Workers Vanguard No. 1051

5 September 2014


U.S. Out of Iraq! No Intervention in Syria!

Down With Imperialist Airstrikes Against ISIS Reactionaries!

Since early August, President Obama has shifted the basis for his attacks on ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) from a supposed campaign to prevent genocide to a war against a cancer that not only has the temerity to murder American civilians in that region but also poses a substantial threat to citizens in the U.S. The “humanitarian” cloak that Obama donned as he ordered the first strikes against ISIS in northern Iraq was useful for imperialist propaganda purposes. But what hit closer to home was the fate of thousands of imperiled American residents and ExxonMobil representatives in the city of Erbil.

While the bulk of the American populace remains war-weary, the president seems to have seized the script for the second Gulf War co-authored by Bush, Rumsfeld and Cheney and simply replaced all references to the evil Saddam Hussein with references to the evil ISIS. To date, these ultra-reactionary Islamists, currently numbering about 15,000 fighters, have not been accused of harboring weapons of mass destruction. In fact, ISIS—whose method of rooting out “apostates” like the Christians and Yazidis as well as Turkmen and other Shi’ites amounts to mass butchery—is the spawn of Al Qaeda in Iraq, itself a product of the U.S. occupation. The founding elements of Al Qaeda, including Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, leader of its Iraqi affiliate, were trained and funded by the CIA as it assembled a reactionary horde to oppose the Soviet Union’s intervention in Afghanistan in the 1980s.

Once again, a coalition of U.S. imperialism’s allies is to be assembled, including not only Britain and Australia but also Saudi Arabia and Qatar—both of which have funded ISIS or other Al Qaeda types—as well as jihadist forces opposed to ISIS. This is to be buttressed by a newly constituted and hardly nonsectarian regime in Baghdad, which commands armed forces bathed in communal blood. On the Syrian front, the arms provided to the relatively impotent “democratic” opposition to Bashar al-Assad’s regime will be upgraded.

The Kurdish pesh merga forces, which have been shielded by the U.S. for years as part of Washington’s effort to secure oil-rich Iraqi Kurdistan as its client, may receive a similar upgrade. This, however, is more problematic, as the Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP), which heads the regional government in Iraqi Kurdistan, angles for the foundation of a Kurdish state, an outcome totally unacceptable to the Turkish and Iraqi governments. Then, there is the not small matter that both the KDP and the rival Patriotic Union of Kurdistan remain on the U.S. terrorism list, albeit on a lower tier of evil.

Obama has ordered more regular surveillance flights over Syria to assess the feasibility of airstrikes on ISIS-controlled areas in that country. Attacks are supposed to be conducted in a manner that does not benefit the enemy Assad regime—an impossibility exposed by Assad’s offer to support such strikes if the U.S. requests Syrian permission. This was a clever riposte, but it may well backfire given that the U.S. maintains its opposition to Assad’s rule. We oppose any and all U.S. interventions against whatever forces in Syria.

As we pointed out in “Iraq in Flames: Legacy of U.S. Occupation” (WV No. 1049, 11 July), it is the American imperialists who triggered and continue to fuel the reactionary, mainly Sunni-Shi’ite communal conflicts in Iraq and beyond, conflicts in which the world’s toilers have no side. This template also fits Libya’s descent into sheer chaos. And it is U.S. imperialism that is the bloodiest enemy of the world’s working people, as most graphically illustrated by the hundreds upon hundreds of thousands of Iraqis slaughtered in the service of its quest for dominance in the region. Any force, however unsavory, that attacks, repels or otherwise impedes U.S. forces strikes a blow in the interests of the exploited and the oppressed.

Washington Moots “Stupid Shit”

It is now acknowledged by many bourgeois spokesmen that the U.S. created the “mess” in Iraq. This is normally followed by the injunction that it is Washington’s job to fix it. Obama’s current and patently farcical plan for a fix is tantamount to attempting to cure cholera by infecting the patient with Ebola. It is coming from a president who, a few months ago, intoned that U.S. foreign policy should be informed by the concept “Don’t do stupid shit.” At about the same time, Dick Cheney and neocon Bill Kristol received much media coverage for their claims that the weak-kneed Obama was conciliating the enemies of the U.S. in the Near East and Russia, thereby squandering the fruits of the American “victories” in Iraq and Afghanistan. This received a humorous savaging on The Daily Show.

Congressional Republicans quickly endorsed the Cheney-Kristol refrain. None, however, have been so bold as to push legislation for an increased U.S. military presence, as they are facing midterm elections with a populace not currently disposed to go there. From the president to John McCain, none have dared suggest the reintroduction of American “boots on the ground.” Meanwhile, Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton has waded in to accuse Obama of abandoning the Syrian resistance while denouncing his do-nothing-stupid posture, piously intoning that “great nations need organizing principles” (The Atlantic, 10 August).

These accusations are the purest hogwash. Barack Obama is the imperialist chief executive who upped the ante in Afghanistan, the president who has pushed the NSA monitoring of all Americans, the architect of the assassination-by-drone program targeting purportedly turncoat U.S. citizens in obvious violation of their constitutional right to a trial. It is Obama who awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Madeleine Albright, who, as Bill Clinton’s ambassador to the United Nations, notoriously defended the deaths of 500,000 Iraqi children during the U.S.-sponsored embargo of Iraq as “worth it.”

Several of the liberal talk show hosts at MSNBC have expressed concern over Hillary and Barack’s bellicosity, although they have become perhaps more positively disposed toward such following the video of journalist James Foley’s beheading by ISIS. Front-line journalism is a hazardous profession, more so when the reporters are perceived, frequently with good reason, as PR men for the enemy.

