Just as it seemed that US military actions abroad were winding down with the defeat of the Taliban, the Bush Administration escalated its war rhetoric. In his State of the Union address, Bush identified Iraq, Iran, and North Korea as an “Axis of Evil,” indicating his intentions to act against them.
Cynically exploiting the genuine anger and sudden loss of security of the American public after the horrific terrorist attacks of September 11th, Bush launched a war on Afghanistan. Rather than bringing justice for the victims of the terrible terrorist atrocity of 9/11, the purpose of Bush’s war on Afghanistan was to restore the prestige and power of the US ruling class.
These actions will not bring Americans increased security or stability, but are exacerbating the conditions of global poverty, instability, and turmoil that give rise to terrorist acts.
Now, Bush is threatening to extend his war all over the world, to countries and organizations that have absolutely no connection to the terrorist attacks of 9/11 or international terrorist networks.
Secretary of State Colin Powell defined the regimes that are considered targets of US foreign policy as “any country now that has a despotic leadership, that is unrepresentative of its people, that is not putting in place market economic systems.” (New York Times, 2/28/02) This definition shows that, despite Bush’s claim that this is a war against terrorism, the US ruling class has much wider goals.
The US is stepping up its military activities around the world supposedly to root out suspected terrorists. The US has stepped up its involvement in Colombia, sent 500 troops to the Philippines, 100 troops to Yemen, and 150 “military trainers” to Georgia.
The Bush administration is clearly attempting to strike as many blows to its enemies as possible, in a drive to more forcefully assert its dominance and interests around the world.
Military Actions Against Iraq
But the main target is Iraq, the only country with whom the US is seriously preparing for an immediate out-and-out war.
Washington has launched an aggressive campaign for a “regime change” in Iraq (driving Saddam Hussein from power), which could possibly include an invasion with 200,000 ground troops.
The Bush administration is testing the waters for US actions against Iraq by sending Vice President Dick Cheney on an 11-nation tour of the Middle East. “Cheney’s job will be to pave the way for a probable military campaign to oust the most threatening leader of the ‘axis’ countries: Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein.” (Business Week, 3/4/02) The article quotes another Administration official as saying, “if he does not change, we will attack.”
The US strategy is to aggressively demand that Iraq allow UN weapons inspectors (controlled by the US) back into the country. US officials have openly stated that they hope to provoke Saddam to reject these proposals, or to force some sort of standoff, in order to create a political and diplomatic pretext for US military action.
Bush is trying to cloak his war aims behind a “legitimate” UN mandate in order to win more support internationally and domestically for a strike against Iraq.
The press has been full of articles claiming that Iraq is obtaining new chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons, trying to build up a case for American self-defense. Yet there is absolutely no evidence that Iraq was in any way connected to the 9/11 terrorist attacks or the Al Qaeda network.
It is ironic that while the Bush administration is threatening Iraq and other governments for developing weapons of mass destruction, a leaked Pentagon Nuclear Policy Review indicates that the US might use nuclear strikes preemptively, whether or not the target country has nuclear capability. It also calls for the development of smaller, “low yield” nuclear weapons for use alongside conventional weapons, which, if implemented, means that the US could use nuclear weapons against Iraq.
Saddam Hussein – A US Ally Who Went Wrong
During the 1980s, the US government developed Iraq as an ally to carry out its foreign policy interests in the Middle East. After the 1979 Islamic fundamentalist revolution in Iran, the US encouraged Saddam Hussein to use the powerful Iraqi army to invade and defeat the government in Iran.
The US supplied Iraq with weapons to fight the bloody, eight-year war, where casualties surpassed one million. At that time, the US conveniently turned a blind eye to Iraq’s use of chemical weapons against Iranian troops. Iraq’s failure to win the war cost them $300 billion, leaving Iraq with a massive debt and Hussein struggling to hold on to his position of power.
It was then, in 1991, that Hussein hatched a plan to invade Kuwait, in order to boost his image. His plans were spelled out to a US ambassador in private before the invasion, who told Hussein that “the US has no opinion on an Arab/Arab dispute like your border disagreements with Kuwait.” (Militant International Review, l/9l)
The US mistakenly believed that Hussein had planned to only take a disputed oil well on the border with Kuwait – an action which the US was willing to allow as a way of helping an ally. Instead Iraq invaded the entire nation of Kuwait.
It was only afterwards that the Bush Sr. administration saw a chance to launch the Gulf War against Iraq as a means to boost US interests in this oil rich region. US imperialism feared Iraq controlling too much of the world oil market with Kuwait’s reserves, and potentially threatening to seize Saudi Arabia’s oil fields.
With the elimination of the other main super power in the region, the Soviet Union, the US government used this chance to forge new allies and build up its military presence in the area, placing troops on Saudi territory for the first time, and pulling Turkey closer into its orbit. Bush Sr. pulled together a military alliance and launched a full-scale war to “liberate” Kuwait.
