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(en) From the NEFAC electronic newswire An anti-state communist perspective on the war - by Angyal Istvan

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Mon, 17 Mar 2003 10:05:09 +0100 (CET)


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> Is Uncle Sam about to get caught - BETWEEN IRAQ AND A HARD PLACE?
> an anti-state communist perspective on the war
As I write this, in early March 2003, the rulers of the United
States are about to attack Iraq. If the prevalent guesses are
correct, the American empire will rapidly defeat and destroy
Saddam Hussein's regime, seize Iraqi oil fields, and occupy
major urban centers. This will probably be accomplished with
an initially low number of US military casualties, and a very
high number of deaths among Iraqi civilians and military
personnel. The United States will attempt to cobble together
a client regime analogous to that of Karzai's in Afghanistan,
and it will be at this point, the high-point of an apparently
overwhelming and inexpensive US military victory, that a
real, enduring defeat for the United States may begin.

Thirty years after the US defeat in Indochina, America's
main imperialist rival of the day, the Soviet Union, is no
more; American companies have completely recolonized
Vietnam; the United States is now unchallenged as the
world's dominant economic, military, and cultural power.
With the possible exception of Israel, no other government on
Earth is as promiscuous in the use of large-scale violence in
the pursuit of its foreign policy goals. On the surface, it
appears that the US. has gotten over its post-Vietnam
hangover, that nothing keeps the rulers of the US from
lashing out wherever they choose, and that we are seeing an
example of this against former US asset Saddam Hussein.
The conquest of Iraq is intended to be the first episode in a
new period of unlimited aggressive global warfare by the
United States. But the American empire is much more
vulnerable, and American society itself more fragile, than
either its friends or enemies think. A bloody, incoherent
'victory' over Saddam Hussein may have the same
devastating impact on the interests of the US ruling class as
an outright military defeat.

One motivation behind the Bush Administration's launching
of a major war is to get Bush re-elected in 2004 -- but that's
just the small tip of a very big iceberg. Bush wants to ape his
father's high popularity ratings after the episode of mass
murder committed by the US and its allies in Iraq in January
1991. Bush needs to get the American public's mind off the
deepening economic crisis, the disappearance of several
million jobs and an ever-increasing atmosphere of domestic
US hardship. The people who own Bush will try to boost the
US out of a major economic downturn with the massive
increase in military spending that a big war and subsequent
occupation will entail.

Bush also needs to divert attention from his failure to locate
or kill Osama Bin Laden, to dismantle al Qaeda, capture or
destroy its top leadership, or even account for the
whereabouts of Mullah Omar. Afghanistan also propels Bush
into a new war, because the Afghan campaign otherwise had
the surface appearance of a quick cheap victory, with the
Taliban collapsing more rapidly than American projections
had forecast.

Bush's response to the rapid taking of Kabul by the Northern
Alliance is recounted this way in Bush At War, by Bob
Woodward:

"(Bush) did not conceal his astonishment at the shift of
events. 'It's a stunner, isn't it?' Everyone agreed. It was
almost too good to be true."

Bush and company seek a mechanical replay in Iraq; a
military victory occurring close enough to the November
2004 elections to propel him into a second presidential term.

Iraq has never attacked the United States. No credible links
have been established between Saddam Hussein and any
significant anti-US. action. On the other hand, Saudi Arabia,
America's second-most significant ally in the region, is the
birthplace of al Qaeda, the organization behind the most
devastating military blow inflicted on the United States since
Pearl Harbor.

Fifteen out of nineteen of the September 11th hijackers were
Saudis. Al Qaeda operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan
have been financed with funds from backers in Saudi Arabia.
Even the wife of the Saudi Ambassador to Washington was
found to have contributed money through a charitable
organization to men associated with the Sept. 11th
hijackers.

A classified intelligence briefing to the Pentagon's defense
advisory board from the Rand Corporation, a national
security think-tank, leaked to the US news media, had this to
say about America's Saudi allies:

"The Saudis are active at every level of the terror chain, from
planners to financiers, from cadre to foot soldier, from
ideologist to cheerleader."

The report went on to describe the kingdom as 'the kernel of
evil, the prime mover, the most dangerous opponent,' that
the US faces in the Middle East.

Faced with a pattern of major anti-US military action backed
from elements in the Saudi elite, the perpetually bellicose
US Defense Secretary Rumsfeld denied that the intelligence
assessment quoted above reflected US government policy.
Presidential spokesman Ari Fleischer said that George Bush
was 'pleased with the kingdom's contributions' to the war
against al Qaeda. During a visit to Mexico in November 2002,
Secretary of State Colin Powell expressed his desire to avoid
a crisis in relations with 'a country that has been a good
friend.'

Elements of the Saudi elite have backed and continue to
back significant actions against the United States. In
response the world's only superpower can't even offer
something as benign and symbolic as a public formal
diplomatic complaint.

