June 2003   

Defeat Colonial Occupation of Iraq
U.S. Imperialism Get the Hell Out!

Baghdad market bombing 26.03.03
Enraged survivor of the U.S. bombing of Baghdad market, March 26. (Photo: New York Times)

MAY 31 – “America broke Iraq; now America owns Iraq,” declared New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman on the day U.S. troops entered Baghdad. He was expressing the supreme arrogance of the imperialist rulers of the United States who fancy themselves masters of the world. They laid waste to the Iraqi capital, setting the center of the city ablaze to show off their firepower. They permitted and even encouraged the looters who have gutted virtually every functioning enterprise and service. Hospitals were stripped of their medicines, anesthetics and equipment while U.S. soldiers stood guard outside. The National Museum was ravaged, with invaluable remnants of the world’s oldest civilizations going back 10,000 years stolen or destroyed. The National Library was burned to the ground, destroying countless priceless manuscripts. You would have to go back centuries, to the Mongol sacking of Baghdad in 1258, said an English archeologist, to find vandalism on this scale. The administrator of the ministry of religious affairs differed: “When Baghdad fell to the Mongols in 1258, these books survived,” he said, referring to Korans over a thousand years old. “And now they didn’t survive.” Liberation? No, this was the deliberate destruction of a nation. Baghdad aflame and in ruins is the gory image of imperialist barbarism.

Only the Ministry of Oil survived intact, and Saddam Hussein’s moat-surrounded Republican Palace which was converted into the HQ of the short-lived Sheriff of Baghdad, General Jay Garner. When his boss, War Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, visited the opulent chandeliered quarters of the U.S. command in Iraq, Garner collared reporters to complain about negative stories about the chaos and widespread opposition to the occupiers. “We ought to look in a mirror and get proud, and stick out our chests and suck in our bellies and say, ‘Damn, we’re Americans!’” Garner declared (New York Times, 1 May). This ostentatious triumphalism could only further inflame the Iraqi population, while the Pentagon’s “Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance” he headed still couldn’t get power, water or any other vital service functioning. So the White House decided to replace Garner with the State Department’s “counterterrorism” man, L. Paul Bremer III. The new American proconsul will work together with the head of the U.S. military administration of Baghdad, General Buford C. Blount III, and they report in turn to George Bush II. As with the British before them, colonial rule and aristocratic pretension go hand in hand.

Meanwhile, Rumsfeld and the war hawks in Washington have been unable to install their quisling Ahmad Chalabi to give an Arab façade to their colonial rule, as Britain’s Lord Curzon did in the 1920s by putting “King” Feisal atop an invented throne. The Bush regime clearly saw a kindred spirit in Chalabi, a swindler who is despised throughout the Near East for emptying the coffers of Jordan’s Petra Bank and then escaping in the trunk of a car as bankruptcy loomed. Putting him in as the U.S.’ satrap in Iraq is like naming Enron’s Kenneth Lay, notorious for shamelessly enriching himself while milking the company dry. (But then, Enron was a big Bush backer.) Instead, Shiite clerics quickly moved to take over the teeming slum area of Baghdad (formerly known as Saddam City, now re-baptized al-Sadr City for a fundamentalist ayatollah executed by Hussein). In southern Iraq, a U.S.-backed imam, his pockets stuffed with dollars, was assassinated by Iranian-backed rivals. In the north, militias of the Kurdish Democratic Party and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, historic rival clans whose leaders have long been on the U.S. payroll, have moved into the cities of Mosul, Kirkuk and Erbil and are expelling tens of thousands of Arab residents in a wave of “ethnic cleansing” rivaling Hussein’s forced population transfers.

Rather than pulling troops out of Iraq, as the Pentagon operations chiefs had planned, the invasion force is being kept in place and they are sending in more units in an attempt to keep the situation from spiraling out of their control. The new U.S. masters are keeping their eyes on the prize, control of Iraq’s oil reserves. For years, official Washington has publicly professed non-interest in Iraqi oil: “We have no interest in Iraq’s oil,” intoned U.S. vice president Dick Cheney as American troops approached Baghdad. Yet while youthful antiwar protesters in Washington and New York intoned, “Hell no, we won’t go, we won’t die for Texaco,” U.S. commanders in the field had no compunctions: the first military supply depots set up inside Iraq were named Forward Operating Base Exxon and Forward Operating Base Shell. Meanwhile, politically well-connected U.S. oilfield companies Halliburton and Bechtel, armed with multi-billion-dollar contracts, have taken control of key oil fields, to the exclusion of their French and Russian competitors, while British companies are begging in Washington for subcontracts. The U.S. may barely control Iraq’s cities, but it is determined to ensure that to the victor go the spoils.

