November 2003  

Drive the Imperialists Out of Iraq, Afghanistan!
Drive the Zionists Out of the West Bank, Gaza!

Sink U.S. Imperialism in the
Quicksands of the Near East!

Falluja burial, 7 July 2003  
Burial in Falluja, July 1. (Photo: Lynsey Addario/New York Times)

NOVEMBER 5 – The imperialist occupiers of Iraq are taking a pounding lately, and that is a very good thing for the vast mass of humanity. Ten Katyusha rockets slammed into the Al-Rashid Hotel October 26, followed the next day by nearly simultaneous car bombs hitting four police stations (and the Red Cross headquarters). As roadside bombs took out an Abrams tank, a Blackhawk helicopter was brought down by a rocket-propelled grenade, sending the “post-war” death toll among U.S. troops above the total dead in the March-April invasion. Then came the weekend of November 2-3, in which 20 occupation troops were killed, most of them in a Chinook helicopter that was hit by a surface-to-air missile. It was the bloodiest day for the invaders since their March 23 debacle at Nasiriya. And as U.S. casualties mount (400 dead and several thousand wounded), so does discontent on the “home front” over the “war without end” launched by Washington. Of course, there is no mention in the media of the more than 15,000 Iraqis slaughtered during the U.S./British invasion and the thousands killed since then.

The Bush White House and its proconsul (as the Roman empire used to call its colonial governors) in Baghdad, Paul Bremer III, try to brush it all off as the work of mercenaries, Al Qaeda Islamic fundamentalist fanatics and “dead-enders” left over from the Baath Party regime of Iraqi nationalist strongman Saddam Hussein. For Washington, it has to be foreigners or Baathists, for the Iraqis were supposed to have “greeted” the “coalition” armies. Not only has no evidence been presented of an onslaught of “foreigners” (other than the 146,000 U.S. troops and 20,000 “allies”), not only do U.S. commanders on the spot dismiss this fantasy, it is clear to all that the resistance has massive support from the population. There are no jungles to hide in, yet the resisters are able to operate with impunity. No one dares betray them, and not because they fear the eventual return of Saddam, but because their neighbors would lynch them then and there. Every blow struck by the Iraqi people against their bloody U.S. colonial masters and the occupation armies is a blow on behalf of the exploited and oppressed of the world.

The invasion and colonial occupation of Afghanistan and now Iraq have nothing to do with a “war on terror,” except that this is the current pretext being used by U.S. imperialism for its wars of aggression. (Under Democrat Clinton, the United States twice waged war on Yugoslavia, in 1995 and 1999, and invaded Haiti, all in the name of “human rights.”) The takeover of Iraq had nothing to do with finding “weapons of mass destruction”: every U.S. and U.N. agency knew there were none in Iraq, and plenty in the Pentagon arsenal. (In fact, if Saddam Hussein did have “WMDs” the U.S. would have been far less eager to invade. And in any case, communists uphold the right of semi-colonial Iraq to have any kind of weapons it could get its hands on to defend itself against imperialism.) The war on the country with the world’s second-largest petroleum reserves did have a lot to do with oil: not that the United States needed to import Iraqi oil, but U.S. rulers want control over the supply of this vital commodity to their imperialist allies and rivals. And the war had everything to do with American imperialism’s drive to nail down its global hegemony as the “sole superpower” for years to come.

From the outset, the Republican government of Texas energy company executives, military contractors and Zionist war hawks with George W. Bush as its titular head has had a singular focus on grabbing Iraq. The movers and shakers in this administration are determined to “remake the map” of the Near East, calculating that by using U.S. military and technological prowess they could “shock and awe” local potentates and regional populations into submission. Yet the plans to overthrow the Saddam Hussein regime and the blueprints for the terrorist “war on terror” were drawn up by the Democratic government of Wall Street execs, Hollywood money men and NATO war hawks under Bill Clinton. The wars on Afghanistan and Iraq, like those on Yugoslavia, were voted for by both Republicans and Democrats in Congress. The U.S. has a “bipartisan” imperialist foreign policy today as it did during the anti-Soviet Cold War, and their differences are at most tactical. Impotent anti-war marches pushing for a more liberal foreign policy will not put an end to this “war without end.” What’s needed is international socialist revolution to sweep away the imperialist system of war, poverty and racism.