The US has to keep the Saudi elite happy; for the time being,
they have no choice in the matter. A UK Guardian article
notes:

"Despite attempts to diversify US sources of oil, US
dependence on Persian Gulf oil is projected to increase, not
decrease, over the next 20 years. All major oil production
increases in that period are also projected to take place in
and around the (Persian) Gulf; Saudi Arabia is the only
producer with enough spare capacity to keep the world
market stable and prevent price 'spikes' in times of crisis.
Without Saudi Arabia, it is no exaggeration to say that the
US economic motor could quickly conk out."

("Sleeping With the Enemy." Simon Tisdale, Guardian, Nov.
28, 2002)

Saudi Arabia supplies 17% of daily US oil needs. Saudi
Arabia controls 25% of the world's known oil reserves. In
literal terms, Saudi Arabia has the world's only superpower
over a barrel. US oil dependency is a central part of the Bush
Administration's need to placate to the House of Saud, and a
real measure of American weakness in the Middle East.
Saudi Arabia is also the world's largest purchaser of US
weapons systems, and the source of roughly $600 billion in
investments in the US economy.

In the near future, elements in the US elite aspire to be in a
position to place major pressure on the Saudis, or even
topple the House of Saud and replace them with more pliant
allies. The US cannot do this now, but the conquest of Iraq is
a stepping stone in this process, a move toward a permanent
US military occupation of Western Asia, and a bid for direct
US control of the world's major oil supplies. 'The road to the
entire Middle East goes through Baghdad,' said a Bush
Administration official in the Washington Post on August 8
of last year.

The journal Aspects of India's Economy notes:

"The journal Aspects of India's Economy notes: 'Direct
control over West Asian oil resources -- the world's richest
and most cheaply accessible -- would allow the US to
manipulate oil supplies and prices according to its strategic
interests, and thereby consolidate American global
supremacy against any future challenger." (1)

The future of the United States as the world's leading
economic and military power hinges on the US dollar
continuing to be the currency used in international oil
market transactions:

"Over the past year...the euro has started to challenge the
dollars' position as the international means of payment for
oil. The dollars' dominance of world trade, particularly the oil
market, is all that permits the US Treasury to sustain the
nation's massive deficit, as it can print inflation-free money
for global circulation. If the global demand for dollars falls,
the value of the currency will fall with it, and speculators will
shift their assets into euros or yen or even yuan, with the
result that the US economy will begin to totter..."

("Out of the Wreckage." George Monbiot, Guardian, Feb. 25,
'03)

The US economy is already tottering; the US is stuck in a
recession, a crisis of overproduction where corporate profits
and business investments have suffered their steepest
declines since the 1930s; 'this is no normal business cycle,
but the bursting of the biggest bubble in America's history.'
(Economist, Sept. 28, 2002) And now major oil suppliers like
Iran, Saudi Arabia and the Chavez regime in Venezuela have
expressed interest in switching to the new European currency
for their oil transactions. If they do this, others will follow,
with significant negative effects on the dollar and on an
already weakened US economy. The US must try at all costs
to stop this from happening. This in part accounts for the
frantic drive to conquer Iraq by the Bush Administration.

The United States imports roughly half its oil supply; this
percentage is projected to increase in coming years. But
Japan, Germany and France each import almost 100% of
their oil. China is also projected to become more reliant on
imported oil in coming years. American domination of the
world's oil supplies is key to keeping all these rivals in a
weakened position. If the US controls Iraq, the US will
control the world's second-largest oil reserves. The US will
use this to dominate the global oil market.

The conquest of Iraq is intended to maintain the position of
the dollar in the international oil trade, provide a stepping
stone for future US aggression against Iran and Saudi Arabia,
keep major rivals (Europe, Japan and China) in a weakened
position, and guarantee the US long-term access to oil as its
domestic production declines and its consumption needs
increase. This is central to understanding the humanitarian
noises against US aggression made by major European Union
nations. Defense Secretary Rumsfeld responded to this
opposition by dismissing France and Germany as being
insignificant on the world scene when compared to Poland
and the Czech Republic. This doesn't discredit the Bush
Administration in the eyes of the American public, since
most American citizens don't own passports, can't say what
century the American Civil War took place in, think Mexico
is in South America, and have trouble locating Canada on a
map of the world. Rumsfeld's comments make him sound
like an All-American provincial dolt, but they underscore the
fact that the war is about the United States keeping the
European Union and America's Asian economic rivals at bay.

The war with Iraq is the high point of a series of recent
unilateral actions by the United States, most notably the
refusal of the Bush Administration to cooperate with the
Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change, but also its refusal to sign
the treaty banning anti-personnel mines, its unilateral
withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic missile treaty, and its
stated intention of developing a new generation of nuclear
weapons, including nukes for battlefield use against
non-nuclear foes. Other examples abound. These actions, and
an increasing penchant for resolving economic questions by
military means are examples of the growing vulnerability of
the United States as a world power. What they could once
achieve by diplomacy or trade must now be acquired by
force.

