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September 2002 • Vol 2, No. 8 •

Stop the War on Iraq
Before it Begins!

A socialist perspective 

By Carole Seligman

There is a growing outcry against a new war on Iraq internationally and here in the United States. There is even a division within the ruling circles of U.S. and world imperialism over the administration’s plans, such that former secretary of State under Nixon, Henry Kissinger, and Brent Scowcroft, former advisor to George Bush senior, have editorialized publically that now is not the time to invade Iraq. Not that they have any moral qualms about invading when they think the time is right. Despite all ruling class efforts—and hopes—the “Vietnam Syndrome” (the phenomenon of reluctance—or outright refusal—of the American people to risk life or limb in order to carry out American foreign policy) is not dead. And some ruling class spokespersons, are admitting that a “regime change” in Iraq—which is really a campaign to bring Iraq and its vast oil reserves under U.S. imperialist domination—will require a ground invasion force in which many American lives will be sacrificed.

While a division within the ruling class could slow the process down, it certainly won’t reverse it. The administration’s drumbeat for war is growing louder. The best hope we have of stopping the war is building a massive, independent, international antiwar movement. Such a movement must be based on the principle of respecting the right of self-determination of Iraq. This is a principle based on human solidarity of the working peoples of the world who have common interests of satisfying their human needs peacefully and exercising their human rights to freedom and sharing of the world’s resources.

To be specific: American working people have much more in common with the Iraqi people than with the super-rich rulers of the United States and their lackeys in the U.S. government. There is no justification for American working people to sacrifice their lives in a war whose real purpose is to secure Iraq’s oil riches for the owners of the private oil companies. There is no rationale for American working people’s taxes to fund giant military machines with trillions of dollars that could instead be spent on meeting people’s real needs here and around the world, building homes, schools, medical clinics, mass transportation, curing disease, providing clean water, sustainable agriculture, protecting the environment and repairing the environmental damage caused by rapacious militarism and capitalist greed.

This basic principle—of respect for self-determination through working class solidarity—allowed previous anti-war movements (like the movement against the Vietnam war and the short-lived movement opposed to the 1991 Gulf war) to grow into massive movements capable of bringing millions of ordinary people into the streets to oppose government policies.

This is what is needed now to fight against the impending war on Iraq, the war on Afghanistan, and the “War on Terror” with its many targets. Many of the active antiwar organizations do organize on this basis and are able to put other differences aside in order to work in coalition with other groups and that is to the good. But some groups have a different orientation. Global Exchange, a S.F.-based organization, appears to base its anti-war organizing more on efforts to convince Democratic party politicians to oppose the Republicans, than on respect for the right of self-determination of the Iraqi people.

Global Exchange/United for Peace put out a paper on the internet called “A Few Reasons Why the U.S. Should Not Start a War Against Iraq.” Some of the reasons listed are valid, such as: “A War Would Kill Thousands of People.” But, some of the reasons violate Iraq’s right of self-determination and seem more geared to trying to link up with so-called “liberal” capitalist politicians critical of the Bush administration than in an attempt to build a principled antiwar movement, independent of those “critics” of George W. Bush who voted for the “War on Terrorism” with both hands.

Is the U.S. threatened by Iraq?

For example, the first reason listed in the Global Exchange piece is “Iraq does not pose an urgent threat to the United States” (because they allege, the Bush administration has given no evidence that Iraq is trying to develop weapons of mass destruction.) Wait a minute. You mean it’s okay to go to war with any country that has weapons of mass destruction? Russia, Ukraine, Israel, India, Pakistan, Britain, France? And which country has the greatest number and most deadly such weapons if not the United States? This country spends more on its military machine than Western Europe and Japan combined.

Former U.N. arms inspector, Scott Ritter, among others, has been speaking out effectively about Iraq’s disarmament, proving that the Bush administration has been lying about Iraq’s weapons. This shows that the adminstration’s justification for going to war is fake. And while it is good to catch the government in one of its many lies, the antiwar movement shouldn’t make an argument that would justify a war if it was true that Iraq had such weapons. The reason for the tremendous build-up of weapons of mass destruction in the world is because the United States—the world’s only super-power—has already developed and used such weapons, not Iraq!

International support or unilateral U.S. action?

