Iraq: US and British imperialism staring defeat in the face

What started off as a show of strength on the part of US imperialism is now turning into its opposite. The war in Iraq is bringing to the surface all the contradictions of present-day capitalism. Defeat is staring the imperialists in the face. This will have far-reaching consequences well beyond the borders of Iraq.

British and American imperialism stand on the edge of an historic defeat in Iraq. The arrogant triumphalism of Bush and Blair has given way to morose panic and uncertainty. As we explained from the beginning the war in Iraq would be the end of Bush and Blair. The two men stand alone as everyone around them abandons ship. The cheers of the media for the two statesmen have now changed into extreme pessimism and even out and out attacks on the two poster boys of the New World Order. Their top Generals have betrayed them and have exposed the nightmarish failure in Iraq as enemies and former friends alike sharpen their knives waiting to pounce. The ship is sinking, and there are not enough stop-plugs in the world to stop it from going under.

The defeat in Iraq will be more significant than simply a defeat for Bush or Blair, or a defeat for the forces of imperialism. The shock waves of the defeat will ripple around the entire world. The defeat in Iraq will mark a decisive shift in the world situation and provide a fresh impetus for the struggle against imperialism as well as for the revolutionary struggles taking place around the world. The masses in struggle in Venezuela, in Oaxaca, and around the world will be given a boost of confidence. They will see that it is possible to struggle against imperialism and capitalism and win. This is important - the events in Iraq cannot be seen in isolation. On each and every front imperialism is being pushed back and faces defeat.

The imperialists have been on the offensive since the collapse of the Soviet Union. In their euphoria, the bourgeois saw a smooth ride and nothing but a world to win with the collapse of "communism" in Eastern Europe. The imperialists now face a world of crises, of wars and revolutions, and intense opposition to their rule. The imperialists face the revolutionary wave sweeping Latin America and major setbacks and defeats in the Middle East. This too must eventually be reflected in the United States and Britain.

Absolute Hell

Because of the lack of real media attention to the situation in Iraq, it is difficult to grasp the scale of the horror being inflicted upon the people and the country. In general, people know that the war is going badly, that the quality of life for Iraqis is far worse now than it was before the war began. We all know about the astounding amount of deaths - a recent estimate by The Lancet goes as high as 655,000 - as a result of the invasion. However, just a glance at the headlines over the past few months gives one a glimpse of the true scale of the horror being inflicted upon the country.

The successful invasion of Iraq, the political support for the Bush administration, and the optimism of the US government, have all turned into their opposites. The US Army in Iraq faces defeat, Bush faces the loss of the Senate and the House in mid-term elections this week, and the optimism of the Bush and Blair governments has rapidly turned to the blackest pessimism. We explained from the very beginning that the US would be unable to hold Iraq and that the invasion of the country would be a disaster for US imperialism. From the statements of Bush that they "would hold the course" and "get the job done", he has now passed to opening a commission investigating the various options for withdrawal.

The US has effectively lost control of the whole of the west of Iraq. In early September a US Marine Corps intelligence report was filed which explained that the western province of Anbar had been lost.

Anbar is a key province in Iraq and includes cities such as Haditha, Ramadi and Fallujah. It accounts for 30 percent of Iraq's total land, stretches from the capital, Baghdad, to the borders with Syria and Jordan, and includes the area known as the Sunni Triangle - a major hotspot for the insurgency. When asked about the intelligence report, one army officer explained: "We haven't been defeated militarily but we have been defeated politically - and that's where wars are won and lost."

What is the reality of the situation in Anbar? There are no functioning Iraqi government institutions in Anbar. US military operations have failed miserably, as they cannot extend security beyond the gates of their bases. Local governments have collapsed and the central government has no presence whatsoever. This vacuum has been filled by Islamist groups and Al-Qaeda, which is now the dominant political force in the province. This in itself is a condemnation of the war and represents a massive failure on the part of the US and British imperialists. Before the invasion (despite what the Bush administration has tried to prove), Al-Qaeda had no presence in Iraq. The Hussein regime and Islamist groups such as Al-Qaeda were hostile to one another. And now, after all this talk about the "war on terror" and making the world "safe for democracy", by their actions, the US and British have opened the door in Iraq to Al-Qaeda, and effectively lost control of a major portion of the country to the group.

