Iraq – Imperialism in the quick sands
What a difference a single year can make in international politics! A year ago, as US imperialism arrogantly marched towards war with Iraq, its leading political representatives asserted that it could all be done on the cheap – in terms of both financial and human costs. Anyone raising even a mild objection to these assertions was merely courting derision and ridicule from the Bush administration and its camp followers. A suggestion by a senior White House official that the war might cost $200 bn (Euro 78 bn) met with a firm rebuke, as did the army chief of staff’s estimate that as many as 200,000 US military personnel might be needed in Iraq for a fairly lengthy period of time.
The White House and the Pentagon, brushing aside all such reservations, put out the fairy tale that the war would be over quickly. The popular jubilation of the Iraqi masses at their ‘liberation’ would ensure the quick departure of the invading armies, except for a few thousand soldiers who would remain on a temporary basis. The Iraqi oil reserves would serve to cover the cost of reconstruction, with some officials going so far as to claim that a new Iraq, restored to “democratic and financial health”, might even be able to reimburse part of the costs of the war.
A year later, US imperialism and its junior partner, Britain, in this criminal predatory war for domination and control of Iraq’s mineral wealth, find themselves sucked into a war they cannot win, and which all the same is going to cost them dear in lives and treasure. When in his address to the nation on Sunday 7 September, George W Bush made bold to assert that through the war in Iraq “we are rolling back the terrorist threat to civilisation, not in the fringes of its influence, but at the very heart of its power” and that, consequently, the western and allied countries were duty bound to assist the Anglo-American forces of occupation on the latter’s own terms, his assertion drew the following scathing retort from the Financial Times in the form of a leading article on 9 September:
“If there is to be any chance of retrieving the failure of postwar Iraq – already dreadfully near – this rose-tinted and information deficient analysis should be rejected. It is now beyond reasonable doubt that the present set-up cannot and will not work.”
The Financial Times went on to outline the insurmountable difficulties faced by the occupation authorities in these irrefutable terms:
“The US-led occupation authorities face a war of attrition that is becoming daily more lethal and sophisticated. They control neither Iraq’s roads nor its frontiers. They have failed to meet the basic needs of the population, such as a regular supply of electricity and water – let alone security. Last month’s bombings of the embassy of Jordan and UN headquarters in Baghdad, along with the devastating massacre at the Imam Ali shrine in Najaf that killed Ayatollah Mohammed Baqr al-Hakim, an important Shia Muslim ally, were hammer-blows aimed at demonstrating that American forces, preoccupied almost exclusively with defending themselves, are unable to defend the allies and institutions they need to help rebuild Iraq. It is far from clear, moreover, that the occupation authorities have much idea whom exactly they are fighting.”
“To call this a mess,” adds the Financial Times, “is to understate the matter.”
While the $79 billion originally approved by Congress is about to be exhausted, another $87 billion to pay for the next phase of the continuing occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan, most of which is earmarked for Iraq, has just been sanctioned. Unless the US forces pack their bags and leave Iraq, further vast sums will be needed to finance this imperialist enterprise. The US administration had reckoned on generous contributions from other countries but, as we shall shortly see, these have singularly failed to materialise. In view of fiscal deficits accounting for 4.5% of US GDP, the Bush administration is faced with the choice of either increasing taxes or cuts in non-military expenditure. It has refused thus far to do either, relying instead on the rhetoric of the need for the American people to make sacrifices in the interests of ‘freedom’ and their own ‘security’. Thus it has refused to reverse even partly some of the nearly $3,000 billion in tax cuts for the rich to cover the cost of the war. Instead it is intent on piling the $87 billion just approved by Congress on to the fiscal debt which is already in excess of $400 billion. No wonder, then, that the Financial Times should have characterised this stance of the Bush administration as “… the same old reckless dishonesty to which this administration has dedicated itself” (‘Paying for the war’, leader 10 September 2003).
As to the loss in lives, on Wednesday 29 October, with the killing of 2 US soldiers in a roadside bomb attack on their Abrams tank north of Baghdad, the US occupation passed a milestone, namely, that 116 US soldiers have been killed since Bush declared the end of major combat operations on 1 May. This compares with 115 who died in the course of the invasion. The actual figure, however, is much higher. According to independent sources such as the Army Times and the online Iraq Coalition Casualty Count, the number of US soldiers killed is far higher. These organisations state that an additional 103 soldiers have been killed in Iraq in non-combat incidents since 1 May, bringing the deaths from 2 May to 219, i.e., just over one death a day.
