Iraq: Sectarian elections provoke more violence

Following the stalemate in the March Iraqi parliamentary elections, sectarian divisions that were inflamed by the imperialist occupation are again threatening the security of the Iraqi people, as the various bourgeois factions battle for control of the country’s resources. In the election, the predominantly Sunni Iraqiya Alliance, headed by Iyad Allawi, won two more seats than Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki’s State of Law Party. Al Maliki immediately made accusations of electoral fraud and demanded a recount in Baghdad, which he hopes will give him four more seats. An Iraqi court has disqualified another two Iraqiya MPs because of links to the old ruling Baath party. Other opposition MPs have been arrested or have fled their homes fearing arrest.

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Iraq: elections serve occupation

The Iraqi parliamentary elections at the beginning of March demonstrated how the imperialist occupation has ‘enshrined sectarianism’. The strategy of dividing opposition along sectarian lines and then tying factions into a ‘legitimate’ electoral process is a well-tried imperialist tactic for emasculating national liberation movements: most recently in the so-called power sharing process in the Irish Six Counties. In Iraq, the imperialists armed the Shia militias for their battle against Sunni insurgents, and then paid and armed the defeated Sunnis when they had to seek the protection of the occupying forces. The imperialists then attacked the main Shia anti-occupation force, Moqtada Al Sadr’s Mehdi Army, which was eventually persuaded to lay down its arms following secret talks between Iran and the US. All the groups stood in the election but parties and voting predominantly reflected the sectarian divisions. A Sunni in Arasat, quoted in The Independent, said ‘I want to vote for a secular party, but everything now is divided along religious lines.’ A Shia worker in Najaf said ‘Democracy in Iraq is chaotic. Everyone lies.’

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Multinationals grab Iraqi oil

Since the height of the violence in Iraq in 2007, both civilian and US casualties have fallen by over 90%. There is, however, no peace for the Iraqi people. In the northern Kurdish areas around Kirkuk and Mosul tension remains high because Kurdish aspirations for an autonomous government controlling its own oil are being thwarted by central government and Sunni political advances in the region. Car and suicide bombs in the latter part of last year aimed at Iraqi government and US targets in the heavily fortified Green Zone in Baghdad killed more than 500 people. Sadi Piri of the Kurdish PUK said ‘This proves that the Iraqi forces are not able to control their own cities and borders’.

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Iraq: Tensions threaten to explode

Several large bomb attacks on Iraqi government buildings this autumn have demonstrated that the war there is far from over. The Iraqi government, which had begun to remove the US-built concrete blast walls, has been forced to start rebuilding them. 1.6 million internal refugees are still unable to return to their homes because of the violence. The attacks have highlighted the inability of Iraqi forces to maintain security and thus throw into doubt whether US forces will pull out according to the schedule promised by President Obama.

There are still 120,000 US troops in Iraq, supposedly away from the towns and not in combat roles. In reality, town boundaries have been redefined to allow US bases to remain nearby and US troops have been accompanying Iraqi forces on combat missions re-labelled as ‘reconstruction’. US forces are supposed to fall to 50,000 by 31 August 2010. Any delay will affect US options in Afghanistan.

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Iraq: US occupation under threat

Despite President Obama’s much vaunted pull-out from Iraq, there are still 134,000 US troops in the country, occupying 320 outposts and bases. US Defence Secretary Robert Gates has said he will maintain an average of 100,000 troops in Iraq during the next fiscal year and at least 50,000 throughout 2011. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki has reiterated that US troops may stay beyond the 2011 deadline. In addition, there are around 133,000 military contractors in the country, 36,000 of whom are US citizens.

US combat troops were supposed to have withdrawn from Iraqi cities by the end of June, according to the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA). Several city bases were able to remain, however, by simply redrawing city boundaries to define them as being outside. British television has also shown US troops continuing to operate within the cities in full combat gear, with guns at the ready supposedly undertaking reconstruction missions.

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Iraq: Obama’s great vanishing trick

On 4 June President Obama made a speech at Cairo University that was intended to cement ‘better relations’ between the US and the Muslim world. The cornerstone of the speech was a promise that the US would keep no bases in Iraq and would withdraw its military forces from the country by the end of 2011. Fine words, but reality does not mirror them. Obama has stated that only ‘combat’ troops will be withdrawn; such troops make up only about a third of the 130,000 US forces still in Iraq. The rest of the military personnel have now been re-labelled ‘advisors’ so that they can stay on in the areas vacated by ‘combat’ troops.

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US extends Afghan war into Pakistan

‘Our nation is at war against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred.’ Thus, in the first significant statement of his in­augural address, President Obama reiterated US imperialism’s justification for its military rampage in pursuit of global domination. In February he announced that 17,000 extra US troops will be sent to Afghanistan this spring. More will follow later in the year. Obama has requested $75 billion this year and $130 billion next year for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, in addition to a 4% increase in the Pentagon budget, bringing it to $534 billion: over $23,000 a second. JIM CRAVEN reports.

The US is preparing more intense aggression over a wider area. Rules of engagement suggested by Afghan President Hamid Karzai to try and prevent civilian casualties were dismissed as ‘unworkable’ by US/ NATO commanders. NATO’s senior military commander General John Craddock called for the indiscriminate shooting of alleged drug traffickers. US army chief General George Casey spoke of ‘no quick fixes’, expecting the military to be in Afghanistan in ten years’ time. The arena of war is now referred to as ‘AFPAK’ – Afghanistan and Pakistan combined. Within days of his inauguration, Obama sanctioned missile attacks on Pakistani villages that killed 22 people, including children; attacks that have continued with bloody regularity since. Rustam Shah Mohmand, former Pakistani ambassador to Afghanistan, said, ‘If anything, the policy [of missile attacks] is going to be more focused, more aggressive under Obama.’

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Iraq – internal conflicts threaten US plans

Between 92,000 and 107,000 US combat troops are to leave Iraq by the end of August 2010, four months later than Obama promised in his election campaign. His top generals wanted an even later date. Up to 50,000 troops will remain in the country. These troops are supposed to leave by the end of 2011. However, Defence Secretary Robert Gates has argued for ‘some very modest-sized presence for training and helping’ beyond 2011. Furthermore, a get-out clause in the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) allows the Iraqi government to ‘request continued US presence after the 2011 deadline’. The collaborationist Iraqi regime will be dependent on US money and weapons to maintain its power.

Corruption and election apathy
In January’s provincial elections Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki appeared to strengthen his position. His State of the Law coalition now dominates the councils in 10 provinces. Al Maliki, however, has been accused of using the state machinery to buy political support, giving money to tribal councils in return for votes, using the government-controlled media and doling out patronage and jobs. Turnout in the election was 51%, less than in 2005. In Baghdad the turnout was just 40%. As one Baghdad woman told the Financial Times, ‘What’s the point? All the local councils do is give money to their friends.’ In Salahaddin province Faka’a Ahmed Jihad concurred, ‘Electricity, water and employment, these are the three main things. But usually, everyone who comes along just pockets the money and changes nothing.’ The US Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction is investigating the misuse of $125 billion of aid, including $50 billion that has ‘gone missing’. Senior US military officers are under suspicion.

