The US and Britain, using the pretext of the Iraqi obstruction of the UNSCOM inspectors, have now mercilessly bombed Iraq once more. In February 1998 we published a statement called "Imperialist Bullying and the Crisis in the Middle East" in which we explained the real reasons for the imperialist aggression against Iraq. Events since have confirmed completely our analysis.
It is important to underline the hypocrisy and arrogance of US imperialism, and her poodle Britain, in launching these latest attack. The formal excuse for it was a report of the UNSCOM inspectors which allegedly said that the Iraqi regime had prevented its work. In reality this report was drafted by the head of the commission, Butler together with Pentagon officials, without consultation with the French and Russian UNSCOM advisers. The strike actually started while the UN Security Council was still discussing this report and its members had to be called in their mobile phones to find out what was happening. The same meeting was discussing another report of the International Atomic Energy Agency which recommended, as far as nuclear weapons was concerned, upgrading Iraq's status from inspection to long term control, in other words admitting that Iraq has no nuclear capability at this point.
The alleged Iraqi obstructions to the work of UNSCOM are just lies. In the period from November 15 to December 14, UNSCOM inspectors visited 427 sites (of which 299 were repeat visits). Out of those, they claim to have encountered obstruction in 5! In one case the inspectors were delayed for 45 minutes, in another they were asked to reduce the number of inspectors to four, and in two other occasions they were denied entrance to buildings where the workforce had already gone home for their weekend break. All these supposed "obstructions" amount to very little, especially if you take into account the fact that one of the US inspectors, Scott Rider, had to resign after it was found out that he was passing intelligence to the Israeli secret services!
The fact that Britain and the US have conducted these strikes on their own and have become completely isolated in doing so only serves to underline the fact that it is imperialist interests that are at stake, not any worries about the "national security of Iraq's neighbours", none of which has come out in support of the bombings.
Russia, France and China have opposed Washington and Russia has even gone as far as to withdraw her ambassadors from Washington and London, something which did not even happen at the height of the Cold War. But the reasons for these protests are far from humanitarian considerations. It is the struggle for markets, spheres of influence and power amongst different imperialist powers which dictates Moscow and Paris in their opposition. The struggle over the lucrative oil contracts which will be possible if sanctions on Iraq are lifted plays a key role in determining the current policies of France and Moscow in the region. The US on the other hand is keen to protect the interests of allied oil-producing countries like Saudi Arabia and the other reactionary Gulf monarchies. The re-entrance of Iraq into the oil markets would provoke a further fall in the prices of crude thus badly damaging these countries' economies.
American imperialism wanted these strikes to serve as a warning to the peoples of the former colonial countries. "This is what will happen to anyone who dares to defy our policies". This is particularly important in a moment when the massive plundering of the Third World countries by the IMF and the World Bank is already causing a backlash against the policies of "global capitalism".
But for all the arrogance of US and British imperialism, these bombings have backfired, and will have opposite results. There has already been a wave of protest throughout the world, starting in the Arab countries, as we predicted in the February statement. They will only serve to reinforce the anti imperialist hatred amongst the masses of the Middle East and also of Asia, Africa and Latin America. The fear of the reaction of the masses is precisely what has led the reactionary Arab regimes to either oppose the strikes or to remain silent. At a certain stage these feelings may lead to uprisings which will overthrow these regimes.
The opposition to the bombings will also come from working people in the Western countries, especially in this case, when the reasons and aims of the intervention are being questioned openly in the mass media.
The right wing of the British labour movement, as always, has given unconditional support to the foreign policies of imperialism. As we explained in the February statement, foreign policy is just a continuation of internal policy. To their credit, some left wing Labour MPs have openly opposed this imperialist aggression. Unfortunately they have taken a purely pacifist position, appealing to "international legality" and the role of the United Nations. This position, in the last instance, plays into the hands of imperialism. The dis-United Nations are not an independent body above good and evil. They merely reflect the crushing domination of US imperialism in the world. We should not forget that the 1991 Gulf War in which 100,000 Iraqis (some estimates put the figure as high as 250,000) were killed, was conducted under the banner of the UN. In our February statement we already explained how the UN blue helmets were used in 1965 in Congo in order to overthrow the Lumumba regime and put the hated dictator Mobutu in his place. Let the following quote serve as a further indication of the real character of the UN:
"When the UN went to war against General Mohamed Farah Aidid, between June and October 1993, American helicopters fired on hospitals, houses and civilian crowds, killing hundreds of unarmed people. After an attack in which 71 died, the head of the UN mission, Admiral Jonathan Howe said: 'We knew what we were hitting: it was well planned'". (Alex de Vaal writing in the Guardian, October 30, 1997).
Only by adopting a clear class opposition to the actions of imperialism abroad (whatever the flag it covers itself with) and the pro-business policies of the labour leaders at home will the interests of the peoples in the Third World and the labour movement in the West be served.
