14 years ago, just after the collapse of the eastern bloc, George Bush senior, followed by most of the western bourgeoisie, promised us a 'new world order' of peace and prosperity. The least we can say now - and the situation in Iraq is certainly the most crying example of this - is that what we have seen since then is growing chaos all over the planet.
Since the beginning of April, war has spread across Iraq. The murder in Falluja on March 31st of four American employees of the private security firm Blackwater, and the mutilation of their bodies, symbolised the opening of a new phase in the Iraq conflict. The armies of the Coalition, and above all of the US, are now facing not only an armed revolt by the Sunnis, but - and this is an new element - by the Shiites as well, since more and more of the latter have ranged themselves behind the young radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. The Wall Street Journal asks, "Is this the key component of a national Islamic front uniting the Sunni and Shiite Arabs against foreign intrusion?" The policies of US imperialism in Iraq are thus threatening to provoke an alliance of convenience, heavy with consequences for the whole region, and which would have been totally unthinkable a few months ago. The American strategy of counting on the Shiite majority in Iraq in order to keep the lid on chaos and maintain control of the Iraqi Governing Council has really come to nought. This increasingly unrealistic plan now depends on the capacity of Ayatollah al-Sistani to control the Shiite population. The generalisation of war across the country shows that the situation is more and more escaping the control of US imperialism.
Despite the necessity to carry on with the ideological campaign justifying their armed presence in Iraq, the US administration is obliged to go some way towards recognising the mess that their troops are in. Thus Donald Rumsfeld, the US defence minister, had of course to declare that "this is a hard test of our determination but we will be equal to it". But he also had to admit, "the Shiite rebellion poses a serious problem".
Equally damaging for US authority since Rumsfeld made this admission has been the decision to withdraw its troops from the Sunni stronghold of Fallujah after pounding the city relentlessly for days, and to try to 'restore order' by bringing in an Iraqi army force under the command of a former Baathist general. In the same week the Americans' credibility as 'liberators' took a further blow when it was revealed that US soldiers had been torturing and humiliating Iraqi prisoners in one of Saddam's most notorious prisons (and before the British army could repeat its usual claims about having a more softly-softly approach than the crude Yanks, news of torture by British troops also got out).
The weakening of US leadership is now more and more being displayed on the world's TV networks. The imperialist policy of the Bush administration is a resounding failure.
The increasing weakness of US leadership
Despite its crushing military superiority over all other countries, the USA does not have the ability to impose its will in Iraq. And this is all the more true in that the weakening of US leadership on the world scale sharpens the appetites of all the other imperialist powers. Amid the confusion reigning in Iraq today, armed terrorist groups are springing up everywhere. These more or less autonomous armed groups are united by one aim - to kick the American ogre out of Iraq. The radicalisation of these groups has been expressed by the growing practise of taking foreign civilians hostage, threatening to kill them if the occupying states don't withdraw their troops from Iraq. One Italian hostage has already been brutally murdered. But more characteristic of the state of imperialist tensions today is the role being played by Moqtada al-Sadr. His close links with Iran are well known. It seems very probable that the current insurrectionary stance of the Iraqi Shiites today has been actively supported by Iran. Iran is thus responding directly to American pressure against it. And despite this, Uncle Sam's current state of weakness is such that the US has had to ask officially for help from Iran in trying to resolve the current conflict. To get a real measure of the problems facing the US, we only have to recall the arrogant declarations thrown in the face of the world at the start of the war in Iraq a year ago. On 9 April 2003, at the annual convention of the American Society of News Editors, the US Vice President Dick Cheney asserted that in no circumstances would the US transfer control of the occupation of Iraq to the UN: "The president has clearly made it known that we won't do it�Our objective is to create and set in motion as quickly as possible an intermediary authority composed of Iraqis, and to transfer authority to them and not to the UN or any other external group". At that point Iraq had been included in the 'Axis of Evil' made up of 'rogue' states such as North Korea, Syria and Iran. These countries were publicly accused of possessing weapons of mass destruction and of being organisers of terrorism. They were clearly identified as potential military targets after Iraq had been dealt with. We can see where things stand today. Kamal Kharazi (the chief Iranian diplomat) said on April 6th that, "The USA has asked for Tehran's help to try to resolve the crisis and reduce the growing violence in Iraq". The head of the Iranian delegation currently in Baghdad declared: "we are here to get a clear idea of the situation and a better understanding of what's happening. There is no mediation". Things are clear for all these imperialist bandits. Everything has its price. And today, because it's in a situation of weakness, it's the US that has to pay its dues.