As Bush and Blair strut the world stage imitating Spanish conquistadors or Roman emperors, and looking instead more like characters out of Charlie Chaplin’s The Great Dictator, their conquest is far from secure. After bloody fighting in the south, where Iraqi paramilitary units managed to pin down advanced units of the U.S. strike force for days and hold up vital supply lines, resistance faded as the invaders approached Baghdad. Once again, after three days in which Iraqi soldiers “fought ferociously; when fired upon they had fired back” (New York Times), the army melted away literally overnight, and the American expeditionary force took the capital unhindered. U.S. soldiers draped a statue of Saddam Hussein with the stars-and-stripes before pulling it down with an army crane as some dozens looked on. War Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in Washington grandiosely compared it to “the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Iron Curtain.” But Rumsfeld’s “scenes of free Iraqis celebrating in the streets, riding American tanks” were purely imagined. Nowhere in central and southern Iraq were there crowds of people to greet the conquerors, and certainly not as liberators. Instead, there was mass popular opposition to the victors, and calls for them to get out.

From the outset, this criminal war had nothing to do with destroying “weapons of mass destruction” (WMDs), protecting “human rights,” replacing a tyrant through “regime change,” or any of the other threadbare pretexts cited by U.S. president George Bush and his British prime minister sidekick Tony Blair. There are no and were no WMDs, the rights of the Iraqi people were shredded by the invaders, and the new regime is far more tyrannical than two-bit dictator Saddam Hussein, who for years was America’s man in Baghdad. The war had a good deal to do with oil, although not in the simplistic sense of fueling gas-guzzling American SUVs, as petty-bourgeois ecology groups and various reformists claimed. It was outright colonialism, talking of spreading “democracy” as colonialists a century ago spoke of their “civilizing mission.” It certainly served the interests of the Zionist expansionists in Israel, who are gearing up to “ethnically cleanse” the Palestinians from the Occupied Territories. But above all, the invasion was about securing U.S. domination of  an imperialist “New World Order” which would reign supreme over the planet. Washington and Wall Street will use their control of the Near Eastern oil spigot to intimidate their imperialist allies/rivals, while U.S. troops in this pivotal country are used to intimidate the surrounding states, from Syria to Iran and beyond.

Although its immediate target was Iraq and the Near East, the “war without end” unleashed by the U.S. beginning with Afghanistan in 2001 is lurching headlong toward a new inter-imperialist global conflagration. For now, Washington wants to intimidate any potential “great power rival” by spilling rivers of Iraqi blood. Next up on the U.S. hit list may be North Korea, as Pentagon planners ready their contingency plans. As the Internationalist Group and League for the Fourth International warned in a statement last October, “Pentagon’s ‘First Strike’ Strategy: Careening Toward World War III” (The Internationalist No. 14, September-October 2002). The duty of revolutionists and all class-conscious workers, we have insisted, is to fight to defeat U.S. imperialism and defend Iraq. Following the program of V.I. Lenin and the Russian Bolsheviks in World War I, we called “For Class War Against the Imperialist War!” (The Internationalist No. 15, January-February 2003). In contrast to liberals and reformists in the West who looked to the United Nations or the French and German imperialists, while “Third World” nationalists similarly looked to “their own” bourgeois rulers to stand up to the Yankee invaders, Trotskyists look to the international working class to use its tremendous power in sharp class struggle against the war.