Since the commencement of the war, 358 US soldiers and 51 British soldiers have been killed. Further, 1,737 US soldiers have been wounded in action (nearly 8 a day) and another 339 injured in non-combat incidents. These figures, which will do little to boost morale among US soldiers in Iraq, serve to emphasise the strength of the resistance to their presence. With each passing week, the number and sophistication of the attacks on the occupation forces is increasing. Here are a few details of some important targets hit by the Iraqi national resistance:
” On 2 September, the Baghdad Police Academy was blasted, killing one and wounding 20 others, in a pattern similar to the 5 August attack on a Fallujah police station, staffed with US-trained policemen. In the latter incident, after the police station had been hit by anti-tank rockets, 200 protesters gathered in front of the building and defiantly chanted: “With our blood and with our soul, we will defend you, Saddam!” – a slogan which can hardly have been music to the ears of the occupation powers and their hired killers. ”
” On Saturday 20 September, Aquita al-Hashimi, one of the three women on the 25-member of the US-appointed puppet Governing Council (GC) was shot as she left her home with a bodyguard and driver. She died a few days later. That same weekend, 3 US soldiers fell to the attacks of the resistance. ”
” On Monday 22 September, the UN headquarters were attacked for the second time (the first having been on 19 August). A suicide bomber blew up a car loaded with explosives outside the UN’s Baghdad offices, killing himself and a guard, and wounding 19 Iraqis. This appears to have been carefully planned to coincide with the arrival of a delegation from the Iraqi GC in New York to attend the UN General Assembly. ”
” On 9 October, a senior Spanish intelligence officer, José Antonio Bernal, was shot dead outside his house in Baghdad’s diplomatic quarter of Mansour. On the same day at least 9 people were killed in a suicide bomb blast at a police station in Baghdad, and a US soldier died when an RPG struck a convoy in the northeast of the capital. After these attacks, a US official said: “We have got to collectively admit that we don’t really know who is attacking us”, while a senior British official stated: “What you’re probably looking at is different groups with the same and different capabilities: Islamists, former regime loyalists and foreigners. IN SOME WAYS, THE WAY THAT SADDAM THOUGHT THE POSTWAR BATTLE WOULD BE FOUGHT IS COMING TRUE” (quoted in the Financial Times of 10 September – our emphasis). Let it be said in passing that Spain was one of the strongest supporters of the war and 1,200 Spanish soldiers are presently serving in Iraq as part of the US-led army of occupation. ”
A letter to Turkey
On Sunday 12 October, two cars packed with explosives were detonated near the Baghdad hotel used extensively by the colonial administration – the CPA (Coalition Provisional Authority). Six Iraqis were killed and 25 wounded in this attack. Two days later (14 October), a massive car bomb went off outside the Turkish embassy, killing the driver and a bystander. The explosion was seen locally as a response to the decision by the Turkish parliament the previous week to send 10,000 Turkish troops to assist the Anglo-American imperialist occupation forces – thus underscoring the unpopularity in Iraq of the Turkish offer. Mohammed Hussein, an Iraqi witness to the blast said: “This appears to have been a letter to Turkey. A letter of refusal” (quoted in the Financial Times of 15 October).
Resistance spreads south
From the point of view of the imperialist occupying powers, a much more frightening development is the extension of resistance from the Sunni heartlands, centred around Baghdad, to the southern Shia strongholds. Only the spread of guerrilla fighting to the south can explain the killing of 3 US soldiers and 2 Iraqi policemen in the historic city of Karbala on Thursday 16 October, when a unit of military police from the 101st Airborne division was fired on from the rooftops by gunmen armed with revolvers and RPG’s. Another US soldier was killed in a bomb attack the following day. The spread of the resistance to the south of Iraq is for the occupation forces a nightmare come true. The US casualties in Karbala clearly demonstrate that the US army is willy nilly getting sucked into the near civil war raging between two political groups in the city – those loyal to the radical and fiery young cleric, Muqtada Sadr, who opposes the occupation forces and the puppet GC, as an alternative to which he has declared the formation of a separate government, on the one hand, and those who follow the Iraqi supreme Shia spiritual leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, who collaborates with the CPA and its puppet, the GC, on the other.
The clashes which occurred on Monday 13 October outside the Mukhayyim mosque in Karbala, leaving 2 dead and 17 wounded on both sides, are on the face of it a tussle for control of the Karbala burial shrines of Abbas and Hussein, grandsons of the Prophet Mohammed who fell in the battle of Karbala in 680 AD and whose martyrdom became the basis of the Shia faith. However, the real prize is the leadership of Iraq’s Shias, accounting for 60% of the country’s population and thus to be in a position to play a major part in its political destiny.
The CPA, which has striven to prevent precisely the kind of rift which now afflicts the Shias of southern Iraq, is at its wits’ end at the prospect of the steady rise in the power and popularity of Sadr, whose supporters are believed to have been behind the killing on 10 April of Abdul Majid al Khoi, an exiled collaborationist cleric brought to Iraq by US special forces. Some suggest even that the massive 29 August bomb blast in Najaf, which killed more than 100 people, including Ayatollah Mohammed Baqr al-Hakim, may have been the work of Sadr’s followers, angry at al-Hakim’s collaboration with the CPA.
