The Imperialist War Against Iraq

Vijay Singh

The United States and British imperialists have embarked upon an aggressive and unjust war against Iraq. This war is an illegal war as international law and the Charter of the United Nations recognise only two legitimate reasons for going to war: self-defence in the event of an attack or an action authorized by the United Nations Security Council as a collective response to a threat to peace. The latter over the years has been the legal basis for the Korean, Gulf and Afghanistan Wars. Clearly the United States and Britain have not been attacked by Iraq. Nor was there a clear and present danger to the US and the UK from the Iraqi government. The US and the British suffered spectacular defeats at the United Nations where they were unable to secure significant support let alone a majority for military intervention against Iraq in the Security Council despite strenuous exertions, whereupon they simply by-passed the United Nations and embarked on war. The war is also is illegal in terms of the United States constitution and the principles of the Nuremberg Tribunal.

The war on Iraq is consistent with the new National Security Strategy adopted by the Bush administration, by which the United States would do everything in its power to maintain its paramount military supremacy and not hesitate to act alone and engage in pre-emptive action in its ‘self-defence’. Under the Bush doctrine the sovereignty of the United States takes precedence over that of all other states and over international treaties.

The strategic plan elevates free trade and free markets to be a moral principle of real freedom through the mechanisms of the World Trade Organisation, the Free Trade Act of the Americas, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

Weapons of Mass Destruction

The United States and Britain have long pressed for a war on Iraq on the grounds that Iraq, contrary to the 1991 resolutions of the United Nations, illegally possesses weapons of mass destruction. These resolutions were far more stringent than the restrictions imposed on the defeated countries in the Second World War, such as Germany and Japan.

What is the evidence that Iraq possesses such weapons?

Scott Ritter, the American who worked after 1991 with Unscom, the special commission of the United Nations which was authorized to find and destroy Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, and who resigned from it stating that the US was utilising it to spy on Iraq, has put it on record in an interview that:

‘As of December 1998 we had accounted for 90 to 95% of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction capability. We destroyed all the factories, all of the means of production. We couldn’t account for some of the weaponry, but chemical weapons have a shelf-life of five years. Biological weapons have a shelf-life of three. To have weapons today, they would have had to rebuild the factories and start producing these weapons since December 1998.’

And further:

‘…since 1998 Iraq has been fundamentally disarmed: 90-95% of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction capability has been verifiably eliminated. This includes all of the factories used to produce chemical, biological and nuclear weapons, and long-range ballistic missiles; the associated equipment of these factories; and the vast majority of the products coming out of these factories.’

About the residual portion of weapons that remained Scott Ritter stated:

‘We have to remember that this missing 5 to 10% doesn’t necessarily constitute a threat. It doesn’t even constitute a weapons programme. It constitutes bits and pieces of a weapons programme which, in its totality, doesn’t amount to much, but which is still prohibited. Likewise, just because we can’t account for it, doesn’t mean Iraq retains it. There is no evidence that Iraq retains this material.’

Regarding the nuclear weapons programme of Iraq he stated:

‘When I left Iraq in 1998, when the UN inspection programme ended, the infrastructure and facilities had been 100% eliminated. There’s no debate about that. All of their instruments and facilities had been destroyed. The weapons design facility had been destroyed. The production equipment had been hunted down and destroyed. And we had in place means to monitor - both from vehicles and from the air – the gamma rays that accompany attempts to enrich uranium or plutonium. We never found anything. We can say unequivocally that the industrial infrastructure needed by Iraq to produce nuclear weapons had been eliminated.' Scott Ritter points out that nevertheless the organisational structure of the scientists remained though they were now engaged in legitimate tasks. The nuclear programme could not be easily re-started:

‘We eliminated the nuclear programme, and for Iraq to have reconstituted it would require undertaking activities eminently detectable by intelligence services.’ (David Pallister, ‘Even if Iraq managed to hide these weapons, what they are now hiding is harmless goo’, The Guardian, London, September 19, 2002).

Much of the documentary evidence that Iraq had manufactured weapons of mass destruction came after the defection in August 1995 of Gen. Hussein Kamel, the former director of Iraq’s Military Industrialization Corporation, who was in charge of Iraq’s weapons. President Bush and Secretary of State Colin Powell have repeatedly made much of the fact in recent months that it was from this source that Iraq’s weapons programme had come to light under which more than 30,000 litres of anthrax and other biological agents, and four tons of the deadly nerve agent VX had been produced. But the United States authorities never released the information that the same source had intimated that he had: ‘ordered destruction of all chemical weapons. All weapons – biological, chemical, missile, nuclear were destroyed’. This information only reached the public through the journal Newsweek in its issue of 3rd March 2003 and has not been highlighted in the imperialist media.

