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Iraq. It is not just about oil, or the Liberals, the Realists and the Liberator

Sean O'Torain • Feb 9 2003


I do not think it is correct to talk about the coming war in Iraq as a war for oil. In fact I believe it is dangerous to do so. This is because in my opinion to do so is to seriously underestimate the ambition of the wing of US capitalism that is presently in charge in the Whitehouse. Of course oil is part of it. US capitalism is determined to have control over the oil resources of the world. But if we think this is all or even the most important part of the coming war then we are not seeing what US capitalism has in mind, and if we make this mistake then we will prepare for struggles underestimating what is at stake for our opponents and the forces that they will bring to bear against any serious challenge.

It helps if we look back at the evolution of the thinking of the dominant sections of US capitalism over the past decade and more. Consider the fierce opposition of these elements to Clinton when he was in power. This had nothing to do with Clinton's sex life. US capitalism, corrupt from top to bottom, is not concerned with such things. It was a much more central issue for these powers. US capitalism at the time was increasingly realizing the extent of its military, economic and technological dominance worldwide but Clinton meanwhile was carrying on watching the opinion polls at home to make sure he was still popular, dallying in the White house, cultivating the existing cooperative relations he had with other powers, and seeking every way to avoid foreign military engagement. What was increasingly at issue here for US capitalism was that Clinton was refusing to lead decisively in order to take advantage of the situation that existed and increase US capitalism's domination world wide.

Of course he carried out the corporations policies in general, defending US capitalism's interests throughtout the world, defending capital and the capital markets, attacking labor especially through the so called reform of welfare etc. But they never trusted him, not only would he not lead decisively, but they knew that in him lurked the soul of a liberal who thought he could make a little reform here and a little reform there and make capitalism work better than the capitalists could themselves. And of course as a result go down in history as a "great leader". For example in the aftermath of the collapse of stalinism when the corporations were just beginning to get up some steam in their offensive, part of which was the privatisation of everything, Clinton was actually talking about increasing the role of government in the economy with his proposals for the health care system. While they slapped him down and defeated him on this they never trusted this liberal in the Whitehouse. And on top of this they saw the opportunity to increase their dominance being wasted.

But it was not Clinton who was in power in the immediate aftermath of the collapse of stalinism or the last Gulf War. It was the previous Bush regime that was in the Whitehouse. It was the previous Bush regime which left Hussein in power. What explains this regimes actions at that time? The truth is that US capitalism did not fully see the opportunities that were opening to it at that time. It was still trying to see what was what as the world changed and the dust settled. Its dominant thinking was to see that no major catastrophe developed such as a nuclear accident or exchange, that its existing interests and some sort of order were protected and preserved and that no major regional powers developed to fill the vacuum that was left by the collapse of stalinism. The Gulf War and the war against Serbia were both fought to stop stronger regional powers developing and to warn the rest of the world that the US would decide who would fill the post stalinist world vacuum. The former Bush in the Whitehouse talked about a "new world order" but in reality his regime could not see much further than stabilizing the situation after the collapse of the stalinist regimes, protecting existing US interests and preventing any new powers from expanding into the vaccuum.

What has to be understood with all its implications is that this new Bush in the Whitehouse and the section of US capitalism that he represents have a much different world view today. US capitalism is increasingly coming to see the world in a much more ambitious manner. US capitalism believes that there is no force in the world that can stand in its way. And increasing sections are now concluding that this is the time for it to step out and consolidate its victory over stalinism, to enforce its will on its other Imperialist rivals, to increase its exploitation of the former colonial countries and to take back all the concessions it was forced to make to its own working class and the working class internationally. In other words to rule the world to an extent it never did before and to an extent never done by any other power before. This is the thinking that now controls the Whitehouse. This is not just about oil.

