Resolution of the Anti-imperialist Camp
After the aggression: on the Iraqi resistance and the American world order
The popular formula ""no blood for oil" is much too simple to explain the intentions of the Anglo-American aggression against Iraq. The "permanent, preventive and global war" launched by the US after September 11, 2001 has to be understood as their answer to the failure of the "New World Order" announced after the Gulf War of 1991.
The Pax Americana offered integration of the former enemies after their surrender. It promised global dà©tente. In the form of Clintonianism it deeply penetrated the European intelligentsia transforming the historic left into left liberalism supplying the leadership of imperialism.
However, only one decade later the inner contradictions of the US´ global rule – which in the last instance boil down to the abysmal social and national inequalities – became so explosive once again that they could not be hidden any more. The "clash of civilisations" substituted the "end of history". The outbreak of the new Intifada announced to the world that the "peace accords" of Oslo, paradigmatic for Clinton´s global "grand design", had failed and that resistance has to be resumed.
Already before the WTC attack neo-conservative forces linked to the imperialist oligarchy pressed for a significant policy change of the US. The superior military power of the leading nation should be ruthlessly and pre-emptively used against any possible opposition which could in the future grow into a threat for their world dominance. However, in a delirium of military omnipotence Washington is unaware of the fact that this historic turn is rapidly wearing out their already weakened political hegemony. In the long run open rule by brute force is bound to be less successful than political integration.
The war against Afghanistan was of utmost symbolic significance. In a battle on the most unequal terms imaginable the world´s richest and most armoured state defeated one of the world´s most poorest and shattered "states" led by a militia paying allegiance to a medieval and obscurantist sketch of society. By choosing the weakest enemy possible the abasement of September 11 should be avenged. However, the myth of invulnerability which is the precondition of invincibility could not be restored. In any case the war against Afghanistan was only a prelude.
From the very beginning Iraq was the top target of the Bush regime. While the main battle about the future design of the world order might be fought in the Far East, the inflammation of its acute crisis will be in the Middle East. The latter once again appears to be the Gordic knot. Palestinian resistance against Zionist occupation is only the peak of the iceberg. Political Islam is gathering more and more antagonistic momentum threatening historic pillars of US control like the Saudi and Pakistani regimes who derive their legitimacy from Islam. Sooner or later popular rebellion against the imperialist yoke is doomed to explode tearing down the entire imperialist architecture of the region.
The recent strike against Iraq was designed to pre-emptively safeguard this architecture. By destroying one of the last heirs of Pan-arabism a lesson should be taught not only to neighbouring countries but also to the resistance movements. Although Iraq used to be one of the strongest Arab powers its ability to defend itself was decisively curbed by the sanctions of the 90ies, and diplomatic isolation made it an easy target.
At the same time the permanent and pre-emptive war is characterised by an outstanding unilateralism. "Who is not with us is against us" demands the total subordination under American leadership. Thus the war was also an indirect warning against the European allies and Russia, who are struggling to preserve a certain independent range of manoeuvring.
In military terms it was never a question whether the US would win or not – the question was how long it would take them. The military supremacy of the US is so overwhelming that no peripheral nation or state is able to resist a frontal assault without the serious support of others. American military power projected onto one single spot cannot be countered militarily, not even with the highest morale.
Therefore the Iraqi resistance in the first two weeks of the aggression astonished the world. The battles of Um Quasr, Basrah, Nasseriya showed a determined fighting spirit also in the Shia south. Contradicting the corporate media´s propaganda, there neither occurred mass desertion nor popular uprisings.
On the contrary, even the rapid American advance in the desert, evading confrontations in densely populated areas, caused considerable problems to the invaders. Their supply line was too long, their forces exposed to be ambushed.
However, in the territorial defence of the region around Baghdad the Iraqis seemed to have engaged in conventional warfare in which they suffered major losses and were rapidly defeated.
All hopes were focused on the urban battle in Baghdad. But the international airport was left to the aggressors without a significant major confrontation. Not even the runways were destroyed. Facing the impending assault on Baghdad no preparations for the street battle were made so that the US advance into the city and the centre of power encountered no substantial resistance. It is obvious that the military leadership did not want to fight and de facto has decided to surrender . Whether they cut a deal or just fled and left the troops on their own we neither know nor is it of prime importance. However, considering the morale of the troops and the population a much longer and fiercer resistance would have been possible.
The problem therefore was the rottenness of the Baathist hierarchy not the exhaustion of the people. Despite their discontent with the regime of Saddam they apparently would have been ready to defend their country against the imperialist invader if the spinal column of the state had carried on.
