Spartacist Canada No. 154
U.S., Canadian Troops Out Now!
For Class Struggle Against Capitalist Rulers at Home!
As riot cops fired tear gas and rubber bullets at protesters outside the Montebello summit in Quebec on August 20, U.S. president Bush saluted Canada for its contribution to the occupation of Afghanistan. At the same time, Stephen Harper was forced to reiterate that Canadas 2,500 troops would end their combat mission by early 2009 unless the Tory minority government can get parliamentary approval for another round of deployments.
Until last year, every one of the parliamentary parties—including the NDP—supported Canadas bloody role in Afghanistan. But growing popular opposition has pushed the Liberals, who sent the troops there in the first place, to call for an end to the mission in 18 months. The Bloc Québécois has taken a similar stand, while the New Democrats now call for an immediate safe and secure withdrawal of our troops from combat missions in the Afghan south, where insurgency forces have inflicted several dozen casualties on Canadian soldiers.
Meanwhile, Bush himself is in deep trouble over Iraq. The occupation of that country by some 150,000 American troops has turned into a disaster for U.S. imperialism, and major sections of the ruling class, especially in the Democratic Party, are demanding a timetable for withdrawal. Their aim is to cut U.S. losses and better promote the long-term interests of American imperialism by refocusing on more strategic arenas, including by shoring up the occupation forces in Afghanistan.
Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have died under the impact of the U.S. war and occupation, a toll that increases daily with the communal warfare between Sunnis and Shiites unleashed under Washingtons suzerainty. Two million people have fled the country while another two million have been forced to leave their homes for other regions of Iraq. A recently released study by Oxfam and other aid organizations reported that some eight million Iraqis—nearly a third of the population—need immediate emergency aid, 70 percent are without adequate water supplies and 28 percent of children are malnourished.
In Afghanistan, the occupation has produced a seemingly endless string of atrocities. In early August alone, a U.S. bombing campaign in the western part of the country killed 108 civilians, according to local elders. Canadian troops have killed unarmed civilians and handed over prisoners to the notoriously corrupt Afghan regime. The Harper government tried to cover up revelations that many of these prisoners have been tortured and some executed. As proletarian internationalist opponents of U.S. imperialism and its Canadian junior partner, the Trotskyist League/Ligue trotskyste says: U.S., Canadian, all NATO troops out of Afghanistan now! Down with the neocolonial occupation of Iraq!
Canadian Imperialism and the Afghan Occupation
Successive Canadian governments, first under the Liberals and now the Tories, have seized the opportunity of the Afghanistan intervention to push through unprecedented increases in military spending. In 2005, the Liberals—backed by the NDP—promised a nearly $13 billion boost in military spending over five years. Last year, the Harper Tories went one better, announcing a $15 billion allocation for military equipment. By 2010, the annual military budget is projected to hit $20 billion, even as desperately needed social programs continue to be savaged by sweeping cutbacks. Government and army spokesmen, joined by the kept bourgeois media, have engaged in an orgy of patriotic fervour aimed at rallying support for the troops in Afghanistan—and, more broadly, at convincing working people that they have common national interests with their exploiters, the Canadian capitalist ruling class and its government in Ottawa.
Even as it sent the army to assist the U.S. in Afghanistan, the former Liberal regime elected to stay out of the Iraq war in the face of massive domestic opposition. This was especially strong in Quebec, where antiwar protests drew up to a quarter million people in the winter of 2002-03. Popular opposition to Canadian militarism has always been high among the Québécois, many of whom rightly view the Canadian army as a tool of oppression both abroad and at home. In October 1970, the federal government sent thousands of troops to occupy Montreal under the War Measures Act, aiming to suppress the national and social discontent then sweeping the province. During the 1995 Quebec referendum on sovereignty, the army staged mysterious military maneuvers on Quebec highways, while Ottawa secretly prepared for a military intervention in the event of a Yes vote.
