The following two articles are from Detroit Workers Voice #18, Feb. 23, 1998
(reprinted in Communist Voice #17.)
. The Clinton administration has been threatening to bomb Iraq at the end of February. Although the deal on weapon inspections and sanctions brokered by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan may avert this attack, the conflict between the ruling classes of American and Iraq is likely to continue to simmer on and off. Despite what the capitalist politicians and newspapers say, this is not mainly a fight over UN resolutions, weapons of mass destruction, or democracy. It is instead a fight for influence over the oil-rich Middle East in general and the Persian Gulf region in particular. Clinton wants the Persian Gulf to be an American lake, with U. S. dictation over the flow of oil supplies. The Saddam Hussein regime, despite its defeat in the Persian Gulf war, still wants to become a local powerbroker. The present crisis is just another episode in an ongoing cynical fight for influence over this regime, with a big bully, the U. S. government, confronting a would-be local bully, the Iraqi regime. Meanwhile it is the working people of Iraq who are paying the bill.
. It is time to say: Enough! Not another war for oil! Not another massacre of the Iraqi people for the sake of the geopolitical ambitions of the capitalist ruling classes! The threats to bomb Iraq yet again showed that the U. S. government remains an imperialist power, ready to send aircraft carriers and troops and bombers around the world. It is still trying to arrange the affairs of other peoples and nations. And it is doing so, as both the Clinton administration and the Republicans say, for "American national interests", which is how they refer to the interests of the oil companies and the multinational corporations. It is a crime for one country to bomb and invade another for its own "national interests". In city after city, activists have demonstrated against a foreign war for the profits of the American corporations. It is these protests that have told the world that the American workers, youth and activists don't support the chauvinism and militarism of the American ruling class.
. We must display solidarity with the Iraqi people against both the savage policy of the Clinton
administration and the heavy weight of the Hussein regime. The Iraqi people have paid heavily
for the geopolitical ambitions of the ruling classes. The American capitalists want to get rid of
Hussein, because he is quarreling with them, but only because they want to impose another Iraqi
strongman. It is only a new revolutionary movement of the Iraqi masses that can bring salvation
to Iraq, and the U. S. government is opposed to such a prospect, which it calls the "breakup" and
"destabilization" of Iraq.
A struggle for oil and empire
. The U. S. government doesn't want freedom in the Middle East, just American domination. Moreover, the U. S. sees throwing its weight around in this area of the world as part of its plan of maintaining an imperial presence throughout the world.
. Over the decades, the U. S. government has looked for local reactionary powers to serve as bases of its influence in the Middle East. It has backed Israel to the hilt in order to apply pressure on the Arab countries. But it has also looked for a suitable regime in Gulf region itself. For years U.S. policy centered on using the reactionary Shah of Iran to serve as its enforcer in the Persian Gulf, but the Shah was overthrown in 1979. The U. S. then looked to Saudi Arabia as its reliable watchdog, and it also sought to use Iraq as a counterweight to its neighbor, Iran. The U. S. played Iraq and Iran off each other, making use of long Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s. In the course of this, the U. S. helped arm Iraq and maintained friendly relations with Saddam Hussein which it only broke after Iraq invaded Kuwait.
. Today U. S. policy banks on such reactionary monarchies as those of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Such maneuvers have nothing to do with democracy, and everything to do with oil and empire. If the U. S. government had had any concern for the people of Iraq or the Persian Gulf, it wouldn't have backed the decade-long slaughter of the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s, nor would it have maintained a economic blockade that curtails food supplies to Iraq in the 1990s.
Testing of new weapons
. Moreover, the U. S. government had some special interests that could have been advanced through bombing Iraq. For example, the U. S. military is anxious to try out its bloody toys, such as a new generation of "smart bombs". The American bourgeoisie hopes to maintain its world military supremacy through high-tech weaponry, and it trumpeted its easy triumph in the Persian Gulf war as a verification of U. S. military tactics and weaponry. But in fact the "smart bombs" of 1990 had a rather mixed record, and the Pentagon has sought to improve them. But until the new weapons are tried in actual combat, they remain a question mark. The Pentagon was hoping to use Iraq as one gigantic shooting range.
Weapons of mass destruction
. The Clinton administration says that it is simply interested in preventing the development and use of weapons of mass destruction by the Iraqi regime--namely, chemical, bacteriological and nuclear weapons. This is a cynical lie. The U. S. and other western powers helped arm Iraq, and the U. S. saw nothing wrong with Hussein using chemical weapons against Iran during the Iran-Iraq war. What is different now is that the U. S. government is quarreling with Iraq and afraid that Iraq might target the wrong areas.
. Meanwhile the U. S. government has also helped other governments in the region obtain weapons of mass destruction, such as Israel. Israel has nuclear weapons, and there is not the slightest doubt that, should it ever suffer military defeats on the scale that Iraq had, it would use these weapons, and it had contingency plans to incite a general nuclear war.
. Moreover, the U. S. has large stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction, and the U.S. government--no matter whether there was a Democratic or Republican president--has consistently refused to pledge not to be the first to use nuclear weapons. It was U. S. military policy to make first use of nuclear weapons in Europe if there was a war with the Soviet Union. And the U. S. government thus holds open the option of first use of nuclear weapons, should it suffer a deep defeat. Meanwhile the U. S. helps arm various of its allies with nuclear or other weapons of mass destruction.
