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The War on Iraq and the Real Division in the US Ruling Class

By the Editors


Aside from the deep division over foreign and domestic policy between the U.S. ruling class and the American people, and aside from the fake division between Republicans and Democrats, there is a very real division among the ruling elite. As we shall see, however, it is not a division between those for and against the War on Iraq, but rather how the war can still be won.

What are the real reasons for the war on Iraq (since contrary to their pretensions, there are no fundamental differences between the opposing factions of the ruling class in regard to the real aims of the U.S.)? And while everyone knows that it's really all about oil, behind that lies a more complex and ambitious goal.

That is, the American Empire's aims go much further than a rip-off of the world's second largest proven deposits of oil in Iraq. It's longer-term objective is gaining decisive control over the largest of the world's oil reserves in Saudi Arabia and the other oil-rich nations in the region.

As things now stand, the countries that formed the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) (which was formed in 1960 to combat attempts by imperialism's international oil corporations and cartels to gain a larger share of the profits from the oil-exporting nations), are now a mite better able to defend their own interests. Consequently, U.S. and British oil corporations, in retaliation, have been pushing their governments toward policies leading to a radical increase in their share of oil profits by any and all means-none fair!

This helps explain why both factions are also in agreement with the administration's construction of 13permanent U.S. military basesin Iraq immediately after the six-week invasion ousted Saddam Hussein's dictatorship and disbanded his armed forces. The U.S. removed Hussein, their man-in-Iraq, because he was beginning to go too far in putting his regime's interests over Uncle Sam's. Besides, the U.S. wanted more Iraqi oil as well.

The establishment of a powerful U.S. military stronghold in Iraq can have no other purpose than to serve as a launching pad for gaining a far greater measure of control over all Middle Eastern oil-providing, of course, the U.S. superpower can subdue the Iraqi insurgency.

This contradiction between the Bush administration's words and deeds gives the lie to itsstated intention of bringing freedom and democracy and improved living standards to the people of Iraq and establishing a democratic Iraqi government with a military force capable of defending itself. And the fact that the administration's critics have not bothered to point to this contradiction between words and deeds, goes a long way toward proving that they also support the construction of a very large U.S. military stronghold in Iraq as a launching pad for the American Empire's longer-term goals in the Middle East.

In fact, when President Bush ordered 21,000 more troops to Iraq, he also dispatched a powerful naval task force, including two big aircraft carriers, into the Persian Gulf. Although it was loudly proclaimed as being directed at Iran, it nevertheless constituted ade facto-threat against Arab and Iranian oil most of which is transported by tanker through the Gulf. Since then, a third U.S. Naval aircraft-carrier group (twenty more ships) has been deployed in the Gulf!

There's yet another reason for building a powerful stronghold in Iraq. Starting in 1948, because the colonial revolution had begun picking up steam during and immediately after the Second World War, world imperialism-through the medium of the UN-created the Israeli settler state as its first major military foothold in the Middle East. Israel would be a primarily American imperialist instrument for controlling the rising rebellion against imperialist domination of the colonial world.

However, the Zionist containment of the Palestinian rebellion has become a bigger and tougher job than anyone expected. Besides, the irrepressible Palestinian rebellion has contributed heavily to the destabilization of imperialist control over the entire Middle East, including Iran. And when account is taken of the vast deposits of oil already controlled by the United States, the achievement of even their immediate goal of gaining decisive control over the prices and profits of Iraqi oil would give corporate America an important lever with which to regulate the market price of oil on a global scale.

But while both factions of the capitalist power structure are in agreement with the two main objectives in Iraq and the Middle East, they are in sharp disagreement over what it will take to win the war against Iraq's mass rebellion. That's why the opposing faction has latched onto the well-founded criticisms made by senior U.S. Generals, Army Chief of Staff Eric Shinseki and CENTCOM Commander Tommy Franks, who have argued from its outset that it would take at least 200,000 troops for the offensive to succeed; and far more troops-as many as 300,000-to pacify and police the country after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein and the disbanding of his armed forces!

