Workers Vanguard No. 892

11 May 2007


U.S. Out of Iraq, Afghanistan Now!

Iraq Occupation: Imperialist Barbarism

Break with the Democrats—The Other Party of American Imperialism!

For a Workers Party That Fights for Socialist Revolution!

More than four years of imperialist occupation have reduced Iraq to a living hell. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have perished since the U.S. invasion in 2003. In the communal warfare between Sunni and Shi’ite Arabs unleashed by the occupation, more than 5,300 Iraqis were killed in March and April alone as unidentified bodies appear daily throughout the country, often bearing the scars of hideous tortures. Nearly four million people, by UN estimates, have left their homes to seek refuge elsewhere in Iraq or have fled the country altogether.

Conditions have become even more hellish since President Bush announced a “surge” of 20,000 additional troops for Iraq in order to subdue Baghdad. U.S. and Iraqi forces have carried out house-to-house sweeps in the capital, smashing down doors and dragging “suspects” from their homes. By the end of March, the UN estimated that more than 37,000 people were imprisoned throughout Iraq, often subjected to “detainee abuse” (read: torture). Unknown numbers of men, women and children are perishing as U.S. forces attack densely populated neighborhoods with artillery barrages and air strikes by warplanes and helicopter gunships.

Bush’s military escalation has been met by increased attacks by Iraqi insurgent forces against U.S. troops—the 104 killed in April represented the sixth-highest monthly toll since the invasion. There has also been a sharp increase in terrorist bombings by Shi’ite and Sunni communalist forces pursuing a gory campaign of “ethnic cleansing” of mixed neighborhoods. On April 18, at least 171 people died in a series of five bomb attacks in the capital. The puppet Iraqi government has simply stopped providing statistics on civilian deaths.

The sectarian bloodletting was the pretext for the U.S. occupation forces to construct a 12-foot-high concrete wall around the mainly Sunni enclave of Adhamiya. On April 23, some 2,000 people demonstrated in Baghdad in outrage over the move to turn the neighborhood into what one banner accurately called “a big prison.” Many compared the project to the walls built by Zionist Israel in the West Bank to seal off the Palestinian population. As one resident declared: “We’ll be like the Palestinians and we will not accept that” (London Independent, 24 April). Since Iraqi security forces heavily overlap with Shi’ite militias and death squads, many walled-in residents understandably view with fear the soldiers who control the entrance to their communities.

The plan to wall off Sunni neighborhoods in Baghdad is borrowed directly from the bloody history of British imperialism’s subjugation of its colonial subjects. An article by Lt. Col. Wade Markel in Parameters (Spring 2006), the quarterly journal of the Army War College, recommends “involuntary internment” for those Sunnis who refuse to be imprisoned in what he cynically calls “gated communities.”

Markel’s article cites growing interest among U.S. military officials in Britain’s crushing of an anti-colonial revolt in Malaysia in the 1950s. About half a million mainly ethnic Chinese, the base of the Communist-led insurgency, were forcibly concentrated in “new villages”—concentration camps surrounded by barbed wire and observation posts. What Markel delicately describes as “a substantial element of repression to the strategy” was measured in wanton executions and massacres of villagers. The U.S., in its failed attempt to crush the revolutionary struggle of the Vietnamese workers and peasants, applied similar methods by driving the rural population into “strategic hamlets” while carrying out the “Operation Phoenix” program of assassination on a mass scale.

The Democrats and the Iraq Quagmire

Almost everyone associated with the launching of the Iraq war is scurrying, however lamely, to find cover. Chief among these currently is former CIA director George Tenet, who portrays himself as a scapegoat for the decision to invade Iraq. Tenet was just doing his job when he told his superiors that reports of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction were a “slam dunk.” This was just one of the lying pretexts for the war the U.S. imperialists were determined to wage in order to project their overwhelming military might in the strategic, oil-rich Near East at the expense of their rivals and to serve notice on anyone who dared stand in their way.

As the occupation drags on, a large section of the U.S. capitalist ruling class wants to extricate American forces from this imbroglio without further damaging its interests in the region, and beyond. Speaking for this section of the bourgeoisie, Democratic Senate majority leader Harry Reid called the war “lost” while Democrats in Congress passed a bill, promptly vetoed by Bush, purportedly setting a date to begin the withdrawal of U.S. troops. In reality, the bill not only provides more funding for the U.S. military in Iraq than was requested by Bush but would open the door to maintaining tens of thousands of troops in Iraq for “protecting” other U.S. forces, “training” Iraqi security forces or engaging in “targeted special actions” against terrorists.

In opposing Bush’s policies, the Democrats are acting as the responsible alternative party of U.S. imperialism. Hillary Clinton and John Edwards, two of the Democratic presidential contenders, in different ways express regret over having voted to authorize the Iraq invasion. Barack Obama, meanwhile, can bask in the “antiwar” limelight since he had not been elected to the Senate at the time of the vote. But the Democrats’ vote to attack Iraq was simply the logical extension of the blank check they had given the Bush administration to carry out the “war on terror,” the rulers’ pretext for imperialist rampages around the world and for a massive assault on democratic rights at home.

The Democrats who oppose Bush’s Iraq occupation embrace the murderous occupation of Afghanistan as a “just” retaliation for the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. In just one example of the devastation wrought by U.S./NATO forces in the name of fighting “terror,” the U.S. military slaughtered more than 40 Afghan civilians and wounded 50 more in a bombing attack in western Afghanistan late last month, touching off furious protest. Meanwhile, Special Operations forces continue to terrorize villagers. We say: U.S. occupiers out of Iraq and Afghanistan now!

