Anglo-American imperialism is in deep trouble. While facing fierce resistance from the Iraqi and Afghan liberation forces, it is increasingly losing credibility at home, with its political spokesmen distrusted as never before.
29 US soldiers and a civilian were killed by the Iraqi resistance during the month of January 2004. Despite the capture of Saddam Hussein, there has been a sharp rise in US casualties. January was one of the bloodiest months, with the US combat deaths in the first 28 days exceeding that of every other post-war month except for October 2003 (which claimed the lives of 35 US soldiers) and November (during which 94 US soldiers were killed), according to the Iraq Coalition Casualty Count, a website devoted to tracking the deaths of the imperialist soldiery in Iraq. Eighteen of the US combat deaths – more than half of those killed in January – took place in one province, Anbar, in central Iraq, which is home to the cities of Fallujah, Ramadi and Khaldiya – which have become the centres of resistance. US troops admit that they dare not enter Fallujah in less than a platoon-sized force (six vehicles), and normally accompanied by air support. The US troops acknowledge that they cannot stay in one place in the city for more than an hour without being ambushed by the Iraqi resistance.
Four of the helicopters shot down by the Iraqi resistance up to the second week of January this year have been downed in the environs of Fallujah, including the Blackhawk hit on Thursday 8 January in which 9 US soldiers died. On the same day, in a separate incident, a US military transport plane had to make an emergency landing at Baghdad airport with 83 passengers and crew on board after its engine exploded mid-air having been hit by the Iraqi resistance. Only a day earlier (7 January), a mortar attack on a logistics base west of Baghdad killed one US soldier and injured 32 others. US officials are at a loss to explain the increase in deadly attacks on helicopters. On 2 January, a Kiowa Warrior observation helicopter was brought down south of Fallujah, killing the pilot and a crewman. In the same area another Kiowa was brought down on 9 January. Four further casualties resulted from 2 helicopter crashes on 23 and 25 January.
In addition to the imperialist aggressor troops, the Iraqi resistance is targeting all those forces who are collaborating with the occupation. Thus it is that since 1 May last year, when Bush declared the end of major combat operations, approximately 400 Iraqi policemen have been killed. Two of the deadliest attacks took place on two successive days (10 and 11 of February). In the first of these attacks, a suicide car-bomber killed 50 people at a crowded police station 40 km south of Baghdad in the town of Iskandariya. The following day, 47 were killed in a suicide car-bomb attack at an army recruitment centre, less than 2 km from the area in central Baghdad where the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) has it headquarters – the second such attack in less than 24 hours on Iraqis working for the occupation. On the same day, 2 US soldiers were killed and one was wounded in a roadside explosion. In a country where more than half the workforce is without a job, US imperialism is trying to enlist Iraqi young men into the police, army and other security forces with the lure of salaries of $300 per month. It already employs between 150,000 and 210,000 Iraqi security guards and plans to recruit 30,000 new policemen and several thousand for the army, for which it has set aside $3 billion, and precisely to prevent which the resistance are targeting police stations and army recruitment centres.
Despite tight security in US-controlled Baghdad, the Iraqi fighters are able to operate at will and with impunity. On 8 January, a massive car bomb exploded right in front of the gate to the CPA headquarters in Baghdad, the most daring and devastating attack since the capture of Saddam Hussein, killing 35 and wounding 60. The dead included two American contractors working for the US defence department, and among the injured were 6 US citizens, including 3 soldiers. The attack came ominously a day ahead of a meeting between the representatives of the CPA, the puppet Iraqi Governing Council (IGC) and the UN in New York to work out ways in which the UN could assist in the apparent transfer of power to yet another clique of puppets by the end of June.
It was only a matter of time before the Kurdish leadership in northern Iraq, which has been acting as a willing tool of the occupation, became a target of the Iraqi resistance. On 1st February, suicide bombers, with explosives strapped to their bodies, made two deadly attacks on Kurdish leaders attending a feast in the city of Arbil, killing and injuring 300 people. In near-simultaneous explosions, the offices of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, which controls Arbil, and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, were shattered – with 80 people being killed at KDP offices and 60 at PUK headquarters. Those killed included Sami Abdul-Rahman, deputy prime minister of the Kurdish region, Akram Mintik, the governor of Arbil, and two other ministers in the Kurdish regional administration. The bombers were on foot and managed to slip through heavy security by mingling with the crowds of people on their way to pay their respects to the Kurdish chieftains at their offices. Only the previous day (31 January), 9 people were killed outside a police station in Mosul. Three days prior to that (28 January), a vehicle painted to give the appearance of being an ambulance, exploded outside a hotel used by the interim government in Baghdad. These bombings, once again, clearly demonstrate that those directing this campaign have the ability to strike wherever and whenever they like throughout Iraq.
