Jun 23, 2014
The simmering civil war in Iraq publicly exploded last week. Within three days, forces of the Sunni insurgency – the ISIS and former parts of Saddam Hussein’s army – rapidly took control over more than a dozen cities in the northwestern part of the country, including Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city. ISIS – the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria – took over Iraqi military bases and their stock of U.S.-provided tanks, Humvees, helicopters and weapons. Kurdish militias – the Pesh Merga – took over Kirkuk, the center of one of Iraq’s main oil-producing areas in the northeast.
As parts of the Iraqi army disintegrated, Iraq’s top Shiite cleric called on all able-bodied men in Baghdad to take up arms to reinforce the crumbling army. It was essentially a call to Shiites to take up arms in a renewed Iraqi civil war.
Once again, the Iraqi population is caught in a vise between opposing murderous forces. One quarter of Mosul’s population apparently has fled, fearing the city will come under widespread bombing as the Iraqi army tries to retake Mosul.
U.S. military officials blame the Iraqi government for this descent into chaos. They say that the government of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki is openly corrupt and his army is little more than a brutal extension of the Shiite militias that attacked Sunni and Kurdish areas in earlier stages of the Iraqi civil war.
All of that is true. But it begs the bigger questions: What provoked this civil war? For which aims?
Today’s murderous situation is the direct result of U.S. capitalism’s desire to control oil. Not only does Iraq have some of the biggest oil reserves in the world; it is also strategically located, giving whoever controls Iraq a way to influence what happens to the oil of the whole Middle East.
The U.S. has made war on Iraq for nearly 25 years to control that oil. The U.S. used the pretext of the 1990-91 Gulf War to carry out a ten-year campaign against Iraq: bombing its infrastructure and strangling its economic life with a tight embargo.
That battering of Iraq prepared the way for the 2003 U.S. invasion. As U.S. troops steadily flooded in, city after Iraqi city was pounded by aerial assaults, softening resistance of Iraqi forces. Left behind were hundreds of thousands of casualties, “collateral damage,” as Iraqi civilians were called. This direct attack on civilians – old people, women and children – was symbolized for Sunnis by the U.S. destruction of Fallujah in 2004.
Finally came the “surge” of 2007-2008. In preparation for the “surge,” the U.S. worked in 2005-06 to establish ethnic and religious militias, using Kurdish forces against Sunni areas, Sunni forces against Shiite areas and Shiite forces against both. Baghdad – which once had been one of the most ethnically and religiously mixed cities in the world – became a city whose people were at war with each other.
After U.S. troops left, this brutal policy was continued and directed by mercenaries sent in to replace them, and by the Iraqi government, set up by the U.S.
The vicious use of ethnic and religious differences spawned hatred within populations, and it inexorably led to the current conflict.
In exchange for oil and its profits, the U.S. has given Iraq more than a million dead, several million injured, and more than one fifth of the population driven into repeated exiles. Iraq once had been the region’s most cosmopolitan, most educated, most developed country. Left in ruins by U.S. wars, Iraq became one of the world’s poorest countries.
U.S. troops, used to batter Iraq, did not escape. Some died in Iraq, more came back disabled including psychologically, destroyed by the shock of what they went through in that vicious war.
This is what U.S. imperialism produces, as it seeks to wring profit from around the world. And working people in this country pay double. We are exploited here, and we are used as shock troops against other people. We have no interest in seeing a system that needs such wars continue.