Occupation of Iraq: trouble brewing on the home front

The situation in Iraq and the whole of the Middle East is far from being stabilised. The very fact that there is an army of occupation right in the heart of the region has opened up a completely new scenario. But is not just in the Middle East that the occupation of Iraq is having widespread repercussions. In the USA and the UK, the two countries that are occupying Iraq, the situation is getting worse for their respective governments.

The situation in Iraq and the whole of the Middle East is far from being stabilised. We have repeated this over the last few weeks and recent events simply confirm this.

In Israel/Palestine the so-called "Road map" agreement is facing the first major obstacles with the rift between Arafat and the new Prime Minister Abu Mazen. How far the rift has gone can be deduced from Arafat politely describing Abu Mazen as a traitor of the Palestinian cause! That doesn't bode well for Sharon and Bush who had hoped they had found a reliable stooge among the Palestinians.

In Iran the recent movement of the students has seriously shaken the regime, to the point that the "reformist" President Khatami has declared that he is ready to resign if the people want him to go. (see our recent article)

The old balance of forces that was at least held together precariously has fallen to pieces throughout the region. The very fact that there is an army of occupation right in the heart of the region has opened up a completely new scenario. With the threat of a powerful army just a few miles away from their borders, the relationship between the different countries and their respective ruling classes will never be the same again.

One of the main partners of the US in the region, Turkey, is on a collision course with its old ally. Four months ago the Turkish parliament refused to give the US permission to move troops through its territory to attack Iraq. On July 4, 11 members of Turkey's special forces were arrested by American troops in Kirkuk. The Americans suspected them of being involved in a plot to murder the Kurdish governor of the province of Kirkuk. A Turkish top general said that this marked the biggest crisis ever between the two former friends.

The truth is that Turkey gained nothing from the fall of Saddam, in the same way that they got nothing 12 years ago after the first Gulf War. The interests of the two countries have been diverging in the last period. The Turkish ruling class is in no position to approve any move towards a greater autonomy for the Kurds in Iraq. They see this as a threat to the unity of their own country, where there is a sizeable Kurdish minority. But the US is ignoring the needs of Turkey. The Americans have been working to remove any influence Turkey may have had in the Kurdish part of Iraq. To achieve this they have based themselves on the Kurdish autonomist leaders.

The declining influence of Turkey in the region combined with the deep economic crisis the country is going through will lead at some stage to open clashes between the different wings of the Turkish bourgeoisie.

Mood in USA and UK changing rapidly

It is not just in the Middle East that the occupation of Iraq is having widespread repercussions. In the USA and the UK, the two countries that are occupying Iraq, the situation is getting worse for their respective governments. When we compared events during the Vietnam War with what is happening today in Iraq, what we wanted to underline was precisely the mood that could develop among both the soldiers on the ground and the people back home.

Among the soldiers on the ground in Iraq there is a growing mood of demoralisation and anger. They were told they would be welcomed as heroes. Instead they are prone to ambushes and surprise attacks at any moment and any place. The US soldiers in Iraq are just hanging in there hoping and praying they will be sent home. They realise the people of Iraq do not want them there. This has been confirmed by several reports. In a previous article we already reported on the low morale of the US troops, but now this is becoming more and more common knowledge.

The truth of the matter now is that support for war is actually going down in the US.

A Gallup poll conducted at the end of June found that 42 percent of Americans believed the war in Iraq was going either "badly" or "very badly". Two months earlier, the figure was a mere 13 percent.

Americans also appear more divided over their country's decision to go to war. Another poll released on July 1, found that 56 percent of Americans think the situation in Iraq was "worth going to war over," while 42 percent disagreed. Less than three months ago, in mid April, 73 percent were of the opinion that the war on Iraq was worthwhile.

The war is over but the occupation continues. As time goes by more and more revelations are being published about the blatant lying of Bush and Blair about the so-called weapons of mass destruction. For us, and for most left-wing activists it was clear since the very beginning that the whole operation against Iraq was built on a castle of false information. None of the so-called evidence stood up to serious examination. Throughout the period building up to, and during, the war Bush and Blair kept shifting their arguments. It was clear that they had decided long ago to go to war. The only problem they had was how to justify the war. This was especially the case in Britain where clearly a large majority was against the war.

Lies, lies and more damned lies

We are all aware of the "dodgy dossier", (copied and adapted from a university student's 12 year old thesis!) that Blair used as "evidence" to justify the war. The media is full of all the contradictions, the accusations and counter-accusations on this question. The Blair government has even had the cheek to challenge the BBC on this question, when it is quite clear that they have been lying all along. This is an important question because a lot of people, especially in the US and Britain, were eventually convinced by all the propaganda of the government and the mass media. Now many people rightly feel they have been duped by their own government.