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Occupation of Iraq – no end in sight

FRFI 207 February / March 2009

When Iraqi journalist Muntazer Al Zaidi threw his shoes at President Bush during a Baghdad press conference last December shouting, ‘This is a farewell kiss. This is from the widows, the orphans and those who were killed in Iraq’, he no doubt hoped to be seeing the end not only of Bush but also the whole of the imperialist occupying forces. The Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) signed between the US and the Iraqi governments in November calls for US troops to be withdrawn from Iraqi towns and cities by 30 June this year and from the whole of Iraq by the end of 2011. Opposition to the occupation by the people of Iraq and neighbouring governments, principally Iran, forced the Iraqi government to insist on far more than the US initially wanted to concede. But they both knew that the Iraqi government and President Al Maliki had to be able to pose as ending the occupation; otherwise the followers of Moqtada Al Sadr, who, unlike the Iraqi government, have consistently opposed the occupation, were likely to make sweeping gains in the forthcoming provincial elections. SOFA, however, includes provision for it to be cancelled by either side at any time.

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Iraq: Imperialists attempt an orderly retreat

FRFI 206 December 2008 / January 2009

Months of wrangling resulted in a vote for the Status of Forces Agreement between the US and Iraq by the Iraqi parliament on 27 November. ‘All US forces shall withdraw from all Iraqi territory no later than 31 December 2011.’ Make no mistake: if this is enforced it will be a defeat for US imperialism. All US forces are to pull out from cities, towns and villages ‘on a date no later than 30 June 2009’. From the boast of ‘Mission Accomplished’ in 2003 to the so-called victory of the surge in 2007, the reality is that the ground has given way beneath the imperialists’ feet until they stumbled and fell and could no longer claim success. They have accepted a way out that allows them to claim an orderly withdrawal – leaving behind over one million Iraqi dead, and, thus far, 4,136 US soldiers killed.

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Afghan War: Problems deepen as more troops are promised

In October, Brigadier Mark Carleton-Smith, commander of the 16th Air Assault Brigade, told the Daily Telegraph, ‘We’re not going to win this.’ He had just returned from his second tour of duty in Afghanistan. Three months earlier Carleton-Smith had claimed that the Taliban leadership had been ‘decapitated’ and that the ‘tipping point’ in favour of the occupation forces had been reached.

The imperialist’s exasperation was emphasised by Major Will Pike, a former serving officer in Afghanistan, saying, ‘No real thought is going into what we are doing and why. Who is in charge of the campaign in Afghanistan – the Secretary of State for Defence, the Foreign Secretary or the Minister for International Development?’ Major Pike highlighted the dilemma for British imperialism, the second biggest imperial power in terms of overseas assets, yet militarily too weak to defend its global interests without riding on the back of the US. He said, ‘If the UK wants to play on this stage, across the world, then the will has to be backed by the resources. Otherwise it’s a bit of a con.’ Jim Craven reports.

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Afghan war escalates: Pakistan under threat

US presidential candidate Barack Obama calls the tragedy in Afghanistan a ‘good war’, adding ‘we must win...there is no other option’. He has promised to send 10,000 extra troops to ‘finish the job in Afghanistan’. Far from winning, the imperialist occupation forces are stuck in quicksand and the more forces they throw in the more they will sink. Jim Craven reports.

A poll carried out by the Canadian Globe and Mail earlier this year showed that only 14% of Afghans wanted the occupying forces to leave the country immediately. However, more than half wanted them out within three to five years, 74% wanted negotiations with the Taliban and 54% would support a coalition government with the Taliban, indicating that a majority of the Afghan people does not see the war as Obama does; as a war to be won by the invaders. Furthermore, only a small minority of Afghans in the poll saw the Taliban as a united political force. The Globe and Mail concluded that, ‘The typical Taliban foot soldier … is not a global jihadist’… but a young man who has had someone he ‘knows or loves …killed by a bomb dropped from the sky’ and ‘fervently believes that expelling the foreigners will set things right in his troubled country’.

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Iraq: ‘sustained progress’ is ‘fragile and reversible’

Speaking of Iraq this summer President Bush claimed, ‘A significant reason for the sustained progress is the success of the surge’. It is thankfully true that casualties have fallen greatly in the past year, but that is only in comparison with the worst period of sectarian conflict. According to Iraqi government figures there were 851 Iraqis killed in July of this year, 300 more than in June. More than 3,000 people have been killed by Apache helicopter attacks alone in the past year. The imperialists launched 200 Hellfire missile attacks around Baghdad in the early summer compared with just six in the previous three months.

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COLONISING IRAQ

The Bush administration is desperately trying to secure the colonisation of Iraq and control of its resources before the President leaves office. The US wants to impose a Status of Forces Agreement (Sofa) and a strategic framework agreement on Iraq that will ensure its long-term military domination of the country and allow the US to threaten other countries in the region, notably Iran. The agreements are reminiscent of those imposed on Iraq by British imperialism in the 1920s. Jim Craven reports.

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Divisions in NATO aid Afghan resistance

FRFI 203 June / July 2008

In 2006, the then Labour Defence Secretary, John Reid, claimed British forces were in Afghani­stan to ‘help and protect the Afghan people reconstruct their own economy and democracy’. The following year was the deadliest since the 2001 invasion with over 6,200 Afghan people killed. Louise Arbour, UN Commissioner for Human Rights, said that civilian casualties have reached ‘alarming levels’ and an Oxfam report said the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan was ‘comparable with sub-Saharan Africa’.

With the spring the struggle in Afghanistan has intensified again. The US launched unmanned Predator aircraft attacks on the Pakistan border and urged the Pakistan government to move troops into the region. Pashtuns on both sides of the border united. The resistance spread into the Swat Valley and rockets were fired at the provincial capital Peshawar. The Pakistan army suffered thousands of casualties.

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Iraqi poor resist imperialist onslaught

Much of the British media has fallen silent on Iraq. However, most recent attempts by the US, Britain and the Iraqi puppet government forces to secure the imperialist occupation of Iraq is meeting fierce resistance from sections of the Iraqi working class. The present onslaught began on 24 March when 15,000 Iraqi troops and another 15,000 members of the Iraqi police force attacked militia forces in Basra. At least 40 people were killed and 200 injured in the first two days of fighting. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki demanded that the militia disarm within three days. He proclaimed there would be, ‘No retreat, no talks, no negotiations.’ Al Maliki labelled the militias ‘criminals’ and ‘terrorists’, but the only target of his attack was the Mehdi Army, supporters of the Shiite cleric Moqtada Al Sadr. The militia supporting Al Maliki’s own Dawa Party and the Badr Organisation, supporters of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI), were not targeted. Many of the Iraqi government forces are Badr militia in uniform. Jim Craven reports.

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Iraq ‘surge success’ unravels

The fires beneath the ashes still burned and have burst into flames. On the fifth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, 20 March, the US and British governments gave the impression of victory. Labour Foreign Secretary David Miliband said, ‘I think the war itself was a remarkable victory… building the peace has been more difficult but indications over the last year or two have been more encouraging about change’. President Bush told US forces that the ‘surge’ had ‘opened the door to a major strategic victory in the broader war on terrorism’. Three days later four US soldiers were blown up, bringing the death toll for US soldiers in Iraq to 4,000. On 25 March the Iraqi army attacked the Shia population’s biggest militia, the Mehdi Army, in Basra, unleashing clashes from Basra to Baghdad as the militia fought back. Four days into the fighting the Mehdi Army still commanded much of Basra. Mortars and rockets fired from Baghdad’s Shia neighbourhoods struck the Green Zone containing the US embassy and Iraqi government. US General Petraeus accused Iran of supplying the weapons and Baghdad was placed under a three day curfew. If this is ‘victory’ what would defeat look like? Jim Craven and Trevor Rayne report.

