Down With Colonial Occupation of Iraq!

U.S. Bloodbath in Baghdad

All U.S. Troops Out of the Near East Now!

Reprinted from Workers Vanguard No. 801, 11 April 2003

APRIL 8—As U.S. forces tighten their stranglehold around the Iraqi capital of Baghdad, they are leaving behind a trail of savage death and destruction. The morgues are filled with the bodies of dead Iraqi soldiers and civilians; the hospitals are overflowing with men, women and children who have been bombed by American jets, shot by American tanks, or who have lost arms and legs to American cluster bombs. After U.S. tanks rolled through residential and industrial areas on the outskirts of Baghdad, firing for three hours at anything that moved, one American soldier recalled, “People lying all over the side of the road—I can’t even count how many.”

The Pentagon boasted of 3,000 Iraqis killed just in those few hours—far more than even U.S. commanders in the field claim. There is no way to know how many have really been massacred. The International Red Cross reports that the casualty rate in Baghdad is so high that hospitals have stopped counting the number of wounded. Last night, under the guise of targeting Saddam Hussein and his sons, the U.S. dropped four 2,000-pound “bunker buster” bombs on a residential neighborhood of Baghdad, killing at least 14 people.

The Pentagon and its kept media brag about their victories in Iraq. This is not a war but a one-sided slaughter. In just over two weeks, the U.S. and Britain have carried out over 30,000 air missions, including 12,000 military strikes. One BBC correspondent likened American bombing raids against Iraqi troops to “shooting fish in a barrel.”

Despite heroic acts of resistance, Iraq barely has any means to defend itself. The Pentagon’s budget for this war alone is twice Iraq’s total national income. Iraq has been bled white by 12 years of United Nations sanctions, which have resulted in the slow deaths by malnutrition and inadequate medical care of over 1.5 million of its citizens. That same blockade has deprived it of the realization of its wealth in oil. As a result, Iraq’s infrastructure is in shambles and its armed forces, starved of resources and subjected to incessant bombing, has been reduced to a third of its size at the time of the 1991 Gulf War.

Leading up to the invasion, obliging UN inspectors in search of the still undiscovered “weapons of mass destruction” revealed Iraq’s remaining military resources to the poised colonial invaders of American imperialism. Today, Iraq can barely maintain a stable army on the battlefield. It has been denied any ability to manufacture weapons or to resupply its armed forces. In short, Iraq was and is a society on the ropes, now besieged by the greatest military power that has ever existed. That the Iraqi people, confronted with such overwhelming odds and saddled with a bloody regime installed by U.S. imperialism in the first place, have been able to mount any resistance is a measure of their hatred of the colonial invaders.

To this inhumane onslaught, the Bush administration has added a propaganda barrage, the lying hypocrisy and racist overtones of which seem a hybrid of the efforts of Joseph Goebbels and Pat Robertson. Not a day passes without another Bush sermon on good and evil or another paean to America’s “war of liberation”—this while his administration moves to erase such liberties and freedoms that are still available to U.S. citizens. Not a day passes without a cover-up of U.S. responsibility for civilian deaths and without a fabrication of Iraqi “war crimes.” In the service of sustaining the pretense of the invincibility and righteousness of American imperialism’s military forces, efforts were made to silence newsman Peter Arnett for simply reporting on Iraqi TV that military resistance to the invasion had not been anticipated by the White House.

As U.S. imperialism rides roughshod over the people of Iraq, the Bush administration is making it amply clear that not only Iraqis but working people all over the world will pay for the American victory. At home, this can be seen in the attack by Oakland cops, firing wooden bullets and concussion grenades, on antiwar protesters and longshoremen yesterday. Abroad, it will mean a bloody colonial occupation of Iraq and the unleashing of the American war machine against other countries. Emboldened by the rape of Iraq, former CIA chief James Woolsey raved that this was the onset of a “Fourth World War” (the third being the Cold War). He went on to declare: “As we move toward a new Middle East over the years and, I think, over the decades to come... we will make a lot of people very nervous. Our response should be, ‘Good! We want you nervous. We want you to realize now, for the fourth time in 100 years, this country and its allies are on the march’.”

From the outset of the drive to war we have forthrightly stood for the military defense of Iraq against U.S. attack without giving any political support to the Saddam Hussein regime. In contrast, the reformist organizers of antiwar protests, bleating “No to war” alongside the handful of Democratic Party politicians they have pursued, have served to mask the fact that it is in the interest of workers and the oppressed, especially in the U.S., to take a clear stand against U.S. imperialism.

