Most of us were not taken in by talk of “defending democracy” when the Great and the Good went to war with Iraq over the invasion of Kuwait. We had the strongest suspicion that it had more to do with the supply and control of oil, especially as “our” side declared common cause with such great democracies as Saudi Arabia and Iran. Then it emerged that, far from being a democracy, Kuwait’s political system was one of the most autocratic, elitist dictatorships with no democratic pretensions whatsoever. Kuwait’s rulers—in comfortable exile—promised that, when restored to power, they would introduce democratic reforms; granting civil and political rights not only to the incomers who keep the whole system going, but also to their own women.
The first anniversary of the “liberation” has passed and. as one Palestinian worker put it: “The intolerance towards non-Kuwaitis has become worse than it was before” (Independent on Sunday, 23 February). In the elections which are due in October only “First Class” men (those descended from men who were resident in 1920) will be allowed to take part. The promise that all citizens of the emirate, including women, would be given the vote will be ignored. A demonstration by women trying to register was given no support.
On this first anniversary too, the horrendous damage done to the civilian infrastructure in Iraq as well as the much greater number of civilian casualties—vehemently denied at the time—are being admitted. During the war we saw repeatedly on TV the “smart” bombs which made it impossible to cause indiscriminate damage; now it is admitted that only one in ten was smart and the other nine were as subject to human error as any other weapon. Still with us, too, are the civil unrest fomented in the north of Iraq in attempts to topple Hussein and Saddam’s vengeance which is meted out to Kurdish and Shi’ite minorities.
The lesson which must be learnt is that the dogfight for markets and economic advantage under capitalism will always be cloaked with grand phrases such as the “Fight for Democracy”. Wars are never for the sake of democracy but are all about shares on the world market and profitability.