2000s >> 2003 >> no-1185-may-2003

Editorial: The new reality

The war is now over. Inevitably, given the technological superiority of the US armed forces and their complete control of the air, the US – with token support from Britain – won. Their trained killers were able to kill hundreds, if not thousands, of Iraqi soldiers and, if they got in the way, Iraqi civilians too, including women and children. Their warplanes not only rained down bombs on defenceless Iraqi soldiers – a repeat of the fire-bombing of the defeated and retreating Iraqi army in 1991 – but also on perfectly usable and empty office buildings. And they allowed the looting of hospitals and of museums containing items that were the cultural heritage of all humanity.

But this, the supporters of the war said in their defence, is inevitable in a war. And they are right. War does bring nothing but death and destruction to ordinary people. This for a cause that is never theirs. This was blindingly obvious in this war with the issue at stake being control of the world’s second biggest reserves of oil and of a country in which the US could establish military bases in strategic reach of both the Middle East and Caspian Sea oilfields. At the same time the US was able to demonstrate to potential rivals, such as France, Germany, Russia and China, that it is the Alpha Male in the world capitalist jungle and that this is the “new reality” they would be advised to take account of.

The US propaganda machine, echoed by the Bush and Blair Broadcasting Corporation and other media outlets, are proclaiming that the Iraqi people have been “liberated” and are now “free”. Certainly the Saddam regime, a brutal state-capitalist dictatorship, has been overthrown, but what is going to replace it? In the first instance, a military dictatorship under a retired US general. In time, when the occupying forces are satisfied that it is safe to do so, power will be transferred to a puppet regime of their choosing. This will be no easy task, but that’s their problem.

The emergence of even a capitalist political democracy in Iraq seems improbable. More likely is the rule of hereditary warlords in the North and of Islamic fundamentalists in the South. But that will be acceptable to the US as long as it ensures stability. The fig-leaf that this was a war to establish “democracy” in Iraq will then be seen to have been just that.

The Iraqi people – the workers in the towns, the peasants in the countryside – will merely have exchanged one set of rulers for another. Having seen what happens when a state machine collapses – workers help themselves to some of the products that were ultimately produced by their labour – the priority of any new regime is going to be holding “the masses” down, ensuring that they accept their poverty and deprivation, without kicking too much against the pricks. At the same time, the new regime will be required to make the assets of the overthrown state-capitalist regime available for looting by Western, mainly US, corporation and contractors.

But this is not the end of the story. Iraq could well be only the first of such wars to overthrow regimes considered to threaten the vital economic interest of the US. That’s the “new reality”, though the US government will be hoping that the fate of the Saddam regime will be an object lesson to any other state that might be tempted to challenge US interests and that the threat of war will suffice to make them back down.

In any event, the world is going to continue to be a dangerous place. That capitalism continues to be a war-prone society has been proved yet again. So has the urgent need for world socialism so that wars, the threat of war and preparation for war can become things of the past. It’s the only way to lasting world peace.

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