BUSH AND Blair, have begun to mobilise their armed forces for a war against Iraq. 11,000
desert trained US troops with tanks, and attack helicopters were dispatched to
the Gulf on 2 January to join the 80,000 US personnel and five aircraft
carriers already in the region. 50,000 more US troops will arrive in the Gulf
by the end of January.
secretary, Geoff Hoon has sent a Royal Navy task force, headed by the aircraft
carrier HMS Ark Royal to the region and called up reservists, President Jacques
Chirac has readied French troops for war.
The US war machine
is being cranked up for action. Deployment orders have been issued to F-16 and
F-15 fighters units in Virginia and B-1 bomber commands. 10,000 sailors on
board the George Washington aircraft carrier and its battle group of warships
and submarines have been put on 96-hour war alert. Before being dismissed for
their Christmas holidays 25,000 marines at Camp Pendleton were given a
“pre-deployment briefing” to “prepare for the mission at hand”.
In a move earlier
predicted by military experts to be a signal that a war was in the offing the
US has sent the hospital ship USS Comfort to the Indian Ocean to prepare a
1,000 bed trauma centre. Gary Schmitt head of Project for a New American
Century, a right wing think tank linked to the Bush regime said, “Nothing is
inevitable but the logic of the situation points towards a war sometime in
February, it’s hard for a country to mobilise for war and not go for war
without a very serious reason. If you signal to the world you are serious and
you don’t do anything then you’re saying you’re not a serious country.”
It now seems that
a the war against Iraq may begin in February or early March. Bush has been
signalling for the last six months that his intention is to force a regime
change in Baghdad, with or without UN approval. This is his last window of
opportunity before the autumn, for an invasion because US troops would be
unable to properly function with their specialist chemical warfare suits in the
desert temperatures of the Iraqi summer.
could delay Bush and Blair’s war plans could be a deepening of the North Korean
nuclear weapons crisis or an admission of “guilt” by Saddam Hussein to having
weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and a commitment to disarmament. The US and
the British are also involved in covert operations to try and instigate a coup
against Saddam Hussein, although this path to a regime change is probably the
least likely scenario to unfold.
Finding a pretext
to war is still a difficulty faced by Bush and Blair. Anti-war attitudes in
Britain, Europe and the US have been fuelled by what many people see as the
preparations for a completely unjust war. However the US and Britain will if
needs be manufacture a pretext for war.
Hans Blix, head of
the UN Weapons Inspectors is due to make an interim report to the UN Security
Council on 27 January. With up to 200 inspections carried out no evidence of
WMD has been found. However it is possible that Hans Blix’s report may contain
claims of Iraqi violations of UN resolution 1441 which the US may use as a
pretext for war.
A leaked UN report
estimates that a US war against Iraq could put more than 10 million Iraqis at
risk from malnutrition and disease. The report states that the distribution of
rations would stop and diseases, including cholera and dysentery, could appear
in “epidemic if not pandemic proportions”. The World Health Organisation
estimated that a war could inflict 100,000 traumatic injuries on civilians and
indirectly affect an additional 400,000 people who could contract diseases as a
result of the bombing of civilian infrastructure.
administration is banking on a swift victory over Iraq. It believes it can win
without too much resistance or US casualties. The Iraqi army and regime may
collapse quickly under heavy US bombardment. A lot depends on the attitude of
the Iraqi people and the elite Republican Guard to the US invasion. The
majority of Iraqis oppose Saddam Hussein, however, years of murderous
sanctions, war and bombings has left a legacy of massive hatred towards US
Imperialism. The Iraqi people know that this war is purely about seizing their
country’s oil reserves and may resist the US and British invasion. The Republican Guard, loyal to Hussein’s regime, may feel that they have no choice but to make a last stand against the US.
