The Renewal of the Imperialist War and the Tasks of the Workers Movement
In mid-September the US ruling class decided to bombard the Islamic State (IS, often called Daash in Arabic) in Syria. Already on the first day, American war planes killed or wounded dozens of Islamic State fighters in air strikes on the Syrian city of Raqqa and surrounding areas. It already started to attack IS fighters in Iraq in early August. Thus, we see that the imperialist war on Iraq did not end in December 2011. The official declaration, then, of US President Obama that the imperialist war had ended was an empty promise. The US is once again involved in a war against Iraq and Syria. Imperialism cannot survive without wars; but, as Lenin wrote, for humanity to survive we must destroy the imperialist system.
In 1991 a coalition of thirty-four states, among them Syria’s Assad regime, led by American imperialism waged a war against Iraq of Saddam Hussein. Subsequently, in 2003, the US, Britain, and Australia occupied Iraq and deposed Saddam Hussein who later was hanged. During this latter war and the ensuring occupation Iraq was devastated. Whatever can be said about Saddam's brutal regime, under the American-led occupation Iraq was devastated; in comparison, Saddam's regime was heaven.
Following are estimates of the damage incurred by the Iraqi people since the start of the war launched in 2003: (1)
Iraqis killed between March 2003 and December 31, 2011 (when U.S. military forces withdrew): at least 121,754
Total number of Iraqi deaths as a result of the war, either direct or indirect (the latter due to the destruction and disruption of the war, including water supply and power infrastructures, healthcare, and food production):
According to a 2006 Lancet study: 655,000
According to a 2008 Opinion Research Business study: 1 million
Current estimates: 1.2 to 1.4 million
Iraqis injured: 4.2 million
Iraqis driven from their homes: 4.5 million
Malaki’s Corrupt Government and the Uprising
When the US fled Iraq three years ago, it left behind a corrupt Shia Muslim regime led by Nuri al-Malaki whose sectarian policies fiercely discriminated against the Sunni minority. Under his rule, police killed peaceful Sunni protestors and used anti-terrorism laws to conduct mass-arrests of Sunni civilians. Maliki formed political alliances with violent Shia militias to kill and torture Sunni Muslims. During this period, the imperialist mass media either minimally covered or did not report at all any of the atrocities committed by Malaki’s government.
The sectarian policies of the American puppet government led to a rebellion of Sunni tribes which many supporters of the Ba’ath party joined. As the Huffington Post and the Washington Post reported:
“Militants affiliated with al Qaeda have joined with local tribal Sunni leaders to expel government troops and to raise their flag over the powerfully symbolic city of Fallujah, where U.S. troops fought their bloodiest battle of the Iraqi war.” (2)
“Reports on Wednesday suggested that ISIS's ranks may have grown after collaboration with militias connected to the old Baathist regime of fallen dictator Saddam Hussein; they played a role in ISIS's reported capture of Tikrit, Hussein's home town. ISIS appears to be well-funded, benefiting from the same shadow networks of donors in the Arab world who funded al-Qaeda as well as the widespread practice of extortion and kidnapping, and other criminal activities.” (3)
Following a barrage of reports by the imperialist mass media portraying the mass rebellion as the terrible and cruel terrorism of IS/Daash, as if the only forces fighting are radical Islamists, Obama and the other heads of the imperialist states in Europe decided to strike the rebels in order to save the pro-imperialist government in Iraq.
The Islamic State (formerly known as ISIS) was initially established as Jama'at al-Tawhid wal-Jihad in 1999. From it was formed Tanzim Qaidat al-Jihad fi Bilad al-Rafidayn or al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) by Abu Musab Al Zarqawi in 2004. It participated in the military resistance against the invasion of Iraq and joined other Sunni insurgent groups to form the Mujahideen Shura Council, which became to the Islamic State of Iraq.