Significantly, the rulers of the US have also made it clear
that they will not cooperate with the recently-established
International Criminal Court, which is supposed to try future
defendants accused of genocide and war crimes.

Another facet of the US's weakness as a world power is it's
relationship with Israel. Israel is something like a Northern
European social democracy with apartheid and nukes, but
that still makes it a virtual 51st state when compared to
Syria, or Egypt, or Iraq. Israel is the fulcrum of US strategic
requirements in its part of the world. And because of this,
Israel is also the love-object of a 50-year-long, out-of-control
unrequited crush on the part of the US political elite. Among
the US political class, some are pro-Israel, some are
fanatically pro-Israel, and some are wildly, fanatically
pro-Israel. This unanimity of thought extends from the
right-wing establishment leftward to irrelevant feeble
liberals of the Nation magazine stripe. The United States is
at the beck and call of the Israeli ruling class, and will
endlessly cater to Israel√Ę‚,¨‚"Ęs military and economic
needs. This includes allowing Israel to spy on the US and
attack the US militarily during time of war. All factions of
the US political elite have made it clear that the US will also
back any action the Zionist state takes against the original
inhabitants of the territory it occupies, no matter how much
this damages long-term US imperial interests in
predominantly Arab and Muslim regions of the world.

For example, the constant expansion of Jewish settlements
into territory supposedly conceded to a Palestinian authority
is an American tax-dollar subsidized large-scale public
housing program for Israel. This housing program is taking
place during a major domestic housing crisis in the United
States, where subsidized housing projects have suffered
massive funding cuts or been closed down. The US buys
social peace for Israeli society with this; poorer, dark-skinned
Jews, who are near the bottom of the class hierarchy in
Israeli society, are fronted off into the settlements, where
they bear the brunt of anti-settler Palestinian guerrilla
violence. This in turn drives these settlers to form part of the
most recalcitrant and reactionary element of Israeli society.
The constant expansion of the settlements over Arab lands
would be impossible without the decades-long infusion of an
average of three million US tax dollars per day into the
ever-floundering Israeli economy.

The US is effectively a pawn of its client state in Jerusalem.
This is a comically absurd situation; try to imagine the late
19th century British Empire being perpetually on its knees
before the King of Nepal. In return for US sponsorship, Israel
has carte blanche do whatever it wants to its Palestinian
subjects and to anyone living within striking distance of the
Israeli Air Force.

In the Middle East, America must do what Israel needs
before America can do what America needs. The current
rulers of Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt give the US the
cover it needs to be the tool of its favorite client, and the US
must keep all of them happy. Powerless to act against the
Saudis for the time being, the US now uses Iraq as a punching
bag to convince the rest of the world, especially Saudi Arabia,
that the US isn't a declining world power. Bush and Company
cannot yet jeopardize their relationship with the House of
Saud, but they would like to scare them back into line while
plotting their next big move. They will do this with an
extremely bloody US armaments industry trade show next
door in Iraq, a sequel to Bush's father's unsuccessful
reelection campaign of '91.

A weak power can attempt to hide its weakness by fighting
and defeating a much weaker enemy. Iraq is ideal for this.
Iraq was flattened by the 1991 war, and by the subsequent
twelve years of widespread starvation, disease and economic
ruin imposed by US-backed UN sanctions. In theory Iraq
should provide Bush with a massacre that can get him
re-elected a year and a half later, when the memory of easy
victory will still be fresh in voters minds.

As the world's only superpower, the United States cannot
publicly threaten military action, and then back down if the
pretext for action disappears. Once the threat is offered, it
absolutely must be followed by force; the principle is
identical to what's found with a schoolyard bully or a
jailhouse sexual predator. Anything short of a rapid conquest
of Iraq will be universally perceived as a defeat for the
United States.

The goal in the first Bush war against Saddam Hussein was
limited to expelling the Iraqi Army from an extremely small
territory, and consequently liberating the flow of $60 billion
in Kuwaiti investments in the US banking system. Now the
US must destroy the government of a large territory with an
unruly and ethnically divided populace, occupy its main
urban centers, and assume sole responsibility for keeping the
country together until a puppet regime is securely in place.
This will include spending many billions of dollars to rebuild
at least some of the infrastructure that the US has spent the
last twelve years assiduously destroying. The Congressional
Budget Office estimates the cost of a military occupation of
Iraq at anywhere from $17 billion to $45 billion a year; that's
an up to $45 billion annual gift to US oil companies from US
taxpayers. The war itself may run anywhere from $44 billion
to $80 billion. (2)

Bush and company hope for a repeat of their quick war in
Afghanistan, but the sequel won't be as satisfying as the first
version was. Reuters ran an article on Feb. 11th announcing
that the Bush plan for a post-Saddam Iraq involves a
projected US occupation of Iraq lasting two years. That's
twenty-four months' worth of American service personnel
trickling home in plastic bags during a major economic
downturn.

