When the Anglo-American imperialist bandits launched their war of aggression against Iraq on 20 March, they had deluded themselves into believing that their invading armies would be greeted as liberators by the Iraqi people and that the invasion would coincide with the uprisings of Iraqi people against the regime of Saddam Hussein’s Ba’ath Party, and that in consequence US and British soldiers would enter unopposed into the flower-strewn streets of Baghdad, Basra, Najaf, Karbala and other centres of population, thronged by cheering crowds grateful for their liberation from the clutches of Saddam Hussein’s regime through the selfless and self-sacrificing generosity, undying attachment to democracy and love of freedom, of the ruling classes in the US and Britain who had seen fit to dispatch 300,000 soldiers to Iraq for the sole purpose of freeing the Iraqi people.
Far from proving to be a cakewalk, it soon become clear that the Iraqi people recognised the Anglo-American soldiers for what they really were – a mercenary army of aggression sent by the two most powerful imperialist powers for the purpose of stealing Iraq’s mineral wealth by the subjugation of its people. Although unable to match the most sophisticated weaponry and killing machines arrayed against them, the Iraqi people put up heroic resistance against the invaders, forcing American officers to complain about the failure of intelligence: “The enemy we are fighting is different from the one we’d war-gamed” exclaimed Lt. General William Wallace of the US Army’s 5th corps. In view of the odds stacked against them, the resistance put up by the Iraqis at Umm Qasr, Nasiriya, Najaf, Basra and Baghdad has been nothing short of admirable. Using guerrilla tactics, the Iraqis attacked the columns of the aggressor armies stretching back hundreds of miles to Kuwait.
An Iraqi farmer shot down a US helicopter using nothing more lethal than a hunting gun. In the Apache raid at the end of March, nearly all of a squadron of three dozen helicopters were badly damaged in their attack on the dug-in elements of the Medina Division of the Republican Guard, which greeted them with rocket-propelled grenades and machine gun fire. In a number of suicide attacks, copied straight from the Palestinian resistance against the Zionist occupation regime, the Iraqi resistance annihilated a number of aggressor troops.
On the night of Thursday 10 April, a lone suicide bomber detonated a bomb at a US checkpoint, killing a number of marines. In addition, three more US aggressor troops were killed and 53 injured in the fighting between US troops and Iraqi soldiers.
The US authorities have become seriously alarmed at the guerrilla tactics adopted by the Iraqis, for they “…raise the spectre of a long-term, low-intensity warfare inside Iraqi cities even after Mr Hussein’s regime has been brought down in Baghdad. It is a tactic straight out of the Vietnam war, where US troops were constantly frustrated in attempts to weed out the Viet Cong [an imperialist term of contempt for the National Liberation Front of Vietnam] forces hiding in hamlets dotting the countryside.” This is already the case. As time goes on, it will become extremely unbearable for the forces of occupation.
Faced with this resistance, the Anglo-American forces turned to their time-honoured weapons – mass indiscriminate slaughter and psychological propaganda – to demoralise the people of Iraq. They intensified their carpet bombing (precision bombing in imperialist-speak) of Iraqi cities and towns, in the process killing thousands of civilians, sparing neither hospitals, nor schools, television studios, market places, restaurants, residential districts, airports, power plants, sewerage facilities, and food storage depots. In this total war, the enemy is the entire Iraqi population.
Being an army of occupation, the US and British soldiers are hated by the Iraqi people. Sensing this, the aggressor troops are literally frightened of their own shadows. The mere rustling of leaves causes panic among them, making them shoot out randomly in every direction and murdering ordinary people trying to make a go of their lives in the middle of the carnage wrought by this predatory war of aggression. Thus it was that on 1 April seven young Iraqi civilians were slaughtered near Najaf when an American soldier opened fire. Perversely, the US blamed it on the “tactics of terrorism” of the Iraqi regime. On the same day 10 Iraqi women and children (5 of them under the age of 5) were killed after the truck in which they were travelling failed to stop as it approached a US checkpoint outside Karbala. Also on 1 April, US helicopters attacked the town of Hilla, 70 miles south of Baghdad and near the ancient site of Babylon, killing 33 and injuring 310 people. Among the dead were the entire family (15 in all) of Razzaq Kazem al-Khafaj, including his wife, six children, his mother and father and two brothers. People at the scene of this massacre screamed: “What has he done wrong? What has he done wrong? God take our revenge on America” (The Mirror, 2 April 2003). When missiles hit a market place in Baghdad killing several dozen Iraqis, US and Britain blamed it on the antiquated Iraqi arsenal, asserting “they are using old stock. These missiles go up and come down” – an assertion that sits oddly with the claim that Iraqi weapons of mass destruction (WMD) pose such a threat that they have to be taken out by the US and British armies of conquest and occupation!
