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Workers Vanguard No. 882

8 December 2006

Imperialist Occupation: Hell for Iraq

U.S. Out Now!

Correction Appended

Barely a week before President Bush’s meeting in Jordan with Iraq’s prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki, the streets of Baghdad ran with the blood of 215 Shi’ites slaughtered in one day, presumably by Sunni militia forces. In the aftermath of the bloodbath, Moktada al-Sadr, who leads the dominant Shi’ite military forces of the Mahdi army, threatened to withdraw the significant political backing he provides for the regime if the meeting took place. Then, on the very eve of the get-together, supposedly called to find a way to end the escalating sectarian violence in Iraq, al-Maliki was characterized as either ignorant, lying or incompetent in a November 8 memo by Bush’s national security adviser, Stephen Hadley, that was supposedly “leaked” to the New York Times.

Understandably, al-Maliki was less than eager to rendezvous with Bush and was a no-show for the first meeting on November 29. After being herded into a breakfast tea with Bush the next day, the beleaguered prime minister was slathered with compliments by the American president, who lauded him as a “strong leader” and the “right guy” for the job. This recalls similar accolades accorded to “Brownie” in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Thirty members of the Iraqi parliament and six cabinet members loyal to Moktada al-Sadr have suspended support to the government.

Evidently driven to delirium by his efforts to assuage the competing pressures he faces, al-Maliki announced in a TV interview following his appearance with Bush that Iraqi security forces would be able to take control from U.S. troops by June 2007. Bush’s delusions, of rather longer standing, persist in the form of his continuing quest for a U.S. victory while denying the existence of an embryonic civil war in Iraq—a denial not even parroted by many important and normally subservient bourgeois media types who, along with UN secretary-general Kofi Annan, now acknowledge this reality.

The bloody occupation is vastly unpopular in the U.S. And this was reflected in the November elections, when the Democrats routed the Republicans and retook Congress. While the Democrats were generally mum on specifics during the campaign—with a lone voice or two running on the call for an immediate withdrawal—not a few seemed to suggest the need for a timetable for withdrawal muy pronto. That bluster has all but disappeared. Now Democratic leaders from ex-president Bill Clinton to Senator Joseph Biden, the incoming chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, are suggesting that hard (read: any) timetables would be ill-advised. Many Democrats now seem pleased by the very tentative 2008 deadline reportedly being proposed by the bipartisan Iraq Study Group, a proposal that would maintain a presence of 70,000 troops for as long as required to assure U.S. imperialism’s continuing dominance.

The Democrats are now seeking an Iraqi fall guy for the imperialist debacle, for which they have repeatedly approved appropriations. Newly elected House majority leader Steny Hoyer recently characterized the Iraqis as too disorganized and self-obsessed to avail themselves of the opportunities provided by the American occupation, proclaiming that “in the days ahead, the Iraqis must make the tough decisions and accept responsibility for their future.”

In a London Guardian (27 November) column, Gary Younge powerfully exposed this quest for a scapegoat: “It is absurd to suggest that the Iraqis—who have been invaded, whose country is currently occupied, who have had their police and army disbanded and their entire civil service fired—could possibly be in a position to take responsibility for their future and are simply not doing so.” Younge remarked that the Democrats’ insidious attempt at a frame-up “leaves intact the bogus premise that the invasion was an attempt at liberation that has failed because some squabbling ingrates, incapable of working in their own interests, could not grasp the basic tenets of Western democracy. In short, it makes the victims responsible for the crime.”

And that bloody crime is vast in scope: in October alone, almost 4,000 Iraqi civilian corpses were added to the 650,000 or so slaughtered in the three and a half years since the onset of U.S. imperialism’s war against Iraq, as estimated by the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, which, unlike the U.S. occupiers, bothered to amass the statistics. In the past year, the lion’s share of the deaths has been a result of the sectarian violence spurred by the occupation. But the mayhem caused by U.S. military actions continues unabated. Recent American raids have resulted in the deaths of almost a dozen women and children, while the dozen-plus men who lay dead by their side were automatically consigned by U.S. military spokesmen to the category of terrorists who “place innocent Iraqi women and children in danger by their actions and presence” (, 3 December).

An oil-rich and once relatively technologically sophisticated society lies in rubble, having neither power nor fuel nor potable water. Each day 1,000 of its citizens are internally displaced and another 3,000 or so flee to Syria and Jordan. There are no jobs for those who remain nor any assurance of the ability to survive. Not to be forgotten are the million and a half Iraqis sent to early graves by the daily bombing and UN-sponsored blockade in the aftermath of Desert Storm I, effected largely under the Democratic presidency of Bill “I feel your pain” Clinton.

The Spartacist League/U.S. stood for the military defense of Iraq against the imperialist invasion in 2003 without giving any political support to Saddam Hussein’s murderous bourgeois regime. Today we demand the immediate, unconditional withdrawal of all U.S. and allied troops from Iraq and Afghanistan. In the context of U.S. threats against Iran over its developing nuclear capacity, we say that Iran needs nukes as a deterrence to imperialist military attack, despite our political opposition to the Islamic regime. As we did after the declaration of the imperialists’ “war on terror” in 2001, we link our opposition to imperialist depredations in the Near East and Central Asia to the call for the U.S. proletariat to wage class struggle at home against their capitalist rulers, represented by both the Republican and Democratic parties.