Less than a week earlier (on 9 October), 2 US soldiers were killed in a fire fight with Shia militia in Sadr City (formerly Saddam City), a sprawling Shia suburb of Baghdad – and a stronghold of Muqtada Sadr. The 16 October Karbala battle sprang from an attempt by the occupation troops to disarm the followers of Sadr. On the same day, US troops stormed the headquarters of the municipal government in Sadr City, which had been taken over by Sadr’s followers the previous week, replacing the puppet council appointed by the US. Following this raid, the US troops arrested the 12-member ‘people’s council’. The following day, in a Friday prayer service, Sheikh Abdel Mahdi Darraji, a representative of Sadr, characterising the US as a ‘terrorist organisation’ bent on dominating the Middle East, called upon the GC to resign “for the sake of their honour” and warned the US to keep out of Sadr City. These events in Karbala are merely a foretaste of the terrifying dangers facing the imperialist armies of occupation as Iraqi resistance spreads to all parts of the country and assumes truly nationwide proportions. On Sunday 19 October, a US army truck exploded in Fallujah after being hit by RPG’s. In a separate incident outside Kirkuk at the weekend, 2 US soldiers were killed and one wounded when their patrol was ambushed.
Attack on al-Rashid Hotel
In a daring attack on 26 October, the resistance attacked the very heavily guarded al-Rashid Hotel in the centre of Baghdad, killing a US colonel and wounding 17 others, including Jacob Nell, a British Treasury official seconded to the CPA. In this attack a vehicle towing a trailer camouflaged as a generator stopped on a main road about 400 yards from the hotel and, using a timing device, fired between 6 and 8 missiles, hitting the hotel’s middle floors. At the time, Paul Wolfowitz, US deputy defence secretary, was staying in the hotel. The fascistic Mr Wolfowitz was visibly shaken. Unshaven and with his voice trembling, he attempted to put on a brave face when he told a televised press conference that such attacks “will not deter us from completing our mission. There are a few who refuse to accept the reality of a new and free Iraq. We will be unrelenting in our pursuit of them … We are getting the job done despite the desperate acts of a dying regime of criminals” (quoted in the Financial Times of 27 October).
This bravado could not hide the terror that the missile attack on the al-Rashid hotel had struck into the heart of this arch-reactionary mercenary of US imperialism, who for once was on the receiving end of the type of bombing which US imperialism cheerfully directs at millions of people around the world as a matter of routine.
The al-Rashid Hotel is at the centre of the most heavily protected area of Baghdad, and a successful assault on it sent an unambiguous message that the forces of Iraqi resistance are in a position to hit at any target of their choosing.
Ordinary Iraqis have taken up arms against the invaders. In most cases the Americans are not even able to give chase to their attackers. An Iraqi fisherman recently described how his 7-strong guerrilla unit had settled into a routine of attacking US convoys at regular intervals: “I catch fish in the morning and Americans at night”, he said, adding: “Catching Americans is easier than catching fish” (quoted in The Scotsman, 29 August 2003).
27 October co-ordinated attacks
The following day (27 October), while the US authorities were still absorbing the audacious rocket attack, which had so rudely interrupted Wolfowitz’s sleep, on the al-Rashid Hotel, came a series of deadly car bombings which badly shook American morale and served totally to discredit the Bush administration’s central message concerning Iraq, delivered with increasingly shrill vehemence, that the US army of occupation and its colonial administration in Iraq were ‘making good progress’. At 8.30 in the morning, a car crashed into the al-Baya police station, killing 12 people, including a US soldier. 15 minutes later the offices of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) were hit when an ambulance rammed into the security barricades at the front of the building and exploded, killing 12. 10 minutes later, at 8.55 a.m., police fired at a speeding car near the al-Shaab police station, whereupon the car hit a neighbouring building and detonated, killing at least 8 persons. 20 minutes later, a car laden with explosives exploded outside the al-Khadra police station, the headquarters of the Iraqi Civil Defence Corps, killing at least 3 people. At 10.10 a.m. an attack on the New Baghdad police station was thwarted after the police shot and wounded the driver of a car full of explosives. On the same day, an attack on the Hayal-Ilam police station killed 6 policemen and a translator. A former Iraqi soldier, standing close to the rubble, said: “Do I want to work for the imperialists? Of course not.” He added, nodding in the direction of the police station, “the people who work here just want money. The US will think of withdrawing, like in Vietnam”. On being asked was Iraq really Vietnam, he retorted: “This is not Vietnam, this is the country of the Tigris and the Euphrates” (quoted in the Financial Times of 29 October).
Putting on a gloss
US president Bush attempted to put the best gloss on these attacks, which in their sequence, frequency and coordination revealed an unprecedented degree of organisation and sophistication on the part of the Iraqi resistance. Attributing the bombings to the success of the American occupation forces, he said:
“The more progress we make on the ground, the more free the Iraqis become, the more electricity is available, the more jobs are available, the more kids are gong to school, the more desperate these killers become, because they can’t stand the thought of a free society.”