Washington’s stated policy of refusing to negotiate with terrorists is itself a blatantly apparent lie. Sergeant Bergdahl was not returned to this country via Federal Express, nor were the five Taliban prisoners released from the Guantánamo hellhole to Qatari custody the benefactors of a special forces operation led by the Haqqani network. The U.S. could have simply made the deal proposed by ISIS for Foley’s return. It preferred trying to spring him through a (failed) Special Ops mission in Syria. And now the imperialists have the figure of the slain American journalist to try to rally public sentiment behind military action.

The War at Home

Why has there been this “enemy at the door” furor? In fact, the U.S. rulers constantly play this card to poison the working class with “one nation indivisible” patriotism. Since the end of World War II, apologists for U.S. imperialism across the political spectrum have argued that it is the only power with the resources—overweening military power, money, size, a large and trusting population, geographic isolation from potential invaders, etc.—necessary to assure the perpetuation of a liberal, stable and peaceful world order. And if Americans forsake this burdensome responsibility, then it is claimed that liberty, stability and peace on the planet will be forfeited. (A recent exposition of this worldview, titled “Superpowers Don’t Get to Retire,” by the neocon Robert Kagan appeared in the May 26 issue of the New Republic.)

The reality has been a virtually unending series of wars since WWII, most frequently initiated when the Democratic Party has been in power. In the quest to maintain and extend its world dominance, U.S. imperialism has produced some ten million corpses of those who stood in its way. Apologists for the U.S.-dominated world order see the overthrow of the degenerated workers state in the USSR in 1991-92 as its crowning achievement. That counterrevolution has led to the increased ravaging of the world’s toiling masses by their profit-bloated capitalist masters. It is that historic defeat for the international working class that has resulted in the political disarming of many of its advanced layers by erasing their belief in the superiority of socialism and, thus, of the possibility of an alternative to capitalist exploitation and oppression. An atmosphere of freedom and wellbeing may pervade the think tanks of the bourgeoisie, but it is not to be found in the world where most working people reside—not anywhere and certainly not here.

The declining economic strength of the American empire is an objective obstacle to its aspirations. The constricted economy that has emerged in the supposed aftermath of the Great Recession has for the nonce regained its capacity to produce profits but not jobs. Not even the optimists see the possibility of any significant economic expansion. This economic reality has necessitated a paring down of the defense budget, although to be sure any cuts there will hardly alter the balance of military power in the world, where the U.S. has unrivaled supremacy. The diminished prospects that face most working people have led to a generalized disdain for those holding or running for elected office, who are viewed with justice as do-nothings, indifferent to the plight of the common man, and as self-seeking predators.

Those who might vote in the November elections see the prospect of further military involvements as further threat to the little that remains of their ability to sustain any semblance of a life. Currently, about 59 percent of the population is employed, a level that has persisted since the onset of the Great Recession. If the employment-population ratio had returned to prior levels, an additional nine million people would now be working. About one-fifth of those currently employed hold part-time jobs, and median income levels are 6 percent less than before the recession. These material parameters of persistent misery and despair are especially acute in black communities across the nation. An economically deprived, dispirited and distrustful population can create difficulties for a ruling class seeking to maintain world domination.

Such discontents constitute an explosive mixture. The bourgeoisie recognizes this fact, which helps explain its attempts to constantly strengthen and extend the reach of its police forces and prison system, even though widespread social rebellion is clearly not now on the agenda in this country. The working class—the only social force with the objective interest and power necessary to overturn the capitalist system—finds its struggles blocked by a union bureaucracy whose loyalty to their capitalist masters is such that it currently eclipses their concern for the very survival of the trade unions as a meaningful force.

The Democrats, the party of bourgeois rule that masquerades as the friend of working people, rescued the bankers and fat cats at the onset of the Great Recession. Since then, they have offered nothing to America’s working and poor people other than the prospect of peanut-sized raises in the minimum wage accompanied by watermelon-sized exceptions to such raises. The reformist left continues its dead-end attempts to force the Democrats to the left while frequently sharing an appreciation for U.S. imperialism’s enemies list. Particularly blatant is the International Socialist Organization (ISO), which cheered capitalist counterrevolution in the then-USSR and in recent years has made common cause with the Syrian rebels against the Assad regime, although not with ISIS.

In “Obama’s New War in Iraq” (, 28 August), the ISO’s Ashley Smith observes that ISIS and its ilk were nurtured by the U.S. and its client states “to combat secular nationalism and Communism.” The article notes that “Democratic President Jimmy Carter and Republican Ronald Reagan both collaborated with Saudi Arabia and Pakistan to back the fundamentalist Mujahideen during the popular uprising against the USSR invasion and occupation of Afghanistan from 1979 to 1989.”

Smith refrains from recounting how the ISO was among the foremost “left” cheerleaders for the Islamic reactionaries, whose resistance included throwing acid in the face of women teachers and committing unspeakable barbarities against Soviet soldiers and any supporters of the modernizing nationalist regime that requested Soviet intervention. In the sharpest contrast, we declared: “Hail Red Army in Afghanistan!” and “Extend social gains of the October Revolution to Afghan peoples!” We said that it was better to fight the forces of counterrevolution there than to fight them in Berlin and Moscow.

On at least a superficial level, many working people in the U.S. perceive that the hardships they endure here are not unrelated to their rulers’ exploitation and oppression abroad. The truth is that the arterial bleeding caused by the stagnant and decaying capitalist system will not be stanched by reformist Band-Aids. While the reformists plead for “butter not guns,” we Marxists aim to win the most conscious layers of the working class to the understanding that what is necessary is the overturn of the U.S. imperialist order through socialist revolution. It is vitally necessary to fight to forge an international revolutionary working-class party committed to that end.