Iraq – the massacre continues

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The summer of 2007 has once again been marked by the worsening of military chaos and horror in many parts of the world. While the situation has momentarily eased in Lebanon (with the exception of the slaughter in the Nahr el-Bared refugee camp after a long stand-off between the army and Islamists), in Afghanistan there has been a sharp rise in the fighting and in terrorist attacks by the Taliban. The massacre in Iraq meanwhile has continued unabated. Dozens are killed every day, both in armed conflicts and suicide bombings, most of them aimed at a defenceless population. This insane violence has spread all over the country in an increasingly uncontrolled way. 500 people from the Yezidi community[1] were killed in four successive bomb outrages in August, while the Kurds, Sunnis and Shiites have all been under attack. In July alone 1650 Iraqi civilians were killed and the figures for August will probably be worse.

Since 2003, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have died as a direct result of the war and its aftermath. The population is hungry, deprived of medical care; electricity and even water are luxuries. Baghdad has been transformed into a collection of walled ghettoes, splitting families in half, and run by all kinds of contending gangs.

More than two million people have been displaced throughout the country in the attempt to flee the killing; the same number has left the country for the same reason.

As for the American army, officially there have been over 3000 deaths; some sources put it as high as 10,000, not counting the growing number of suicides (in 2006 it stood at 100) and there are rumours of revolt in the ranks.

This is the immediate heritage of the Bush administration's grand war against terrorism. According to recent polls, 58% of Americans now think the war was a mistake.

A new acceleration of global chaos

The USA's anti-terrorist crusade has been a total failure and has left Washington in a real impasse. The various options it can envisage today are all unfavourable. Bush has been unable to set up an Iraqi government that has a minimum of credibility and which does not function as the simple expression of dissensions between Shiites and Sunnis. The representatives of this government have diverted half the weapons granted to the Iraqi authorities by the Pentagon over the last three years into the arsenals of their respective cliques. Not to mention a police force that frequently provides suicide-bombers with access to the American military camps. So much for the reliability of the people the US has put in power in Iraq. Thus, if the US forces stay in Iraq, this will change nothing and will provoke more anti-war sentiment in the US. On the other hand, if they leave, pulling out 150,000 men over several months, it could be very costly to the US army in terms of loss of personnel, and could open the way to an even greater explosion of violence, with Iran waiting at the gates. This is unlikely to be offset by the 90 men which the UN is rushing to Iraq, in place of the 65 already there!

However, the perspective of a partial withdrawal at least has already been adopted by the Bush administration, despite its criticisms of the recent British pull-out from the centre of Basra. This is why, in order to counter the hegemonic ambitions of Tehran, the US is trying to build up an alliance of pro-American Arab states by offering to strengthen their military apparatus: 20 billion dollars spent on ultra-sophisticated weapons for Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates over the last ten years, and 13 billion for Egypt over the same period. And Israel has demanded its own compensation, because it hardly wants to see any reduction in its military superiority in the region. This has amounted to 30 billion dollars worth of arms - a 25% increase in US military supplies to the Israeli government.

We thus see the US piling up the arms stocks in a region which is already highly volatile. In the case of Saudi Arabia, it's supplying a country which has even been suspected of supporting Sunni terrorists in Iraq, including Al Qaida. In a world where ‘every man for himself' is already the rule, the response by the world's leading power can only be to aggravate the chaos even more.

The race for nuclear weapons

On a more general scale, since the end of 2006 we have seen a feverish growth in the arms race. And acquiring nuclear weapons has become top of the list for a number of states. This is hardly a surprise. The North Korean nuclear tests at the beginning of 2006, the repeated purchases of Russian nuclear technology and missiles by Iran over the last year or more, the ambitions of a country like Brazil to revive its nuclear programme, were all signs that a whole number of countries are no longer content to rely on some great power's ‘nuclear umbrella' but want to have the weapons themselves.

The US itself has played a big part in this race. Following the destruction in January 2007 of a US weather satellite by a Chinese missile - an event which highlighted the USA's potential weakness in directing aerial, naval and terrestrial warfare from a distance - the American response has been to reinforce its anti-missile shield at the very gates of Russia. The latter has responded with the vague threat of targeting European cities and the more concrete one of installing missiles in Kaliningrad on the Baltic, just between Poland and Lithuania, and very close to the American shield.

But the race for nuclear weaponry is not restricted to the major powers. In fact we are seeing a nuclearised belt stretching from the Middle East to the Far East, from Israel to North Korea via Pakistan, India and China, all of it topped off by Russia's arsenal. In short, an atomic powder-keg, located in regions which are already the theatre of all sorts of tensions and open conflicts. A sword of Damocles hangs over our heads and it will not be lifted by nuclear non-proliferation treaties which are not worth the paper they are written on. Only the massive development of workers' struggles and the overthrow of capitalism will bring an end to the threat of war and provide humanity with a future.

Mulan Based on an article in Revolution Internationale 382, September 2007.

[1] The Yezidis are a religious community seen as heretical by orthodox Sunni Islam. A lot of them are Kurds.


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