The recent bombing of Iraq is an act of imperialist insolence of the worst type. American imperialism has emerged as the most arrogant and ignorant imperialism that there has ever been. Never has there been a situation where one super power has dominated the whole world situation, as US imperialism does today. It is quite clear that they want to establish the “American century”. They are determined to put their stamp on all the developments that are taking place in the underdeveloped world. The other imperialist powers also take part in this task of policing the world. However, since the collapse of the Soviet Union it is US imperialism that has emerged as the dominant force on the planet.
Therefore they are not prepared to accept any limitations on their power or on their domination. They want to be kow-towed to by all the other powers, particularly the ex-colonial countries. They are particularly concerned with Iraq because Iraq refused to accept the dictates of imperialism in spite of being defeated in the war. Therefore they bomb, together with British imperialism - who are mere stooges of American imperialism.
The blockade has already resulted in the death of a million Iraqi children. As The Economist explained in 1998: “The current scheme, which got under way last April, ‘barely provides for the basics of life,’ according to Denis Halliday, the UN’s man in Iraq. A third of the $2 billion finances UN operations and compensates Gulf-war victims. Of the rest, $805m goes on food, $210m on health, and what little remains on Iraq’s battered infrastructure: electricity, sanitation, education. The money is not nearly enough. Hospitals are not only short of such medicine as antibiotics, but also of gloves for doctors, light bulbs for operating theatres. The monthly food ration lasts two weeks and malnutrition is everywhere. Mr Annan wants to raise the energy intake from 2,030 kilocalories per head per day to 2,450, include a bit more protein in the food basket, and provide supplementary food for nearly 2m particularly vulnerable people. Most Iraqis are preoccupied with surviving. Schools are run down, with no textbooks, let alone computers. Children stay away to beg at traffic lights throughout Baghdad. The city’s buildings are crumbling; many sanitation systems have collapsed. Streets have been turned into makeshift second-hand markets as people flog their worn-out shoes and other goods.” (The Economist, 7/2/98.)
But this terrible suffering of the Iraqi people has in no way weakened Saddam Hussein. In fact Saddam uses the blockade to reinforce his hold over the Iraqi people. The logic is that if Saddam is against US imperialism, and the people of Iraq are against US imperialism, then the people will be for Saddam Hussein. That is the way the regime maintains itself. They want to get rid of Saddam Hussein, but the more they want to get rid of him the more it props up his power. Even The Guardian editor can see this: “Every bomb that falls strengthens the Iraqi dictator’s claim to pan-Arab leadership...” (19th February, 2001).
The bombing was shameful. Iraq could not put up any real resistance. The US planes bomb from a great height where they cannot be reached by the anti-aircraft fire of the Iraqis. In this way they don’t run the risk of losing any pilots. If they did suffer casualties this would have an effect on the American people. So for the time being they are bombing with impunity and in a most crude and insolent manner.
However without the use of ground troops the American imperialists cannot establish themselves in Iraq. Thus they are limited to a desperate campaign of bombing with no real solution in sight to the problem. The same Guardian editorial, quoted above, points out that: “Every long-range cruise or ‘stand-off’ air-launched missile merely emphasises Washington’s fear of sustaining casualties or losing hostages in an unwinnable war fought at a safe distance. Saddam knows very well that a large-scale land invasion... is no longer feasible.”
The US and British imperialists have tried to cover themselves by referring to the plight of the Kurds in Northern Iraq and to the Shiites in the South. They continue to harp on about the threat of Saddam’s regime to the whole region, reminding us of Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait ten years ago. This is utter hypocrisy. Turkey is a member of NATO and thus an ally of US imperialism. It has a record of bloody repression of the Kurds in Turkey. As The Guardian (19th February) pointed out: “the biggest threat to the Kurds is the Turks”! But nobody is proposing to bomb Turkey! In 1967 Israel occupied the territory of another country (the West Bank, the Golan heights, East Jerusalem) but no international force was mobilised to hand back these territories to Jordan and Syria. On the contrary the US government stepped up aid to Israel. In fact Israel receives more aid from the US than any other country in the world. They refer to the bloodstained hands of Saddam, but they prefer to forget about the past record of Sharon. His role in the massacre of Palestinian refugees in the Sabra and Shatila camps in Southern Lebanon 20 years ago is well known.