In the run-up to the invasion, the IG/LFI agitated for workers to refuse to handle (“hot cargo”) military goods and to carry out strike action against the looming war. We raised these calls with West Coast longshore workers in the United States last year and organized a worker/immigrant demonstration on the docks in Rotterdam, the Netherlands in February. This perspective was not “pie in the sky,” for train drivers in Scotland and railway workers together with antiwar movement activists in Italy temporarily blocked shipments of munitions, tanks, helicopters and other war materiel bound for the Gulf. On the day the invasion was launched, there were widespread walkouts by Italian and Spanish workers. Antiwar demonstrations were enormous, involving millions of protesters; even in the United States there were several demonstrations of more than 100,000 people against the war. But these “popular front” protests were dominated by bourgeois pressure politics, and the warmongers in Washington and London were impervious to pressure. Calls for Europe-wide strike action against the war fizzled for lack of revolutionary leadership; reformist pseudo-socialists simply enrolled “labor” as one more constituency in their “peace” crawls. The end result was a big zero.

These class-collaborationist coalitions of disparate forces were built on the lowest common denominator, which as always is the program of the bourgeois components: “no to war,” and now “no to colonial occupation.” Liberals and rad-libs also engaged in heavy red-baiting against leftist groups which were often the organizational backbone of the marches. The “moderates” wanted to make doubly sure that “the movement” didn’t go beyond the bounds of capitalism. But you can’t fight imperialist war on a platform of (bourgeois) democratic demands, for at bottom it is a class issue. Capitalist politicians of various stripes may squabble, but they recognize their common class interests: what they fear is a losing war. The antiwar movement wanted a different policy for imperialism, not a fight against the imperialist system that has produced one war after another over the last century. Their bottom-line appeal was that the war was unnecessary or counterproductive, that it would spur more terror attacks, that UN inspectors could look for Iraqi WMDs, etc. So as soon as the invasion started, the calls to “support our troops” (whose troops? their troops) had an impact on the pacifists, who added “bring them home.”  And as soon as Iraqi resistance collapsed and it looked like Bush & Blair could get away with murder, the “peace” movement collapsed as well.

In the aftermath, as the destruction of Iraq’s cities and economy continues day after day, U.S. troops have received orders to use more “muscle” to subdue the populace. When early in the fighting several captured American soldiers were shown on Iraqi TV, the Pentagon screamed about violations of the Geneva conventions on warfare. But now thousands of Iraqi soldiers are gagged, chained and hooded, with the International Red Cross denied access, although by any definition they are prisoners of war. When a revolt broke out at the Baghdad airport among these prisoners, it was mercilessly “dealt with” by U.S. authorities, who refused to confirm or deny having killed the “mutineers” (“Red Cross Denied Access to POWs,” London Observer, 25 May). Meanwhile, police-state repression is spreading in the victorious imperialist countries. Shotgun-wielding police in Oakland California fired a barrage of “non-lethal” munitions against dock workers and antiwar protesters in early April, sending several to the hospital. In New York City, a rash of police killings has occurred as cops stage raids using battering rams, flash grenades and other paramilitary weaponry. Across the U.S. and Europe, immigrants are under attack, particularly those from Arab or predominantly Muslim countries. In “old Europe,” workers’ social gains are under frontal attack. This is the “home front” of imperialist war.

The war on Iraq, as we have insisted, is a war on oppressed minorities, immigrants, poor and working people everywhere. Saddam Hussein and his generals put up only minimal resistance, but the Iraqi people are fighting back daily against the colonial occupiers. The peace movement didn’t even slow down Bush’s invasion, but the mass protests showed the deep discontent across the globe with a New World Order based on the subjugation of the exploited and oppressed peoples of the world. The war is not over, say the warmongers themselves. Meanwhile, the world capitalist economy is heading toward a depression, with spreading deflation and mounting unemployment. As the dollar and the euro battle for supremacy, the prospect is for escalating trade wars heading ultimately toward a thermonuclear World War III. What is urgently required is a revolutionary leadership to mobilize all those that the imperialists would enslave, behind the one social force that has the power to defeat the new colonialists and would-be emperors, the international proletariat. To bring down the barbarous imperialist system of war, racism and poverty it will take nothing less than international socialist revolution.