Such has been the devastation caused by the relentless and indiscriminate bombing unleashed by the cowardly Anglo-American forces from hundreds of miles distance that the Iraqi people find themselves with no food, no electricity and no clean water. Hospitals have no pain killers and those injured by US and British bombs are forced to undergo operations without anaesthetics. With hospitals overflowing, refugees streaming and food stocks destroyed, the US and British authorities, who destroyed Iraq’s infrastructure in the first place, exclaim with feigned innocence that they are finding it difficult to organise humanitarian assistance because of the collapse of the infrastructure. It reminds one of somebody brought to court for the murder of both his parents pleading with the judge to show leniency towards him because he has recently been orphaned.
Whatever people’s views about the Ba’athist regime, no one can deny that it built the best and the most modern health service in the Middle East; that it provided to its people free access to health-care and education, and clean water to 90% of its population. Following the UN embargo, said the UN’s FAO, Iraq’s organisation of the food distribution programme was “a model of efficiency”, which saved Iraq from the nightmare of a devastating famine. All that has now been smashed by the Anglo-American bombing.
While during the first Gulf War the US-led forces used depleted uranium, which caused a 7-fold increase in the incidence of cancer in the affected areas, during the present war the US forces are using solid uranium coating on missiles and tank shells. Why else would British soldiers use protective clothing when retrieving the dead and wounded from vehicles struck by US ‘friendly fire’? In other words, the aggressors are using WMD, the very type of weapons whose removal was the sole pretext for their aggression!
Lies and distortions
Faced with unexpected Iraqi resistance, Bush and Blair, as well as their military representatives, have resorted to psychological warfare in which misinformation, distortion and plain lies serve as gospel truth. British prime minister, Tony Blair, who, along with George W Bush, has emerged as a top barefaced Hitlerite liar, falsely asserted in the House of Commons that there had been an anti-Saddam uprising in Basra, when in fact nothing of the kind had happened – and he knew this. While visiting Bush’s court at Camp David, Blair again lied to the effect that two British prisoners of war had been executed by the Iraqi forces – a lie he was forced to retract by the anger of the families of the dead soldiers. The news of the alleged uprisings was constantly broadcast with the aim of undermining the morale and the resistance of the Iraqi people. The US even set up Radio Tikrit, named after the birthplace of Saddam Hussein.
The media’s revolting role
The British media (with the exception of The Mirror) and journalists (with the honourable exception of John Pilger and Robert Fisk) have gaily participated in the dirty task of presenting this unprovoked imperialist carnage as a war for the liberation of the Iraqi people.
The liberal imperialist Sunday newspaper, The Observer, reached new depths with its own version of page 3, with the headline “The moment young Omar discovered the price of freedom”. These disgusting and sickening words accompanied a picture of a US soldier attempting to console 15-year old Omar, after participating in the slaughter of the youngster’s parents, two sisters and a brother. It goes without saying that the Observer did not carry pictures of any of Omar’s family murdered by US soldiers, nor those of the victims in the village of Furat in which 80 men, women and children were done to death by rockets from the imperialist armoury. Correctly outraged by the shameful behaviour of the British media, John Pilger asked:
“Apart from the Mirror, where were the pictures, and footage, of small children holding up their hands in terror while Bush’s thugs forced their families to kneel in the street? Imagine that in a British high street. It is a glimpse of fascism, and we have a right to see it” (quoted from Pilger’s article in People’s Democracy, 20 April 2003).
