Workers Vanguard No. 865
3 March 2006
Imperialist Occupation Fuels Communal Slaughter
U.S. Out of Iraq Now!
FEBRUARY 28—The daily slaughter that has come to define life under the blood-drenched U.S. occupation of Iraq is now threatening to spiral into an all-sided bloodbath. On February 22, the Al-Askariya Mosque in Samarra, which houses a thousand-year-old mausoleum for one of Shiite Islams most revered imams, was bombed, obliterating its beautiful golden dome and triggering a wave of attacks between Shiite and Sunni Muslims that have thus far claimed nearly 400 lives. In a particularly heinous attack, 47 factory workers in the outskirts of Baghdad were dragged from buses taking them home and executed. In another attack, Atwar Bahjat, a female journalist for the Dubai-based Al Arabiya news channel, was killed along with two of her colleagues.
A three-day curfew imposed on Baghdad and surrounding provinces was punctuated by sporadic gun battles and mortar attacks. After the coalition puppet government the U.S. is seeking to forge in Iraq threatened to fall apart, the major Sunni party has said it will resume talks to patch up the government. Iraqi officials and clerics outside the government have been putting on a show of unity to prevent an outbreak of civil war, with the defense minister warning that if there is a civil war in this country it will never end.
A New York Times (26 February) article warned that an unrestrained civil war
would not only give birth to warring Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish enclaves inside Iraq, but that the violence could also spread unpredictably through the region. The article continued, Iran would side with the Shiites
. And Sunni countries like Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Kuwait would feel a need to defend Sunnis or perhaps to create buffer states for themselves along Iraqs borders. Turkey might also feel compelled to move in, to protect Iraqs Turkoman minority against a Kurdish state in the north.
U.S. and Iraqi officials blamed the bombing of the Al-Askariya Mosque on Al Qaeda, while Sunni leaders have blamed reprisals against random Sunnis on the militias of Shiite cleric Moqtada Al-Sadr, who denies the claim and is reportedly calling for unity. Whoever is responsible for such attacks, the situation has a logic of its own, dictated by the particular history of Iraq and the vicious U.S. occupation, under which some 100,000 Iraqis have died.
Shortly after U.S. troops took Baghdad, we warned in WV No. 802, (25 April 2003): The imperialist occupation has encouraged reactionary forces to emerge, from fundamentalists demanding an Islamic republic to monarchists to democrats on the CIA payroll. Ethnic and religious antagonisms, stoked by the British imperialist conquest at the end of World War I and fueled by decades of bourgeois-nationalist rule, now threaten to erupt in an orgy of bloodletting. The government Washington created is dominated by Shiite and Kurdish parties at the expense of the minority Sunni Arabs, who enjoyed a relatively privileged existence under the regime of Saddam Hussein.
The growing threats of civil war underline that in a fundamental sense, there is no Iraq. The country was carved out of the collapsing Turkish Ottoman Empire following the First World War by the British imperialists, who forced together historically hostile populations—Kurds, Sunni Arabs and Shiite Arabs—that are themselves further riven by clan and tribal rivalries. In such a society, there is certainly no basis for stable bourgeois-democratic rule.
The recent wave of attacks and counterattacks marks an escalation of what Iraqs masses have been suffering through since the U.S. invasion: whole towns laid waste, entire families annihilated, imprisonment and torture at the hands of the American imperialist occupiers; death-squad Iraqi military forces that have been targeting the minority Sunni population; sectarian bombings and attacks that purposely hit civilians, overwhelmingly Shiites, as they try to go about their daily lives. Such are the bitter fruits of U.S. imperialisms Operation Iraqi Freedom.
In the lead-up to and during the 2003 invasion, the Spartacist League called for the military defense of Iraq against imperialist attack, without giving the brutal capitalist regime of Saddam Hussein—once an ally of U.S. imperialism—an iota of political support. At protests in the U.S. against the war, we called to Fight U.S. imperialism through class struggle at home! Today we demand the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of U.S. troops and their allies from Iraq, Afghanistan and the Near East.