Imperialist Crimes

The destruction and human suffering in the wake of Katrina are the outcome of the rulers’ racist neglect and contempt for the population of New Orleans. The far greater devastation in Iraq is the product of the fierce attentions of America’s imperialist rulers. In both cases, these crimes have been augmented by the overweening incompetence and corruption of the Bush regime.

The imperialists’ willingness to destroy in their quest for power and profits without the least concern for those they would subjugate inevitably engenders chaos and resistance. It is quite pleasing to see the disintegration of Washington’s efforts to exert total dominance in the oil fields in the Near East (versus rival imperialists) by planting the American flag in Iraq. The U.S. invasion was packaged as establishing a bulwark against the “evil” Islamic clerical regime in Iran and as a crucial battle in the “war against terror.” In fact, the result of the invasion and subsequent occupation has been to establish Shi’ite Iran—previously diplomatically isolated—as a power to be reckoned with in the region, one with considerable influence in the Shi’ite South of Iraq, and in ensconcing Al Qaeda forces in Sunni-populated Anbar province, their first foothold in Iraq.

The responsibility for the hell that has come to define life in Iraq today lies squarely with the imperialist powers. As we pointed out soon after the onset of the occupation in “U.S./British Troops Out of Iraq Now!” (WV No. 807, 1 August 2003):

“In a fundamental way there is no ‘Iraq,’ a country the boundaries of which were created in the divvying up of the spoils by the British and French imperialist victors in the aftermath of World War I. What exists is the Kurdish North, the Sunni Muslim center and the majority Shi’ite South (and various others), with each region further riven by clan and tribal rivalries.”

It was the U.S. and other imperialists who for years supported the murderous dictatorship of the Sunni-based Ba’athist regime of Saddam Hussein, before withdrawing their support after his invasion of Kuwait in 1990. It was the U.S. that mobilized Shi’ite militias and the Kurdish pesh merga to crush Sunni insurgents in Falluja in 2004 as that city was leveled. The result of the occupation has been an unfolding civil war between Sunni militias and Shi’ite forces, many of them death squads working directly from within the U.S.-backed puppet government.

We noted in our 2003 article that “in such a society the exertion of secular rule under capitalism is only possible under something like Hussein’s Ba’athist dictatorship, which Bush & Co. aspire to replicate—democratic rhetoric aside—cleansed of its Ba’athist elements and pliable to U.S. dictates.” But strongmen are not available like pomegranates in Baghdad’s markets; one such now awaits execution. Nor is such likely to be found among the Sunni or Shi’ite leaders, who in the main currently oppose American occupation.

Saddam Hussein was indeed a longtime instrument of the imperialists. The stage for his accession to power was set by a series of events beginning with a 1958 military coup that overthrew the despised British-backed monarchy. In the subsequent revolutionary wave that swept the country, the Iraqi Communist Party (ICP), supported by the then-powerful Iraqi working class as well as by Kurds and other minorities, could have seized power. Instead, the Stalinist ICP betrayed the uprising by subordinating the proletariat to the bourgeois-nationalist regime of General Qassim, thus setting up militant workers for repression while pushing the Kurds into the camp of their traditional chieftains. This betrayal (on orders from Moscow) was in the service of facilitating Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev’s upcoming parley with U.S. president Eisenhower in a quest for “peaceful coexistence” with imperialism—a crystalline expression of the Stalinist bureaucracy’s anti-revolutionary program of “socialism in one country.”

The defeat of the revolutionary wave prepared the way for a counterrevolutionary bloodbath in 1963, when the Ba’athist party briefly came to power for the first time and rounded up and murdered some 5,000 leftists and trade unionists, on the basis of lists supplied by the CIA. The second coming to power of the Ba’athists in 1968 was followed by Saddam Hussein assuming full dictatorial control over the next decade through a ruthless purge of the Ba’ath party.

Reformist Pipe Dreams

Currently, the only support for a continuing U.S. presence in Iraq lies in the North, where the Kurdish leadership has staked its claim with the U.S. imperialists and thus subordinated itself to the occupation forces. The struggle for the self-determination of the Kurdish nation—divided among the capitalist states of Iraq, Syria, Turkey and Iran—is just. The International Communist League has 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 occupation and to the nationalist parties that serve it.

The prime area for the first stage of a U.S. withdrawal is Anbar province, where 30,000 troops, mostly Marines—the cream of regular American military forces—are unable to contain Sunni guerrilla forces. The projection is to relocate these forces to Baghdad, where increasing the number of U.S. troops has demonstrably helped fuel the developing civil war. The withdrawal of most British forces from Iraq announced by Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett—not accidentally timed to coincide with the departure of Prime Minister Tony Blair in the spring of 2007—will effectively turn control of the South of Iraq over to Shi’ite forces. Such withdrawals could quickly result in one of the outcomes threatened by the occupation: the trisection of Iraq into Sunni, Shi’ite and Kurdish sectors, with battles to come over the possession of its oil wealth.