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IRAQ – resistance beyond the ‘surge’

FRFI 201 February / March 2008

The media have been feeding us images of life returning to normal in Iraq. They would have us believe that the US ‘surge’ has turned the tide and that perhaps the invasion and occupation have been worthwhile after all. The Daily Telegraph, alongside a picture of the man smiling and waving, voted General Petraeus, architect of the ‘surge’, their ‘Person of the Year’. It said, ‘Where once Iraqis saw the glass as virtually empty, now they can see a day when it might be half full’ –a cruel metaphor at a time when fewer than a third of the Iraqi people have access to safe water, cholera has broken out in the poorest parts of Baghdad and Iraqi Kurdistan and water-borne diarrhoea is the second-biggest killer amongst Iraqi children. More than nine million Iraqis are living below the poverty line. Women and children have to beg or prostitute themselves to feed their families. The number of items available on government rations has just been halved. One in five children has stunted growth because of malnutrition. What sort of warped humanity gains comfort from these conditions? Only those longing for just enough improvement to begin the plunder of Iraq’s oil and resources. JIM CRAVEN reports.

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IRAQ: Normalising genocide

FRFI 200 December 2007 / January 2008

The war on Iraq has been removed from the headlines, except for reports of British or US soldiers’ deaths. We are fed the occasional lie that ‘life in Baghdad is returning to normal’ and that ‘the surge is working’. We are being conditioned to accept war as normal. Meanwhile, the leading groups on the British left squabble in public over the legacy of the Stop the War Movement and the remains of Respect, and they build nothing, absolutely nothing, to oppose the warmongering British Labour government. JIM CRAVEN reports on the war in Iraq.

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Iraq: bloody reality behind the lies

FRFI 199 October / November 2007

September’s report by General Petraeus on the progress of the so-called ‘surge’ was always going to be ambiguous, for the reality is too obviously horrific. Accordingly Petraeus, commander of US forces in Iraq, claimed modest success in reducing sectarian violence and in preparing the Iraqi security forces so that he could plead more time was necessary for the ‘surge’ to work. Since the military aims of the ‘surge’ were vague, Petraeus’s report was never going to give a clear judgement on the success or failure of the supposedly short-term strategy. He was left, therefore, to say that the undefined tasks were unfinished and so make the continuing US occupation of Iraq seem inevitable. The political purpose of the ‘surge’ was to give a new impetus to the occupation and defuse the mounting criticism of President Bush. In that sense, the ‘surge’ and Petraeus’s report have done their job. Jim Craven reports.

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Iraq: Resistance grows to imperialists’ bloody surge

FRFI 198 August / September 2007

At the end of May, President Bush warned the US people to ‘prepare for a bloody summer of heavy fighting and loss of life’. In the three months to mid-July 2007 331 US soldiers were killed and 2,029 wounded in Iraq, the bloodiest three months for the US since it and Britain invaded the country in March 2003. From early June to mid-July 13 British soldiers were killed in Iraq. The so-called troop ‘surge’ was reaping its predicted toll on US and British soldiers and taking thousands of Iraqi lives. JIM CRAVEN and TREVOR RAYNE report.

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Imperialists launch Afghan offensive

In Afghanistan occupying imperialist forces and puppet government troops have launched a major exercise to prevent the spring offensive by the Afghan resistance. Code-named Achilles, the operation has been focused on Helmand Province in the south and in the western part of the country towards the Iranian border. Both the US and Britain have claimed that Iran is supplying weapons to the resistance, but the move is no doubt associated with preparing for a possible strike on Iran.

Controlled by US commanders, Operation Achilles has involved 4,500 troops backed by air strikes and Apache helicopters. The imperialists claim to have killed 145 resistance fighters in battles in Shindbad and the Sangin Valley and to have killed the main Taliban leader in the area. They always describe all resistance fighters as Taliban but the reality is that large numbers of the Afghan people now support the resistance because of the poverty and misery they are suffering under the corrupt puppet regime of Hamid Karzai and because of the war crimes committed by the occupying forces. In March, US forces went on a killing spree after one of their vehicles was hit by a suicide bomb. They fired indiscriminately at anyone fleeing the scene. Ten civilians were killed, including a four-year-old girl, a baby boy and three elderly villagers, and 33 were wounded. The US military banned media reports of the event. In the US the family Sergeant Patrick Tillman, who was killed in Afghanistan in 2004, accused the Pentagon of lying about his death. The Pentagon had said Sgt Tillman had died in a heroic action when in fact he had been killed by US forces in a so-called ‘friendly fire’ incident.

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Imperialist surge means more misery for Iraq

On 1 May 2003 President Bush stood on the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln in front of a banner proclaiming ‘Mission Accomplished’ and announced that ‘major combat operations are over’. Four years later to the day Bush vetoed a US Congressional bill calling for combat troops to be withdrawn from Iraq next year and refused to set any date for the end of the occupation. Since the war began over 650,000 Iraqi civilians have been killed. 3,401 US and 148 British service personnel had been killed by early May 2007, 104 US and 12 British troops were killed in April. The so-called ‘surge’ of 20,000 extra US troops that began in mid-February is failing in its proclaimed objective to establish security by this summer. A further two US military brigades are to be deployed. JIM CRAVEN reports.

At the beginning of April the Iraqi government said civilian deaths had increased by 13% and the US military admitted that suicide and car bombs in the whole of Iraq had jumped 30% since the surge began. The year to the end of March was the bloodiest of the war so far, accounting for 50% of all Iraqi civilian deaths; 78% up on the previous year. Fatal suicide bombs, car bombs and roadside bombs had doubled and fatal mortar attacks had quadrupled. Even the heavily defended Green Zone in Baghdad, considered a sanctuary for imperialist and Iraqi puppet officials, was not safe. Resistance fighters attacked it on six occasions in the last week of March. Rocket attacks there killed a US soldier and a contractor. On 12 April a bomb attack by resistance fighters shook the Iraqi parliament building. On 24 April nine US soldiers were killed and at least 20 wounded in an attack on the US headquarters in Diyala.

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IRAQ: AN ERA OF PERPETUAL WAR

FRFI 196 April / May 2007

The spate of reports and critical debate in the US has defused mounting pressure on the Bush administration, allowing it to escalate the violence in Iraq under the guise of one last push either to total victory or withdrawal. But the US has no intention of pulling out of Iraq. Withdrawal would not simply be a sign of failure and defeat in Iraq but a major blow to the US strategy of global domination through the use or threat of overwhelming military force. The US relies upon this military power to keep in check political challenges from imperialist rivals such as the EU and Japan, from rising powers such as China and Russia, from opposition movements within allied and puppet regimes and from so-called ‘rogue regimes’. Political hegemony bolsters the US against growing economic threats: for the US ruling class the key issue is control over Middle East oil. JIM CRAVEN reports.

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IRAQ: IMPERIALISTS BUNKER DOWN

FRFI 195 February / March 2007

In December 2006, following the defeat of the Republican majorities in Congress and with the critical report of the Iraq Study Group (ISG) pending, there was much speculation in the bourgeois media that the US and Britain would begin to withdraw from Iraq. A US Marine Corp Intelligence Report stated,‘the social and political situation has deteriorated to such a point that US and Iraqi troops are no longer capable of defeating the insurgency’. Colin Powell, President Bush’s ex- Secretary of State admitted the US army was ‘about broken’. Only 9% of the US population believed the war could be won; 70% wanted the new Congress to withdraw troops within six months. Yet, on 10 January President Bush announced he would be sending an additional 21,500 US soldiers. Why did this happen?

