- Created: Tuesday, 17 April 2018 14:30
- Written by Eddie Abrahams
Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! no. 101 June/July 1991
Defending their war against Iraq, Bush, Major and lap-dog Kinnock are never tired of proclaiming the ‘West’s’ democratic and progressive purpose. Eddie Abrahams argues that, translated into the lives of the majority of Iraqi, Palestinian and Kurdish people, this purpose has meant more poverty, more oppression, and more death.
The Gulf War was waged to stop Iraq from ever again challenging imperialist interests in the Middle East and Gulf region. It was an integral element of US strategy as expressed in a National Security Review on 'Third World Threats':
'In cases where the US confronts much weaker enemies, our challenge will be not simply to defeat them, but to defeat them decisively and rapidly.'
Oppressed nations who dare resist imperialist plunder will suffer Iraq's fate, a fate vividly described in a UN report:
'The recent conflict has wrought near apocalyptic results upon the economic infrastructure of what had been, until January 1991, a rather highly urbanised and mechanised society. Now most means of modern life support have been destroyed or rendered tenuous. Iraq has, for some time to come, been relegated to a pre-industrial age, but with all the disabilities of post-industrial dependency on an intensive use of energy and technology.'
The report then outlines the consequences. Approximately 90 per cent of industrial workers are inactive as the 109,876 US and British air sorties dropped 88,500 tons of bombs and destroyed factories, power plants, oil refineries, water-related pumps and chemical factories, communications systems, railways, roads and bridges.
As a result hunger, disease, unemployment and lack of shelter are now features in what was one of the Third World's more developed countries. Iraq imports 70 per cent of its food. With virtually no foreign exchange and the continued enforcement of most sanctions it cannot obtain enough food. Prices have risen nearly 1,000 per cent and there are serious shortages of sugar, rice, tea, vegetable oil, powdered milk and other essentials. Livestock farming has been devastated by sanctions and the destruction of the sole laboratory producing vaccines against cattle disease.
The report predicts massive health problems as:
'...Iraqi rivers are heavily polluted by raw sewage, and water levels are unusually low. All sewage treatment and pumping plants have been brought to a standstill by the lack of power supply and the lack of spare parts. Pools of sewage lie in the streets and villages. Health hazards will build in the weeks to come.'
The post-war UN cease fire resolution accepted by Iraq on 6 April 1991 was but the judicial expression, on an international level, of the essentially colonial character of the much trumpeted 'new world order'. By means of this resolution, which only Cuba voted against, Iraq's subjugation by and dependence on imperialism was affirmed. Described as the most punitive since the Versailles Treaty, the UN, for the first time, imposed border demarcations and extended Kuwait's borders 7 miles into Iraq. This now allows the emirate to steal even more of Iraq's oil from its Rumallah fields.
To ensure that Iraq never again presents a military threat to imperialism, it is now compelled to hand over for destruction all its chemical and biological weapons, all its ballistic missiles with a range beyond 90 miles and all materials for building nuclear weapons. The Security Council has also banned all sales of conventional weapons to Iraq. Meanwhile, of course, the major imperialist powers continue to arm themselves to the hilt with even more deadly and sophisticated weapons. And they continue to supply such weapons to their clients in Israel and other reliable ruling classes. But then the Gulf War was but the first of a new round of essentially colonial wars.
Imperialism uses the Iraqi ruling class
On the anvil of imperialism's predatory and reactionary designs in the Middle East the Kurdish people and Shiites in southern Iraq are being forced to pay a deadly price. During the war Bush urged 'the Iraqi people to take matters into their own hands', authorised CIA aid to 'rebel factions inside Iraq' and organised the 'Voice of Free Iraq Radio'.
A multitude of liberals, professorial socialists and media hacks who had supported the war were subsequently 'outraged' and 'horrified' that the US and British forces watched passively as Saddam Hussein turned with deadly effect against mass uprisings in Kurdistan and southern Iraq. Hussein's Republican Guards wreaked revenge, killing tens of thousands in the South and forcing millions to flee for their lives into the Kurdish mountains on Turkish and Iranian borders.
