Iraq: A Quagmire for US Imperialism

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Iraq has indeed become a quagmire for American imperialism, perhaps even worse than might have been expected. The relatively quick military victory achieved by the US military has proven impossible to consolidate. More American troops have been killed after an end to hostilities was triumphantly decreed by Pres. Bush in May than during the open warfare itself. US occupying forces have proved incapable of rebuilding Iraq's infrastructure or restoring any semblance of security, or vital services such as water, electricity or petroleum supplies to the population. The occupation and reconstruction of Iraq, which was supposed to be funded by profits from the renewed flow of Iraqi oil under American control, now requires an emergency budget allocation of an additional $87 billion that will send the US budget deficit soaring.

Before the war the American propaganda machine cooked up all sorts of fairy tales about links between Saddam's regime and Bin Laden's al Qaeda but these have been demonstrated to be utterly false. However, in the aftermath of the American "victory" there is considerable evidence that al Qaeda and other Islamic fundamentalist terrorists have now entered Iraq to engage in attacks against US occupation forces. The invasion that was supposedly designed to eliminate an imaginary al Qaeda terrorist threat in Iraq has on the contrary now served to facilitate the emergence of such a threat in that country where it didn't previously exist.

Despite propagandistic predictions that the Iraqi population would welcome US forces with open arms as liberators and heroes, even those segments of the Iraqi population who were opposed to Saddam's regime want the US to leave. Having "won" the war, American military personnel now face guerrilla attacks from a wide range of disparate elements, including forces still loyal to Saddam (who despite American imperialism's infamous deck of playing cards, is still alive and apparently operating within Iraq), from Sunni militants, from Shi'ite activists, from al Qaeda infiltrators, and from independent fundamentalists from neighboring countries. The American military "victory" has thus led to growing chaos on the ground in Iraq.

The funding for these forces is difficult to pinpoint. Clearly, Iranian imperialism, already identified by Washington as part of the "axis of evil," which faced saber-rattling by the US during the war in Iraq, and which feels the pressure from US forces in Iraq on its west and Afghanistan on its east, has an interest in the US being bogged down in Iraq (as well as Afghanistan) for as long as possible. Iran also has considerable influence with some shi-ite leaders. Bin Laden's financing from Saudi sources has been amply demonstrated in the aftermath of 9/11.

Loss of Political Authority for US Imperialism

Last spring the ICC noted that US efforts to demonstrate its military superiority and the ideological claptrap that it invented to justify its actions were undermining its political authority:

"Although the US continues to demonstrate its crushing military superiority to all the other major powers, the increasingly open character of its imperialist ambitions is tending to weaken its political authority. While in the immediate aftermath of September 11th the US was still able to some extent to present its action in Afghanistan as an act of legitimate self-defense, the justifications for the current war in Iraq have shown themselves to be completely threadbare, while its rivals have come forward as the best defenders of democratic values in the face of US bullying.(International Situation Resolution, Point 11)

Even in the American media the official Bush administration justifications for the invasion of Iraq have been demonstrated to be outright lies. For example, besides the above mentioned false charges of Saddam's link to al Qaeda, there was a list propaganda charges: Iraq was tied to the events of 9/11; Iraq not only had weapons of mass destruction but was preparing imminent use of such weapons; Iraq had conspired to have weapons grade plutonium smuggled in from Africa; Iraq was on the verge of developing and even using nuclear weapons

All these excuses for the rush to war against Iraq have all been revealed to be pure fabrications.

The fact that in his February speech to the Security Council, Secretary of State Powell used "evidence" reported in a British intelligence document that was largely plagiarized from outdated information published on the world wide web is now used by university professors in the US as an example of the folly of plagiarizing material from the web.

These revelations undermine US political authority not only in foreign countries but even within the US, where Bush's war-related approval ratings in the public opinion polls have declined sharply, as more and more people recognize that the government lied in order to rush off to war. Within the bourgeoisie itself there is growing criticism of the Bush administration's botching of the ideological campaign to justify the war, not because any bourgeois politician has any qualms about lying, but because getting caught in such a clumsy job will make it more difficult in the future to effectively marshal support at home and abroad for the inevitable further US military adventures. The differences currently voiced within the US bourgeoisie do not correspond to the level of divergences in Britain for example, where certain factions within the British ruling class are uncomfortable with Blair's close adherence to Washington's policies, or in other countries where pro-US and pro-Europe factions advocate different strategic policies.