As if speaking about the policy and practice of US imperialism, he went on to say:
“They [the Iraqi resistance] hate freedom. They love terror. They love to try to create fear and chaos”, adding that “we’re determined not to be intimidated”.
The truth is that, refusing to accept national subjugation and refusing to be frightened and intimidated, the Iraqi forces of national liberation and resistance against the imperialist occupation are countering counter-revolutionary imperialist terror with revolutionary terror and frightening the daylights out of the imperialist aggressors. The masses in all the Arab countries, nay, the whole of progressive humanity, are applauding the heroism, the audacity, the skill, the organisation and sophistication with which the Iraqi resistance is striking powerful blows against the occupation forces. “No Muslims or Arabs will be saddened to see these attacks”, said Mohsen al-Awajy, a Saudi lawyer and moderate Islamist. While causing a furore in imperialist circles, Mr Walid Jumblatt, leader of the Lebanese Druze community, represented the sentiments of hundreds of millions of people across the globe when he expressed lament at the fact that Paul Wolfowitz had survived the rocket attack on the al-Rashid Hotel on 26 October.
Aim of resistance
The chief aim of the resistance is to drive the US, British and other armies of aggression out of Iraq. From the pattern of attacks so far, it is possible to make a preliminary assessment of how it hopes to achieve this overall aim of liberating Iraq from the jackboot of imperialist occupation. First, by inflicting the maximum casualties on the imperialist troops, for the death of every single US or British soldier is political dynamite in Washington and London, driving down the poll ratings of Messrs Bush and Blair and undermining their resolve to see this predatory venture through to the end. Second, by shattering to smithereens the authority and effectiveness of the imperialist-sponsored Iraqi forces, the police in particular, for a local and efficient security force would present a formidable obstacle to the aims of the resistance. Third, by successfully frustrating the attempts by the US to ‘internationalise’ the occupation, and thus ensuring that the occupation remains an unpopular US and British affair. Attacks on organisations such as the UN and the ICRC, whose activities are designed to make the lot of the Iraqi people slightly more bearable, and which thus helps to reconcile the Iraqi people to the occupation, are driven precisely by the calculation that they will isolate the Anglo-American occupying forces by denying them any assistance in their continued occupation of Iraq. That the tactics of the resistance have had the desired effect is clear from the fact that the UN, the World Bank and the ICRC have all withdrawn their staff from Iraq. Finally, the intensity and the frequency of attacks by the resistance helps to instil among the Iraqi people the belief that the imperialist occupation forces can never guarantee peace and security to them, nor protect anyone who might co-operate with the occupation regime.
Return to the UN
In view of the stiff resistance facing the US, the latter will never be able to stabilise its occupation in the long run. It will need to find a political solution out of the mess of its own making in the next few months. But for its forces to be able to hold on for the coming 6 months to a year, the US needs more money and additional resources, as the present number are able to do no more than more or less protect themselves in the face of the wrath of the Iraqi people and the attacks by armed guerrillas. One may judge the scale of the difficulties facing US troops in Iraq from the fact that, whereas at the height of the Troubles in Northern Ireland, the ratio of British troops to the population was 1:30, in Iraq this ratio stands at 1:130. If the British army, with a more favourable ratio, was unable to defeat the IRA, the Anglo-American imperialist forces stand not a snowball’s chance in hell of prevailing over the Iraqi people, whose customs, culture and language they do not understand.
It is these considerations which forced the Bush administration to return to the hated UN, derided by him and his colleagues until recently as irrelevant, with the forlorn hope of securing legitimacy for the occupation and enlisting financial and military support. On 16 October, the UN Security Council unanimously passed a resolution recognising the US and Britain as occupying powers, endorsing Washington’s vision for the country’s political transition and calling on other countries for financial and military help. This resolution was supposed to have set the stage for the October 23-24 Donors’ Conference in Madrid, but the latter was a singular failure, the spin accompanying its conclusion notwithstanding.
The Madrid conference
The Madrid Conference was bound to fail, for the Security Council resolution fell well short of placing Iraq under the UN’s political authority and putting in place a provisional government with full powers. In the circumstances, the recognition of the GC is meaningless, for in international law recognition is conferred on a regime either because of its democratic legitimacy or its effective control over the country – neither of which considerations apply to the GC. Under the resolution, the GC is given until 15 December to produce a timetable for the drawing up of a constitution and a strategy for elections. This is, in the words of the Financial Times, “a timetable about a timetable”, with absolutely no provision for the election of a constituent assembly to give the constitution framers themselves some legitimacy. All that the US was aiming at through this resolution was to pay lip service to strengthening the UN’s ‘vital’ role while denying it in practice by refusing to cede real control.
The US cannot give up control, since the sole reason for its invasion of Iraq was domination and monopolisation of Iraq’s mineral wealth in the interests of US finance capital, with a few bits thrown in the direction of British imperialism. One cannot but be amused at the suggestions put forward, with such innocent naïveté, by bourgeois writers and newspapers alike, that the US should put Iraq under the political authority of the Security Council, an umbrella of legitimacy that might encourage other countries to assist financially and militarily; that it should empower the GC with the full powers of a provisional government; and that it should arrange for the election of a constituent assembly. The simple Simons putting up these suggestions can only do so because they erroneously believe the lies put out by US and British imperialism concerning the reasons for the war in the first place.