The fact that no Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) have been found yet in Iraq is actually playing a role in shifting sections of the population against both Blair and Bush. We would add that it was precisely because Saddam Hussein had no WMD that the imperialists felt they had the green light to go ahead with their invasion! If there had been any evidence of any nuclear or chemical weapons, the US would have kept well far away from Baghdad. This is what they are now doing in regard to North Korea.

All the recent clashes between Bush and the CIA, the row between Blair and the BBC, reveal that the position of the two governments is becoming very unstable. Even sections of the ruling class are extremely worried about the outcome of the war and the situation that is now developing. They express these preoccupations through the newspapers and TV channels they control.

However, the main danger for Bush is to be found in the increasing difficulties that the US troops are facing on the ground. Furthermore the morale of the troops is clearly collapsing. "We didn't win this war, not at all," said reserve infantryman Eric Holt, on guard outside the Republican Palace in Baghdad. "I don't know what I'm doing here and I don't like what's happening in this city," continued the 28-year-old from New York State. "It ain't right for the folks here. You know, there are a whole lot of our girls getting pregnant just so they can go home quick."

This is just one of the several reports about the worries and the fears of the US troops, published in the Independent on Sunday (July 13, 2003). It continues:

"We're working 14 hours a day guarding and on patrol," a 21-year-old female reservist from Oklahoma said. "I finish and go straight to sleep then wake up an hour before duty, shower and start again. I don't think I can take an extra six months."

The home front

The US soldiers are an occupying force in a country where everyone despises them. There is nowhere in Iraq, whether it be town or countryside, desert or mountain, where a US soldier can feel safe. They will not be able to resist this pressure indefinitely.

Yesterday on US television (ABC's ''Good Morning America'' show) soldiers of the 3rd Infantry Division in Iraq were interviewed. We have to remember that these were hailed as the "heroes of Baghdad", being the first ones to enter the city when it fell in April. Even before they spoke it was clear from the look on their faces that they were totally demoralised. Gone was the boldness, and even arrogance, of the early days of the war when they thought it would be a quick sprint to Baghdad and then everyone home. One of them was asked what he would say to Rumsfeld if he could speak to him. His answer was, ''If Donald Rumsfeld were here, I'd ask him for his resignation.'' Another said, ''I would ask him why we are still here. I don't have any clue as to why we are still in Iraq.''

A sergeant at the 2nd Battle Combat Team Headquarters in Fallujah told the same ABC journalist, "I've got my own 'Most Wanted' list," referring to famous pack of cards the U.S. government produced with the faces of the most wanted people from the Saddam Hussein clique. He added, "The aces in my deck are Paul Bremer, Donald Rumsfeld, George Bush and Paul Wolfowitz," the four individuals in the Bush administration responsible for the whole operation in Iraq.

This mood is easy to understand, as now the number of US soldiers killed has equalled that of the 1991 Gulf War, and the perspective is that many more will be killed.

These soldiers expressed themselves freely. They probably believe that being Americans they have all the democratic rights to do so. But the US army central command has a different view and immediately after the interview was transmitted they have made it clear that when a man is wearing the US army uniform he is not free to say things like this. The top brass of the army are clearly worried that if people back home start to see the real picture on the ground in Iraq they will want to "bring back the boys" and put an end to the occupation.

Their families in Texas or West Virginia are beginning to ask the government questions and they are getting no answer. Protests are growing amongst the soldiers' relatives, shocked by the decision of the Pentagon, announced on Monday, that more than 10,000 soldiers of the 3rd Infantry Division would not, as they had been told, be coming home by the end of September. The reason for this is that no one else wants to take the place of the US in Iraq, apart from some minor contingents from Italy, Spain or Poland. India just two days ago said it would not send a promised division that would have added 17,000 troops to the forces on the ground. So the US and the UK are left on their own trying to hold the situation.

This is how the problems in Vietnam started. We have always stressed that the war in Vietnam was not lost in the swamps around My Lai (at least not only there), but mainly at home, where it was almost impossible to find anyone who supported the war.

At present a total of 145,000 US troops are deployed in Iraq, but there is a lot of talk about increasing this number. The cost of war and the occupation of Iraq could easily reach $100 billion by next year. The cost of the war so far stands at about $50 billion, which represents a 14 percent increase in military spending budgeted for this year.

