The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

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

U.S. War in Iraq Gets Worse ... And Worse

Jun 22, 2015

At the end of May, Ramadi, the regional capital of Anbar Province in Iraq, fell to ISIS forces. With ISIS forces now within 70 miles of Iraq’s capital of Baghdad, the Obama administration announced it is sending 450 more U.S. troops to Iraq, bringing the total number to 3,550. It also announced that it was planning to establish a network of U.S.-run bases, what General Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is calling “lily pads.”

Of course, the U.S. military claims that these are not supposed to be “combat” troops. They are just supposed to be for “training.” But train what? The Iraqi military hardly even exists anymore. It collapsed like a house of cards almost a year ago. The U.S. even admits that one of the training bases that the U.S. has set up has no Iraqi troops at all.

No, the U.S. military is increasing its troop presence in Iraq ... once more to impose its domination over the country. The effort goes back to at least 1990-91, when a U.S. led coalition of powers carried out a devastating war that left Iraq in ashes, with much of its infrastructure destroyed. The U.S. then followed this up with a suffocating economic embargo that starved the country, and then with a bombing campaign. This left more than a million dead. This all served as the prelude to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. This war destroyed what little had not been destroyed before and murdered hundreds of thousands of people.

To further impose its rule, the U.S. relied on the old imperial policy of divide and rule, provoking a power struggle over who holds sway in Iraq and the broader Middle East. This was not just a fight between different strongmen and militias, who appealed to their various ethnic groups for support. It was a proxy war between such regional powers as Saudi Arabia, Iran, Turkey and the Persian Gulf states, who are rivals over who is the top dog after the U.S.

Today, apologists for U.S. policy try to make it sound like the main conflict in Iraq is religious, between Sunnis and Shiites, a conflict that is supposed to go back centuries. This is a lie. Before the U.S. invasion, the different ethnic groups lived together and intermarried. What changed this was the “civilizing” force of the U.S., along with the other imperial powers and their regional allies.

When the civil war grew worse in 2005 and 2006, the U.S. military carried out a “surge”–that is, a big increase of its troop presence. Under the guise of stopping the fighting, the U.S. encouraged ethnic cleansing, often relying on various militias and strongmen to carry out attacks on other groups, Sunni or Shiite. The U.S. claimed this was necessary to separate the warring parties.

When Obama took over from Bush in 2009, he even claimed that this surge was such a success it paved the way for the complete withdrawal of U.S. troops. On December 14, 2011, Obama told a military audience at Fort Bragg that the U.S. war in Iraq was coming to an end. “We’re leaving behind a sovereign, stable and self-reliant Iraq. The war in Iraq will soon belong to history.” That speech was Obama’s version of Bush’s “Mission Accomplished” declaration in 2003.

Of course, the U.S. never really withdrew from Iraq. The U.S. just ran its occupation through the State Department, rather than the Pentagon.

Instead of U.S. troops, the U.S. brought in mercenaries, the CIA, and who knows who else. The Shiite government rulers, who the U.S. favored, tried to consolidate their rule against their various rivals, especially the Sunnis. The Iraqi military, which the U.S. had spent years supposedly training, arming and equipping, was little more than a vast corruption machine that fronted for murderous Shiite militias.

When the equally murderous Sunni-backed ISIS militias responded with an offensive last year that took Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, the 100,000 troop-strong Iraqi military collapsed.

The U.S. and its allies appealed to the Shiite militias to carry out a new holy war to stop the ISIS offensive.

So, the Iraqi population is caught between two barbaric forces, Sunni and Shiite warlords, who impose their rule through brutality, beheadings and ethnic cleansing. This violence is getting worse. In 2014, 17,000 Iraqis were killed, according to Iraq Body Count, the worst year by far since the peak of the violence in 2006 and 2007. And over the last 18 months, more than three million Iraqis have been driven from their homes and now face starvation, according to U.N. refugee experts.

The last thing the U.S. forces seek is the improvement of these people’s lives. To the U.S. policy makers, the Iraqis are just “collateral damage” in the ongoing U.S. war to control the oil rich and strategically vital Iraq that lies in the center of the Middle East.