Another major US intelligence document in September explained to the Bush administration something that everybody already knew - that the US campaign in Iraq has increased the threat of terrorism on a world scale. The report explains that the war in Iraq has become the "cause celebre" for fundamentalists and predicts that Europe and North America will face an increase in terrorist attacks as a direct result of the invasion. Imperialism and fundamentalism feed off one another. Each new attack gives the other side a new lease of life and a fresh queue of recruits. But terrorism cannot be fought with armies and invasions, nor rockets and tanks, as Bush and Blair are now (possibly) coming to understand. They are effectively losing the war on terror.

Beyond Anbar the situation is not much better. The various militias control Iraq, not the enfeebled army or police. The US and British armies have basically withdrawn to their bases, and have very little control outside their encampments. With all of their high-tech machines and modern weaponry, the US and Britain have been unable to defeat the enemy in a guerrilla war.

A UN report explains that torture in Iraq is now worse than under the Saddam Hussein regime and involves not just private militias and terrorist groups but government forces as well. The report explained: "Bodies found at the Medico-legal Institute often bear signs of severe torture, including acid-induced injuries and burns caused by chemical substances, missing skin, broken bones (back, hands and legs), missing eyes, missing teeth and wounds caused by power drills or nails."

Civilian deaths have soared to record highs, highlighting the scale of the sectarian violence and the nightmare the Iraqi people are living through. Another recent UN report claims that 6,599 civilians died violently in Iraq in July and August. In reality the number is probably much higher. More than 100 people die everyday due to sectarian murders. More than 1000 die violently every week. The report also explained that since the bombing of the al-Askariya shrine in February, some 300,000 people have been displaced in Iraq due to sectarian violence. Since the beginning of the war, 1.5 million people have fled their homes. Thousand flee the country every month. Hoping to find a better life in neighbouring countries, they are reduced to the poverty and misery of refugee life.

There are an average of 800-900 insurgent attacks every week - or approximately 1 every 15 minutes. This is putting a massive strain on the US both militarily and politically. Top generals admit that a tipping point has been reached, and analysts now openly talk about how the war has been lost.

Splits at the top

With the situation in Iraq growing worse by the hour, there have been renewed calls for US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to step down. At the end of September, three retired senior military officers accused Rumsfeld of bungling the war on Iraq, and said the Pentagon was "incompetent strategically, operationally and tactically". Shortly thereafter, a retired officer who had been in charge of training troops in Iraq publicly stated that "Mr Rumsfeld and his immediate team must be replaced or we will see two more years of extraordinarily bad decision-making."

One of the criticisms levelled at the Pentagon is that it has put soldiers' lives at risk by failing to provide the best equipment available. "Why are we asking our soldiers and marines to use the same armour we found was insufficient in 2003?" asked one of the retired officers.

Furthermore, the chief of the US Army, General Peter Schoomaker, in an unprecedented display of defiance, refused to submit a budget plan for 2008 to Rumsfeld. He argued that the military could not continue operations in Iraq without additional funds. This shows the depth of the crisis of the US ruling class. The war in Iraq is causing severe splits and divisions amongst the bourgeois and the army on the way forward. General Shoomaker has long been seen as an ally of Rumsfeld. He actually came out of retirement at Rumsfeld's request to take up the post as army chief. The Guardian reported the following:

"For the past three years, the $400bn (£210bn) cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been funded by emergency spending bills passed by Congress. But Gen Schoomaker and others say the Iraq war has also put a severe strain on regular budgets. That puts the generals at odds with Mr Rumsfeld's strategic vision of a more nimble, hi-tech military. In addition, Congress and the White House have cut a number of army spending requests over the past months. "There is no sense in us submitting a budget that we can't execute, a broken budget," he told a Washington audience."

