Editorial: Middle East hypocrisy

Capitalism is a dangerous society. The competition between rival economic gangs for markets, trade routes and sources of raw materials is intense; so intense in fact that from time to time it explodes into war with the consequent suffering and death that this brings to the world’s working class. We appear to be at this time on the brink of another war in the Middle East; and although capitalism is in many ways an unpredictable society it seems fairly certain that sooner or later the USA might attack Iraq.

Much nonsense is being talked in the world’s media about this being a war against terrorism. It is no such thing, it is a struggle for control of the vast supplies of oil in the Middle East, and in this sense a continuation of the Gulf War – a war whose aim was always to secure oil supplies in the region rather than “topple Saddam”.

It would of course be difficult for the US government to get its workers to risk their lives in a future war if they were told the purpose of the conflict was to swell the profits of US oil companies, so some sort of propaganda story has to be stitched together before the atrocities start. We will be told that the dictator of Iraq is part of “The Evil Axis” plotting to manufacture weapons of mass destruction and must be overthrown. It will not be mentioned that this dictatorial regime was supported by the US government in the past as a counter to Islamic fundamentalism in neighbouring Iran any more than they wanted to tell us that it was the US that trained many of the Taliban and Al-Qaeda terrorists when they were fighting the Russian army in Afghanistan. That is the nature of this crazy society: plots and counter-plots, shifting alliances, pacts and double-dealing is the norm. It might even be that Bush’s sabre-rattling is just a bluff to extract concessions from the Saddam regime. In fact an actual war could lead the Middle East to implode with unforeseen consequences, leaving the US to have to pick up the bill which in present circumstances it might not be able to find the money for, given recessionary pressures, the US national debt and potential loss of cheap Saudi oil.

Writing in the Observer (11 August) Anthony Sampson, author of The Seven Sisters , about oil companies and the Middle East, had several revealing things to say about the present crisis:

“The alarmist briefing to the Pentagon by the Rand Corporation, leaked last week, talked about Saudi Arabia as the ‘kernel of evil’ and proposed that Washington should have a showdown with its former ally, if necessary seizing its oilfields which have become crucial to America’s energy . . . Western oil interests closely influence military and diplomatic policies, and it is no accident that while American companies are competing for access to oil in Central Asia, the US is building up military bases across the region.”

Let there be no ambiguity about this; the United States acts – because of its superior political, military and economic power – as the “gendarme of the world” and the threatening bloodbath is over the control of Middle East oil, not the freedom or democracy of the exploited workers in the region, whether they be in Iraq or Saudi Arabia. If either of these states threaten the US or the US-imposed “stability of the region” they will be dealt with in the same way the US deals with all regimes that seriously threaten its interests – in other words, with a bloodbath.

As in the Gulf War, the last people to gain from the bombing and terror will be the half-starved men, women and children of states like Iraq. The real winners will be the US and its allies, the oil barons, and possibly – as many of the financial papers have been hoping – the ailing stock markets.

Constant warfare against the innocent victims of entrenched dictatorships is no way to run a society. Indeed, capitalism itself, as a competitive system that leads to warfare just as night leads to day, is no way to run a society. To this end socialists are fundamentally opposed to the impending warfare and commit ourselves as in the past to the overthrow of the hellish system that causes so much misery and heartbreak.

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