Questioning elections and the UN’s role
To add to Washington’s difficulties, the Shia religious establishment, which has hitherto collaborated with the occupation forces, fearful of losing all credibility in the eyes of the patriotic and anti-imperialist Iraqi masses, has begun to flex its muscles somewhat. Grand Ayatollah Sistani demands direct elections to a transitional assembly charged with the task of drafting a new constitution as well as endorsing a provisional government. Iraq’s future, he insists, must be decided by its elected representatives. To back his demand, Sistani unleashed nearly 100,000 demonstrators into the streets of Basra on 16 January. This is the complete opposite of the position taken by Paul Bremer, the US colonial representative in Baghdad, who maintains that the transitional government must emerge through indirect elections, creating an assembly selected by provincial notables by and large hand-picked by the occupation, through caucuses in each of Iraq’s 18 provinces. Hence the impasse, to resolve which Bremer approached the UN. He met UN officials in New York on 19 January with a view to arm-twisting the UN to endorse his stance by pronouncing the unfeasibility of elections in the present Iraqi climate – and thus endorse, what even the Financial Times described as an Iraqi government of “nominal sovereignty and questionable legitimacy” (19 Jan 2004), by whose invitation, in turn, the occupation would remain in place.
The UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, having made ritual noises about the need for the UN to make a complex analysis of “risk, scope and substance”, the UN weariness of being co-opted in a subordinate rubber-stamp role, and the need for the substance of its role to be commensurate with the risks involved in that role, agreed on 23 January to send a mission to Iraq to study the question of the feasibility or otherwise of direct elections in Iraq before the transfer of authority to the proposed puppet provisional administration by the end of June. On the same day CNN reported that two of its employees died in an ambush and the US reported an unexploded car bomb next to the CPA headquarters in Baghdad, while 3 US soldiers died in a bomb blast near Khaldiya, west of Baghdad. The US wants the UN to support the Pentagon stance that democratic elections are not feasible just yet (so much then for the US spreading democracy from Iraq to the rest of the Middle East and thus transforming the Arab and the Muslim world).
Ever since the collapse of the USSR, the UN has acted as the colonial office of imperialism; and it still continues to perform this role today. The only difference is, and it is a very important one, that the sharpening of inter-imperialist contradictions, combined with the stiff resistance to imperialist occupation by the national liberation forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, make the UN’s role as a cover for the dominant imperialist power, the US, much more difficult. The Financial Times of 19 January, in its editorial, said that the “… Bush administration had no use for the UN on its way into Iraq, but now needs its help to find a way out”. The last part of the sentence is misleading, for the US is not looking for a way out, but merely for the way to stabilise its occupation and achieve a semblance of security, stability and legitimacy for the puppet regime of Iraqi traitors it has installed in Baghdad. For that it needs the UN’s help. It needs the UN’s seal of approval for handing over the ceremonial reins of government to a transitional administration of hand-picked Iraqi stooges, while retaining real power in its own hands, and withdrawing the US occupation army from Iraqi towns and villages where they are the targets of daily attacks by the resistance, with the resultant US casualties, to ‘safe’ bases from which they would periodically emerge to attack the patriotic forces fighting the occupation. And, it being the presidential election year, it has to be done rather hurriedly. All the signs are that the Secretary General’s mission, headed by that notorious imperialist stooge and trouble-shooter, the Algerian Lakhdar Brahimi, not surprisingly, has concluded that the situation in Iraq at the present is not auspicious for holding direct elections. This conclusion from a ‘neutral’ body such as the UN fits in with US plans for reclothing its puppet Iraqi regime in brighter colours while providing a face-saving formula for the continued collaboration of Ayatollah Sistani with the occupation. The continued, and daily increasing, resistance is bound to smash all these schemes of imperialism and its Iraqi flunkeys.
Increase in Attacks
Attacks by the resistance have increased markedly this year. While maintaining a public façade that the security situation is improving, US officials know that the US occupation is under siege. In its report, the January national review of Iraq, USAID (United States Agency for International Development) says: “January has the highest rate of violence since September 2003. The violence continues despite the expansion of the Iraqi security services and increased arrests by coalition forces in December and January”.
