In WR 284 we said that the election campaign had been
“filled with attacks on Tony Blair for his dishonesty in taking Britain to
war in Iraq, for leaning on the Attorney General to give legal advice in favour
of launching the invasion. This has undoubtedly been a message to the PM that
an election victory should not be seen as a reason to stay in office
The elections in Palestine and Iraq, we are told, have been great triumphs for democracy. George Bush was euphoric about them in his State of the Union speech. The peoples of the Middle East are not just getting peace but freedom and democracy too!
For Bush, spreading such noble ideals around the planet is the sacred mission of the USA. Few of the USA’s main imperialist rivals – Germany, France, Russia, etc – failed to heed the message: despite the Iraq fiasco, US imperialism will continue to assert its interests wherever it chooses.
In a situation of generalised chaos, of permanent civil war, of daily terrorist attacks and the abduction of hostages of all nationalities including Iraqis, the American army in Iraq has launched a new land and air offensive. For the first time since the beginning of the war, Iraqi soldiers armed entirely by the US and under American command have taken part in the first phase of this offensive. As the Financial Times put it "it's better to confer military operations on Iraqi forces in order to minimise the political repercussions". On October 3 this resulted in the fall of Samara, 100km north of Baghdad. The assault involved bitter fighting and house to house searches. It is well known that many civilians died even though statistics are hard to verify. According to a recent inquiry by a team of American and Iraqi researchers, the number of civilians killed since the beginning of the invasion in March 2003 may be as high as 100,000, the majority the result of aerial bombardments by the Coalition, which now hardly even bothers to claim that it is using 'precision' methods aimed at limiting civilian deaths. Since the team was unable to operate in Falluja, which has been reduced to a semi-ruin, the real casualty figures could be even higher.
One year after the invasion of Iraq and the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, the American occupation of the country is in deep trouble. The burst of intense violence in April in Central and Southern Iraq has sent any semblance of political stability and military gains achieved during the last year down the drain. The death toll among the American soldiers is mounting. In fact, more soldiers have died in the last weeks than during the official war period that led to Saddam's removal from power. The brand new American trained Iraqi security forces have routinely "dropped out of sight" during these last weeks of fighting, or, worse, joined the anti-American forces. The circle of violence against the Americans has grown from Sunni Muslims identified with the old regime and foreign terrorist groups to include a faction of Shiite Muslims -the majority religious group in Iraq that was often the worst victim of Saddam's repression- led by cleric Moqtada Al-Sadr. In fact, the US and its supporters are increasingly isolated. Today, anybody identified as being on the American side has become a target of the rising anti-American violence. Iraqis working for the US at any level, do so at the risk of losing theirs lives at any moment, while foreigners working for the so called "reconstruction" effort are facing a wave of kidnappings and killings. A year after the "conquest" of the country the American media can't show anymore flower-bearing children thanking the occupation army for their "freedom". On the contrary, the youth of Baghdad are more likely today to be on the side of the hysteric mob, celebrating the last killing of one more American soldier. In sum, it seems that the so-called "liberated" population of Iraq has turned against its "liberators".
The situation in Iraq this spring has become a total disaster for US imperialism. The highlights of this mess include:
The highest number of casualties for American military forces since the official end of the war, which had been triumphantly, if prematurely, marked by President Bush's "mission accomplished" theatrics on an American aircraft carrier at sea last May.
Simultaneous armed uprisings by both Shiites and Sunnis in Iraq, neither of which the American military was able to put down by force. In both cases the US military command had to back down from publicly stated operational goals and negotiate compromises. For example, the American punitive expedition against the Sunni city of Falluja, where four American mercenaries (officially called security "contractors" by US authorities) had been killed and their corpses mutilated, became bogged down in a nearly month-long siege that inadvertently provoked a momentary unity between Sunnis and Shiites against the American occupation, ended in a stalemate. The negotiated settlement to the siege of Falluja put the city under the military control of a Sunni militia commanded by a Baathist general of Saddam Hussein's Republican Guard. After embarrassing revelations about their new ally, the Americans replaced him with another general from Saddam's regular army.