Shortly thereafter it was revealed that the US spends $2 billion per week on the war in Iraq. This is a massive strain, even for the world's largest economy. We have explained many times that this is unsustainable. The US ruling class believed that it would waltz into Iraq, plunder the country's oil and natural resources. This would pay for the war effort and make them all fabulously rich. However, the reality is that they are unable to get the oil out, and the war is stretching the US economy.

The US ruling class is at an impasse. Long gone are the days of the great statesmen of the past. Lacking any sense of foresight and perspectives, the US ruling class lurches from one crisis to another. They react in panic and aggravate the situation. Seeing no way out of the mess, the US ruling class is at an impasse. Splits and divisions have opened up in the military and in the Republican Party itself as panic sets in.

We have said this many times before, but it is necessary to repeat it here - the United States is a colossus with feet of clay. The 20th Century saw the military, economic, and political power of the United States spread around the globe. But as Trotsky explained shortly before his death, the foundations of US power were mined with dynamite. As the power of the US grew, it absorbed the political and economic contradictions of the various countries it dominated. As the US domination of the world economy grew, so too did the US dependence on the world economy. Political and economic explosions around the world have a direct impact on the United States. The full consequences of the war in Iraq are yet to be felt in the US. The US economy teeters on the brink of a slowdown - the haemorrhaging of funds to pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan could tip the economy over the edge. The Republicans face defeat in the mid-term elections (yet incredibly, because of their spineless ineptitude, the Democrats have failed to fully capitalise on this and could yet lose the electoral battle - but this is a topic for another article). As the situation in Iraq worsens by the hour, the US ruling class faces the spectre of mass demonstrations and mobilizations against the war, which could bring the war to an end much quicker than anyone would have though possible.

The condition of women

The war has torn the very social fabric of Iraq. Far from the prosperity promised by the forces of imperialism, Iraq is being driven back to the Middle Ages. One of the telltale signs of Iraq's descent into barbarism is the increasing violence towards women. The vicious secular dictatorship of Saddam is not being replaced with the democracy of US and British bayonets, but rather is being replaced by vicious fundamentalism.

Women in Iraq are increasingly the victims of violence, rape, and murder. They are being killed for belonging to the wrong sect, or for helping their fellow women, and for holding jobs the Islamist militants have decreed they cannot have - in hospitals, ministries and universities. Iraqi women are attacked for expressing their opinions, on their way to work, and for defying new dress code and behaviour prohibitions enforced by fundamentalists.

The situation is made even worse by the fact that the country's post-war constitution has taken power away from family courts and handed it over to clerics. The Observer carried an article recently which explained the following:

"After a month-long investigation, The Observer has established that in almost every major area of human rights, women are being seriously discriminated against, in some cases seeing their conditions return to those of females in the Middle Ages. In areas such as the Shia militia stronghold of Sadr City in east Baghdad, women have been beaten for not wearing socks. Even the headscarf and juba - the ankle-length, flared coat that buttons to the collar - are not enough for the zealots. Some women have been threatened with death unless they wear the full abbaya, the black, all-encompassing veil. Similar reports are emerging from Mosul, where it is Sunni extremists who are laying down the law, and Kirkuk. Women from Karbala, Hilla, Basra and Nassariyah have all told The Observer similar stories. Of the insidious spread of militia and religious party control - and how members of those same groups are, paradoxically, increasingly responsible for the rape and murder of women outside their sects and communities."

Women's groups explain that rape is being increasingly used to settle scores in the sectarian violence that engulfs the country. Despite the lack of information and evidence, many women's activists report that honour killings are on the rise. Women are also seen as easy targets for criminal gangs.