After the recent inspections of hundreds of sites the reports of the United Nations inspectors have given no support at all to the argument that Iraq possesses weapons of mass destruction or that it constitutes a threat to the international community. What has actually emerged is that the US and Britain attempted to incriminate Iraq that it was attempting to build a nuclear programme. Thus the report by the chief atomic arms inspector Mohammed El Baradei points out that a major document presented in the British White Paper concerning the alleged attempts of Iraq to buy uranium proved to be a forgery. The chief weapons inspector Hans Blix concluded that this was ‘very disturbing, to say the least’.

The United Nations imposed disarmament upon Iraq for violating the sovereignty of Kuwait. But it should be clear that this has been done in a manner which has facilitated the violation of the sovereignty of Iraq by the most aggressive, expansionist power in the world today: US imperialism. For more than ten years the US and Britain have unilaterally imposed no-fly zones in northern and southern Iraq and have relentlessly been bombing the country, leading to a large number of civilian deaths.

Richard Butler, another former weapons inspector, who cannot by any stretch of the imagination be considered to be a friend of the Iraqi people, has remarked upon the double standards of the United States. He stated that:

‘Amongst my toughest moments in Baghdad were when the Iraqis demanded that I explain why they should be hounded for their weapons of mass destruction when, just down the road, Israel was not, even though it was known to possess some 200 nuclear weapons.’

Richard Butler also remarked:

‘I confess, too, that I flinch when I hear American, British and French fulminations against weapons of mass destruction, ignoring the fact that they are the proud owners of massive quantities of those weapons, unapologetically insisting that they are essential for their national security, and will remain so.’

'The Americans did not appreciate that they could not claim a right to possess nuclear weapons but deny it to other nations. They did not realize that their weapons of mass destruction were just as much a problem as those held by Iraq.'

Richard Butler’s attempts to discuss with Americans this question of double standards did not meet with comprehension:

'I sometimes felt I was speaking to them in Martian, so deep is their inability to understand.’ (Sydney Morning Herald, October 3rd, 2002)

The Question of Oil

It is an open secret that control over the oil resources of Iraq is a real motive of the US and UK invasion of Iraq and it is well known that the Bush administration has intimate relations with the US oil corporations. Oil reserves have emerged in the modern industrial world as the strategic resource of paramount importance. The strategic value of oil is increased manifold because of the impending crunch on oil reserves. As has been pointed out by the geologist Dale Allen Pfeiffer: ‘based on the Hubbert Curve (a standard measure of world oil production peaks and declines), in five years, we will no longer be able to produce enough oil to meet the needs of our oil civilisation’. After a certain point, Prof. Richard Heinberg has revealed ‘there will be a few percentage points less oil available each year to meet the rising demand, regardless of what anyone does’. In the light of this situation the serial seizure and attempted seizure by the Bush administration of the world oil supplies of Central Asia, the Middle East, the Balkans, Venezuela, Colombia, the South China Sea is entirely understandable. The survey of the ‘World Energy Outlook’ indicates that the demand for oil will increase by half by the year 2025. 66% of the world oil reserves are concentrated in the Middle East, 9% are in Central and Latin America, North America holds 6% and Western Europe has 2%. The US and other imperialist countries have a small share of oil production but consume the largest quantities and primarily import it from the Middle East. The strategic importance of the Persian Gulf will increase exponentially in the next two decades. One-third of the estimated oil reserves of the world lie under Saudi Arabia and Iraq, and US government estimates consider that the current estimates for the Iraqi oil reserves may be seriously understated. Moreover Iraqi oil, at less than $1.50 a barrel, is amongst the cheapest in the world to produce. The US and British oil companies such as BP, Chevron-Texaco, Shell and Exxon have no penetration either in Iran or Iraq where French, Russian and Chinese companies have signed agreements. The US, which is becoming increasingly dependent on foreign oil, imports about half of its needs from Canada, Venezuela, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia and Iraq but its production has been falling in recent years and its consumption is rising. The US consumption of oil is expected to rise by one-third over the next two decades. In a report of May 2001 the US National Energy Policy Development Group headed by Richard Cheney, the Vice-President, noted that US oil production would fall by 12% in the next 20 years and that the country’s dependence on imported oil, which has risen from one-third in 1985 to more than half today, would increase to two-thirds by 2020.