Pilger denounces this “travesty of journalism that now daily, almost gleefully, treats criminal war as sport.” He refers to a leaked e-mail from Roger Mosey, the head of BBC Television News, in which Mosey described the BBC’s coverage of the war as “extraordinary – it almost feels like the World Cup football when you go from Um Qasr to another theatre of war somewhere else and you’re switching between battles.”
John Pilger, angered by Mosey’s attempt to treat the criminal war and mass murder as sport, revolted by the British media’s refusal to characterise the American and British troops as murderers even when they were murdering journalists, makes the following damning observation:
“They bring to this one-sided attack on a weak and mostly defenceless people the same racist, homicidal intent I witnessed in Vietnam, where they had a whole programme of murder called Operation Phoenix. This runs through all their foreign wars, as it does through their own divided society. Take your pick of the current onslaught. Last weekend, a column of their tanks swept heroically into Baghdad and out again. They murdered people along the way. They blew off the limbs of women and the scalps of children. Hear their voices on the unedited and unbroadcast videotape: ‘We shot the shit out of it’. Their victims overwhelm the morgues and hospitals – hospitals already denuded of drugs and painkillers by America’s deliberate withholding of $5.4 bn in humanitarian goods, approved by the Security Council and paid for by Iraq. The screams of children undergoing amputation with minimal anaesthetic qualify as the BBC man’s ‘sound of freedom'” (ibid).
By contrast, Iraqis who resist are routinely characterised as ‘terrorists’, ‘kamikaze’, ‘feds’ (fedayeen), ‘hoodlums’, etc.
Journalists who showed any degree of objectivity were sidelined. In some cases they were dismissed, in others threatened and in some killed. Al Jazeera, the Qatar-based channel, which, with its relatively truthful reporting and relaying of images of the war to millions of people round the world, so upset the US and British authorities, was singled out for punishment. Its correspondent, Tariq Ayoub, was murdered on 8 April when US missiles hit Al Jazeera’s Baghdad offices. Another journalist was done to death, and four were injured, when a US tank round later hit the Palestine Hotel which housed 200 correspondents, including Al Jazeera reporters.
Even the Red Cross was not spared. Thus on 8 April, a 7-vehicle convoy of the Red Cross, while engaged in resupplying the city’s hospitals, was “caught in crossfire”. 13 were killed, including a Canadian International Red Cross delegate in Baghdad.
The response of the British and US political and military establishment, as well as of the media, to the mass slaughter has been cynically to assert that the number of Iraqis killed has been far less than the number that would have been killed by the Saddam regime as a matter of course; or, yes there are casualties, but freedom comes with a price tag. Geoff Hoon, the defence minister of the British imperialist Reich, must take the palm for this fascistic justification of the slaughter of innocent Iraqis by the Anglo-American forces: “One day mothers of children killed or maimed by British cluster bombs will thank Britain for their use” (quoted in The Independent of 5 April 2003).
No WMD found
Nearly 6 weeks after their invasion of Iraq, the 300,000 US and British soldiers have still not succeeded in finding any WMD, the presence of which was the SOLE pretext for the launch of this war. They will not find any for the simple reason that Iraq possesses no such weapons. This, of course, will not prevent the imperialist gangsters from manufacturing evidence in this regard. However, no one will believe a word of the already totally discredited leaders of the US and Britain, whom the overwhelming mass of humanity quite correctly treats as mercenary liars prepared to commit the most heinous crimes in the service of US and British imperialism.
Spoils of war
The war has not yet ended but the scramble for its spoils has begun in earnest. For imperialism, war is business. Like the Mafia, imperialism has one department for demolition and another for construction. Knock it down, build it up again. While the imperialist armed forces wreak unprecedented devastation, bringing untold loss of property and lives to their victims, the armaments manufacturers and other suppliers gorge in war profits. In the aftermath of the war, imperialist corporations can get on with the ‘humanitarian’ task of reconstruction. This wanton destruction and the subsequent scramble for the spoils of war passes for civilisation in the conditions of a world dominated by finance capital.