In a 19 March Spartacist League/U.S. statement, issued the night the bombing began, we wrote: “Every victory for the U.S. imperialists can only encourage further military adventures. In turn, every humiliation, every setback, every defeat they suffer will serve to assist the struggles of working people and the oppressed around the globe.” Our call for class struggle against the U.S. capitalist rulers is premised on the understanding that there can be no unity between the exploiters and exploited in the fight against imperialism and war. The bloodbath being perpetrated in Iraq underlines the urgency of forging a revolutionary workers party committed to the defeat of U.S. imperialism through socialist revolution.

U.S. Imperialism Menaces the World

It is the intention of America’s imperialist rulers to perpetuate and extend their domination of the world, now possible as a result of the capitalist counterrevolution in the USSR in 1991-92. But the way this war is being waged is very much the product of an arrogant, reactionary, insular and simple-minded administration that actually seems to believe that the world’s peoples eagerly seek its “liberating” interventions. These god-like illusions quickly encountered reality in Iraq. It is not hyperbole to call heroic the actions of those Iraqis who attack tanks and Bradley vehicles in pickup trucks armed, at best, with .50-calibre machine guns. Or the actions of those who directly confront Marine units with only rifles in hand, or even of those who exterminate themselves to kill the invaders. Iraqi Shi’ites resident in Jordan, no lovers of Saddam, have returned in busloads to the hell that is home to fight the American/British colonialists.

In the aftermath of a suicide attack that killed four U.S. soldiers, a Pentagon official declared, “Everyone is now seen as a combatant until proven otherwise.” What this meant was seen in the killing of at least seven women and children, as an American soldier shot up the van they were traveling in. Three British soldiers were sent home in custody for complaining about unwarranted civilian deaths caused by trigger-happy U.S. troops. Since then, a convoy of Russian diplomats on their way to Syria was attacked and a convoy of U.S.-allied Kurds in the north was bombed. When an American A-10 pilot opened fire on a British convoy on March 28, killing a British soldier and also shooting dead one 12-year-old Iraqi, another British soldier complained of the pilot: “He had absolutely no regard for human life. I believe he was a cowboy.” In a piece in the London Independent (6 April), British correspondent John Pilger wrote:

“We now glimpse the forbidden truths of the invasion of Iraq. A man cuddles the body of his infant daughter; her blood drenches them. A woman in black pursues a tank, her arms outstretched; all seven in her family are dead. An American Marine murders a woman because she happens to be standing next to a man in uniform. ‘I’m sorry,’ he says, ‘but the chick got in the way’.”

These atrocities are not just the result of trigger-happy soldiers. As Pilger goes on to write:

“These Anglo-American invasions of weak and largely defenceless nations are meant to demonstrate the kind of world the US is planning to dominate by force, with its procession of worthy and unworthy victims and the establishment of American bases at the gateways of all the main sources of fossil fuels. There is a list now. If Israel has its way, Iran will be next; and Cuba, Libya, Syria and even China had better watch out. North Korea may not be an immediate American target, because its threat of nuclear war has been effective. Ironically, had Iraq kept its nuclear weapons [sic: Iraq never had nuclear weapons], this invasion probably would not have taken place. That is the lesson for all governments at odds with Bush and Blair: nuclear-arm yourself quickly.”

Washington is well into the planning for a postwar Iraq. Current proposals are to divide the country into three administrative regions, similar to when it was part of the Ottoman Empire, before the British imperialists forcibly amalgamated the Shi’ite, Sunni and Kurdish areas into an artificial entity that became Iraq. While hundreds of CIA-sponsored Iraqi “freedom fighters” are being parachuted into the country to act as an auxiliary to the American occupation, the U.S. has already made it clear that the country will be under direct military rule for at least six months. The quality of the “native” stooges can be assessed by a current leading candidate, one Ahmed Chalabi, an Iraqi-born financier (who has not seen Baghdad in over 45 years) touted by Vice President Cheney and who, in recent years, was convicted of bank fraud in Jordan. His projected administrative area is, of course, finance. The Iraqi “opposition” has dutifully pledged to denationalize the state monopoly on oil to enable a takeover by American oil companies.

