Workers Vanguard No. 995

3 February 2012


Imperialists Shift Military Forces

Iraq Hellhole Made in U.S.A.

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

On December 18, the U.S. rulers withdrew virtually all uniformed soldiers from Iraq, after having subjected that country to over a decade of starvation sanctions, two devastating wars and brutal military occupation. In announcing the withdrawal, which frees up the U.S. military to focus its firepower elsewhere and in no way marks the end of U.S. intervention in Iraq, President Barack Obama hailed the country as a “model for the entire region.” But the reality is that Iraq, once one of the more advanced countries in the Near East and a regional cultural center, lies in ruins, a testament to the nature of capitalism in its imperialist stage of decay.

By some estimates, more than 1.2 million people have been killed in Iraq since the 2003 U.S. invasion, in addition to some 1.5 million killed earlier through starvation sanctions under the aegis of the UN. Repeated U.S. military attacks on civilian neighborhoods and the communal warfare, especially between Sunni and Shi’ite Arabs, unleashed by the occupation have driven roughly five million people from their homes. With the country’s infrastructure demolished, electrical shortages are the norm, 40 percent of the population lacks access to potable water and many families live in desperate poverty without sufficient food. According to the UN, almost one-third of Iraqi children between the ages of six months and five years suffer from acute or chronic malnutrition.

An estimated 30,000 detainees, a third of whom were turned over to Iraqi forces by the departing U.S. troops, rot in prisons with no hope of a trial or even, in many cases, contact with their families. According to Amnesty International and the Red Cross, the hideous tortures commonly used to extract “confessions”—which in hundreds of cases have served as the basis for death sentences—include electric shocks, suffocation, breaking limbs, ripping out fingernails, piercing the body with drills and rape using sticks or bottles. Such sadistic acts closely parallel those that were routinely carried out by U.S. forces at detention centers throughout Iraq, such as the notorious Camp Nama on the outskirts of Baghdad, where the torture inflicted on detainees was far more gruesome than that documented in photos from Abu Ghraib prison.

Exemplifying the impunity with which U.S. troops have indiscriminately killed Iraqi civilians, the Marine who in 2005 led the coldblooded massacre of 24 men, women and children in Haditha was recently let off with a simple reduction in rank. Even Washington’s puppet regime in Baghdad considered it impolitic last fall to extend the agreement granting U.S. troops immunity from Iraqi prosecution. The Obama administration chose not to leave regular troops in Iraq but instead to maintain a small army of 5,500 mercenaries under the jurisdiction of the State Department, which is running an 11,000-person embassy. The U.S. also is operating a fleet of surveillance drones in Baghdad. By this arrangement, the mercenaries will reportedly be granted diplomatic immunity.

Throughout the occupation, the U.S. imperialists manipulated and reinforced sectarian divisions, including by mobilizing Shi’ite militias and the Kurdish pesh merga to crush Sunni insurgents in Falluja in 2004 as U.S. forces leveled that city. Bombings of residential neighborhoods, assassinations of religious pilgrims and other forms of interethnic bloodletting, while not reaching the gory levels of five years ago, have escalated in recent weeks. Throughout the occupation, Christians and other smaller minorities have been victims of violence.

Helping to touch off the renewed wave of communalist slaughter, in October the Shi’ite-dominated government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki launched a roundup of hundreds of mainly Sunni Muslims accused of being former members of Saddam Hussein’s Ba’ath Party and issued an arrest warrant for Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi, the country’s highest-ranking Sunni official. With the Shi’ite dominance of the government in Baghdad, Iran has gained significant influence in Iraq while itself being a target of increased imperialist economic sanctions and U.S./Israeli military threats. The deepening sectarian bloodshed underlines the fact that Iraq is not a nation but rather a patchwork of different peoples and ethnicities—primarily Shi’ite Arabs, Sunni Arabs and Kurds—carved out of the collapsing Turkish Ottoman Empire by the British imperialists at the end of the First World War.

The nightmare that has been inflicted upon the Iraqi peoples by both Democratic and Republican administrations in Washington reflects the normal workings of imperialism—from the massacres by U.S. troops in the Philippines following the Spanish-American War to the slaughter of millions of workers and peasants by American and other imperialists during counterrevolutionary wars against Korea and Vietnam. The scramble among the capitalist-imperialist powers for markets, natural resources and sources of cheap labor necessarily produces a drive toward war—colonial-style wars as well as interimperialist conflicts (e.g., World Wars I and II). Along with exploiting the working class at home, the capitalist classes of North America, Europe and Japan exploit and oppress the downtrodden masses of Asia, Africa and Latin America, imposing inhuman conditions on billions of people.

Defeat U.S. Imperialism Through Workers Revolution!

As with the 2001 attack on Afghanistan, when the U.S. launched the invasion of Iraq, it was asserting its right to run roughshod over the planet. 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 continue to demand the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of U.S. troops and mercenaries from Iraq, Afghanistan and the Near East.

Above all, we stressed that the chief means of defending neocolonial Iraq against the overwhelming military might of American imperialism was through international class struggle, particularly in the U.S. The U.S. rulers’ devastation of Iraq—carried out in the name of the “war on terror”—went hand in hand with their onslaught against working people at home, from gutting union rights and slashing health care to driving down wages. This open-ended, concocted “war” has also served as the pretext for shredding democratic rights at home and massively increasing the state’s repressive powers, targeting not only Muslim immigrants but also black people and the multiracial working class as a whole. Centrally, we have sought to promote the understanding that the historic task of the working class is to sweep away the imperialist order through socialist revolution.