The Liberal government gave covert support to the Iraq invasion in various ways, but it feared that open support for the war would bring electoral disaster in Quebec and generate a new upsurge of sentiment for Quebec independence. While the Chrétien and Martin regimes were able to ride out that storm, the Tory government now faces particularly strong opposition in Quebec to the Afghanistan intervention. According to a recent Journal de Montréal opinion poll, 70 percent of Québécois oppose the troop deployments, while nearly two thirds believe Canada is only in Afghanistan to placate the Bush regime.
This opposition threatens to increase yet further as upwards of 2,000 troops from the Quebec-based Royal 22nd Regiment (the Van Doos) begin their rotation into Afghanistan. On the eve of the deployment this summer, the army staged a provocative military parade through Quebec City, drawing a counterdemonstration by antiwar protesters. One demonstrator, Montreal academic Francis Dupuis-Déri, whose sister is a captain in the Van Doos, wrote a Letter to My Sister Who Is Leaving for Afghanistan that featured prominently in several Quebec newspapers:
They have told you that you are leaving to help consolidate peace (by making war?) and protect the Afghan people (by occupying and bombing their territory?) against foreign combatants (but you, where do you come from?)
The politicians who today govern the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, who the Canadian army is protecting against their enemies, are in their great majority militia chiefs who have perpetrated war crimes: mass rapes of women, torture and execution of combatants and civilians.
—Le Soleil [Quebec City], 20 June
In their first few weeks in Afghanistan, three Québécois soldiers were killed near Kandahar. Two Radio Canada journalists embedded with the army were injured by a roadside bomb, one seriously. In response, Harper and his new defense minister Peter MacKay vowed to stay the course, while leaders of the parliamentary opposition parties pledged to continue to support our troops while lobbying for their (eventual) withdrawal.
Gilles Duceppe of the sovereignist Bloc Québécois denounced as irresponsible NDP leader Jack Laytons call for an immediate pullout. He continued: I dont want to act like those who exploit the emotions of the Québécois, like Jack Layton
. We have to be responsible and meet our international obligations (Le Devoir [Montreal], 24 August). As responsible bourgeois politicians—would-be rulers of an eventual independent capitalist Quebec—the Bloc leaders have taken a stand over Afghanistan that is to the right of most of the Quebec population.
Seeking to exploit this, Laytons NDP is making a new push for support in Quebec. As Anglo-chauvinist opponents of Quebecs democratic right to self-determination—i.e., to independence—the NDP has never been a serious force in Quebec, and Laytons latest maneuvers are highly unlikely to change this. In any event, the NDPs new troops out call—adopted after years of support for the occupation and for ever-higher military budgets—in no way amounts to opposition to Canadian militarism. What the New Democrats want is stepped-up assistance to reconstruction and development in Afghanistan, including by training the regimes police force.
Layton says Canada should be fighting the right battles, as in the Korean War and in dozens of UN-sanctioned peacekeeping missions (ndp.ca, 12 March). From the murderous war on North Korea in the early 1950s to the Canadian troops who tortured and murdered black youth in Somalia in the early 1990s, Canadian peacekeeping under United Nations auspices is nothing but the brutal enforcement of the imperialist order. The NDP social democrats are a left prop for this barbaric system, working to tie the working class to the interests of the Canadian capitalist rulers.
Iraq: Debacle for U.S. Imperialism
For all the Canadian governments difficulties over Afghanistan, these pale in comparison to the Bush regimes crisis over Iraq. When the bipartisan Iraq Study Group recommended late last year that the U.S. start withdrawing troops, it was a signal that important sections of the American bourgeoisie wanted to end what had become a debacle for U.S. imperialism. Bush essentially asked for one last chance to try to turn the situation around through a troop surge. Republican politicians stood firmly behind him through the spring, while Democrats in Congress adopted a posture of loyal opposition, passing toothless resolutions for withdrawal while backing the Commander-in-Chief when it counted by voting to finance the occupation.
