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Stephen Boyd & Peter Hadden

Imperialism’s Grim Legacy

The Reality of Occupation

(May 2003)

From Socialist Voice, May 2003.
Copied with thanks from the Socialist Party Website.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

THE HUGE powerful military force of US imperialism has now won wars in Serbia, Afghanistan and Iraq. The question many people are now asking is, can US imperialism be stopped?

Bush, Rumsfeld and the rest of the US government’s “fundamentalist” junta, are now attempting to use their victory over the hated, monstrous dictatorship of Saddam Hussein to bully and enforce their will on the world. US imperialism was able to defeat the Taliban and Saddam Hussein, because these brutal regimes had no support amongst their people. The people of Iraq and Afghanistan were not prepared to sacrifice their lives to defend these vicious despots.

The US government may now have Syria, Iran, North Korea and even Cuba in its gun sights. But as US imperialism attempts to attack and subordinate other countries, the already historically large anti-war movement will grow and expand.

A war against North Korea, which now claims to have nuclear weapons, would result in an estimated one million deaths. A war involving nuclear weapons would unleash a powerful anti-war movement that would even dwarf in scale the estimated 30 million who protested on 15 February.

US military action against Cuba would not only be resisted by the Cuban people, but also by hundreds of millions of people across Latin America and around the world. A war against Syria or Iran would result in mass resistance from the Syrian and Iranian people as well as a huge movement across the Middle East.

It is one thing to win a war against hated dictators and quite another to go to war against a country when its people are prepared to resist. Vietnam proved this. Fighting a war of national and social liberation, firstly against French and then US imperialism, the Vietnamese people, backed up in their struggle by a mass anti-war movement defeated the US.

In reality, the US “victory” in Iraq has not strengthened imperialism in the Middle East; instead it has stoked up huge anger and resentment throughout the Arab world. This war has also opened the eyes of many tens of millions to the brutality, and undemocratic nature of international capitalism, and the lengths that imperialism will go to in order to protect its profit system.

Bush spent $20 billion in his four-week war on Iraq. He now plans to spend $2 billion a month to maintain the US colonial occupation. This is at a time when three billion people live on less than $2 a day, and when the UN estimates that $40 billion would provide clean drinking water to the one billion people who currently need it. These conditions of absolute poverty have already caused mass movements against capitalism in Latin America and Asia. The election of Lula in Brazil, the failure of a coup attempt and the “bosses strike” to overthrow Chavez in Venezuela and the mass movement against corruption and poverty in Argentina show that people are prepared to resist and fight back against neo-liberalism and globalisation.

Conditions for the majority of the world’s population are set to worsen. After US imperialism’s latest “Gulf War triumph”, its economy is facing the prospect of a recession. The next two biggest economies, Japan and Germany, are already in recession. The Asian Tiger economies have collapsed and both Argentina and Brazil are gripped by economic crisis. A simultaneous world recession is on the horizon. The political ramifications of this recession will result in mass struggles against capitalism and imperialism on every continent.

Bush and Blair’s war against Iraq provoked an anti-war movement of unprecedented size. A further imperialist war will re-ignite this movement. Lessons need to be learnt by everyone who participated in this movement. Huge protests by themselves are not enough to stop or end wars. This also requires a mass movement of the international working class.

Capitalism must be brought to a stop by general strikes. The general strikes by workers in Spain and Italy against the war and the anti-working class policies of their governments show the way forward. An anti-war movement organically linked to the organised working class, utilising the power of general strikes, can stop imperialist wars.

The anti-war movement, armed with a socialist program which clearly exposes and explains the true nature of capitalism and imperialism, is necessary if the threat of imperialist wars is to be ended forever. US imperialism’s agenda of colonial wars of conquest, the global economic crisis, the obscene conditions of poverty and deprivation faced by the peoples of the ex-colonial world make the need for socialism greater than at any time in human history. Millions are hastily learning what imperialism and capitalism means; now is the time to join the struggle for socialism, the only way that ultimately US imperialism can be stopped!

The Reality of Occupation

VERY FEW commentators are able to describe the scenes coming from Iraq since the fall of Baghdad as images of “liberation”. It is clear that the mass of Iraqi people were bitterly opposed to the Saddam dictatorship. It is equally clear that they are also opposed to US and British rule in any form.

Any illusions that the Iraqi people would embrace the troops as liberators are being rudely shattered on a daily basis. In the Shia areas of Baghdad and to the south, huge demonstrations of tens of thousands have chanted “Death to Israel”, “Death to America”.

US troops have been stoned by the mainly Sunni population of Mosul where they have been responsible for two massacres when they opened fire on demonstrators. In other areas there have been reports that 200 – 300 strong crowds of teenagers, imitating the Palestinian Intifada, have been hurling stones and other missiles at the troops.

Growing anger at the breakdown of society, the looting, the lack of water and electricity and the brutal methods of the troops is leading to daily skirmishes, including gun attacks on military barracks and is quickly dispelling any idea of a post-Saddam honeymoon. Bush and Blair won the war with relative ease. They are finding that winning the peace will not be so easy.

Won the war, losing the peace

Meanwhile, the British commanders in Basra have installed themselves in a former presidential palace – while the people of the city are forced to live on the margins, lacking even basic necessities. In Baghdad ex US general Jay Garner, the pro consul appointed by Washington to head up the new administration, has also set up his headquarters in one of Saddam’s many palaces. The clear message – that this is an occupation – will not be lost on the Iraqi people.