The reconstruction of Iraq is estimated to cost upwards of $100 billion. Although every imperialist country and its monopolist corporations want to be in on the act, the US, with its army of occupation, is in a position to grab most, if not all, of the lucrative contracts. With the USAID in the driving seat, US companies which have a monopoly on USAID contracts have taken an early lead. Bechtel, an engineering and construction monopoly, which boasts George Schultz, a former US Secretary of State, as one of its board members, has won the first big contract, worth $680 million, to repair Iraq’s electricity, water and sewerage facilities. The bulk of the construction contracts are most likely to be landed by the US quartet – Fluor, Parsons, Louis Berger, and Kellogg Brown and Root, a subsidiary of Halliburton, until recently run by Dick Cheney, the current US Vice-President. Kellogg Brown and Root has won the contract to restore Iraq’s oil infrastructure. “The little-reported aspect of the deal,” said the Sunday Times of 30 March 2003, “was the admission that Halliburton had been working on a contingency plan for Iraq’s oilfields since November”. This single admission, in a single sentence tucked away in the middle of a long article, serves to expose the lie about Iraq’s WMD, the whole charade of UN weapons inspections, when in fact the decision to invade and destroy Iraq had been made long before, as indeed had been the contingency plans for its reconstruction.
Britain’s companies won little work in Kuwait after the first Gulf war, although Britain played a significant role in that conflict. British monopoly capital does not want to be elbowed aside yet again. That is why as early as the summer of 2002 it warned Blair to be mindful of what happened in the aftermath of the first imperialist Gulf carnage. One British civil servant said at the end of March: “After the first Gulf war we got absolutely f*** all. We did not want to see that happen again…” (quoted in the Sunday Times of 30 March 2003).
Crisis of overproduction and sharpening inter-imperialist contradictions
While British business has been assured of a few crumbs from sub-contracting, other European companies, especially French, German and Russian, are being singled out by the US for exclusion for their governments’ opposition to the war. Colin Powell, US secretary of state, has gone on record to state that France must be punished for her conduct in the period leading up to this war.
In this regard, we must touch upon the question of Iraq’s debt, which stands at $116 billion. Although most of it is owed to the Gulf potentates, $8 billion is owed to France and Russia each, and $4.3 billion to Germany. Appearing before a US Senate Committee, US deputy defence secretary, Paul Wolfowitz, urged Russia, Germany and France, all opponents of the war, to “think about the very large debts that come from money that was lent to the dictator to buy weapons and to build palaces and to build instruments of repression”. He went on to suggest that these three countries “consider whether it might not be appropriate to forgive some or all of that debt.”
These developments cannot fail further to strain relations between the US and the EU. They cannot fail to exacerbate inter-imperialist contradictions to breaking point. This is bound to happen, not because of lack of intelligence on the part of the political representatives of imperialism (although that is patently true in some cases), not because of malice on anybody’s part, but because they cannot help being the imperialists they are. The crisis of overproduction, which capitalism is unable to get rid of, is splitting the various imperialist powers, as each tries to gain the upper hand at the expense of the others.
While not using the expression, serious bourgeois writers are obliged, albeit in opaque language, to recognise that the source of our economic troubles lies precisely in the crisis of overproduction. Before the start of this war, while some shallow commentators were asserting that the plunge on the stock exchanges and weak economic growth were the result of the uncertainty of war, more thoughtful bourgeois economists pointed to much deeper economic causes. The reasoning of the former, reduced to its logical absurdity, is that the markets need war to avert the unsettling effects of the threat of war. In answer to such shallow assertions, and looking to the time following the war, the Financial Times in its leading article of 8 February 2003 observed that businesses, consumers, investors and governments will discover that the “…recent economic weakness was not caused by the uncertainties of imminent war but by the remaining overhang of the excesses [bourgeois-speak for a crisis of overproduction] of the late 1990s. Disappointment would be widespread and global recession would be extremely difficult to avoid.”
The truth is that while the US and the EU economies are growing very little, the Japanese economy is stagnating. The US has lost nearly half a million jobs during the past two months alone. Its manufacturing output has been declining continuously for almost 3 years. Its current account deficit is a huge 5% of GDP. Its consumers are heavily indebted – to the tune of 131% of disposable income. Its budget deficit is rising without providing any immediate stimulus to the economy. Its net external debt accounts for a quarter of its GDP and it has to borrow from foreigners $1.5 billion every day to stay afloat. A further downward spiral on the stock markets could send the dollar, which has already lost 20% of its value against the euro since the summer of 2001, into free fall, which in turn could lead to capital flight from the US – with fearful consequences for the US and world capitalist economy.