And it’s urgently needed before the capitalist-imperialist warmongers manage to set off a global conflagration. The League for the Fourth International has repeatedly warned that the wars on Afghanistan and Iraq are preparing the way for an inter-imperialist World War III, much as the 1908-13 Balkan Wars set the stage for World War I and the fighting in Spain, Ethiopia and China led up to World War II. Only this war would be fought with real, not mythical, “weapons of mass destruction” in the hands of those who actually have them – the imperialists. The U.S.’ ultimate target in the second Iraq war (as well as the first) was not a tinpot dictator and former American toady in Baghdad, but the rival European imperialists in Paris and Berlin. For their part, the European governments that demurred at Washington’s war drive did so not because they oppose imperialist war (look at Yugoslavia) but because they wanted to get a measure of control and a share of the spoils. Now that Bush is asking for money and troops, the U.N. Security Council unanimously voted a resolution authorizing a U.S.-led “multinational” occupation force and endorsing Washington’s hand-picked Iraqi puppet “governing council.” 

Israeli fence, August 2003

Israeli fence completely surrounds Qalqilya, August 2003. (Photo: New York Times)

Meanwhile, the kill-crazed Zionists led by Ariel Sharon, the infamous butcher of Sabra and Shatila, are gearing up to drive tens and possibly hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their West Bank and Gaza homes in a mammoth “ethnic cleansing” that they euphemistically call “transfer.” They are pushing ahead with construction of a wall penetrating deep into Palestinian lands on the West Bank, in order to annex those areas to Israel. They are killing off Palestinian leaders and brazenly preparing to assassinate Yasir Arafat. They are perfectly capable of plunging the world into a thermonuclear holocaust, and in fact were preparing to do so in the 1973 war when Israeli premier Golda Meir ordered atomic weapons moved to airfields for loading on planes to be dropped on Arab capitals. Yet, just as the U.S. is floundering about in Iraq, unable to dominate the country with the expeditionary force on hand and unable to get more troops, the Zionists’ provocations could blow up in their faces. The second Palestinian intifada (uprising) has been going on for more than three years as the desperate Arab population of the Occupied Territories feels they have nothing to lose. A full-scale attack on Syria or mass expulsion of Palestinians could trigger an explosion of popular unrest throughout the region.

Pentagon chief Donald Rumsfeld borrowed his Blitzkrieg tactics, indiscriminate aerial bombing and plans for burning Baghdad from the German Nazis. Now U.S. military planners are watching films like the Battle of Algiers to glean tips from the French about how to wage a colonial “dirty war.” They believe they have learned the lessons of Vietnam, and scoff at the idea of a “quagmire” in the Near East. Yet in all their voluminous contingency plans, they didn’t prepare for guerrilla insurgency with mass popular support. That is what they now have on their blood-soaked hands in Iraq, while Taliban forces continue to harass occupation troops in Afghanistan. The image of invincibility projected by the U.S. is ultimately an illusion intended to intimidate. To be sure, the Yankee imperialists have great military and economic strengths, but their great weakness is that this all rests on a working class that they ruthlessly exploit and use as “cannon fodder” for their wars. Their wage slaves and gladiators could rebel instead of saluting their oppressors as they are about to die.

Imperialist War on Iraq = Capitalist War on Workers and Oppressed

The strutting American imperialists thought, like the British colonialists of the 19th century, that a “whiff of the grapeshot” would be enough to put an end to military resistance in Iraq. Richard Perle, one of the architects of the attack on Iraq, told PBS’ program Wide Angle (11 July 2002): “Support for Saddam, including within his military organization, will collapse at the first whiff of gunpowder. Now, it isn’t going to be over in 24 hours, but it isn’t going to be months either.” Well, it has been months, and attacks are intensifying. In fact, there was considerable resistance almost from the beginning of the invasion. There was no rout of the Iraqi army, which just melted away only to give rise to guerrilla skirmishes. But opposition to the invaders is not just military. Mass demonstrations of tens of thousands of Iraqis against the U.S./British occupation have taken place not only in the “Sunni triangle” but repeatedly in the capital Baghdad, in the Shiite religious center Najaf and in cities throughout central and southern Iraq, as well as in Mosul and Kirkuk, the major cities in the north. Moreover, there are now reports of a revival of workers’ struggles including armed pickets successfully resisting an attempt to shut down a brick factory.