After driving Iraq out of Kuwait, the US made a conscious decision not to invade Iraq to topple Saddam Hussein because it feared the potential consequences of such an action.
A ground invasion of Iraq posed the danger of radicalization and social upheavals throughout the Arab world, as well as heavy US causalities. The key US strategists argued that it was better to deal “with the devil we know, than the devil we don’t.” What would replace Saddam’s regime?
Removing Saddam ran the risk of leading to the break-up of the Iraqi state, out of which a Kurdish state could emerge. This would seriously destabilize the region, especially Turkey (a key US ally in the region), and would alter the balance of power in the Middle East in Iran’s favor, which the US completely opposed. To avoid such a scenario, the US would have had to occupy Iraq to maintain stability – not a pleasant prospect.
Rumsfeld on the Offensive
The US has carried on a continual campaign against Iraq since the end of the Gulf War, consisting of an economic blockade, periodic air strikes, and demands for UN weapons inspections. The sanctions have cut off desperately needed food and medical supplies, creating a massive humanitarian disaster. It is estimated that over one million Iraqi civilians have died as a direct result of the economic sanctions, the majority of them children.
Ever since the Gulf War, the right-wing of the Republican Party has been obsessed with the apparent failure of US power to remove Saddam, and has consistently campaigned for the US to “finish the job.”
Now with US imperialism temporally strengthened following its rapid victory in Afghanistan, and the hawkish Rumsfeld wing of the Bush administration in the driver’s seat, they see the opportunity to finally solve the “Iraq problem” which they view as a source of annoyance and embarrassment.
Pentagon officials say that the US will require months of preparation before it goes to war, probably no earlier than the summer. The US needs time to “prepare” the American public for the “need” to attack Iraq, assemble international support, go through the charade of UN negotiations for weapons inspectors, and amass the necessary weaponry and troops in the region.
The Bush administration appears to have committed itself to a course of war with Iraq. However, events in the Middle East and elsewhere could cut across Rumsfeld1s and Powell’s plans and make US military actions untenable.
Fear of setting off an explosion of anger in the Middle East, and destabilizing the entire region, could still force Bush to step back from a large-scale invasion of Iraq. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has already reached a fevered pitch. The Saudi monarchy and other reactionary regimes in the region are increasingly unstable, as they face massive internal opposition for collaborating with US imperialism. Business Week put it bluntly: “the US dare not inflame the region further by targeting Iraq.”
End the Cycle of Terrorism and War
Socialist Alternative completely opposes any military actions of the Bush administration against Iraq or other countries in its “war on terrorism.” We oppose terrorism and condemn the attacks of 9/11, which only played into the hands of Bush and big business.
But military interventions will solve none of the problems that led to the 9/11 attacks. It is the deplorable social and economic conditions that capitalism has created across the globe that provoke social upheavals as in Argentina, guerilla movements as in Colombia, and in the most desperate, hopeless situations, acts of terrorism.
It is only by the working class and oppressed peoples of the world organizing a movement to take control of the productive resources of their lands and establish new democratic governments, that these underlying social conditions can be overcome. Only then will the people of the world live in security and stability.
Any new war against Iraq will be a war for the oil barons, US big business, and for the power and prestige of US capitalism. It will be an attempt to intimidate oppressed people around the world and dissuade them from moving into struggle. It will not be the sons and daughters of the rich who will fight this war, but those of the working class, who have nothing to gain from it. It will be workers and youth in the US who will have to foot the bill for the ever-expanding “war on terrorism,” through cutbacks in social programs and increased taxes.
The ability of the US to launch the war against Afghanistan was facilitated by feelings of outrage and insecurity when 3,000 people were suddenly killed on American soil on 9/11. Initially, a US war on Iraq is also likely to be supported by large sections of the population, as the media and politicians whip up another wave of nationalistic fervor.
But a significant minority, substantially larger than those who opposed the war in Afghanistan, will be against a war in Iraq. Without any direct connection with 9/11, it will be much harder to justify new military actions to the US public.
The basis will exist for a powerful anti-war movement to be built. The anti-war movement will be able to draw on the existing organizations and experience that were built up in the mobilizations against the war in Afghanistan.
The anti-war movement must begin now to raise its opposition to a war on Iraq. We need to educate workers and youth about the real interests of the US, to explain its role in defending the interest of oil, cheap labor, and the profits of the multinational corporations, and to link the cost of such a war with the economic suffering of workers and youth caused by its policies at home.
The events of 9/11 and the resulting wars are a wake-up call to humanity of the horrendous future that capitalism is preparing. Capitalism is incapable of providing decent living standards or a peaceful, stable and secure future for humanity. It can only mean a nightmare of terrorist atrocities, wars, racism, and brutal oppression.
We must redouble our efforts to fight for an alternative to this madness. We need to begin to organize a powerful anti-war movement inside the “belly of the beast,” and fight for a new, socialist world.
Justice #29, March 2002