US imperialism in a quagmire

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Bogged down by the war in Iraq, the manifest failure of the war on international terrorism with the growth in deadly attacks, not only in the Middle East but throughout the world: this is not just a setback but a truly stinging reverse for the USA.

The American bourgeoisie is in an impasse

How is it possible that the world’s greatest army, equipped with the most modern technological means, the most effective electronic systems, the most sophisticated armaments capable of locating and reaching their targets at distances of thousands of kilometres, should find itself trapped in such a mire? For the ruling class the answer is evident, it can only be the manifest incompetence of Bush junior, “the worst President in America’s history. He’s ignorant, he’s arrogant, he’s stupid” (in the words of American writer, Norman Mailer). This explanation is easy and works all the better since George Bush doesn’t have to work very hard to make it credible. However, this explanation is miles away from the real problem (which is its chief merit for the bourgeoisie). It is not this or that individual at the summit of the state who makes capitalism go in this or that direction, but, on the contrary, the state of the system which determines the political orientations. The greatest world power must, is compelled, to hold on to its position. The United States could not have any policy other than that put forward by Paul Wolfowitz (now a leading member of the Republican administration) at the beginning of the 1990s: “America’s political and military mission in the post-cold-war era will be to insure that no rival superpower is allowed to emerge in Western Europe, Asia or the territory of the former Soviet Union”. This ‘doctrine’ was made public in March 1992 when the American bourgeoisie still had illusions in the success of its strategy, in the wake of the collapse of the USSR and the reunification of Germany. With this aim, several years ago, they declared that to mobilise the nation and impose America’s democratic values on the entire world and prevent imperialist rivalry “we need a new Pearl Harbour”. Remember the Japanese attack on the American naval base in 1941, which resulted in 4,500 American dead and wounded, and allowed the United States to enter the war on the Allied side by tipping public opinion which until then had been reticent about this war. The highest American political authorities were aware the attack was being planned and did nothing about it. Since then they have simply applied their policy: the attacks on 11 September were their “new Pearl Harbour” and in the name of a new crusade against terrorism they have been able to justify the invasion of Afghanistan and then Iraq.

The result of this policy, the only one that the world’s greatest imperialist power can carry out, is damning: 3,000 soldiers killed since the beginning of the war in Iraq three years ago (of whom more than 2,800 are American), 655,000 Iraqis perished between March 2003 and July 2006, since when the deadly terrorist attacks and confrontations between Shiites and Sunnis have started to intensify. There are 160,000 soldiers of occupation on Iraqi soil under the supreme command of the United States, who are incapable of ‘carrying out their mission of maintaining order’ in a country on the edge of civil war. Not only are the Shiite and Sunni militia violently confronting one another, as they have since a few months ago, but also the local rival Shiite gangs are tearing each other apart and spreading terror, particularly in the conflict between Moqtada al-Sadr’s gang (the self-styled Mehdi army) and the Al-Badr brigades (linked to the dominant faction in government) mainly responsible for the slaughter at Amara, Nasiriya, Basra where they tried to impose their rule. In the South of the country the Sunni activists who proudly proclaim their links to the Taliban and Al-Qaida have self-proclaimed an ‘Islamic republic’ while, in the Baghdad region, the population is exposed to car, bus and even bicycle bombs, as well as gangs of looters. The shortest sortie by isolated American troops sees them exposed  to ambushes.

Iraq has fallen into an inextricable bloody chaos

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan also swallow up colossal sums that dig ever deeper into the budget deficit, precipitating the United States into astronomical debt. The situation in Afghanistan is no less catastrophic. The interminable hunt for Al Qaida and the presence of an army of occupation gives credit to the Taliban (toppled from power in 2002 but rearmed by Iran and more discretely by China) whose ambushes and terrorist attacks are multiplying. The ‘evil terrorists’, Bin Laden or the Taliban regime, were both alike creatures of the US to counter the USSR, at the time of the imperialist blocs, after the Russian invasion of Afghanistan. The first was a former spy recruited by the CIA in 1979 who, after having served as a financial intermediary in the arms trade from Saudi Arabia and the USA to the Afghan guerrillas, ‘naturally’ became the intermediary for the Americans to finance the Afghan resistance from the beginning of the Russian invasion. As for the Taliban, they were armed and financed by the USA and their accession to power was accomplished with Uncle Sam’s full blessing.

