U.S. Hands Off Syria!

Down With Colonial Occupation of Iraq!

Reprinted from Workers Vanguard No. 802, 25 April 2003

APRIL 22—The people of the northern Iraqi city of Mosul got their first real taste of American “liberation” last Tuesday when U.S. Marines fired directly into a crowd of demonstrators protesting against the occupation. Within minutes, ten Iraqis had been shot dead and dozens more wounded; the next day at least seven more people in Mosul were killed by American troops. In a column in the London Guardian (10 April), Seumas Milne wrote:

“What cannot now be disguised, as US marines swagger around the Iraqi capital swathing toppled statues of Saddam Hussein with the stars and stripes and declaring ‘we own Baghdad,’ is the crudely colonial nature of this enterprise. Any day now, the pro-Israeli retired US general Jay Garner is due to take over the running of Iraq, with plans to replace the Iraqi dinar with the dollar, parcel out contracts to US companies and set the free market parameters for the future ‘interim Iraqi administration’.”

The imperialists may have won an easy military victory, but the colonial occupation has already provoked outrage and resistance among the population. In the southern Shi’ite city of Nasiriya, up to 20,000 marched to protest the colonial occupation. On April 18, tens of thousands more demonstrated on the streets of Baghdad, carrying banners in Arabic and English reading: “Leave Our Country. We Want Peace” and “We Reject American Hegemony.” Organized by the Shi’ite mosques, this demonstration was a rare display of unity between Sunni and Shi’ite Muslims. But it took place under the green banners of Islamic reaction.

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. In the areas of northern Iraq dominated by the U.S.-allied nationalists of the Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP) and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), mobs have driven thousands of Arabs from their villages. In Mosul, Arab protesters not only chanted “U.S. out!” but also “Kurds out!” And the Turkmen minority is so besieged that they have appealed for military intervention by Turkey.

Mosul was a stronghold of the Ba’ath Party. However, among its population of some one million, one-third are Kurds, who also form a majority in the surrounding region. Under the Ba’ath regime’s “Arabization” scheme, hundreds of thousands of Kurds, Turkmen and Assyrians were driven out of the region. With 300,000 Kurdish refugees planning to return, the threat of communalist bloodshed hangs over the whole area. A reporter for the Guardian (17 April) noted that “Mosul looked more like a Beirut war zone than a liberated city.”

No one really knows the number of civilians killed during the war, or even the number of Iraqi soldiers slaughtered while defending their country. What is clear is that the hospitals and morgues are overflowing with the dead and wounded. And what little civil infrastructure survived the U.S./British bombing and 12 years of starvation sanctions has been devastated through widespread looting carried out under the gaze of U.S. occupation forces who rushed to secure the country’s oil fields. In Baghdad, 35 hospitals are closed because of looting and arson and the three still functioning are without basic drugs. Baghdad and other cities have been without electricity or water for weeks. And there is widespread fear of diseases such as cholera spreading as people drink contaminated water from the rivers.

What we are witnessing is the return to old-style colonial pillage, with the hated cops of the Ba’athist regime once again terrorizing the population as puppets of the colonial invaders. While U.S. troops guarded the Ministry of Oil, the imperialist occupiers gave a green light to the sacking of the Baghdad museum and the torching of the library—the cultural heritage of Iraq and indeed of humanity. In an eyewitness account, Robert Fisk wrote in the London Independent (13 April):

“Our feet crunched on the wreckage of 5,000-year-old marble plinths and stone statuary and pots that had endured every siege of Baghdad, every invasion of Iraq throughout history—only to be destroyed when America came to ‘liberate’ the city....

“Not since the Taliban embarked on their orgy of destruction against the Buddhas of Bamiyan and the statues in the museum of Kabul—perhaps not since the Second World War or earlier—have so many archaeological treasures been wantonly and systematically smashed to pieces.”

This imperialist conquest is a blow not only to the people of Iraq and the Near East but to working people and the oppressed the world over. Gloating over their rapid victory in what was purely and simply a one-sided slaughter, America’s rulers have shown the world just how ruthless they can be in killing defenseless civilians. U.S. TV networks showed a Baghdad crowd cheering the toppling of Saddam Hussein’s statue, but they did not show American troops shooting up an ambulance in Baghdad the same day, killing two injured people on the way to a hospital.