IS/Daash is a reactionary organization which dreams of restoring the glorious days of the Caliphate. It employs sectarian killings, oppresses women, and opposes the right of self determination of the Kurds. It has killed several thousand victims, both civilian and military. According to the British Guardian, by June of this year, the Iraqi civilian death toll passed 5,500 in wake of the IS/Daash offensive. (4)
This month the imperialist press made a lot of noise about the militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria who allegedly killed hundreds of Iraqi soldiers captured at Camp Speicher, an air force base which had previously served as a US military base.
“According to Human Rights Watch, new evidence indicates the Islamic State fighters killed between 560 and 770 soldiers captured at Camp Speicher, near the city of Tikrit.” (5)
However, it is a sheer hypocrisy to claim that these soldiers were innocent victims. In reality, the Iraqi army which incorporatedShiite militias has and continues to commit war crimes against Sunni civilians. Of course, killing simple soldiers is not a revolutionary policy, but then ISIS is not a revolutionary organization. You cannot expect a monkey to behave like an elephant.
Furthermore, comparing the crimes committed by ISIS to those committed by the imperialists and their servants in Iraq is like comparing an ant to an elephant.
There are many stories circulating about atrocities committed by ISIS which cannot be confirmed, like the beheading of Christian babies. For example, in June of this year it was reported that:
“… an official of the UN claimed that the jihadists in Iraq have ordered all women between the ages of 11 and 46 to undergo female genital mutilation, but experts quickly cast doubt on the claim. Several experts have speculated that the fatwa may have been a hoax, and a number of journalists said on Twitter that their contacts in Iraq had not heard of it being issued. Charles Lister, visiting fellow at the Brookings Doha Center and expert on Iraqi and Syrian extremist groups, said the UN claim appeared to be based on a ‘quite clearly faked statement.”… ’It would certainly be a very big coincidence if the UN source was separate but happened to arise at the same time as this fake statement online,’ he said.” (6)
We should bear in mind that propaganda by imperialists during their wars are mixture of lies and half-truths. For example, in WWI the British and American anti-German propaganda and German anti-British and French propaganda were based on lies. (7)
“Propaganda was used in World War One as in any war – and the truth suffered. Propaganda ensured that the people only got to know what their governments wanted them to know. In World War One, the lengths to which governments would go to in an effort to blacken the enemy’s name reached a new level….. They printed headlines that were designed to stir up emotions regardless of whether they were accurate or not. The most infamous headlines included:
* “Belgium child’s hands cut off by Germans”
* “Germans crucify Canadian officer”
The same thing was done in Germany – untrue headlines were tolerated and even encouraged by the German authorities. Some headlines were:
*“French doctors infect German wells with plague germs”
* “German prisoners blinded by Allied captors”
The Revolutionary Position
The US military’s latest intervention is the continuation of the imperialist war in Iraq. Without giving any political support to reactionary Islamists (including IS/Daash), with regard to their fighting US imperialism and its servants, revolutionaries support the military victory of these Islamists because the more dangerous enemy of the Iraqi workers, peasants, and poor is the imperialist side.
At the same time in, with regard to the atrocities committed against civilians by IS/Daash, revolutionaries support the armed self-defense of Kurds and Iraqis against IS/Daash.
Syria and the Middle Class Left
Some of the middle class left – usually from the camp of those who opportunistically adapt to the emerging imperialist powers Russia and China – claim that Syria is fighting the imperialists and that it is the imperialists who pushed the Jihadists to topple the Assad regime. In reality, this is nonsense. Like during the 1991 Gulf War, the Syrian regime is interested in joining the US and other Arab countries in fighting an imperialist war.
“Syria has “no reservations” about U.S. airstrikes against ISIS and wants to team up with Washington to tackle the militants, the country’s deputy foreign minister told NBC News. Faisal Mekdad called Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad “a natural ally” for the U.S. in its battle against ISIS, saying in an exclusive interview that both countries are “fighting the same enemy” and should be working together — not antagonizing each other.” (8)
The United States rejected Assad’s offer and, instead, decided to arm the so called moderate opposition in Syria.