The Bush administration has been desperately trying to give assurances that it has no long term designs on Iraq. Two Assemblies of local parties have been held, mostly made up of pro US stooges, and these have agreed that “Iraq should be democratic” and that “Iraqis must choose their leaders, not have them imposed from outside”.

US military rule

Like the promise that the US troops will be quickly withdrawn, these are likely to turn out to be as hollow as the similar assurances given to the people of Afghanistan. Washington would be prepared to allow the Iraqi people to choose their leaders – provided they choose people who are acceptable to the US and who will safeguard US interests in the region! This was a war of conquest and plunder. A central objective was the seizure of the oil fields. Iraq has 112 billion barrels of proven reserves but oil industry experts are confident that there are at least 200 billion barrels of probable reserves, perhaps much more. With the Texas and California oil fields starting to dry up and with instability in Saudi Arabia, the friends of US big oil in the White House were determined to take direct control of the easily and cheaply extractable oil wells of Iraq.

The US has no intention of pulling out. They are currently preparing to install an American chairman on a management team for the entire Iraqi oil industry which is to be structured like an American corporation. The oil will be part privatised with the lucrative contracts handed out mainly to the US oil giants who have generously funded the election campaigns of Bush and his cohorts.

The real looting

The plunder goes beyond oil. Analysts estimate that around $100 of lucrative “reconstruction” contracts will be handed out over the next five years. Here again the Bush regime is determined that it will be a case of “to the victor the spoils”.

While US tanks were busy pulling down statues of Saddam and while soldiers were guarding the Baghdad Oil Ministry and watching other public buildings and hospitals being pillaged and burnt, a $680 million contract to repair roads, bridges, schools, power plants and other infrastructure was being awarded to the San Francisco based Bechtel Group. Former Secretary of State, George Shultz, sits on the Bechtel Board. In 1983 this company negotiated with Saddam Hussein hoping to get a contract to build an oil pipeline from Iraq to Jordan. An intermediary who visited Baghdad and made the case for the pipeline to his then friend Saddam Hussein was none other than the current warmonger in chief, Donald Rumsfeld.

Halliburton, another company with close links to the cabal currently occupying the White House, has also been given contracts. Vice President, Dick Cheney, was a Halliburton executive from 1995 to 2000. After the Afghanistan war it’s subsidiary, Kellogg Brown and Root, were commissioned to build the prison in Guantanamo Bay. Now it has been given the job of putting out the oil well fires around Basra and helping restore oil production.

Neo-liberal agenda

Contracts to run the airports, water, telecommunications and other utilities are likely to be handed out to US companies. In Latin America and elsewhere the neo-liberal agenda of the sell off of state owned companies has been enforced by the economic and political power of imperialism. In Iraq the implementation of these neo-liberal policies will be a by-product of the war.

US troops will remain in Iraq in order to protect the economic and strategic interests of imperialism in the region. Four permanent bases are reportedly being built. This is in reality a colonial occupation. However it is not possible for the US to maintain its grip by setting up a 21st century colonial administration and ruling through military muscle alone. Their original intention was not to destroy the old regime, merely to decapitate it, and then to lean on its former coercive apparatus to maintain control of the country. Instead, the entire regime and all aspects of civil administration crumbled. This has left the US troops as the only force for now able to prevent the country from fracturing along religious and national lines.

US stooges wanted

Washington cannot allow this situation to continue indefinitely. They desperately need some form of local administration to disguise the reality of the ongoing occupation. So far their efforts in this direction have floundered. The stooges who came into the country in the train of the tanks and missiles – people like former royalist and corrupt financier, Ahmed Chalabi – clearly have no basis of support.

Despite the promise to root out Ba’athism, the US and British commanders have been trying to reconstitute sections of the old regime, installing former military and police chiefs to head up local administrations as a counterweight to the militias which have sprung up and taken effective control in many areas. This has provoked deep resentment and violent opposition.

Meanwhile the Mosques have been able to step in and partially fill the vacuum left by the failure of the US to come up with a credible alternative to the old regime. Powerful forces such as the pro Iranian Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq now constitute a very real threat to US interests.

“Divide and rule”

Throughout the country rival religious and national militias have emerged. There have been clashes between Shias and Sunnis and in the north between Kurds and Arabs, as some of the Kurdish militias have sought to forcibly reverse the “arabisation” policy of Saddam.

Faced with this situation, and with their failure to come up with an administration of compliant stooges, the US will be forced to deal with the new groups that are emerging. They will probably adopt a policy of divide and rule, trying to lean on some of these groups against others. They are aiming for a federal constitution and an administration that provides all sorts of checks and balances between the various ethnic and religious factions.

Whatever they set up will be nothing more than a thin façade, intended to mask the reality of a brutal occupation for economic interest. For the people of Iraq, ongoing and deepening divisions along religious/national lines, which can be manipulated by Jay Garner and co., is not a way forward. A struggle led by the working class and the youth against the economic and military occupation and for a democratic socialist Iraq in which the oil and and all other wealth is publicly owned and run by and in the interests of the people, could unite the oppressed from Mosul to Basra, and would inspire support and solidarity across the world.

* End the US/British occupation of Iraq
* Let the Iraqi people decide their own future
* Defend the rights of the Kurds to a state if they so wish
* No privatisation of Iraqi oil
* Bring the oil companies under democratic public ownership
* Blair – money for public services, not for war
* End the rule of big business – fight for the socialist alternative to global capitalism

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