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IRAQ: IMPERIALISTS DOWN now get them out

FRFI 194 December 2006 / January 2007

The determined resistance of the Iraqi people to the occupation of their country and growing divisions among the ruling classes in the US and Britain have forced a critical reassessment of policy by the imperialist governments. In the November US mid-term elections the Republicans lost control of both the Senate and the House of Representatives, forcing the immediate resignation of leading warmonger Defence Secretary Rumsfeld. Within a few days of the election President Bush was in discussion with the Iraq Study Group (ISG) about changes in policy. JIM CRAVEN reports.

In September, the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) reported ‘the American invasion and occupation of Iraq has helped spawn a new generation of Islamic radicalism’ and the ‘occupation and injustice’ had fuelled what it called ‘violent jihad’. This was followed in October by comments from the previously loyal Republican leader of the Senate Armed Services Committee, John Warner, who said there was ‘a very serious situation’ in Iraq and events were ‘simply drifting sideways’. A US diplomat told the Arabic TV station Al-Jazeera that the US had shown ‘arrogance’ and ‘stupidity’ in Iraq, while another US diplomat and consultant to the ISG, David Mack, said, ‘We are really at a point where any talk of a victory is an illusion.’

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Iraq & Afghanistan: Imperialism's crusade

FRFI 193 October / November 2006

‘It is the decisive ideological struggle of the 21st century.’

In a speech to the American Legion in Salt Lake City at the beginning of September, President Bush said, ‘The war we are fighting today is more than a military conflict. It is the decisive ideological struggle of the 21st century.’ Coming from Bush this was a remarkably accurate statement. It indicates that the ruling classes in the imperialist countries understand that what is at stake in the present struggles in the Middle East and elsewhere may be the very survival of imperialism itself. JIM CRAVEN reports.

A few weeks earlier, speaking at the Los Angeles World Affairs Council, British Prime Minister Blair had referred to ‘an elemental struggle about values’ and said the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan ‘were not just about changing regimes but changing value systems’. Had they elaborated in an honest fashion Bush and Blair would have explained that the ideology and values at stake represent the right of the rich capitalist nations to conquer, occupy, oppress and exploit the resources and people of the rest of the world. More likely they would have mystified their ideology, as capitalists usually do, by talking about spreading ‘freedom’, ‘democracy’ and ‘civilisation’ against ‘the forces of evil’. At the same American Legion rally at which Bush spoke, US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, with his grotesque ability to calmly turn the truth on its head, said the world faced ‘a new kind of fascism’. He went on, ‘Those who know the truth need to speak out against the kinds of myths and distortions that are being told about our country and our troops.’ Immediately afterwards the Pentagon announced they would tender a $20 million public relations contract to promote more positive coverage from Iraq in US and Middle Eastern media – ‘public relations’ being what Rumsfeld regards as synonymous with the truth.

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Iraq: Growing resistance – imperialists sink further

FRFI 192 August / September 2006

When the US and Britain invaded Iraq in 2003, leading proponents of the war such as Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz and other neo-cons expected a swift victory using their overwhelming fire power in ‘shock and awe’ tactics. They would establish a friendly Iraq and stabilise access to Middle East oil at a time when the West’s principal ally in the region, Saudi Arabia, was becoming increasingly problematic. Above all the war would send a warning shot across the bows of any potential challenger to US hegemony. Iraq would become a base for further US assertiveness, both in the region and beyond, as the US, with Britain tagging along, used its global military domination to prevent an economic crisis for imperialism becoming a political one. Jim Craven reports.

Over three years later and the US and British troops remain bogged down in Iraq, sinking deeper every day. Their allies in the ‘coalition of the willing’, who hoped to gather crumbs from the imperial table, dwindle. Spain, Netherlands, Ukraine, Philippines, Nicaragua and Honduras have already withdrawn their troops. In June, Italy and Japan announced they would pull out by the end of the year. Not that their military contribution amounted to much but their retreat indicates that neither the war nor the US have the support they had. The war has destabilised the region and tied down imperialism.

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Iraq and Afghanistan: No progress and no way out for imperialists

FRFI 191 June / July 2006

Visiting Iraq in April, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice praised the ‘progress being made towards stability’. This was, of course, just another layer on the blanket of lies spread by the imperialist governments to camouflage the pit of devastation and carnage into which they have thrown Iraq. First there was the capture of Saddam Hussein in 2003, then the establishment of an interim Iraqi government in 2004, then the agreement on a new constitution and the elections of 2005; all were sold as signs that ‘normality’ was returning to Iraq. The Iraqi people do not agree. By the end of 2005, even before the upsurge in sectarian violence, less than half of them thought the country was heading in the right direction and over 80% of Iraqis wanted the imperialist forces out of their country. The new puppet government announced on 20 May does not change anything. JIM CRAVEN reports.

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Iraq Imperialists fan the flames of sectarian violence

FRFI 190 April / May 2006

In a major speech last autumn President Bush described the establishment of democratic elections as a ‘moral imperative’ of US policy in the Middle East. What he intended, of course, was that such elections would legitimise the imposition of puppet governments sympathetic to US concerns. But the victory of Hamas in the Palestinian election and the continuing difficulties in forming a government following the Iraqi elections are forcing a reassessment of the policy and adding weight to those in the imperialist camp who would prefer to divide and rule through naked military power. JIM CRAVEN reports.

Writing in the Jerusalem Post the leading US neo-con and arch Zionist Daniel Pipes said ‘The bombing on 22 February of the Askariya shrine in Samarra was a tragedy but it was not an American or a coalition tragedy. When Sunni terrorists target Shi’ites and vice-versa, non-Muslims are less likely to be hurt. Civil war, in short, would be a humanitarian tragedy but not a strategic one. Civil war will terminate the dream of Iraq serving as a model for other Middle Eastern countries, thus delaying the push towards elections. This would have the effect of keeping Islamists from being legitimated by the popular vote, as Hamas was just a month ago’. Pipes also welcomed the fact that civil war ‘would likely invite Syrian and Iranian participation hastening the possibility of confrontation with these two states’. Pipes was updating a scenario first elaborated by other influential neo-cons such as David Wurmser, Richard Perle and Douglas Feith in 1997.

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Iraq: no end to resistance

FRFI 189 February / March 2006

The run-up to Christmas saw the usual ‘morale-boosting’ visits to Iraq from imperialist politicians, happy to pose alongside the machines of war that terrorise the Iraqi people and the soldiers they send to die. JIM CRAVEN reports.

Blair, Rumsfeld and Cheney all went and grinned and gave upbeat messages about troops coming home in 2006 and Iraqi elections defeating the insurgents. In the United States President Bush even managed to raise his popularity rating a couple of points from October’s all-time low with a series of flag-waving speeches. At the end of November, he told cadets at the US Naval Academy: ‘Our strategy in Iraq is clear...I will settle for nothing less than complete victory’. Bush claimed that 120 Iraqi army and police battalions were now ready to fight on their own and another 80 with US support. The Iraqi National Security Adviser, Muaffah Al Rubbaie, followed this up by claiming that Iraqi forces were ready to take control of 14 out of 18 provinces, that 30,000 occupation troops would be withdrawn in the first half of 2006 and the remainder by the end of 2007. This optimistic assessment, devised to re-assure the Iraqi electorate that an end to the occupation was in sight, was somewhat undermined when the Los Angeles Times revealed that the US forces had been paying the Iraqi press to pass off their propaganda as unbiased Iraqi accounts. A few days later Iraqi Vice-President Ghazi Al Yawer admitted that the training of Iraqi security forces was not gaining any momentum.

