Workers Vanguard No. 896

3 August 2007


For Class Struggle Against U.S. Capitalist Rulers at Home!

Iraq, Afghanistan: U.S. Out Now!

Ruling Class Tells White House: Cut the Losses

When the bipartisan Iraq Study Group recommended last December that the U.S. begin withdrawing troops from Iraq, it was a signal that important sections of the bourgeoisie wanted to end what had become a debacle for American imperialism. President Bush essentially asked for one last chance to try to turn the situation around through a troop “surge.” Republican politicians stood firmly behind Bush through the spring, while Democrats in Congress adopted a posture of loyal opposition, passing toothless resolutions for withdrawal while backing the Commander-in-Chief when it counted by voting to finance the occupation.

By summer, predominant sections of the U.S. ruling class had had enough. American military forces had failed in their attempt to assert control over Baghdad, and intercommunal slaughter continued unabated. Key Republican Senators like John Warner and Richard Lugar, former chairmen respectively of the Armed Services Committee and the Foreign Relations Committee, and longtime Bush ally Pete Domenici broke with the president and began pushing for a draw down of forces. A handful of other Republican Senators voted with the Democrats to set a “timetable” for pulling back in Iraq, and still others indicated that they were only waiting until General Petraeus’ status report in September before coming out publicly in opposition to the administration. In a major editorial statement, the New York Times (8 July), an authoritative mouthpiece of the capitalist ruling class, declared in no uncertain terms that it was time “to organize an orderly exit.”

Opinion polls—and the November Congressional elections—gave unambiguous signs that the American populace in its majority wants the U.S. to get out of Iraq. This sentiment has redounded to the benefit of the Democratic Party, in part due to the services of the reformist left, which built an “antiwar movement” predicated on “Anybody but Bush” lesser evilism. But contrary to bourgeois-democratic myth, the policies of U.S. imperialism are determined not by the desires of the electorate but by the interests of the capitalist ruling class, as overseen by the Democratic and Republican parties.

The U.S. invasion of Iraq has led to the death of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, a toll that increases daily with the communal warfare between Sunnis and Shi’ites unleashed by the occupation. Some two million Iraqis have fled the country while two million more have left their homes for other areas in the country. A recently released study by Oxfam and other aid organizations reported that some eight million Iraqis—nearly a third of the population—need immediate emergency aid, 70 percent are without adequate water supplies and 28 percent of children are malnourished.

For the rulers of U.S. imperialism, who have destroyed what was once one of the relatively more advanced countries of the Near East, Iraq has become a quagmire threatening their ability to project American military power around the globe. As the New York Times editorial put it: “The war is sapping the strength of the nation’s alliances and its military forces.” Pentagon officials are sounding the alarm about the overstretched military and declining enlistment. Last month, the Army missed its recruitment goal for the second month in a row, despite offering hefty signing bonuses—and even opening the door to many convicted felons. As for “the nation’s alliances,” with Saudi Arabia reportedly financing the Sunni Muslim opposition in Iraq and encouraging the Persian Gulf states to do the same (while Iran allegedly arms Shi’ite militias), the U.S. faces the scenario of fighting a proxy war against some of its most important allies—and oil suppliers—in the Near East.

Zbigniew Brzezinski, former national security advisor under President Jimmy Carter and anti-Soviet Cold War hawk, summarized the Iraq war’s impact on the long-term interests of U.S. imperialism in his book, Second Chance: Three Presidents and the Crisis of American Superpower (2007): “Beyond destabilizing the Middle East, the Iraq war had a further, much more important consequence. It made the success or failure of U.S. policy in the Middle East the test case of American global leadership…. The loss of U.S. dominance in the region would have catastrophic consequences for America’s position in Europe and the Far East.” Many of Bush’s bourgeois opponents are alarmed that the Iraq occupation has diverted Washington’s attention away from more strategically important areas, in particular China, the largest and most powerful of the remaining deformed workers states and the imperialists’ key target for capitalist counterrevolution.

