Iraq! Defeat U.S. Imperialism!
MARCH 28 – The opening salvos of the U.S. invasion of Iraq were supposed to “decapitate” the Iraqi leadership and shock the army and population into submission. On orders from American president George Bush Jr., several massive “bunker buster” bombs and more than a dozen cruise missiles were launched on the Iraqi capital. The ferocious display of firepower against Baghdad was a bald-faced attempt at assassination of Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein. After this kickoff, on Day One of the war, March 20, tens of thousands of U.S. and British troops streamed north across the Kuwaiti border. Within hours, the U.S. Central Command announced that the port of Umm Qasr had been taken and the southern Iraqi metropolis Basra had fallen. On Day Two, U.S. forces raced up the right bank of the Euphrates River past Nasiriya while a second prong headed up the left bank of the Tigris. The mouthpieces of the American empire were exultant: the U.S. attack, modeled on Hitler’s concept of “lightning war” (Blitzkrieg), was “on schedule.” But by Day Three the U.S. expeditionary corps had run into an unexpected storm of Iraqi resistance.
In short order, Iraqi militia men and women in the southern city of Nasiriya ambushed a supply column, killing ten, wounding scores and leaving an undetermined number of U.S. soldiers unaccounted for. Army trucks and Humvees were destroyed by Iraqi mortars, artillery cannons, rockets and rifles. The next day, five captured U.S. soldiers were shown on Iraqi TV while the Pentagon raged. At the same time, 18 British soldiers were killed in helicopter crashes and due to “friendly fire” by the U.S. Fighting raged for days in Umm Qasr, located on the Kuwaiti border, which had not been cleared. Nor was Basra captured: the British “Desert Rats” assigned to take it were camped outside the city, wary of entering. The U.S. Third Infantry went ahead to the outskirts of Najaf, 85 miles from Baghdad, but there they stopped, facing determined resistance and lacking fuel. When a squad of helicopters of the 101st Airborne were called in, “The Iraqis threw up a wall of lead,” said a U.S. analyst. With only small arms fire, all 32 helicopters were damaged, two were downed, and only seven were still operational.
While the Pentagon planners are busy shifting gears, making a “pause” in their drive on Baghdad in order to “mop up” resistance in the south, around the world millions saw that the purportedly invincible Pentagon military machine can be wounded. The League for the Fourth International salutes the Iraqi fighters courageously waging an unequal battle against invaders who far from “liberating” them seek to turn their country into a direct U.S. colony. At the same time, a wounded beast is all the more dangerous. We denounce the war criminals in Washington and London who have already slaughtered hundreds of Iraqis and are preparing to massacre many thousands more before their abominable war is over. These butchers will not be stopped by pleading for peace. Blows landed against the imperialist behemoth by those who refuse to be its colonial slaves aid working people, oppressed minorities and immigrants in the U.S. and throughout the capitalist world. Now is the hour for us to come to the aid of the Iraqi people by mobilizing proletarian power in revolutionary class war against the imperialist war.
“Operation Cakewalk” Mired in the Mud
In the run-up to the March 19 assault on Iraq, the U.S. imperialists were supremely confident. “There may be pockets of resistance, but very few Iraqis are going to fight to defend Saddam Hussein,” said the head of the Defense Advisory Board, Richard Perle, last month on the television talk show “Hardball.” Vice President Dick Cheney, the silent man who runs the Bush government from an “undisclosed location,” went on NBC’s Meet the Press three days before the first strike arguing that the U.S. military “will be greeted as liberators,” the Iraqi army and even much of the elite Republican Guard would “want to avoid conflict with the U.S. forces,” and the war would be won within weeks. A year ago Kenneth Adelman, a Reagan administration official, wrote in the Washington Post: “I believe demolishing Hussein’s military power and liberating Iraq would be a cakewalk.” But in fact the Iraqis did not lie down before the U.S. military juggernaut, and instead began hitting the invaders’ vulnerable supply lines. Before long, Operation Cakewalk was mired in the mud and sands of south central Iraq.
Invasion No “Cakewalk”
A raging sandstorm grounded the copters, followed by heavy rains which drenched U.S. troops. A supply convoy of 300 trucks has been pinned down by Iraqi fire for days near Diwaniyah in central Iraq, unable to move the ten miles that separate it from the 22,000 Marines it was sent to resupply. While the U.S. has so far been unable to knock Baghdad TV off the air, its rockets did hit a Baghdad market, killing many civilians and arousing fury against the invaders. Likewise, after Marines brutally charged into Nasiriya, a farmer said that supporters of Saddam Hussein had now been joined by others who were outraged by the U.S. intervention: “Of course these people will fight. They will fight against the invaders” (New York Times, 25 March). As the Internationalist Group noted in a 22 October 2002 statement: “Those who are counting on a cakewalk and getting war on the cheap may be sorely surprised, but even if the U.S. military force is able to overwhelm all resistance, an imperialist occupation of the country would drag on for years.”