The US has expanded its area of influence in the oil-rich areas in the Caspian Sea and Colombia where it has intervened militarily, but it has been recently pushed on to the defensive in Venezuela as a result of the democratic Chavez government. In the future the US will be more dependent on the prize areas of the Middle East where a number of anti-US regimes (Libya, Iran and Iraq) have been unsympathetic to its needs and where the traditional client sheikhdoms (Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait) are now considered to be political unstable. In these circumstances voices have been heard suggesting the complete restructuring of the Middle East to correspond to the requirements of the United States. A case in point was the report of the Rand Corporation drafted by Laurent Murawiec which was presented to the Pentagon’s Defense Policy Board last summer, which envisaged the removal of the Saudi royal family and the possible occupation of the Saudi oil fields. The British M.P. George Galloway, Vice-Chairman of the Labour Party Foreign Affairs Committee which has close relations with the Ministry of Defence, has brought to light the plans mooted in ruling circles in the US and UK to recast the entire Middle East including the possibility of reviving the Hashemite monarchy in Iraq, forming a new Shia state in eastern Arabia to secure the Ghawar oilfield, the largest in the world, and the industrial centres of Saudi Arabia. Such plans would also be designed to subjugate Syria, Iran, Palestine and Egypt and possibly the oil-rich southern Sudan in a pro-US axis along with Turkey, Israel and Jordan. According to a member of the Blair Cabinet between 1997 and 2001, Mo Mowlam, the real goal of the war against Iraq is the need to control and seize Saudi Arabian oil in the event of an anti-American militant Islamic government coming to power there.

Proponents of the US invasion of Iraq have asserted that it has no connection with oil as the US could simply have ended the sanctions on Iraq and gained access to the oil through the market mechanism. However this would have meant that apart from the US, direct and equal access to the massive Iraqi oil deposits would have been available to the French, German, Russian, Japanese and Chinese oil producers, which would give these countries strategic economic independence from the United States. China would appear to be a major strategic target in the attack on Iraq, for though at present two-thirds of Gulf oil goes to the western industrial nations it is estimated in a study by the CIA’s National Intelligence Council that by 2015 three-quarters of this oil will be exported to Asia, mainly China, which gives it incentive to forge close relations with Iraq and Iran. The military occupation of Iraq and the control of its oil gives the US a veto over the future economic development of Europe, China and Japan.

Defending the Hegemony of the Dollar

The current domination of the world economy by the US dollar is founded upon the fact that it is the international reserve for world oil transactions. US-printed dollars are used by countries throughout the world to purchase oil from the OPEC countries, these petro-dollars then return to the US in the form of Treasury Bills, US stocks, real estate and other US assets. The establishment of the power of the OPEC oil-exporting cartel after 1973 is symbiotically linked to the US dollar reserves which produces a capital-accounts surplus for the US which in turn finances the US trade deficit. The current account deficit in the US comes to US $450 billion per annum or 4% of the GDP. The US government budget has significantly shifted from surplus to deficit (at least US $200 billion) which will now increase with the cost of the Iraq war. The US is the leading debtor nation in the world. The US national debt in April 2002 came to roughly US $6 trillions against a gross domestic product of US $9 trillions.

The US is heavily dependent upon external financing to cover its deficits at a time when it is undergoing a serious financial challenge from the euro. The size of the EU economies is such that it can provide a serious challenge to the US. The eurozone has a bigger share of world trade, a more balanced external accounts position and is a larger importer of oil than the US. For the OPEC countries the euro represents a more attractive currency that the dollar. There has been a perceptible financial shift in the recent period as countries have begun transferring from dollar holdings to the euro. The Iranian central bank has shifted the majority of its reserve funds to the euro in 2002 and there appears to be an imminent changeover from dollars to euros as their oil currency. Mohammad Abasspour, a member of the Iranian Parliament Development Commission, recently noted that the higher parity rate of the euro to the dollar would give the oil-exporting Asian countries the opportunity to usher in a new era in their relationship with the European Union. He said that the US dominated other nations through the dollar over the other hard currencies and hoped that competition with the euro would eliminate its monopoly in world trade.

Further there have been serious monetary shifts in reserve funds as Russia, China, Venezuela and some OPEC producers began to move towards the euro. North Korea in December of last year switched from the dollar to the euro in its trade dealings.

