The war machine gets under way
Claudia Cinatti
La Verdad Obrera N° 115

The United States has started the countdown to launch a new imperialist massacre in Iraq. The deployment of 100,000 troops, fighter jets, aircraft carriers and heavy weaponry in the Persian Gulf shows we are on the eve of war, which most commentators deem will be raging in late February or March.

Given the failure of the UN weapons inspectors to come up with some kind of 'evidence' that Iraq possesses weapons of mass destruction -WMDs-, the United States decided to present their own intelligence report before the Security Council, in order to convince the public opinion in America and worldwide that the war is now inevitable.

Along with the war preparations and the propaganda aimed at winning over the 'hearts and the souls' of the population for this new imperial crusade, the pages of mainstream newspapers have been full with articles by government officials, advisors and commentators openly discussing the viability of the various schemes for 'colonization' that would transform the postwar Iraq into a puppet of US imperialism -including a prolonged military occupation and a take-over of the whole region.

This time, we are confronted with a military intervention legitimized by any kind of 'humanitarian' disguise, and this has sparked off a powerful anti-war movement -with its center in the imperialist powers themselves, including the United States. The proximity of the military attack demands urgent action be taken around the world to stop this new belligerent campaign.


The lies of Mr. Powell

On February 5, the US Secretary of State, Colin Powell submitted allegedly 'irrefutable' evidence to the UN Security Council that would justify war with Iraq. The head of the CIA, Mr. G. Tenet was with Mr. Powell there. In a message broadcasted around the world, he displayed a whole series of satellite pictures, allegedly wire-tapped phone conversations, computer-devised images developed on the basis of Iraqi 'deserters' reports, among other proofs, which were meant to prove Saddam Hussein has framed up the UN weapons inspectors all along the way. According to Powell, Iraq would have as much as 18 mobile laboratories for the production of biological and chemical weapons; it would be also trying to get supplies for nuclear weapons and would have links to Al Qaeda -this latter argument being questioned by some intelligence agencies and even the Pentagon itself. A commentator on military affairs, which we cannot suspect of being sympathetic to Iraq, has reckoned that 'The material in itself is not convincing. Any of this evidence might have been fabricated'. (Stratfor, February 2) In the words of an Iraqi scientist, 'it was a typical American show, full of visual effects'. Powell's purpose was to set up a smokescreen covering up the real reasons for the war on Iraq. First, the 'change of regime' has little to do with the 'democracy' and the 'liberation of its people'. As the journalist Thomas Friedman has openly acknowledged in a New York Times editorial, after the defeat of Hussein, 'Iraq will be controlled with an iron hand by the US army and its allies, with a 'advisory' Iraqi civil administration that will eventually emerge from behind that iron hand' (NYT, February 5). After achieving victory in Iraq, the time will come to reshape the map of the Middle East, a move that will include a 'solution' for the Palestinian people which will thwart their national aspirations, a 'democratization' of the region allowing the establishment of more stable and pro-Western regimes fighting 'Islamic terrorism', all the purpose of taking over the main oil reserves in the world. Of course, one thing is having these aims in view; achieving them is a very different thing. But the US Secretary of State did not say a word on this matter.


The game of the powers

No member of the Security Council even dared to challenge the validity of the information provided by the US, thus accepting the view that Iraq should prove beyond doubt that it has disarmed itself. However, the 'evidence' was not enough for the United States to rally a majority in favor of launching an attack supported by the United Nations. This was a predictable development. The powers are still playing the game with the same cards they have used in the last few months of diplomatic battles and war preparations.

The United States, along with Great Britain and Spain, insisted that 'the international community' ran the 'risk of irrelevancy' if it did not endorse a military action aimed at 'disarming Hussein', which means it will go to war whether the UN supports the move or not. This entails a risk for the European powers in case of the United States coming out of the war victorious, since they might be cast aside when the time comes for getting a share of the postwar booty. France stands in opposition to an American unilateral action, but it does not oppose the use of military force as 'a last-ditch resort'. It is trying hard to get the United Nations to take all the key decisions and actions in this matter. But its stance has nothing to do with pacifism -its 'unilateral' military intervention in Ivory Coast clearly shows this. This cannot be explained away due to the 'opposition of the European peoples that forced both Chirac from France and Schroeder from Germany to distance themselves from Bush' -as the Argentine Movimiento Socialista de Trabajadores (MST) puts it. Key economic and geopolitical reasons are to account for such move. Apart from the veto powers it has in the UN and its central role in the European Union, France does not count on a strong enough leverage to make its will prevail in the face of what it calls the American 'hyper-power'. That is why it replied to Powell's report, which tried precisely to show the non-viability of the weapons inspections system given the Iraqi 'frame up', with an initiative to reinforce that teams of inspectors, giving them more means, and especially, more time to work -a proposal also backed by China, Russia, Germany and the majority of the Security Council. France's diplomatic stance and its interest to participate in the oil business in Iraq is leading many politicians and commentators to believe it will switch its position in the eleventh hour, going for support of the US. The French carrier Charles De Gaulle set off for the Mediterranean on February 4, and it is said that 12,000 French troops will be sent to 'protect the Iraqi oil fields'.