It is obvious that this great crusade against terrorism, far from eradicating it, has only opened the way for more and more terrorist actions and suicide bombings whose only purpose is to affect as many victims as possible. Today the White House is powerless in the face of the Iranian state cocking a snook at it in the most humiliating way. Besides, this gives space to fourth or fifth rank powers, like North Korea which undertook a nuclear test on 8 October, making it potentially the eighth country with atomic weapons. This huge challenge imperils the equilibrium of South East Asia and encourages others with aspirations to possess nuclear weapons[1]. Japan’s rapid militarisation and rearmament and its orientation towards the production of nuclear weapons will find a pretext in the need to face up to its immediate neighbours.

We must also consider the terrible conflict raging in the Middle East and particularly in the Gaza Strip. Following the Hamas electoral victory in January, direct international aid has been suspended and the Israeli government has blocked the transfer of funds from tax and customs duties to the Palestinian Authority. 165,000 of its employees have not been paid for 7 months but their anger, as well as that of the whole population, with 70% living on the threshold of poverty, with 44% unemployment, has easily been recuperated into the confrontations in the streets between the Hamas and Fatah militias, which have occurred with renewed regularity since 1 October. The attempts at a government of national unity have all been aborted. At the same time, after its retreat from South Lebanon, Tsahal (the Israeli armed forces) has gone back into the frontier with Egypt as far as the Gaza Strip and restarted its missile bombardment of Rafah under the pretext of hunting for Hamas activists.

The population lives in a climate of permanent terror and insecurity. Since 25 June 300 deaths have been recorded in the territory.

So the American policy fiasco is obvious. This is why the Bush administration is being so widely called into question, even by Republicans. 60% of the American population think that the war in Iraq was a ‘bad choice’, a large part of them no longer believe that Saddam held nuclear potential nor had links to Al Qaida, and think this was a pretext to justify an intervention in Iraq. Half a dozen recent books (among them one by Bob Woodward, the prominent journalist who uncovered the Watergate scandal under Nixon) implacably denounce this state “lie” and call for the withdrawal of troops from Iraq. This does not mean that the militarist US policy can be abandoned but the government is constrained to take account of and display its own contradictions in order to adapt it.

Bush’s latest supposed ‘gaffe’, admitting the parallel with the Vietnam war goes with these ‘flights’… orchestrated by the James Baker interviews. This former Chief of staff from the Reagan era, then Secretary of State for Bush senior, advocates opening a dialogue with Syria and Iran and above all a partial withdrawal from Iraq. This attempt at a limited response underlines the extent of the American bourgeoisie’s weakening, since the pure and simple retreat from Iraq would be the most stinging in its history, and one it could not permit. The parallel with Vietnam is a really deceptive underestimation, for at the time the retreat from Vietnam allowed the United States a beneficial strategic reorientation of alliances and to draw China into its own camp against the USSR, when today the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq would be a pure capitulation without any compensation and entail the complete discredit of American power. These glaring contradictions are the manifestation of the weakening of American leadership and the advance of ‘every man for himself’. A change in the majority in the next Congress will not provide any other ‘choice’ but a headlong flight into the more and more murderous military adventures that express capitalism’s impasse.

In the United States, the weight of the chauvinism displayed in the wake of 11 September has largely disappeared with the experience of the double fiasco of the war on terrorism and the mire of the Iraq war. The army recruitment campaigns can hardly find fodder ready to risk their skins in Iraq and the soldiers are demoralised. In spite of the risks, there are thousands of desertions on the ground. We note that over a thousand deserters have sought refuge in Canada.

This situation gives us a glimpse of a whole other perspective. The more and more intolerable weight of war and barbarity in society is an indispensable dimension for proletarians to develop their consciousness of the irremediable bankruptcy of the capitalist system. The only response the working class can make against imperialist war, the only solidarity that it can give to its class brothers exposed to the worst massacres, is to mobilise on its own class terrain to bring an end to this system.  W, 21/10/06 (Translated from Revolution Internationale, publication of the ICC in France)

[1]               As we go to press we are reading reports that 6 Arab states (Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia and UAE) have announced that they want to use nuclear technology. Although all say they want this for peaceful energy production, it is impossible to believe this, particularly as Iran tries to join the nuclear club and the US has proved powerless to stop North Korea’s nuclear tests.


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