Our revolutionary perspective stands in stark contrast to that of reformist “socialists” like the International Socialist Organization (ISO), Workers World Party and Party for Socialism and Liberation. These groups built a liberal-pacifist “antiwar movement” designed to mobilize masses of people in the streets to pressure the imperialist rulers to “stop the war” in Iraq. Seeking to forge a political alliance with sections of the bourgeoisie that saw the Iraq quagmire as a losing proposition for U.S. imperialism, the various antiwar coalitions set up by the reformists never raised the basic demand to defend Iraq and Afghanistan against imperialist attack.

The reformists and their antiwar coalitions promoted such slogans as “money for jobs and health care, not war”—as if it is possible to convince the capitalist rulers to reorder their priorities to serve human needs. Contrary to the bourgeois-democratic myth of government “by and for the people,” the policies of U.S. imperialism are determined not by the electorate or by pressure from mass demonstrations but by the interests of the capitalist ruling class, as overseen by the Republicans and Democrats alike. By sowing the illusion that the Democrats in office could be pressured to carry out a humanitarian foreign policy and to meet the needs of working people at home, the reformists act to retard the political consciousness of workers and radical-minded youth, opposing the perspective of proletarian revolution as the only way out of imperialist war, racist oppression and poverty.

Pentagon Changes Focus

The “Anybody but Bush” sentiment pushed by the ISO and other reformists at the antiwar protests came to full flower with their enthusiasm for Obama in 2008, who will undoubtedly enjoy at least their backhanded support this November as a “lesser evil.” During the election campaign, Obama promised that as president he would draw down troop levels in Iraq and escalate the war in Afghanistan. As president, Obama has stepped up military incursions in Pakistan, joined in launching a war against Muammar Qaddafi’s Libya and carried out murderous drone strikes in half a dozen countries. Today, the withdrawal of forces in Iraq has coincided with a sharp buildup of U.S. combat troops and warships in the Persian Gulf as the U.S. and European powers ratchet up military and economic pressure aimed at forcing Iran to abandon its nuclear program. Stationed within 85 miles of the Iranian border, the U.S. contingent in Kuwait has been transformed into a major “quick reaction” force of 15,000 troops.

On January 23, the European Union imposed a total ban on oil purchases from Iran that is to start on July 1, adding to the sanctions imposed in November by Washington. When Iran threatened to respond by closing the Strait of Hormuz, through which nearly 35 percent of globally traded oil passes, U.S. officials threatened to “take action” and sent an aircraft carrier, accompanied by British and French warships, through the strait as a warning. Meanwhile, Israeli officials continue to threaten the possibility of air strikes against nuclear research sites in Iran.

The stated purpose of these belligerent moves is to stop Iran’s purported attempts to develop nuclear weapons. Workers must oppose any economic sanctions against Iran, which are an act of war. Iran has repeatedly stated that its nuclear program is intended solely for peaceful purposes. In fact, in the face of imperialist nuclear blackmail and continuing military threats, it would be entirely rational and necessary for Iran to pursue developing nuclear weapons and adequate delivery systems to deter attack.

In the event of any military attack by the U.S. or Israel on Iran, working people and the oppressed internationally must not be neutral but must take a clear side with Iran. As Marxists, we do not give an iota of political support to the reactionary Islamic regime in Iran. But it is the nuclear-armed U.S. imperialists who are the main enemy of the world’s working people and oppressed.

The unrivaled military dominance of the U.S. today is the result of the counterrevolutionary destruction of the Soviet Union in 1991-92, which removed a vital counterweight to American imperialism. The rape of Iraq is one of the grim consequences of that world-historic defeat for the international working class. Currently, the U.S. is stepping up its years-long drive toward military encirclement of China, the largest of the remaining countries that have overthrown capitalist rule and as such the chief strategic target of U.S. imperialism. Although bureaucratically deformed from its inception in the 1949 Revolution, the Chinese workers state is based on a collectivized economy and represents a historic gain for the world proletariat.

With the U.S. redirecting its forces from Iraq, Commander-in-Chief Obama on January 5 unveiled a new Pentagon strategy document that calls for a “rebalance” of the U.S. military “toward the Asia-Pacific region” to counter China. In recent years, Washington has strengthened military ties with the Japanese imperialists and has continued to buttress capitalist Taiwan. Adding to the U.S. military bases encircling China, from South Korea and Japan to Afghanistan and Kyrgyzstan, Obama announced plans in November to deploy 2,500 Marines to Darwin in northern Australia (see “U.S., Australia Reinforce Alliance Against China,” WV No. 994, 20 January).

Ultimately, the aim of the U.S. and other imperialists is to destroy the Chinese workers state and restore bourgeois rule in order to turn the mainland into one gigantic sweatshop for the generation of capitalist profits. It is in the direct interest of the international proletariat to defend China against the imperialists and internal forces of capitalist counterrevolution. At the same time, as Trotskyists we fight for proletarian political revolution to oust the parasitic Stalinist bureaucrats and to establish a regime based on workers democracy and revolutionary internationalism.

The imperialist fervor against China and Iran will continue to heat up as the November elections draw nearer. Adding fuel to the fire is the trade-union officialdom, which wallows in chauvinist anti-China trade protectionism and pro-imperialist flag-waving. Avid supporters of the capitalist Democratic Party, this bureaucracy is the central obstacle to winning the U.S. working class to the understanding that it has the social power to eradicate capitalist imperialism and the wars this system breeds. It is through political struggle against the program of class-collaborationism put forward by the leaders of the working class and the reformist left that the revolutionary workers party necessary to lead the working class to power will be forged.