Wanton Imperialist Slaughter and Bitter Iraqi Resistance

The war was a merciless slaughter of Iraqi soldiers and civilians. How many? The imperialist rulers are silent. The response of the Pentagon is who knows, who cares, who’s counting? “You know, we don’t do body counts,” declared General Tommy Franks a year ago responding to reports of mass killings in the war on Afghanistan. The U.S.’ lying body counts in Vietnam became notorious, so they just redefined the civilian dead as “collateral damage.” According to an article in the Christian Science Monitor (22 May), “Preliminary reports suggest casualties well above the Gulf War.” Estimates of the number of non-combatants killed in the recent war range up to 10,000, but they may greatly understate the actual numbers. According to the New York Times, hospitals in Basra reported up to 2,000 corpses in three weeks of fighting over the city; the Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict reports that its volunteers have recorded more than 1,000 civilian deaths in the southern town of Nasiriya; and the Los Angeles Times canvassed hospitals in Baghdad, whose figures estimate as many as 2,700 civilians killed there. And these figures leave out huge numbers pulverized and blasted to bits by the powerful U.S. munitions, or burned or buried in the rubble. 

As for Iraqi soldiers, after the expected mass desertions didn’t materialize, the Pentagon ordered an indiscriminate massacre. A Marine lieutenant summed it up, “Our goal is to kill as many of the bad guys as possible.” The New York Times (10 April) wrote: “The bombing campaign that accompanied ground actions to squeeze Iraqi military units into ever-smaller ‘kill boxes’ almost certainly left thousands of soldiers dead, perhaps tens of thousands. But the world will probably never know how many, and no Iraqi authority is left to count them and notify their families.” Jonathan Steele, in the London Guardian (28 May), estimates that based on his interviews with officers and soldiers in Baghdad, the toll of fighters killed may be from 13,500 to 45,000. “All over Baghdad on walls of mosques or outside private homes, pieces of black cloth inscribed with yellow lettering bear witness to the thousands of Iraqis killed in the American-led war,” he writes. “As far as Iraqis are concerned all the dead are ‘martyrs,’ whether they fell defending their country or were struck when missiles or cluster bombs hit their homes.”

And these horrendous crimes were committed not only by the Pentagon brass who ordered  them but by the U.S. soldiers that carried them out. Take the pair of Marine snipers swapping combat tales reported by the New York Times (29 March): “We had a great day,” said one. “We killed a lot of people.... We dropped a few civilians, but what do you do?” Describing shooting a woman standing next to an Iraqi soldier, he remarked casually: “the chick was in the way.” A private described machine-gunning a young Iraqi boy who stooped to pick up a rocket-propelled grenade launcher off the body of a dead fighter: “I think they thought we wouldn’t shoot kids. But we showed them we don’t care” (Reuters, 7 April). An American colonel said his aim was to establish “violent supremacy” with “smashmouth tactics…. The crueler it is, the sooner it’s over.” Asked about his troops’ gunpoint encounters with Iraqi civilians, he replied, “You’ll never make them like you.” His aim was to show that there were new “alpha males” in the country. “It’s over for us,” he said, when the last Iraqi fighter “has flies crawling across his eyeballs” (New York Times Magazine, 20 April).

The massacres reflecting this kill-crazed mentality were legion. There were the three busloads of civilians on a Baghdad bridge rocketed by missiles from an Apache helicopter; the killing of 13 women and children in a van at a checkpoint outside Najaf; the deliberate bombings of Baghdad markets that killed up to 60 civilians. The Iraq war will turn many of those who did this dirty work for U.S. imperialism into rabid pathological killers, like members of Salvadoran death squads or Israeli soldiers who gun down children throwing rocks at tanks. Recall that Timothy McVeigh, who blew up the Oklahoma City federal building, was trained to be a mass murderer in the 1991 Gulf War where he drove a bulldozer that buried surrendering Iraqi soldiers alive. Asked about the 19 children who died in the 1995 blast, McVeigh called them “collateral damage” – the same cynical phrase the Pentagon used to describe civilians massacred in the U.S. bombing of Iraqi cities. Many of those who today revel in slaughtering Iraqis are future members of strikebreaking squads and fascist militias that will be the mortal enemies of the workers movement.

The Americans are not the only war criminals. British colonel Tim Collins, who was praised by Bush and Prince Charles for his supposedly gallant battle orders to his troops, is now the subject of a war crimes investigation for pistol-whipping a Baath party official and shooting at civilians’ feet. Collins was commander of the Royal Irish Regiment, which has close ties to Northern Ireland Protestant rightists and played a key role in repression of Catholics in Belfast. Another British officer in Iraq, Brigadier General Gordon Kerr, was formerly head of the British army’s secret intelligence outfit, the Force Research Unit, which a recent London police investigation revealed provided intelligence aid to the UDA Loyalist (Protestant) death squad in murdering Catholics. Kerr is being prosecuted for collusion in the 1989 assassination of Catholic lawyer Pat Finucane (BBC News, 16 April). And now a new scandal has erupted as the London Sun (30 May) broke the story of photos of torture and sexual abuse of POWs by British troops, including suspension from a fork-lift, rape and sodomy of Iraqi prisoners stripped naked.

