I wrote the following article before the US government attack on Iraq. Since in this article, I talked about the US goals and stragey in the Middle East and brought up issues that are relevant to the current US government's warmongering towatds Iran, I decided to post it here. At the time, a short version of this article was printed in "Worker's Democracy," a publication of Workers Democracy Network.
Goals and Strategy Behind the War on Iraq
And the US Anti-war Movement
By Mahmood Ketabchi
October 6, 2002
The war against Iraq is not anything new. To be precise, it started in 1991 when Iraq invaded Kuwait. Since then, Iraq has been under siege. The United States and British forces have used every opportunity to bomb Iraq, under the guise of protecting the “no-fly zone” in northern and southern Iraq. The US government has committed its political, economic, and military support to configure a pro-American regime in Iraq to replace Saddam Hussein’s government.
The most brutal war against Iraq, however, has been an economic war. The economic sanctions, authorized by the UN and led by the US, has brought massive suffering and misery for the Iraqi people, resulting in the death of more than one million Iraqis, over half of them children. The genocidal economic sanctions turned the Iraqi issue into the second Palestinian question in the minds of the people of the region. It became living evidence of US and Western terrorism in the Middle East. The plan to destabilize the Iraqi regime failed miserably and furthermore helped perpetuate the reactionary Iraqi government.
A new all-out war against Iraq has been on the US government’s agenda for a long time. By now, after many months of “debate” and behind-the-scene war preparation, it should be transparent that the US government wants nothing short of an all-out war, the military invasion of Iraq, and the removal of Saddam Hussein from power. The US officials are knocking on every possible door to push the situation towards a war and make it seemingly inevitable.
The Bush administration claims that their coming war is about “freedom,” “world security,” “the war on terrorism,” “dismantling Iraq’s weapon of mass destruction,” and “enforcing UN resolutions.” The public relation demagogy displayed by Bush and his henchmen is utterly baseless and so ridiculous that even some of the most hawkish elements among the US elite, those with a long history of warmongering and interventionist policy, do not find sufficient evidence to justify an attack on Iraq.
In addition, the US government has no moral authority to claim that it is concerned with human life, freedom, or disarmament. This public relations campaign is shameless. It is a belligerent display of lies, hypocrisy, selective morality, and contempt for Americans as well as world public opinion. US war propaganda is by and large an all out ideological war to impose US jingoism and a war plan on the world. Bush and his administration will use all their might to bully and silence the world into submission and resignation, while marginalizing any serious effort or movement by peace and freedom-loving people to oppose this US war campaign.
The attack on Iraq is simply another step toward further regional domination. Saddam’s leadership in Iraq provides a convenient target in this process. The Bush administration is not publicly discussing a broader plan for the Middle East. However, some high US officials hinted that a regime change in Iraq will lead to further changes in the region. Even though the US government is by and large secretive about their ultimate regional plans, many think-tank “neo-conservative” organizations and individuals, blending Zionism, racism, and a lust for war with the pretense of democracy, are pushing for a frontal assault - not only against Iraq but also other countries, including Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Syria. These right-wing organizations and individuals, often with close ties to the Bush administration, advocate regional action in the Middle East. They say that the US is facing a regional challenge, and that it must respond accordingly.
US Regional Problems and Failures
Indeed, the US government does have a regional problem that has gotten worse after the invasion of Afghanistan. By attacking Iraq, the US will dig itself even deeper into the ground. The Bush administration is infuriated with the US Arab allies who have undermined the US policy regarding Iraq since the Gulf war. The Arab regimes, by and large, have refused to recognize Israel and have not given their support to Washington to break down the Palestinians’ resistance. Arab leaders, in one way or another, have lent their support to various Islamic terrorist organizations. The “war on terrorism” has not brought the purported outcome; many Al Qaeda leaders remain free, and other Islamic terrorist organizations are still active and committing bloody murderous activities. Fascist Islamic militias, whom Reagan once called “freedom fighters,” and whom the US government and Western powers helped create to fight communism, have now become a headache for their creators. Many Arab leaders opposed the US war on Afghanistan. Afghanistan is in such a state of chaos and instability that US army personnel even must act as the bodyguard for their puppet, Hamid Karzai. Moreover, the US’s continuous bloody attacks on Afghan civilians have brought increasing resentment toward the US, and fomented a guerrilla warfare style resistance to the continued US military presence in Afghanistan.
The political future of Iran stands in the balance, with the US having very little control over it. A political change in Iran will undoubtedly send a ripple effect throughout the region as it did after the 1979 revolution. The Islamic regime in Iran will go, and it is simply a matter of time. Khatami and his faction have long since ceased to be an alternative to conservatives in Iran, for they are part and parcel of the Islamic criminal and fascist regime. The revolutionizing process of the masses started long ago, for they see that the Islamic regime is not reformable. The masses of people in Iran are increasingly moving toward radicalization. Socialism, this time around, is even stronger than it was in the1979 revolution, and will be present on the current political scene. The “threat” of the left and socialism in Iran cannot be ignored. The prospect of a political chaos, internal strife, and the possibility of a revolutionary change in Iran and the victory of socialism, even though small, is making the US government quite uneasy.