It might prove to be a very, very long twenty-four months. In
a document titled, 'Planning for a Self-Inflicted Wound: US
Policy to Reshape a Post-Saddam Iraq,' Anthony H.
Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International
Studies, a Pentagon-connected Washington DC think tank,
offers a gloomy assessment of the prospects for successfully
remaking Iraq in the image of shopping-mall-land, instead of
a post-breakup Yugoslavia with camels:

"We may or may not be perceived as liberators...We may well
face a much more hostile population than in Afghanistan. We
badly need to consider the Lebanon model: Hero to enemy in
less than a year. We also need to consider the Bosnia/Kosovo
model where internal divisions leave no options other than
stay and police or leave and watch civil conflict emerge...

"We cannot hope to get an Iraqi, regional, or world mandate
to act as occupiers...if we act this way, we are certain to
encounter massive problems...

"We must realize that one day after our forces enter any area,
the world will hold us to blame for every bit of Iraqi suffering
that follows, as well as for much of Saddam's legacy of
economic mistakes and neglect...we cannot pass our
problems on to a non-existent international community...We
have to stay as long as it takes, or at least until we can hand
a mission over to the Iraqis..."

Another work by Cordesman at CSIS gives more background
for his prognosis. 'Iraq's Military Capabilities in 2002: A
Dynamic Net Assessment,' estimates that even after losing
40% of its forces in the 1991 war, as of July 2002 the Iraqi
military still had at least 424,000 men in arms. Some
estimates including reserve forces push the potential number
of Iraqi combatants as high as 700,000. The United States is
openly committed to decapitating the regime commanding
this vast army. Even if the United States kills as many as
200,000 Iraqi troops, that still leaves at least a quarter of a
million, and possibly as many as half a million individuals, all
with military training, and some with combat experience;
desperate, impoverished, and with little to lose in a shattered
society after Saddam√Ę‚,¨‚"Ęs government has collapsed.

The United States will be able to wipe out Saddam's Air
Force, his tanks and other armored vehicles, his anti-aircraft
sites and major artillery weapons. But cruise missiles and
B-52 sorties will still leave several million assault rifles with
billions of rounds of ammunition, and comparable quantities
of heavy machine guns, rocket-propelled grenade launchers,
mortars, light artillery and ordnance to spare. There is no
way that US forces will be able to locate, confiscate or
destroy all those weapons. It adds up to a huge potential
armory for the former conscripts of what was one of the
largest armies on earth, the soldiers of a state that will no
longer exist. They might not fight hard for Saddam, but that
doesn't mean that some of them won't want to kill
Americans. The Iraqis will be hungry. They will be angry,
they will be armed to the teeth, and they will have all the
good reason in the world to ambush the soldiers of an
occupying army from a empire that has butchered one out of
every twenty-three Iraqis, more than a million people, and
most of them infants and small children, since Bush's dads'
war in 1991.

Even if US forces take Baghdad without sustaining major
casualties, the best scenario they can then hope for will be
near total social collapse and large-scale banditry, a
Kalashnikov and RPG-7 equipped crime wave bigger and
badder than the one that hit Central America after the US
victory there at the end of the 1980s. Millions of people will
need to be fed and housed. The rulers of the US aren't doing
such a great job of that with the poor and unemployed in
America; will they be any better at it in a predominantly
Arabic-speaking country on the other side of the globe?
Maybe the US can buy off some of Saddam's former soldiers
by refraining from killing them, offering to feed them, and
then slapping them into shape as the constabulary of a
puppet regime. The resulting Mad-Max style police force will
make the thuggish cops of the Palestinian Authority look like
a comparative model of Quaker rectitude. America√Ę‚,¨‚"Ęs
allies in Ankara won't sit on their hands when things explode
on their southern border, so the pacification of Kurdistan will
be fobbed off on the obsequious Brits. The Special Air
Service will be happy to eat shrapnel in a former UK colonial
possession for a former governor of Texas. They will later
return to the Sceptered Isle minus their limbs and lower
jaws, forever proud of their sacrifice in the sublime cause of
defending the UK's status as a combination Kentucky Fried
Chicken franchise and US air base off the coast of France.

The British can take on the sustained anti-bandit and
anti-guerrilla fighting. Or Bush can try to unload it on the
awe-inspiring Czech infantry, the vanguard of a burgher class
that's always eager to lick the shoes of the dominant power of
the day. The Americans won't want to do it, and that's where
the big problem for Uncle Sam begins.