The US had anticipated that the Madrid conference would raise $55 billion. Actually it raised $33 billion, including $20 billion from the US, as well as loans of $9 billion from international financial institutions such as the IMF and World Bank. Only $4 billion in grants came from non-US sources. The Gulf states – Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the UAE – provided a measly $1.7 billion, mainly in the form of loans and credit facilities. Germany and France refused point blank to provide any money, while Japan furnished $1.5 billion in grants and another $3 billion in loans. Considering that the Gulf states, Japan and Germany had practically bankrolled the first Gulf War (Saudi Arabia alone is supposed to have paid $50 billion according to the Financial Times of 2 October 2003), the contributions at Madrid were pitifully small and a painful reminder to US and British imperialism of their near-total isolation. No new troop offers were made at Madrid. While the first Gulf War was financed to the tune of 80% of its costs by other countries, who also made a considerable number of troops available, by contrast the present war against Iraq, which is conservatively estimated to cost $200 billion, is receiving scant support from other countries.
The EU has allocated a mere Euro 200 million to Iraq for the next year. The bourgeoisie of Germany and France, two leading powers in the EU, have their own imperialist agenda and in the conditions of today, as opposed to those prevailing in 1990-1991, are not prepared to subsidise US wars in the Middle East or elsewhere unless there is something in it for them. Chris Patten, the EU’s external affairs commissioner, clearly laid down 3 conditions as prerequisite for substantial EU financial contributions for the reconstruction of Iraq: an improved security environment (a tall order indeed), the establishment of a sovereign Iraqi government, and a transparent multinational framework for Iraqi reconstruction – conditions which, for obvious reasons, are wholly unacceptable to US imperialism.
Attempts at privatisation
Meanwhile the US is busy with plans for the privatisation of Iraqi industry and opening it up to imperialist penetration and subordination. The list of companies attending a parallel private conference included Citigroup and several European banks. Six foreign banks are to be licensed to operate in Iraq within the next 5 years – two of them will be put on a fast track. However, lack of transparency, security and legitimacy stand in the way of these plans. The US monopoly over contracts and the opacity surrounding their allocation is causing resentment. According to Christian Aid, only a fifth of the development funds passed to the CPA has been accounted for. In other words, a whopping $4 billion remains unaccounted for. This colossal corruption does not, however, prevent the likes of James Wolfensohn, the president of the World Bank, from pointing the finger at the Iraqis and saying that “They [the Iraqis] need to learn the procedures of open bidding”!
Experts in international law have issued a clear warning that the attempts by the US to sell Iraqi assets are in breach of international law and conventions and thus liable to be scrapped by a future Iraqi government. Under the 1907 Hague Regulations and the Fourth Geneva Convention, the occupying powers are obliged to respect laws already in force in a country “unless absolutely prevented” from so doing. This means that the CPA’s September 19 order (Order 39) opening the Iraqi economy to foreign investment and providing a blueprint for the transformation of Iraq into a market economy and the full foreign ownership of a wide array of Iraqi state assets, with the exception of oil and other mineral resources, are in total violation of international law. At the beginning of the war, the British government was privately warned by its chief law officer to this effect. In his advice, which was later leaked to the press, Lord Goldsmith stated that “the imposition of major structural reforms would not be authorised by international law”.
The CPA’s Order 39 is completely contrary to the Iraqi constitution, which cannot be changed without the consent of the Iraqi people. Iraqi law forbids private ownership of ‘national’ resources or ‘the basic means of production’. It also bans foreign ownership of real estate or the establishment of companies in Iraq by non-Arab foreigners. In addition, there is the question of existing contracts signed by the erstwhile Saddam Hussein’s regime with foreign companies, which, according to legal experts, are far more enforceable than those signed with the CPA. No wonder, then, that there has not been a rush on the part of multinationals to Baghdad to get their share in what is advertised by the CPA as the sale of the century.
Fight among brothers
As is always the case among capitalist exploiters, when things go bad, friends turn into enemies and the whole thing turns into a fight among brothers. As the war is going very badly for the US, it has begun to produce dissension and rifts within the ruling circles in Washington. The US and British governments went to war against Iraq allegedly because of the possession by the latter of WMD which supposedly presented an immediate threat to the security of the region and beyond. It was always a lie and has since then been proven so beyond a shred of doubt. The Iraq Survey Group of 1,200 scientists and spies, headed by David Kay, has been scouring Iraq on behalf of Anglo-American imperialism for 6 months but found no such weapons in Iraq – a finding which undermines entirely the stated rationale for this imperialist predatory war. Most of the intelligence about Iraq’s WMD was old, reinterpreted and ‘sexed up’ at the bidding of the White House and Downing Street to justify the invasion of Iraq. The solitary new ‘finding’ that the Iraqi had attempted to buy uranium from Niger turned out to have been based on forgeries, as ambassador Wilson has demonstrated with such devastating effect. As a result, US and British imperialism are struggling in vain with alternative spurious arguments to convince their own people and the world at large that the war against Iraq had some justification. They have failed thus far. They will fail in the future too.