In addition, in an increasingly globalized world it is questionable as to how long reactionary Arab regimes can survive and cling to their closed and stagnant political systems. These regimes, often with the sword of Islam in their hands, are tyrannical, corrupt, and misogynist. Popular dissatisfaction against the Arab regimes is on the rise. The US and Western governments have propped up these despotic regimes. Without the US, these regimes would hardly have a chance to stand. Their existence during the Cold War served the US government and Western powers. These regimes suppressed progressive movements and kept oil flowing steadily at an affordable price in exchange for US protection. Whether these regimes are still useful for the US and the Western powers after the collapse of the Soviet bloc, is now in doubt.
An economy dominated by state monopolies in oil-producing countries of the region is not exactly the type of “liberalized” economy Bush and his “free-market” thieves would like to see. Oil is at heart of the economy in oil-producing countries. For example, Saudi Arabia depends on oil and oil derivatives, which account for 90-95% of Saudi export earnings, 75% of the budget, and about 35-40% of GDP. Moreover, these countries, led by Saudi Arabia, have decisive control over oil reserves, production, and supply. Revenue from oil, and dominance over the oil market, not only has helped the survival of these tyrannical regimes, but also has made it possible for them to hold a strong position in relation to the US and western governments. Moreover, considering the US and Western reliance on oil, long term political uncertainty in the Middle East and Gulf region adds to the US government’s uneasiness about what they call “oil and global security.”
US Goals and Strategy beyond Iraq
The refusal of Arab states to get in line with the US war plan indicates their distrust of Washington. This refusal is not due to any affection for Saddam Hussein. Many did fight along the US government against Iraq in the 1991 Gulf war. Many Arab leaders would like to see him gone. But a regime change in Iraq through a US military invasion of Iraq will have larger implications. In addition to fear from their own citizens and reaction in the streets, Arab leaders see a “regime change” in Iraq through a US military invasion as a possible first step towards an overhaul of the region, and the eventual change or collapse of despotic and reactionary ruling dynasties that have enjoyed tight and unquestionable control over their societies.
Indeed the far-right neo-conservatives who set the agenda for the US foreign policy say that when Saddam is defeated and replaced, US enemies and unreliable allies will either have to put their house in order or prepare for collapse. Iran, Syria, and Saudi Arabia are specifically the three countries they have in mind. If these regimes are forced in line, others, they hope, will easily follow suit. Over the past year, relations between the US government and Saudi Arabia have become strained. Those who pushed and made their war plan on Iraq official US policy are arguing that Saudi Arabia must be considered an enemy of the US not an ally, because it encourages and finances terrorism. The same warmongers also suggested that if the Saudis refuse to support the “war against terrorism,” the US will be compelled to freeze Saudi assets and occupy their oilfields, a proposition that made the Saudi government furious.
Iran is already on the US hit list. An invasion of Iraq will put the US government in a stronger position to exert pressure on Iran and have greater influence in shaping the political future of the country. US troops are stationed to the east of Iran in Afghanistan, to the south in the Gulf region, and to the northwest in Turkey. An invasion of Iraq would mean that the US would have its military troops to the west of Iran as well. In other words, Iran will be encircled by the US army from the west, east and south. That is a lot of pressure from a hostile army that considers Iran part of an “axis of evil.” If the pressure on Iran does not create what the US is hoping for, then a regime change and/or a military attack on Iran will be officially added to the agenda.
Gaining control over oil reserves, oil production, and oil supplies is an important part of the American strategy in the Middle East and the Gulf regions. Pursuing its “free market” policy and the further globalization of capital, the US government, particularly considering Bush administration’s immense interest in the oil industry, wants to break the monopoly over the oil market controlled by Arab countries and led by Saudi Arabia. Breaking Arab control over the oil market would open doors for international capital to have an immediate control over oil production, supply, and market.
Diversifying the major sources of oil production seems to be the first important step towards such a strategy. Iraq, after Saudi Arabia, has the second largest oil reserve, amounting to approximately 300 billion barrels. If Iraq were to produce oil at the rate of its oil reserves, it would mean that Saudi Arabia would lose its domination over the world’s oil market. Since the power of oil-producing countries is tied to their control over the oil market, undermining their power over oil is a potential threat to their regimes. In addition, controlling the oil market will put the US in a stronger position in relation to Europe, Japan, and Russia. The US government, unabashedly behaving like a common thief, is already using Arab oil in the hopes of luring other nations to join or support the US war effort in the Gulf. Oil companies are rushing to hold talks with Iraqi opposition groups for possible future contracts.