The development of war and chaos in Iraq does not at all bode well for the future. The priority of the US army is to neutralise Shiite support for Moqtada al-Sadr. With this aim they have begun an assault on Najaf and the neighbouring town of Kufa. Intervening in the holy city of Najaf can only be a factor of further destabilisation, not only in Iraq but also well beyond its borders. It will be an important step in the process of decomposition engulfing the whole region. The US attack on Najaf has already been opposed by the Iraqi Governing Council: "All the Shiite members of the IGC, included the laymen, will oppose such an attack and refuse to cooperate with the provisional authority of the coalition" (Courrier International, 15 April). This will also be the case with the religious leader Ayatollah al-Sistani, who up till now has been one of the few points of support for the US in the country.
There seems to be no port in the Iraqi storm for US imperialism. A majority of the American bourgeoisie has come round to this position. This is why they are pushing the candidature of the Democrat John Kerry so strongly for the next presidential elections. The American bourgeoisie has no choice but to try to limit the damage in Iraq and to find some kind of political solution - contrary to its whole approach at the start of the war. It is now being forced to appeal to its main imperialist rivals - France, Germany and Russia. The days when the USA declared that it didn't need anybody's help in the struggle against the 'Axis of Evil' are long gone. But even if Kerry came to power in place of the Bush administration, nothing would really be resolved. The New York Times pointed out that "John Kerry, was very much present in Washington, but he tried to avoid the Iraq question by focusing his interventions on the American economy. When the journalists insisted on him giving his opinion, he moved away from his prepared speech and launched into one of his most virulent attacks on Bush's policy in Iraq. But he was incapable of saying precisely what he would do if he himself was in command" (Courrier International, 8 April). Certainly the situation in Iraq obliges Kerry to envisage keeping US troops there. This inability of the American bourgeoisie to see a way of halting the erosion of US leadership on a world scale was also demonstrated in George Bush's press conference on 13 April. The Los Angeles Times found it highly significant that "faced with a situation in Iraq which is more and more escaping him, Bush insisted on his determination to make this country a stable democracy, without saying how that might come about". But an even more eloquent sign of the disarray of the American bourgeoisie occurred at this conference when a journalist asked Bush what lessons he drew from events since 11 September 2001. This is how the Washington Post describes it: "Bush stopped speaking, shook his head, apparently unable to come up with an answer to a question which he must have worked on a great deal with his advisers in preparation for the press conference. In the end, the only thing he was able to say was 'I am sure that an answer will come to mind in the very particular conditions of this press conference where you always have to have an answer for everything. But for the moment, it's not coming'" (Courrier International, 15 April).
One alternative: communist revolution or the destruction of humanity
Whatever the result of the next US presidential election, and however much it modifies its imperialist policy, the weakening of American leadership can only serve to deepen the chaos in Iraq and accelerate the global process of decomposition. The profound disarray and impotence of the world's leading power is a clear expression of this.
In the months ahead, Iraq is doomed to increasing bloodshed. The entrance of the Shiites into the conflict can only have deeply destabilising effects throughout the region, especially in Iran where they represent a major part of the population. Furthermore, while in Afghanistan the Karzai government and the American troops only control the capital and its immediate surroundings, the US administration has simply rubber stamped Sharon's expansionist policy on the West Bank of the Jordan. The embarrassed silence of a good part of the US bourgeoisie at the UN when Germany, France and Russia were denouncing Sharon's policy tells us a lot about the objectives of the USA's main imperialist rivals. To let the US get sucked into the mess in Iraq, to take advantage of its difficulties elsewhere in the world - this is the only real concern of these 'peace-loving' powers.
The impotence of the US bourgeoisie faced with the military chaos in Iraq is a concrete expression of the general impasse facing capitalist society as a whole. The whole world bourgeoisie faces the same situation, and this can only lead to increasingly warlike policies from all of them. The working class has to understand that decaying capitalism can only create more Iraqs across the planet - including in the heartlands of the system. The development of the situation in Iraq is a new confirmation that the future facing humanity is communism or the total destruction of civilisation.