But the Iraq war consisted not only of endless slaughter. There was stubborn and valiant military resistance in the southern Iraqi cities of Basra, Nasiriya, Kut, Diwaniya, Najaf and Hilla, although the “embedded” imperialist media gave little sense of the scope of the fighting. The Pentagon media control machine suppressed the fact that dozens of U.S. soldiers were killed on a single day in Nasiriya. A doctor who flew with a combat evacuation team later described the scene:

“Enemy tanks were burning alongside the road. A small oil refinery was in flames – so were buildings across the city. Looking down, we could see marines fighting house-to-house, kicking in doors. Occasionally, dark-clothed men would run into the open, fire from their automatic weapons, and then dart out of view. Thousands of Iraqis lined the streets and balconies to watch…. On the north side of town we found the site of the ambush. It was hard to miss: three destroyed amphibious personnel carriers – also known as Amtracks – were burning.”
New York Times, 20 April

A corporal wounded in Nasiriya said they had been told to expect mass surrenders, but when they got into the city, “it was a whole different ball game. They weren’t rolling over like we thought they would” (Newsday, 28 March). A brigade commander in the Army’s Third Division said of the ambushes, sniping and suicide attacks by “the enemy”: “I have to give the guy credit. He has figured out how to stop us.” A sergeant who fought in the Gulf War said he saw nothing like this in Kuwait “It’s a big difference. When you’re defending your homeland, maybe you fight a little harder” (“Death and Doubt on the Road to Baghdad,” New York Times, 13 April).

And the resistance has continued, even after Hussein’s army and militias dissolved. In a matter of days after the U.S. army took Baghdad, there were mass demonstrations in the capital with thousands chanting “Down, down U.S.A. – Don’t stay, go away!” The same day (April 15), a reported 20,000 marched in Nasiriya against the occupation. Particularly in the south and in Baghdad, these demonstrations have been dominated by Shiite Islamic fundamentalists. But not everywhere. In fact, there have been massive protests against the U.S. occupation forces throughout the Shiite and Sunni Muslim Arab regions. These have been particularly bitter in cities where U.S. troops have carried out massacres of the local population. In the northern city of Mosul, Special Operations forces wheeled around town in mid-April ostentatiously flying oversize American flags. Rather than intimidating, it infuriated the population. When a crowd gathered to stop the looting of a bank, U.S. troops shot directly into the crowd, killing at least ten. The next day as even larger crowds denounced the killings, soldiers again shot into the crowd; by the end of the week, 31 Iraqis had been killed and 150 wounded.

Two weeks later another massacre took place in the western Iraqi city of Falluja, with 18 Iraqis killed. Now guerrilla bands have formed in the area and in late May they launched attacks on U.S. occupation forces. In several days of fighting, partisans assaulted a military checkpoint in the city and later ambushed a column of American military vehicles, killing at least five of the invaders, knocking out an armored vehicle and destroying a helicopter. A former brigadier in the disbanded Republican Guard said the aim was to exact revenge for the martyrs of Falluja, vowing “if you come as an invader, we will cut off your heads, and we will show them what street fighting is.” A New York Times (28 May) reporter described the city as “a bastion of hostility and resistance to occupation.” Another man declared, “We want to be free. We can govern ourselves. A million Saddam Husseins would be better than having one American soldier in our streets.” Rather than a rear-guard action by the now-dissolved Iraqi army, these attacks are a reaction to the brutality of the U.S. occupiers. With such harassing actions and the popular hostility to the new rulers, Bush & Co. may have gotten more than they bargained for.