By summer, predominant sections of the U.S. ruling class had had enough. American military forces had failed in their attempt to assert control over Baghdad, and intercommunal slaughter continued unabated. Key Republican senators and longtime Bush allies broke with the president and began pushing for a draw down of forces. In a major editorial statement, the New York Times (8 July), an authoritative mouthpiece of the U.S. capitalist class, declared in no uncertain terms that it was time to organize an orderly exit.
Opinion polls—and last years Congressional elections—gave unambiguous signs that the American populace in its majority wants the U.S. to get out of Iraq. This sentiment has redounded to the benefit of the Democratic Party, in part due to the services of the reformist left, which built an antiwar movement predicated on Anybody but Bush lesser evilism. But contrary to bourgeois-democratic myth, the policies of U.S. imperialism are determined not by the desires of the electorate but by the interests of the capitalist ruling class, as overseen by the Democratic and Republican parties.
For the rulers of U.S. imperialism, who have destroyed what was once one of the relatively more advanced countries of the Near East, Iraq has become a quagmire threatening their ability to project American military power around the globe. As the New York Times editorial put it: The war is sapping the strength of the nations alliances and its military forces. Pentagon officials are sounding the alarm about the overstretched military and declining enlistment. As for the nations alliances, with Saudi Arabia reportedly financing the Sunni Muslim opposition in Iraq and encouraging the Persian Gulf states to do the same (while Iran allegedly arms Shiite militias), the U.S. faces the scenario of fighting a proxy war against some of its most important allies—and oil suppliers—in the Near East.
Zbigniew Brzezinski, former national security advisor under President Jimmy Carter and anti-Soviet Cold War hawk, summarized the Iraq wars impact on the long-term interests of U.S. imperialism in his book, Second Chance: Three Presidents and the Crisis of American Superpower (2007): Beyond destabilizing the Middle East, the Iraq war had a further, much more important consequence. It made the success or failure of U.S. policy in the Middle East the test case of American global leadership
. The loss of U.S. dominance in the region would have catastrophic consequences for Americas position in Europe and the Far East. Many of Bushs bourgeois opponents are alarmed that the Iraq occupation has diverted Washingtons attention away from more strategically important areas, in particular China, the largest and most powerful of the remaining bureaucratically deformed workers states and the imperialists key target for capitalist counterrevolution.
For Class Struggle Against the U.S. and Canadian Capitalists!
When the U.S. launched its invasion of Iraq in March 1993, we mass distributed a statement by our comrades of the Spartacist League/U.S. that declared:
It is in the class interest of the international proletariat to clearly take a side in defense of Iraq without giving any political support to the bloody Saddam Hussein regime. Every victory for the U.S. imperialists can only encourage further military adventures. In turn, every humiliation, every setback, every defeat they suffer will serve to assist the struggles of working people and the oppressed around the globe.
We also called for military defense of Afghanistan against U.S., Canadian and allied attack, without extending an iota of political support to the barbaric former Taliban regime. Today we call for the military defense of Iraqi and Afghan forces on the ground insofar as they aim their blows against the imperialist occupiers and their lackeys. This does not entail the least political support to either the Islamic fundamentalists or the nationalist remnants of the Baathists in Iraq, or to the reactionary insurgent forces in Afghanistan. We vehemently oppose the communal violence—kidnappings, car bombings, suicide bombings—that are wracking the Iraqi population.
As we have stressed from the beginning, the chief means of defending neocolonial Afghanistan and Iraq against the overwhelming military might of American imperialism and its allies like Canada is through international working-class struggle. The bombings in Afghanistan and the devastation of Iraq have gone along with the capitalist rulers onslaught against working people, minorities and most everyone else on the home front. The war on terror that served as the pretext for the occupations has led to the shredding of democratic rights and a massive increase in the repressive powers of the capitalist state. While the immediate targets are Muslims, Arabs and other ethnic minorities, the rulers stepped-up repression is ultimately aimed against the multiracial working class as a whole. As the obscenely rich capitalist class further gorges itself on profits, the workers they exploit face cuts in real wages, a massive loss of industrial jobs and the systematic dismantling of social services.
