U.S. Bullies At It Again in Iraq
Revolutionary Worker #932, November 16, 1997
The U.S. imperialist beast is once again trying to bully its way in the Persian Gulf and is making new military threats against Iraq.
This latest confrontation began to heat up in late October when the United States pushed a resolution through the United Nations Security Council to continue the economic sanctions against Iraq. The U.S. and its close ally Britain were unsuccessful in their attempt to further tighten the sanctions against Iraq. Russia and France--who have their own imperialist agendas in Iraq--opposed increased sanctions. But the UN did threaten to step up sanctions in the future if the Iraqi government did not show more cooperation with the "weapons inspection teams." These teams operate openly as spies inside Iraq for the Western powers.
The inspection teams are part of harsh conditions that the U.S. and its allies imposed on Iraq after the 1991 Gulf War. They can nose their way into factories and military areas, supposedly to look for signs that the Iraqi government is developing weapons that the U.S. and other powers have declared off-limits to Iraq. They also monitor video transmissions from remote-controlled cameras set up at hundreds of sites around the country. And U-2 spy planes from the U.S. regularly fly over Iraqi territory to supply the inspection teams with information.
Despite their powers to muck around in Iraq, the UN inspection teams have continually accused the Iraqi government of blocking them from finding out more. The U.S. claims that the Iraqi government is secretly developing banned weapons and uses this as justification for the continuation of economic sanctions. These sanctions are having a devastating effect on the people of Iraq. According to a 1995 report from the UN's own Food and Agriculture Organization, malnutrition and medicine shortages caused by the sanctions have killed more than half a million children in Iraq.
Shortly after the October UN resolution on continuing the sanctions, the Iraqi government ordered U.S. members of the weapons inspection teams to leave the country. And Iraqi officials also warned that anti-aircraft weapons might be used against the U-2 spy plane.
A top U.S. official immediately declared that these moves by Iraq would have "serious consequences." U.S. Defense Secretary Cohen said that if Saddam Hussein did not back down, the UN could consider "greater economic sanctions"--including canceling the agreement reached last year allowing Iraq to sell limited amounts of oil to buy some food and medical supplies.
Cohen also said that "there are military options as well." The U.S. currently has over 20,000 troops, many planes and a fleet of warships stationed in the region. The last U.S. military attack against Iraq was in September 1996, when B-52 bombers and Navy warships in the Gulf launched several dozen cruise missiles against targets in southern Iraq.
Who Is the Biggest Aggressor?
With little actual evidence to back up its claims, the U.S. government claims that Iraq is developing "weapons of mass destruction." U.S. officials say that this is a sign of Iraqi "aggression against its neighbors" and that it is "unacceptable."
But what right does the U.S. government have to attack anyone else for "aggression" and for developing "weapons of mass destruction"? Which power possesses the world's biggest arsenal of nuclear weapons and large stockpiles of chemical weapons? Who has carried out countless invasions and acts of military aggression around the world--including the 1991 war on Iraq which killed hundreds of thousands of people and destroyed vital facilities such as water treatment plants and baby milk factories?
The U.S. rulers have even refused to sign an international treaty banning land mines--because they say they need their land mines to protect their interests in the Korean peninsula.
If the U.S. imperialists really want to stop "aggression" and "weapons of mass destruction," they should point the finger at themselves. But, of course, the U.S. government would never agree to have international inspection teams go around its weapons factories. It would never allow a spy plane from another country to fly over U.S. territory.
U.S. officials say that it is "outrageous" for Iraq to demand that Americans be excluded from the UN weapons inspection teams. But the U.S. has made no secret of its desire to overthrow Saddam Hussein and install a more reliably pro-U.S. regime in Iraq. Last year, Saddam Hussein's offensive against the city of Erbil in northern Iraq disrupted a long-standing CIA operation that was aimed at fomenting a coup against the current government in Baghdad. Under these circumstances, isn't it perfectly reasonable for the Iraqi government to expel U.S. officials and demand that U-2 overflights stop?
Behind the U.S. Moves
The U.S. bully moves and threats against Iraq are based on cold-blooded imperialist logic. It is a big embarrassment and problem for the U.S. that five years after the Gulf War, Saddam Hussein still remains in power. The U.S. ruling class could not allow Hussein to kick out U.S. weapons inspectors and shoot at their spy planes.
So the U.S. imperialists are flexing their muscles against Iraq, threatening to tighten the noose of economic sanctions or to launch new military attacks--no matter what the cost in human lives.
The U.S. actions are also meant as a signal to the other powers--that the U.S. remains the dominant imperialist player in this oil-rich and strategically important region of the world. The various imperialist countries are now mainly colluding against the oppressed people of Iraq and other countries in the region. But at the same time, there are signs of sharpening contention among these powers.
The Russian and French governments have been pushing for an easing of the economic sanctions against Iraq. Last year, France announced that it would no longer participate in the U.S.-British air patrols of the "no-flight zones" in northern Iraq.
The French and Russian imperialists certainly are not motivated by concern for the people of Iraq. France and Russia both want to extend their influence in the Middle East and the Persian Gulf by developing relations with the Iraqi government. And French and Russian companies hope to profit from oil deals signed with the Hussein regime.
France and Russia have also been maneuvering in Iran. The U.S. government has issued a ban on large-scale investments in Iran, claiming that Iran is a "terrorist" government. In defiance of this ban, French, Russian and Malaysian corporations jointly signed a $2 billion deal with Iran this September to explore and develop natural gas fields.
A key element of U.S. strategy in the Persian Gulf is to "contain" both Iraq and Iran, in order to maintain U.S. control over both countries and the region as a whole. In late September, Iranian warplanes attacked camps of Iranian anti-government forces inside Iraqi territory. The Pentagon immediately ordered the aircraft carrier Nimitz into the Gulf ahead of schedule. U.S. officials said that this move was aimed at both Iran and Iraq. The U.S. imperialists are worried that the moves by Russia and France in the Gulf undercut this "double containment" strategy.
U.S. Hands Off Iraq!
The U.S. government says it is trying to first force Saddam Hussein to back down through "diplomatic" measures. But the U.S. has also made clear it could resort to military attacks--even if it had to act "unilaterally," without the cover of official backing from the UN. Any such military strike will lead to even more suffering among the oppressed people of Iraq--and it must be met with determined resistance here in the U.S. But even if the U.S. does not resort to a military action this time, the deadly economic sanctions are continuing to strangle Iraq and kill many people.
This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
Write: Box 3486, Merchandise Mart, Chicago, IL 60654
Phone: 773-227-4066 Fax: 773-227-4497
(The RW Online does not currently communicate via email.)