Eventually, even some in the lying imperialist press, firmly “embedded” in the U.S. war machinery, began to ask a few timid questions. CNN and Fox TV are simply agencies of the Pentagon line, for which they were rightly expelled from Iraq, and liberal TV anchor Dan Rather struck out the phrase “bogged down” from a telecast. But soon the words began to creep onto the front page of the papers. More significantly, U.S. generals began to complain about the scenario that had been laid out by war secretary Donald Rumsfeld. “The enemy we’re fighting is a bit different than the one we war-gamed against,” said the commander of Army forces in the Gulf, Lt.-General William Wallace, saying they knew of paramilitary forces, “but we did not know how they would fight” (New York Times, 28 March).
The real problem the Pentagon and its bosses in the White House face is that of American casualties, summed up in the phrase “Vietnam syndrome.” Ever since the U.S. ignominiously lost to the Communists in Indochina in that dirty counterrevolutionary war, the American population has been wary of getting bogged down in another losing colonial adventure. As a result, the U.S. military has relied on high-tech weaponry and aerial bombardment in the hopes of waging war with close to zero U.S. casualties. Right-wing war hawks like Rumsfeld and Cheney claim the Vietnam syndrome is history, but even they are wary of the reaction of a “gun shy” public. They hesitate at getting drawn into street fighting in any of the Iraqi cities, and particularly in Baghdad. But since their fantasy of the Iraqi population rising up to greet American “liberators” didn’t pan out, that means that they intend to drastically escalate their bombing of the urban centers. The Bush administration is preparing to level Baghdad and burn out the population.
Bush’s Blitzkrieg may have run into stiff resistance, and the Pentagon’s strategy of “shock and awe” may not have shocked Saddam Hussein’s military into surrender, but they are betting they can terrorize the population into fleeing the Iraqi capital. The people of Baghdad are certainly aware of how ruthless the U.S. can be, for no one has forgotten the Al Amariya massacre in February 1991, when the American military launched a “surgical” strike on this civilian bomb shelter killing over 400 people, mainly women and children. But that is only a small taste of what the war planners in Washington have in mind. The operations manual for the aerial bombardment of Iraq is a book by former military officers Harlan K. Ullman and James Wade, Shock and Awe: Achieving Rapid Dominance, published by the National Defense University in 1996. The authors say that their aims can be summed up as: “Paralyze, shock, unnerve, deny, destroy” through “very selective, utterly brutal and ruthless and rapid application of force to intimidate.” The intended effect would be like the nuclear bombing of Japan in 1945:
“Shutting the country down would entail both the physical destruction of appropriate infrastructure and the shutdown and control of the flow of all vital information and associated commerce so rapidly as to achieve a level of national shock akin to the effect that dropping nuclear weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki had on the Japanese. Simultaneously, Iraq’s armed forces would be paralyzed with the neutralization or destruction of its capabilities.”
In the face of such ruthless would-be conquerors boasting of the most powerful military force in history, the guerrilla tactics of Iraqi fighters can harass and land blows against the invaders. The London Financial Times (28 March) writes, “It is hard not to draw comparisons with events surrounding North Vietnam’s Tet offensive in 1968,” which sent shock waves around the world even though the U.S. inflicted heavy casualties. But the Vietnamese Communists could awaken the revolutionary energies of the peasant and worker masses fighting for their social liberation, unlike the hard-fisted bourgeois regime of Saddam Hussein; and North Vietnam had the military backing of the Soviet Union, which enabled them to hold out for years and eventually achieve victory in 1975. Iraq’s defeat in the first Gulf War of 1990-91 was a direct result of the collapsing of the bureaucratically degenerated Soviet workers state under the economic and military pressure of imperialism, facilitated by the capitulation of the Stalinist bureaucracy whose policy of “peaceful coexistence” paved the way for counterrevolution.