The Observer also explained that, "The situation has been exacerbated by the undermining of Iraq's old Family Code, established in 1958, which guaranteed women a large measure of equality in key areas such as divorce and inheritance. The new constitution has allowed the Family Code to be superseded by the power of the clerics and new religious courts, with the result that it is largely discriminatory against women. The clerics have permitted the creeping re-emergence of men contracting multiple marriages, formerly discouraged by the old code. It is these clerics, too, who have permitted a sharp escalation in the 'pleasure marriages'. And it is the same clerics overseeing the rapid transformation of a once secular society - in which women held high office and worked as professors, doctors, engineers and economists - into one where women have been forced back under the veil and into the home. The result is mapped out every day on Iraq's streets and in its country lanes in individual acts of intimidation and physical brutality that build into an awful whole."

It is little wonder that the people of Iraq have turned against their so-called liberators. The people of Iraq were promised "democracy", "freedom", and "prosperity" by the US and British armies. Life would be better after Saddam they were told. Instead they face violence, murder, barbaric fundamentalism, and extreme poverty. The US has not achieved a single one of its aims in Iraq and are losing the battle for control of the country to the fundamentalists, itself a major condemnation of imperialism.

Baghdad - City of Death

The US has lost control of Baghdad. There is absolutely no law and order as the police join in with militias and death squads in murder and mayhem. The situation is so bad that in some areas of Baghdad, such as Sadr City, US soldiers had to weld down sewer covers to prevent bodies from being dumped. There are so many bodies being dumped around the city that it has become a real problem of waste management - and now most death squads aren't too concerned about concealing their grisly deeds, bodies are turning up in rubbish heaps, rivers, and simply on open streets for all to see. Nearly everyday mass graves, burials, and body dumps are discovered. Some 1,535 people died violently in August alone. The Guardian reported that "...what scares most are the impromptu checkpoints. They can be mounted by police, militias and jihadis, but they can all have the same result. Utter the wrong name, show the wrong number plate, or the wrong ID, and you can be quickly ushered away to face summary execution."

As violence spiralled out of control from July to October (and of course it still continues in November), Bush was forced to accept the comparison of the war in Iraq with the war in Vietnam. Specifically he accepted that it may be right to compare the recent upsurge in violence with the Tet Offensive of the Vietnam War. However, he refused to accept that the campaign in Iraq was a failure, and refused to change strategy despite the many calls to do so in the US.

Beyond that there are still problems with water and electricity supply. There are now food shortages in certain neighbourhoods in the capital. Shops are open for just a few hours a day. The Independent recently reported that "people have been living off watermelon and bread for the past few weeks." The Western media now admits that the education and health care systems are on the verge of total and complete collapse. Baghdad itself is largely controlled by the Mehdi Army of Muqtada al-Sadr.

Iraqi neighbourhoods that were once home to Sunni and Shia are now splitting along sectarian lines. It is now "lethally dangerous" for a Sunni to wander into a Shia neighbourhood and vice-versa. Entire communities are being driven out of their homes under threat of death. Patrick Cockburn reported to The Independent that the scale of the killing "is already as bad as Bosnia at the height of the conflict". There is genuine fear that sectarian violence could escalate into "slaughter on a massive scale." This in itself, again, is a condemnation of the war in Iraq. The US and British armies find themselves overseeing, and responsible for, a bloody conflict that is equal to the carnage of the criminal break-up of Yugoslavia - and the conflict in Iraq threatens to spiral out of control.

The US stands to lose complete control of Baghdad, the capital of Iraq. This would be a major defeat for the forces of imperialism. To lose the capital during the occupation could be seen as nothing other than a disaster for the US war effort. The government has plans to seal off Baghdad behind a ring of trenches and checkpoints, but are losing the race to Sunni militias. 5000 extra policemen are being called in to stop the death squads and attempt to restore order, but this will not be enough. The stage is being set for a major battle in Baghdad, but the question is, what will be the response of US and British imperialism?