The very fact that the Baathist state apparatus was neither willing nor able to confront the aggressor is a further evidence that a frontal clash with imperialism is not in the interest of the national bourgeoisie on which Baathism was essentially based regardless of occasional Jacobine or adventurist moods of the modern Caliph on its top echelon. Only by a popular war in the urban zones based on the mobilisation of the poor classes, the urban lumpen proletariat, the peasants and the workers determined resistance would have been possible. But Baathism had long lost the political support of those classes – if it ever have had it. Different to other Arab countries Iraqi Baathism was born in an open confrontation to the popular movement of the poor. In anti-proletarian function it gathered not only the support of the national bourgeoisie but also of parts of the pro-British reactionary feudal forces. Later on seizing power it had to implement anti-imperialist social measures like the nationalisation of the oil industry, also due to the support of the Communist Party (which in doing so knotting the cord with which they later were hanged). However, having done a step towards the interests of the popular masses it purged the radical wing of the Baath party and completely cracked down on the political independence of the poor classes banning the CP as well as any expression of the popular movement. With the war against Iran it openly betrayed the popular classes in the interest of imperialism.
Although there have been signs that the popular classes would have been ready to defend the country despite the mistrusted Baathist leadership it were the very Baathist ranks which lacked the determination to do so. Without a leadership the popular masses are not able to conduct a war.
Nobody in Iraq shed a tear for Saddam. But even less did a significant section of the Arab Iraqis welcome the occupants as liberators. Facing the imperialist aggression national sentiments are flying high despite the defeat of Baathism. The pictures broadcasted by the US propaganda never showed big crowds. When the statue of Saddam was torn down it had to be done by American soldiers. Even those few Iraqis standing nearby – probably selected by the US – protested when the Stars and Stripes banner was hoisted. Only in Saddam City some lumpens hailed the Americans. Nothing similar to the events in Eastern Europe in 89/91 could be observed.
Recent reports indicate that the US instigated looting in order to destroy the remnants of the old regime precipitating the county into public disorder.
Only in the Kurdish area US presence was welcomed by the population in mass gatherings in the streets of Kirkuk, also inspired by the wish to show strength in front of the Turkmen and Arab inhabitants of the town being claimed as the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan.
Only a few days after a semblance of public order was restored the first mass protests under the leadership of sections of the Shia clergy took place. The slogans raised are more than clear: "No to Saddam, no to US occupation! Yes to freedom, yes to an Islamic Republic!" Shiite political Islam could become the leading force of the growing popular resistance against occupation.
Noteworthy is the difference to South Lebanon after the Zionist invasion in 1982, which was at first passively accepted by the Shia population. It took years of Israeli atrocities to develop the resistance of the populace.
It should not be forgotten that the Shia leadership of Al Hakim linked to Iran did not oppose the American war drive just as Iran itself promised "neutrality". This opportunist and reactionary stance did, however, not pay off. Washington probably will try to keep those forces out of the puppet regime it is about to set up. Therefore Al Hakim boycotted the first US attempt in Nasseriya to form a government based on local forces.
Despite the fact that Shiite Islamism might play the leading role as the representative of the majority population in the struggle against occupation it is obvious that the Islamic resistance rests on a powerful Arab-Iraqi nationalist substrate that even the clergy cannot ignore.
Shia clergy - despite its strong hierarchy - is not centralized as the Catholic one. Therefore different Ayatollahs compete for the leadership and it is not decided whether one current will be able to establish its supremacy. The questions involved and connected with each other are the relation to Iran, to the Sunni population, to the remnants of Baathism and to the US military administration. A leadership too close to Tehran like al Hakim risks to violate the national sentiments even more, as the distrust of the Persian neighbour is still widespread. This is also the precondition for a coalition with the Sunnis with their even stronger Arab nationalist tradition. In the mass demonstrations banners appeared reading "Shia and Sunni united for an Islamic state" – an unresolved challenge for the Shia leaders. Despite the politisation of the Shia clergy in the 60ies and 70ies, reaching its climax with the Iranian revolution, there is a strong quietist tendency with a corresponding theological doctrine called "takiyya". It remains to be seen if such a tendency co-operating with the occupants will emerge.
Regarding the Sunni population, political Islam is on the rise, too. However, in the middle classes and in the elite comprising also many Christians, the secular nationalist tradition is too strong to just fade out by the new developments. They will sooner or later give rise to a new leadership ready to accept an Islamic nationalist state under the precondition that their basic rights are granted.
Anglo-American occupation under a military governor will not be accepted by the majority of the Arab Iraqi people regardless of the sect they belong to. If foreign reign appears to be perpetuated, political mass resistance will be accompanied by an armed one on a level US troops will not sustain with their current deployment (except other pro American states send mercenaries for reinforcement).
Washington faces a major problem in installing a puppet regime. In contrast to Afghanistan they have no significant local ally as Ahmed Chalabi´s INC is regarded as a rootless alien force imported by the US. The Kurdish leadership, which would be ready to co-operate, cannot play a leading role as it is hostile to the Arab majority and as the US´ major allies are opposed to them. On the other hand, the new rulers strive to avoid pro-Iranian forces and radical Islamists opposing their global dominion.
All the major countries in the region, including the most faithful US allies like Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Egypt are opposed to American colonial rule. Also for them American presence in Iraq constitutes a threat further limiting their space to move.
