Special Feature: No War For Oil!

By Stephen Boyd, Socialist View, January '03

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.

British defence 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.

Factors which 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.

The Bush 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

AT A 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 energy supplies”.

British government 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 supplies.

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 October 2002.)

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 trillion” (
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

ACCORDING 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 January 2003.)

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 Afghanistan.

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.

Satellite 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 administration.

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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