As proletarian internationalists who called for the military defense of Iraq without giving any support to the Saddam Hussein regime, we say: Down with the colonial occupation of Iraq! All U.S./British troops out of Iraq and the Near East now! Down with U.S. imperialism!

U.S. Imperialism Threatens the World

Washington has wasted no time in warning the rest of the world that the same fate waits in store for any other country deemed to be defying American diktat. Apparently first in the firing line is Syria, with the White House trotting out the usual litany of war threats, claiming Syria is a “rogue state” that has “weapons of mass destruction” and is harboring former Iraqi leaders. Also on America’s hit list is the North Korean deformed workers state. The New York Times (21 April) reports: “Hardliners in the Pentagon—and some at the White House—say that the United States should use its speedy victory in Iraq to drive home to North Korea that it could meet the same fate.” We stand for the unconditional military defense of North Korea, including its right to nuclear weapons, against imperialist attack and capitalist counterrevolution.

With the invasion over, the Bush administration’s first order of domestic business is to try to push through its massive tax cut for the rich, even as unemployment continues to rise. Senate Republicans are clamoring to overturn the “sunset clauses” imposing a five-year limit on the most onerous provisions of the draconian USA-Patriot Act. Meanwhile, the administration has already unveiled a new piece of legislation, Patriot II, which would strip citizenship from Americans who “provide material support” to an organization which at some time may be deemed “terrorist” by the government. What remains of affirmative action programs set up in the wake of the civil rights movement is under the ax. In league with the government, the airline corporations have launched a frontal assault on the airline unions, imposing massive wage cuts under the threat of court-ordered bankruptcy schemes.

The world’s working and semicolonial peoples are paying the price for the counterrevolutionary destruction of the Soviet Union in 1991-92. That historic defeat resulted in a catastrophic devastation of life and culture in the former Soviet Union. It has also emboldened American imperialism, proclaiming itself the “world’s only superpower,” to aggressively assert its dominance over the globe. While the reformist “socialists” who today proclaim themselves antiwar and anti-imperialist joined in cheering the demise of the USSR, we Trotskyists fought to the end in defense of the Soviet workers state and the collectivized property forms established by the October Revolution of 1917. This was part of our struggle for new October Revolutions around the world.

The naked colonial aggression against Iraq is the real face of imperialism, of the irrational, anarchic, profit-driven capitalist system made even more irrational in its epoch of decay. Mass slaughter is the concentrated expression and ultimate logic of the “normal” brutal workings of the capitalist system, which daily condemns countless numbers around the world to death by malnutrition, lack of medical care and industrial murder.

The only way to put an end to imperialist war is to tear up this whole system by its roots through socialist revolution and the creation of a rational, planned economy internationally. We fight to build revolutionary workers parties as part of a reforged Trotskyist Fourth International to lead the proletariat in the struggle for power.

Zionist Neocons, Christian Fundamentalists

The takeover of Iraq “opens up all sorts of new possibilities for us,” proclaimed a spokesman for the Bush administration, whose policies are increasingly determined by a cabal of Zionist neo-conservatives and Christian fundamentalists. These types are intent on again reshaping the Near East—as it was earlier reshaped by British and French imperialism after the fall of the Ottoman Empire—including through the creation of a cordon sanitaire between Israel and potentially hostile states. Former U.S. general Jay Garner, who is slated to be gauleiter of occupied Iraq, is closely linked to Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon. In the baggage train of this imperialist occupation force is Christian evangelist Franklin Graham, son of Billy Graham and a prominent fixture at this year’s Pentagon Good Friday service, who has railed against Islam as a “very evil and wicked religion.”

The neocons’ favored choice as Garner’s “native” stooge is Ahmed Chalabi, head of the U.S.-funded Iraqi National Congress (INC) and a U.S.-educated banker who fled Jordan years ago to evade a conviction for bank fraud. Chalabi’s American champions extend far beyond the right wing of the Bush administration. His INC was the chief beneficiary of the Iraq Liberation Act signed by Clinton in 1998. Another longtime booster of Chalabi is self-styled “anarchist” Noam Chomsky, who has promoted Chalabi and the Iraqi “opposition” for over a decade.