The Washington war hawks and their mouthpieces keep trying to put a positive spin on everything. Paul Wolfowitz (known in Washington as “Wolfowitz of Arabia”) took along a planeload of journalists for a happy-face tour to show off “progress.” Instead he just missed getting hit by rockets in the most secure zone in Iraq’s capital. After the Al-Rashid hotel attack, “Baghdad Bob” Bremer remarked that “we’re going to have good days and bad days,” but “fortunately, the good days do outnumber the bad days” (Los Angeles Times, 27 October). It has an eerie feeling of the “light at the end of the tunnel” that General Westmoreland claimed to see in Vietnam. “It can’t be fun being occupied,” quipped Bremer. And then came the incident of “Chinook down” near Falluja, the epicenter of Iraqi armed resistance. Reporters who rushed to the scene found peasants cheering. An American captain stationed in Falluja earlier told British journalist Robert Fisk that many of the attacks were carried out by “local freedom fighters” (Independent, 24 October). 

This widespread opposition has greatly demoralized the occupation troops, who expected to be greeted with flowers and hugs and instead are getting blasted with RPGs and SAMs and homemade bombs. The Pentagon-funded Army newspaper Stars and Stripes reported that in a survey of almost 2,000 soldiers in all parts of Iraq, 49 percent described morale in their units as “low.” When a first group of soldiers were given two weeks leave for rest and recreation in the U.S., 30 of them went absent without leave (Washington Post, 21 October). The GI Rights Hotline reported that calls from soldiers inquiring about going AWOL have gone up by 75 percent, and a court affidavit referred to 50 soldiers deserting. Others desperate to get out of Iraq tell counselors they plan to shoot themselves in the foot in order to get sent back, and the “in-country” suicide rate is reportedly far higher than it was in Vietnam (the Pentagon won’t release figures). In this “volunteer” army, commanders are concerned that fully half of soldiers surveyed in Iraq say they definitely won’t reenlist. And ABC-TV News (16 July) reported:

“The sergeant at the 2nd Battle Combat Team Headquarters pulled me aside in the corridor. ‘I’ve got my own “Most Wanted” list,’ he told me. He was referring to the deck of cards the U.S. government published, featuring Saddam Hussein, his sons and other wanted members of the former Iraqi regime.

“‘The aces in my deck are Paul Bremer, Donald Rumsfeld, George Bush and Paul Wolfowitz,’ he said.”

Meanwhile, reports filter out of soldiers’ family members fuming as tours in Iraq were suddenly extended. “Frustrations became so bad recently at Fort Stewart, Ga., that a colonel, meeting with 800 seething spouses, most of them wives, had to be escorted from the session. ‘They were crying, cussing, yelling and screaming for their men to come back,’ said Lucia Braxton, director of community services at Fort Stewart,” reported the New York Times (July 4). Increasingly, anger is turning to protest as soldiers’ family members participate in antiwar marches. Among the general population, opinion surveys report that half now disapprove of Bush’s handling of the Iraq occupation. Discontent is so rife that Democratic presidential candidates (the “nine dwarves”) are competing over who is the real “peace” candidate. Vermont governor Howard Dean, Ohio congressman Denis Kucinich, former Illinois senator Carol Moseley Brown and New York’s Al Sharpton have now been joined by General Wesley Clark, who commanded the 1999 war on Serbia under Clinton.

But none of this deters the Bush gang in the White House and their allies, who are bent on “bringing the war home” by launching a full-scale assault on workers, women, minorities and immigrants, targeting a broad range of rights for annihilation. Employers across the country are trying to foist health insurance costs onto the backs of their employees. This week, Congress voted and the president signed the first law banning forms of abortion since the Supreme Court’s 1973  Roe v. Wade decision legalized a woman’s right to terminate unwanted pregnancies. The week before, the Homeland Security Agency staged a nationwide raid against Wal-Mart stores that picked up 250 undocumented immigrant maintenance workers. In July, poor black residents of Benton Harbor, Michigan found their community occupied by police armored personnel carriers. Now Congress is preparing to use the bait of prescription drug coverage to begin dismantling Medicaid. And above all the war is a battering ram for the assault on democratic rights under the U.S.A. Patriot Act, Homeland Security Act and other police-state measures.