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IRAQ–imperialists lose the plot

FRFI 188 December 2005 / January 2006

US and British imperialism cannot afford to admit any sort of defeat in Iraq. It is not simply that they might lose control of Iraqi assets and an important strategic position in the Middle East. Any sign of weakness would undermine their claim to global military dominance, a threat they are using to try and prevent an economic crisis from becoming a political one as well. Any retreat would give space for imperialist rivals such as France and Germany and other rising economic powers such as Russia, India and most particularly China to take advantage. This is why the US and British governments are in complete denial of the horror into which Iraq is sinking; why they maintain the myth that Iraq is moving towards peace and democracy and desperately cling to their timetable of sham elections.

The reality on the ground, however, is very different. It is phosphorus and napalm bombs, torture camps, death squads and a rising toll of casualties. The Resistance is growing, the occupying forces are becoming increasingly demoralised, the Iraqi government and security forces remain ineffective, corruption and crime are rife and the Iraqi economy and infrastructure are stagnant. In the US opposition to the war is growing and the ruling class is divided. JIM CRAVEN reports.

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Chaos in Iraq

FRFI 187 October / November 2005

Writing in The Independent (15 September 2005) Robert Fisk asks a leading question, ‘Why is it that we and America wish civil war in Iraq?’ The ‘we’ is the British state. A little history of colonial wars provides a few ready answers: divide and rule; an excuse to prolong the military occupation; deflect the violence away from the occupation armies; isolate and target the main source of resistance; get others to do the fighting for you etc. Entangled in an escalating war the US and British governments are seeking to reduce and focus their military forces in Iraq, but in doing so threaten to ignite a wider conflagration. The Iraqi people’s suffering continues; their death rate accelerates. Trevor Rayne reports.

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Iraq: no exit for imperialism

FRFI 186 August / September 2005

On 28 June 2004, Iyad Allawi, Prime Minister of the newly inaugurated Iraqi interim government boasted, ‘In a few days Iraq will radiate with stability and security’. One year on and the average daily number of attacks by the Iraqi resistance has risen from 45 to 70 per day. The total number of coalition troops killed has almost doubled. At least a further 10,000 Iraqi civilians have been killed. All roads around Baghdad have been cut by resistance fighters and can only be travelled by Coalition and Iraqi government troops in armed convoys. Killings and the bombing of mosques have broken out between sections of the Shia community who support the puppet government and Sunnis who oppose it. The US and Britain invaded Iraq both to secure Middle East oil supplies and to maintain their role as the world’s leading imperialist powers. Any hope they had of quickly establishing a united and stable Iraqi government with strong Iraqi forces to police it has crumbled and with it an important plank of their global strategy is being undermined. The resistance in Afghanistan also gathers momentum. Dissent and division is rising within the US. JIM CRAVEN reports.

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IRAQ: End the occupation now

After three months of wrangling, following the 30 January elections, Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari announced a new government on 28 April. Within a week 270 people had been killed in attacks by different organisations. Early in May US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice paid a visit to the country to tell the new government that the resistance can be beaten politically and that they must demonstrate that the political process works. She wanted to see a new draft constitution written by August and fresh elections thereafter. The very length of time it took to allocate ministerial posts demonstrates the weakness of this government. It is an amalgamation of privileged and sectarian interests more concerned with promoting their own privileges than the plight of the Iraqi people. The US and British military will remain in charge. TREVOR RAYNE reports.

Al Jaafari left Iraq in 1980 and spent part of his exile in Britain. His deputy is the proven crook, Ahmed Chalabi, formerly wanted in Jordan for financial crimes but now apparently pardoned. The Finance Minister is a former consultant to the World Bank, who heads a London investment firm and has Ahmed Chalabi as an uncle and the Prime Minister as a cousin. Jalal Talabani, leader of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), is President. Within hours of the US allowing the Kurds in Iraq to form their own Parliament on 4 October 1992, the PUK thanked the US and Turkish states by attacking the revolutionary nationalist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in northern Iraq. The government is a reliable ally for the US and Britain.

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Iraq: democracy at gunpoint - Target Syria

Elections in Palestine, elections in Iraq, the ‘cedar revolution’ in Lebanon, local elections in Saudi Arabia and the promise of a contested presidential election in Egypt. Democracy is coming to the Middle East, or so the story goes. Behind the Palestinian election stands the Zionist military machine, crushing the Intifada and reducing the Palestinians to beggary. The road to the vote in Iraq passed through the rubble and uncounted corpses of Fallujah. In the name of democracy imperialism is setting the Middle East on fire. It is not freedom Bush and Blair bring – it is war. Trevor Rayne reports.

Prime Minister Blair declared Iraq’s 30 January election ‘magnificent’. Television and newspaper reports sought to use the election to justify and legitimise the war. The Labour Party hoped these would prove sufficient to retrieve support lost among Labour voters who opposed the war. Genuine demands for democracy among the Iraqi people are being cynically used to prolong the occupation of their country. Immediately after the election the US Pentagon announced it would keep 120,000 troops in Iraq until at least 2007. These elections were not about sovereignty.

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Tragedy and farce in Iraq

Cowboy hats, fur coats, fireworks, nine dress balls and sparkling wine celebrated the second inauguration of President Bush. The 55th presidential inauguration cost a record $40 million plus $17.3 million for security. To the singing of ‘The Star Spangled Banner’ and invocations to ‘God and freedom’, Death rode out from the multitude. If anyone in Baghdad wanted to watch the proceedings on TV they were frustrated by power cuts. Trevor Rayne reports on the reality behind the window dressing of imperialism in Iraq.

The US and British governments present the 30 January elections for a national assembly as a step towards democracy for Iraq. They are not democratic nor do they transfer power from the occupation armies to the Iraqi people. The elections, devised by the occupation forces, are intended to confer legitimacy on the occupation, to consolidate an Iraqi political alliance willing to negotiate with and serve imperialism against the growing national resistance movement. If their outcome proves otherwise, this will be yet another stumble in imperialism’s collapsing Middle East strategy.

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BLITZING FALLUJAH Fitting up Iraq for democracy

What was done to Fallujah was done in the name of democracy and the war on terrorism. The Spanish conquistadors put millions of lives to the sword and flame in the name of Christianity. The British Empire declared civilisation from atop a mountain of corpses. In the names of democracy, Christianity and civilisation US military depravity in Fallujah compares with the Nazis extinguishing towns and villages for race and Fatherland. The British Army and the British Labour government were complicit in this murder of a city. Trevor Rayne reports.