In the face of overwhelming evidence of the falsity of the assertions of the US and UK governments concerning the Iraqi WMD and the threat posed by them, even the US House of Representatives intelligence committee concluded at the end of September that the US went to war against Iraq having had no new evidence that Iraq was either developing WMD or forging links with terrorists – thus forcing the Bush administration to justify its decision to wage war.
Ambassador Wilson, who was sent by the CIA last year to find out if claims regarding Iraq’s attempts to purchase uranium from Niger were correct, concluded that these claims were false. The White House was so enraged at this that someone from the Bush administration, “purely for revenge”, and to discredit Wilson, leaked to the press that Valerie Plame, who is married to ambassador Joseph Wilson, was a CIA operative. In leaking Mrs Wilson’s name, those responsible cannot have been unaware that they were endangering her and her contacts, as well as committing an offence which under US law is punishable with a 10-year term of imprisonment. That they were prepared to do so is because they could not forgive ambassador Wilson for his opposition to the invasion, conquest and subsequent occupation of Iraq as “…the only, or even the best, way to achieve our national security objective” (see Financial Times, 4 October 2003). Ambassador Wilson is no revolutionary. He agrees with the administration’s ‘security objectives’; he merely disagrees with the methods employed to achieve them. He disagrees with what he calls the ‘Chinese menu’ of options presented by the White House on Iraq, with its emphasis first on WMD, then international terrorism, then the potential link between the two and, as a last resort, the wonders of liberating Iraq from the regime of Saddam Hussein.
With each day bringing bad news from the Iraqi theatre of war, the White House is struggling to contend with this slow-burning scandal. The prevalent state of relations between the various arms of the US government, as well as between high-ranking functionaries, is such as to force someone like William Kristol, editor of the neo-conservative weekly Standard, to say that the scandal surrounding the leaking of Mrs Wilson’s name and identity was illustrative of the “disarray within his [Bush’s] administration”, adding that “the civil war in the Bush administration has become crippling”. Mr Kristol went on:
“The CIA is in open revolt against the White House. The state department and the defence department aren’t working together at all. We are way beyond ‘fruitful tension’ … This is a situation that only the president can fix” (quoted in The Guardian of 18 October).
But the attempt by Bush to ‘fix’ and assert direct control over the conduct of war and the management of the occupation, through the creation in early October of a centralised Iraq Stabilisation Group, thus shifting responsibility for the occupation from defence secretary Rumsfeld to Condoleeza Rice, the national security advisor, merely had the effect of driving tensions in the administration into the open. In an act of thinly disguised revolt against the new dispensation, Rumsfeld, who has jealously guarded his control over the war in, and occupation of, Iraq, told journalists that he had not been consulted and the restructuring was irrelevant anyway.
The deteriorating military situation in Iraq has forced Paul Bremer, the colonial administrator of Iraq, to concede that “the degree to which we are now threatened has been an unwelcome surprise to some of us”. Bush has been obliged to say that “Iraq is a dangerous place” and retreat from the triumphalism accompanying his declaration on board the USS Abraham Lincoln seven months ago that the US had achieved its mission.
On 1 May, he landed in a jump suit on the flight deck of the returning aircraft carrier, and standing under a banner saying ‘Mission Accomplished’, declared the end of major combat operations. Now, in an effort to ward off criticism of a premature claim of success, he says that the words on the banner were solely the idea of the crew of Lincoln.
Illusion and reality collide
Bush and his top officials, while being forced to say that “Iraq is a dangerous place”, keep up the bluster and illusion that the security situation in Iraq is improving and services getting better, that the US will “stay the course” and that it “will not be intimidated” out of Iraq. The truth is that the US is losing the war, which it can sustain neither militarily nor financially. The US cannot succeed, for its plans for world domination will continue to collide with reality in the form of resistance on the part of the peoples it seeks to dominate. Not just the Iraqis, but the entire population of the Middle East is seething with anger at the bullying and contempt with which it has been treated by the various imperialist powers for more than a century. Even a bourgeois, but thinking, writer like Jeffrey Sachs is able to recognise this truth. Writing in the Financial Times of 10 September, he says, inter alia:
“The fatal flaw in the US occupation is that America is in Iraq not to create democracy, hasten economic development, capture weapons of mass destruction or fight terrorists but to create a long-term military and political base to protect the flow of Middle East oil. This much is widely appreciated throughout the Gulf region, where the local population has been treated to a century of contempt, first by the British Empire and later by the US. Decade after decade has seen these two powers oppose democratic rule, topple popular governments and side with the autocratic and corrupt rulers, always in the interests of oil” (‘Bush’s billions will only prolong Iraq’s suffering’).