The Battle of Baghdad

In war, the capturing of the capital is of major military, political, and psychological importance. The propaganda value of the capital is very high. If the US loses Baghdad they will have very few options. They can either leave the country, which would be a major defeat, or attempt to retake the city in an attempt to strengthen the occupation, which would also end up in a defeat. No matter what the US does in Iraq, it will be wrong, and they will fail to achieve a single one of their stated aims. Either way, the reaction of the American people will be anger. They will ask why the invasion took place in the first place. They will wonder just what exactly their sons and daughters died for.

Sunni insurgents have cut the roads linking the city to the rest of Iraq. These Sunni militias largely surround Baghdad and are battling Shia militias to complete the encirclement. The Sunnis have controlled the major highways heading west and east out of Baghdad for some time, and are now poised to control the roads heading north and south. Major battles are being fought in surrounding towns and villages. In each case the Sunnis are driving the Shia out and strengthening their hold on Baghdad. The Shia largely control the city itself, but the Sunnis control the surrounding areas. So far the US army has been impotent in the Battle of Baghdad. There has been intense fighting in Balad, just north of Baghdad, for over a month - despite the fact that the town lies next to the US army's largest bases in Iraq. The US forces have done little to intervene.

The US is attempting to isolate Sadr City, the sprawling slum of Baghdad with 2.5 million residents, and the Medhi Army by setting up barricades and barriers around the district. The US has also closed most of the bridges across the Tigris, making it impossible for people to move between east and west Baghdad. However, Nouri al-Maliki, the Iraqi PM has now demanded that the US stop the siege of Sadr City. He has also recently criticised the US and Britain for their failure to secure Iraq, and has resisted pressure from the imperialists to take strong action against the militias. He recently said that, "I am now Prime Minister and overall commander of the armed forces yet I cannot move a single company without Coalition approval."

The Iraqi government cannot move against the militias. It is not strong enough militarily or politically. Specifically the government cannot move against the Mehdi Army, which is an essential prop to Mr. Maliki's government - hence the government's calls for an end to siege of Sadr City.

If the US wants to hold Baghdad they will have to mount a major offensive against the militias that control the city and surround it. In particular they will have to attack Sadr City and dislodge the Mehdi Army. But the US fears this. They have done nothing against the militias because they fear a major offensive because that would mean many US casualties - which would turn the tide against the war at home (especially on the middle of mid-term elections). They would prefer the Iraqi government to do the dirty work. But the government cannot. One officer explained that the battle for Sadr City (and Baghdad) would be like the battle for Stalingrad, or Berlin. The US Army would have to fight for control of the city - street by street, building by building, against a determined enemy that knows the terrain. This would mean a bloody battle and massive US causalities. Nearly 3,000 US troops have already lost their lives. Tens of thousands more have been injured. A recent poll shows that disapproval of Bush's handling of the war stands at around 65%. The mood at home has already turned against the war and the Bush administration knows that it would not survive the Battle for Baghdad - for that matter, given the low morale in the US Army, the Army in Iraq may not survive it either.

The US and British are now talking about an exit strategy as Iraq descends into civil war. Many fear that as the US and British leave, Iraqi society will completely implode in a genocidal conflict.

The blame for this lies with British and US imperialism. In an attempt to control Iraq they employed "divide and rule" tactics - playing Sunnis, Shia, and Kurds off one another in order to maintain control. But the conflict is out of control and now threatens the whole occupation effort. The entire campaign in Iraq - from the occupation to the withdrawal - has been characterised by bungling, arrogant miscalculation, and haste. The war has been lost, and the now the British and US are looking for a way out. The reality is that no matter how well planned the invasion was, the US and Britain were never going to be able to win. They will not fight for Baghdad - the support, and the will, is simply not there - politically or militarily. The imperialists will now attempt to find the best way to cut their losses and run.

With tail between their legs

Richard Haas, president of the US Council of Foreign Relations has publicly stated that the Bush administration's current strategy of establishing a stable, democratic Iraq "has virtually no chance of succeeding".