Therefore US and
British troops could find themselves embroiled in street by street battles for
control of cities such as Baghdad and Basra. In such circumstances the US and
British forces face the prospects of thousands of casualties, some estimate
that up to 10% of their forces could be killed. This war will have major global
consequences. The war has the potential to tip the world economy into
recession, destabilise the governments and regimes of Saudi Arabia, Egypt,
Syria, Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon and push the Palestinians and Israeli’s into an
all out conflict.
$1.1 Trillion Contacts up for Grabs
meeting of 150 British ambassadors in London, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw
stated that the Foreign Office had drawn up a list of seven medium to long-term
strategic priorities, including “to bolster the security of British and global
ministers and officials have said “privately” in relation to a war against Iraq
that oil is more important in the calculations than weapons of mass
destruction. The political philosophy of the Christian fundamentalist wing of
the Republican Party with its plans to build a new US dominated world empire,
talks of its war aims as liberating “the Iraqis and [to] stabilise and
democratise the greater Islamic world”. However Bush and Blair’s primary war
aim is oil.
The US National
Energy Policy Report of 2001 known as the “Cheney” report after its author Vice
President Dick Cheney, formerly one of America’s richest and most powerful oil
industry magnates - demanded a priority on easing US access to Persian Gulf
Iraq has the
second largest known oil reserves in the world after Saudi Arabia. The US needs
20 million barrels of crude oil a day and analysts have singled out Iraq as
being able to supply up to half of this demand.
The US also
believes that a US dominated post-Saddam Iraq will give it the ability to
enforce greater control on the Middle East, break Saudi Arabia’s control of
OPEC, as well as opening up the potential of huge profits for US oil companies.
A Russian official
stated “The concern of my government is that the concessions agreed between
Baghdad and numerous enterprises will be reneged upon, and that US companies
will enter to take the greatest share of those existing contracts....Yes, if
you could say it that way - an oil grab by Washington” (Observer 6
Russia and France
have both been reluctant to support a war against Iraq because of the massive
oil contracts they have with Hussein. For example the Russian oil companies
Lukoil and Zarubezhneft have $20 billion and $90 billion contracts with Iraq.
According to the International Energy Agency’s World Energy Outlook 2001 - “the
total value of Saddam Hussein’s foreign contract awards could reach $1.1
Bush and Blair are
preparing to sacrifice the lives of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis in order to
get their greedy hands on this lucrative prize.
Post War Iraq: US Occupation
TO the New York Times the Bush administration’s post war scenario is - an
18 month military occupation, with its’ army controlling the oil fields and war
crime trials for Saddam Hussein and his closest collaborators.
A US military
commander would run Iraq in tandem with a civilian administrator and “would be
tasked with rebuilding the economy, schools and other infrastructure” (Guardian
7 January 2003.)
The leaked report
is a change on the earlier scenario presented by Bush’s national security
advisors which spoke of a prolonged military occupation of Iraq with a
commander wielding supreme power in a similar way to Douglas MacArthur in Japan
after the Second World War.
A fear of being
seen a colonial power in the Arab world has led the national security advisors
to make the latest update.
“But the military
commander would wield absolute authority during the crucial early days, when
the threat of sectarian warfare along political and ethnic lines is presumed
the greatest, and there does not appear to be a firm schedule for a transfer of
powers. It is also unclear how or when the international administration running
the country would hand over to an Iraqi leadership.” (Guardian 7
The reality is
that these proposals are exactly what they claim not to be - a plan for the
colonial occupation of Iraq with the aim of creating a stable environment for
the multinational oil companies to exploit Iraq’s huge oil reserves. Any “Iraqi
civilian administrator” appointed by the UN to work alongside a US military
commander would be no more than a puppet for the Bush administration.
The Bush regimes
view of a stable post war Iraq is probably no more than a pipe-dream. Many
scenarios can unfold including the complete disintegration of the state of
Iraq, with the Kurdish people in the north breaking away to form an independent
Kurdish state possibly along with the 12 million Kurds living in south-east
Turkey and the Shia in the south also pursuing their national aspirations.