They have two standards. When an ally commits atrocities they turn a blind eye. When it suits them to curb a recalcitrant regime they dig up the “violation of human rights”, the “rights of minorities” etc. This shows that the real reason for the continued bombing of Iraq lies elsewhere. It is part of the economic and strategic interests of US imperialism. The Middle East has one of the largest reserves of oil on the planet. A steady supply of oil is vital to the functioning of the capitalist system on a world level. Ten years ago Iraq invaded Kuwait. The combined oil reserves of Iraq and Kuwait represented about 20% of world oil reserves. this would have put Saddam Hussein in a very powerful position. That is why US imperialism, aided by its allies, mobilised hundreds of thousands of troops and removed Iraqi forces from Kuwait. That is the only reason why they were prepared to mobilise such a force.
Another justification they have raised is that in the recent period they been threatened by Iraqi radar, which has been upgraded with new technology, (apparently provided by Serbia and the Ukraine!). But so far no US or British planes have been hit. The fact of the matter is that they’ve gone back to the gun boat diplomacy of the old days. Up till recently they had maintained the fiction of “international law”. At the Treaty of Westphalia, three centuries ago, at the end of the Thirty Years War it was established that no state was to intervene in the internal affairs of other countries. Ten years ago the US, together with its allies had the fig leaf of Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, so allegedly they were defending a sovereign state. Where is the excuse now? What about the sovereignty of Iraq itself? They have advocated to themselves the right to intervene anywhere, in any country, for any pretext, by any means. The so-called no-fly zones are in fact in complete violation of all norms of international law. They have no status whatsoever.
US and British imperialism are even going against the general line of the other imperialist powers. The UN have actually discussed the idea of lifting sanctions against Iraq. They have come to the conclusion that the sanctions have not achieved the aim for which they were imposed. The embargo is now under attack in the UN and other countries too are opposed. The embargo is beginning to unravel.
Even before this has actually been implemented Iraq has managed to open up trade and communication links with some of the Arab countries and is succeeding in getting oil out of Iraq and collaborating with other Arab states.
As Stratfor, the US based intelligence analysts, have pointed out: “Baghdad has significantly built international political consensus to end nearly a decade of economic sanctions. Aviation links to the outside world - particularly the Arab world -- have increased. Baghdad has also moved to increase economic and political ties to Arab states that have been enemies. Iraq made significant strides - signing free trade agreements with Syria, Egypt and Jordan -- just days after Bush was inaugurated.” As a result of all this several countries have violated the embargo by re-establishing commercial flights to Baghdad.
Among the imperialist powers France in particular wishes to open up trade links with Iraq. This is part of a conflict between French and US imperialism throughout the world, particularly in Africa where they are both supporting opposing military forces in several African countries.
With the recent bombings the US government is sending signals that it will not accept the violation of the embargo. Thus US imperialism is trying to curb Baghdad’s ability to rebuild its economy and regain influence in the Middle East. The general reaction of the other imperialist power (apart from Britain) has been to oppose the latest bombings. It is in fact a crazy policy, a policy that comes directly from the tops of the US military establishment, but why has Bush decided to agree to the proposals of his military advisers to bomb Iraq?
The popular answer is that George W Bush wants to put his stamp on the situation. This is possibly one element. He is particularly obtuse. He is also very weak inside the US itself. He has not got much of a legitimacy. It now appears quite clear that most likely he did in fact lose the presidential elections. He therefore needs to assert his position. The decision does seem to have the personal stamp of George W Bush. Although the original idea probably came from the American generals it also suited Bush at this particular conjuncture. George W Bush also needs to show that he has good relations with Israel to appease the Jewish lobby in the United States itself. Of course, by doing that he will lose even more support in the Middle East itself.
However, although Bush may have his own reason for bombing Iraq, what is more important are the economic and military strategic interests of US imperialism, as we have seen above. The bombing of Iraq is linked to the general position in the Middle East. It is a warning to everybody else: don’t get out of line. It is a pre-emptive strike. It is a message to the masses in the ex-colonial countries. If they dare challenge the interests of imperialism and world capitalism then they will be savagely bombed.
US imperialism is determined to keep a grip on the whole world, in particular the ex-colonial areas. But this will eventually boomerang on them as soon as they get serious resistance. As the economy further declines in the underdeveloped countries the situation will become more and more unstable. In the long run mass revolts will be on the order of the day. The corrupt regimes of the Middle East will be affected by this process and one after the other they will be affected by revolutionary movements of the workers and peasants. Each one of these regimes fears this and is attempting to hold back the wave of discontent. US imperialism is seen as the main power responsible for the terrible conditions the masses have to suffer. It is seen as responsible for the situation in Israel/Palestine. The joint military exercises between US and Israeli forces will re-enforce this feeling. The terrible conditions suffered by the Iraqi masses are clearly the responsibility of US imperialism. It is seen clearly as the main enemy of the peoples of the Middle East. Once the masses rise up a few air raids will not be enough to hold the situation. Thus the present day policies of US imperialism will blow up in their faces.