The American crackdown against the militant Shiite cleric, Sadr, who the American authorities had vowed to "arrest or kill," provoked a 7-week rebellion by Sadr's militia, the Mahdi army. By early June, the Americans were again forced to back down, negotiating a truce with Sadr, whose militia was allowed to withdraw, but not disband or surrender its weapons, and the warrant for his arrest was withdrawn.
Supporters of the US have been under attack, including regular terrorist attacks near the entry to the American occupation government headquarters, which resulted in the assassination of the head of governing council in May, and at least 3 high ranking officials in June.
The scandal around the abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison was the final nail in the coffin for the Bush administration's ideological justifications for the war. Already all the propaganda about Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) and Saddam's alleged links to al Qaeda as reasons for invading Iraq had been thoroughly discredited. Now the torture, brutalization, and even murder of prisoners eliminated the last vestige of ideological justification - the "defense of human rights." The prison scandal turned that particular "reason" into a sick joke.
The main US ally in Iraq, Chalabi, a favored client of Vice President Cheney, and Pentagon confidant has been dumped, cut off from his $400,000 per month US subsidy, and accused of ties to Iran.
US authorities suffer increasing difficulties in manipulating its hand-picked governing council, which rejected the US choice for interim President of the provisional government.
The costs for waging the war in Iraq, and in Afghanistan, are completely out of control. The administration has requested an additional $75 billion from Congress, giving the lie to its pre-invasion claims that the occupation and reconstruction of Iraq would be self-financed through the sale of Iraqi oil on the world market. In fact, the Iraq oil industry, which was not seriously damaged during the invasion, had been so weakened by ten years of US-imposed economic sanctions, that the occupying authority has been compelled to import oil into Iraq.
With its political authority eroding badly, the US has been forced into a series of abrupt policy about-faces. For example, the US has abandoned:
its policy of banning Baathist party members and military officers from government posts in the "new" Iraq
its policy of dismantling the private militias loyal to the various religious and ethnic factions in Iraq
its policy of ultra-unilateralism, appealing to the previously vilified United Nations for political cover for the occupation of Iraq.
A Weakening of American Imperialist Leadership
It is important to be clear that this is a crisis, not of the Bush administration, but of American imperialism as a whole. The strategy to block the rise of any potential rivals, and even the use of unilateral military action to support the implementation of that strategic goal is an orientation shared by all major factions of the American ruling class. Despite recent criticisms of Bush's unilateralism from certain factions within the bourgeoisie, the fact is that US imperialism has always acted unilaterally on the international arena since the end of World War II. However, during the Cold War when the US acted unilaterally, making major imperialist policy decisions that effected the entire western bloc, whether it was war in Korea, or in Vietnam or the deployment of intermediate range nuclear missiles in Europe without prior consultation with its "allies," it could count on the discipline of the bloc to force its partners to go along with its decisions. In the post-Cold War period, the disappearance of the imperialist confrontation with a rival bloc, which was the basis of that international discipline, has made it more difficult for the US to get other imperialisms to sacrifice their own interests and submit to American diktat. The first Gulf War against Iraq in 1991 was designed precisely to get the European powers to support American imperialism, even against their own interests, and remind them that the US was still the dominant power. The ideology of human rights was used repeatedly by the Clinton administration during the 1990s to justify its military actions in the Balkans and Iraq. The current criticism of Bush's unilateralism is premised on the contention that his administration has used the wrong tactics and abandoned prematurely efforts to get the European powers to endorse the US invasion.