On 15 October US forces established a ‘dynamic cordon’ around Fallujah. That same day they detained Fallujah’s chief negotiator. Fallujah was then subjected to aerial, heavy artillery and tank bombardment, missiles were fired from helicopter gun-ships and AC-130 aircraft, firing 1,800 rounds a minute, strafed the city. Before the 7 November ground assault Sergeant Major Carlton W Kent addressed his marines: ‘You’re all in the process of making history. This is another Hue City in the making. I have no doubt, if we do get the word, that each and every one of you is going to do what you have always done – kick some butt’. Vietnamese national liberation forces occupied Hue during the January 1968 Tet Offensive. It was re-captured by the US and their South Vietnam allies the following month. The Under Secretary of the US Air Force stated in a March 1968 memo, Hue is ‘a devastated and prostrate city. Eighty per cent of the buildings have been reduced to rubble, and in the smashed ruins lay 2,000 dead civilians…Three quarters of the city’s people were rendered homeless and looting was widespread, members of the ARVN (US-backed South Vietnamese troops) being the worst offenders.’ One US officer memorably explained, ‘In order to save the city we had to destroy it.’ This was the US agenda for Fallujah.

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Iraq: imperialist plans fall apart

Writing on the Middle East and the Caucasus in FRFI 142 (April 1998) we said, ‘the USA must use violence, sooner rather than later, if its position as the dominant imperial power is not to be undermined’. Six years later the Financial Times carries the headline ‘US asks private groups to ease bullet shortage’. The US defence contractor General Dynamics proposed a solution, ‘pulling together several small bullet suppliers – including Winchester, a unit of Olin Corporation; Israel Military Industries; and Canada’s SNC Technologies – to meet the army’s gap. “We’re using so much ammunition in Iraq there isn’t enough capacity around” said Eric Hugel, a defence industry analyst at Stephens Inc. “They have to go internationally”.’ (Financial Times, 27 May 2004). TREVOR RAYNE reports.

The Iraqi interim government drafted in at the end of June is not working and for all the bullets fired by US and British troops they are not winning. The terrain that the US and British states have taken is not subdued and they cannot govern it. In fact, they are losing that terrain.

In a tape timed to coincide with the third anniversary of 11 September, Bin Laden’s associate Al Zawarhi said, ‘southern and eastern Afghanistan have completely become an open field for the mujahedeen…The Americans are huddled in their trenches refusing to confront the holy warriors despite the holy warriors shelling, shooting and cutting the routes around them.’ The US has lost 135 soldiers killed in Afghanistan. Bin Laden has not been captured. Elections scheduled for October are implausible with much of Afghanistan out of government control and reports of people making multiple registrations to vote.

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Iraq: Coalition retreats under fire

FRFI 180 August / September 2004

On 28 June, two days before planned, the Coalition forces announced they had restored ‘full sovereignty’ to Iraq. A ceremony took place in a military compound behind four US Army checkpoints guarding the event from the Iraqi people. Three days later Saddam Hussein, now formally in Iraqi custody, was presented to a US-selected Iraqi judge in a court packed with US soldiers dressed as civilians and chosen US journalists in a display timed to coincide with US breakfast television. The performance over, Saddam Hussein, still of course in Iraqi custody, was whisked back in a US military plane to a US military base in Qatar where US soldiers guard him. This is the substance of Iraq’s newly found freedom – a sham. The interim government is confined to a US guarded fortress in Baghdad. Trevor Rayne reports.

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EDITORIAL - Iraq: blood for oil

FRFI 147 February / March 1999

So, they had their day. On 16 December 1998 President Clinton called Prime Minister Blair from Air Force One and said, 'Get ready for strikes'. There followed the British armed forces 29th military intervention in the Middle East since 1945, with four days of bombardment of Iraq. The Pentagon estimated that US and British forces dropped 88,500 tons of ordnance or, on another estimate, the equivalent of some 350,000 Omagh bombs. The Red Cross estimated 200 civilian deaths. Three hospitals were hit, as well as schools and homes.

Clinton justified the attack on the grounds that the Iraqi government was not complying with the United Nations weapons inspection team. Blair said the purpose was to 'degrade and diminish' Saddam Hussein's military potential and ability to threaten neighbours. UN Permanent Security Council members France, Russia and China all opposed the attack, but they were ignored by the USA, determined to demonstrate its power and willingness to use it unrestrained. Clinton did not bother to inform French President Chirac of the assault, leaving that to Blair.

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Iraq: Coalition on the edge of the abyss

‘In this type of war the entire arsenal of a hegemonic superpower is superfluous. This superpower can conquer a country with its enormous power but it is impossible to administer and govern that country if its population battles resolutely against the occupiers.’
Fidel Castro, Havana, 1 May 2004.

During April the world witnessed the barbarism of imperialism as the Coalition forces attempted to defeat the Iraqi resistance. By May the US and British governments were scrambling to stop their plans for Iraq from falling to bits. The US government that mocked international law and institutions was scurrying to the United Nations to cobble together an interim government. Saddam Hussein’s generals were back in charge of cities. A war to secure cheap oil had pushed oil prices to a 21 year high. A former commander in chief of US Central Command told the US Senate, ‘I believe we are absolutely on the brink of failure. We are looking into the abyss.’ Trevor Rayne reports.

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EDITORIAL - Iraq: warmongering Labour government

FRFI December 1998 / January 1999

Before the Remembrance poppies were removed from their button holes, Prime Minister Blair and his ministers were banging the war drums for another round of carnage in the Middle East. That so far, as in February, the attack on Iraq has been suspended should not blind anyone to the persistent violence of US and British policy against Iraq and throughout the Middle East. It is a violence inflicted in pursuit of power, profits and oil. The victims are Kurds, Palestinians, Arabs, Iranians and other working classes and peasantries of the Middle East - the oppressed. That is the reality of the Gulf, not the demon Saddam Hussein, not the search for 'weapons of mass destruction', not the mockery of a 'peace process' between Israel and the Palestinians, but war, class war, a war that is intensifying as the imperialist system slides into crisis.

'The region, from the US air base at Incirlik in Turkey, through the Middle East to the Caspian and the Gulf is becoming an American protectorate'. (Martin Walker, The Guardian, 16 November 1998)

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One year on Iraq in ruins

20 March 2004 marked one year from the launch of the British armed forces’ twenty-ninth military intervention in the Middle East since the end of World War Two. Together with the US invasion force they are responsible for killing in one year over 10,000 Iraqi civilians and up to 6,370 Iraqi troops. The Royal Navy commenced shelling and burning down ports along the Arabian Peninsula and the Gulf in 1819. In six of the nine decades of its existence the RAF has bombed Iraq. This repeated use of violence against Middle Eastern peoples is intended to control them, control their resources and break any resistance. This time the resistance in Iraq, like the resistance in Palestine, is not being broken. Trevor Rayne reports.

The ruling Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) does not keep figures of Iraqi casualties. The Independent’s Robert Fisk, unable to obtain reliable information, visited mortuaries. He concluded that in September 1,000 Iraqi civilians were being killed each week. Iraq Body Count estimates that during five months under CPA jurisdiction Baghdad alone had over 1,500 violent deaths. Using reports from 2003 it is estimated that Iraqi deaths from previously unexploded cluster bombs dropped by US and British planes ran at 300 a month from May onwards. Infant mortality has almost doubled from 57 per 1,000 live births in 2002 to 103 in 2003. Safe water was available to 85% of Iraqis before the war, now it is accessible to 60%. Unemployment is put at 70% of the workforce. Assorted meat and vegetable prices have doubled or tripled, cooking gas has increased in price ten-fold, petrol is scarce. 15,000 Iraqi and Palestinian prisoners are held captive by US and British forces; they have no legal rights. Desperate to portray the occupation as a success, sections of the media seized on an opinion poll conducted by Oxford Research International in February for the BBC which states that 60% of Iraqis say that life is better today than under Saddam Hussein. The poll sampled 2,500 people outside Baghdad.