Thus the fight against the war on Iraq is intimately linked to the fight for free abortion on demand; for free high-quality medical care for all; for full citizenship rights for all immigrants; for mobilizing the power of the working class to defend embattled black ghettos, Latino barrios and Asian neighborhoods from racist attack; and to defending democratic and workers rights against assault. This can only be accomplished by leading these struggles to their necessary conclusion: socialist revolution.

Not “Social-Patriotism” But Internationalist Class War Against Imperialist War

As we have said from the outset, the imperialist war on Iraq and Afghanistan is at the same time a capitalist war on working people and the oppressed “at home.” Looking to the capitalist Democratic Party is a recipe for defeat. The very fact that a certified war criminal like General Clark (who ordered the bombing of a maternity hospital in Belgrade, had his planes shoot up Serbian refugee buses and trains, and presided over the “cleansing” of Serbs from Kosovo) could pass himself off as a “peace” candidate speaks volumes. Or that the reputed “progressive” Dean appeals to Southern racists with Confederate flags of slavery and KKK terror on their pick-ups. The bosses’ war “at home” and abroad must be defeated by sharp class struggle, by class war against imperialist war. Defeats for the imperialists benefit the struggles of the oppressed around the globe. The death penalty was put on hold in 1972 and abortion was legalized in the U.S. in 1973 as a result of mass protests and the U.S.’ defeat on the battlefield in Vietnam. South African blacks fighting apartheid, and Angola’s successful fight (with Cuban aid) against a South African invasion in 1976, were greatly aided by the imperialist losses in Indochina.

By the same token, victories for imperialism encourage the labor haters and race baiters to “roll back” social gains won in the past. There is broad awareness of this as opposition to the war on Iraq has spread in the workers movement. Dozens of union locals, city and county labor councils and state labor federations have passed antiwar resolutions. But this opposition is hamstrung by the labor bureaucracy whose job is to keep the unions chained to capitalism. Thus at an October 24-25 conference of U.S. Labor Against the War (USLAW) the keynote speaker spoke of “confronting these cowboys, these terminators for global capitalism,” by which he meant the Bush administration, and at the same time he objected to “the manner in which the term ‘patriotism’ is used in the USA by corporate elites and the political Right.” The meeting adopted a USLAW “mission statement” which calls for “A Just Foreign Policy,” “Redirecting the Nation’s Resources from inflated military spending to meeting the needs of working families,” and “Supporting Our Troops and their Families by bringing the troops home now.”

This is the program of “social-patriotism” in unadulterated form, a program of class collaboration. For the social patriots, it is all a matter of policies and priorities, of “guns vs. butter,” of posing as the true U.S. patriots as opposed to the “corporate elite” and their right-wing allies who “are patriotic only to the U.S. dollar.” But the fight against the imperialist wars and colonial rule of Iraq, Afghanistan and Yugoslavia cannot be a squabble over “jobs not bombs,” “education instead of occupation,” it must be a fight against the capitalist system itself, which in its decay has unleashed a steady string of wars over the past century. U.S. rulers know that their continued domination requires a state of permanent war, which is why the twin capitalist parties have desperately sought to overcome the “Vietnam syndrome” (fear of a losing imperialist-colonialist war) and to regiment the population. With their forces stretched thin across the Near East, they are considering bringing back the draft (military conscription), and are already trying to do so through the back door by aggressive recruitment of poor and minority youth. 

IG at Washington march, 25 October 2003
Internationalist Group fights for revolutionary internationalist opposition to
imperialist war at Washington, D.C. protest, October 25.
(Internationalist photo)

As Lenin and Trotsky fought in the first imperialist world war against the pacifist illusions fostered by the social-patriots of their day, communists today fight against social patriotism with a program of revolutionary defeatism toward the imperialists and revolutionary defensism of their intended victims. Trotskyists defend Iraq, Afghanistan and all semi-colonial countries against the new colonizers; we defend the bureaucratically deformed workers states of North Korea, China, Cuba and Vietnam against imperialism and internal counterrevolution, while fighting to oust the bureaucracy that endangers the remaining revolutionary gains in illusory hopes of “peaceful coexistence” with the imperialists. This is the program of the Internationalist Group and the League for the Fourth International. It is not the program of a host of pseudo-socialist outfits, which each in their own way lead or tail after the class-collaborationist peace movement.