Breaking Palestinian resistance against the Israeli occupation is another goal of the US government. Israel has been openly and forcefully pushing for the US attack on Iraq. Also, in the US, among the advocates and proponents of war on Iraq, are Zionist and fascist Jewish organizations and individuals. They hope that an attack on Iraq will make it possible for Israel to accomplish its long-dreamt genocidal policy to cleanse Palestinian territories and force Palestinians out of their homeland. If this Zionist nightmare fails, a victorious Bush after invading Iraq in addition to pressuring Arab states to get closer to Israel and recognize the Israeli government, will try to break up Palestinian resistance, possibly force Arafat out of office, and find a “reformed” leader that will succumb to pressure and accept a South African style Bantustan under the guise of a Palestinian State or some sort of a transitional government. The “peace” that the US is looking for is to come at the expense of Palestinians and the defeat of the Arab population, a peace that will give Israel a privileged and superior status in the region. Nonetheless, there will always be an endless potential for further conflicts and instability.
Looking at the US strategy in the region, the “20-year war” that Bush, Cheney and company have talked about, if not underestimated, is real. Every new step will drag the US government deeper into regional problems and conflicts. The US government wants to bring the region more in line with US policies, reign in on political Islam and Islamic terrorism, settle the Arab-Israeli conflict at the expense of the Arab population with a privileged status for Israel, push tyrannical, stagnant, and corrupt regimes, foes as well as allies, to adopt themselves to post Cold-War exigencies of international capital, forcefully promote privatization of the economy, break up OPEC control over oil, and enhance the ability of oil companies and other multinational corporations to have more direct and immediate control over resources and the economy of the region. But make no mistake about it, these changes, as envisioned by the US government, are not to come through “democracy” but by setting up brutal and despotic regimes that will work hand in hand with the US government. The US strategy is to be realized through continuous threat of violence and US military power. These goals are to be accomplished through war, mass murder, massive destruction, inflicting immense pain, suffering, and misery on the people of the region.
An Attack on Iraq, a Crime against Humanity
Iraq is mainly a modern urban society, very different than Afghanistan. The war on Iraq as envisioned by Bush will bring massive destruction to Iraqi society. Tens, perhaps hundreds of thousands of people will perish, and enormous misery will befall the Iraqi people who have not yet recovered from the destruction of 1991 war and who still suffer under US-imposed genocidal sanctions. As in the1991 war, the US will bomb schools, hospitals, water and electric plants, roads, bridges, communication and transportation networks, and factories to force Iraq into capitulation. But this time, Bush is after Saddam who promises to fight tooth and nail with the intention of prolonging the war as much as possible.
If the Iraqi army or a significant section of it puts up resistance and fights in and around the cities (especially Baghdad), only a massive bombardment leading to the complete destruction of these cities and massive loss of life could bring a quick victory for the US. In a life-and-death struggle, Saddam may well choose to use biological and chemical weapon (if he has any) against the US Army and/or its mercenary forces. Then what will the US do? It is quite probable that it will use nuclear weapons in retaliation, as they threatened to do in the 1991 war. Also, it is probable that Israel may be drawn into the war as result of an Iraqi attack on Israeli cities. A US-Israeli war on Iraq will unleash fury in Arab societies that may lead to a regional conflict with unpredictable implications.
An invasion of Iraq will probably last for years to come, especially if it leads to a crushing military defeat of Iraqi forces and breaks up Saddam Hussein’s vast governmental bureaucracy, both of which made Iraq governable under Saddam’s brutal capitalist regime. There is no quick fix to fill the vacuum. The opposition groups do not have the capacity to govern the country without a US military presence. These groups include ex-army generals with a long history of crimes; reactionary and nationalist Kurdish parties; corrupt and despotic politicians; fascist Islamic organizations with close ties to Iran; and various reactionary tribal leaders, none of whom have so much as a trace of progressive history. Indeed, replacing a bunch of criminals with other criminals who would bend to the will of the US is exactly the type of “democracy” Bush has in mind for Iraq, just like the one engineered in Afghanistan. Empowering these groups could unleash a wave of tribal wars, nationalism and national hatred, a new rise in Islamic fascism, ethnic cleansing, and genocide.
The fall of the Soviet “Evil Empire” did not make the world any safer, as Reagan once promised. The world which the US is creating is more dangerous than ever. The US war plan on Iraq symbolizes the “New World Order” it has embarked upon to create after the downfall of the Soviet block. This war is intended to enable the US government to maintain and reinforce its unilateral superpower hegemony and military domination of the entire world. This war plan sends a message to the world that no one should ever dream of challenging or questioning US superiority, because the US government is prepared to unleash its murderous power upon anyone whom it feels to be a threat, with or without evidence of a threat. Its demonstrated cruelty and barbarism, its repeated threats and use of unbridled violence abroad and against its own people, and its demonstrated and unprecedented capacity for destruction and mass murder, all show that the US government, possessing the most powerful armory of weapons of mass destruction in human history, is the most serious terrorist menace on earth.