Mr Sachs correctly concludes that the US is a part, not of a solution, but of the Iraqi problem, and the longer its occupation lasts, the greater will be the agony of the Iraqi people.
The 140,000-strong US army of occupation is unable to prevent the sabotage of infrastructure, which has cut Iraq’s oil production by more than 1m barrels a day – the equivalent of $10 billion a year at prevailing world market prices. These attacks are bound to continue, as oil pipelines, power pylons and other parts of the infrastructure present easy targets. Attacks on US troops, already averaging 30 a day, will continue to claim an ever-increasing number of US soldiers’ lives.
The US soldiers, being the aggressor occupiers on behalf of an imperialist and bloodthirsty power, are hated by the Iraqi people and attacked by the latter at every conceivable opportunity. The resistance of the Iraqi people terrifies the imperialist troops, who panic at the mere rustling of leaves and frequently indulge in shooting down innocent Iraqi civilians in their dozens, which in turn only serves to exacerbate Iraqi hatred for, and intensifying Iraqi resistance against, their foreign occupiers. Since the beginning of the war, imperialist forces have killed upwards of 10,000 Iraqi civilians, and they continue to do so. According to Robert Fisk of the Independent, in the month of September 1,000 civilians were killed each week, while more than 5,000 Iraqis, rotting in various concentration camps, undergo torture and ill treatment at the hands of the US troops, according to Amnesty International. Human Rights Watch, a New York based organisation, in a report released on 21 October, says that 94 Iraqi civilians have been killed by US soldiers in “questionable circumstances” – in plain language they have been murdered in cold blood, and with the US troops enjoying complete immunity. Of course, the number of such killings is far higher, but nevertheless the HRW report is a damning indictment of the callous conduct of the imperialist soldiery.
With a dramatic increase in the number and sophistication of the attacks launched by the forces of national liberation in Iraq, with the resultant increase in US casualties, the US public, who were fooled on the basis of a campaign of lies, deception and half truths into supporting the war, are now beginning to lose faith in their government. Bush’s popularity in the opinion polls has suffered a dramatic slump, with only 41% saying that the Iraq war was worth fighting, whereas 53% stated that it was not. People in the US are already making comparisons with the Vietnam war and likening George W Bush’s predicament and fate to that of Lyndon B Johnson of Vietnam war notoriety. As more US soldiers reach the US in body bags or on their crutches, popular opinion will turn violently against this increasingly unpopular predatory war.
As to the financial cost, the US government has for the moment solved the problem without resorting to either tax increases or spending cuts, simply by piling the costs of the war on to the existing budget deficit, which has been enlarged to $535 billion for the fiscal year 2004. But very soon the fiscal budget will become an explosive issue, particularly as a large portion of the projected deficit can be directly attributed to the president’s $1,600 billion (£960 billion) tax cuts over the past two years, mostly for the benefit of the wealthy. His policy of tax cuts and the commitment to war abroad stand in irreconcilable contradiction to each other. If his administration attempts to pass the burdens of the war on to the poor by cutting essential programmes, even the most obtuse will not fail to see that he and his government are more interested in protecting “the plutocrats’ wallets than US soldiers” (quoted from the Financial Times of 18 October).
The cost of the war in Iraq “…dwarfs initiatives in education, worker training, childcare, disease control, international poverty reduction, even homeland security. In one swoop, Mr Bush has committed nearly 1 per cent of US gross national product for the coming year, on top of about 0.6 per cent of GNP during the past 12 months” (Jeffrey Sachs, op. cit.).
This cannot go on much longer. The Bush administration’s financial strategy of tax cuts for the rich hand-in-hand with increased spending, especially on the military, with the resultant ballooning fiscal deficits, has forced Gerald Baker of the Financial Times to observe that it is no exaggeration to assert that “… Washington has already lost all collective sense of propriety and proportion in dealing with the nation’s budgetary health” (30 October).
Duty of the proletariat
In light of the foregoing, it is clear that the defeat of Anglo-American imperialism is as certain as is the victory of the forces of national liberation. No force on earth can stop it. The vast masses inhabiting the vast continents of Asia, Africa and Latin America were roused to political life as long ago as the beginning of the 20th century, especially by the revolutions in Russia, Turkey, Persia and China. The first imperialist world war, the Great October Socialist Revolution, the Second World War and the victory of revolutions in China, Korea, Vietnam, Cuba and a number of eastern European countries, served to complete the process of converting these masses, constituting the overwhelming majority of humanity “…into active factors in world politics and in the revolutionary destruction of imperialism, although the educated philistines of Europe and America … stubbornly refuse to see this” (V I Lenin, ‘Report to the Third Congress of the Comintern’, 13 June 1921).