“Cronies Set to Make a Killing,” declared a headline in the London Observer (6 April), reporting on how the “reconstruction” of Iraq is being doled out to Bechtel and other corporations with close ties to the Bush administration. The docking facilities at the port town of Umm Qasr have been given to the anti-union Stevedoring Services of America, which is a lavish contributor to the Republican Party and which headed last autumn’s lockout of West Coast longshoremen. The corporate greed that has led to job losses, wage-slashing and the disappearance of pensions over the last decade in this country will be magnified 100 times through the lens of U.S. colonial occupation.

While America’s overwhelming military preponderance all but assured quick victory in the invasion, the Iraqi military resistance portends what is likely to be a long, bloody and uncertain occupation. The 1898 Spanish-American War was also an easy win for the U.S., but the subsequent decades-long colonial occupation of the Philippines was met with a series of insurgencies, including one in which up to a half million Filipinos were slaughtered between 1899 and 1902.

The current spectacle of the lesser great powers—France, Germany, Russia—that led UN “opposition” to the war now demanding their place at the trough of Iraqi oil would be humorous did it not augur the rape of that country once it has fallen. National security adviser Condoleezza Rice stated bluntly, as the New York Times (5 April) put it, that “the American-led alliance had shed ‘life and blood’ in the Iraq war and would reserve for itself—and not the United Nations—the lead role in creating a new Iraqi government.” This is a statement to the European powers to expect not a penny from the postwar “reconstruction” bonanza.

Down With Racist Colonialist Conquest!

Echoing the typical complaints of all imperialist colonizers, native resisters to such depredations are seen by Bush & Co. as bloodthirsty cowards only capable of attacking from ambush and then scurrying away to hide among the populace (perhaps because they, unlike the invaders, are part of the populace). Such insidious elements then, in the eyes of the imperialists, become responsible for the mass executions of innocents forced on the “decent” conquerors. And no world power—save, perhaps, Nazi Germany—has massacred more innocents under these racist premises than the U.S., which in Korea and Vietnam alone slaughtered six million people.

U.S. imperialism is waging war against the weak, and the weak have no other way to fight back than from ambush. It is interesting to remember that the American Revolution was essentially won by those who, dressed in rags and animal pelts, ambushed the British forces and then melted back into the swamps, the forests and the hills. A prime example of this was South Carolina’s Francis Marion, known as the “Swamp Fox.” After his regular army regiment was defeated by the British, he organized a band of guerrillas that staged bold raids over swampy terrain, often defeating larger bodies of British troops. By demonizing Iraqi resistance as “terror,” the U.S. imperialists have reduced the American Revolution to a terrorist enterprise!

Predictably, to follow in the wake of the invasion of Iraq are the Christian missionaries to “civilize the savages”—in other words, religious bigots who have been in the forefront of support for the Bush administration, in this case notably the Southern Baptist Convention and Samaritan’s Purse, led by Franklin Graham, the son of evangelist Billy Graham. The leaders of the former recently characterized Muhammad as a “pedophile” and “terrorist” while Graham has been satisfied to label Islam as “wicked” and “violent.” It is accurate, but not enough, to say that the forerunners of these zealots were steeped in unwashed ignorance until those under Islam’s sway recivilized Europe. It is more to the point that their minions are a reservoir of racist reaction who, not infrequently, find religious adherence compatible with membership in or sympathy for the KKK.

Iraqi resistance to the colonial invasion has fueled increasingly militant, mass demonstrations against American imperialism throughout the Near East. These have not, in all cases, been led by Muslim religious reactionaries, especially in Egypt where just resentment against national oppression has, in part, been led by left nationalists who hark back to the days of Gamal Abdel Nasser in the 1950s and ’60s. Referring to the current Egyptian president, many of the protesters chanted, “Mubarak leave!” Bush’s current consultants for mopping up urban resistance are British (with recent experience in Northern Ireland) and Israeli “experts,” past and, in the case of Israel, present masters in turning whole cities into concentration camps. At base, the driving force of outrage in the Near East is the hideous and potentially genocidal national oppression of Palestinians by Israel.

But history and current experience show that neither the left nationalism of a Nasser nor its current right-wing variant in Iraq can provide an answer to imperialist domination. That can only be accomplished by a proletarian revolution in the area that inspires class overturns throughout the region, including Israel, where currently a nationwide general strike against government-sponsored cutbacks is posed. What is needed to achieve self-determination for all the region’s national minorities and to throw off the yoke of imperialist domination is a series of workers revolutions to sweep away all the capitalist regimes of the region and create a socialist federation of the Near East.

