Stop the War of Shame
Revolutionary Worker #946, March 1, 1998
A war of shame is in the making.
On one side is the huge, high-tech U.S. war machine--aircraft carriers loaded with bomber planes, cruise missiles set to strike targets hundreds of miles away, radar-evading Stealth fighters, spy satellites and more.
In the crosshairs of this war machine is the already battered and weakened nation of Iraq. In the streets of Baghdad and across this Third World country, people anxiously watch the skies, keep up with the news and listen for air raid sirens--dreading that the nightmare of massive aerial bombings might return. They went through 43 straight days and nights of hell in the 1991 Gulf War--when bombs fell on everything from hospitals and water treatment plants to a civilian air raid shelter where hundreds of women and children slept. They've had to endure several follow-up U.S. bombings. The economic embargo, enforced by U.S. military power, has robbed them of food and medicine. They've seen 750,000 of their children die from malnutrition and disease. And now they brace for yet another brutal assault by a superpower bully from thousands of miles away.
It was shortly after the 1991 war that a videotape caught the Los Angeles police bringing down their batons on Rodney King--again and again--while he lay helpless on the ground. The U.S.--playing cop of the world--is moving in to do a Rodney King on a whole country and its people. What can possibly justify such brutality?
The U.S. government sent out some of its top officials to "make a case" to the people for bombing Iraq once again. They called Saddam Hussein a "repeat offender" who threatens nearby countries and even the whole world with "weapons of mass destruction." They claimed to be speaking for "the will of the people." In Columbus, Ohio and elsewhere, the officials were confronted with profound questions from the audience and by demonstrators denouncing the U.S. war moves.
Those who hold power in this country control a large government infrastructure and mass media, and they are using this to saturate people's minds with their justifications for a war on Iraq. But the U.S. policy makers also make it clear that even if there's public opposition, they are ready to bomb Iraq--and then force people to accept it. Clinton declared, "If it's necessary for us to act, I believe America will do what it always does. I believe it will unite." As we go to press, the UN Secretary General announced from Baghdad that he had reached an agreement with the Iraqi government to allow the UN weapons inspectors back in. But the U.S. government has already made clear it could turn down any deal the UN comes up with, and carry out a "unilateral" war on Iraq. Behind the facade of "democratic debate" is the reality that this is a dictatorship of the capitalist class.
A day after the Clinton officials faced protests and hard questions in Ohio, the FBI arrested two men for possession of a "biological toxin." Headlines talked of an "anthrax scare." As it turns out, one of the men has a known history with white supremacist groups and was on probation for 18 months for illegally obtaining bubonic plague bacteria. A government affidavit says that he has talked before about releasing poisonous bacteria in the New York subways and blaming it on Iraq. Whatever the truth behind this affair, the feds clearly knew about these men for some time. And Secretary of State Albright and other officials quickly seized on the incident to say this shows the danger of biological weapons and justifies the war threats against Iraq. Is this a real life Wag the Dog--with the "spin doctors" in Washington using the "coincidence" of the arrests of these men to stir up fear about germ warfare and steer public sentiment toward war?
The constant media and government vilification of Saddam Hussein--and tabloid-style warnings about the supposed threat of Iraqi chemical and biological weapons--have had a broad effect. Even many people who question the U.S. war moves say, "I don't want to see the Iraqi people bombed again, but what should be done about Saddam Hussein?" But framing the question in these terms plays into the hands of the U.S. war planners.
People know that those in positions of power in this country lie about their real motives all the time. So shouldn't their rationale for war against Iraq be deeply questioned and challenged--when the lives of so many people are at stake? Can the U.S. government and military be allowed to carry out more mass murder in Iraq in the name of the "American people"?
What is the real story behind the U.S. relationship with Saddam Hussein? The Hussein regime started out no different from other pro-U.S. Third World governments backed by Washington. In the 1980s, the U.S. and its allies encouraged Hussein to lead the Iraqi people into a war with Iran. The Western powers saw it in the their interests to foment this bloody war in which over a million Iraqi and Iranian people died. The U.S. helped Iraq build up its military--and raised no protest when the Hussein regime used poison gas against Iranian troops and rebellious Kurdish people in Iraq.
