The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Why Iraq?
And why now?

Sep 9, 2002

After almost a year of Bush's "war against terrorism," what does he have to show for it? Certainly thousands of civilians have been killed in Afghanistan but the regime that replaced the Taliban is so fragile that, despite the presence of western forces on the ground, it can't prevent its own ministers from being killed by other warlords who make up the supposed coalition government. As for bin Laden, whom Bush made enemy number one, he has escaped the most powerful army of the world.

In this situation, Bush's "war against terrorism" may end up costing him more than he gains from it. And yet it's necessary for the U.S. government – no matter who heads it – to maintain the illusion that the U.S. faces foreign threats. Otherwise, how can they justify, keeping and expanding the American military all around the world? Especially since its exorbitant cost is increasing even while conditions for a large part of the population are aggravated by the recession. So, what's more useful than to once again raise the old scarecrow of Saddam Hussein?

Bush has been threatening this war for a while. Nonetheless, he hasn't yet thrown U.S. forces into the kind of war required to overthrow Saddam Hussein and prop up the new regime – and not because he's worried about congressional approval. He makes it clear that he is ready, on his own word, to launch the war. The fact remains, a war against Iraq promises to be no picnic.

First because Iraq, despite the years of the embargo, isn't Afghanistan. Bush can't hope to take over Baghdad simply by sending in bombers from far off military bases. Troops are required. But that raises the question of the reaction of American public opinion when "body bags" of soldiers fallen in combat begin to come back. The memory of Viet Nam isn't that dim. Nor has the century old reflex to oppose foreign wars been forgotten. Moreover, the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein, despite all its faults, has an advantage for imperialism. It has been able to prevent numerous national powder kegs (Kurds, Shiites, etc.) in the region from calling into question existing national boundaries. Finally, a ground war to the finish in Iraq would open a second front, along with Israel-Palestine, in a region on which a great part of the profits of the giant American oil companies depends. The risks of such a war might be run without any guarantee that a regime could be put in place in Iraq that would be both stable and favorable to Washington.

However, there are other options than of the current latent war, with its intermittent bombing and economic sanctions on Iraq, or an invasion of the country by the American army. Bush might launch a new wave of massive bombing as the U.S. has done several times in the 1990s. He might authorize limited landing of troops in vital regions on the border of Iraqi territory, which could, for example, totally interrupt Hussein'Saddam Hussein has already offered to accept the return of UN "inspectors." Bush could hope to force him into many other humiliating concessions – even to give up power personally, while leaving power to men of his political clan, which could at the end of the day be the most satisfying solution from the point of view of imperialism. Bush could pretend to have won a "victory." He could finish the demonstration that his father began and Clinton continued – designed to show all the peoples and regimes of the poor countries what it costs to contest – even a little bit – the imperialist order.

In any case, total war or not, the Iraqi population will again pay the cost of this demonstration of force whose sole aim, once again, would be to demonstrate the domination of imperialism and to terrorize the peoples who wish to resist it.