In this situation of worsening market conditions, reduced opportunities for profitable investment, plunging stock markets, rising unemployment, the hitherto cosy relations between the imperialist powers are turning into a fight among hostile brothers. Thus it can be seen that it is not the uncertainty caused by the threat of war which has had a weakening effect on the capitalist economies. On the contrary, it is the crisis of overproduction which is driving capitalism to an endless war as the only solution to its incurable crisis. Other imperialist wars of aggression will doubtless follow the war on Iraq, resulting ultimately in an inter-imperialist war, unless prevented by the proletarian revolutionary overthrow of imperialism. The open, and extremely bitter, quarrel between the US and Britain, on the one hand, and France and Germany on the other hand, both prior to the war as well as its subsequent continuation, is an early harbinger of events to come.
Attempts to colonise Iraq are doomed to failure
Meanwhile, having conquered Iraq, the US is busy setting up a colonial administration, assisted by its hand-picked Iraqi puppets and stooges, airlifted from their comfortable exiles by the US military. Thus it is that Ahmed Chalabi, a monarchist, banker, convicted embezzler and fraudster, with friends in the powerful pro-Israeli lobby, and a US puppet to boot, has been brought into Iraq as the head of the so-called Iraqi National Congress (INC) – an outfit created and bankrolled by the CIA – to head a puppet government which will do the bidding of US imperialism. To him is reserved the role of pictorial leader while the real power rests with Jay Garner, a retired US general and effectively the proconsul of occupied Iraq.
Things, however, are not going very well for the US occupiers. On his arrival in Baghdad on 21 April, Garner was greeted with the angriest protests yet against the US presence, and a list of complaints and demands. On 10 April Abdulmajid al-Khoi, a cleric and a puppet of Anglo-American imperialism, was killed in a mosque near Najaf after returning from exile in London where he was cultivated by Tony Blair. Everywhere in Iraq there have been huge demonstrations against the forces of occupation. In Baghdad, the Shias ended a 2-day protest against the US only after the release of a cleric, Muhamed al-Fartousi, who had been detained by the US forces.
The pilgrimage by several million Shias to the shrine of Hussein in Karbala, although overtly characterised by religious fervour (it was in mourning to commemorate Arbain – the 40th day of the mourning of prophet Mohammed’s revered grandson) carried political overtones: their opposition to the US and their claim to form the future government of Iraq. Hawza (the centre of theological learning in nearby Najaf that constitutes the Shia clerical establishment) volunteers, armed with Kalashnikovs, directed traffic on the streets. Leaflets signed by the Hawza, some in English, have been distributed. “We want a government that represents all Iraqi people, a government with an independent will”. While Chalabi, the US puppet, has been greeted with derision and angry protests, the Shia establishment has moved in deftly to fill the vacuum left by the destruction of the Saddam regime by the Anglo-American forces. Alarmed at the ability and the speed with which the Shia establishment has moved to set up administrative structures and take control of the administration in several important towns and cities, Garner has issued a warning to neighbouring Iran not to interfere in Iraq’s internal politics. He accused Iran of organising demonstrations in Baghdad. Considering that he represents an army of occupation, which has come thousands of miles to remove by armed force the government of Iraq, the following laughable warning by Garner can only arouse derision and contempt:
“What concerns me is the role that Iran is playing – I don’t think the coalition is going to accept any out of this region or out of country influence. We’re going to be very strong on that” (see the Financial Times of 25 April 2003).
US imperialism and its junior partner in crime, Britain, may entertain a momentary feeling of triumph. They will shortly have the grin wiped off their smug and arrogant imperialist faces as the Iraqi people, recovering from the initial phase of this war, get themselves together and organise resistance against the occupation regime, whittle it down and force on it a humiliating retreat.
One battle is over but the war continues. From this war, whatever the sacrifices and vicissitudes of struggle, the Iraq people shall doubtless emerge victorious.