No to war! No to Saddam!

Submitted by martin on 30 November, 2002 - 6:47

The AWL National Committee on 30/11/02 passed a resolution on the planned US/UK war in Iraq.
1. US strategists evidently believe that they are "on a roll", and should seize the chance to tidy up another problem. With enough "smart bombs", they can crush Saddam's regime quickly, set up an alternative, and then withdraw. At small cost they will have secured the end of the malodorous and ineffective UN sanctions against Iraq, established a reliable government over one of the world's major oil powers, and stabilised a crucial region. Even if we thought that the gung-ho US strategists were calculating correctly, socialists could not support such plans. The overthrow of Saddam is for the people of Iraq to do, not for the US to impose on Iraq at inescapably large cost of Iraqi civilian and conscript life.

2. War, in the famous adage of Clausewitz much repeated by Marxists, is the continuation of policy by other means. We judge wars not by "who fired first" or "who attacked", but by the character of the established state policy which the war "continues" on either side. However criminal the USA's plans, on the Iraqi side the record makes it impossible to see the "policy" which Iraq's course towards war "continues" as essentially one of defence of its political independence and rights. Since the 1970s, at least, Iraq's state policy has been essentially about trying to establish itself as a regional big power - a "sub-imperialist" centre. To do so it has repeatedly repressed smaller peoples - the Kurds, the population of Kuwait - and made war against its neighbours. Its policy towards Israel represents the worst Arab chauvinism, mitigated only by distance. The state's rule of fear against its own people goes hand in hand with its reactionary external policy.

3. When we campaigning against the threat of US war on Iraq, therefore, we should not do so in any way that implies credence to or support for Saddam Hussein's "anti-imperialist" claims. Cheap agitation such as that which declares Bush and Sharon to be "the real axis of evil" and the "real terrorists" should be rejected. Whatever about Bush's hypocrisy, Saddam's regime is "really" as evil and as terrorist as any on earth. This position would not change in the event of a US invasion or conquest. Saddam's resistance to the US would not be motivated by a defence of the Iraqi peoples' rights to self-determination, but by the rationale of the self-preservation of his regime, including its repression of the Kurds and other minorities. We oppose the US war plans, not in the name of support for the Iraqi regime, but in the name of international democracy and working-class solidarity.

4. Out of this US/Iraq war could develop a political quagmire which would open up a whole new chapter in the history of imperialism. After an initial success against Saddam Hussein, the USA could get drawn into trying to impose effective (if not formal) colonial rule on Iraq, by way of heavy involvement by the US military to suppress mass popular resistance to a replacement regime which lacks a domestic political base and becomes in effect just a puppet government. In that possible future situation, we would give support to genuine popular resistance in the name of self-determination. We would express our opposition to a colonial policy or puppet government by making slogans such as 'self-determination', 'no imposed regime in Iraq' and 'democratic rights for the Iraqi peoples' prominent in our agitation, in addition to our previous slogans such as 'no to war', 'stop the war'. Given that this war certainly involves, one way or another, a US conquest of Iraq, we are for troops out of Iraq in pretty much any likely immediate situation; "troops out" would become a prominent slogan in the event of mass popular resistance.
Other scenarios are possible. For example, at the other end of the range of possibilities, there might be an uprising against Saddam - prompted by, or seizing opportunities created by, US military intervention - which to one degree or another supports, or at any rate does not oppose, the US military presence. By "uprising" here we mean a real mass movement, not a military schism or palace coup.
We should build solidarity with such an uprising. We should say that the priority is solidarity with the uprising; the anti-war movement's priorities should be the same - i.e., put crudely, solidarity first, opposition to America second.
We would continue to oppose the US war and to preach no trust in or support for US militarism. Any genuine movement will threaten to go beyond what the US is prepared to accept. If it develops, at a certain point, even if starting off "pro-American", it will come into conflict with those troops, and our solidarity will entail agitating for troops out.
Specifically, now, both main forces in Iraqi Kurdistan, PUK and KDP, support the US war drive. We criticise that support. We point to the Turkish government's statement that it will tolerate no Kurdish separation from Iraq, and its smug assurance that "the Americans understand our position". The US would oppose, probably suppress, any militant Kurdish movement for self-determination. Yet we continue to support the Iraqi Kurds, even under PUK and KDP leadership, in their self-assertion against Baghdad.

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