“After two years of rejecting calls from his own national security team to arm the FSA, President Obama announced Wednesday night that he now wanted to arm the FSA to fight against the terrorists who are on the march in Syria and Iraq. He said the only way to beat ISIS was to train and equip the moderate rebels—the same rebels he ignored for so long—and he called on Congress to authorize the mission White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Thursday that Obama wanted to wage war only against ISIS, not the regime in Damascus. After all, Syria is still technically a sovereign U.N. member state and the U.S. thinks the regime will be needed to negotiate the political solution to the civil war Obama mentioned.” (9)
However, in fact the Obama administration is helping the Assad regime by attacking its opponents. It is not only bombing IS fighters and facilities. It has already killed dozens of fighters from Jabhat Al-Nusra, a Salafist organization which has fought against the Assad regimes as well as – together with other Syrian rebels – against IS/Daash. In addition, US forces have also attacked other Syrian rebel groups – like Ahrar al-Sham, Islamic Front and even the pro-Western FSA – and killed a number of civilians. (10)
This has provoked the legitimate and widespread outcry of most of the Syrian rebel forces. As a result protest demonstrations against the US have taken place in a number of Syrian towns. (11) It is clear that these attacks will deepen the popular hatred against US imperialism amongst the Arab masses. One of the Al-Nusra’s leader, Abu Firas al-Suri, already proclaimed:
"These states have committed a horrible act that is going to put them on the list of jihadist targets throughout the world. (…) This is not a war against al-Nusra, but a war against Islam." (12)
At least for now, Obama is determined not to send troops to fight against IS/Daash. However, without sending ground forces, the United States cannot win this war.
“Determined to counter fears that America may find itself bogged down in another war, the Obama administration insists the U.S. won't send troops to fight the Islamic State in a “combat role” in either Iraq or Syria... But airstrikes have their limitations. They run the risk of significantly increasing civilian casualties. While ISIS has some known strongholds -- in Raqqa, Syria, for example -- which could be neutralized by airstrikes, their other hideouts will not be as easily targeted. Last week, the CIA estimated that the militants could have up to 31,500 fighters sprinkled across Iraq and Syria. They operate in clandestine cells in many parts of Iraq, Syria and elsewhere. The more the U.S. bombs them from the sky, the deeper they go underground: That could make the air campaign less effective while also endangering more civilians.” (13)
The US Cannot Win This War
At the same time, the US is not in a position to send ground troops to Iraq because of the high number of the soldiers that will die in such an adventure.
Instead, the US will use its local servants to fight on the ground; but the only local state that has enough power to seriously fight the insurgents is Iran, and it will be very difficult for the US to form an open alliance with Iran.
Thus, the US is facing the same dilemma Israel faced in Gaza, and we can expect the same results: a political defeat for the US. The similarity between the failings polices of Israel and the US is not a coincidence but the result of the decline of both imperialist states.
There are stories circulating which claim that Israel is backing up ISIS. However, this is pure speculation which cannot be confirmed; it also smells of crude anti-Semitism. For example:
“It is vile Zionist Jews who are behind the terrorist group known as ISIS or Islamic State (also, Islamic State of Syria). It is an entity which commits bloodthirsty murder throughout the Middle East. Yet, once again, it is Jews and Jews alone who are completely behind it. Moreover, their goal has been in part achieved, which is to slaughter as many Muslims – and to a degree Christians – in the Middle East as possible.” (14)
We should view as transitional the current movement of young Muslim militants to join a jihadist organization rather than a working class revolutionary one. Today, young Muslims perceive the jihadists as a serious fighting force against imperialism. However, sooner or later these jihadist organizations will betray the struggle because of their bourgeois class character and the historical epoch we live in. The young Muslim militants will then look for other kind of organization fighting imperialism. The only type of organization that can consistently fight imperialism is a revolutionary communist organization at the nucleus of which are small forces currently fighting to form the Fifth International.