The administration is in trouble from many sides. After scandal upon scandal among its cronies and as presidential approval numbers sink to a nearly 60-year low, there is a mounting cry from establishment voices to get rid of Attorney General Gonzales. The same Democratic Party that has been trying to out-Bush Bush as proponents of the “war on terror” is using its control of Congress to stage hearings on Gonzales’ role in carrying out that “war” on the home front, during which he reveals himself to be, flatly, a liar (nothing new there for an attorney general or, for that matter, a denizen of Capitol Hill).

Defeat U.S. Imperialism Through Socialist Revolution!

As the U.S. launched the invasion of Iraq over four years ago, the Spartacist League/U.S. declared (WV No. 800, 28 March 2003):

“It is in the class interest of the international proletariat to clearly take a side in defense of Iraq without giving any political support to the bloody Saddam Hussein regime. 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.”

We also called for military defense of Afghanistan against U.S. attack without extending any political support to the barbaric Taliban. The occupation of Afghanistan has resulted in a seemingly endless string of atrocities, such as a bombing campaign early this month in the western part of the country that, according to local elders, killed 108 civilians. We call for the military defense of Iraqi and Afghan forces on the ground insofar as they aim their blows against the imperialist occupiers and their lackeys. This does not entail the least political support to either the Islamic fundamentalists or the nationalist remnants of the Ba’athists in Iraq, or to reactionary forces in Afghanistan. Thus we vehemently oppose the communal violence—kidnappings, car bombings, suicide bombings—wracking the Iraqi population.

We also stressed from the beginning that the chief means of defending neocolonial Afghanistan and Iraq against the overwhelming military might of American imperialism is through international class struggle, particularly in the United States. The bombings in Afghanistan and the devastation of Iraq have gone along with the U.S. rulers’ onslaught against working people, minorities and most everyone else at home. The “war on terror” that served as the pretext for the occupations abroad has included the shredding of democratic rights in the U.S. and a massive increase in the state’s repressive powers, targeting not only immigrants but also black people and, ultimately, the multiracial working class as a whole. As the obscenely rich capitalist class further gorges itself on profits, the workers they exploit are having their health and pension benefits torn up and many are losing their homes to loanshark creditors.

In raising the call for class struggle at home, we promote the understanding of the need to mobilize the proletariat to sweep away the murderous imperialist order through socialist revolution. What is required is a struggle to break the political chains forged by the labor bureaucracy, and reinforced by the reformist left, that tie the working class to the class enemy, chiefly through support to the Democratic Party. The Spartacist League/U.S. is committed to forging the revolutionary workers party necessary to lead the working class to power.

Democrats: The Other Party of U.S. Imperialism

The Democrats have long complained that “Bush’s war” in Iraq has diverted attention and resources from the broader “war on terror.” A report this month by U.S. intelligence agencies asserting that Al Qaeda had rebuilt its strength was seized upon by Democratic Party spokesmen who criticized Bush for not having gone after Osama Bin Laden in his presumed Pakistan base. The White House countered by threatening military intervention in northwestern Pakistan, despite protests from the embattled regime of General Pervez Musharraf, who is facing mounting opposition from both Islamic fundamentalists and secular forces.

Meanwhile, the threat of a military attack on Iran still looms large. A front-page article in the influential magazine Foreign Policy (March/April 2007) titled “Who Wins in Iraq?” noted: “For Iran, the war in Iraq has turned out to be a strategic windfall” that “turned a large part of Iraq into an Iranian sphere of influence.” The article declared that “the United States has decided that the path to regional stability lies in confrontation and rolling back Iran’s regional influence.” The Bush administration has announced plans to provide additional billions in advanced weapons for Saudi Arabia, Israel and Egypt to beef up the regional bulwarks against Iran.