Germany has stuck to its opposition to the war, be it with or without the UN, since its military weakness compared to the US's precludes it from resorting to a military intervention so far. However, the Schroeder government has seen its position weakened, and has come under attack due to domestic problems. The German economy is going through a severe recession, unemployment has not stopped rising and the Socialdemocratic Party has suffered a defeat at the polls in two key lander at the hands of the right wing opposition, the CDU.

Russia and China, on the other hand, have sided with France so far, hinting that their support for the United States comes with a high price, one that the United States has not yet paid them.

Given this situation, it will be up to the UN Security Council meeting next February 14 to take the final decision on this issue -the weapons inspectors will be handing over a new report then. The American pressure to get both Germany and France to review their position, and the Arab countries with them, is being felt already. President Bush stated that 'the United States along with a bigger coalition of countries is decided to undertake any necessary action to disarm the Iraqi regime (Washington Post, February 6). Meanwhile, the United States is busy promising privileges and perks to win new allies -Turkey has been promised new IMF loans and guarantees that a Kurd state is a no-no option in exchange for allowing US troops to use the bases in its territory, a strategic pillar of the military intervention.


The 'Iraqi test' is sharpening tensions

As we have pointed out in a recent article published in Estrategia Internacional, the US's warmongering reveals an inherent weakness in the US rule, at a time when its economy is hampered by stagnation -the latest figures show a meager 0.7% of growth for Q4 of last year.

The only 'irrefutable evidence' here is that the Bush administration and the Republicans hacks with it have decided to resort to their overwhelming military muscle to wrestle some advantages from their rivals. In this context, the war against Iraq is a major test for its plan to reshape the world in order to uphold its hegemony and take over one of the main oil reserves in the world. Such belligerent move is putting the relations between the imperialist powers under enormous pressure, making the international situation more unstable -as shown by the North Korean nuclear challenge.

The European Union is under the strong pressure being put by America, exposing the weaknesses underlying the European edifice as an imperialist bloc and the opposing interests of its member states. As the New York Times puts it: 'What divides Europe is not so much Iraq, but rather what their attitude towards the US should be' (NYT, January 30). Britain has tied its fate to that of US imperialism for some decades now, but Germany and France are trying to pursue a more independent agenda that empowers them to better defend their economic and strategic interests. To counter the Franco German opposition, the presidents and prime ministers of Great Britain, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Holland, Denmark, the Czech Republic and Poland have published an open letter in support of the United States in the pages of the Wall Street Journal, an initiative taken by that newspaper devised to encourage the emergence of a pro-American 'new Europe'. The sharpest contradictions have emerged in the stance taken by the Eastern European countries, on the eve of Union membership and niches of German foreign direct investments, which have rallied openly with the United States.

The alignment of the European governments with Bush has also opened a massive gap between these and their peoples, a divide with a potential to spark off major political crises there. In Great Britain, most members of the Labour Party, the MPs and the unions included, are opposed to Blair, and the Spanish PSOE has switched to outright opposition as well. The lavish support of Blair, Aznar, and Berlusconi to the US belligerent drive stands in stark contrast to the opposition of some 80% of the population at home to the war. This is fuelling a powerful protest movement sweeping the streets of Washington, San Francisco and London, as well as the main European capitals, with thousands of protesters taking to the streets in rejection of this new imperialist aggression.

The Iraqi test will then shape international politics for a whole period ahead. A quick and devastating victory by the United States will encourage the most reactionary quarters worldwide, bringing about a strengthened oppression for the peoples of the world, but it will also stir the flames of resentment in whole regions across the globe. In spite of its overwhelming military power, the victory of the United States is not a foregone conclusion -his offensive, like in the Vietnam War, might be defeated. Millions are opposed to the war worldwide and have taken to the streets showing their active rejection. The urgent task of the moment for all those fighting against imperialism and its local agents is to step up the fight and the mobilization to stop and defeat this imperialist offensive.