In the short term the first effect will be to infuriate the Arab masses, thus putting in danger regimes like Egypt and Saudi Arabia! According to Stratfor Egypt agreed to sign the free trade agreement with Iraq for “economic and domestic security reasons”. All the Arab regimes have in fact internal social and economic problems. The whole of the Middle East is seething. “Every raid increases the discomfort of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. squirmingly reluctant hosts to the allied planes... They increase tension and instability in a region already reeling from the Palestinian intifada and Ariel Sharon’s triumph in Israel” (The Guardian, 19th February). Thus the bombing of Iraq is the height of stupidity on the part of US imperialism. On the other hand it will have no effect in Iraq. In fact it will have the opposite effect, as we have already seen.
Another effect of the bombing has also been to open up the divisions among the imperialist powers themselves. None of them, apart from British imperialism, were prepared to take part in the bombing. They went even further, in actually criticising the bombing. The French have done so clearly. The Germans have not been too keen either. And it goes without saying that Russia and China are also opposed.
Even in Britain opposition has surfaced within the tops of the Labour party itself, even among Blair’s own acolytes. According to “informed sources” there is opposition even in Whitehall itself. Angry Labour MPs and MEPs, together with important trade union leaders like Bill Morris of the TGWU, have come out in opposition to the bombings. One Glasgow Labour MP, George Galloway, pointed out that, “for every bomb that is dropped, Saddam is getting stronger”. There is quite a lot of opposition developing in Britain, and not just in the Labour Party. There are general rumblings of opposition, there is a mood that this is too blatant, it’s too crude. It exposes the humiliating dependence of Britain on American imperialism. Benn in the Labour Party has come out saying it is an act of state terrorism. In passing the bombings also expose the UN, they show that it is an impotent talking shop incapable of upholding so-called “international law”.
What is interesting to note is the change in mood in the ruling class of Britain. Ten years ago they were prepared to take part in the forces that expelled the Iraqi military from Kuwait. Then all the talk was of the New World Order. Now that the Soviet bloc had collapsed US imperialism would impose its order on the world. Ten years on all this has fallen apart. It is interesting to note what the British newspaper, The Guardian has to say on all this. It lists what has changed since the Gulf war in 1991:
“The Yanks and the Brits are the last ones left in the air over Baghdad. They have no wider support; they are outside the law; they are the remnants of the old gang, just plugging and zapping along. Unless world order resides solely in Downing Street and the Oval Office, we are making no progress. What has a decade of economic blockade achieved? Nothing, except the death by starvation and disease of millions of Iraqi peasants. Have no-fly zones saved the Kurds in the North or the Shias in the south? A thousand miserable Kurdish refugees, beached on the French Riviera, would seem to think not. Is the Arab world more stable and peaceful for our beneficences? Go beat your head on Jerusalems’ Wailing Wall.”
A rather gloomy and pessimistic point of view expressed by one of Britain’s more serious daily newspapers!
Ten years after the Gulf War, the recent bombings of Iraq have revealed the weaknesses and not the strengths of US imperialism in particular. The bombings have achieved nothing militarily, but they have brought out the divisions among the imperialist powers themselves and they have also revealed their inability to solve the problems facing the Middle East.
Today as we write this article, we read in The Guardian that, “Britain and the US have agreed to rethink their policy towards Iraq in the face of mounting hostility from the Arab world inflamed by last Friday’s air strikes... Growing opposition among Nato allies, including France and Germany... has persuaded the British government that a different approach is needed.” Apparently they are now going to adopt a “dual track strategy” including so-called “smart” sanctions and a propaganda campaign to highlight the atrocities of Saddam Hussein. Again when they need it for their own purposes they remember the atrocities of others, while covering up their own and those of their allies.
Saddam Hussein’s regime is undoubtedly a brutal and repressive regime. It is definitely no friend of the working masses of Iraq or of the Middle East. However, the responsibility for its removal lies not with the robber-imperialists, but with the workers and peasants of Iraq itself. The international labour movement must condemn the imperialist aggression against the people of Iraq.
The only final and concrete solution to the problem lies in the struggle for the overthrow of all the reactionary and despotic regimes that dominate the region. This is the task of the workers of all the countries of the Middle East. Only by the workers coming to power and expropriating the big multinational companies can a solution be found. A Socialist Federation of the Middle East would have at its disposal all the wealth and resources that are presently appropriated by the capitalists. Thus the workers could begin to solve all the problems that have afflicted the area for decades and centuries.