In October 1983 in Beirut, one suicide driver in a truck
carrying 300 kilos of explosives killed 241 US Marines and
chased Ronald Reagan out of Lebanon. To get American
minds off this embarrassment, Reagan immediately invaded
Grenada, a tiny island ruled by a regime that was too busy
self-destructing to offer resistance to American forces.
Reagan's successor George Bush invaded Panama, a very
small country, with the very small goal of grabbing the very
small former US asset General Noriega. The mission was a
success, ending quickly with the massacre of a few thousand
slum-dwellers and with Noriega safely tucked away in a
Federal Prison. Bush also quickly accomplished a similar,
very limited goal in expelling Saddam from another very
small country. He did this in record time with extraordinarily
favorable circumstances on his side; Bush waged war against
a regional power already weakened by a ten-year long war,
and Bush's war was supported by numerous other
governments providing military wherewithal and most of the
financial backing for the attack. When Bush later invaded
Somalia, US forces were unable to impose their version of
order, they couldn't locate and grab a local warlord as part of
their plan for imposing order, and they ended up being
humiliated in combat with the hostile locals. In the face of
urban warfare similar to what the US may find when it
occupies Iraq, the US ran away. Clinton oversaw this rout, as
well as the later US intervention and rapid retreat from
Kosovo. Vietnam is the shadow looming over all these
engagements.

The lesson of Vietnam, the enduring impact of the Vietnam
defeat on US foreign policy, is that the United States can no
longer afford to fight a protracted ground war -- anywhere in
the world. The political expense for American politicians is
too high, and, more importantly, the impact on American
society is potentially too destructive. The preferred
post-Vietnam US method of warfare is to bankroll proxies
like the Nicaraguan Contras, or Savimbi in Angola, or
Saddam against Iran, or guys like Bin Laden against the
Russians in Afghanistan. If the US military has to become
more intimately involved, then vast quantities of high
explosives are dumped on civilians from the safe distance of
an aircraft carrier group. But the world's only superpower
can't fight all its wars with the airborne equivalent of a
drive-by shooting, or by always paying others to do their
fighting for them. Somewhere and soon, the United States
will have to engage in a major protracted war on the ground,
with US forces taking on the brunt of the fighting. There is no
technological escape from this dilemma.

We need to go back in time to see what the future might
offer to an American occupation force in Iraq.

On July 14, 1958, the monarchy of Iraq was deposed in the
'Free Officers' coup, led by Abdul Karim Qasim. The royal
family were executed. Crowds took to the streets. A number
of US businessmen staying at the Baghdad Hotel were killed.
People took food from shops without paying, thinking that
money would now be obsolete. Although Islamic influence
remained strong, there were outbreaks of anti-clericalism,
including public burnings of the Koran.

Peasants in the south of the country looted landlords'
property, burned down their homes and destroyed debt
accounts and registers of land ownership. Fearing the spread
of rebellion throughout the rest of the Middle East, the US
sent 14,000 marines to Lebanon. Plans for a join US/UK
invasion of Iraq went nowhere, because no reliable
collaborators among the Iraqis could be found.

In another uprising in the town of Kirkuk in Iraqi Kurdistan
the following year, 90 generals, landlords and capitalists were
taken to a road, had ropes tied around their necks, and were
dragged around behind cars until they were dead. From an
early point in the capitalist modernization process, the
working people of Iraq demonstrated a consistent propensity
for mass violence against their oppressors.

The Ba'ath Party toppled Qasim and seized power for the
first time in 1963. The Ba'athists suppressed demonstrations
by running over protesters with tanks and by burying people
alive. The Ba'athists also assassinated roughly 300 labor
activists and members of the Moscow-Stalinist Iraqi
Communist Party with the help of a hit-list provided by the
CIA. This marked the beginning of the blood marriage
between the United States government and the Ba'ath Party
of Iraq.

After being overthrown, the Ba'athist seized power again in
1968. As in the case of Iran, oil wealth provided a basis for
rapid industrialization of a predominantly rural nation. Land
reform propelled the development of a fully capitalist
economy. Iraqi society became more urbanized and secular,
with increasing levels of literacy, access to medical care, and
a higher percentage of people attending college than in most
other Middle Eastern countries. The status of women
improved markedly, especially when compared to places like
Saudi Arabia. A more modern society meant more modern
social conflicts. Strikes and rebellions by wage workers and
impoverished peasants often tended to become explosive,
and Saddam's response was always brutal. In Iraq a secular,
rapidly modernizing police state with a national socialist
ideology found itself up against intractable class conflicts
like those generated by the modernization program of the
monarchy in Iran next door.