Clearly, Washington misjudged the reaction of the Iraqi population to the invasion, and this will continue to haunt the occupiers. It is hardly the first time in history this has happened. The Pentagon thought the Cuban people would rise up to greet the gusano invaders at the Bay of Pigs in 1961, but instead peasants and workers rallied to defend the gains of their revolution. In Iraq, no sector but the Kurdish clans who have long been in the pay of the CIA welcomed U.S. troops. Much of the population was hostile from the outset, and reacted with fury to the bloodbath of the indiscriminate bombing. But they did not rise up to defend the regime, for there were no revolutionary gains for the impoverished, exploited and oppressed Iraqi masses to defend. The Baath (Arab Socialist Party) regime was a rather typical bourgeois-nationalist military regime, rife with corruption, which used a heavy hand of massive repression to dominate the disparate country inherited from British imperialism. Relative advances compared to the oil sheikdoms, monarchies and Islamic fundamentalists in surrounding areas (industrial development, public health and schools, a degree of equality for women), were largely gutted by the 1991 Gulf War, a decade of brutal UN sanctions and Hussein’s concessions to Islamic forces.

Despite its bravado against Bush, the Baath regime simply collapsed. The resistance to the occupiers comes not so much from die-hard defenders of Saddam Hussein, but from nationalists and Islamists and the mass of the population who don’t want to see themselves enslaved and their country again turned into a colony. Today, Islamic fundamentalists are increasingly assertive, particularly among the downtrodden Shiite population of southern Iraq and in the slums of Baghdad. Several ayatollahs are jockeying for advantage, proclaiming themselves leaders and claiming to have the imprimatur of clerical authorities in the Shiite religious center of Najaf. The U.S. is trying to buy some of them, Iran is backing others. Any real fight against imperialism and the new colonizers will require a class struggle uniting the working people and oppressed of all the ethnic and religious/communal groups against the bankrupt remnants of the Baath, the religious reactionaries who would take the country back to the dark ages of medieval obscurantism, and the blood-drenched imperialist overlords who are now laying waste to Iraq after bombing and bleeding it for years.

Fight for Workers Revolution in Iraq and a Socialist Federation of the Near East

Inside Iraq, the most aggressive political forces have been those of religious reaction. In southern cities, liquor store owners have been murdered. Female university students in Basra are harassed if they do not wear the Islamic hijab to cover their hair. Women in the conservative city of Najaf are now afraid to venture into the streets without the head-to-toe black abbaya. Rumsfeld declares that an Islamic fundamentalist regime in Iraq “isn’t going to happen.” Christian fundamentalist missionaries including Franklin Graham, who swore in George Bush II as president and declared Islam “a very evil and wicked religion,” are gearing up to evangelize the “heathen” in Iraq, which could produce a Muslim backlash against the “infidels.” Yet U.S. rulers, who claimed to support women’s rights in Afghanistan, are financing Shiite clerics in Baghdad who denounce women for wearing cosmetics and Western clothing. From the 1950s on, the United States has had a conscious policy of supporting Islamic fundamentalists against radical Arab nationalists and Communists. The financing of the anti-Soviet mujahedin in Afghanistan by the Democratic Carter and Republican Reagan administrations was nothing new.

Today, there is broad opposition to the U.S.’ presence from Shiites and Sunnis, Islamicists and Iraqi and Arab nationalists. Fatwas (religious edicts) from Washington bigwigs about not permitting an Islamic clerical regime may expose the “democratic” pretenses of the Bush regime. But U.S. rulers would dearly like some kind of Islamic front for their colonial rule. In any case, liberation of the working men and women of Iraq from their martyrdom cannot come through a political coalition with such arch-reactionaries. This was dramatically demonstrated at the time of the 1979 downfall of the shah of Iran. The vast majority of the Iranian left joined with the ayatollah Khomeini and the mullahs in a common front against the hated, U.S.-backed shah. On the morrow of their “victory,” the Khomeiniites turned on their “allies,” stoning unveiled women, jailing thousands of leftists, hanging legions of Communists and mercilessly persecuting homosexuals, Zoroastrians, Kurds and other non-Farsi speakers. What was and is still needed in Iran, and is urgently needed in Iraq today, is an authentic communist party based on the Trotskyist program of permanent revolution, which intransigently fights against the imperialist invaders and all the domestic reactionaries, from Hussein to the Islamic fundamentalists.