. As a result, whether the bombing takes place or Kofi Annan's deal holds, whether the UN
inspectors go back to work in Iraq or not, whether Hussein or Clinton comes off better in the
showdown, there is a continuing danger of the use of weapons of mass destruction in the Persian
Gulf. This danger is from both sides. Hussein has used chemical weapons in the past; and he is
willing to suffer sanctions indefinitely and go to the brink of war to preserve Iraq's chemical,
bacteriological and nuclear possibilities. The U. S. and various of its allies also maintains these
weapons. The only way to restrict the use of these weapons is to develop a revolutionary
movement against imperialism and the capitalist classes.
Both sides are wrong
. It might seem to be commonsense to imagine that one side or the other in a confrontation must be right. But commonsense isn't always right. And in this case, both sides are in the wrong. Clinton's drive to bomb Iraq is a criminal act, but this doesn't mean that there is anything good in the struggle of the regime of Saddam Hussein to build up weapons of mass destruction. We must stand for the third side, the side of the masses. It is this side which suffers in Iraq from both the U. S. squeeze and the Hussein tyranny and which suffers in the U. S. from the ongoing offensive against workers, minorities and immigrants.
. Meanwhile the Clinton administration doesn't even pretend to be supporting democracy in the Persian Gulf. The Saudi Arabian theocracy is one of the U. S. 's closest allies. And take Kuwait, which will be one of the bases for American aircraft striking at Iraq. The Clinton administration doesn't say a word over the denial of democracy in its close friend, Kuwait. Kuwait is a reactionary monarchy, ruled by the al-Sabah family. More than half the population is denied even the right of citizenship. When the U. S. army liberated Kuwait from Iraqi annexation, it looked on with indifference as the Kuwaiti monarchy stepped up its oppression of "foreign" laborers, many of whom had been born in Kuwait or lived there for most of their life.
The struggle of the Iraqi people
. U. S. imperialism isn't interested in the welfare of the Iraqi people, the Kurds, or the other peoples of the Middle East, and it will never be. It is up to the workers of this country to support our Iraqi class brothers and sisters including the Kurds. The Iraqi people have fought against imperialism, especially British imperialism, and the local Iraqi monarchy in the past; various sections of the Iraqi people have fought against the Hussein regime; and a revolutionary movement will arise again someday.
. The Hussein regime itself results from the strangling of the hopes of the Iraqi people. In 1958 the Iraqi monarchy was overthrown. Eventually, in 1968 the Ba'ath Socialist Party seized power in a military coup. But this party, although it talked in the name of "Arab socialism", actually sought to build up Iraq as a capitalist power. It succeeded in nationalizing the oil industry and using the oil revenues to spur economic development, but it also suppressed the rights of the working people. An authoritarian regime developed under the one of the Ba'ath's key leaders, Saddam Hussein. Step by step, as Hussein's regime has developed, it has taken away the gains won by the Iraqi people in struggle. The task facing the Iraqi people is to build up an opposition movement that is based on the interests of the toilers, not on the interests of other bourgeois strata.
. Here in the U. S. the Iraq crisis demonstrated that the American government has kept its military ambitions despite the end of the Cold war. This means that the struggle against U.S.imperialism remains on the agenda. It shows that U. S. military intervention around the world will not end until capitalism is overthrown and the workers run this country.
. To fight this imperialism, we must seek to build up the closest solidarity between the American
workers and those in the Persian Gulf and elsewhere around the world. The only security that we
can have against new military adventures or the use of weapons of mass destruction by the
U.S.government or by other governments is rebuilding the workers' movement throughout the
world.Today the workers' movement is disorganized all over the world, but this will not last
forever.All capitalism has to offer us is one crisis after another--an economic crisis in East Asia,
a military adventure in the Persian Gulf, mass layoffs here, and mass slaughter there. The same
system that wages war abroad oppresses us at home; the same system is responsible for both war
and economic exploitation. This is why the Democrats and Republicans cannot dominate politics
forever, and why an independent workers' movement will eventually arise. Let us protest the
present Iraq crisis not just to display solidarity with the Iraqi people and encourage a liberation
struggle for their freedom, but also to help bring closer the day when a powerful liberation
movement will arise here in the U. S. as well.
. The shouts of angry protesters are ringing out against the war drums of Clinton and his media flunkies. In Columbus, Ohio, the administration and CNN tried to stage-manage a phony "town hall" meeting to promote the war, but anti-war slogans drowned out the speech of Secretary of State Albright and activists challenged the government's lies and hypocrisy in the brief chance they had to make comments. A 300-strong demo was also held.
. The next day U. S. UN rep Richardson was shouted down by 150 protesters at the U. of Illinois,
250 people participated in a forum challenging the pro-war editors of the school newspaper who
mocked a campus protest the week before. On Feb. 21, over a thousand people protested in San
Francisco. Dozens of other protests were held or scheduled, including big regional actions in San
Francisco and New York on Feb. 28. Join the protest! Raise your voice against the oil war at
workplaces, communities and schools.
Last changed on October 9, 2002