But Iraq's drive to expand its regional power began stepping on the toes of the U.S. imperialists. Saddam Hussein was no longer "their man" in the Persian Gulf, and they began calling him a "madman." The U.S. threw its military might against one of its own creations--an Iraqi army supplied and trained by the big powers. Over 200,000 Iraqi people were killed so that the U.S. could put Saddam Hussein "in his place."
Since the 1991 war, the U.S. government has tried hard to get rid of Saddam Hussein and replace him with a more obedient regime. The CIA cooked up assassination schemes and coup plots. The U.S. crippled Iraq's economy with sanctions--hoping to turn the Iraqi generals against Hussein.
Yet Saddam Hussein is still in power. And this is a major problem and embarrassment for the U.S. ruling class. It's not the lives and aspirations of the Iraqi people that they are concerned with. In fact, the U.S. government has repeatedly back-stabbed the resistance of the Kurdish people and others in Iraq, fearing that mass uprisings could break up this country and "destabilize" U.S. control over the whole region. And despite the hype about "weapons of mass destruction," the U.S. knows that Iraq's decimated military can do little now outside its borders.
The real concern of the U.S. rulers is that their failure to "get rid" of Saddam Hussein threatens their power, prestige and image of "invincibility." They fear the erosion of their ability to bully and dominate other small states and nations around the world. And they don't want competing powers like Russia and France to take advantage of the situation and cut into U.S. domination in the Persian Gulf. Control of Gulf oil is crucial to U.S. superpower status. The U.S. itself gets only a minor portion of its oil from this region--but the European and Japanese powers, as well as many other countries, depend on this oil to run their economies.
The U.S. moves against Iraq are about defending and expanding U.S. imperialist interests by beating and humiliating the government and people of an oppressed country. They are about control of oil and world domination. And the people of Iraq have become repeat victims of these predatory U.S. power moves.
To put it in basic terms: The main problem in Iraq is not Saddam Hussein. The main problem is U.S. imperialism.
The powers in Washington have absolutely no right to dictate to the Iraqi people what kind of government and leaders they have. This is a matter for the people of Iraq themselves to struggle over and decide. It is a question of the Iraqi people's right to national sovereignty--which the U.S. imperialists have seriously attacked and now threaten to take away completely.
Those who truly want to help the people of Iraq must refuse to get caught up in the anti-Saddam barrage of the U.S. ruling class. Buying into any part of their lies and justifications can only weaken the opposition to their unjust war. The U.S. imperialist troops can do no good in Iraq--or anywhere else in the world, anytime. Extending genuine internationalist help to the Iraqi people means resolutely carrying out anti-imperialist opposition to the U.S. war on Iraq.
The masses of people in the U.S. and around the world share common interests and a common enemy with the people of Iraq. It's the same system that has put the entire population of Iraq in the crosshairs of its war machine--and criminalized an entire generation of youth in the U.S. It's the same imperialist power that has stolen the skies over much of Iraq with "no fly zones"--and is taking the land away from the peasants in Mexico through the NAFTA treaty. It's the same class of capitalist exploiters that is cutting welfare and food stamps for the poor in the U.S.--and starving the Iraqi children through economic sanctions. It's the same set of oppressors that operates the sweatshops in Indonesia--and make enormous profits from the Middle East oil that is kept cheap through impoverishment of millions of Arab people.
The basic people in the U.S. have much more in common with the Iraqis than they will ever have with the powers in this country. The Iraqi people are NOT our enemy. They are our sisters and brothers.
The U.S. war in the Persian Gulf is not our war to fight. It is a thoroughly unjust war, a war without any honor, a war of shame. This imperialist war must be met with determined and broad opposition from the people right here in the "belly of the beast."
This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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