In raising the call for class struggle at home, we promote the understanding of the need to mobilize the working class to sweep away the murderous imperialist order through socialist revolution. What is required is a struggle to break the political chains forged by the labour bureaucracy, and reinforced by the reformist left, that tie the workers to the class enemy, chiefly through the social-democratic NDP and, in Quebec, the bourgeois nationalist Bloc and Parti Québécois. To this end, the Trotskyist League/Ligue trotskyste fights to forge the revolutionary workers party necessary to lead the working class to power.
Down With War Threats Against Iran!
The U.S. Democrats have long complained that Bushs war in Iraq has diverted attention and resources from the broader war on terror. A report this summer by U.S. intelligence agencies asserting that Al Qaeda had rebuilt its strength was seized upon by Democratic Party spokesmen who criticized Bush for not having gone after Osama Bin Laden in his presumed Pakistan base. The White House countered by threatening military intervention in northwestern Pakistan, despite protests from the embattled regime of General Pervez Musharraf, who is facing mounting opposition from both Islamic fundamentalists and secular forces.
Meanwhile, the threat of a military attack on Iran still looms large. A front-page article in the influential magazine Foreign Policy (March/April 2007) titled Who Wins in Iraq? noted: For Iran, the war in Iraq has turned out to be a strategic windfall that turned a large part of Iraq into an Iranian sphere of influence. The article declared that the United States has decided that the path to regional stability lies in confrontation and rolling back Irans regional influence. The Bush administration has announced plans to provide additional billions in advanced weapons for Saudi Arabia, Israel and Egypt to beef up the regional bulwarks against Iran.
According to the London Guardian (16 July), almost half of the U.S. Navys 277 warships, including two aircraft carrier groups, are now patrolling the waters close to Iran. Titled Cheney Pushes Bush to Act on Iran, the article observed: The balance in the internal White House debate
has shifted back in favour of military action before President George Bush leaves office. The U.S., Britain and France are pushing other members of the UN Security Council to step up sanctions against Iran in retaliation for its uranium enrichment program.
In July, the U.S. Senate voted 97-0 to approve a resolution calling on Tehran to end all forms of support to Iraqi militias and insurgents while accusing Iran of responsibility for the murder of members of the United States Armed Forces. None of the leading Democratic presidential candidates rules out military force—including with nuclear weapons—if Iran continues its nuclear program.
We oppose any economic sanctions against Iran, which are acts of war. As we have repeatedly stressed, in the face of imperialist nuclear blackmail and with continuing threats of attack, Iran needs nuclear weapons and adequate delivery systems as deterrence. In the event of a military attack against Iran by the U.S. or its allies, we declare that the international proletariat must stand for the military defense of Iran. At the same time, as Marxists we give not one iota of political support to the reactionary mullah regime in Tehran.
Kurdistan Trip Wire
Currently, the only support for a continuing U.S. presence in Iraq lies in the north, where the nationalist Kurdish leadership has staked its claim with the U.S. imperialists and thus subordinated itself to the occupation forces. The 8 July New York Times editorial proposed that U.S. forces be concentrated in military bases in the Kurdish regions of northeastern Iraq, from which they could stage effective raids and airstrikes against terrorist forces in Iraq. Likewise, Peter Galbraith, formerly President Clintons ambassador to Croatia, wrote in the New York Review of Books (16 August):
Senator Hillary Clinton, Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Joe Biden, and former UN Ambassador Richard Holbrooke are among the prominent Democrats who have called for the US to protect Kurdistan militarily should there be a withdrawal from Iraq. The argument for so doing is straightforward: it secures the one part of Iraq that has emerged as stable, democratic, and pro-Western; it discharges a moral debt to our Kurdish allies; it deters both Turkish intervention and a potentially destabilizing Turkish-Kurdish war; it provides US forces a secure base that can be used to strike at al-Qaeda in adjacent Sunni territories; and it limits Irans gains.