US capitalism is pursuing its greatest ever offensive. The present Bush regime is bent on no less a project than total domination of the world. "Full spectrum domination" as it calls it. Out of the immediate conflict with Iraq it wants 75,000 troops to be placed in that country permanently and a puppet regime there, it wants to keep its forces in Afghanistan with its puppet regime there and it wants military bases extended and built and made permanent in every area of the middle eastern and central Asian regions and the world. It wants Israel expanded and strengethened and even more puppet like regimes throughout the enite region.

It wants similiar dominance throughout the entire world. Of course China is a big one that they have to be careful about but their attitude here is that they will see what happens, presently they are surrounding it with bases, anyway they cannot be paralysed from acting now by trying to see every "detail" in advance. The coming war in Iraq is about world domination by US capitalism to a degree that has never been achieved by any power before.

Over the past decade or so the idea of capitalist globalization has been pursued. Basically it means that capital and especially US capital can go where it likes and do what it likes. It means that all the worlds resources including its markets and its labor are to be available to US capital unhindered by any local rules or traditions or by any concessions won by the working class. Globalization means US capital rules and that all resources must be "liberated" from all restraints and made available to US capital. Of course all capital is seen as getting greater access and freedom but the one that counts, the one that is driving this is US capital.

Part of this process is the driving down through increased competition and repression of the cost and conditions of labor to the level of that of the lowest paid and the least protected labor in the world. The offensive of US capitalism is not only about territorial control, access to resources and domination over its rivals, it is also about cutting to starvation levels the cost of labor and putting the working class back into the position it was 100 years ago and more. The world's working class is to be put under the total control of capital again and all the gains and rights it has won are to be taken away. US workers would be making a bad mistake if they thought that this drive for total world domination is not also directed at it. In fact the US working class is one of its main targets. Freeing US capital to go where it likes and do what it likes has as one of its objectives to reduce the high cost and conditions of US labor to the level of those of the lowest and least protected and environmentally most polluted labor in the world. Under US capitalism's present offensive US labor's fall would be greater than that of just about any working class in the world.

Worldwide counter revolution in the form of US capitalism's world domination. This is what is unfolding. The coming Iraq war has to be seen as part of this process. It is not a simple issue of gaining control of more oil resources. It is about absolute control over the world.

An article in the Wall Street Journal of January 29th, 2003, confirms this general analysis even if it has to use words like "liberation" to hide what US capitalism is seeking to impose on the rest of the world. The article is jointly written by Lawrence Kaplan of the New Republic and William Kristol of the Weekly Standard. These two extreme right wingers confirm the general thrust of our analysis. The heading of the article is "Neither a Realist, Nor a Liberal, W (that is how they refer to the Bush presently in the Whitehouse) is a Liberator." I will return to this word liberator later.

These two right wingers whose views now coincide with the majority of the Whitehouse regime write about the thinking of US capitalism during the period of the previous war against Iraq: "The men who decided on the aims of the Gulf War were self declared 'realists' who believed that foreign policy should be grounded in vital interests - oil wells, strategic chokepoints, and most of all regional stability. Their preference for order over liberty extended even to the Soviet Union, where national security advisor Brent Scowcroft found it 'painful to watch Yeltsin rip the Soviet Union brick by brick away from Gorbachev'. In China the Bush team reacted to the massacre in Tiananmen Square by excusing the communist regime in Bejing. And in the former Yugoslavia, the president justified American inaction by likening the bloodshed to a 'hiccup'. It was in Iraq however, that the Bush teams foreign policy philosophy manifested itself most clearly. Once Kuwait was liberated the Bush team redirected its energies to ensuring Iraqi 'stability' - even
if it had to be enforced by Saddam Hussein."

The two writers go on to look at the eight years of the Clinton presidency: Their critique is not positive. "Bill Clinton's Iraq policy reflected very different assumptions about America's role in the world. By the time he entered office, the reflexive suspicion of American power that had plagued the Democratic Party after Vietnam had receded along with the threat of communism. But the 'come home America' sensibility it had encouraged still lingered. As Peter Tarnoff, President Clinton's undersecretary of state for policy explained in 1993, 'we simply don't have the leverage, we don't have the influence, we don't have the inclination to use military forces.' When Mr. Clinton's focus did wander abroad, the result was a world view that reduced a complex and dangerous world environment to a simple narrative of material progress and moral improvement. Thus he famously gave state sponsors of terrorism a linguistic cleansing, changing their official title from 'rogues states' to 'states of concern'.