The leading representatives of the US dominant class have
followed up their victorious war against Iraq and the military
occupation of that country with a flurry of political and
diplomatic activity. Mr. Bush, Colin Powell and D. Rumsfeld, among
others, have been busy visiting the capitals of Europe, the Middle
East, Asia and Latin America, trumpeting the US dream of a world
under Americaís unquestioned imperial dominance. Meanwhile,
contrasting with the US bouorgeoisieís fine speeches about
the gains in the war against terrorism, the bright future of Iraq,
and the prospects of a peaceful Middle East, the sinister reality
of capitalism is in full display in this region and on worldwide
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
In the last few days, the situation in Iraq has once again returned to the front pages of the bourgeois daily papers. The latest attempt of the US forces to crush the radical shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and his ?Mahdi army? in their Najaf stronghold has spurred a new wave of violence across Iraq, from the slums of Baghdad to practically all Shiite cities of southern Iraq. Cities and towns are being bombed and hit by rockets, adding untold numbers of dead and injured to the growing list of victims in this latest example of capitalist barbarism. The much ballyhooed ?return of sovereignty to the Iraqi people? at the end of June notwithstanding, after over a over one year since ?major hostilities? were declared over, the war shows no signs of abating. The American casualties of war are reaching one thousand soldiers dead while thousands have been injured and condemned to a life of physical pain and psychological problems. And regardless of the many promises that preceded the US invasion of Iraq, there won?t be road to a prosperous, peaceful and ?democratic? Iraq.
On the 1st of May 2003, President George Bush - the cowboy turned fighter pilot-landing on an aircraft carrier under a banner that read "Mission Accomplished", announced with great fanfare the end of the military phase of the war against Iraq. Saddam Hussein's regime, confronted with the overwhelming military superiority of the US war machine, had collapsed in a few weeks of war without presenting any meaningful resistance. In the celebration that followed, the American bourgeoisie, full of itself, announced the beginning of a new era of peace and democracy for the "liberated" Iraqi population and for all the countries of the Middle East. Today, seven months after, there is not much to brag about it. The new free Iraq is so dangerous a place that the man behind the army that liberated it, Mr. Bush, had to sneak into the country in the middle of the night-protected of course by a lot more than just darkness - to share Thanksgiving dinner with his "brave warriors." The Middle East is not much better a place than before the war, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is still very much alive, while the chaos and instability of Iraq are spreading to Saudi Arabia and Turkey, where there have been recent brutal terrorist actions that have left dozen dead and hundreds of people wounded.
A War Without End
In the wake of Stalinism's collapse, the end of the XX century was celebrated by the dominant class all around the world as the beginning of a new era of peace and prosperity in the life of capitalism. The disappearance of the division of the world in two major imperialist blocs was supposed to end the bloodshed and the potential thermonuclear obliteration of human beings and any other form of life in the planet. The chronic state of economic crisis and the poverty suffered by most of humanity was said to be finally on the way to being resolved thanks to economic globalization and other marvels of democratic capitalism.
For more than a year now not a day has passed without a new act of barbarism in the Israel-Palestinian conflict in the Middle East. The age-old ideologies of Palestinian nationalism and Israel Zionism, more than half a century after the inception of Israel and the first Arab-Israeli war, continue to fuel havoc in this region. The spectacle is absolutely appalling. On one side, radical Palestinian militants blow themselves up together along innocent victims in suicidal terrorist attacks; suicidal armed confrontations against an adversary thousands of times better armed and organized; children, women and desperate young Palestinians aiming to kill at random, so long as the victim is a Jew. On the other hand, rubble, destruction and death caused by all-powerful Israeli state terror displayed with cynical impunity and total disregard for human life. On both sides populations living in fear, hating each other and ready to kill, poisoned to the core by the nationalist ideologies of their respective dominant classes.
Four weeks after unleashing its terrifying war machine over
Iraq the US bourgeoisie is getting ready to claim victory.
Overmatched and out-gunned by an enemy far superior in every
military aspect Iraq’s armed forces have been practically
destroyed. Sadam Hussein’s regime has collapsed; all major
sate functionaries (included Hussein) have been killed or are in
the run. The so-called “coalition” forces have taken
military control of all the main strategic areas of the country.
Ten of thousands -perhaps hundreds, no body knows exactly or has
cared to count, of Iraqi soldiers and civilians have been
slaughtered or maimed by the US killing machine. The devastation
of basic infrastructure and the destruction of material wealth by
the aerial bombardment of the war and the fighting in the ground,
is being compound by the destruction caused by mobs acts of
revenge against perceived symbols of the fallen Iraq’s
regime, the settling of accounts between ethnic and religious
groups and the mass looting undertaken by some sectors of the
“liberated” Iraqi population.