As Marxist revolutionaries, the Spartacist League took a side militarily in defense of Afghanistan and Iraq against the U.S. invaders, while politically opposing Saddam Hussein’s bloody capitalist regime and the Taliban cutthroats. We have a side in the current conflict in Iraq: against the U.S. occupiers, their allies and Iraqi lackeys. Insofar as the forces on the ground in Iraq aim their blows against the imperialist aggressors, we call for their military defense against U.S. imperialism. This entails absolutely no political support to Islamic fundamentalism or nationalism. We vehemently oppose the communal violence—kidnappings, car bombings, suicide bombings—racking the Iraqi population.

A number of bourgeois pundits are comparing the Iraq quagmire to the U.S. war in Vietnam. This comparison is also made by such reformist leftists as the Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL) and its ANSWER coalition—a main organizer of the March 17-18 national antiwar protests—who argue that it was the liberal peace movement that forced the U.S. to withdraw from Vietnam.

The crucial difference with Iraq is that in Vietnam, the U.S. imperialists, beginning with the Democratic Kennedy and Johnson administrations, fought against the forces of the North Vietnamese deformed workers state and the South Vietnamese National Liberation Front, whose historic victory over U.S. forces resulted in social revolution in the South. It was the battlefield victory of the Stalinist-led forces that defeated U.S. imperialism, not the peace crawls “at home.” The Spartacist League at the time raised the call: All Indochina Must Go Communist! We unconditionally defend the Vietnamese deformed workers state, as well as those of China, Cuba and North Korea, against imperialism and domestic counterrevolution.

In Iraq today, the insurgent forces are composed of religious reactionaries and bourgeois nationalists who are more likely to attack other religious or ethnic populations than the U.S. occupation forces. In one stark example, gunmen in northern Iraq on April 22 stopped a bus of textile workers, checked their identifications and identified 23 members of the Yazidi religious minority. The Yazidi were then lined up against a wall and shot.

When the Iraqi proletariat, which has been largely decimated by the occupation, raises its head, it will come up against not only the imperialist forces but the domestic forces of reaction. In Iraq and throughout the Near East, Marxist workers parties must be forged in combat against imperialism and in opposition to all manner of nationalism and religious reaction. We fight for workers revolutions to overthrow all the bourgeois regimes of the region, not least including the Zionist state: For a socialist federation of the Near East!

Essential to this perspective is the understanding of the necessity of socialist revolution in the centers of imperialism. In our opposition to the occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq, we have stressed the need for class struggle against the U.S. capitalist rulers at home. Imperialist wars and occupations are the concentrated expression of a profit system that daily slaughters workers on the job, that consigns millions of the jobless to the scrap heap, that metes out brutal cop repression against racial and ethnic minorities and immigrants. Imperialism is capitalism in its death agony, where a handful of advanced powers compete for control of markets, raw materials and access to cheap labor. This, and not particular governments or government policies, is the cause of imperialist war. To rid the world of war, poverty and oppression, the entire capitalist profit system must be torn up by its roots, through proletarian revolutions in the U.S. and internationally.

Reformist Left: Water Boys for Democrats

The Democrats’ November Congressional victory, from which they aim to launch a run for the White House, was assisted by the “antiwar movement” built by the reformist left. The various antiwar coalitions built and supported by the PSL, Workers World Party (WWP), International Socialist Organization (ISO), Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP), Socialist Action et al. pleaded with the imperialist rulers to bring peace to the Near East and to reorient their priorities. With their timeworn calls for money for schools and jobs and not war, these reformists demand that the rulers of the capitalist profit system serve the interests of those they exploit and oppress.

The reformists’ groveling appeals to the bourgeoisie were exemplified by the signs carried by the WWP’s Troops Out Now Coalition reading: “Attention Congress! Don’t Manage the War—End It! Cut Off the Funding!” As always in the U.S., this program boils down to promoting the “liberal” party of American imperialism. And in fact, the clearest message delivered by the protests was the call to impeach George Bush, with the RCP taking the opportunity to peddle the book, Impeach the President.

As is usually the case, the ISO provides the crudest expression of the reformists’ pressure politics. The ISO’s Socialist Worker (4 May) applauds that “the Democrats—all too quiet about the war even a year ago—are finally giving voice to the frustration” in the population about the war but “need to feel more pressure from outside Washington before they act.” Along these lines, at a February 11 rally for Obama at the University of Illinois-Chicago, protesters including ISO members unfurled a banner that read: “Obama: Stand Up! Cut the Funding!”

Those taken in by the ISO’s appeals to this “antiwar” candidate might look at how Obama addressed the political elite assembled at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs on April 23, where he called for the “strongest, best-equipped military in the world,” including “by adding 65,000 soldiers to the Army and 27,000 Marines.” Obama stated that “more American forces are needed” in Afghanistan and bemoaned the fact that Iran “has been strengthened by the war in Iraq.” He threatened that “the world must prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons and work to eliminate North Korea’s nuclear weapons program,” declaring, “We must never take the military option off the table.”

Obama, Hillary Clinton and John Edwards have all insisted on keeping such “options” open—a scarcely veiled reference to possible nuclear attack. We say that Iran needs nuclear weapons, one of the few ways for a country to deter imperialist attack. In the event of a military attack by the U.S. or any country acting on its behalf, we call for military defense of Iran while giving no political support to the mullah regime. We also support the development and testing of nukes by China and North Korea as part of our unconditional military defense of those workers states.

The only way to get rid of the barbaric capitalist-imperialist system is through the revolutionary mobilization of the social power of the working class—independent of and in opposition to all capitalist parties. And that requires a struggle to break the political chains forged by the labor misleaders, and reinforced by the reformist left, that tie the working class to the class enemy, chiefly through support to the Democratic Party. In the belly of the imperialist beast, the Spartacist League/U.S. fights to build the revolutionary workers party—section of a reforged Fourth International—that is necessary to lead the proletariat to power.