But of course imperialism had its own agenda unrelated to the sentimental and hopeless proposals from liberal and 'socialist' warmongers. Whilst destroying Iraq's capacity to challenge imperialism, its ruling class was needed to deal with internal and Kurdish democratic forces. An independent Kurdish government in Iraqi-occupied south Kurdistan could spark uprisings in Turkish, Iranian and Syrian-occupied Kurdistan and as a result gravely destabilise a region critical to imperialism.
Imperialism therefore intervened to establish 'safe havens' only after the Kurdish national uprising had been crushed and hundreds of thousands of Kurdish refugees were facing death by cold, starvation and disease in the mountains. However, not one iota of humanitarian sentiment animated this intervention. It was a cynically calculated political move made necessary first and foremost by the flood of refugees into Turkish-occupied Kurdistan which was seriously undermining political stability in Turkey.
Despite impressions, John Major was not the humane and wise father of the 'safe havens' concept. Turkish President Ozal, eager to find ways of keeping Kurdish refugees out of Turkish-occupied Kurdistan, was the first to suggest the plan. John Major, with the acumen inherited from the British ruling class's long colonial history, recognised more rapidly than the US its potential political benefits.
With millions of Kurdish refugees reduced to total destitution imperialist 'safe havens', food, medical and other aid appeared like godsends to avert massive tragedy. With this programme Bush and Major hope to cultivate pro-imperialist sentiment among sections of the Kurdish population. These schemes were also designed to strengthen the position of the bourgeois Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and the Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP). Both oppose Kurdish independence and are presently engaged in negotiations with Saddam Hussein for 'autonomy'.
The imperialists hope that such trends, buttressed by safe havens and aid will act as an effective counter-weight to revolutionary developments in other parts of Kurdistan and to Kurdish organisations such as the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) who fight for the independence and unity of the whole of Kurdistan. Additionally, they expect a somewhat strengthened Kurdish bourgeois force within Iraq to act as a dampener on future Iraqi ruling class ambitions.
Palestine in the Aftermath of war
The Palestinian people who dared defy imperialism and support Iraq are paying the price twice over. There is no press-inspired campaign for the Palestinians. Unlike the Kurds, sympathy for Palestinians will not at the moment serve any imperialist purpose. Yet since the Gulf War Zionism has accelerated its genocidal policy of driving all Palestinians out of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
The five week curfew, imposed on the Occupied Territories during the War, allowed Zionist employers to replace Palestinians with newly arrived Soviet immigrants. So unemployment has soared to nearly 50 per cent. Combined with a cessation of remittances, the severe disruption of agriculture during the curfew and the new Zionist taxes, poverty has increased enormously.
Forced into poverty, Palestinians are also losing more and more land. Since 9 March, Zionist authorities have been confiscating land at the rate of 300 acres a day and existing settlements are being expanded. Reports indicate that 8,000 new units are being constructed on just five settlements and more building is underway in many of the other 150.
The prospect now confronting Palestinians was put sharply by one villager:
‘First the Israelis steal our land, then they prevent us from leaving the village to find alternative work in Israel. What is left for us except to live like dogs and die like dogs in the land of our ancestors? The Israelis hope we will be forced to leave, our answer is that we will die here.'
In this context, US Secretary of State James Baker's Middle East 'peace shuttle' is actually designed to strengthen Israel. He is attempting to persuade Syria and other Arab nations to recognise Israel and to settle for Palestinian 'autonomy' within an Israeli occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip. Simultaneously the US and Israel have categorically rejected the minimum Palestinian demand for an independent state on the West Bank and Gaza Strip and have also rejected PLO participation in any 'peace conference'. It is hardly surprising there-fore that the left wing of the PLO has refused to meet Baker on his visits.
Those who supported the imperialist war - the Labour Party, the media hacks, revolutionaries turned professors - are not ignorant of these processes. They simply do not care about the oppression of the Arab and Kurdish peoples. And when imperialism, the provider of their privilege and status is challenged, they throw out of the window all morality and human decency to join the shrill tirade of warmongers. As the Palestinian, Iraqi and Kurdish people continue in the most difficult conditions to fight for freedom, let us at least work to expose these liberals and ‘socialists' for what they are - shame-faced imperialists!
An edited version of this article was also published as chapter 1.5 of The New Warlords: from the Gulf War to the recolonisation of the Middle East