The reformists, like the Communist parties who claim that Assad regime is an anti imperialist and that the jihadists are agents of imperialism, are a mere caricature of communist fighting organizations. The centrists, who refuse to advocate forming a united front with the forces actually fighting imperialism on the ground because they are reactionary, are useless and constitute a barrier on the road of fighting imperialism.
The struggle against imperialist domination that is a revolutionary democratic struggle cannot be won without a working class socialist revolution. We saw this very clearly in Egypt, where a wonderful democratic revolutionary struggle of millions was stopped in its tracks because of the lack of revolutionary working class leadership; instead of a revolution, Egypt got a military counter revolution.
* Down with Obama’s crusade! Defeat the military intervention of US imperialism and their allies! Support the rebels against the US-led war of aggression! For international mobilizations to defeat US aggression!
* Removal of the Kurdish PKK, the Palestinian resistance organizations (Hamas, Islamic Jihad, PFLP etc.), the Syrian Al-Nusra as well as IS/Daash from the imperialists list of declared ‘terrorist’ organizations!
* Defend the Sunni popular insurrection against the Iraqi army!
* Down with reactionary sectarianism! Drive IS/Daash forces out of the resistance movement!
* Defend the Kurdish and Yazidi people against IS/Daash forces! Support the Kurdish people’s right of self-determination! For a united and socialist Kurdistan!
* Defend Gaza! Defeat Israel! For an international boycott campaign against Israel! For a Free and Red Palestine!
* Victory to the Syrian Revolution against the Assad Regime!
* For joint action councils and militias of Sunni, Shiite, and Kurdish workers and peasants!
* Expropriate the foreign owners of the Iraqi oil industry with no compensation! Nationalize all oil companies, large industrial and telecommunication enterprises, and banks under workers’ control!
* For a workers’ and peasants’ government! For a socialist federation of the people of the Middle East!
(1) Larry Everest: 10 Years Later, U.S. Legacy in Iraq: Death, Disease, Devastation, Displacement, Global Research, March 26, 2013, http://www.globalresearch.ca/10-years-later-u-s-legacy-in-iraq-death-disease-devastation-displacement/5328530
(2) Allan Topol: Dismembering Iraq, 14.1.2014, Huffington Post, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/allan-topol/dismembering-iraq_b_4588037.html
(3) Ishaan Tharoor: These are the factions battling over Iraq, Washington Post, 11.6.2014, http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/wp/2014/06/11/these-are-the-factions-fighting-for-the-future-of-iraq
(4) Associated Press: Iraqi civilian death toll passes 5,500 in wake of Isis offensive, The Guardian, 18 July 2014, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jul/18/iraqi-civilian-death-toll-5500-2014-isis
(5) Associated Press: ISIS carried out mass killing of Iraqi soldiers, September 3, 2014, http://nypost.com/2014/09/03/isis-carried-out-mass-killing-of-iraqi-soldiers/
(6) AFP: UN says Iraq jihadists order female genital mutilation, experts doubtful, July 24, 2014, http://news.yahoo.com/jihadists-iraq-order-women-undergo-genital-mutilation-002205853.html
(7) Propaganda and World War One. HistoryLearningSite.co.uk. 2011, http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/propaganda_and_world_war_one.htm
(8) Bill Nelly: Syria's Deputy Foreign Minister: We're 'Fighting the Same Enemy', NBC News, September 11, 2014, http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/isis-terror/syrias-deputy-foreign-minister-were-fighting-same-enemy-n201136
(9) Josh Rogin, Syrian Rebels: We’ll Use U.S. Weapons to Fight Assad, Whether Obama Likes It or Not, 12.9.2014, http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/09/11/syrian-rebels-we-ll-use-u-s-weapons-to-fight-assad-whether-obama-likes-it-or-not.html
(10) Adam Chandler: U.S. Airstrikes Said to Have Nearly Hit American Allies in Syria, The Atlantic Wire, 30.9.2014, http://www.thewire.com/global/2014/09/us-airstrikes-said-to-have-nearly-hit-american-allies-in-syria/380940/