The conquest of power by the proletariat does not complete the socialist revolution, but only opens it, by changing the direction of social development. Short of the extension of the revolution internationally, particularly to the advanced, industrialized imperialist centers, that social development will be arrested and ultimately reversed, as happened in the case of the Soviet Union. This underscores the need to forge Leninist-Trotskyist parties of socialist revolution as part of a working-class communist international to lead the proletariat in struggle against all forms of oppression, exploitation and injustice.

The War at Home

With the start of combat in Iraq, there has been an increase in patriotic sentiment and support for the war in the U.S. and Britain, accompanied by increasing government moves to quash protest. That this patriotic upswing has been relatively modest gives testimony both to continuing reservations about the justice of this colonial venture and to the fact that working people in both countries remain primarily concerned about more mundane matters, like the ability to remain employed and survive from day to day in the bleak economic circumstances they face. Among black people in the U.S., however, opposition to the war remains strong and unchanged. A recent Washington Post/ABC News poll indicates that opposition to the war stands at 61 percent of the black population as contrasted to 20 percent of whites.

A black academic told the Washington Post (25 March), “Black Americans are routinely told that there’s not enough money for housing, medicine, education and rebuilding the inner city, but...considerable sums can be raised for war.” It is true that war costs will be used as an excuse to continue to savage such meager social benefits as are available in this country.

Just as importantly, most black people understand that Bush is president only as the result of a swindle. Indeed, it is likely that had not Bush’s brother, Jeb, organized to exclude black people from voting in Florida, Al Gore would have won the election. It was under the Clinton/Gore administration that welfare and many other social services were axed while the prison population, which today numbers over two million, soared. And it was under Clinton/Gore that the starvation and devastation of Iraq continued apace. In 1996, Clinton’s secretary of state, Madeleine Albright, was asked what she thought about the half million Iraqi children who had died as a result of the blockade. She replied, “We think the price is worth it.” Two years later, Clinton signed into law the “Iraq Liberation Act,” which sailed through the Senate with unanimous approval. That same year, Clinton launched a massive bombing campaign against Baghdad, the biggest of a number of air assaults against Iraq under his administration. Most recently, the $80 billion war appropriations bill passed with the support of every Democrat in the Senate and the opposition of fewer than a dozen Democrats in the House.

Speaking at a rally in defense of affirmative action in Washington, D.C. on April 1, the president of the Detroit NAACP declared of the Iraq war, “If we can build democracy there, we must also maintain democracy over here.” The “democracy” that this liberal wants to maintain is the “democracy” that consigns millions of black children to abject poverty and malnutrition. One in eight young black men is currently in prison and more than one in four young black men can expect to be imprisoned at some point in their lives. In fact, some black people identify, as the New York Times (27 March) put it, “with poor Iraqis, whom they saw simply as people of color being attacked by a rich, and largely white, American government.”

The development of American imperialism began shortly after the Civil War and emerged on the world arena with the 1898 Spanish-American War, launched as a mission to “civilize savages,” a racist battle cry that Bush now echoes. It is no accident that that development was accompanied by the entrenchment of Jim Crow legislation and lynch law “justice,” including racist mob riots against black people. The plight of the black population is rooted in the race/caste oppression that is the cornerstone of the American imperialist order.

Imperialism is, at base, business, the expression of the desire by a nation’s capitalist rulers to extend their capacity to reap profits. As Lenin put it, politics is concentrated economics. The imperialists will not sacrifice their guns for the benefit of the people any more than a boss would sacrifice profits to provide job security and a decent living for workers. It is only struggle against the system of capitalist exploitation that can make inroads against its depredations and only the overthrow by socialist revolution of that system that can end, for all time, exploitation and war.

This social overturn cannot be accomplished without breaking the ties of the working class and black people to the Democratic Party and forging a party of proletarian revolution. This is no small task. While the Republicans offer only thinly disguised contempt for working people, and are openly racist, the Democrats offer false promises and words of support for racial equality as they carry out the dictates of the capitalist order. In this regard, the liberal black Democrats are invaluable to the capitalist rulers in maintaining the adherence of black people to this system. While, for the most part, white contenders for the Democratic nomination for the presidency have dropped any criticism of the war, black Democrats like Al Sharpton have continued their qualified opposition to the war, now tempered by calls for support of “our boys.”