On the contrary, in the US, the debate within the bourgeoisie is more on the level of tactics, over the best approach to take in advancing the shared strategic goal of assuring American dominance and blocking the rise of a rival power or imperialist bloc. Even former Secretary of State Madeline Albright, who has emerged as the most vocal and persistent critic of the Bush administration, is not really opposed to war against Iraq. Albright argues that the war could have been justified on human rights grounds more effectively, and that the administration should have worked more patiently and effectively to drag the European powers into providing legitimacy and financial support to the invasion, and should not have been in such a hurry to invade.

Apparent Retreat from Ultra-Unilateralism

The worsening quagmire has forced even Bush administration diehards to retreat for the moment from their ultra-unilateralism of last February, and their non-compromising rejection of any international involvement in the occupation and reconstruction of Iraq under UN auspices as no longer tenable. The growing financial and military burden has led the US to propose a new Security Council resolution to authorize UN peacekeeping forces, under US command of course, which is still being debated and disputed at the security council, with France once again leading opposition to US policy. This retreat from extreme unilateralism by the Bush administration should not be interpreted as being the result of some counter-offensive by Europe, led by France and Germany, to undermine the US, but rather as the result of pressures of decomposition and the characteristics of the current period that have produced difficulties for the US.

The apparent retreat from unilateralism should be seen as a pragmatic, temporary and partial phenomenon - an historical stutter - and not as an abandonment of American imperialism's decision to increasingly go it alone to defend its imperialist interests. The resolution remains correct in its assertion that: The US still sees the UN and NATO as dominated by potential rivals and as institutions to be sidestepped as much as possible, as the US feels compelled to increasingly go it alone in defending its imperialist dominance. One need only remember that in June, Bush added the G-8 Summit to the list of international institutions that the US seems to regard increasingly as irrelevant, when Bush left the Summit early in order to hurry off to visit America's new most-closest ally on the European continent: Poland.

The decision to appeal to the UN Security Council, to put pressure on Europe to shoulder part of the military and financial burden in Iraq is consistent with US imperialism's goal of press-ganging its rivals into begrudgingly supporting and endorsing its imperialism adventures that actually have the aim of subordinating those rivals.

In this sense, the devastating attack in August on UN Headquarters in Iraq must be considered in the context of US imperialism's campaign to get the European powers to take up the financial burden of Iraq, and to send occupation troops under US command. If we ask the question, who benefits from the attack, it is clear that it is US imperialism that gains the most from this "attack on the international community." In fact Pres. Bush himself used precisely this argument in his address to the American nation on Sept 7 in calling for the UN to join the occupation of Iraq, both in sending troops and in taking up financial costs.. While the US may not have been behind the attack, as the occupying power, US forces are responsible for security in Iraq in general, and specifically was responsibility for security at the UN compounded, and permitted the same security personnel from the Saddam period to work at the compound. We certainly have grounds for suspicion.

Impact on the Economic Crisis in the US

Last spring the ICC stated, "the damage that this insane project (invasion of Iraq) will inflict on the US economy is incalculable," (International Situation Resolution, Point 20) and referred to such economic difficulties as "explicitly rising unemployment, a fall in industrial production, a decline in consumer spending, stock market instability, corporate scandals and bankruptcies, and the return of the Federal budget deficit." The so-called two year-old economic recovery without a jobs recovery continues as an economic nightmare. The unemployment rate has momentarily dropped a few tenths of a percentage point, but only because so many discouraged workers have given up looking for jobs that don't exist and officially are no longer counted as members of the workforce (an example of how the American bourgeoisie takes a bad thing and makes it better). "The return of the Federal budget deficit" mentioned in the resolution now stands at an estimated $455 billion, and is expect to reach $600 billion next year. This means a swing of $729 billion in a period of three years, from a $129 budget surplus inherited from the Clinton administration. The annual cost of the war and occupation of Iraq is now equivalent to 163% of what the US government spends on education. Cutbacks on the social wage are proceeding with a vengeance, leading to still further deterioration in the standard of living of the working class. Such economic costs certainly put the lie to the vulgar economic materialist arguments advanced by some groups on the communist left and in the libertarian milieu that the US invasion of Iraq was motivated by a short term desire to boost oil company profits or to revive the ailing American economy. The only thing that can justify such astronomical costs for the American bourgeoisie is the defense of its imperialist interests on the geopolitical strategic level for the long term. The contradiction that confronts it and which it cannot surpass is that the very defense of its imperialist interests creates the circumstances that only further aggravate the challenges to those interests. - JG


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