In response to the crisis in Iraq, the Iraq Study Group has been established with the support of Bush. It is chaired by Bush family friend and former Secretary of State (under Bush Sr.), James Baker. Baker has been given the task of trying to find a way out of the mess in Iraq (which he calls "one hell of a mess"), and he has let Bush know that there must be a timetable for withdrawal. Baker does not agree with an immediate withdrawal, and believes that the US will have to abandon its hopes at establishing democracy across the Middle East. Instead he proposes that the US define success as achieving "representative government, not necessarily democracy". This reveals the true intentions of US imperialism, as we shall see.

No matter what the US does now it will end in a mess. The various options they are looking at must all be considered a defeat - and some more dangerous than others. The US is essentially looking at four options publicly. There is a fifth option which is being discussed secretly - but we will come to that in a minute.

The first option the US is looking at is the partition of Iraq into three zones. The Kurds would be given the north, the Sunnis the middle, and the Shia the south. While Baker and the administration seem opposed to this option, they are also considering a "looser federation", which could descend into actual partition anyway. Obviously partition would be a nightmare and would lead to civil war and possible ethnic cleansing. Iraq's resources would be unequally divided, giving cause for full-scale war. Baghdad itself would explode. The partition of Iraq would also mean that neighbouring countries, such as Turkey and Iran, would dragged into the conflict, bringing the spectre of an all out regional war. However, the US ruling class may feel it is the best way to guarantee their control of the oil, although in reality they would lose everything.

The second option the US is looking at, incredibly, is the idea of getting help from Syria and Iran. Baker seems to favour this option, but the Bush administration is opposed. It would be an incredible sign of weakness if the US had to ask its two biggest enemies in the region for help in Iraq. The whole world would have to know that the US was in a serious crisis if it turned to its enemies for assistance. The US still refuses to hold talks with the two countries, and it seems unlikely that Bush would want to have Iran and Syria making demands upon the US in exchange for help in Iraq. This option would also drag neighbouring countries into the mess and could result, again, in an all out war in the region. The US would stand to lose a lot with this option, and would face the prospect of two enemy states moving in on its interests.

The third option being looked at is to immediately withdraw US troops. This would be seen as a major defeat by the Bush administration and the world as a whole. It seems unlikely the US government would go for this option. The likely perspective for this option would be an increase in violence, all out civil war, and the collapse of the government - things the Bush administration would be held responsible for and things the US would never live down. Apparently, Henry Kissinger has told Bush this would be the worst option and that the only meaningful exit would be "victory". This is rather empty, as military victories cannot simply be wished into existence out of thin air. The US has no chance of winning this war.

The fourth option is of course phased withdrawal. Bush and Blair still talk about not leaving until "the job is done" (although not as much lately) but neither governments are now seriously considering this option. However it would not change much from an immediate withdrawal. It would simply drag out the process of sectarian violence and civil war and involve the deaths of more US and British troops. However this option would allow them to "save face" - that is unless it ends in disaster with their troops being dragged into a wider conflict. Both the US and British fear setting any firm date for withdrawal out of concern that this would embolden the insurgency.

There are also whispers of a fifth option in Washington. Although corridor talk in the US, it is being seriously considered in Iraq. That is the option of finding a new Saddam, a new US-friendly "strongman" who could come to power as a result of a military coup. Talk about not learning the lessons of history!). To go through two wars and an invasion and occupation, just to set yourself up to go back to the very beginning and go through the whole thing again is the height of hypocrisy, irony, and stupidity! The US-trained military would be used to overthrow the struggling Maliki regime and restore order while the US looks the other way. There are now hints from Washington that Maliki will have 18 months to rein in the militias - after that, what? The US and British will leave him to his fate? That seems unlikely. What is likely is that they would like to have one more go at establishing order and getting what they want out of Iraq - stability in order to achieve their economic and geo-political aims. A military coup at this point in time is a real option, and is probably being seriously considered by the US and Britain.