In contrast, the various antiwar coalitions set up or supported by the reformist left refused to call for the defense of Iraq during the war while pleading with the imperialist rulers for money for education and jobs, not for war. Once the occupation was on, the International Socialist Organization (ISO) and Workers World Party (WWP) turned to painting the insurgencies in Iraq as a national liberation movement. Behind this seemingly leftist posture stands the same old Democratic Party lesser-evilism, as Bushs difficulties in Iraq play to the Democrats advantage. This is particularly true now as an increasing number of Democratic politicians are calling for an exit strategy, fearing that the occupation is becoming increasingly harmful to U.S. imperialisms interests.
As the recent events in Iraq underscore, there is no unitary resistance. Rather, there are disparate groupings organizing attacks on U.S. forces—and more often against random civilians from the various religious and ethnic populations. When the insurgents strike against the U.S. occupiers, they are striking against the greatest enemy of the worlds proletariat and the oppressed. Such acts coincide with the class interests of the working class internationally. However, resistance forces led by religious clerics are by definition sectarian. As we warned in The Left and the Iraqi Resistance (WV No. 830, 6 August 2004):
We do not imbue the forces presently organizing guerrilla attacks on U.S. forces with anti-imperialist credentials and warn that in the absence of working-class struggle in Iraq and internationally against the occupation, the victory of one or another of the reactionary clerical forces is more likely to come about through an alliance with U.S. imperialism. We are intransigent opponents of the murderous communal violence against other ethnic, religious and national populations oftentimes carried out by the very same forces fighting the occupation armies.
We stand for an independent proletarian strategy, one based on the understanding that liberation from the imperialist yoke and equitable resolution of the democratic rights of all the peoples of Iraq and the region more broadly can be achieved only through the overthrow of capitalist rule in the region and the establishment of a socialist federation of the Near East. Should the Iraqi proletariat raise its head, it would face not only the savagery of the imperialist occupiers but also the brutality of the reactionary Muslim fundamentalists and bourgeois nationalists who dominate the resistance hailed by the ISO and WWP reformists.
The situation in Iraq requires the forging of a Marxist workers party that will fight against both imperialist subjugation and all manner of nationalism and religious reaction, as part of a struggle for proletarian revolution. Weak and decimated today, the Iraqi proletariat nonetheless has a vivid history of struggle rich in lessons for the future. In 1958, as the British-backed monarchy was collapsing, the working class, led by the Iraqi Communist Party (ICP), was in a position to take power. But the Stalinist leadership of the ICP subordinated the proletariat to the bourgeois-nationalist Qassim regime. On orders from the Soviet Stalinist bureaucracy under Khrushchev, which was pursuing the pipedream of peaceful coexistence with imperialism, the ICP moved to rein in its proletarian base. This paved the way for the Baath partys rise to power in 1963 and its subsequent murderous repression of Communists and trade unionists, carried out in collaboration with the CIA.
From the Iranian oil fields to the ports of Egypt, there is a powerful working class in the Near East that must be mobilized under the banner of proletarian political independence. Marxist parties must be forged to unite the Near Eastern proletariat—Arab, Persian, Kurdish and Hebrew, Sunni and Shiite, Muslim and Christian—against imperialism and all the capitalist rulers of the region. Essential to this perspective is the understanding of the necessity of socialist revolution in the centers of imperialism—the U.S., West Europe and Japan. Otherwise, as Marx noted, all the old crap will return.
In the U.S., we fight to build a workers party—section of a reforged Fourth International—to lead the multiracial proletariat in socialist revolution. Such a party can only be built through political struggle against the misleaders of trade-union officialdom, who chain the proletariat to its capitalist class enemy, not least through supporting U.S. national interests. Victorious workers revolution, extended internationally, will end imperialist slaughter and ethnic bloodletting and open the road to eliminating material scarcity and building an egalitarian socialist society.