The most profound shift was caused by the decision by Iraq to switch to the euro in late 2000 which was followed by the conversion of the Iraqi US $10 billion reserve fund at the United Nations to euros. This may be considered the basic cause that triggered the current war against Iraq, compelled the US to try to save the dollar, counter the power of the euro and in effect fire the first salvo in a war against the rival EU imperialist power. The war against Iraq is necessitated by the requirement to prevent a further shift by OPEC as a whole towards accepting the euro as the currency for oil transactions. A sudden change to the euro by OPEC would mean that the oil-importing nations would have to come up with euros to finance their oil consumption. The US dollar would collapse by 20-40 percent in value and engender a US, Japanese and world economic crisis. To stave this off the US is compelled to occupy Iraq, install a puppet government, denationalise the oil industry, and cancel the contracts of the rival Russian and European oil companies. The stage would then be set to massively increase Iraqi oil production to a level far, far above the existing OPEC quotas, revert Iraq to the dollar, smash the power of OPEC, including its capacity to switch to the euro, and bring about the collapse of oil prices which will result in billions of dollars of savings each year to the oil-consuming countries of the world.

Labour and the Anti-War Movement

The anti-war movement against the invasion of Iraq has been the largest such movement in history with some eleven million people round the globe demonstrating before the war on 15th February and some five million coming out on the streets within two days of the invasion of Iraq. At the core of the protests have been the activities of the working class of the metropolitan capitalist countries, the democratic movement around the world, the Arab nation and the Muslim peoples. In the United States for the first time in its history the leadership of the trade union movement opposed a president’s war policy. On February 27th the Executive Council of the AFL-CIO, representing more than thirteen million workers, said that Bush had not been able to make a case for war against Iraq to the American people and that the best way of disarming Saddam Hussein was an international coalition of allies with the sanction of the United Nations. Commenting on this, Larry Cohen, the Executive Vice-President of the 600,000 member Communications Workers of America, reasoned that the labour movement was making the connection between Bush’s war policy and other parts of his foreign policy under which trades agreements were destroying American jobs. The coordinator of USLAW, Bob Muehlenkamp, noted that the AFL-CIO resolution would encourage unions to continue and expand their protests against this war.

In Britain, prior to the massive anti-war rallies of February 15th in London and Glasgow involving some two million people, five general secretaries of trade unions representing 750,000 people supported the Stop the War Coalition, demanded the recalling of the Trades Union Congress for an emergency meeting and raised the prospect of widespread industrial unrest if Britain went to war against Iraq. Similar warnings were issued by Bill Speiers, the leader of the Scottish Trades Union Congress. It was in Scotland that rail workers had struck work rather than transport war materials destined for Iraq.

The European trade union federation gave a call before the war for walkouts on March 14th, which received a massive response in the major countries of Europe. In Germany this saw the biggest political strike for many years involving hundreds of thousands of workers in the automobile, shipyard industries, the tramway workers, white-collar workers, health workers, teachers, students, and pupils across the country. In Italy the strike was marked by the heavy participation of the workers in the large-scale enterprises. Both in Italy and Greece calls were made to go on a general strike in the event of war. In Spain eighty percent of the sixteen and a half million employees took part in the strike. Popular manifestations in Italy and Greece took the form of protests to undermine the military action against Iraq. In Italy, where the government had illegally given the US military the right to use the state infrastructure to transport weaponry, vehicles and personnel from Ederle, near Vicenza to the military base at Camp David, near Pisa, from 21st February onwards protesters stopped the trains. In Greece the communist movement and the PAME labour federation mounted enormous demonstrations against the NATO fleet being permitted the use of Piraeus harbour on February 19 and 20 which culminated in the Greek government being compelled to appeal to the NATO Standing Naval Force of the Mediterranean not to enter the harbour.

The Hindu fascist BJP-led NDA government in India, which has been acting for five years in its economic and political policies as the abject tool of US imperialism, has refused to pass a resolution in Parliament against the US aggression on Iraq. A policy of conciliation to the US is dictated by its desire to secure the favour and help of that power to freely continue the oppression of the Kashmiri nation and to counter the attempts of the reactionary military regime of Pakistan, also backed by the US, to detach that nation from the Indian state and incorporate it into Pakistan. Needless to say both the Indian and Pakistani governments, which claim to be in sympathy with the plight of Iraq, are united in their refusal to let the long-suffering Kashmiri people decide their own future. The left and democratic forces by their mass level protests throughout the country have been forthright in their condemnation of US imperialism and their support to the people of Iraq.

31st March 2003

Incinerated body of an Iraqi soldier on the 'Highway of Death' (1991). This was the name the press gave to the road from Mutlaa, Kuwait, to Basra, Iraq. U.S. planes immobilized the convoy by disabling vehicles at its front and rear.

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