What stinking hypocrisy! From dreams of a stable and democratic Iraq the imperialists and Iraqi ruling class are now considering a military dictatorship. Under these circumstances was does restoring order mean? It means smashing the militias and "uniting" Iraq. But on the basis of capitalism, and certainly on the basis of a military dictatorship, order and unity can only be established through terror. Along this road there is no way out for the Iraqi people. And there is a broader lesson here. This is what imperialism and capitalism offer the people of the world. Behind the promises of democracy, liberty, and prosperity lie only misery, poverty, and terror. The people of Venezuela, Mexico, Nicaragua, Bolivia and of course Cuba, must take note of this - for this is what US imperialism has in store for them. The threats emanating from the US against the revolutionary tide sweeping Latin America will mean the same thing - military coups, war, dictatorship and terror.

The Sentencing of Saddam

The verdict in the trial of Saddam Hussein was cynically timed to aid the ailing Republicans in the US mid-term elections. The Republicans stand to lose control of the House and Senate. Much of this is due to increasing anger at the war in Iraq. The Bush administration attempted, lamely, to show something positive from Iraq. They may have also hoped that the death sentence handed out would unite Iraqis, if only momentarily. Iraqi officials claimed that there was US pressure to sentence Saddam before the mid-term elections.

While we hold no sympathy for Saddam, who was responsible for terrible the crimes, murder, and torture that he inflicted on the Iraqi people, it must be pointed out that this trial was the height of hypocrisy. While the White House goes on about how the verdict represented a "great day for Iraq" and was a "victory against tyranny for the rule of law", must we really remind them that the crimes Saddam was charged with were carried out while he was Washington's best friend in the Arab world? The US and Britain knew about all of these atrocities, and even kindly supplied the gas used. Torture is now more widespread under the US occupation then it was under Saddam. Saddam and his henchmen in Abu Ghraib and around Iraq have been replaced by the US and the new "democratic" Iraqi government.

During the course of the trial, Saddam was unable to describe his relations with Donald Rumsfeld (everyone remembers the photo of the handshake between Rumsfeld and Hussein as the US celebrated the sale of chemical weapons to Iraq) or with George Bush Sr. Saddam was not permitted to talk about the sale of chemical weapons by the US and the UK to his regime. That might have been just a little bit too embarrassing for the British and American governments.

And why, we must ask, was Saddam sentenced to hang for a localised massacre of Shias rather than some of the major atrocities carried out by his regime - such as the wholesale gassing of Kurds in the 1980s or the slaughtering of Kurds and Shia after the first Gulf War when they staged an uprising against Saddam at the urging of US and British imperialism? These questions were never raised in the trial because it would raise other questions, which would mean the public trial of the role of the US and British imperialism, and their involvement in the crimes and massacres carried out by the Saddam regime.

How can anyone call the sentence a triumph for justice when the evidence was selected to cover up the involvement of US imperialism in the crimes of Saddam Hussein? How can it be called justice when no documented evidence was allowed that would establish without doubt the relationship between imperialism and the brutal dictatorship? How can it be called justice when the judges and prosecutors were selected and advised by the US? Human Right's Watch and Amnesty International have both criticised the court's lack of impartiality and credibility. The chief judge was forced to step down, at the insistence of the US, because he did not do enough to stop Saddam's outbursts which challenged the credibility and legitimacy of the court. Three defence lawyers were killed and the television broadcast of the trial was delayed by 20 minutes so that censors could remove anything that was damaging to the US occupation.

As the US and Britain go on and on about justice, there is a growing agreement that their interests would be best served by a new dictatorship - a regime very similar to that of Saddam. The US is now reaching out to former Baathist officials, offering them important posts and positions in exchange for an end to the insurgency and agreements on the plunder of Iraq's oil supply.

The sentence handed out to Saddam, far from uniting Iraqis, has in fact deepened divisions. In Tikrit and other Sunni dominated areas Iraqis came out to protest against the sentence. In Shia dominated areas, hundreds of thousands poured into the streets to celebrate the verdict. In other areas, such as certain districts in Baghdad, there were clashes between supporters and opponents of the verdict. Again the aims of the imperialists had the opposite effect.

