So spirited has proved the resistance struggle, both against the direct occupation forces and against those who have been drawn into the bloody service of imperialism, that even the paper exercise of slotting faces into a new quisling regime has already taken three months of horse-trading and stitch-ups. And now that this mole hill has been scaled, there are already mutterings about extending by six months the August deadline for the yet giddier feat of drafting a new make-believe “constitution”. Meanwhile, in the real world, the resistance struggle has reached a new crescendo.
Reporting the belated appointment of puppet ministers to take charge of ‘defence’ (!), oil, industry and electricity, the Financial Times noted that the “final stages of forming a cabinet coincided with a surge in deadly guerrilla attacks”. A rash of attacks upon police stations, police and army recruitment centres and police checkpoints served as a painful reminder to imperialism of the continuing abject dependency of the puppet forces upon direct assistance from their masters. Meanwhile, direct attacks upon the imperialist forces themselves go on apace. Even by the Pentagon’s own highly dubious figures (excluding an ever expanding catalogue of mysterious ‘freak accidents’), at least 1,238 US military and Pentagon personnel have been killed in action since the 2003 invasion began. This conversion of Iraq into a graveyard for imperialism was predicted at the outset by the resistance forces, a prediction that was written off at the time as a hollow boast.
So desperate are the invaders to hand the dirty work of occupation over to proxy forces and get ‘their boys’ home, that the US Military is reportedly encouraging the growth of sectarian militias with clan allegiances to different ministers inside the new government. According to Wall Street Journal staffer Greg Jaffe, the lumpen elements bribed into the ‘official’ Iraqi army have proved so uselessly venal and cowardly that the colonial overlords have been obliged to fall back on what one US Major describes as “irregular Iraqi ministry-directed brigades”, in the forlorn hope that blind clan loyalty will succeed where straight bribery has failed. One Lt. Gen David Petraeus “is overseeing the massive US effort to help train and equip Iraqi military units”, writes Jaffe. Petraeus agonises: “There is a tension between on the one hand encouraging and fostering initiative and on the other executing the plan for the Iraqi Security Forces that everyone [!] agreed on … To be candid, I would err on the side of fostering initiative. I want to get the hell out of here.”
Halliburton appears to be nursing similar sentiments, now that the dream of reconstruction gold is turning into a nightmare. As resistance actions continue to knock pipelines out of action on a regular basis, obliging even the US State Department to report in April that the oil infrastructure is far from ‘restored’, Halliburton announced on 22 April that the RIO (‘Restore Iraqi Oil’) contract gifted to Kellogg Brown Root (KBR, a Halliburton subsidiary), due to run for another year, was now supposedly “completed”! This hasty departure coincides with corruption scandals blowing up around Halliburton’s operations and a reported reduction of 26 percent in that company’s revenues in the first quarter of 2005.
Imperialism has no desire to “get the hell out” of its wholesale plunder of Iraq’s oil, nor to relinquish Iraqi soil as a launch pad for oppression of the whole Middle East. What it cannot stomach, however, is seeing its own military forces pinned down indefinitely by well-coordinated, well-motivated, mobile guerrilla forces, which permit neither the unfettered enjoyment of imperialist plunder nor the establishment of a stable puppet regime. It is not only the increasing number of army deserters who want to “get the hell out”, but the imperialist ruling class itself, which desperately wants to get its troops out and impose a neo-colonial solution on the Iraqi people, sanctified by some holy water sprinkled by the United Nations. What is required is a pliant and stable comprador regime that is ready and able to secure Anglo-American control of Iraq’s oil, and which will serve as a cover for the planting on Iraqi soil of a permanent outpost of imperialist domination over the peoples of the Middle East.
Instead, the national democratic struggle of the Iraqi people has emerged with the same unity and vigour that characterised it in 1972, when the struggle to nationalise the oil and use the revenues to transform living standards galvanised the whole nation against imperialism. This spirit of anti-imperialist struggle was cruelly eclipsed through the dark days of the war with Iran in the 1980s, which saw the national democratic struggle undermined by imperialist manipulation. But the horrors of bombing and sanctions throughout the 1990s, culminating in the 2003 invasion and the continuing criminal occupation, have achieved the opposite effect to that desired by imperialism.
