I gave the following as a talk at a Socialism Conference hosted by the Party for Socialism and Liberation celebrating 10 years of struggle on June 28 in Los Angeles.
If last summer someone had predicted that a year later we would be in the streets protesting against a potential new U.S. war in Iraq, we would have been hard pressed to believe them. But just a week ago today we were in the streets in front of the White House, here in Los Angeles, and in cities all over the country doing just that.
Some of those who came into the streets last week were young people who have lived their entire lives with the U.S. government being at war with Iraq. Others were long-time activists who were part of what was a massive movement against the war a decade ago.
That movement included many members of the Party for Socialism and Liberation. We were among those who, in the days after Sept. 11, 2001, formed the ANSWER Coalition and then beginning in 2002 organized manifestations of the vast opposition that existed to a war in Iraq. We helped to bring out hundreds of thousands of people across the United States and tens of millions worldwide who wanted to stop the war before it started in 2002 and early 2003, and then hundreds of thousands more who stayed in the streets to oppose the occupation from 2003 to 2007 and beyond.
And now, over 11 years after George W. Bush stood on the USS Abraham Lincoln before a live television audience and declared “Mission Accomplished,” it is incumbent on us to take some time to discuss what is going on right now in Iraq and how it came to be this way.
In 2003, when the Bush administration ordered the invasion of Iraq under the false pretext that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and was preparing to use them against the United Sates, they did so because they wanted to topple Iraq’s government, led by the Baathist Party and Saddam Hussein, and to impose a new government that they believed would be a puppet or proxy government for the United States in a country that had the second-largest oil reserves in the Middle East.
The government of Iraq fell within three weeks under the onslaught of more than 100,000 U.S. troops and sustained aerial bombing. But the U.S. had no developed plan for how to maintain or sustain a new Iraqi government.
Instead of being greeted as liberators, as the Bush administration claimed would happen, Iraqis of all ethnic and religious groups organized a civil and armed resistance against the brutality imposed by the U.S. occupation forces, and during the next years, that resistance grew and grew.
More than 1 million Iraqis died; 5 million were made into refugees. Nearly 4,500 U.S. soldiers and over 3,000 private contractors were killed in the fighting.
Today, the nation of Iraq is on the verge of being extinguished as a direct consequence of the U.S. imperialist invasion and occupation of the country, and from the sustained economic war that was waged against Iraq beginning in 1990.
When the United States military went into Iraq in 2003, it began to shred as a national entity. The Kurds believed that they could become an independent nation and control Iraq’s vast oil resources in the north, and then as a matter of occupation strategy the U.S. armed and funded Sunni militias to fight against each other as part of a divide-and-conquer strategy, such as that which British implemented in India.
But for over a decade, Iraq has held together despite this imperialist-provoked disruption of its national unitary state. That may be about to change.
It was the imperialist intervention in Syria that changed the equation inside Iraq. In Syria, the United States has employed a prolonged, three-year-long effort to use the agency of civil war to topple Syria’s Baathist government. This effort created a new political force in Syria based on sections of the Sunni population, including the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS (also called ISIL – Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant – which is older Islamic Caliphate language for what is now modern Syria). ISIS came into potency as a fighting force because of the imperialist-inspired civil war strategy in Syria.
Some people in the left believe this was a vast conspiracy to create an Islamic Caliphate in Iraq and Syria to break up both countries. That’s not our view. We believe what’s happening today in Iraq is the unintended consequence of the reckless strategy of invading and occupying Iraq and fueling civil war in Syria.
Two weeks ago, after ISIS, along with their military allies, stormed through northern and western Iraq and most importantly captured the city of Mosul, they began moving south towards Baghdad in what appeared to be a military offensive sweeping away a much larger Iraqi military force, that caused the imperialist political and military machine to panic. It was under those circumstances, when they believed ISIS could be taking all of Iraq, that there was a great deal of discussion about U.S. airstrikes or large-scale intervention.
But President Obama’s decision to send 300 Special Forces, commandos and trainers to Iraq was designed to fortify the Maliki government without an over commitment by the U.S. government to enter Iraq again. The Pentagon and U.S. imperialism are now adjusting themselves to the partition of Iraq — to a Shiite part that was the central government and now controls Baghdad and the South, to a Sunni part, and to the Kurdish Regional Government.
The imperialists are watching this situation and thinking at this moment, which may change, but now thinking if ISIS attempts to consolidate itself in the areas it has already seized and not make a move on Baghdad, if they have local and parochial but not larger regional aspirations, the U.S. can live with this development.
The key things to watch for are whether ISIS tries to move towards Baghdad or into Jordan. If they try to militarily capture parts of Jordan, it will be a trigger for U.S. intervention. The U.S. will not allow Jordan to fall under the leadership of ISIS and the other forces involved. The Jordanian monarchy is considered a stabilizing cornerstone for U.S. imperialism in the Middle East and is highly important to the Israeli ruling class. It appears those who captured Mosul and other cities recognize the red lines that would trigger larger imperialist intervention and have so far not crossed those lines.
Even if there are no airstrikes, from a human point of view, this is a tragedy like no other for the Iraqi people. We believe the United States has no positive role it can play in Iraq because its aims are imperialistic, not humanitarian. They put a humanitarian label on their intervention, but the truth is that they are not concerned about Iraqi people but instead about the regional position and power of the U.S. military and especially U.S. banks, oil monopolies and other corporations.
That’s why our position is that if the United States were to do anything in Iraq, the only thing it should do is pay vast reparations for the destruction of their country.
Although the political leadership over the capitalist state rotates between Democrats and Republicans, both political parties are ruling-class capitalist parties. Since World War II, the U.S. capitalist class has functioned as a global empire. Their corporate and banking interests are global, and the U.S. military functions as the enforcer of their interests.
Look at the record just in the recent decades: the United States invaded Korea in 1950 and 5 million Koreans died along with 40,000 Americans. Then there was the 10-year-long war in Vietnam – millions more died. The U.S. has invaded or bombed Grenada, Lebanon, the Dominican Republic, Panama, Iraq (not once but twice), Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Libya. The CIA has carried murderous coup d’états in Iran in 1953, Guatemala in in 1954, the Congo in 1960, Indonesia in 1965 and Chile in 1973.
These are capitalist wars for the sake of U.S. capitalist corporations and banks. Working-class people are sent to kill and be killed, but these are the wars waged by rich men. And we can see from the track record that this is endless war.
The people of the world want peace. They want self-determination; meaning, they want to be free to determine their own destiny free from U.S. bombs and guns. The only road toward peace – the only real path – is to do away with the source of war in the modern epoch.
It is critical that we understand that war is not the consequence of bad politicians who can be replaced with “good” politicians. The problem is not personalities but the capitalist system itself.
This means that to be really anti-war means to be anti-capitalist. That is the political orientation of the PSL. We hope that you will join us in the anti-war movement and join us in the struggle against the capitalist system that breeds endless war.