But, while the Generals merely argue that a larger force is needed to win the war, they don't of course, dare call for the reinstitution of the Draft. And the reason they don't is no secret. The so-called Vietnam syndrome has convinced both factions of the ruling class to avoid conscription like the plague. The Vietnam experience has given them all very good reason to believe that it would cause an explosive expansion of the already existing mass opposition to the war.

But there may still be another way-if it's not too late-to get the additional troops needed at this stage of a losing war. The Bush administration's critics, who include among its chief spokespersons theNew York Times, and a substantial portion of important representatives of the capitalist political and economic establishment, had proposed such a solution starting before the invasion of Iraq was launched in March 2003. And that could have been done by offering the European Union the same guarantees they gave the British to win its full political, economic and military support.

We now come to the main reason for the opposition by the more conservative and less adventurous wing of the ruling class-an opposition that grows with every military setback suffered by the Bush administration in its losing war against the Iraqi insurgency.

What most of America's ordinary folks have not been told, is that the U.S. had to pay a price to secure the whole-hearted military, political and financial support of Great Britain for the daunting task of conquering and pacifying the mass Iraqi insurgency. And that price could only have been a promise to the British that in exchange for the pain of helping in the conquest and pacification of Iraq, British capitalism would get its fair share of the gain-joint monopoly control over Iraqi oil. And after the consolidation of their grip on Iraq, the two world powers would then be in position, to shoot for a monopoly on as much of the world's largest proven deposits of oil in the entire Middle East and beyond that their military and economic power would allow.

Furthermore, the U.S. power structure's insiders-including the administration's critics-also understoodwhy Bush and company had refused to make the same commitment to the European Union that they made to the British.

Global economic competitionand the role played by oil

However, we must first establish how decisive control over Middle Eastern oil today, can determine the winners and losers of the ever-intensifying competition among the world's capitalist nations for a larger share of the shrinking world marketplace tomorrow.

The main reason why the U.S./UK is locked on a course toward gaining a virtual monopoly over the world's largest deposits of oil becomes clearer when account is taken of their already existing control over a major portion of the world's oil supply. Thus, gaining decisive control over Iraqi oil would enable the American Empire and its British junior partner to raise the cost of energy to selected competitors and thereby raise the latter's cost of production of all its exports.

And that's where the European Union's major powers, headed by France and Germany, come into the picture. Western Europe is far more dependent on Iraqi and Middle Eastern oil than other of the American Empire's major competitors at the present stage of the deepening trade wars. That, in turn, would permit the U.S./UK alliance to capture a larger share of the world market forits products from one of its main competitors, the EU, which is also its most vulnerable rival at this stage of the inter-imperialist economic conflict.

In a word, that's why the U.S. refused to offer the same inducement to the EU that won it the whole-hearted support of British imperialism for the task of conquering Hussein and subduing the Iraqi insurgency. It conflicts with the Bush administration's double purpose, of gaining strategic control over the world supply of oil and stealing a march on some of its main competitors today and more tomorrow.

Evidently, the faction of the U.S. ruling class opposed to the course of action chosen by the Bush administration have judged it to be far too risky. That is, the administration's decision to crush the insurgency without the help of the political, economic and military support of the European Union was too big a gamble, even though the rewards would have been much greater.

A further reason why the administration's loyal opponents rejected such a high-stakes gamble is the already enormous size of the antiwar movement in the U.S. which can help upset the administration's best-laid plans as it did in Vietnam.

They may well also have a deeper concern. Though the U.S. today may not be the Russia of 1917 when the Bolshevik slogan "Land, Peace and Bread" helped them lead Russia's workers and peasants to the overthrow of Czarism, and toward socialist revolution, the U.S. can become another Russia tomorrow, because the revolutionary dynamics at work at that time in Russia apply with even greater force today to a capitalist world that is on an irreversible course toward economic catastrophe.

Besides, capitalist America has been living on borrowed money and, by the same token, borrowed time. The public debt, now stands at 8.7-trillion dollars and rises in pace with the balance of trade and budget deficits that are rising faster than can be registered on the U.S.-Debt Clock.