For these black politicians, support for “our troops” is a statement of allegiance to the American imperialist order. But for the black masses, in many cases, the troops literally are their sons and daughters. As one black New Yorker told the New York Times (27 March), “We’re going to be in the front lines—blacks and minorities.” The fact is that blacks compose some 29 percent of the active enlisted ranks of the U.S. Army and over 20 percent of the Navy, 18 percent of the Air Force and 16 percent of the Marines—i.e., well above their demographic weight. It is difficult to find a black person who does not have a close relative in the armed services. Many poor, minority and working-class youth are induced to join the military in search of financial, educational and employment benefits. As a result, the military is a concentrated expression of the seething racial and class contradictions in U.S. civil society.

As communist revolutionaries, we are not for meaningless deaths whether, in this context, American or Iraqi. It is America’s rulers who bear all the responsibility for sending young working-class and minority men and women to kill and be killed in order to extend the power and profits of U.S. imperialism. The Iraqi soldiers and others who are resisting the imperialist invasion are simply defending their homes and country. It must be recognized that support for “our boys” necessarily entails support for what they are doing, i.e., for a particular manifestation of U.S. imperialism’s drive to subjugate all nations to its mandates.

The “Left” at War—The Price of Class Collaboration

Predictably, most of the left, some of whom would describe themselves as socialist but whose real aspiration is to achieve sufficient weight to influence bourgeois policy, have capitulated to the —less than virulent—increase in patriotic fervor. From the beginning, the ersatz socialist builders of protest against the war, primarily Workers World Party (through its International ANSWER coalition) and the International Socialist Organization (ISO), have argued that the largest possible and, therefore, most effective movement can only be built on the basis of slogans palatable to all—“No to war” or, in the case of the upcoming April 12 ANSWER protest in D.C., “Bring the troops home now.” What this has meant and could only mean is building a coalition with the soft wing of the bourgeoisie, i.e., with liberal Democrats.

The essence of such politics is most clearly expressed by the more right-wing antiwar coalitions that have come to the fore as the war drew closer, like Win Without War and United for Peace and Justice, which sponsored the mammoth February 15 demonstration in New York. Leslie Cagan of United for Peace says, “Our opposition to the war doesn’t mean that we’re opposed to the troops. We want to support them by bringing them home.” Win Without War’s Medea Benjamin, director of Global Exchange, recently explained that their aim is to work “with the progressive wing of the Democratic party. We want to reclaim the right to portray the flag. For all those who want to show their sense of patriotism and oppose the war, we want to create a space for that” (London Guardian, 1 April). Like the antiwar Democrats invited onto ANSWER platforms, these types are unabashed defenders of the interests of U.S. imperialism, but propose other means than war to subjugate Iraq.

“Bringing the boys home” did not end the Vietnam War, which continued for some years after U.S. troops were withdrawn. The war ended only when the North Vietnamese Army and the southern National Liberation Front rolled over the remaining forces of U.S. imperialism’s puppet forces in the South. The military defeat of U.S. imperialism at the hands of Vietnam’s workers and peasants was a victory for working people and the oppressed the world over, not least in the U.S. What the liberal Vietnam antiwar movement did succeed in doing was to deflect many of the millions of youth radicalized by that war and the civil rights movement back into the arms of the Democratic Party, thereby undercutting a significant opportunity for the development of a revolutionary workers party in this country.

These are the same treacherous politics that are being pushed by the liberal antiwar movement of today. Despite the occasional lip service to socialism in their newspapers, in their antiwar coalitions on the ground Workers World, the ISO and the various other fake-socialist organizations push anything and everything but socialist revolution as the way to end imperialist war.

Real opposition to imperialist war is impossible without opposition to the system that breeds it, an opposition that must, in the final analysis, be based on the mobilization of the working class, the only force capable of challenging and overturning bourgeois rule. In the course of sharp class struggle and through the instrumentality of a revolutionary party that patiently educates the working class in the understanding not only of its social power but of its historic interests, the workers will become conscious of themselves as a class fighting for itself and for all the oppressed against the entire capitalist system and its government.

The representatives of the ruling class, Republican and Democrat, will do everything in their power to forestall and oppose any independent mobilization of the working class. From the beginnings of this war drive, the Spartacist League has opposed class collaborationism and called for class struggle against American imperialism’s rulers. What the reformists are, in reality, promoting is faith in the reformability of blood-drenched U.S. imperialism. Our commitment is to building an international revolutionary working-class party to lead the proletariat to power, consigning this whole system of exploitation, racial oppression and imperialist war to the dustbin of history.

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