Now that the butchery and destruction of the US military intervention in Iraq has been declared officially over, it is time to make a brief balance sheet of the various claims made in Britain to provide a political alternative to imperialist war. We won't bother here with the huge marches against the war in Iraq, organised by the Stop the War Coalition that was supported by leftists of all descriptions as well by the Labour Left, the Muslim Association of Britain, the Daily Mirror and others. They not only did not prevent the war taking place but also gave it a green light. By mobilising millions behind the illusion that a peaceful imperialism was possible they proved to the executive organs of the state that there was no effective counter force to the imperialist juggernaut.
On 28 August last year, as America tried to build international support for its impending war against Iraq, US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld compared President Bush's international isolation over plans to attack Iraq with the lonely stand taken by Winston Churchill before the Second World War. In the face of appeasers and doubters at home and abroad, he told 3,000 assembled US marines, Winston Churchill realised what a threat Hitler posed to Europe. Similarly, he added, President Bush knew that "leadership in the right direction finds followers and supporters."
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.
Before the US and Britain started the bombardment and invasion of Iraq the 'peace' movement echoed with cries that this war was immoral, illegal and undemocratic. Clare Short, Glenda Jackson, Mo Mowlem and Charles Kennedy thought that, in the event of war, it was necessary to support the military effort. They were described as turncoats, but their views were shared by many, including such as the leader of the Australian Labor Party, Simon Crean, who supports the war while still describing it as wrong.
In order to mount a real opposition to imperialist war, revolutionaries have to be able to look beneath all the false explanations for this or that conflict. The media and the politicians from left to right have certainly provided enough of these in the war in Iraq: it's all down to the evil Saddam, or to the no less evil George Bush and his cronies in the oil business, and so on and so forth. Our article 'What is imperialism?' in this issue shows why imperialist wars are the inevitable product not of this or that state or leader, but of the entire capitalist system at a certain stage of its development. But the revolutionary analysis of war does not only provide a general theoretical understanding of the drive to war. Like Rosa Luxemburg in her Junius Pamphlet, written during the First World War, it is also necessary to examine in depth the particular strategies of the various imperialist powers engaged in a conflict. In the article that follows we are therefore putting forward a broad framework for uncovering the real aims and policies that lie behind the actions and phoney justifications of the competing imperialist powers today. From Gulf War One to Gulf War Two
In January the ICC participated in an Anti-War Day School organised by Disobedience, which belongs to the same milieu as the No War But The Class War (NWBTCW) group in London. The group states in a broadsheet given out at the February 'Stop the War' demonstration that "To say No War But the Class War! means that we don't take sides between America and Iraq, Iraq and the Kurds, America and France...Rather we make sides, by asserting that the dispossessed, the workers, the poor of all nations have one enemy - the exploiters who dispossess them, who make them work, who make them poor". In the present circumstances, with the progression of wars in Kosovo, Afghanistan, and soon Iraq, the importance of even a small milieu opposing war on a working class basis should not be underestimated. For this reason we produced a contribution to the discussions at the Day School (see WR 261) emphasising the historical experience of the working class in opposition to war.
We offered this text as a contribution to the discussions at an Anti-War Day School organised by Disobedience in January, in which we participated. It is an appeal for a discussion based on the historical experience of the working class, in particular its revolutionary minorities. The issues raised were similar to those at the Zero War conference held in Australia in December.
Recorded history is a succession of civilisations which have risen to their peak, fallen into decline, and disappeared. The despotic empires of Sumeria, Egypt, Mexico, China or India; the slave systems of Greece and Rome; the feudal order of mediaeval Europe�each one of these and many others went through periods of flowering when they gave the best of themselves to the world as it then was and to future generations, and through periods of decadence, where their internal contradictions pushed them into a series of catastrophes resulting in their final demise.