In the buildup to the 1991 Gulf War, Chomsky pushed as an “alternative” to war “the peaceful means prescribed by international law: sanctions and diplomacy” (Z Magazine, February 1991). Another “alternative” he promoted was Chalabi’s “democratic opposition,” lecturing that the media “have scrupulously avoided the Iraqi democratic forces” because “they are again calling for democracy in Iraq while Washington seeks to install some clone of Saddam Hussein” (Lies of Our Times, September 1991). Two years later, Chomsky complained that “the US always dismissed the Iraqi democratic opposition with disdain, including its most conservative elements, such as London-based banker Ahmed Chalabi” (Z Magazine, May 1993).

Only months before the passage of the Iraq Liberation Act, Chomsky again talked about how the Chalabi opposition had been an “alternative” to war in 1991, again complaining of the U.S.: “Regional opposition was regarded as a problem to be evaded, not a factor to be taken into account, any more than international law” (Z Magazine, April 1998). Even after Chalabi rode into Baghdad with American troops earlier this month, Chomsky said approvingly, “The US-backed opposition demands that the UN play a vital role in post-war Iraq and rejects US control of reconstruction or government” (ZNet, 13 April).

The current belligerence against Syria has long been a policy of the neocons’ Project for a New American Century (PNAC), which in a post-9/11 letter to Bush declared that “the administration should consider appropriate measures of retaliation” against Iran and Syria, which they deemed to be “known state sponsors of terrorism.” The letter continued, “Israel has been and remains America’s staunchest ally against international terrorism, especially in the Middle East. The United States should fully support our fellow democracy in its fight against terrorism.” The Zionist rulers have taken full advantage of the Iraq war and the massive American military presence to intensify their murderous attacks on the Palestinian people.

After months of lying war propaganda about Iraqi “weapons of mass destruction,” not a single such weapon has been found by the occupation forces. But they could find hundreds of nuclear weapons in Israel. As documented by courageous Israeli nuclear technician Mordechai Vanunu, who is serving an 18-year sentence for his service to humanity, the Zionist state had already acquired an arsenal of at least 200 nukes by the 1980s. To ensure its regional nuclear monopoly, Israel launched a “pre-emptive” strike against Iraq’s sole nuclear reactor in 1981. From the 1960s on, Israel developed its nuclear and missile programs in collaboration with the white-supremacist regime in South Africa which, according to American satellite surveillance, carried out a nuclear test in 1979. The Zionist state and the apartheid regime jointly decided to end their nuclear collaboration in the early 1990s, when the African National Congress was about to come to power, and by the time Nelson Mandela became the country’s first black president in 1994, the nukes were gone.

Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle, leading lights in PNAC and the Bush administration, served as consultants to Benjamin Netanyahu when he ran for Israeli prime minister at the head of the ultra-Zionist Likud Party in 1996. But the Democrats are no less rabid in their support to Zionist Israel. Among the Congressional sponsors of the “Syria Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act” are Democrats Eliot Engel and California Senator Barbara Boxer. Although in recent years Syria bought subsidized oil from Iraq, the Syrian rulers were by no means supporters of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq—Syria backed Iran against Iraq in the 1980-88 war and supported the U.S.-led Desert Slaughter in 1991. The Syrian leadership’s real crime in the eyes of both the neocons and their Democratic allies is its hostility to Israel, from whom Syria demands the return of the Golan Heights seized in 1967. U.S. hands off Syria! Defend the Palestinian people! All Israeli troops, settlers out of all the Occupied Territories!

The criminal role played by the Kurdish nationalist leaders in acting as pawns for U.S. imperialism will only set the Kurdish people up for yet another betrayal. What all the regional bourgeoisies, as well as all the imperialist powers, do not want to see is the creation of an independent Kurdish state, which would challenge the stability of the bourgeois order in the Near East. This underscores that any struggle for Kurdish national liberation must be based on implacable opposition to imperialism. The Kurdish nation is divided among four capitalist countries, Iraq, Iran, Syria and Turkey, which has threatened military intervention across the border to suppress any move toward Kurdish statehood. It is only through the overthrow of capitalist rule in these countries—establishing a Socialist Republic of United Kurdistan—that the Kurdish people can finally realize national self-determination. Only within the framework of a socialist federation of the Near East can the rights of the disparate nationalities and ethnic and religious peoples of the region be guaranteed.

Only Workers Revolution Can End Imperialist War!