Kaplan and Kristol then go on to compare the "realists" of the previous Gulf War Bush regime and the "liberals" as they call them of the Clinton era. They write: "Realists and Liberals approach the world from different directions, but when it comes to Iraq, both ended up in the same place: generating excuses for inaction. President Bush, by contrast, does not speak of merely containing or disarming Iraq. He intends to liberate Iraq by force....the Bush strategy enshrines 'regime change' - the insistence that when it comes to dealing with tyrannical regimes like Iraq, Iran, and yes North Korea, the US should seek transformation, not coexistence, as a primary aim of US foreign policy. As such it commits itself to the task of maintaining and enforcing a decent world order. Just as it was with the Bush teams predecessors, Iraq will be the first major test of this administrations strategy. it will not be the last".

Of course there are serious divisions in the US ruling class about the policy of the "Liberators". The tops of the US military are not convinced. Rumsfeld was put in charge to whip them into line. Their old policy articulated by Powell as the "Powell Doctrine" of only intervening where immediate US interests were at stake and then only with overwhelming force is utterly inadequate for the present ambitions of US capitalism to remake the world. Go anywhere, stay anywhere, stay permanently, build permanent bases in hostile areas, attack any country just on the whim of the US government, break all laws and international treaties and traditions, assassinate whoever they wish in any part of the world. The new military has to be up for this. But the present US military tops are very very nervous about this new policy for which they will have to provide the muscle. The degree of discontent in the military tops is such that a recently available document describes how Bush has warned the US military tops against "treasonous actions" such as leaking their views etc. This is quite staggering in how it shows the divisions. There are also some business sections of the US capitalist class who are not convinced of this policy as witnessed by a recent full page ad against the war in the Wall Street Journal which was signed by some major business figures.

There are also the developing divisions between US capitalism and its main rivals internationally. At the recent DAVOS forum of major world capitalists and politicians US government representatives such as Powell were severely attacked and criticised. One commentator spoke of the level of anti US feeling being unprecedented. There was talk of US arrogance and its policy now being to do what it likes wherever it likes no matter what any other power thinks.

These divisions are important and can develop to become decisive at a later stage. But they will not at this time and under their own power halt this offensive of US capitalism, the coming war and the drive of US capital for total domination and to take back all the concessions it was forced to make in the past 100 years. This offensive is on track and will go forward in the immediate term. It is only when it becomes bogged down as mass oppositon to it develops that these divisions can become decisive. This can take some time and it will probably entail some major catastrophes before the Bush plan to remake the rest of the world in the form of US capitalism's slaves is halted. New September 11ths are very likely, nuclear war between India and Pakistan is not ruled out, the use of nuclear weapons by the US itself is not totally excluded.

At the moment the working class on a world scale has a leadership that is totally cowed by capitalism. It can see no alternative to the present system. The various petit bourgeois groups that in the past led mass opposition to capitalism in the form of guerrilla wars have almost without exception gone over to capitalism. This offensive led by the Bush Whitehouse will go forward for some time and another september 11th could give it increased impetus.

Of course this is not the whole story. The anti war movement that has developed before the war has even begun is unprecedented, enormous and inspiring. The level of understanding that this is not a war about protecting the US but a war for other reasons is widespread in the US and almost universal elsewhere. This oppositon will develop and gain strength as the horror of the assault on Iraq becomes more clear and the scale of the offensive of US capitalism begins to be more widely understood.