In addition, now that the world monetary system's link with gold has been stretched to the breaking point, the U.S. Treasury is for all practical purposes, already bankrupt. Two factors, however, stand in the way of outright bankruptcy. One is the world's faith in the dollar because of the enormity of the U.S. economy. The other is the fact that should too many of the world's bankers and moneylenders demand payment on the barrelhead or cash in their dollar holdings for Euros at the same time, there would be a run on the dollar leading to its collapse. And if the dollar collapses, the entire global monetary system would also come crashing down.

More on the unique role of oil in the world today

This takes us closer to what is really driving U.S. economic, political and military policy in the Middle East, in particular, and the world in general.

Oil is a commodity unlike any other. It's more than a source of energy. It is also more plentiful, accessible, portable and generally more efficacious than any other fuel. The by-products of oil, after the various fuels are extracted, are also an indispensable raw material for the production of a multiplicity of products ranging from plastics, to dyes to chemicals to dozens of other commodities.

Throughout most of the 20th century most of the world's industrial, commercial and financial entrepreneurs had considered oil to be a special commodity whose value, in many respects, was considered to be as "good as gold" giving rise to its nickname, "Black Gold." This characterization refers to its universal acceptance between industrialized nations, by virtue of its "liquidity" (the abilityor ease with which a commodity can be converted into cold cash).

Besides, this extraordinarily versatile raw material, whose value as a source of profits greatly increases after it has been reduced and divided into its valuable components, goes far beyond that of most other universally coveted raw materials. Most importantly, the economy of industrialized nations would come to a dead stop without oil, gas and other fossil fuels. Oil, moreover, is a far more efficient fuel for powering everything from cars, trucks, trains, planes and last but not least, the electricity-generating powerhouses of the world!

Thus, in the world as it is today, oil is perhaps the closest thing to a universal equivalent like gold, silver and other semi-precious metals like copper which still serve as money in the form of coins.

And this adds another dimension to the value of oil in today's global economy. Because the growing crisis of the dollar worsens in pace with the rising balance of payments and budget deficits, gaining a near monopoly over Iraqi oil would serve to stop and perhaps reverse this deficit which would also strengthen the weakening U.S. dollar.

However, the longer the war goes on, along with the increasing effectiveness of the Iraqi insurgency in downing helicopters, destroying armored vehicles and increasing the rate of killed and wounded U.S. troops, it is draining the U.S. treasurynow, while the hoped for Iraqi oil bonanza has yet to be realized-if ever!

Most importantly, the war is undermining the American Empire's military and political position in Iraq as well as right here in the imperialist heartland.

The US has broken from its winning policyduring the Cold War

The course being followed by the United States today in regard to its changed relationship with its imperialist allies during the Cold War is a sharp departure from its successful leadership of world imperialism against the Soviet superpower during the more than 40 years of the Cold War.

During those years, it should be remembered, the policies followed by the U.S. were guided by the need to maintain the unity of world imperialism based on the defense of their most fundamental class interests. The formidable power of the Soviet Superpower, its satellites and neocolonial allies, kept the U.S. from going too far in the direction of subordinating the interests of world imperialism to the narrower interests of the American Empire.

The Bush administration's big mistake, as perceived by its critics, is its break from the policy followed by the U.S. during the Cold War: a policy that subordinated the narrower interests of U.S. imperialism to those of world imperialism as a whole. That is, while the most sober of the ruling class had no doubts about its ability to single-handedly crush the army of Saddam Hussein and replace his dictatorship with a "democratic" government subservient to the American Empire, they knew it was something else again to suppress the Iraqi insurgency solely with the help of the British Empire.

What divides the Bush administration from its critics is the former's willingness to bet the family jewels on a long shot; and the latter's belief that the gamble is not worth the effort. Besides, the critics may well believe that it would be a better and safer bet to share the spoils with the EU in exchange for their help in crushing the insurgency and then play the inter-imperialist conflict by ear from then on.

Making bad matters worse is the recent deepening of the division in the ruling class when the Iraq Study Group (ISG) published its Report on the state of the war in the Middle East on December 6, 2006. The ISG is a ten-person bipartisan panel appointed on March 15, 2006, by the United States Congress.

The panel, composed of five Republicans and five Democrats, is no ordinary congressional commission. All ten members had held high positions in government including two former Secretaries of State, a former U.S. Attorney General, a former U.S. Secretary of Defense, a retired Supreme Court Justice, two former Senators, a former White House Chief of Staff and one "highly respected" business executive.