The American aid agency’s report adds that high-intensity attacks involving mortars, hand-grenades and small arms more than doubled from 316 in December to 642 in January, while non-life threatening attacks including drive-by shootings and rock-throwing rose from 182 in December to 522 in January. There were, says the report, 11 attacks on coalition aircraft. It emphasised that attacks on the military increased even faster than those on civilian targets in January and the occupation forces discovered with alarm the “profuse availability” of improved explosive devices (IEDs) to the resistance. As if to underline the substance of the agency’s report, on 12 February the resistance fired rocket-propelled grenades near Falluja at a convoy carrying the US Commander in the Middle East, General John Abizaid, missing him by a whisker (see Financial Times, 13 February).
Bush-Blair lies exposed
The resistance in Iraq, the lies told by the US and British administrations to build up their case for war against Iraq, and the thorough exposure of these lies in quick succession over the recent few months, has had the effect of discrediting the governments of these two powerful imperialist countries, especially the heads of these governments – Bush and Blair. The Anglo-American imperialist case for war was built on the alleged Iraqi possession of weapons of mass destruction (WMD). We have always insisted that possession by Iraq of WMD was no legitimate reason for going to war against it, for the countries waging this war possess the biggest stockpiles of WMD and therefore, according to their own reasoning, are the biggest criminals. Secondly, we insisted that Iraq was being targeted precisely because she had allowed herself to be disarmed, possessed no WMD, and thus presented no danger to the invading imperialist predatory forces. The controversy concerning the Iraqi WMD was always, and continues to be, a side-show to entertain and deceive the public while hiding the real reason for this war, namely, grabbing Iraqi mineral wealth, establishing a puppet Iraqi government and military bases, as a part of a wider plan to dominate the whole area, stretching from the Middle East to the former eastern republics of the erstwhile USSR in Central Asia.
Be that as it may, let us examine the Anglo-American imperialist case for this predatory war in their own terms. This is what the British and the US governments claimed in the run up to the war
“What I believe the assessed intelligence has established beyond doubt is that Saddam has continued to produce chemical and biological weapons, and that he continues in his efforts to develop his nuclear weapons” (Tony Blair, foreward to UK government dossier, entitled Iraq’s Weapon’s of Mass Destruction: the assessment of the British government, 24 September 2002).
“Although we have little specific information on Iraq’s [chemical weapons] stockpile, Saddam has probably stocked at least 100 metric tons and possibly as much as 500 MT of CW agents, much of it added in the last year” (US National Intelligence Council, National Intelligence Estimate, October 2002, entitled Iraq’s Continuing Program for Weapons of Mass Destruction).
The truth, as was well-known to them in advance, was that Iraq had no WMD and the claims made by the US and Britain were a complete pack of lies. Events since then have proved them to be so beyond a shred of doubt. The Anglo-American imperialist armies have been in occupation of Iraq for nearly a year and have not found any Iraqi WMD. The Iraq Survey Group (ISG), with a personnel of 1,600, scoured Iraq for months on end but could find no WMD. On 23 January this year, the head of the ISG, David Kay, resigned saying that no large stockpiles of such weapons were likely to be found in Iraq. “It turns out we were all wrong, probably”. He characterised US intelligence ‘errors’ as “so grave” as to warrant an “overhaul” of the efforts of the CIA and others organs. Kay’s statement is perfectly correct even if his motives are suspect, appearing as they do to be an attempt at deflecting blame from the White House and laying it at the doorstep of the CIA, which he said “owes the president” an explanation. Wishing to persist with its lies regarding the Iraqi WMD, the US is continuing with the ISG and has appointed to head it, Charles Deufler, a former weapons inspector, but he also has doubts similar to those entertained by David Kay, about the existence of WMD in Iraq.
On 7 January, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace made public the conclusions of its study, according to which the US government officially “systematically misrepresented” the threat from Iraq’s WMD in the run-up to the war. Human Rights Watch (HRW), a New York based NGO with strong imperialist leanings, and a strong liking for ‘humanitarian’ (i.e. imperialist) interventions, has stated that the US invasion of Iraq could not be justified as a humanitarian intervention, for it was not undertaken to stop or prevent a mass slaughter. HRW ought to know that imperialism does not intervene to prevent, but to perpetrate, mass slaughter. That has always been the case; and it is so in Iraq. The only ‘humanitarianism’ which drives imperialism is its striving for maximum profit and domination.