The fate of the Shah's regime must have given the butcher
Saddam reason to pause. In spite of its grim end in the
establishment of the Islamic republic, the 1979 Iranian
revolution was one of the most significant revolutionary
upheavals of the 20th century. In Iran, the world's
second-largest oil exporter, a government with a large
modern military and a sophisticated police and intelligence
apparatus was overthrown by a mass rebellion. The rebellion
involved street demonstrations with millions of marchers,
and culminated in a long-term general strike and an armed
insurrection. The revolt against the Shah also saw a
widespread organization of wage workers' struggles in the
form of 'shoras', which translates as 'committee' or 'council';
the word means something akin to soviet. The councils
movement was particularly powerful among oil industry
workers:

"We do not mean to contribute to a myth of 'Iranian workers
councils'...autonomous proletarian interests...remained
subordinated to the limited and even reactionary elements of
the Iranian revolt. Nevertheless they bear witness to an
important phenomenon. In Iran, a highly religious Islamic
country, the working class played a key role in a popular
movement of rebellion with a six-month general strike,
organized in the absence of trade unions and powerful left
parties, with a continuously high level of mass action and
mass organization. This was made possible, as in
revolutionary movements in more capitalistically developed
countries, by the formation of workers' committees and
councils, confirming again that this is a 'natural'
organizational form for workers' struggles.

"...It is an experience which will gain new meaning when the
struggle resumes on a new, more truly revolutionary basis."

(Babak Varamini, "The Shah is Dead: Long Live the Caliph,"
Root and Branch #8, 1980. Root and Branch was a council
communist magazine produced in the Boston, Massachusetts
area.)

With the excuse provided by a border dispute, and fear of an
Islamic revolution spreading throughout the Persian Gulf,
Saddam, now the undisputed ruler of Iraq, launched a war
with Iran in September 1980. The first Gulf War lasted ten
years, killing more than a million people. It was the longest
major war of the 20th century.

The Iran-Iraq war also saw the biggest, longest and most
violent anti-war movement anywhere in the world since the
Russian Revolution and the wave of insurrections that ended
World War One; violent strikes, mass fraternization between
soldiers of the contending armies, mass desertion,
widespread killings of officers and regime functionaries, and
armed mutinies. The unrest occurred in both countries, but it
appears to have been more widespread in Iraq. By 1983, Iraqi
commanders were attacking Iraqi troops suspected of
fraternizing with or failing to fight Iranian troops with
artillery barrages, air strikes and ground-to-ground missile
attacks. Kurdish nationalist peshmergas (guerrillas) served
as military police for Saddam, seizing deserters and turning
them over to Saddam loyalists for execution. Saddam's
generals launched numerous air strikes against
battalion-sized concentrations of armed deserters in the
marshland region near the Iranian border. Armed deserters
retaliated by ambushing loyal troops and blowing up
ammunition depots. Saddam's poison gas attack against the
town of Halabja in Iraqi Kurdistan in 1988 appears to have
been motivated by the presence of large numbers of Iraqi
Army deserters in the town. The deaths of thousands in
Halabja was followed by the looting of the dead and injured
by Kurdish nationalist peshmergas.

The US backed Saddam in the war against Iran. One month
after the Halabja massacre US forces attacked an Iranian
frigate in the Persian Gulf. The Reagan Administration
provided 'crop-spraying' helicopters for use in chemical
warfare attacks, and approved sales by Dow Chemical of
components for chemical weapons. The US attacked two
Iranian oil platforms in the Gulf, killing around 200 people,
and even shot down an Iranian passenger jet, killing almost
300 civilians. In an article in the New York Times (August
18, 2002) former US Defense Intelligence Agency officers
discussed US preparation of detailed battle planning for
Saddam's forces:

"The Pentagon 'wasn't so horrified by Iraq's use of gas," said
one veteran of the program. 'It was just another way of killing
people -- whether with a bullet or phosgene, it didn't make
any difference.' " (3)

Uncle Sam was up to his eyeballs in Saddam's chemical and
biological warfare program:

"A US Senate inquiry in 1995 accidentally revealed that
during the Iran-Iraq war the US had sent Iraq samples of all
the strains of germs used by the latter to make biological
weapons. The strains were sent by the Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention (sic!) and the American Type Culture
Collection to the same sites in Iraq that UN inspectors later
determined were part of Iraq's biological weapons program."

(Times of India, Oct. 2, 2002) (4)

After the war with Iran, in the summer of 1990, before
Saddam moved to annex Kuwait, he'd consulted with the US
Ambassador to Iraq, April Glaspie, and Glaspie gave Saddam
the apparent go-ahead. But the potential damage to Kuwaiti
investments in US banks meant that America's ally against
Iran was suddenly transformed into what President Bush
frantically described at the time as 'another Hitler.'
Concerns about Saddam's spotty human rights record became
audible from US journalists and elected officials at this
point.

The second Gulf war in January 1991, with the US and its
allies driving Saddam out of Kuwait, resulted in 131 deaths
among the US and allied forces. Roughly 250,000 Iraqi were
killed, and the civilian infrastructure of the country was
completely devastated by the allies bombing and cruise
missile campaigns.