The most shameless purveyors of “social-patriotism” are the reformist outfits that organize the various antiwar popular fronts, notably the Stalinoid Workers World Party (ANSWER), social-democratic International Socialist Organization (Campus Antiwar Network) and Maoist Revolutionary Communist Party (Not In Our Name), and of course the granddaddy of them all, the stars-and-stripes Communist Party U.S.A. Over the last year there has been a good deal of squabbling in the “antiwar movement,” but on October 25 ANSWER joined with the liberal United for Peace & Justice to sponsor marches in Washington, D.C. and San Francisco. While they were somewhat larger than in the past (perhaps 25,000 in Washington), politically they were sounding boards for Democratic “doves,” notably Sharpton and Kucinich (the “clean for Dean” people prefer to keep their distance, concentrating on raising big bucks on the Internet). The head of the Washington march was a joint ANSWER/UFPJ banner “End the Occupation of Iraq, Bring the Troops Home.” With their liberal politics, they and outfits like USLAW periodically call antiwar protesters into the streets so they can vote Democratic in the 2004 elections.

SL and SWP: “Out Now” Opportunists

Slightly to the left of the open popular-frontists are groups which proclaim themselves communist and talk of the working class, but whose line is only a variant of “bring the troops home” politics of the “mainstream” peace coalitions. Notable among these groups are the Socialist Workers Party and the Spartacist League. As U.S. casualties mount along with growing Iraqi resistance to U.S. colonial occupation, some sectors of the ruling class (particularly liberal Democrats) are beginning to call for U.S. forces to leave before Iraq turns into a “new Vietnam.” This situation underlines the difference between the Internationalist Group’s Leninist call for the imperialist occupiers to be driven out and defeated, and the positions put forward by the bulk of the left. In particular, it highlights the political implications of the SL’s refusal to call for defeat of the U.S. imperialists in Iraq, and its polemics against the IG  for raising this call. 

Today, the headlines in the SL’s newspaper Workers Vanguard feature the call for the U.S. to get “Troops Out Now.” This demand is addressed to the U.S. rulers, rather than to the world’s workers and semi-colonial peoples and it echoes the sentiment of increasingly vocal sectors of the bourgeoisie. We have pointed out that it echoes the central slogan (“Out Now”) on which the reformist SWP built “antiwar” popular fronts like the National Peace Action Coalition during the Vietnam War. SL members continually defend their organization’s abandonment of the call to defeat their “own” bourgeoisie by arguing that Iraq does not have the military means to defeat the U.S. imperialists, and claiming that we say the Iraqis can do so on their own. In the months following Bush’s proclamation of victory, SL members have sneeringly asked us, “So where’s your big Iraqi fight-back now?”

As we have stressed, the fight to defeat the imperialist invaders and occupiers is not a struggle of the Iraqi people alone, but of the working class around the world. The efforts of the Iraqis themselves are a crucial  part of this fight. We noted as well that by pretending to reduce the issue to a military/technical one, the SL willfully obscures the position of Lenin, who for example called for the defeat of French imperialism, which was armed to the teeth, by Morocco, a small North African country far poorer and militarily weaker than Iraq. With Iraqi resistance growing, what does it mean if supposed revolutionaries repeatedly tell the Iraqi people that defeating the marauding U.S. colonialists is impossible? This is a classic example of a once-revolutionary organization giving in to the ideological pressure of the imperialist bourgeoisie.

The colonial occupation must be defeated. The imperialists must be driven out of Afghanistan and Iraq. The Zionists must be driven out of the West Bank and Gaza. The valiant efforts of the Iraqi and Palestinian masses are a vital part of this struggle; their resistance can wear down the occupiers and inflict losses, but they cannot succeed on their own in winning liberation. Working people throughout the world must be mobilized on an internationalist basis in struggle against their common enemy. The decisive blows will be delivered by a class-conscious working class in the imperialist countries which goes beyond resistance and rebellion to take aim at the capitalist system itself. That requires above all a break from the bourgeois and reformist parties, as well as breaking the hold of the pro-capitalist labor bureaucracy that keeps the masses politically chained to their exploiters and oppressors. It requires above all building a revolutionary workers party on the Bolshevik program of Lenin and Trotsky. n

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