The disintegration of Iraq could soon result in an all-sided conflict among the various states in the Near East. Sunni-dominated states feel threatened by Iran’s quickly growing influence in Iraq and beyond. In Lebanon, the Shi’ite fundamentalist Hezbollah—backed by Iran and Syria—has staged a continuing mass protest in Beirut against the Siniora government, building from the setback it gave to Israeli forces in the summer. On December 4, the Lebanese government deployed more soldiers in Beirut amid fears that the killing of one protester could set off sectarian violence. The possibility of renewed civil war in Lebanon between competing reactionary nationalist and clerical forces is palpable. Meanwhile, Turkey has repeatedly threatened to intervene into northern Iraq if the Kurds there move toward independence.

Our call for the immediate withdrawal of all U.S. and allied forces from the Near East is made in the recognition that the weakening of the bloodsoaked American imperialists that would necessarily accompany such a retreat would redound to the benefit of the world’s oppressed masses, not because we believe that all will be right in that area in the aftermath. Nor do we think that imperialist dominance would fail to be exerted through the more normal post-colonial channels: through the sway of the major capitalist powers over the national bourgeois and religious leaders in these backward countries, who gain their social power and wealth by maintaining the wretchedness of “their” people. Thus, while we recognize that strikes against the U.S. occupiers carried out by Iraqi insurgents coincide with the interests of the international proletariat, we give no political support to the various clerical and nationalist forces. Today those forces are tearing each other’s throats out far more than they are taking on the American occupation.

The very history of Iraq indicates that support to even left-talking bourgeois nationalists weaves a deathtrap for the working class and the oppressed masses. The Iraqi working class has been dismantled by the U.S. imperialist occupation, but the proletariat remains a force in the region, most notably in Iran. Freedom from grinding imperialist exploitation and the achievement of democratic rights for all people in the region cannot be achieved under capitalism. They require the overthrow of bourgeois rule, consummating in the establishment of a socialist federation of the Near East and linked to the fight for proletarian revolution in the advanced capitalist countries. The cohering of proletarian revolutionary parties in the region can come about only in opposition to religious reactionaries and to all variants of bourgeois nationalism.

The leftish types in this country who head the currently all-but-inert “antiwar movement”—e.g., the International Socialist Organization (ISO) and Workers World Party (WWP)—seem compelled by the fantasy that the various religious and tribal militias in Iraq, Lebanon and elsewhere constitute a force for progress. They have been propounding this tale ever since the occupation set in. The reformist left’s vicarious enchantment with those who would quickly execute them, had they members in Iraq, mutates into groveling before the Democrats on the home front.

While these groups are capable of occasionally referring to the Democrats as a component of the American system of capitalist rule, their actions reveal their true intentions. The ISO and WWP were some of the best builders of a class-collaborationist Iraq “antiwar” movement that served as a vehicle for “Anybody but Bush” Democratic Party politics. In the November elections, the ISO ran its own candidate on the ticket of the Green Party, which seeks to become a significant player among the bourgeois parties that are an integral component of the American imperialist order. The WWP, which has not shied away from calling for votes to Democrats over the years, also ran a candidate in the Greens.

In the aftermath of the elections, it’s “make the Democrats fight.” The ISO distilled the following moonshine for consumption: “The Democrats will not deliver an end to the Iraq war without substantial pressure from below. And that requires large-scale, grass-roots struggle. This should be a wakeup call to everyone who wants an end to the Iraq war, a raise in the minimum wage, a step forward for immigrants rights—and an end to politics-as-usual in Washington” (Socialist Worker, 17 November).

For the reformists, the world imperialist order that consigned hundreds of millions to slaughter in the 20th century in pursuit of its quest for profits and power need not be smashed by international proletarian socialist revolution but merely refined by the pressures exerted by right-thinking people. Only when imperialist rule is consigned to the graveyard of history by working-class socialist revolution in the advanced industrial societies will the world’s masses be spared from the repetitive slaughters that are the hallmarks of class rule and freed from the chains of exploitation and oppression. This perspective necessitates building a revolutionary workers party, a U.S. section of a reforged Fourth International.


In “Imperialist Occupation: Hell for Iraq” (WV No. 882, 8 December 2006), we described a series of coordinated attacks in Baghdad that claimed the lives of some 215 Shi’ites as carried out “presumably by Sunni militia forces” and also wrote that “the result of the occupation has been an unfolding civil war between Sunni militias and Shi’ite forces, many of them death squads working directly from within the U.S.-backed puppet government.” However, it is the Shi’ites who are openly organized into militias such as Moktada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army and the Badr Organization, while there are also both Sunni and Shi’ite death squads, many of the latter operating directly out of the police as well as the Iraqi military. (From WV No. 883, 5 January 2007.)


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