As the first phase of the older Bush's massacre of the Iraqis
ended an uprising began in Basra, in the south, near Kuwait,
with rebels using a tank to shell a huge Stalinesque portrait
of Saddam. Soon the revolt became general throughout Iraq.
All the tendencies toward large-scale armed revolt that had
broken out during the war with Iran came into full force
nationwide in the days after the defeat.

In Hawlir in Iraqi Kurdistan the revolt began when a woman
who was enraged at the murder of her son by a cop disarmed
the cop, killed him with his own weapon, then headed to a
police station to kill more cops, followed by a snowballing
crowd of angry people. In Sulliemania, a center of the
movement, students took to the streets. Some were killed by
the secret police, and a bloody fight commenced, ending on
March 9th with insurgents overrunning the secret police
headquarters and killing 800 of Saddam's security forces.
Fifty shoras formed all over the city. Throughout Iraqi
Kurdistan, police stations, government buildings,
Ba√Ę‚,¨‚"Ęath Party headquarters, and army bases were
overrun, wrecked and burned. More than in the south, in
Kurdistan a perspective for a far-going revolutionary
transformation of society was clearly present, as can be seen
by the egalitarian slogans of the rebels; 'Make the shoras
your base for long term struggle!' 'Class consciousness is the
arm of liberation!' 'Victory to the popular workers uprising!'
'Down with capitalism, long live socialism!' (5)

With the general arming of the working populace, the rapid
violent destruction of the regime's functionaries and the
symbols of its power, and the replacement of the state by the
shoras, the revolt in Kurdistan appears to have been a real
proletarian revolution, the beginning of a profound
overturning of the old order. With time, the revolt might
even have spread to Iran. But by March, after the service
provided to Saddam by the US and UK air forces in the
massacre of deserters on the Basra road, the uprising in the
south was put down by Saddam's Republican Guard units.
They then turned their attention to Kurdistan. As the revolt
in the north became isolated, Kurdish nationalists gained the
upper hand against the shoras movement. Better armed and
better organized than the rebellious working people, the
peshmergas succeeded in encouraging large numbers of
people to flee across the border to Turkey. The revolution
collapsed, and Saddam remained in power.

As it was with the truce between Versailles and the Prussians
at the time of the Paris Commune, and the blockade of the
Republican-held zone during the Spanish Civil War, the
revolution in Iraq had compelled a unanimity of interests to
rapidly assert itself among all the otherwise contending
government forces. The US, the UK, the Kurdish nationalists
and Saddam had, in effect, acted together to crush the
uprising and save Saddam's regime.

The United States and the UK performed a spectacular
counter-insurgency service for their apparent foe Saddam,
with American and British fighter pilots immolating roughly
three infantry divisions of Iraqi army deserters fleeing
Kuwait on the road to Basra. US pilots gleefully referred to
this war crime of massacring forces no longer opposing them
as a 'duck shoot'. This carpet bombing of Iraqi Army
deserters wiped out men who could have provided the extra
muscle to overwhelm Saddam's Republican Guards and finish
off his regime.

>From the perspective of the worlds' major democracies,
'another Hitler' is always better than another working class
revolution, especially one taking off in one of the world's
major oil producing regions, where an insurgent power could
do real, enduring damage to the global capitalist system.

Now, twelve years later, the rulers of the United States and
their gurkhas in Whitehall are assuming that their 1991 war,
the UN-backed starvation blockade, and the resulting 1.2 to
1.5 million deaths will have beaten all resistance out of the
vast majority of the populace in Iraq. The United States, the
UK, and their former allies in the Ba'ath Party have
perpetrated a phenomenal amount of death and suffering
against wage earners and poor peasants in Iraq; this is only a
subset of the violence committed by the United States and
its allies all over the world, including in the US itself, and of
the ever-more murderous essence of commodity relations in
their dictatorship over life on earth today. But a violent
social order repeatedly gives rise to a violent proletarian
response, and nowhere has this been more true than in Iraq.
Our rulers may be galloping into an abattoir; the mayhem
American democracy has inflicted on millions of people may
now be about to spill all over Uncle Sam's lap.

Maybe the US will take Baghdad without a fight. Or maybe
the new war will only take six months, and five thousand US
dead. After the initial conquest, the entire population of Iraq,
including possibly one million refugees and several hundred
thousand unemployed former soldiers, may place all the
blame for their suffering on Saddam. Maybe the Iraqis will
forget about all those dead babies. They√Ę‚,¨‚"Ęll forget
about the military and intelligence aid the US gave Saddam,
and the two conventional wars the United States waged
against the populace Saddam brutalized. They'll forget about
the systematic destruction of water pumping and sewage
treatment facilities and the resulting epidemics of dysentery,
typhoid and cholera; the destruction of the Amiriya air-raid
shelter in Western Baghdad, filled with children and their
mothers; they'll forgive the blockade against food and
medical supplies and the hundred-thousand-plus cancer
deaths produced by the spent radioactive munitions the US
used against Iraqis in Bush's father's war. Maybe the
survivors of a twelve year long campaign of mass murder
committed by the United States will be nice and play the
game George's way. Maybe they just won't feel up to shooting,
killing and maiming American soldiers.

