"OPERATION SHOCK and Awe", the US military campaign against Iraq, is expected to begin with an aerial assault on Baghdad. Some 300-400 Cruise missiles would target Baghdad daily for at least a week. This is an average of one missile attack every five minutes.
In the first 48 hours of war the US plans to blitz Iraq with firepower equivalent to that used in 40 days of the 1991 Gulf War. The Gulf War was fought mainly in the desert. This blitz will include Baghdad, a city of 4 million people.
Secret UN estimates leaked to the media indicate the human horror war will mean for the Iraqi people. They say war will mean up to 166,000 Iraqi deaths, 500,000 injured persons, 3.6 million people made homeless and more than 3 million left in need of therapeutic feeding, 80% of them children under the age of 5 (Guardian
Humanitarian organisations predict that malnutrition, cholera and dysentery will emerge on a mass scale. None of the arguments made to justify war by Bush, Blair and their apologists stand up to serious scrutiny.
The real reasons for the war have nothing to do with weapons of mass destruction. Nor is it because Saddam is a brutal dictator? Of course he is. The US and UK should know too - they armed and financed him in the 1980s.
Bush and Blair's war is first and foremost a war for oil. The US currently imports 50% of its domestic oil needs. This will rise to 75% in a little over a decade. Meanwhile the regime in Saudi Arabia, the biggest supplier of oil to the US, is under increasing pressure from the Saudi masses and from Islamic fundamentalism and could be overthrown.
In this unstable situation the Bush administration want to have direct control of Iraq's oil fields which contain the second largest known reserves in the world. The US also hopes that a military victory will provide a brutal demonstration of who is boss on the world stage thereby making it easier for US Imperialism to call the shots in the international arena.
By seizing Iraq and its oil resources, Bush and Co, will hope to flood the world market with cheap Iraqi oil, breaking the OPEC oil cartel and bringing the price of oil down from $30 a barrel to $10 or even less. Their hope would be that cheap oil might kickstart the ailing US and international capitalist economy.
Their content might be guessed by the recent improvements in Texaco Chevron's profits. These have shot up 300% in recent weeks in anticipation of an Iraqi bonanza.
Here we have the authentic face of capitalism and imperialism at the start of this 21st century - a system prepared to wade through the blood of the Iraqi people, mouthing hypocritical pieties about "liberation", and all the time with their eyes on the prize: oil and the power and profits that go with it.
As we go to press, the French Government is talking of tabling a UN resolution counterposing a trebling of UN arms inspectors to the US push for immediate war.
Anti-war campaigners should have no illusions, however, in either the role of the French Government or the UN itself as a way of preventing war. The Bush Administration plans to go to war with or without the UN. It would prefer UN blessing for a war because it would make war easier to "sell" to a sceptical public.
The French Government are wary about war for the same reason the US are gung-ho - oil. The French have billions of francs worth of oil contracts with the regime and are nervous that these contracts will be ripped up if the US is ruling the roost in Baghdad.
However, if the Chirac Administration believe war to be imminent they may decide to cut a last-minute deal and get in on the action. France has already sent an aircraft carrier to the Gulf in case of such a u-turn.
Bribery and bullying could yet see the US and UK winning UN support for war. The UN cannot be trusted to defend the interests of ordinary people. The governments of the world, represented at the UN, serve wealthy vested interests and will betray the hopes of ordinary people. The UN's reactionary role is best seen in Iraq itself where more than a million people have died in a decade as a result of UN sanctions.
Donald Rumsfeld, the US Defence Secretary, has raised the possibility of a US military victory inside 6 days. This perspective is based on "Shock and Awe" causing a massive collapse in Iraqi military morale. While a short, sharp military victory for the US cannot be ruled out, there is no guarantee that they will have it that easy.
A quick US military victory will be blocked if Saddams's 80,000-strong Republican Guard hold firm and fight to defend Baghdad and the big cities, and if a significant section of the population view the US as conquerors rather than liberators and decide to resist.
Tariq Aziz has warned of turning Baghdad into a Stalingrad, referring to the 200-day battle which turned the tide against the Nazis in the Second World War. Given that a military victory for Saddam's regime is unimaginable, a more apt analogy might be that of Grozhny, the Chechen capital seized by Putin's forces but only after they had reduced it to rubble in order to "liberate" it.
Given their overwhelming military superiority the US are almost certain to win the war. But, even on their best scenario, of a collapse of Iraqi resistance and a speedy victory, the end result will be greater instability in Iraq and throughout the region.
Their conquest of Iraq will turn out to be a pyrrhic victory. Although they can win the war, they are set to lose the peace. The US will be unable to hand over power in the short term to any client Iraqi regime. The exiled Iraqi bourgeois opposition have no real roots among the population, many are tainted by past association with the regime, etc. This is why the US is talking about a military occupation of 18 months minimum duration. For the Iraqi people it will be the substitution of one military dictatorship for another.
An Arab UN ambassador commented anonymously: "The consequences will not be immediate. You might see GIs distributing chocolates in the streets of Baghdad and being embraced - for 3 months. And then the opposition to the new colonial power will emerge, and to any clients imposed as Iraqi leaders."
A guerilla movement in opposition to US occupying forces is likely to develop and could win support, especially among the Sunni moslem population in the centre of the country. The struggle of the Kurds, and possible the Shiites, for succession from Baghdad will probable intensify. This type of development is already occurring in Afghanistan where US forces recently had to fight their biggest military battle in nearly a year.
War will convulse the entire middle east. A recent poll taken in four Arab countries with pro-US regimes showed 78% believing that increased US influence in their societies would be "negative". Resentment at US support for Israeli oppression of the Palestinian people would be greatly multiplied by a US war and military occupation of Iraq. Support for Islamic fundamentalism will almost certainly grow, possibly to the point where pro-US regimes could face overthrow.
Support for Al Qaeda and similar organisations will also likely grow leading to the probability of terrorist attacks in the US, Britain and the other countries in Bush's "Coalition of the willing".
The instability caused by this war will not be confined to the middle east of the ex colonial world. Working class people and young people in Europe, Japan and the US have not been taken in by the pro war propaganda. Millions have come to see that this is a war for oil and profit, that the ruling capitalist establishment are willing to butcher thousands of people for profit.
If this opposition can now be organised on the streets and in massive civil disobedience the warmongers can be defeated. If the political lessons are drawn that capitalism means war and that a socialist alternative needs to be built a war designed to strengthen capitalism can end up undermining it.
What About Saddam Hussein?
WHAT ABOUT Saddam? Shouldn't brutal dictators be overthrown?
The answer of course is, yes. If a country is ruled by an autocrat put in place by rich and powerful vested interests including the military; someone who casually signs orders execution of his citizens and who tramples on democratic rights, the case for their removal is clear.
It is especially clear if this dictator is backed by weapons of mass destruction and is prepared to use them. On all these grounds there is certainly a case for regime change in the US and the removal of Bush, Rumsfield, Cheney and co.
But no one seriously argues that the rest of the world should put together a military force and send it to Canada and Mexico ready to storm over the US borders when the order is given. No, the job of getting rid of the Bush regime is down to the people of the US, in particular to the working class who have the power to overthrow the corporate gangsters who are the real rulers.
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