Some have pointed at the coincidence between the strikes and the impeachment process against Clinton as a factor for this attack. Whatever we think of Clinton's "performance" in the Lewinsky affair, that is clearly not the reason behind the bombing of Iraq, the reasons are deeper and rooted in the interests of American big business, of which Clinton is a mere representative.
Once again we are being fed with all the propaganda about "smart laser-guided missiles". Last summer the US General Accounting Office (GAO), an investigating body of the US Congress published a report which went a long way in destroying the myth of "smart" bombs. According to this report the accuracy rate of laser-guided bombs dropped by the F-117 stealth fighters was as low as 41%. The Pentagon had claimed an accuracy rate of 80%!! According to the same report, on the first night of the Gulf War in 1991, the "F-117 missed 40% of their air defence targets". The Pentagon insisted in keeping classified the real figures for Tomahawks cruise missiles' success rate, but GAO's report states that the figure was "less than generally perceived". The report also overturns the Pentagon's famous "one target, one bomb" for its laser-guided bombs, suggesting that it took between four and ten bombs to attack targets such as bridges. As the bombing started on December 16th an admission of the inaccuracy of "smart" bombs came from the General Sir Charles Guthrie, UK's Chief of Defence Staff who assured journalists that "weapons which were 50% accurate during the Gulf War have now been honed to 90% accuracy". The problem is that we were already assured in 1991 that the weapons were 99% accurate if not more!! By one irony of history in the very first night of the current round of bombardments one of these "intelligent" missiles went out 25 miles and landed in the Iranian city of Khorramshah.
It will be innocent women, children and civilians in general who will suffer the most, as always. After three days of bombing, large areas of Baghdad have already been reduced to ruins. This will only increase the support for Saddam Hussein, in Iraq and in the whole of the Arab world, as he will be seen as someone standing against imperialist aggression.
This is state terrorism of the worst sort and far from solving any of the problems in the region, it will enormously increase the tensions, and could even lead to a renewal of individual terrorism against US and British targets. Socialists do not support the tactics of individual terrorism because they do not advance the cause of the oppressed peoples of the world, but on the contrary play into the hands of imperialism. But at the same time we are equally opposed to state terrorism.
The US and Britain admit that the bombing will not achieve any of its stated aims. As far as overthrowing Saddam Hussein, Clinton and Blair have already made clear that this is not one of the aims of this operation. They have stated openly that this would mean committing hundreds of thousands of ground troops and they are not prepared to do so. This is a confirmation of the point we made in the February statement (and before) about the limitations of imperialism. They fear an intervention with ground troops because that would certainly provoke massive opposition at home and even amongst the troops themselves. They do not want a repetition of Vietnam.
The bombing of Iraq, far from serving to frighten the masses in the colonial countries will serve to expose the limitations of US military intervention and to reveal the splits amongst the different imperialist powers.
Many working people all over the world would still ask themselves "yes, this intervention is an imperialist attempt to make clear who rules the world. But Saddam Hussein is a dictator. How can we get rid of him". To this, socialists will reply that the task of overthrowing Saddam Hussein is the task of the Iraqi workers, peasants and youth themselves. Already in 1991 they showed their determination by organising a mass uprising at the end of the Gulf War. The allied forces led by the US stood by watching how Saddam's National Guard massacred them. Washington and London would prefer a thousand times to have Saddam in power rather than risking a genuine popular revolution in Iraq which would spread with lighting speed to all the neighbouring countries. Even if they were to remove him they what would they replace him with. At the best by an unstable semi-democratic regime under the direct control of Washington. At the worst by a more reliable dictator, perhaps from the "moderate" sectors of Saddam's army. This would be no solution to the problems of Iraqi working people.
A dictatorial regime cannot last for ever if it is based on brute force alone. This has been proved many times in history. In 1979 the Iranian masses overthrew the hated regime of the Shah (again supported by the West), a regime which had one of the most formidable repressive apparatuses in the world. Only a few months ago, in the space of a few days, the Indonesian students, workers, peasants and urban poor toppled Suharto who had been in power for more than 30 years.
Once the masses start to move there is nothing to stop them. If the workers in the region, starting with the all-powerful oil workers, were to go out on strike and combine their forces, all the reactionary regimes in the area would fall like a pile of cards. Having removed the hated dictators (all of them, not only those who are disliked by the West) they would be able to take the Middle East enormous natural wealth and democratically plan its use for the benefit of the majority of its population putting the basis for unprecedented advance in the living standards of the whole of the population. But of course, for such a revolution to be able to survive it would have to spread to the rest of the world, specially it will have to seek the solidarity of the workers in the West. The mighty power of imperialism is nothing when faced with the determined action of the labour movement in the West and in the Third World countries.
We have entered into an epoch of revolution and counter-revolution. It is important for socialists all over the world to discuss and understand the current situation and even more important, to offer a clear alternative.