On 13 January, Ron Suskind’s biography of Paul O’Neill, the former US Treasury Secretary who was sacked by Bush for opposing the latter’s tax cuts, hit the shelves. In it, O’Neill says, going after Saddam was topic “A” 10 days after Bush’s inauguration – a whole 8 months prior to September 11. The other priority topic was giving Ariel Sharon the complete freedom to attack the Palestinians. These revelations, coming from such a conservative source as Paul O’Neill, the former Treasury Secretary and the head of the aluminium giant ALCOA, serves to expose the lies of the US administration better than we could have asked for.
The Hutton Inquiry into the death of weapons inspector, Dr David Kelly, delivered its Report on 28 January 2004. This 740-page whitewash absolves the British government of lying about the Iraqi threat and condemns the BBC for its lax management. Andrew Gilligan, a BBC reporter, in his original broadcast had made two allegations over the government’s 24 September 2002 dossier about Iraqi WMD. First that number 10 had ordered the “sexing up” of the dossier. Second, that the assertion that Iraq could deploy WMD within 45 minutes was not only wrong but probably known to the government to be so. Hutton shamelessly asserts that Number 10’s involvement in preparation of the dossier merely put “sub-conscious pressure” on the intelligence community to provide a stronger case than that justified by the raw intelligence data.
The truth is that the intelligence assessment of Iraqi WMDs and the threat posed by them were entirely wrong and baseless. The deliberate sexing up of this data by the government, at Number 10’s insistence, turned them into deliberate, blatant lies aimed at providing a fig leaf for a predatory imperialist war against Iraq. The British government’s case for war had been built on the premise that the government possessed spine-chilling evidence that Iraq possessed WMD with which it could strike us within 45 minutes; further, that there was a danger that these dangerous weapons could fall into the hands of ‘terrorists’ who would have no qualms in using them against us. The failure to find WMD in Iraq is a real problem for the British government which built its case for war entirely on this single premise. In addition, this failure furnishes further proof, if indeed such proof was required, that the allegations made by Andrew Gilligan were entirely correct.
Outrage at the Whitewash
As soon as the Hutton report was published, it caused an outrage, with the overwhelming majority of the British public correctly treating it with contempt as a complete whitewash. The joke industry has it that from now on white paint is to be renamed as Hutton. The satirical magazine, Private Eye (6-19 Feb), carries on its front page a picture of Lord Hutton with a copy of his report with the caption “… and in conclusion, I find Dr Shipman [a reference to the doctor who murdered scores of his patients, and was convicted of these crimes and who subsequently hanged himself in his prison cell] innocent of all charges”. Indeed, pronouncing the British government innocent of lying about the Iraqi WMD and the alleged threat posed by these non-existent weapons to us is the equivalent of pronouncing Dr Shipman innocent of the murder of a huge number of his patients.
According to opinion polls conducted in the aftermath of the Hutton Report, large sections of the British public do not believe a word of Hutton: by a margin of two to one, the British people trust the BBC more than the government. Two-thirds of the British people believe that Hutton was a whitewash, the government definitely sexed up intelligence on Iraq and Blair is not to be trusted. Solidly conservative newspapers and their correspondents reserve nothing but scorn and derision for the Hutton report. Referring to Hutton’s grotesque conclusion that a raft of emails from Campbell, Blair’s director of communications, and Jonathan Powell, his chief of staff, might at worst have only “subconsciously influenced” John Scarlett, chairman of the JIC (Joint Intelligence Committee) and other JIC members to strengthen the dossier, Ferdinand Mount, writing in the Sunday Times of 1 February, pokes fun at this conclusion in these terms:
“This makes the JIC sound like a bunch of naïve dimwits. One pictures the scene inside the intelligence services: ‘How kind it is, M, of Mr Campbell to take such an interest in our drafting’.
“‘Yes indeed, Q, and I am most impressed that Mr Powell should be such a stickler for the correct use of the subjunctive’.
“‘Quite so. Oh, and by the way, C tells me there is an Iraqi gentleman in New York who says that Saddam can have his nasties up and running inside 45 minutes, so we had better put that in too.’
“Even in presenting the evidence, Hutton seems somewhat selective – and always in the government’s favour”.