The war against Iraq was a naked assertion of American military superiority, not only over the Near East, but over its weaker rival imperialist powers. It is also a way for the U.S. to assert its control of the Near East oil spigot, on which Japan and West Europe are particularly reliant. Having been the driving force behind the starvation blockade for the past 12 years, the U.S. imperialists are now calling on the UN to lift the sanctions so that they can fully exploit their control over Iraq’s oil wealth on the world market. At the same time, Wolfowitz has demanded that Russia, Germany and France forgive billions of dollars in debts owed them by Iraq.

The capitalist rulers of France, Germany and Russia, who posed as peace-loving opponents of American “unilateralism,” are now trying to get in on the division of the spoils, including the scramble for contracts for “reconstruction” of ravaged Iraq. Behind their insistence that the UN must have a central role in reconstruction is their own thirst for profit. Chirac and the French capitalist rulers, for example, hope to hold on to massive French investments in Iraq on behalf of oil giant TotalFinaElf. But the U.S. masters insist that they fought for and stole Iraq for themselves. The contracts for rebuilding Iraq will overwhelmingly go to American corporations like Halliburton and Bechtel, for which the Bush administration essentially acts as a public relations department.

If nothing else, this flagrant imperialist aggrandizement certainly refutes the so-called theory of globalization, which was promoted by various leftists and liberals who declared that the capitalist nation-state had been superseded by multinational corporations and international agencies like the World Bank. Capitalist imperialism is premised on the existence of and competition among distinct nation-states defending the interests of their own respective capitalists. And as the examples of Bechtel and Halliburton demonstrate, the capitalists and their government form what is essentially one large interlocking board of directors. As V.I. Lenin wrote in a 1913 article titled “Armaments and Capitalism”: “Governments manage the affairs of the capitalist class, and the managers are well paid. The managers are shareholders themselves. And they shear the sheep together, under cover of speeches about ‘patriotism...’.”

Millions of people around the world demonstrated their opposition to this war. In Europe, Italian dock and rail workers as well as Scottish train drivers took action against the transport of munitions, showing a tiny glimpse of the social power that could be brought to bear against the imperialist war machine. There was palpable support for class-struggle actions against the war, and “left” talking union leaders made fiery speeches about union opposition to the war, until such time as the bombing began. Then they predictably rallied behind their own governments. In Britain, the Trades Union Congress refused even to participate in a ten-minute European-wide work stoppage against the war. In Germany and France, the labor misleaders rallied behind their “antiwar” imperialist governments, refusing to lift a finger to mount independent labor action once the bombing began.

It is patently clear that the biggest antiwar demonstrations in the world had no effect whatsoever on the war-crazed American ruling class. Yet the reformist antiwar organizers continue to sing the same class-collaborationist “unity” refrain that what was needed to stop the war was the broadest possible movement, by which they meant an alliance with “antiwar” Democratic politicians like Jesse Jackson. Today, the reformist International Socialist Organization (ISO) promises more of the same: “The new antiwar movement has made great strides. But it has to become larger and broader still” (Socialist Worker, 4 April).

Workers World Party (WWP), the dominant force behind the International ANSWER coalition, now proclaims that the movement must recognize “the Iraqis’ right to resist the occupation.” But right through to the end of the war, ANSWER refused to raise any slogans that hinted at taking the side of Iraq in the conflict—because that would have precluded Democratic Party politicians from speaking on its platforms. Even now, WWP upholds the slogan “stop the war on Iraq before it starts” because it “allowed the movement to put the greatest number of people in motion on a progressive basis” (Workers World, 17 April).

To build an antiwar movement with bourgeois politicians is to build an antiwar movement with representatives of the very class in whose interest imperialist war is waged. As Marxists, we fight for the unity of the international proletariat in struggle against its capitalist class enemy, which means a merciless political struggle against those who preach “unity” with the capitalists in the name of building a “larger and broader” movement.

From the beginning of the drive to war, we have told the truth, insisting that the struggle against imperialist war cannot be separated from the struggle against the capitalist system that breeds war. Genuine opposition to war must be based on class struggle and political protest independent of all the political parties of capitalist rule. U.S. imperialism’s conquest of Iraq will only strengthen the ability of the ruling class to plunder the world. The rapacious U.S. ruling class must be swept away through workers revolution. The Spartacist League is committed to forging the multiracial revolutionary workers party needed to lead that struggle to victory in the bastion of world imperialism.

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