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IRAQI resistance forces coalition retreat

FRFI 177 February / March 2004

With the US and British occupation forces in danger of losing their most valuable political assets in Iraq, Paul Bremer, head of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), was flown back to Washington on 15 January. The previously quiescent Shia population of the south had taken to the streets demanding elections that the CPA did not intend to give them. The dominant Kurdish political parties of the north, military allies of the US and Britain, demanded a degree of autonomy from the rest of Iraq also unacceptable to the occupiers. As the resistance war continues to claim its daily toll of coalition soldiers’ lives, the US and British governments are groping for a political solution before they are engulfed in a greater conflagration they cannot win. TREVOR RAYNE reports.

‘Ladies and gentlemen – we got him.’ So announced Paul Bremer after the capture of Saddam Hussein on 13 December. The US Pentagon claimed that the capture led directly to the arrest of over 200 people. Thirty Iraqi civilians were killed in suicide attacks within a day of Bremer’s triumphal announcement. US troops killed over 40 Iraqi civilians in the four days following the capture. In captivity and at large Saddam Hussein was of use to the US and British states. His capture was used to justify the invasion and as a means for increased repression.

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IRAQ: The fires spread

FRFI 176 December 2003 / January 2004

The predicted attack on British interests and civilians came in Istanbul on 20 November killing 30 people, four of them British, and wounding 450 people. Scotland Yard said it was only a matter of time before people in Britain are similarly attacked. Labour Prime Minister Blair, with President Bush at his side, struck a Churchillian pose, ‘When something like this happens today, our response is not to flinch or give way or concede one inch. We stand absolutely firm until this job is done – done in Iraq; done elsewhere in the world.’ Let us be clear: the British government is leading us from war to war, endangering the lives of millions of people in Britain and around the world in pursuit of selfish, racist, imperialist and ultimately unobtainable goals. Trevor Rayne reports.

As US casualties in Iraq mounted and the debacle of the occupation washed against his White House door, Bush announced, ‘America will never run’. Run, no, but a brusque quick step, yes. US and British military strategy aims to destroy their opponents’ will to fight. A CIA report leaked in November described how the occupation forces could fail in Iraq. On 11 November the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) head Paul Bremer was hastily recalled to Washington. Within a week he was announcing new constitutional arrangements to allow the US and British authorities to hand over administrative powers to Iraqis by the end of June 2004. The US and British governments seek to retain smaller forces in Iraq, housed in well guarded camps, launching targeted forays against any resistance. This would reduce US and British casualties. As the Iraqi resistance grows this looks a forlorn hope. Missing is the essential ingredient which the US and Britain cannot provide: a legitimate Iraqi government accepted by the Iraqi people.

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Iraq: humbling the mighty

FRFI 175 October / November 2003

President Bush and Prime Minister Blair might believe the US to be almighty but it is fast dawning on sections of the US and British ruling classes that it is not. By September the invasion of Iraq had cost the US $138bn. The victorious coalition forces of April were looking futile and tarnished by the end of the summer. On 7 September Bush called on Congress for an additional $87bn and an extra 10,000 foreign troops for ‘the war on terrorism’. On cue British Defence Secretary Hoon announced that the first of up to 5,000 British troops were on their way to join the 11,000 British soldiers already in Iraq. Labour’s £3bn extra for defence in April’s budget will soon be used up. Guns and money are not working and do not exist in inexhaustible supplies. The occupation of Iraq takes place in the context of imperialist crisis and division that magnifies the impact of the Iraqi resistance. On 23 September Bush was forced to return to the United Nations (UN) that he had turned his back on in the spring. TREVOR RAYNE reports.

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Iraq and Afghanistan Imperialists wage low intensity war

FRFI 174 August / September 2003

‘The United States has a strategy based on arithmetic. They question the computers, add and subtract, extract square roots, and then go into action. But arithmetical strategy doesn’t work here. If it did they would have already exterminated us. With their planes, for example. Of course they thought they could bring us to heel by dumping billions (of tonnes) of explosives on us. Because as I told you they figure everything in billions, billions of dollars. They don’t reckon on the spirit of a people fighting for what they know is right, to save their country from invaders.’
Vietnamese General Giap, 1969

‘The captive Iraqi boy who was asked why he fought so overwhelming a foe merely muttered: “It’s my country’’. The answer was worth a dozen Tomahawks.’

The Times, 23 March 2003.

It was three months from ‘shock and awe’ to an indefinite extension of US troops’ term of stay in Iraq. The lightning strike has given way to low intensity war. US and British technological superiority is replaced by ‘low tech’ urban guerrilla war. Satellite and computer information systems remain relatively ineffective when Iraqi intelligence is passed from house to house and family to family. Trevor Rayne reports.

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Iraq: Horizons bathed in blood

FRFI 171 February / March 2003

Whenever it is launched the war will be brutal. Writing in The Times author John le Carré announced ‘The United States of America has gone mad’ (15 January 2003). At Christmas the Vatican offered prayers ‘in the face of this horizon bathed in blood.’ The US and British governments may be losing the propaganda war but they have no intention of losing the shooting war. They have amassed a vast army. Scare stories circulate through the media, injecting the fear needed to make the US and British people accept war. This is a war for global domination; Arab blood and young US and British lives are a necessary price for the rewards of victory. TREVOR RAYNE reports.

In FRFI 142 April/May 1998 we said, ‘There can be no doubt that the contentions over oil, the Gulf, Middle East and Caspian regions will be resolved by force and that the USA must use violence, sooner rather than later, if its position as the dominant imperial power is not to be undermined.’ With the collapse of the Soviet Union the US ruling class moved quickly to achieve global domination. The USA has now established military bases in former Soviet Republics from Georgia and Azerbaijan to Kazakhstan on the borders of China. The USA has expanded NATO eastwards to the Baltic and eastern Europe. US military power was decisive in subduing the Balkans. US and British control over the terrain and politics of the oil supply routes from the Middle East, Caspian Basin, Caucasus and Central Asia to Europe, Japan and China would place these economies at the mercy of the US ruling class at a time of worsening economic crisis for international capitalism with growing inter-imperialist rivalry. US strategy is to prevent the emergence of any potential rival, be it the European Union, Japan, Russia or China.

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Iraq: the global fight for oil

FRFI 169 October / November 2002

Blair, Bush and the capitalist media make a deafening din about Iraq’s possession of weapons of mass destruction but it is oil and control of terrain stretching from the Atlantic Ocean to China that guides their actions. Terrifying phantoms of Iraqi nuclear weapons lubricate the wheels of imperialism's killing machines; alarm and fear are spread deliberately; Goebbels would have been in awe. Behind the noise is the cold calculation required by a system built on greed and plunder: calculations foreseeing a growing strategic role for the Middle East in the future of the world. Trevor Rayne reports on the setting for the wars to come.

Militarism and oil
‘Imperialism is a fierce struggle of the Great Powers for the division and re-division of the world. It is therefore bound to lead to further militarisation in all countries.’ Lenin, CW Vol 23, page 82

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The Iraq Inquiry

Imperialists clean their stables

‘The general leaning towards barbarity acquires a certain method, immorality becomes a system, lawlessness gets its law givers and club law its law books.’ Karl Marx.