According to the London Guardian (16 July), almost half of the U.S. Navy’s 277 warships, including two aircraft carrier groups, are now patrolling the waters close to Iran. Titled “Cheney Pushes Bush to Act on Iran,” the article observed: “The balance in the internal White House debate...has shifted back in favour of military action before President George Bush leaves office.” The U.S., Britain and France are pushing other members of the United Nations Security Council to step up sanctions against Iran in retaliation for its uranium enrichment program.

On July 11, the Senate voted 97-0 to approve a resolution calling on Tehran to end all forms of “support” to “Iraqi militias and insurgents” while accusing Iran of responsibility for “the murder of members of the United States Armed Forces.” Democratic presidential hopefuls Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama voted in favor of this bellicose declaration. Clinton has said she favors a “diplomatic track” with Iran; Obama feels war would be a “profound mistake”; John Edwards supports a “non-aggression pact.” But none of these three leading Democratic presidential candidates rules out military force—including with nuclear weapons—if Iran continues its nuclear program.

The Spartacist League opposes any economic sanctions against Iran, which are acts of war. As we have repeatedly stressed, in the face of imperialist nuclear blackmail and with continuing threats of attack, Iran needs nuclear weapons and adequate delivery systems as deterrence. In the event of a military attack against Iran by the U.S. or its allies, we declare that the international proletariat must stand for the military defense of Iran. At the same time, as Marxists we give not one iota of political support to the reactionary mullah regime in Tehran.

Kurdistan Trip Wire

Currently, the only support for a continuing U.S. presence in Iraq lies in the North, where the nationalist Kurdish leadership has staked its claim with the U.S. imperialists and thus subordinated itself to the occupation forces. The 8 July New York Times editorial proposed that U.S. forces be concentrated in military bases in the Kurdish regions of northeastern Iraq, from which they could “stage effective raids and airstrikes against terrorist forces in Iraq.” Likewise, Peter Galbraith, formerly President Clinton’s ambassador to Croatia, wrote in the New York Review of Books (16 August):

“Senator Hillary Clinton, Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Joe Biden, and former UN Ambassador Richard Holbrooke are among the prominent Democrats who have called for the US to protect Kurdistan militarily should there be a withdrawal from Iraq. The argument for so doing is straightforward: it secures the one part of Iraq that has emerged as stable, democratic, and pro-Western; it discharges a moral debt to our Kurdish allies; it deters both Turkish intervention and a potentially destabilizing Turkish-Kurdish war; it provides US forces a secure base that can be used to strike at al-Qaeda in adjacent Sunni territories; and it limits Iran’s gains.”

A “democratic” Iraqi Kurdistan under U.S. sponsorship? Hardly. The “Kurdistan Regional Government” set up under the U.S. occupation is essentially a lash-up between two rival parties, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), which have a long and bloody history of uniting with the worst enemies of the Kurdish people while stabbing each other in the back (see “The Kurdish People and the U.S. Occupation of Iraq,” WV Nos. 804 and 805, 23 May and 6 June 2003). In the mid 1990s, the KDP and the PUK were at each other’s throats over how to divide up the profits from smuggling Iraqi oil to Turkey. The PUK got Iran to send in troops on its side, so the KDP invited Saddam Hussein to send in his tanks. While a formally unified Kurdish regional government was cobbled together last year, both organizations maintain security forces in areas they control that are notorious for their brutality. And Kurdish pesh merga militias have bolstered U.S. operations in Falluja, Baghdad and elsewhere.

A potential flash point is Kirkuk, where a referendum is to be held by the end of the year on whether the city is to be included in the semi-autonomous Kurdish region. Kirkuk, which sits atop a vast oil field, is a focus of ethnic conflict between its Kurdish, Arab and Turkmen populations. The Saddam Hussein regime carried out a program of “Arabization” in which Kurds and others were driven from the oil-producing regions around Kirkuk and Mosul. Since the U.S. invasion, thousands of Arabs and Turkmen have been driven out of Kirkuk and as many as 350,000 Kurds, encouraged by their leaders, have moved in, thousands of them living in dilapidated camps.

