Apr 20, 2003
Saddam Hussein has fallen, Bush has declared a victory. And Washington is rushing to demonstrate the old adage: to the victor, go the spoils.
The Pentagon announced it wants "permanent access" to four bases in Iraq – one of them very close to the border with Syria, the other close to the border with Iran. In fact, U.S. troops are already installed there, beginning the process of making their installations more permanent.
In one of its more openly cynical proposals, the Bush administration announced that it wants the U.N. to forego its "oil for food" program – so that the money can be used for "reconstruction." And what is the top priority for "reconstruction"? Rebuilding the port of Omm Qasr, which is an oil port. Apparently, the mild restrictions on the "oil-for-food" program – which required some oil revenues to be spent on food, medicines and other basic necessities – were too onerous for the Bush administration. It had other plans.
The Bush administration has also made it clear that it wants to put its hands on Iraq's oil fields. The big American oil companies are a little hesitant, however, since these oil fields are in a state of disrepair, after two wars and 12 years of embargo. They've made it clear that they would be willing to take over these fields directly or indirectly – for a profit, of course – but they aren't ready to tie up their money in the fields. They're waiting for the fields to be "reconstructed" for them. The Bush administration has already awarded multi-billion dollar contracts – to American companies tied to the Bush administration – to begin that work of so-called "reconstruction."
Before the war started, Bush proclaimed that Iraq's oil would be kept in trust for the Iraqi people – now that the U.S. has declared a victory, we see exactly what that means. The oil may be "kept in trust" – but its profits will go to U.S. companies.
To back up the new exploitation of Iraq, the State Department and the Pentagon quickly moved to set up a new regime – headed by a retired U.S. general, fronted for by "opposition figures" closely tied to the U.S. and by figures tied to the regime of Saddam Hussein himself. The new regime will rest on military force, just like the old one did – this time constituted of U.S. troops aligned with military and police from the old Saddam Hussein regime.
But what about the Iraqi people, who were supposed to be "liberated" by this war? What of them? The American media have managed, by a careful selection of photographs, to hide the situation in Iraq that most of the rest of the world has seen today: large swaths of destruction in civilian areas. The infrastructure for distributing food in the big cities is gone. Two weeks after the U.S. army announced the end of Saddam Hussein, electricity was still non-existent in most of Baghdad, with everything that means for a city of five million people. Raw sewage was being dumped in the rivers from which drinking water is taken. With no way to get rid of garbage, it has piled up for weeks. The water purification systems are not working. Some other cities are in worse shape, some slightly better. But overall, the situation is a disaster – in the truest sense of the word. This is not "liberation." It's devastation.
Large numbers of Iraqi families had someone killed or seriously injured from the aerial bombing, or from armored tanks and other monstrous means of overkill. The Pentagon and the Bush administration, which give exact estimates of everything else, continue to pretend ignorance of how many civilians were killed – which itself is the best indication that thousands, if not tens of thousands of people were killed in the bombing. And, as in the first Gulf War, the largest number will die in the coming weeks and months after the end of the war, as the result of cholera, dysentery and other diseases coming from the total break-down of sanitary conditions, health services and potable water in large urban areas.
This death and devastation came on top of the damage which Iraq suffered in the first Gulf War and the 12-year embargo which followed. What the first war destroyed was often never repaired because the embargo cut off all funds for most work in Iraq. Not only did oil fields fall into severe disrepair; much worse were the schools, hospitals, sewer system and water pumping stations. Hospitals lacked modern surgical equipment and basic antibiotics. Infants were dying of infections while the U.S. held up shipments of penicillin, looking for "weapons of mass destruction."
The Iraqi people must certainly be relieved to be rid of Saddam Hussein. That does not mean they wanted him replaced by a conquering army which destroyed their country in order to take it over. The Iraqi regime was certainly barbaric – but how much more barbaric is the U.S. super-power, which mobilized all its technical capacities to systematically let loose death and destruction on a small country, already so impoverished!
This despicable war was never aimed just at Iraq alone. It was a war for the domination of the whole Middle East. The United States, the dominant imperialist power, went into this war of conquest to rearrange the markets of the region. Its aim was not just to put in place a new regime in Iraq, nor even just to control the oil concessions in Iraq, the country which has the second largest oil reserves in the world. The aim of this war was to set up a regime in Iraq that the U.S. can control in order to weigh on the governments of the rest of the region. Up until now, it is through Saudi Arabia, with its oil reserves, the largest in the world, that the U.S. has controlled OPEC and, through it, the production of oil in the world. But the leaders of the imperialist world are probably somewhat concerned about the internal evolution of Saudi Arabia. In any case, they don't want to put all their eggs in one basket. Control over the two biggest producers in the Middle East obviously would give the U.S. room for much greater maneuvers against the rest of the world, even while this would let the U.S. play one of them off against the other – a little bit like imperialism did, before the fall of the Shah in 1979, when it played Iran off against Saudi Arabia.
Finally, this war was not directed only at the Middle East, as important as it is economically and strategically. This war was directed against the U.S.'s imperialist rivals, and the particularly aggressive stance of the U.S. in the period leading up to the war is evidence of that. This is not just a question of the arrogance of the coterie surrounding Bush – as arrogant as they may be. It's a mark of the dominant role that U.S. imperialism plays today in the world.
The war that the U.S., along with Britain, carried out in Iraq is a war of thieves, the biggest thieves in the world.
It's not the first time that the big Western powers have carried out such an imperialist war in order to loot the rest of the world. In a century and a half, the world has seen hundreds of wars of colonial conquest, and almost as many wars by which the great powers endeavored to maintain control over people who aspire to independence and control over their own country.
For the giant corporations and their political representatives, this war was only another means of carrying out business. For the working class, it is only an unmitigated disaster, pushing down our standard of living at home, grinding up the young generation as cannon fodder. And it would turn us into an accomplice of the very capitalist class that carries out a war on us here at home if we accept their wars overseas. We have every reason to oppose this war and the occupation now going on – and the next war, which this one will bring in its wake.