More sidestepping by the Stop the War Coalition
All of this remains a closed book to the steering committee of the Stop the War Coalition, it seems. Since this committee managed to ‘steer’ the Stop the War conference away from a frank position of support for the Iraqi resistance (see earlier Proletarian coverage), its social democratic politics have degenerated to a level that is hard to distinguish from the outright chauvinism of Mick Rix and the ‘Labour Friends of Iraq’, which so violently objected to the coalition’s earlier mild disapproval of the collaborationist antics of the IFTU (Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions). Now the tale is being told that this falling out between labour movement brothers was just a temporary glitch triggered by ‘mischief-making’. Sooner than draw the necessary political conclusion, setting the anti-war movement on a firm foundation of solidarity with the people’s war against national oppression being waged by the Iraqi nation, the coalition is in fact retreating even from its own previous halfway-house position. Now the word is that, since the unions supposedly cannot be won even to the slogan of ‘Troops out now’, unity within the labour movement must be preserved by offering the unions a further ‘tactical’ dilution of the slogan, demanding only that the government should set a firm date for withdrawal!
Such a retreat, such a dilution, might indeed be expected to ‘broaden support’ — amongst the labour aristocracy. Who can doubt that the MOD and the Pentagon themselves would happily line up behind a firm date for withdrawal, so long as a stable puppet regime could be left behind to look after imperialist interests? And there’s plenty of helpful advice around coalition circles to help imperialism secure this proviso as well. Yes, steering committee member Andy Newman told a recent coalition gathering in Bristol: of course Allawi and Chalabi were puppets, but look, the elections forced the Americans to forgo these stooges, and you cannot really describe the new government as puppets …
Softly, softly, they would make monkeys of us all. The ‘elections’ were an insolent imposition by imperialism upon an occupied nation. They were conducted under the shadow of the oppressor’s guns. They had not one shred of legitimacy. And the final ‘results’ were skewed to just the necessary mathematical ratio to put a Kurdish nationalist brake on the overweening ambitions of the Sistani clique, thus keeping the puppets divided and obedient.
Yes but, says Andy Newman, yes but the elections too were a manifestation of resistance. Well, in the sense that the overwhelming popular hostility to the occupation made it imperative for every candidate to say “me too”, then of course the elections were a manifestation of resistance. It is also probable that huge numbers of the votes that were actually cast (as opposed to being faked) were motivated by hatred of the occupation and desire for national independence. So it is that even the ‘elections’ farce, directly stage-managed by the colonial overlords, could not but reflect in some measure the rising tide of popular hatred against imperialism.
But sooner than draw the obvious conclusion — that the resistance is deeply rooted in the broadest masses of the Iraqi people — the social democrats of the coalition contrive to draw the opposite inference. Yes, they concede, the elections were flawed, but the result was, after all, not entirely to Washington’s taste, not really a puppet government at all …
The comforting conclusion from all this is that we must support ‘civil society’ (trade unions, NGOs etc) in its efforts to restore independence and democracy with the benign assistance of the UN. The role prescribed for the coalition is simply to apply gentle ‘tactical’ pressure on the labour movement to ‘demand’ that the government ‘set an early deadline’ for withdrawal! There is indeed a thin partition dividing such politics from those of the Lib Dems or even Labour itself.
For the coalition to busy itself with preparations for a protest campaign against an attack on Iran that has not yet happened (admirable though such forethought may be in principle) cannot disguise the abdication of its present responsibility to stand in solidarity with the present Iraqi resistance. And if Iran does fall prey to the next wave of crisis-driven imperialist aggression, what advice can its citizens anticipate from the coalition? Will they be urged to abjure violence, to confine themselves to peaceful demonstrations, civil disobedience and the supervised construction of ‘civil society’, once the rule of the mullahs has been superseded by rule by the imperialist gun? If so, it might be courteous to warn the Iranian people now.
Unity with those fighting imperialism
By all means let the anti-war movement ready itself to protest against imperialist aggression, no matter where inflicted. But let these preparations take place on the sturdy foundation of solidarity with the forces of resistance that weaken and divide ‘our own’ ruling class. The truth is that the anti-war movement does not need to wait for the next war, or the one after that, to start learning this lesson. Rather, let us begin to learn this lesson now, so that the British working class may begin to break with Labour imperialism, and begin to draw strength from understanding just where its real allies are to be found in its struggle for social emancipation.
Defeat for Anglo-American imperialism!
Victory to the Iraqi resistance!