Washington has launched a second Desert Slaughter against Iraq not because of any mythical threat to its interests from the regime of Saddam Hussein, but because U.S. imperialism needs this war to enforce its world hegemony. It wants to use this war to put the U.S. hand firmly on the strategically vital Near East oil tap, thus giving it decisive control over its energy-starved European and Japanese imperialist rivals, and to lock down its domination of a “unipolar” world. This is why there was great reluctance from France and Germany, together with now-capitalist Russia and the Chinese deformed workers state, over Bush’s war plans. In the end their vaunted “opposition” in the United Nations didn’t stop the U.S. war of aggression, and now the other big powers are scrambling to get in on a reconstruction bonanza. But in the longer term, these are more than more blips or tensions in the Atlantic Alliance. As the Balkan Wars of 1908-1913 set the stage for World War I, the war on Iraq is a giant lurch toward an inter-imperialist World War III.
The Internationalist Group and League for the Fourth International, standing on the program of the Russian revolutionaries V.I. Lenin and Leon Trotsky, have insistently called to defend Iraq and defeat the imperialists, first and foremost U.S. imperialism. This poses a struggle going far beyond the battlefield in Iraq. In the months and weeks prior to the invasion, the LFI agitated for transport workers from the docks of the U.S. West Coast to European rail and port workers to “hot cargo” (refuse to handle) war materiel. With the invasion under way, workers strikes against the war are all the more urgently needed – not ritual work stoppages and a parade but mobilizing proletarian power against the imperialist war machine and the capitalist governments waging the war. We say: the enemy is at home. The bloody U.S. onslaught underscores that Iraq has the right to any weapons it requires for its defense. The crimes of the imperialist rulers, who have slaughtered millions from Vietnam, Korea and Indonesia to Latin America, far exceed those of Saddam Hussein against the workers, leftists and oppressed of Iraq (and Iran); indeed, many of his crimes were carried out at the U.S.’ behest at a time when Hussein was Washington’s flunkey.
Italian trade unionists of the CGIL federation and antiwar activists stop NATO war train outside Vicenza, February 22. Mobilize the power of labor – For class war against the imperialist war! (Photo: Infophoto)
In our October 2002 statement, we noted: “The fight to defeat the imperialist war drive must be waged not only in Iraq but internationally, in particular in the imperialist countries, notably the United States.” While many opponents of the war on Iraq denounced the American Empire, they did not oppose imperialism, and thus they looked for support to the United Nations and European imperialists. “Peace” movements in the United States, Europe and throughout the capitalist world similarly sought “popular front” alliances with bourgeois politicians, such as Democratic Party “doves,” to ensure that the struggle against the war didn’t “get out of hand.” Yet all the Sturm und Drang at the UN did not stop Washington from launching its war. And as soon as the shooting began, the Democrats saluted the Republican commander-in-chief who seized the presidency in a barely disguised judicial coup, declaring they “support the troops.”
Both capitalist parties in the U.S. are war parties, and all the imperialists are warmongers. Whether or not they support this war they all supported the preceding war on Afghanistan and two wars on Yugoslavia (1995 and 1999). French president Chirac travels to Algeria posing as a champion of “peace” in Iraq while dispatching troops to protect French interests in neo-colonial Ivory Coast. To defeat this war, it is necessary to mobilize the power of the working class against the imperialist system. These days, some leftists and labor bureaucrats bandy about empty talk of a “general strike against the war,” by which they mean a ritual work stoppage and march. But you can’t stop imperialist war simply by folding your arms and parading. A real general strike, indeed any combative mobilization of proletarian power against the imperialist war, will quickly threaten the capitalist governments waging that war and pose the question of which class will rule. In fact, the governments of three of Bush’s satraps in his “coalition of the willing” – Tony Blair in Britain, Silvio Berlusconi in Italy and José María Aznar in Spain – are shaky and could be brought down through sharp class struggle. That would quickly lead to a struggle for power.
In the late 1930s, when the Japanese imperialists launched a war on China and the Italian imperialists invaded Ethiopia, the liberals and Stalinist and social-democratic reformists all looked to the impotent League of Nations, as they today look to the UN. Then as now, the Trotskyists have uniquely fought to defend the victims of the imperialist attacks, and to defeat the imperialists. While liberals tried to ward off the attack on Iraq by claiming that North Korea was the “real menace,” the LFI urgently calls for defense of the North Korean deformed workers state against imperialist nuclear blackmail and attack, warning that the imperialists are the menace to the working people and oppressed. To defeat the warmongers, we must build revolutionary workers parties in the struggle to reforge the Fourth International, fighting to defeat the imperialists and defend the semi-colonial countries and deformed workers states they seek to conquer. n
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