At the same time, the federal budget deficit is exploding. This week, officials are expected to admit that it will exceed $400 billion for the fiscal year that ends Sept. 30, the largest in US history.

In 1991 the US provided the troops and weaponry for the first Gulf War but then the Arab states and Western Europe paid the bill. This time potential donor nations are very uneasy about financing a military occupation, unless they can have a say in the allocation of funds. The US are very reluctant to accept this.

The conclusion that the Bush Administration will inevitably draw is that to finance the recent war in Iraq and the subsequent occupation, they will have to declare a war on the living standards of working class families in the USA. The consequences of this are easy to predict. Big battles between the ruling class and the workers in the USA are inevitable in the next period.

If big problems for US capitalism are being prepared on the home front for the coming period, in Iraq the big problems have already arrived. Over the recent period the spate of guerrilla attacks has more and more taken on the form of an organised strategy.

The farce of the National Council

Several groups and movements have claimed responsibility for the attacks, such as "Resistance and Liberation" and other groups more closely related to the Islamic fundamentalists. A more organised resistance movement is a very important development in the struggle of the Iraqi people to oust the invaders, but it has to be built on a correct tactic and programme.

A guerrilla movement without any link to mass action is doomed to fail. Such a movement can only succeed if it is also linked to the working class and poor. Without a class position and, furthermore, with illusions in some kind of a "democratic", or even worse, an "Islamic stage" in the struggle to liberate Iraq from the coalition forces, these movements will dash the hopes of many workers and youth.

In the meantime the US-run Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) have finally decided to give Iraqis some sort of their own "government". Last Sunday a new governing council met for the first time in Baghdad. It is composed of 25 people - Shiites, Sunnis, Kurds, Christians and ethnic Turks - not elected but nominated by the CPA. The council will have the power to appoint ministers and approve the budget. But Paul Bremer, the U.S. administrator of Iraq and a major architect of the council, will exercise the power of veto on every decision.

The British journal, The Economist explained in its latest issue (July 12, 2003) how the CPA chose the members of the Baghdad Municipal council. It quoted a certain P.J Dermer, a member of the CPA's governance department as saying, "Maybe one guy had 50 votes, the other guy had 30, but [we chose] the guy with 30 based on other criteria."

In a "deeply symbolic" first act, - as the western press have put it - the governing council on Sunday declared April 9, the day Baghdad fell to U.S. forces, as a national holiday. At the same time they cancelled July 14, the anniversary of the Republic, as a holiday. There could be no better symbolic act to underline the fact that this new national council is nothing more than a puppet show!

The Iraqi Communist Party (ICP) celebrated the anniversary of the Republic with a public march, the first for 30 years. However, at the same time the leaders of the ICP were preparing once again to capitulate to imperialism. One of the 25 members of the National Council is Hamid Majid Mousa, the Party General Secretary! We can well imagine what role the imperialists have reserved for the ICP in this situation. It is to be a left cover for their own manoeuvres.

The main Kurdish leaders, Talabani and Barzani have also been given a seat on this council. Faced with the mirage of future independence, or at least a greater autonomy, these two leaders want now to collaborate with a ruthless occupation army, that is hated by everybody in Iraq.

The tasks facing Iraqi Communists

These Kurdish leaders and the Communist Party heads will be given the task of sharing the responsibility of be part of a "government" which has no real powers, and which the American will use for their own purposes. They will try to divert attention away from themselves by unloading all the blame for the lack of facilities, infrastructure, etc., onto this National Council, thus discrediting those who will be part of it.

It is a disgrace that so-called "Communists" are prepared to accept such a role. They should stay out and build up their forces as a genuine working class based opposition party and prepare to lead the struggle against the imperialists. Instead they bend under pressure. This reveals what we have always known: these "leaders" have absolutely no confidence in the Iraqi workers. They are always looking for someone else to do the job. Thus they tail-end the bosses at every important turn of events. The ranks of the ICP should organise to stop their leaders from taking them down this blind alley.

We will say it once again: the only way for the Iraqi working masses to achieve real democracy and liberation is by counting only on their own forces, and on the support of their brothers and sisters in the other Middle Eastern countries. No UN Assembly or anti-imperialist bourgeoisie is going to help them. The aim of the imperialists is to divert the masses away from the decisive task, the socialist transformation of Iraq and of the entire Middle East. This must not be allowed to happen. What genuine Communists in Iraq should be doing is explaining the truth to the masses and preparing them for the inevitable social and class struggles that will inevitably unfold.