Mr Mount observes that on most issues “… Hutton leaves a hole the size of a family fridge where the chain of reasoning ought to be, jumping to his six scant pages of conclusions, which bear little relation to the drift of the voluminous evidence”, adding that the “… yawning gaps between evidence and conclusion are, alas, typical of these mopping-up jobs assigned to eminent persons such as Hutton”. Saying that Hutton suffers from “logica interrupta”, Mr Mount alludes to similar reports in the recent past which have been the product of mopping-up jobs assigned to eminent persons – the Hammond Inquiry, chaired by Sir Anthony Hammond into the “cash for passports” affair involving Peter Mandelson and the Hinduja brothers; the Franks Report on the British government’s failure to foresee the Falklands war; and Sir Richard Scott’s Report on the sale of arms to Iraq – all of which absolved the government/ministers of any wrongdoing. However, goes on Mr Mount, such “… exculpations seldom bury the controversies. The whitewash does not last well. Thirty years after Lord Widgery concluded that the army was fired at first on Bloody Sunday, the tragedy is being replayed at crippling expense by Lord Saville’s Inquiry. In that inquiry Lord (then ordinary Brian) Hutton, as junior counsel to the attorney general, was a ferocious defender of the soldiers conduct.
“It is the exposure of the evidence in such relentless detail over the weeks and months that does the damage. By the time his lordship comes to report, each of us has become our own High Court judge and we do not like to have our judgments overruled”. Mr Mount concludes by asking: “Is Blair really any better off this morning than if he had left it to a country inquest to find out why Kelly died”.
Revelations of Dr Jones
Writing in the Independent of 4 February, Dr Brian Jones, a former head of the nuclear, chemical and biological branch of the Defence Intelligence Staff until his retirement last year, revealed that not a single defence intelligence expert backed Tony Blair’s most controversial claims on Iraq’s WMD; that the September 24 dossier was “misleading”; and that Blair’s foreward transformed “possibility” into certainty.
US and British interests damaged
On 2 February, the Foreign Affairs Select Committee reported that the failure to locate WMD “has damaged the credibility of the US and the UK [not a day too early, we might add] in their conduct on the war against terrorism” and that the Iraq war “has possibly made terrorist attacks against British nationals and British interests more likely in the short term”.
While discovering no WMD and not reducing what the imperialist spokesmen and media alike refer to as the threat of terrorism, the war has undermined the authority of the UN, caused divisions within the EU and between the latter and the US, and caused irreparable damage to US and British standing in the countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America, especially in the countries of the Middle East. Robin Cook, the former British Foreign Secretary, and himself a war criminal of the notoriety of the imperialist war against Yugoslavia, has characterised the war against Iraq as “… the greatest blunder in British foreign and security policy since Suez” (The Independent, 4 Feb. 2004).
No progressive can fail to express a certain degree of satisfaction at the above developments.
In response to the findings of David Kay, the Bush administration was forced to set up an inquiry into the ‘failure’ of US intelligence. The British government was left with little choice but to set up its own, to use Cook’s words, “mouse of an inquiry”, with a narrow remit. Confined to the question of the accuracy of intelligence, it won’t ask the important question as to WHY Britain went to war. Cook says that Blair did not go to war because of the existence of any evidence about Iraqi WMD, but because he wanted to prove to Bush “that Tony was his best friend and Britain his most reliable ally …” This, of course, is rubbish of the type peddled by ‘left’ social democrats, Trotskyites and revisionists, who attempt to present British imperialism as a powerless victims, and a poodle, of US imperialism. The truth is that British imperialism has its own oil, armaments and investment interests to protect and for which it went to war. Two of the three largest oil companies – BP and Shell – are British or Anglo-Dutch. British imperialism does not simply wish to hand over the oil of the Middle East to US imperialism. It is in the defence of these real interests of British monopolies that Britain is at war against the Iraqi people not for any trivial reasons such as showing what a reliable ally of the US this country is.
With its narrow remit, and stuffed full of respectable lickspittles manning it, the Butler Inquiry is a complete diversion, a total waste of taxpayers’ money, set up to produce yet another whitewash.
Iraqi resistance will determine the outcome
In the end, the fate of the Iraq war, indeed the fate of all the Gulf states and statelets, will be decided by the hammer blows delivered by the resistance in Iraq to the occupation forces and their repercussions in the imperialist countries – not by any number of judicial whitewashes. We wish the Iraqi resistance every success in their heroic struggle to free Iraq of the scourge of the imperialist armies of occupation. And we call upon the proletariat of the imperialist countries, particularly that of Britain and the US, to oppose this imperialist war by every means at their disposal, and to render every support to the Iraqi people and their struggle against imperialism.
The victory of the Iraqi people is our victory too.