It was noted that the four politicians who took Britain to war against Iraq – Tony Blair, Jack Straw, Lord Falconer and Lord Goldsmith – were all lawyers (Henry Porter, The Guardian 28 January 2010). For them the law is their personal property or it is an obstruction to be shoved aside.

The terms of reference of the Chilcot Inquiry were decided by Prime Minister Gordon Brown and agreed by the House of Commons. Since the 2005 Inquiries Act government ministers and not judges control public inquiry proceedings, set the terms of reference, determine public access and access to evidence submitted to the inquiry. If ministers do not like the direction an inquiry is taking they can withdraw funding. If ministers do not like the content of the resulting report they can withhold part or all of the publication. The Inquiries Act was passed in response to a demand that there be a public inquiry into Royal Ulster Constabulary and British intelligence collusion in the loyalist murder of Irish solicitor Pat Finucane. During the parliamentary debate on the legislation it was hardly mentioned that the Finucane case was the motive for the bill.

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Iraq, oil and the war suspended

FRFI 142 April / May 1998

hat the USA and Britain did not unleash the threatened bombardment of Iraq in February was due to growing tensions between the imperialist powers and US calculation that its regional position would be harmed rather than strengthened by going ahead with the attack. There can be no doubt that the contentions over oil, the Gulf, Middle East and Caspian regions will be resolved by force and that the USA must use violence, sooner rather than later, if its position as dominant imperial power is not to be undermined. TREVOR RAYNE reports on the context of the latest confrontation in the Gulf.

The Middle East contains 66.4 per cent of the world's proven oil reserves and 'the Gulf is the world's hydrocarbon heartland'. Control over oil and the Middle East not only secures fantastic profits but whoever wields that control exerts tremendous power over potential rivals dependent on oil. Germany and Japan lack domestic oil supplies and China, the world's sixth biggest oil producer, became a net importer of oil in 1993 and by 2010 is expected to be the world's biggest oil importer.

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Labour conceals truth about Iraq invasion

In February, the so-called Justice Minister Jack Straw decided that we must not know why the Labour government agreed to attack Iraq. Minutes of the Cabinet meetings on 13 and 17 March 2003 are to be kept secret, even though the Information Commissioner Richard Thomas ordered their release. Ironically, Straw used Section 53 of the Freedom of Information Act to justify his decision – a further example of how Labour has legislated to attack civil liberties. It follows an earlier Labour government decision to refuse an official inquiry into the Iraq war at least so long as British troops remain, despite 72% of the population wanting such an inquiry. Then, on 25 March, Foreign Secretary Miliband said that an inquiry would be approved ‘as soon as practicable’. However, the inquiry would be held in private because confidentiality is ‘very, very important for all of our troops’.

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If they do this to their own, what are they doing to the Iraqis

Since 1990 1,800 soldiers – more than two a week – in or around military bases in Britain have died of ‘non-natural’ causes. It is true that over 170 First Gulf War veterans have committed suicide – five times as many as were killed in combat – but the majority of the deaths involve teenage recruits, serving in rear echelon units.

There are harrowing allegations of murder, rape, racism and torture inflicted upon youngsters, not by an enemy force, but by their own non-commissioned officer (NCO) instructors.

Thirteen soldiers are alleged to have killed themselves at Catterick, Yorkshire, since 1996. Lance Corporal Derek McGregor, it is said, killed himself in 2002. He had been beaten senseless by military police just prior to his death and the post mortem revealed black eyes, cuts to his stomach and bruising to his legs and scrotum.

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The Hutton Inquiry: The empire strikes back

FRFI 177 February / March 2004

Months late, the Hutton Inquiry has reported and surprised most commentators by the completeness of the whitewash in the government’s favour. Most thought that a few minor heads in government would roll. But, true to form, the British government is arrogant in its cover-up and aggressive in demanding its pound of flesh. The BBC is being prepared for a carve-up. The press have minutely analysed the report and its background exhaustively, so here Carol Brickley offers a ‘constitutional review’.

In times of crisis it pays to know something about a country’s constitution. Contrary to popular belief the British state does have a constitution, even though it is not written down. The British state is the result of a settlement between the Executive (the government acting as the ‘Crown’), the Legislature (Parliament), and the Rule of Law (the courts and the judges). Of course, like everything to do with government in Britain, even this is a bit of a fiction: the sovereignty of Parliament and the rule of law are very much subject to the dictates of the political party in power – the government.

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‘The dogs have barked... the caravan moves on’

FRFI 175 October / November 2003

The death of Dr David Kelly
‘The dogs have barked... the caravan moves on’

After six weeks of evidence, the publication of more than 900 documents and several millions of pounds spent on fees and expenses, all we can say of the Hutton Inquiry so far is that nothing adds up. Everyone, with the probable exception of the dead scientist’s widow and family, has been ‘spinning’ – ‘spinning’ is the spin-word for lying. The inquiry into the circumstances of Kelly’s death is now over and Hutton has retired to write his report. No one will be shocked by its recommendations when it finally appears in a few weeks time.


It is blatantly obvious why Dr David Kelly died. He made the mistake of talking to the BBC’s Andrew Gilligan about his criticisms of the government’s September dossier on weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. He compounded his mistake by owning up and then lying about it. His employers, the Ministry of Defence (MoD), the House of Commons Select Committee on Foreign Affairs, the government and Gilligan all added to the pressure. A number of questions, however, do require answers, but the Hutton report is unlikely to provide them.

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The incidental death of a weapons inspector

FRFI 174 August / September 2003

On 7 July the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee (FASC) published its report on ‘The decision to go to war in Iraq’. Commissioned by Parliament, the FASC had inquired into ‘whether the Foreign Office had presented accurate and complete information to Parliament in the period leading up to the decision to go to war in Iraq.’ This is what passes, in the British Parliament, for in-depth investigation into the farrago of lies which constituted the government’s ‘intelligence reports’ leading to war with Iraq. The FASC reached its lamentable conclusions by a whisker of the chairman’s casting vote: that neither the Foreign Secretary, nor the Prime Minister, nor his ‘Special Adviser’ Alastair Campbell (nor indeed anyone now or ever associated with the Labour Party) had ever misled Parliament. Everyone else was deeply sceptical. The questions looked set to run and run...until a decoy was introduced. Meet Dr David Kelly.

That may be the last you will hear in the media of the FASC’s Ninth Report of the Session 2002-3. But its conclusions, fudged though they are, are very revealing of government turpitude. The government only published two ‘intelligence’ dossiers in the lead up to the war in Iraq: both of them deserving the ‘dodgy’ epithet attached to them. Most people would think such a history of ‘dodginess’ significant.

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Iraq in crisis as protests against corruption mount

Iraq

On 30 April thousands of protesters broke through the barriers of the ‘Green Zone’ government compound in central Baghdad, unopposed by police and security forces. For 24 hours the protesters, led by supporters of the Shia cleric and political leader Muqtada Al Sadr, occupied the Iraqi Parliament and surrounding areas, chanting against the corruption of the government and US and foreign involvement in the country. The protesters demanded that the government of Prime Minister Haidar Al-Abadi deliver on promises for reforms to appoint a technocratic government free from corruption and reject the practice of appointing positions and government jobs based on sectarian quotas. A state of emergency was declared in the capital and all gates to the city were closed. This is another step towards the breakdown of the authority of the government in a country in crisis.

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