The Iraqi Communist Party was the sole political force which historically had significant support among the Kurds, Sunni and Shiite Arabs, as well as among Assyrian Christian and Jewish minorities. Yet its Stalinist program of “revolution in stages,” condemned the ICP to decimation as it vainly sought to ally with one bourgeois force after another, from nationalist colonel Karim Qasim to the Baath party of Saddam Hussein. A recent UPI dispatch detailed how Hussein had long been a CIA “asset,” going back to when he was part of a CIA assassination squad that tried to murder Qasim in 1959 in retaliation for his overtures to the Soviet Union. Qasim arrested the ICP leaders and persecuted party members. Later when the Baath party came to power, in a 1963 coup sanctioned by U.S. president Kennedy, Hussein immediately began hunting down Communists. The UPI reported:

“The CIA provided the submachine gun-toting Iraqi National Guardsmen with lists of suspected communists who were then jailed, interrogated, and summarily gunned down, according to former U.S. intelligence officials with intimate knowledge of the executions….
 “A former senior U.S. State Department official told UPI: ‘We were frankly glad to be rid of them. You ask that they get a fair trial? You have to be kidding. This was serious business.’
“A former senior CIA official said: ‘It was a bit like the mysterious killings of Iran’s communists just after Ayatollah Khomeini came to power in 1979. All 4,000 of his communists suddenly got killed’.”

Yet despite the 1963 massacre of Communists, the ICP later accepted Hussein’s offer to join a “national unity” government, only to be hit again by bloody repression.

The Iraqi CP kept repeating the bloody experience of the Chinese Communists, who on Stalin’s orders they remained in coalition with the nationalist Kuomintang even as KMT leader Chiang Kai-shek was massacring them in Shanghai in 1927. Today, the imperialist media compare Hussein to Stalin, but his Baath regime more closely resembled the Kuomintang, whose murderous methods, paramilitary organization and nationalist anti-Communist political line (including cooperating with the imperialists) he imitated. Following the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s, in which the ICP was initially neutral and later split, and the 1991 Gulf War, the remnants of this once-strong party became part of the “Iraqi National Congress,” a front set up and paid by the CIA. Instead of sidling up to Hussein, this put them in league with U.S. imperialism, Shiite Islamic fundamentalists and crooks like Chalabi! In the months leading up to the invasion, the ICP sought to hide its unsavory connections by joining peace demonstrations in London and elsewhere.

On the day the invasion was launched, the ICP appealed to UN secretary general Kofi Annan to end the war. Yet when U.S. troops took Baghdad, the ICP issued an April 10 statement declaring that “the fall of the hated dictator is greeted,” while expressing pious hopes that the war would quickly end. At the same time they pretend to oppose the occupation, these “Communists” declared that “we hold the United States and Great Britain, as occupying powers, fully responsible for safeguarding the lives and property of the Iraqi people.” What hypocrisy! Genuine communists would fight to drive out the imperialists, not call on them to guarantee the property of Iraqi capitalists. The editorial of the ICP newspaper, Tareeq Al-Sha’ab (April 2003), called for an “interim patriotic and democratic coalition government,” preceded by a United Nations administration of the country. So once again they call for a “democratic” (bourgeois) regime supervised by the UN tool of imperialist rule! The ICP are nothing but puppets of imperialism.

The Worker Communist Party of Iraq (WCPI) has a line to the left of the ICP. The WCPI did not join U.S. imperialism’s Iraqi puppet “national congress,” and it has sharply denounced the threat of Islamic fundamentalism. But in practical terms, their policies are similar. Like the ICP, the WCPI looked to building the popular-front “peace” movement in the West, complaining only that antiwar demonstrations in London included Islamic fundamentalist speakers. (What about the presence of bourgeois imperialist politicians?) The WCPI statement on the fall of the “fascist Baath regime” calls to “build a socialist republic by establishing the authority of masses’ councils.” But instead of calling for a regime based on workers councils, leading the peasantry and other oppressed sectors, a May Day speech by WCPI leader Rebwar Ahmad in Kirkuk explains that “toilers and progressive people in different neighborhoods should immediately form their own councils.” This amounts to an appeal for a class-collaborationist “popular front” with “progressive” bourgeois elements, as in the antiwar movement in the West. 