Another reason Global Exchange gives against the U.S. starting a war against Iraq is that “there is no international support for a war on Iraq” from “our European and Arab allies” such as there was during the 1991 Persian Gulf War or the current war against Afghanistan. Again, we must ask, what if the U.S. was able to strong-arm its European and Arab capitalist allied regimes into giving support? Any U.S. war, even a multilateral one (such as the 1991 Gulf war and the U.S./NATO war against Yugoslavia) led by U.S. imperialist forces should be opposed. The working peoples of Europe and of the Arab countries have no interests in common with the imperial ruling classes of any of these countries. All serve their capitalist masters’ campaign for greater and greater profits. So, whether or not the U.S. war on Iraq is carried out unilaterally or with international support, while it certainly could effect the ability of the U.S. to crush Iraq quickly, it still violates the self-determination of the Iraqis. This argument by Global Exchange is also geared toward convincing the Democrats that the U.S. would have more trouble winning a war against Iraq without international allied support. The antiwar movement shouldn’t concern itself with “real politik”. Our strength is outside the capitalist political system, building an independent movement, not trying to jockey within for lukewarm and self-contradictory support from unreliable politicians.

First strike and international law

A third reason Global Exchange puts forward is that “The U.S. should not become a first-strike nation,” that such an action would be unprecedented for the United States to strike not “as a response to an act of aggression committed against America or its allies.” This is a ridiculous argument. The U.S. has acted aggressively first against many countries and developed the propaganda to justify its aggression after the fact. The Gulf of Tonkin “incident” was a completely phony story cooked up by the U.S. government to justify the massive commitment of U.S. troops to a Vietnam War the U.S. was already covertly fighting. The slant drilling by Kuwait across borders into Iraqi oil wells, and the U.S. willingness for Iraq to enter Kuwait in response, were cooked up into a war to protect poor little Kuwait from big bad Iraq in 1991. Most important is that the worst weapons of mass destruction were only used by one country—the United States in the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. And they were used after Japan had tried to surrender in World War II! So this argument is based on the lie that the United States has acted within International Law previously and only will begin to violate it now if it makes a first strike on Iraq.

“International Law” is put forward as a call to reign in the unbridled power of the U.S. by Global Exchange, Noam Chomsky, and many other liberals and leftists. The real “International Law” that operates in the world is that “might makes right.” No matter what resolutions the United Nations or other international bodies have approved, the United States violates all of them when its capitalist rulers deem it necessary. Thus, “International Law” was the cover story for the U.S. aggression against Iraq in 1991. And the United States has violated all the conventions of international law related to war and war crimes from the day such laws were passed, even laws it has signed. The fact that civilians are the majority of deaths in all modern wars testifies to the impotence of “international law” so long as world politics is dominated by the capitalist class. One day there will be international law worthy of the name, but that will be only after the capitalist class has been thrown out of power; only after they have been relieved of their wealth and the means of getting wealth, permanently.

Who pays for war?

One of the arguments Global Exchange put forward is that the U.S. allies paid for 80% of the 1991 Gulf War and “this time around they won’t.” Even one penny spent against the people of Iraq is too much. The antiwar movement must demand “Not one person, not one bullet, not one bomb, not one penny” to the war against Iraq. Public funds should pay for human needs, not war!

Whose security? 

The last argument on the Global Exchange list is that “a war against Iraq will make Americans LESS safe, not more safe,” because, for one thing, “it will weaken our relationships with our allies….” This is a strange argument; it is the capitalist system and its government that is wholly responsible for the uncertainty of our “safety” and “security”. It has nothing to do with their ability to ally with (or strong arm) other countries. There is no safety and security in a world where the wealth of the three wealthiest individuals exceeds the wealth of the poorest 48 countries! There is no safety and security in a world where over a billion people lack access to safe drinking water, where billions are malnourished, and lack basic health and shelter. There is no safety and security when trillions of dollars of wealth created by working people is expropriated by the profiteers for the production of horrific weapons of massive destructive power and sold to governments for use against human beings.

The capitalist system is by its very nature insecure, based as it is on profit for a few, rather than the needs of the many. We cannot call upon the government to make us more secure when the government’s very policy only seeks to secure profit and the long-range security for the profit system itself.

The antiwar movement has a very big task. We must convince the American people that they have more in common with the peoples of the world, including the people of Iraq, than with the U.S. government, who represent only the super-rich of this country. At least we must convince them to oppose a war against Iraq and any other country that gets in the way of American imperialism. In this struggle we must avoid getting sidetracked by arguments geared toward one or another section of the ruling powers instead of the real arguments that point out that this war not only hurts the Iraqi people, but also hurts Americans.

Stop the war on Iraq!





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