Or maybe they will. To compound the tragedy, the Americans
who will be killed and wounded will mostly be the conscripts
of the poverty draft, instead of Norman Schwarzkopf,
Madeleine Albright, Bill Clinton, and the adult males of the
Bush family.

In the late 1970s, when President Jimmy Carter began
funneling weapons and money to men like Osama Bin Laden
in Afghanistan, his National Security Advisor Zbigniew
Brzezinski gloated that the Carter Administration would
soon deliver the Russians into their own version of the
Vietnam war in Afghanistan. Maybe the US is in turn about
to get its own Afghan war in Iraq; a long slow bleeding wound
that can have a catastrophic impact on the world power
waging it.

Iraqis who kill Americans after the fall of Saddam won't have
to defeat the American military, or even fight for a politically
coherent objective. All they have to do is create a steady
stream of dead Americans. They only have to inflict enough
damage on the occupiers to make it clear to the world that
the US hasn√Ę‚,¨‚"Ęt prevailed in Iraq. This can be
conceptualized as a form of obscene primitive math; X equals
the number of American soldiers getting killed and wounded
every month in Iraq, times Y as the number of months that
Americans occupy Iraq, factoring out to Z: the point at which
an inconclusive long-running war can trigger civil unrest in
the United States.

Nothing brings the internal weaknesses of a society to the
surface like an unsuccessful war. A long-term bloody
occupation of Iraq could bring this home with a vengeance to
the ever-more repressive, impoverished, incarcerated,
overworked, underpaid, United States domestic front. The
home front has never been more potentially volatile. Under
the right circumstances even the quiescent US wage earning
class may reach its breaking point, and violently shear away
from the patriotic consensus. If a big war goes badly for the
US, it could mark the beginning of the end for bigger things
than the government of Saddam Hussein. (6)

Maybe all of what I've written here is a mistake, an exercise
in wishful thinking. Maybe the US is going to have a quick
cheap victory in Iraq. Maybe the US will only suffer four or
five hundred military personnel killed in combat and
accidents. Maybe the US media apparatus will do an
adequate job of sweeping anything else under the rug, the way
they have with one hundred thousand-plus US veterans
affected by Gulf War Syndrome, the post-combat domestic
victims of Bush's father's war. Maybe the enormous expense
of the war will be covered by a looting of Iraq's 112 billion
barrels of proven oil reserves during the period of US
'trusteeship.' Maybe the war will be a stepping stone to
successful moves against the Mullahs in Iran and the Saudis.
Maybe the only people who will pay will be Iraqis.

But it's much more likely that major problems will begin for
the American empire soon after the downfall of Saddam,
during the post-war occupation, when the US finds itself
alone in the mess it has created, within a larger context of
spreading global chaos that is also a US creation. A bloody
two-year long 'low-intensity' conflict is likely -- like what the
Israelis get with the Palestinians, but on a much larger scale,
the humiliation experienced by US Army Rangers in
Mogadishu magnified many times over. A large-scale popular
uprising isn't impossible, either. At that point, the rulers of
the US will be forced to chose between running away again,
like they did in Lebanon, and Somalia, and Kosovo -- or
condemning US troops to be bled white in a conflict they
can't win.

And that's not even beginning to imagine what can go wrong
for the owners of America if they get the US into a second or
third major ground war in another part of the world while still
attempting to impose their version of order in Iraq.

Angyal Istvan

(1) 'The Torment of Iraq.' Aspects of India's Economy, Nos.
33 & 34, December 2002. Available on-line, at:
http://www.rupe-india.org/34/torment/html

(2) 'Military Solution to an Economic Crisis.' Aspects of
India's Economy, op. cit.

(3) 'The Iran-Iraq War: Serving American Interests.' Aspects
of India's Economy, op. cit.

(4) Aspects of India's Economy, op. cit.

(5) The Kurdish Uprising and Kurdistan's Nationalist Shop
Front and its Negotiations With the Baathist/Fascist
Regime. Available on-line, at:
http://www.geocities.com/cordobakaf/blob_kurds.html

(6) Mass insubordination by enlisted people can play a
central role in the defeat of a protracted war or occupation.
For an example of how this developed during the US war in
Vietnam, see, 'Harass the Brass: Some Notes Toward the
Subversion of the US Armed Forces,' at:
http://infoshop.org/myep/love3.html

(4) Aspects of India's Economy, op. cit.

(5) The Kurdish Uprising and Kurdistan's Nationalist Shop
Front and its Negotiations With the Baathist/Fascist
Regime. Available on-line, at:
http://www.geocities.com/cordobakaf/blob_kurds.html


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