(11) Al Jazeera: Nusra threatens West and Arab nations. Al-Qaeda vows retaliation over military operation in Syria as air raids target ISIL fighters besieging Kurdish town, 28 Sep 2014, http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2014/09/al-qaeda-linked-group-warns-us-led-coalition-2014927224526662127.html; see also: Al Jazeera: Nusra leader threatens attacks against West. Commander of Syrian branch of al-Qaeda says his group will retaliate against US-led air raids, 29 Sep 2014 http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2014/09/nusra-front-warns-against-airstrikes-syria-201492995026241309.html
(12) See e.g. Sam Dagher and Maria Abi-Habib: Syrians March to Protest US Airstrikes Strategy. Rebels Protest Civilian Deaths and Sparing of Assad Regime, Wall Street Journal, Sept. 26, 2014, http://online.wsj.com/articles/syrians-march-to-protest-u-s-strategy-on-airstrikes-1411773983; Syrian civil society reacts to coalition bombings, http://syriadirect.org/main/30-reports/1588-syrian-civil-society-reacts-to-coalition-bombings
(13) Alessandria Masi: Does The US Need Ground Forces To Fight ISIS In Iraq, Syria? The Impact Of Airstrikes Vs. Combat Troops, International Business Times, 17.9.2014, http://www.ibtimes.com/does-us-need-ground-forces-fight-isis-iraq-syria-impact-airstrikes-vs-combat-troops
(14) Filthy Zionist Jews are Behind ISIS Terror Group, 6.8.2014, http://nodisinfo.com/isis/
For more RCIT statements on the recent events in Iraq and Syria, see among others:
* RCIT: Defeat Obama’s New Crusade in the Middle East! For an International Mass Movement to Defeat the Offensive of the Great Western Powers! Support the Kurdish Struggle for an Independent State! No to the Harassment of Muslims in Western Countries! 18.9.2014, http://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/africa-and-middle-east/obama-s-new-crusade/
* RCIT: Defend Iraq against another Aggression of US Imperialism! Support the Kurdish Right of Self-Determination against IS! Unite the Struggle against the US Attack with the Palestinian Resistance against Israel! 9.8.2014, http://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/africa-and-middle-east/defend-iraq-against-us/
* RCIT: Iraq: Defend the Sunni Rebellion against the Maliki Regime and US Imperialism! Down with all Reactionary Religious Sectarianism! For a Workers’ and Peasants’ Republic! 22.6.2014, http://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/africa-and-middle-east/iraq-sunni-rebellion/
* Yossi Schwartz: Syria, Israel and Palestinians: Free Abdel Qader Altlitha! Free Abdel Qader Altlitha! Free all Palestinian Political Prisoners! Internationalist Socialist League (RCIT-Section in Israel/Occupied Palestine), 16.2.2014, http://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/africa-and-middle-east/syria-israel-and-palestinians/
* Yossi Schwartz: The Myth of Assad’s Syria as an Anti-Imperialist Regime, Internationalist Socialist League (RCIT-Section in Israel/Occupied Palestine), November 2013, http://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/africa-and-middle-east/myth-of-assad-s-anti-imperialism/
* Michael Pröbsting: Syria: The Butcher in his own Words. Assad: A Friend of Israel and an Enemy of the Arab Popular Masses, 21.10.2013, http://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/africa-and-middle-east/assad-s-own-words/
* RCIT: Syria: Down with the Imperialist Geneva Accord! Stop US and Russian imperialist interference in Syria! No imperialist-controlled “peace” negotiations which can only result in a defeat for the Revolution! International Solidarity with the Syrian Revolution against the murderous Assad Dictatorship! 15.9.2013, http://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/africa-and-middle-east/against-geneva-accord/
* RCIT: Syria: Against Assad and Against Imperialism – Victory to the Revolution! For International Solidarity with the Popular Revolution against the murderous Assad Dictatorship! But Without and Against any Western Imperialist Military Intervention! 27.8.2013, http://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/africa-and-middle-east/syria-against-assad-imperialism/