The US government is on the verge of a criminal adventure. Those in and around the Bush administration who are dragging America into this bloody war with the full intention to go after other countries as well, are no different than Saddam and his cohorts in their brutality. They are cold-blooded and dangerous criminals who fantasize of dominating the world and keeping it under their thumb.
Fight the War, Fight for Socialism
This war, with or without the United Nation’s sanction, with or without Congress’s approval, is a crime against humanity. Bush and his administration must be stopped. Only the peace and freedom-loving people of the world can stop this insane, murderous, and heartless adventure. Governments and ruling elites will not risk their relations with the US and their interests to defy this war. Many are actually hoping to reap some benefit from it. Bush and his cronies have stuck their necks out so far on this war that a defeat for their war plan might well be a major blow to his disgraced and reactionary administration.
In addition, defeating Bush’s war plan may be an important impetus to scrutinize all US unbridled and insane militarism and challenge the tight control which the military industrial complex has over our society. For so long as the US government continues to maintain and develop its massive stockpile of killing machines and its murderous military power, so long as they are able to undermine and ignore the well-being of human beings in the interests of militarism, there will always be found yet another reason to inflame war and destroy human life. The vast killing apparatus that the US government has developed needs justification for its existence. Thus, we are confronted with a cycle of war, insecurity, brutality, and military build-up. Insanity feeds more insanity. Our struggle against the US war on Iraq must be a struggle against US capitalism and militarism. Our movement must cast aside bourgeoisie constitutionalism and legality and populist tendencies. It must be a struggle for worker-socialism.
Yet we have to be prepared for this war. Bush and his administration and their warmongering henchmen are hoping that once the war begins, the anti-war movement will lose its momentum. This is a serious concern that we should not ignore. Much of the opposition against the war coming from liberal patriots will fade away. The anti-war movement needs a more aggressive and energetic effort to keep up the momentum against the war. In order to become a powerful and effective force, the anti-war movement must be a movement of workers, poor people, immigrants and communities of color. This movement must be tied our ongoing struggle to create a better world for people here and around the world. In addition, we must bring the war home for people to see the crimes and murderous insanity of the US Government. The US government can only run this war so long as it keeps its people uninformed and ignorant about the extent of the crime and destruction it intends to create. Just as before, only US generals will describe the war and set the agenda for public consumption. The mainstream media and bootlicker journalism will follow suit. The massive network of communication developed by anti-war and progressive forces must be consolidated and mobilized. It will be harder than during the 1991 war for the government to keep people ignorant. We must bring the truth about the war home. We must confront the warmakers with the nightmare ramifications of their actions.
While we fight against the war, we also must fight for freedom, equality and a better life for the people of the region. We must respond to the warmongers’ gimmick democracy, with our persistent struggle for freedom and our opposition to tyrannical regimes in the region. We must not, and should not, under the guise of anti-imperialism, romanticize reactionary, nationalist, medieval, Islamic or fascist tendencies. That would be counterproductive for the anti-war movement if it becomes identified with these inhumane forces. It will only dull its cutting edge, and weaken its message of justice and humanity. Thus, it must truly and deeply distance itself from the forces of brutality that happen to be in conflict with the US government. The struggle against the war must be explicitly a struggle for freedom, equality, human dignity, and integrity. Saddam’s regime and other reactionary and brutal governments in the region must go, but it must be done by the power of people. It is only the progressive forces, workers, and socialists that can build a truly open and free society, bring equality, and guarantee a humane life for the people of the region.
Timid nationalist, passive, and isolationist policies of non-interference must be cast aside. The attitude of, “It is not my business” also must be criticized. This kind of attitude is only a projection of nationalism onto other people, not to mention that it fails to recognize we are living in a globalized world and there’s no turning back. The world will never change without a visionary perspective and active intervention to bring those necessary changes. The anti-war movement should reach out and align itself with socialist, progressive and freedom-seeking people of the region and support their struggle against oppression, despotism, exploitation, and the US war insanity. The lack of truly revolutionary and socialist alternatives has helped to embolden the warmongering adventurers. If there were a visible horizon of revolutionary socialist change, these criminal warmongers would have thought twice before placing so much of humanity in harm’s way. Capitalism was born and maintained through sweat and blood. Only hope for freedom, equality, human integrity, and socialism can put an end to this capitalist insanity. Only a call for socialism can prevent people from being pushed towards the barbarism, of which the war on Iraq is just one more example.