With the recent menaces against Damascus the victors have signalled clearly that they intend to use the new relationship of forces to oblige all states to fully subordinate to the US-Israeli interests. The Sauds know that an Iraq under full US control will diminish their role as an American pillar and will put them under severe pressure to curb Wahabism, which is their state dogma – a demand impossible to fulfil.
After the Anglo-American occupation of Iraq, which in the first instance further strengthens the aggressor´s power, France, Germany and Russia, who opposed the war, have to soften their approach and find ways to restore their relation to the US, bridging the differences. They insist on the UN to play the leading role in Iraq. However, a compromise will be possible securing both American predominance and a subordinate role for the UN, providing a certain retroactive justification for the aggression. Although the conflict between the US and its ally-rivals cannot be undone it will be covered up according to the new relationship of forces favourable to the US. But under the surface the tensions continue and will break out as soon as there seems to be a possibility to gain some ground for the opponents.
However, these secondary imperialist forces face a strategic dilemma. They are too weak to seriously challenge American supremacy and depend on Washington to safeguard the imperialist world order they are part of and they benefit from. The European Union has been an ambiguous project from the very beginning. While there is on the one hand doubtlessly a momentum of unification in order to better defend the European bourgeoisies interests against the United States, the US on the other hand has always supported the EU in order to keep it under control. This is by the way the reason why they strongly advocate Turkey´s adhesion.
To really oppose the US would mean to split the EU and would imply to build a new axis with Russia, China and possibly India. The contrary is happening. With the adhesion of new Eastern European states, most of them under the tight political and military control of the US via NATO, the American influence on the EU will even increase. The initiative of France, Germany and Belgium to build a common military block is nothing but an empty diplomatic threat. To be taken seriously would require the readiness to expel the American basis and puppet states and break up the union – an unimaginable earthquake.
As in Afghanistan the US war against Iraq and the subsequent occupation is on the one hand strengthening the military supremacy of the sole superpower but on the other hand it is unable to resolve the social and political contradictions driving the growing opposition against the American empire. The more the US must resort to military force, the more popular opposition and resistance will grow – at least in the long run.
The increasing political problems Washington is facing are combined with an ever-growing economic interdependence with Europe and Japan. Only as long as capital from these regions keeps being attracted by and invested in the US the order can preserve its stability. The permanent flow of capital depends on the higher profit rates in the US which is directly linked to the global predominance in any respect. So Washington can only resort to military power turning the spiral of the permanent and pre-emptive war.
We cannot predict how long the global system will sustain its intrinsic contradictions. But already now mainstream analysts within the US warn that American global military power is overstretched. Of course the military budget will be increased and there are plenty of resources. But the US will be forced to lead wars also against stronger enemies and several in parallel. The offensive pre-emptive war is actually the measure designed to impede the numerous enemies of the US to build an alliance, thus to strengthen themselves and to become a serious enemy. As soon as there is the realistic chance to inflict a defeat on the US, the secondary imperialist and regional powers might support the anti-American resistance. Given the growing contradictions which they are unable to resolve, it is in the long run impossible that the US, with less than 5% of the world´s population, will control and dominate all the rest. Sooner or later the American mono-polar world order is doomed to give way to a multi-polar one opening the gate for new anti-imperialist and revolutionary victories.
Important sections of the European popular masses as well as of the intelligentsia have opposed the American aggression. They are astonished and horrified by the ruthlessness by which the US is violating the values they claim to be the protectors of and the brutality with which they are striving for their global predominance. This sentiment was the basis of the mass mobilisations sweeping across Europe. It is neither anti-imperialist let alone anti-capitalist. In a certain sense it is even the defence of the Clintonian world without conflicts – an illusion which burst like a bubble.
Nevertheless it is a significant change both in the public opinion as well as in the anti-globalisation movement. The latter used to oppose savage capitalism without attacking imperialism in the form of US supremacy. They claimed to set against capitalist globalisation "globalisation from below" without understanding that globalisation cannot have another meaning than global American dominance. Recent history has been falsifying Toni Negri´s thesis of an empire without a power centre. Important sections begin to understand that we have to oppose US rule as the guarantor of imperialism and capitalism.
Anti-Americanism is growing not only on the periphery of the system but in Europe itself. As the European bourgeoisies are doomed in one way or another to keep their alliance with the US, the Anti-American sentiment contains an antagonistic momentum – despite the fact that it originates from very bourgeois democratic illusions.
For the coming period Anti-Americanism is the only possibility, the only lever anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist forces can use to develop an antagonistic movement and subject on a mass level – not only in a restricted political but also in a broader cultural sense. Anti-Americanism is at the same time the indispensable link with the struggle of the oppressed peoples of the world.
Anglo-American troops out of Iraq and the Gulf!
No to an occupation government – neither by the US nor the UN!
For the right of self-determination – support the anti-imperialist resistance!
Freedom for Palestine!
Down with the pax Americana and its world order!
Resist and fight US imperialism, the main enemy of humanity!