A democratic Iraqi Kurdistan under U.S. sponsorship? Hardly. The Kurdistan Regional Government set up under the U.S. occupation is essentially a lash-up between two rival parties, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), which have a long and bloody history of uniting with the worst enemies of the Kurdish people while stabbing each other in the back. In the mid 1990s, the KDP and the PUK were at each others throats over how to divide up the profits from smuggling Iraqi oil to Turkey. The PUK got Iran to send in troops on its side, so the KDP invited Saddam Hussein to send in his tanks. While a formally unified Kurdish regional government was cobbled together last year, both organizations maintain security forces in areas they control that are notorious for their brutality. And Kurdish pesh merga militias have bolstered U.S. operations in Falluja, Baghdad and elsewhere.
A potential flash point is Kirkuk, where a referendum is to be held by the end of the year on whether the city is to be included in the semi-autonomous Kurdish region. Kirkuk, which sits atop a vast oil field, is a focus of ethnic conflict between its Kurdish, Arab and Turkmen populations. The Saddam Hussein regime carried out a program of Arabization in which Kurds and others were driven from the oil-producing regions around Kirkuk and Mosul. Since the U.S. invasion, thousands of Arabs and Turkmen have been driven out of Kirkuk and as many as 350,000 Kurds, encouraged by their leaders, have moved in, thousands of them living in dilapidated camps.
The rulers of Turkey and Iran fear that if the Kurds gain control of Kirkuk, it would provide the economic basis for Iraqi Kurdistan to move toward independence, encouraging Kurdish minorities in their own countries. Turkey has massed tens of thousands of troops on Iraqs northern border, threatening to intervene militarily if the Kurds take over Kirkuk. At the same time, the Guardian (24 July) reports that Turkish prime minister Recep Erdogan is seeking to use the strong showing of his Justice and Development Party in recent parliamentary elections (including among voters in Turkish Kurdistan) to resist pressure from the military for an intervention and to push for concessions by the U.S. and Iraqi Kurdish leaders. For its part, the Pentagon has plans for a joint U.S.-Turkish military operation against the northern Iraq bases of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has waged a decades-long struggle against the Turkish state.
The struggle of the Kurdish people for self-determination—i.e., to form their own state—is a just struggle, requiring the overthrow of four capitalist states: Iraq, Syria, Turkey and Iran. We Trotskyists have long raised the call for a Socialist Republic of United Kurdistan. However, in Iraq any fight for Kurdish independence must take as its starting point opposition to the U.S. occupation and to the nationalist parties that serve it.
Reformist Pipe Dreams
In American imperialisms staunchest ally, Britain, Gordon Brown has replaced Tony Blair as prime minister in the Labour Party government whose own hands are soaked in the blood of Iraqis. While Britain has already withdrawn hundreds of troops from southern Iraq, Brown promptly nixed talk of reducing troop levels below 5,000. Countering suggestions that he would move to distance himself from Washington, Brown described British ties with the U.S. as our strongest bilateral relationship (New York Times, 24 July).
As our comrades of the Spartacist League/Britain wrote in Workers Hammer No. 199 (Summer 2007): Brown stands foursquare on the record of Blair-led Labour governments that relentlessly attacked jobs, pensions, health and education services for the working people at home. He is notorious among public sector unions for his pay freeze below inflation and for slashing tens of thousands of civil service jobs. If anything, Brown intends to outdo Blair in the racist war on terror. Indeed, Brown has declared that he wants to increase to 56 days the period that people suspected of terrorism can be held without charge. The SL/B seeks to build a multiethnic revolutionary workers party in political combat against the British reformist left whose main aim is to pressure a Labour government to administer the murderous capitalist state in the interests of the oppressed.
As in Britain, the reformist left in the U.S. campaigns against the Iraq war by appealing to ruling-class sentiment that it is a lost cause. Groups like ANSWER and the Troops Out Now Coalition are organizing demonstrations in Washington in mid-September to coincide with the next report to Congress on the status of the troop surge. As always, these coalitions claim that mobilizing masses of the people can pressure the imperialists to adopt a peaceful foreign policy and spend money on human needs, not war. The same is true in Canada, where the various antiwar coalitions seek to pressure the government to give Money for health care, not for war.