The rulers of Turkey and Iran fear that if the Kurds gain control of Kirkuk, it would provide the economic basis for Iraqi Kurdistan to move toward independence, encouraging Kurdish minorities in their own countries. Turkey has massed tens of thousands of troops on Iraq’s northern border in recent weeks, threatening to intervene militarily if the Kurds take over Kirkuk. At the same time, the Guardian (24 July) reports that Turkish prime minister Recep Erdogan is seeking to use the strong showing of his Justice and Development Party in recent parliamentary elections (including among voters in Turkish Kurdistan) to resist pressure from the military for an intervention and to push for concessions by the U.S. and Iraqi Kurdish leaders. Ominously, the Pentagon briefed Congress last week on plans for a joint U.S.-Turkish military operation against the northern Iraq bases of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has waged a decades-long struggle against the Turkish state.

The struggle of the Kurdish people for self-determination—i.e., to form their own state—is a just struggle, requiring the overthrow of four capitalist states: Iraq, Syria, Turkey and Iran. The International Communist League has long raised the call for a Socialist Republic of United Kurdistan. However, in Iraq any fight for Kurdish independence must take as its starting point opposition to the U.S. occupation and to the nationalist parties that serve it.

Liberal Pipe Dreams

In American imperialism’s staunchest ally, Britain, Gordon Brown has replaced Tony Blair as prime minister in the Labour government whose own hands are soaked in the blood of Iraqis. While Britain has already withdrawn hundreds of troops from southern Iraq, Brown promptly nixed talk of reducing troop levels below 5,000. Countering suggestions that he would move to distance himself from Washington, Brown described British ties with the U.S. as “our strongest bilateral relationship” (New York Times, 24 July).

As our comrades of the Spartacist League/Britain wrote in Workers Hammer No. 199 (Summer 2007): “Brown stands foursquare on the record of Blair-led Labour governments that relentlessly attacked jobs, pensions, health and education services for the working people at home. He is notorious among public sector unions for his pay freeze below inflation and for slashing tens of thousands of civil service jobs. If anything, Brown intends to outdo Blair in the racist ‘war on terror’.” Indeed, Brown declared last week that he wants to increase to 56 days the period that people suspected of “terrorism” can be held without charge. The SL/B seeks to build a multiethnic revolutionary workers party in political combat against the British reformist left whose main aim is to pressure a Labour government to administer the murderous capitalist state in the interests of the oppressed.

As in Britain, the reformist left in the U.S. campaigns against the Iraq war by appealing to ruling-class sentiment that it’s a lost cause. ANSWER, now led by the Party for Socialism and Liberation, and the Troops Out Now Coalition of the Workers World Party are organizing demonstrations in Washington in September to coincide with Petraeus’ report to Congress on the status of the troop “surge.” As always, these coalitions claim that mobilizing masses of “the people” can pressure the imperialists to adopt a “peaceful” foreign policy and spend money on human needs, not war. Combatting such liberal-pacifist notions, the Spartacist League declared in the March 2003 statement quoted earlier:

“You were told by all the organizers of antiwar protests—from International ANSWER to Not In Our Name and United For Peace and Justice—that to stop the war from happening what was needed was the broadest possible movement. This can only mean a movement built in alliance with ‘antiwar’ Democratic Party politicians like Jesse Jackson. You were told lies!...

“To put an end to war, one must start with a perspective that challenges the very basis of the capitalist system. War is not simply a policy but the logical outgrowth of this irrational capitalist order. The question facing antiwar activists and workers is not merely one of more militant tactics. If there is one lesson to be drawn, it is the absolute necessity of fighting to get rid of this deeply inhumane system through workers revolution. Only socialist revolution can put an end to imperialist war!