Congress charged this prestigious panel with assessing the situation in Iraq and the U.S.-led Iraq War and making policy recommendations.

The ISG Report, "The Way Forward-A New Approach," was widely interpreted as being in essential accord with the political, military and diplomatic orientation of the administration's Democratic Party critics. At the same time, like all other of its critics, the ISG Report nevertheless made crystal clear it's support for the main objectives in Iraq and the Middle East of both the Bush Administration and it's loyal opposition.

However, what might be called the elder statespersons of the U.S. political establishment who had been appointed to the ISG have taken the rebuff by the Bush administration in stride. The reason for this is their obvious concern that their differences, though very serious, should not be allowed to get out of hand.

Obviously, it's not in either side's interests to let their real differences over military and political strategy disrupt their need to stick together. And secondly, an untoward sharpening of tone in their debate raises the danger that one side or the other, in their zeal to score points with the undecided sector of the ruling class, might lead them, inadvertently, toward spilling the beans regarding the real reasons for the Iraq War.

Ironically, while tens of thousands of antiwar protestors have been chanting the slogan "No Blood for Oil!" starting with the first mass march by ten million demonstrators in most of the world's major cities back in February 2003, just weeks before the U.S. invasion of Iraq had begun, both factions of the ruling class have issued little more than one-sentence denials of the charge that oil had anything to do with the invasion of Iraq.

But as the saying goes, though a lie can circle the globe before the truth gets its shoes on, the truth will out in time.

Capitalism can no longer give its real reasons for war

There was a time-now long past-when capitalists organized and led progressive wars. That is, wars such as the French and American revolutions which were genuinely designed to improve the lives of the great majority as well as advancing the interests of the capitalist class. But even a progressive war like the U.S. Civil War-in the hands of the capitalist class-killed many more innocent victims than necessary.

That was more than a matter of being able to honestly give their real reasons for war. Since there is no more effective propaganda than the simple truth, it gave the revolutionary capitalist class a very powerful weapon.

And no less importantly, the capitalist revolution also gave a powerful impulse to the development of science and technology, which laid the foundation for a more or less steady expansion of the productive forces of capitalist society. All of these revolutionary transformations being the precondition for higher living standards, greater control over the forces of nature, all of which leads to curative medicines and vaccines that prevent disease. After all, there is no greater improvement in mass living standards than a longer and healthier life.

However, even when capitalism did what was needed to develop science and technology, control over the forces of nature and development of the forces of production, it was consciously motivated by capitalist greed and at the expense of the unnecessary human suffering of the very people producing all of society's wealth-its workers and farmers.

While it is important to give due credit to the progressive role played by capitalism and capitalistsin the past, it's more important to recognize that whatever positive role it has played has gradually turned into its opposite simply because it has outlived its usefulness.

And while the ruling class of every one of history's outmoded social orders have refused to pass peacefully into oblivion without a fight to the death, the consequences for humanity has never been as potentially unthinkable as they are today. And that's because the very same forces enhancing the forces of mass production-science and technology-are also the forces of mass destruction.

Today, capitalism's once great contributions to humanity are no longer forces of mass construction and progress. Rather capitalism today has become the most powerful force for mass destruction in world history. Consequently, long before the Vietnam War, it had become increasingly difficult for capitalists to justify their wars, wars which have been re-occurring with greater frequency as time marches on.

That's why the ruling class is compelled to come up with spurious rationalizations for wars that are intended to benefit the rich with the bulk of the fighting and dying imposed on the poor.

That's why the bipartisan U.S. government is compelled to justify its horrendous crimes against humanity with the false claim that the war on Iraq, like so many others that preceded it, is intended to bring freedom, democracy and a better life to the people of Iraqand the United States.

That's why, both factions are as economically and politically bankrupt as is the U.S. Treasury today and even more importantly, that's why the global capitalist monetary system is also a financial bankruptcy just waiting to happen.

And, finally, that's also why, in the final analysis, both factions are on an irreversible trajectory toward wars, more wars and unless the capitalist social and economic order is overthrown and replaced by a socialist world without borders, it's doomed to end in a global thermonuclear conflagration.