Support Our Troops Social-Patriots
The fundamental fealty of the leaders of the Canadian peace movement to the interests of Canadian capitalism is captured by their now ubiquitous call to Support our troops—Bring them home! Early this summer, Toronto City Council under social-democratic mayor David Miller voted unanimously to keep yellow-ribbon Support our troops decals on the citys fire trucks and ambulances. Soon after, leaders of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 113, representing 8,000 local transit workers, called on the city to add the Support our troops decals to all surface transit vehicles. Not to be outdone, the Toronto Coalition to Stop the War, which is heavily animated by the reformist International Socialists, announced its own decal campaign. These fake-socialists are now distributing Support our troops—bring them home now stickers—complete with yellow ribbons!
Even more explicit is the Canadian Peace Alliance (CPA), whose website advertises t-shirts in UN blue adorned with red Maple Leafs and the slogan, Peace is Patriotic—Support our Troops: bring them home. For its part, the Communist Party of Canada (CPC) attacks the CPA for supposedly insisting on a pure position of troops out now. Instead, the CPC advocates finding ways to embrace millions of deadline-supporting Liberals, while at the same time demanding that the Parliamentary parties withdraw troops at the earliest date that can be arranged (Peoples Voice, 16-30 June). In calling to ally with the Liberals around a call for troops out
sometime, these Maple Leaf Communists now have a formal line somewhere to the right of the NDP!
The Canadian army is not our troops—it is the armed fist of the Canadian imperialist ruling class. Marxists say: Not a person, not a penny for the Canadian military! In sharp contrast to the social-patriotic reformist left groups, we understand that militarism and war are not policy choices but inevitable outgrowths of a worldwide system under which a handful of rich capitalist countries compete for control of the worlds resources, markets and spheres of influence through brutal exploitation, pillage and armed conflict. Real opposition to imperialist war is impossible without opposition to the system that breeds it, starting here at home. The Canadian army, like the police and other institutions of the capitalist state, is a weapon of the enemy class which can under no circumstances be wielded on behalf of the oppressed.
For a Revolutionary Workers Party!
In our interventions at antiwar and anti-occupation rallies, on the campuses and among the working class, we fight to win workers and leftist youth to an understanding of the need to wield the organized power of the working class against imperialist war and domestic repression. That requires political struggle against the labour, social-democratic and nationalist misleaders who chain the workers to their exploiters.
The working class must take up the cause of immigrants and ethnic minorities, demanding an end to the war on terror attacks and full citizenship rights for all immigrants. Against the chauvinism of the Canadian rulers and NDP—and the bourgeois nationalism this fuels in Quebec—we advocate independence for Quebec. This will create conditions where the workers of both English Canada and Quebec can come to see that their enemy is their own national capitalists, not each other.
The unraveling of support for the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan is a measure of the present difficulties of the U.S. imperialists and their Canadian junior partners. But without a proletarian struggle to overthrow the capitalist system, workers and the oppressed will continue to face a dangerous and uncertain future of more military adventures, racist and neocolonial oppression and grinding exploitation. As we wrote four years ago in Down With Colonial Occupation of Iraq! (SC No. 137, Summer 2003):
Genuine opposition to war must be based on class struggle and political protest independent of all the political parties that uphold capitalist rule. U.S. imperialisms conquest of Iraq will only strengthen the ability of its ruling class to plunder the world. The Canadian rulers will also seek to take advantage of this imperialist victory to reinforce their oppressive rule here and their influence abroad. The rapacious North American capitalists must be swept away through workers revolution. The Trotskyist League/Ligue trotskyste, along with our comrades of the Spartacist League/U.S., is committed to forging the multiracial revolutionary workers party needed to lead that struggle to victory in the heartland of world imperialism.