Here in the US the post Vietnam era when no US government could commit large numbers of US troops to long foreign wars was decisively brought to an end by September 11th. However the consciousness that developed around Vietnam, specifically the understanding that governments cannot be trusted, the understanding that US capitalism fights war for its own ends, this is still widespread. Along with this there is the increased consciousness of the brutal exploitative and corrupt nature of capitalism due to the over confidence and arrogance and blatant corruption of that system after the collapse of stalinism and more recently with the bursting of the high tech bubble and the exposures of the Enrons, Worldcoms etc. This consciousness is not far beneath the surface and the possibility of it surfacing very rapidly must be kept in mind. The anti war movement would be wrong to exclude the possibility that it could tap into this mood sufficiently internationally and in the US to make things so difficult for Bush and his "liberators" that they would be prevented from going to attack Iraq. However this is extremely unlikely.

There is also the fact that the elemental power of the working class remains intact and in fact is even being increased as capital spreads and new working class forces are being added to the old. The increased working class in countries like China will make their voices heard. At the same time the working class internationally and especially in the more industrialised capitalist countries will not allow themselves to be stripped of all they have gained in the past century and more without a serious struggle. These realities are obscured by the trecherous role of the leadership of the working class and the lack of any cohesive combative opposition force within the workingt class at this time. However this is part of the real balance of forces in the world and these will surface and make themselves felt on the basis of the events that will unfold. This true even though it will be complicated by the rise of reactionary mass forces such as militant islam which will sek to confront the US capitalist offensive.

The world balance of forces will not allow US capitalism to achieve what it has set out to achieve in relation to total domination of the world. However the force that can prevent this happening, the working class, has organizations and leaderships which are steeped in compromise and betrayal and without any belief that the working class can act independently and build a new world. The whip of the counter revolution of US capitalism's offensive will most likely make further gains before it is stopped. But as it makes these gains it will force new conclusions on the working class internationally. These will include that the working class must organize internationally, that it must build organizations and develop policies which face up to the reality that capitalism on a world scale will destroy all existing living standards and destroy life on earth as we know it and these organizations and polices must also provide an alternative to capitalism. Part of this process will be the development of experienced cohesive fighting strata of the working class who will learn the lessons from the past, face up to the realities of the present and prepare the movement for its future tasks. These are to end capitalism with its private ownership, profit addiction and destruction, and build a new world based on collective ownership and the needs of all people.

And finally to return to "liberator." The present Bush is a "liberator" according to these two right wing correspendents Kaplan and Kristol in their article for the Wall Street Journal. Even the crude thuggery of the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal has to resort to euphemisms now and then. In an article some time ago this paper criticised one of its contributors for using the word capitalism. It explained that use of the word capitalism would open to the door to discussions about systems and inevitably alternative systems would be dragged in and with these marxist ideas would follow. It explained that instead of using the word capitalism the word democracy must be used. The US is not a capitalist country it explained it is a democracy.

Here too with "liberator" we see the resort to euphemism. Bush is a liberator. What they are really saying is that Bush will not be restrained by any existing traditions, borders, laws, arguments, he is liberated from these and he is going to use US power to change the world to what US capitalism wants it to be. He is "liberated" from the past, the world and class balance of forces that existed in the decades of the cold war, but also liberated from thinking and attitudes that existed in the immediate period after the end of stalinism and the cold war world relations. He is set to change the present world relations and balance of forces, the present class relations which the the liberals and the realists see as fixed. He is going to change the world. Part of his liberator status is also that he intends to "liberate" capital from all restraint and allow it to stride about the world killing, starving, destroying and exploiting as it goes.

Of course the "liberation" of US and world capital means the enslavement of the working people of the world and the destruction of life on earth as we know it. There will be many struggles as Bush and his "liberator" capitalists try to achieve this goal. In fact a period of enormous change convulsion and struggle lies ahead. The most important feature of this period for anti-capitalist activists will be the struggle to assist in the emergence of the international working class as an independent force in the situation. In the course of the great events that lie ahead it will be possible for anti-capitalist revolutionaries to assist in the building of a new workers movement worldwide with policies, a strategy and tactics with which we will be able to build a new world. To "liberate" it from the vicious rule of capital which is destroying the lives of the people of the world and destroying the planet at the same time.




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