It is also
possible that a prolonged US military occupation can lead to a backlash from
the Iraqi people with armed conflict breaking out against their “colonial”
oppressors. A similar pipe-dream of a bright stable future free from
dictatorship was also “spun” by the Bush administration before the war against
The US attempts at
pursuing a smooth rebuilding of a post-Taliban Afghanistan have proven to be
disastrous. The hated and oppressive Taliban regime may have been removed, but
Afghanistan is more unstable now than before the US led war. The “government”
of Hamid Karzai controls no more than Kabul an even then it doesn’t even fully
control that city. The rest of the country is controlled by warlords, and there
are even areas still under the rule of the Taliban and reports that Osama Bin
Laden is still in the country.
$15 billion in
Western aid is needed for the reconstruction of Afghanistan, $4.8 billion was
pledged, only $1.8 billion has arrived most of which has been spent preventing
seven million Afghans from dying of hunger. Opium production banned under the
Taliban has risen by 1400% to an estimated 2700 tonnes in 2002. Strict Islamic
laws are still being enforced throughout the country with reports of women
being subjected to forced gynaecological examinations if they are seen talking
to males in public!
Before the war in
Afghanistan Bush, Blair and other western leaders spoke of how they would fully
support the rebuilding of that country, instead they have reneged on all of
their commitments. They have even removed President Karzai’s US Special Forces
bodyguards and replaced them by security guards from a scandal linked American
private military corporation, DynCorp.
A post-war Iraq
will be a scene of utter devastation with potential hundreds of thousands dead
and injured. The very existence of the state of Iraq will come into question
and it is also possible that tens of thousands of US troops will become bogged
down in a prolonged war against the very people they claim they are going to
war to “liberate”.
Build the Anti-War Movement
THE DEVASTATION wrought upon Iraq by the US sanctions and the consistent campaign
of bombing over the last 12 years, coupled with the blatantly obvious war aim
of seizing Iraq’s oil reserves has resulted in massive anti-war demonstrations
in many countries. The lack of a credible pretext for war will intensify this
anti-war mood once an invasion is launched.
200,000 marched in
Washington DC, 400,000 in London and 1 million in Florence. Even during this
current period of the “phony war” these protests rival the biggest protests and
demonstrations of the Vietnam War.
television will beam censored pictures of this war into billions of people’s
homes worldwide. These images will enrage and anger millions of people into
joining the anti-war movement in the advanced capitalist countries. The
“nightmare scenario” of hand to hand battles in Baghdad with mounting US
casualties, and the return of hundreds or possibly even thousands of US troops
in body bags could cause an explosion of rage in the US against the Bush
In the ex-colonial
world and in particularly the Arab world the anti-war movement will be of a
different character to that in the so-called West. Massive demonstrations will
engulf cities across the Middle East. Prince al-Hassan bin Talal of Jordan has
warned that a war could “lead to a domino effect of regime change in the
region”. If the Jordanian regime was to give support especially the use of facilities
to assist the US, then it may be overthrow in the ensuing protests. A war
against Iraq could result in the overthrow of the Saudi monarchy and its
replacement by a fundamentalist regime sympathetic to the likes of Osama bin
Laden and sitting on massive wealth including the world’s biggest oil reserves.
In the anti-war
movement it will be the duty of Marxists to put forward the socialist
alternative to capitalism’s future dominated by war poverty and suffering.
Capitalism in this
period means war, and a future of wars. To be effective the anti-war movement
needs to be armed not only with a programme of opposition to war but a
programme to challenge capitalism. The masses in Iraq, and throughout the gulf
region face a struggle to overthrow the rotten dictatorships that are in charge
as well as opposing the plunderous intervention of imperialism.
In the advanced
countries a movement of the working class and youth needs to be built to oppose
both the war and the vested interests of the arms manufacturers and energy
consortia who are behind it. These struggles need to be linked to a common
international struggle against capitalism and for a socialist world in which
energy and all other resources would be publicly owned and used for the mutual
benefit of all.
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