In an analysis of the present “complex and intricate” situation by WCPI spokesman Azar Majedi, under the heading “What is to be done?” it declares: “The best practical demand at present is the withdrawal of American and British forces and the intervention of the United Nations.” Fight for a “socialist republic” through UN intervention?! This is bringing in the Stalinist concept of a “revolution in stages” by the back door. Thus in practice, both the Iraqi Communist Party and Workers Communist Party oriented toward building the popular-front “peace” movement, and both call today for the UN to take over in Iraq. Moreover, neither the ICP nor the WCPI fought to defend Iraq from the imperialist attack or to defeat imperialism. Instead of calling for determined resistance to the invaders – for revolutionary war against the imperialists that would also sweep away the Baath regime – they intoned platitudes about peace and stood by as the colonialists went about destroying Iraq. Indeed, the WCPI’s labeling of the Hussein regime as “fascist” is its political excuse for allying with other bourgeois forces against it. In an exchange with the Internationalist Group at an antiwar march in New York City last December, WCPI supporters made clear that their objection was to the war and sanctions, not to political blocs with capitalist elements or appeals to imperialism. 

The WCPI criticizes the British Socialist Workers Party of the late Tony Cliff for hobnobbing with Islamic fundamentalists, which directly threatens women in Iraq today. Indeed, when the issue of women’s rights was acutely posed in the 1980s battle over Afghanistan, the anti-Soviet Cliffites hailed the U.S.-backed mujahedin while Trotskyists hailed the Soviet Army intervention against the CIA’s “holy warriors” who killed women teachers and imprisoned Afghan women in shrouds. Cliff & Co. even gave a “theoretical” justification for their support to Islamic fundamentalism, in an essay by Chris Harman, “The Prophet and the Proletariat” (International Socialism, Autumn 1994). The Trotskyists defended the bureaucratically degenerated Soviet workers state against imperialism, whereas the Cliffites labeled the USSR “state capitalist” and refused to defend it, thus siding with imperialism. (Similarly, the WCPI considers the Soviet Union under Stalin and his heirs to be a “state-ist and managed” form of “capitalist national economy.”) And we point out that in no capitalist country of the region has the battle to free women from the veil been won as it was in Soviet Central Asia, despite Stalin’s bureaucratic methods. From Afghanistan yesterday to Iraq today, the “Russian question” is key.

The struggle against Islamic fundamentalism, the fight for the liberation of women, the achievement of the emancipation of the Kurdish people are not possible under the rule of the bourgeoisie or the supervision of the UN. The Islamists feed off the desperation and abject poverty of the masses of the Near East and the obscurantism sponsored by the oil-rich reactionary regimes installed by the imperialists. Iraqi women will not be free until workers rule sweeps away the Islamic reactionaries and the bourgeois nationalists who conciliate them, establishing a socialist economy which lays the basis for genuine emancipation. The Kurdish people will not be united unless bourgeois rule is overthrown in all of the several capitalist states which oppress them. This can only come about by joining the myriad peoples, nationalities and ethnic groups in a common struggle for workers revolution, for a socialist federation of the entire region, including centrally a fight for Arab/Hebrew workers revolution in Palestine.

Under the bourgeoisie, Iraq – a country cobbled together by the British colonialists from several disparate regions – can only be ruled by a ruthless regime, whether nationalists like the Baath or the puppet monarchy, doing the bidding of their imperialist masters. When they slip the leash, as Qasim and Hussein did in different ways, they are eventually crushed while the working masses pay the price in bloody and years of starvation “sanctions.” If the Sunnis were on top in Hussein’s regime, now the terms of oppression are being reversed. Even an isolated “socialist republic” in Iraq would be prey to imperialist domination and conquest: the bankruptcy of Stalin’s nationalist dogma of building “socialism in one country” has been proven. Only a truly internationalist communist party, a Leninist-Trotskyist vanguard of the proletariat, can bring together the exploited and oppressed masses, overcoming national and ethnic hatreds on the basis of common revolutionary class interests and join their struggles with those of the workers of Europe, the U.S. and Japan.

The fight to drive the U.S./British colonial occupiers from Iraq must be championed by the working class throughout the world. International socialist revolution, extending to the imperialist centers, is vital to the emancipation of the toilers of the East from colonial and semi-colonial slavery. n

To contact the Internationalist Group and the League for the Fourth International, send e-mail to: internationalistgroup@msn.com