War on terrorism: more wars, more terror

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A war against weapons of mass destruction? It's becoming increasingly clear that they are not going to find any. Rumsfeld has admitted that Saddam's regime may have destroyed them before the war. Deputy US defence secretary Paul Wolfowitz has gone one step further. According to the Guardian (30.5.03) "Wolfowitz told Vanity Fair magazine that the decision to highlight weapons of mass destruction as the main reason for invading Iraq was taken for 'bureaucratic' reasons, indicating that Washington did not take the threat seriously". Thus speaks the supreme arrogance of supreme power. Tony Blair however has had to present the whole story with his hand on his heart, and faces a good deal more political opposition from within his own class. This is why he has to brave it out and "remain confident" that these elusive weapons will be found. The basic point has not changed: Bush and Blair justified the war by arguing that Iraq's weapons constituted a clear and present danger to the people of American and Europe. Blair even claimed in the House of Commons that Iraq was primed and ready to strike within 45 minutes. The war proved once and for all that Iraq's military capabilities were virtually zero.

So all that was a huge lie.

A war against terrorism then? But even if the Saddam regime (like countless regimes around the world, not least Britain, as the Stevens inquiry has shown) had links with terrorist groups, the last way that terrorism can be stopped is by mass bombing and military occupation. No sooner was the war in Iraq over than suicide bombers struck in Riyadh, Casablanca and in several towns in Israel. Even in Iraq, shadowy anti-American forces have gunned down US troops. Major cities in the US and Britain have been put on terrorist alert. The war has increased the threat of terrorist revenge attacks.

So that was another lie.

But surely the Iraqi people will be better off without Saddam? Look at the mass graves they found, dating back to the 1991 uprising. He killed thousands and thousands of his own people�

That's true. But let's not forget the responsibility of the 'liberating' countries in all of Saddam's murders. Not only because Saddam was to all intents and purposes put in power by the USA, and armed by them (as well as today's 'peace-camp' countries like France, Germany and Russia) to counter the power of Iran in the region. But also because in 1991 the 'Coalition' of the day called on the Kurds and Shias to rise against the Baathist regime, and then quite deliberately allowed Saddam the weapons he needed to crush them. This was because at that time the US privately accepted that the Butcher of Baghdad was the only force that could prevent the break-up of Iraq.

As for being better off, what is the situation in Iraq today? The 'freedom' brought by US and British tanks is proving to be the 'freedom' of armed gangs of all kinds to impose their will on a desperate population. The list of those - civilians and unwilling conscripts - slaughtered by US and British bombs certainly runs into thousands, perhaps tens of thousands. This death toll will be increased considerably by the break-down in electricity and water supplies, by the collapse of medical services and shortages of food. Attempts to form a new civil administration have come to nothing: in Basra the British set up a municipal authority and dissolved it again almost immediately.

In the absence of any real alternative, many Iraqis are turning to the religious authorities and calling for an Islamic state. Would that be an improvement over Saddam?

The situation in Afghanistan gives us a clue about the real concerns of the US and British 'liberators'. Bush promised that the US would not walk away from Afghanistan. And it's true that US troops are still fighting Taliban forces there. But there has been very little reconstruction and the writ of the Barzai regime hardly even extends to the whole of Kabul, let alone to the rest of the country where the war lords have slotted right back into their old ways. More wars loom

But the Middle East 'road map to peace' - isn't that a benefit of the US victory in Iraq? There's no doubt that the US efforts to stabilise its domination of the Middle East demands a settlement of the Palestinian problem. That is why there has been a huge increase in US pressure not only on the Palestinian leadership but also on Sharon. The new Palestinian Prime Minister, Mahmoud Abbas, was put in place precisely to strengthen the 'moderate' forces in the Palestinian leadership. The US has warned both Syria and Iran that they must stop supporting Hizbollah's terrorist campaign against Israel; Abbas himself says he can persuade Hamas and Islamic Jihad to call a halt to the suicide bombings. And Sharon, despite opposition from the right wing in his own government, has, after exacting a few verbal concessions from the Americans, signed up to the road map, accepting the idea of a Palestinian state and recognising that a perpetuation of the Israeli occupation was "bad for Israel and bad for the Palestinians". A meeting between Sharon and Abbas is scheduled for the first week in June.

But even if all the tremendous obstacles to a political settlement of the Palestinian problem were removed, let's recall the real reasons for the USA's policy in the Middle East, whether in Palestine or Iraq. It is dictated not by any humanitarian concerns but by its innate imperialist needs. In the Middle East, this is not simply a question of making profits from oil, as so many in the 'peace camp' claim. Controlling Middle East oil is first and foremost a strategic goal for the USA, a potential weapon aimed at its main imperialist rivals, and part of a planet-wide strategy to maintain its world 'leadership' and prevent the rise of any power able to challenge it. And the same basic imperialist drives also oblige other powers, greater ones like France, Germany and Russia, Japan and China, or lesser ones like Iran, Syria, or North Korea, to counter US advances however and whenever they can, even if the US victory in Iraq has forced them to adopt a low profile for the moment (see the article on France and Germany on page 5).

'Peace' between the Israelis and Palestinians would merely remove a thorn in the US flesh that would allow it to concentrate its attention elsewhere. Already it is making highly bellicose noises in the direction of Iran, accusing it of harbouring senior al Qaida operatives and of building up a nuclear weapons programme. The ominous term 'regime change' is already being bandied about. It seems that there are differences between the Pentagon and the State department on this issue, with the latter favouring a more diplomatic approach aimed at winning over the 'reformist' elements around Khatemi, but the increasingly aggressive rhetoric coming from the Pentagon can only strengthen the hand of the religious conservatives in Tehran and so heighten the danger of a new conflict in the region.

The war in Iraq was fought not to eliminate weapons of mass destruction, not to rid the world of terrorism, and not for the benefit of the Iraqi people. It was an imperialist war fought for the sordid interests of capitalism. And like all the wars of the 20th and 21st centuries, it will generate new wars and an ever-mounting spiral of destruction.

That is the future that capitalism offers humanity, unless its headlong flight towards the abyss is turned aside by the proletarian revolution. Given the low levels of class struggle over the past decade, this may seem like a forlorn hope to many; but the working class is far from the spent force that the bourgeoisie would have us believe. Capitalism's economic crisis, which pushes the system towards war, also obliges the working class to fight in defence of its living standards; and in the main centres of the system the proletariat has not been subjected to a crushing and final defeat, nor yet ground into the dust by the remorseless decomposition of capitalist society. The future belongs to the class struggle!

WR, 30/5/03.