Two years ago the attack on the Twin Towers in New York opened the way to an acceleration of military tensions unprecedented since the end of the cold war. This new step into a world of chaos was justified by the so-called ‘struggle against international terrorism’, combined with a ‘battle for the defence of democracy’. This lying propaganda can no longer mask the real worsening of inter-imperialist conflicts between the great powers, in particular between the USA and its former allies in the western bloc.
The bourgeoisie's war drums are beating all over the planet. The famous promise made by Bush Senior in 1990 that we were entering a 'New World Order' of peace and prosperity have proved to be a cynical lie; in reality war has become more and more permanent and threatening for humanity. Those who talk the most about 'peace' and 'humanitarianism' and the 'fight against terrorism' are worthy defenders of a system which is dragging the human race towards mass destruction.
George Bush Senior promised a New World Order. At the start of the 1990s, with the Berlin Wall down, there were no longer two great military blocs facing each other, and we were told that the threat of war had faded. That was a lie. The reality has been a proliferation of military conflicts across the face of the planet.
A week after the Countryside Alliance's march in London (for "Liberty and Livelihood") came the demonstration initiated by the Stop the War coalition and the Muslim Association of Britain ("Don't Attack Iraq - Freedom for Palestine"). The earlier march was characterised as a lot of 'toffs' and Tories coming to town, but not every one there was a big 'fat cat' landowner: some were agricultural workers, some impoverished small farmers and some who've felt the very real decline in rural services. Similarly there were many who went on the 28 September march who were genuinely concerned about the drive towards war and wanted to find a way to express their fears. From the noise and crush of the start at the Embankment to the procession of speakers at the end in Hyde Park many must have wondered what sort of 'anti-war' event they'd got themselves involved in.
A policy for imperialism
The looming war against Iraq, coming after the wars in ex-Yugoslavia and Afghanistan is causing great concern, particularly in the working class. Young men and women, dragooned into the armed forces by economic conscription, are being sent to the Gulf, while the rest of the working class pays the cost of the war through increased taxes and exploitation. Much of the concern and unease is focused on the aims of the war, particularly the idea that the US is going to war in order to gain control of Iraq's oil supplies. This is an idea encouraged by the Left, particularly in the Daily Mirror, which has consistently linked the war to oil: through TV advertisements, on its front pages etc. Left-wing groups such as the Socialist Workers Party, also say the same thing, in more 'radical' language.
The official meaning of the war in Afghanistan: the defence of the civilised, democratic world against terrorism and Islamic fanaticism, fought by the civilised and democratic states standing shoulder to shoulder with the USA.
Imperialist war always puts revolutionaries to the test. Against the propaganda
of the ruling class, which aims to win over the working class, or at
least to silence it, the first duty of a revolutionary organisation is
to denounce the war: to say as loudly and as clearly as it can that
imperialist war is never in the interests of the working class.
We have just received issue no. 2 of the Internationalist Notes bulletin in Canada. The comrades who have put out this bulletin describe themselves as "a small nucleus of left communist workers" who are seeking to clarify "the major elements of a left communist platform"...
ideology of globalisation has generated many myths - as much by
its ‘opponents’ as by its advocates. In particular
there is the idea that multinational corporations are out of the
control of nation states and can move capital to wherever they
can make the most profit, regardless of the local circumstances.
Ralph Nader wants to save capitalism from the big corporations.
Noam Chomsky denounces unaccountable private power and the
international institutions which impose the ‘Washington
consensus’ of ‘neo-liberalism’. The power of
‘international capital’ (which can be used to mean the
US, or big corporations, or the biggest powers, or just an
abstract ‘evil’) is presented as being so great that it
can even overcome the drive of national capitals towards war. In
the words of a leftist group, the “pillage” of
the poorest countries continues, not in the same way as the 19th
century, but with “the urbane international banker
replacing the colonial soldier and tax collector” (Workers
Liberty, July 2000). To back up this view that the big global
corporations now rule the world, it has been said that t has been said that ‘no
two countries with a McDonalds have ever gone to war’.