Gone are the days when oppressed people and nations meekly accepted colonial occupation as their destiny. The oppressed people of Iraq will doubtless wage a successful struggle against imperialist occupation, oppression and exploitation. We must not, however, watch their struggle passively from the sidelines. It is the duty of the proletariat in the imperialist countries to oppose its own bourgeoisie’s attempts to subjugate other peoples and render real support to the liberation movements of the oppressed peoples against imperialism. It is the duty of every proletarian party “…to ruthlessly expose the colonial machinations of the imperialists in its ‘own’ country, … support by actions and not merely by words – every colonial liberation movement, demand expulsion of the imperialists from the colonies, educate the workers in the spirit of brotherhood with the labouring population of colonial and oppressed nations, and conduct systematic agitation among the armed forces against all colonial oppression” (Lenin, ‘Conditions for Affiliation to the Comintern’).
Failure on our part to perform this internationalist duty objectively turns us into annexationists and accomplices of imperialism. Let the British proletariat rise to the challenge and, spurning with contempt such accomplices of social democracy as the counter-revolutionary Trots and the revisionist renegades, follow the trail blazed by people of the mould and stature of Harry Pollitt who so heroically and successfully frustrated the counter-revolutionary war of intervention against the young Soviet Republic. Following Harry Pollitt, let the British proletariat successfully oppose the occupation of Iraq by Anglo-American imperialism. Let it refuse to co-operate with imperialism’s war effort. In the words of Harry Pollitt, “only by such action can the British labour movement wipe out the stain that now tarnishes our ideals”.
Death to the Anglo-American imperialist aggressors!
Victory to the Iraqi people’s national liberation.
As this issue is being printed, the news has come through that 15 US soldiers were killed and 21 injured when their Chinook helicopter was shot down near Fallujah, west of Baghdad, just before 9 in the morning on Sunday 2 November. It was the deadliest single attack on the US occupation forces since the start of the war, and the bloodiest day for US forces since 23 March (the third day of the war) when 28 US soldiers were killed. Another 3 US soldiers and 2 contractors died in weekend bomb attacks in Baghdad, Fallujah and Mosul.
It was the fourth time that the resistance had successfully brought down a US helicopter. Apparently two heat seeking shoulder-held surface to air missiles were fired at 2 US helicopters. One missed, and the other hit the tail of one of them, whereupon it crashed into a field in the village of Hasi on the Euphrates and was engulfed by the flames.
Local people, who could barely conceal their delight, gathered up the debris as souvenirs or to show off triumphantly to journalists in attendance. Abed Jassim, a local farmer, said that the attackers “are brave and I wish I could fight with them”. Ahmed, another farmer, said: “when we realised what happened everyone was happy. People were clapping and singing. We even chanted ‘we sacrifice our blood and soul for you, Saddam'”. Another farmer, Hadi Shehan, confidently predicted many more American casualties if US forces stayed in Iraq, adding: “I hope they do. The Americans are the enemy of all nations. They want to kill innocents and occupy our land.”
Considering the depth of hostility felt by millions of Iraqis, sentiments of the type just mentioned can hardly come as a surprise to anyone except the most blind and stupid of imperialist stooges.
US president Bush can reliably be expected to respond to the above devastating attacks on US forces in Iraq as yet more proof of America’s success. “The more successful we are on the ground, the more these killers will react,” he is bound to say following his convoluted logic. If that is the case, serious people are bound to ask, how much more of this success can America take?
The stark reality is that this helicopter attack, and others to come, cannot but undermine the morale of US forces in Iraq and pose serious problems for the US army, which uses these machines for transporting troops and equipment to avoid ambushes on roads. If the roads were unsafe for the US aggressors, the sky is becoming very dangerous too for them. Further, these attacks will cause the American people to question the administration’s whole strategy in regard to the war in Iraq and reawaken the nightmarish memories of Vietnam. Already more than 50% of those surveyed in a poll on Sunday 2 November disapproved of the way Bush is handling Iraq.
Friends of the Iraqi people can only join the masses of Iraq in their delight at the devastating blows dealt by the Iraqi resistance against the forces of occupation.
Paul Bremer, head of the CPA, has said that capturing or killing Saddam Hussein would help to curb the attacks on US forces. Weren’t we told that after the killing of Uday and Qusay Hussein? There is only one thing which would curb these attacks, namely, the withdrawal of the imperialist armies from Iraq, where they have no reason to be.
At the time, the Financial Times, in its editorial of 24 July, hailed the murders of Uday and Qusay as a “morale-boosting milestone in accounting for senior members of the Ba’athist regime”. The Financial Times and the rest of the imperialist media would do well to remember the prosecution case against Hans Fritzsche, the head of the German News Service, at the Nuremberg trial following the Second World War. This is how Drexel Sprecher, the American prosecutor argued:
“The basic method of the Nazi propaganda activity lay in the false presentation of facts. Without propaganda … it would not have been possible for German Fascism to lay the groundwork and then put to practice the war crimes and the crimes against humanity. In the propaganda system of the Hitler State it was the daily press and the radio that were the most important weapons”.