US and British imperialism are responsible for the crimes in Iraq just as much as Saddam. Even now, the US and Britain are responsible for the deaths of 655,000 people. Yet, no one calls for them to stand trial for crimes against humanity.

Unprecedented defeat

The current world situation is unprecedented. One would be hard pressed to find anything similar in the annals of history. If the size and power of the world's most powerful empire is the greatest in world history, so too will the size and scope of its defeat and decline be unparalleled. The world's policeman, the United States, simply does not have enough officers to put out all the fires in the world. US imperialism faces defeat in Iraq, Afghanistan, and above all in Latin America. Everywhere one looks there is instability, chaos.

This volatility exists on a world scale. The world market binds all countries to together. Events in one country have the power to shake the whole world. The events in Iraq will undoubtedly have far reaching consequences for the whole of the Middle East and the world. Slowly but surely, the eyes of the workers and poor of the world have turned their attention to Latin America, where the great revolutionary events taking place there are about to shake the entire planet.

The perspectives of the bourgeois since the collapse of the Soviet Union are exposed as the idyllic musings of hopeless dreamers - but musings with deadly consequences for the workers and poor of the world. Capitalism is most definitely not the best of all possible worlds. The workers, peasants, and poor of the world have stood up and shattered this dream. Everywhere they challenge capitalism and the forces of imperialism. They will not accept misery and exploitation and instead, as in Venezuela, are searching for a better vision and are struggling for a better world - a socialist world.

The US can only stand by as it faces each defeat, one by one. Iraq and Afghanistan are in flames and there is but one perspective for the imperialists - humiliation and defeat. The US can only stand by as the masses in Latin America, in country after country, enter the stage of history, take to the streets, and challenge the power of the ruling class - and what the US ruling class fears most, is that this will be repeated in the United States. To their dismay it already has, as was witnessed by the marvellous movement of Latin American immigrants earlier this year. It is only a matter of time before the working class as a whole in the US stands up en masse. No one can tell when this will be, or over what issue - perhaps over the war, or a great strike - in the end it will not matter what the issue is, only that the world revolution is striking at the heart of the beast itself.

Many may scoff at this perspective. When the US and Britain launched the war in Iraq, many on the left fell into despair. They believed the forces of imperialism to be invincible, and faced with this power they believed there was no hope in the struggle, no chance of victory. To this day many look at the situation in Iraq, Afghanistan, the Lebanon, and Latin America and see only the possibility of defeat for the people struggling against imperialism.

As Marxists we have an unshakeable confidence in the power of the working class and its ability to change the world. What is needed now is not pessimism and despair, but optimism and a fighting spirit. Yes, there is misery and destruction. Yes there is cause for despair and disillusionment. The world is an unjust, violent, and terrible place. But we would be blind not to see the other side of the equation. There is also cause for hope. Israeli imperialism was defeated in Lebanon. The students and workers in France resoundingly defeated the Chirac government earlier this year. US imperialism is being defeated in Iraq and Afghanistan. Above all, the struggle in Latin America - in Mexico, Bolivia, Brazil but especially in Venezuela - shows the masses of the world that it is possible to struggle against imperialism and win. We look to these examples, and offer them as a perspective of hope, and see the struggle spreading to country after country around the world. We must intervene in these movements, and based on the correct ideas and methods, fertilize them with the ideas of revolutionary Marxism.

The forces of imperialism will be defeated in Iraq sooner or later, one way or another. As the crisis of capitalism deepens the masses will take the road of struggle in country after country. But do we simply want to see the defeat of imperialism? No. The defeat of imperialism in Lebanon fundamentally solved nothing - and neither will its defeat in Afghanistan and Iraq. There is no solution to the problems of the masses along the road of capitalism. All troops must be pulled out of Iraq now. However, the only way to end this nightmare and stop it from occurring again is to build the international movement for the socialist transformation of society.

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