stolen or destroyed. To restore order, the occupying armies have had to recall Saddam's old police force, or allow local clerics and their newly formed militia to come to the fore. The USA's attempts to fabricate some kind of 'interim government' are coming against all the political, ethnic and religious divisions which have always existed in Iraqi society and which were only kept underground by Saddam's reign of terror. Meanwhile the hospitals are still completely incapable of coping with the masses of horrific injuries caused by the coalition's bombardments, and large parts of the population have been without decent drinking water for weeks, exposing them to the risk of epidemics which would only further reveal the breakdown of health services throughout the country.

In short: the inevitable military victory of the US over Saddam's crumbling regime has not brought liberation but chaos and misery to the population of Iraq. But then liberating the Iraqis from Saddam's tyranny was never the aim.

Let's remember that the overthrow of Saddam was not even the official aim of this war. The principal argument was that Saddam was a threat to world peace because he possessed weapons of mass destruction. This was always a ridiculous piece of hypocrisy, not just because the US and Britain had been among those who had supplied his armies in the first place, but also because no one in the world has made wider or more devastating use of weapons of mass destruction than the US and Britain. The war confirmed this once again: no one can match the US for firepower. And this was without doubt one of the real motivations of the war. Like Saddam in Iraq, US imperialism can only respond to the powerful centrifugal forces that threaten its 'world leadership' by making ever greater shows of force. After the international diplomatic crisis that preceded this war, it has now become evident that these centrifugal forces are made up first and foremost of the USA's main imperialist rivals: Germany, France, Russia and China.

Saddam's weapons of mass destruction were only a pretext. In fact one of the reasons he was attacked was precisely because he was a paper tiger and could offer no serious resistance to a US invasion. Even if the occupying armies do finally discover a few canisters of chemical or biological weapons, the outcome of the war showed that Saddam had no capacity to use them. As in 1991, Saddam was the whipping boy: the real targets were the USA's main challengers to global domination.

And this is why Bush's claim that the world would be a more peaceful place once Saddam had gone is the biggest lie of all. Having conquered Iraq, US imperialism has tightened its military control over the strategically vital Middle east, enabling it to turn off oil supplies to its rivals should they present a more serious challenge to its rule. It is already making threatening noises to other states in the region, such as Syria and Iran, and to those further afield, such as Cuba and North Korea. In other words, it has every intention of continuing the 'war against terrorism' which is the euphemism for a permanent military offensive on the scale of the entire planet. This is not at all contradicted by Bush's talk of a 'road map to peace' between Israel and Palestine. Any US-brokered peace will ensure Israel's complete military superiority in the region, and - like the 'victory' in Iraq - only serve to fuel new resentments and hostility. The latest round of suicide bombings and Israeli counter-raids indicate where the road map is really leading.

As for the 'anti-war' states, who kept a pragmatic silence while the war was raging, they are quite well aware that the US is gunning for them and will be doing all they can to put their spokes in the wheel of the USA's military juggernaut. This is why Putin has been arguing, somewhat ironically, that UN sanctions against Iraq can't be lifted until the WMD issue has been settled, and why Chirac has been insisting that the UN play a much bigger role in the reconstruction of Iraq. America, for its part, has argued that Iraq should be forgiven its debts overwhelmingly owed, by spectacular coincidence, to France, Russia and Germany. Unable to challenge the US openly at the military level, its rivals are reduced to diplomatic games to advance their imperialist interests. But as their actions in Africa, Palestine, and the Balkans demonstrate, they are no less capable of playing a covert role in military conflicts, arming and inciting factions and states which are opposing the USA's own pawns. The seeds are being sown for new wars and the continuation of existing wars.

The twentieth century was a century of ceaseless war and barbarism. The twentieth century has already begun in the same vein. This is not because governments have the wrong leaders or the wrong policies, but because capitalism as a social system has reached a historic dead-end and compels all states to join in an imperialist dance of death. Calls for peace and respect for international law, even when raised by millions in the streets, cannot make capitalism go in another direction. On the contrary, they serve only to divert a real struggle against the war drive. Capitalist war can only be eliminated by eliminating capitalism; and that can only come about through the development of class struggle in all countries.

WR, 3/5/03.

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