The Spark

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

The bloody difficulties of an imperialist war

Mar 31, 2003

Almost as soon as the imperialist war against Iraq started, the U.S. and British leaders had to deal with all kinds of unexpected difficulties.

As soon as they crossed the Iraqi border, the invasion forces met resistance that the U.S. and British leaders didn't seem to have anticipated. Their coalition troops may have reached 50 miles from Baghdad, but they controlled only a narrow strip of desert and the U.S. generals feared seeing this supply line cut by an Iraqi counter-offensive.

Outside (perhaps) of the port of Umm Qasr, which the Pentagon keeps announcing it has "definitely conquered," the coalition forces have not managed to seize any other important city. Not only haven't the Iraqi troops surrendered, but they seem to have resisted practically everywhere. There are, for example, the 8,000 men of the 51st Iraqi armed regiment, which the British general staff on March 22 announced had surrendered, only to discover that this same regiment was holding the U.S. and British troops in check outside Basra!

As a result, the coalition forces have had to immobilize whole units of their forces in Umm Qasr, Basra, Nasiriya, Najaf and Karbala, laying siege to these cities, while trying to protect the rear of the invasion forces against a possible counter-offensive from Iraqi units. And that seriously weakened a military operation scattered over more than 300 miles.

These difficulties probably won't prevent the victory of the U.S. and British forces, if only because of their enormous superiority in arms and their monopoly over the air. But they imply a much longer war and one more costly in human lives – including on the U.S. and British side.

Not only will it now be necessary for the troops of the coalition to reduce the resistance of the Iraqi army, but they will also need to crush all resistance in the cities, that is to say, to do the dirty work that Bush Senior left to Saddam Hussein after the first Gulf war.

Look at Basra. Despite U.S. and British expectations, the Shiite population, which has always been opposed to Saddam Hussein, has not rushed out to greet British troops. Even if there were to be an uprising against Saddam Hussein, the insurgents are not likely to welcome troops who have caused so much damage by bombing the population of this city of a million and a half inhabitants, after having deprived them of electricity and drinkable water!

A U.S.-British victory won under the conditions we see developing in Iraq today carries other serious consequences, especially once the victory is won. Even if Bush and Blair find some politicians from the Iraqi opposition ready to support such a bloodbath by presiding over the regime which will succeed Saddam Hussein, this regime won't have a solid state apparatus with which to maintain order, and it will thus be totally dependent on western occupation troops to carry it out.

As the history of colonial Iraq shows, such an occupation is apt to provoke violent explosions, either by national or religious minorities who will see themselves once more deprived of all hope, or by part of the poor urban masses, victims of the permanent U.S. war which the country has suffered since 1991, as well as of Saddam Hussein.

Then there are repercussions that such a war and such explosions could have in neighboring Arab countries. Anger broke out in the streets of Cairo, Amman, Beirut and Damascus when the bombing started. Let the war in Iraq turn into a butchery or be followed by brutal repression by the U.S. army, and the poor population of these neighboring countries could turn against their own rulers, hated because they are more or less compromised by U.S. imperialism.

U.S. and British leaders are conscious of these dangers. It's why Bush has repeated that the U.N. has to play a role in the "reconstruction" of Iraq – a way of demanding that the U.N. support the U.S. occupation of Iraq. It's also why Blair, who today has bigger problems with British public opinion, wants to go back to the U.N. as quickly as possible, even before the end of the conflict. They both hope to hide the imperialist aggression they will continue to carry out behind a force of U.N. "peacekeepers" – as they have done before.

Chirac, the president of France, could very well rally to this maneuver, assuming the U.S. and Britain gave him guarantees of profits for French corporations. He has already declared that the discovery of chemical arms in Iraq would make him reexamine his position about the war. And what could be easier for the U.S. army, in control of an area, than to "discover" such arms.

Despite the reverses of the imperialist troops, the future isn't getting brighter for the Iraqi population. It's why it's necessary to continue to denounce the butchery which is developing before our eyes.