The Bush administration’s head-long rush to war was glaringly exposed in its response to the Iraqi government’s agreement to allow the return of arms inspectors. The reaction of the White House was immediately to raise the ante; for them the return of inspectors is not enough.

U.S. officials drafted a resolution for the UN Security Council imposing onerous new conditions, conditions so drastic that the text was not shown to the non-permanent members of the Security Council. (The 10 non-permanent members include Mexico, for example, which on the basis of experience in Latin America has traditionally opposed U.S. armed intervention in Third World countries.)

Only some of the provisions of the resolution were leaked to the press on Oct. 2, indicating the sort of demands the United States is making. Two key ones are that the inspectors be backed up by an armed force introduced into Iraqi territory, and that Iraq’s refusal to comply with any of the inspectors’ demands be grounds for an immediate assault. In fact, the “backup” forces for the inspections could be the front line of such an attack.

The text quoted in the Oct. 3 issue of the Mexico daily La Jornada said any such noncompliance would “authorize the member states to use all means necessary to restore peace and international security in the region.”

The United States also demanded that it be allowed to place its own representatives among the inspectors. The practice of allowing imperialist powers to position their own direct representatives in the inspection teams was abandoned after a U.S. inspector on a UN inspection team in 1998 was caught placing electronic devices in Baghdad, which were capable of sending homing signals for missiles.

Furthermore, the resolution would allow the inspectors and the powers backing them to set up new no-fly and no-transit zones in Iraq, cutting up the country to their convenience. The sinister implications of this provision were highlighted by a report in the Oct. 4 Wall Street Journal that U.S. military plans call for trying to split up the Iraqi forces into isolated units, in order to open the way for betrayals by regional commanders.

Washington’s long-term policy has been to achieve its objectives through a coup by corrupt Iraqi officers, which after all was the origin of the Saddam Hussein regime and was the means by which imperialism liquidated the threat to its interests posed by the Iraqi revolution of 1958.

The Iraqi government obviously could not agree to the U.S. demands without accepting a return to the protectorate status it had in the last stage of its subordination to the British empire before World War II.

By making these demands, the the Bush administration made it clear that it was determined to turn the clock back to colonialism. That is what the system of inspections means. That is the real object of the U.S. threats against Iraq, and it now clear to all informed observers. Washington’s claim that this ruined Third World country is producing “weapons of mass destruction,” much less that it has the capability and intention to use them, has no credibility.

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell underscored what the inspections Washington is demanding mean in an interview with USA Today, quoted in in the London Guardian of Oct. 4: “If you can get the inspectors back in, that can make sure under a tightened, tough regime, with consequences for failure to perform, you can disarm this society. … Then in effect you have a different kind of regime no matter who’s in Baghdad.”

So, the U.S. does not really care whether Saddam is a brutal dictator, as long as it pulls the strings.

Tony Blair fails to impress

The attempt by Bush’s only important international ally, the social democrat turned Thatcherite Tony Blair, fizzled. Polls showed that his dossier designed to demonstrate the Iraqi threat impressed only 27 percent of the British public.

Blair finds himself besieged within his own party. At the Labour Party conference in Blackpool at the end of September, 40 percent voted for a resolution excluding the use of military force against Iraq. Two days before the vote, Sept. 28, an estimated 400,000 people marched in London against the planned attack on Iraq.

Despite all of the manipulation that the polling services allow, it is clear that even in the United States the population is very apprehensive about a war on Iraq. The tremors of public opinion must certainly increase the tactical differences in the ruling class, whether or not Bush gets the congressional endorsement he is demanding.

Bush’s much touted Oct. 7 speech, designed to rally U.S. public opinion behind his planned war bombed (in the bad sense for him). The San Francisco Chronicle opined in an an editorial Oct. 9: “The speech was eloquent but less than convincing.”

The editorial expressed the fear that while Bush’s bullying was going to get a big majority for his war-powers resolution, it would do lasting political damage to the U.S. political system. It quoted West Virginia Sen. Robert, saying: “Congress is being stampeded, pressured….”

Byrd characterized Bush’s resolution as an open-ended authority to wage war. The Chronicle concluded: “He’s right. Bush has not made the case for a war he wants Congress to sanction.”

La Jornada proclaimed that the more the American people hear about the proposed war on Iraq, the more dubious they become.

Of course, all of the imperialist bourgeoisies, and especially the American one, would love to strike a decisive blow against anti-imperialism in the Middle East. That would mean a major shift in the relationship of forces in the world in their favor.

The corruption and brutality of the regime of Saddam Hussein seems to offer some essential political cover for such an assault. And in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union, there is no military power that can oppose it. But can the imperialists get away with it without touching off political earthquakes?

The risks for them are very great. A direct assault on the independence of Iraq amounts to an attempt to reverse the whole course of the colonial revolution since the end of World War II. This operation also comes at a time when the illusions in globalization as a way forward for the underdeveloped countries are fading and there is a general tendency toward a revival of nationalism in the third world.

Tensions increase among imperialist powers

Moreover, there are increasing economic tensions between the United States and its imperialist allies. One cause of this is, of course, sharpening competition in the context of a deepening world recession.

But another is the historic “blowback” of imperialism. The U.S. has not been investing enough in its home economy and it bears the main burden of defending the world capitalism system militarily. The result is that the other imperialist powers have been gaining an increasing advantage over it economically.

If the United States could gain firm control of the Middle Eastern and Central Asian sources of oil and natural gas, it would gain a whip hand over its capitalist competitors in Japan and Europe, who control no decisive sources of petroleum. This fact is well understood in Europe and is no small factor in the reluctance of even conservative circles in Europe to support a U.S. war.

Europe and Japan are in no position to oppose the United States directly. They are far from ready or able to challenge it militarily. But they are putting all the pressure on the United States that they can to accept them as junior partners rather than simply satellites or jackals condemned to follow in the trail of the great predator.

That explains the campaign by the European states to force the United States to stay within the framework of NATO and the UN Security Council. And this pressure coincides with that of those sections of the American capitalist class that are nervous about staking everything on a blitzkrieg against Iraq.

Of course, no small aspect of the risk of a unilateral war against Iraq is that it can open the way for a renewal of open conflict among the imperialist powers, now that the collapse of the Soviet Union has removed the obstacle that prevented that course for the whole post-World War II period.

The resurgence of such conflicts is a long-term threat that all students of international politics are very aware of. It is no doubt on the minds of the American politicians who urge multilateralism, as well as of leaders of U.S. and Japanese imperialism.

A revival of inter-imperialist conflict on anything like the scale seen before the Second World War would make the planet a much more dangerous place, even for the imperialists. Unfortunately, however, for the world’s peoples as well as for the imperialists, the nature of the capitalist system and competition makes reemergence of such conflicts inevitable sooner or later.

In its project for subjugating Iraq, the United States has run into more opposition from its imperialist allies than at any time in the postwar period. The opposition from Germany and secondarily France has been marked. The newly reunified Germany is, of course, the economic center of capitalist Europe and the country most dependent on oil from the Gulf region, from which it gets 35 percent of its supply.

France is a permanent member of the Security Council, and has refused to accept the provision in the United States’s new inspection rules that would make any “noncompliance” an excuse for an immediate attack. Russia and China have also opposed it, thereby forming a majority of three to two permanent members against this proposal by the U.S.

They may thus force Washington to retreat and accept the principle that a special vote of the Council would be necessary to sanction war on Iraq. However, this would probably only amount to a diplomatic gesture by the United States, since in present conditions the U.S. is expected to be able to bully or buy the support of the other permanent members for what it wants when necessary.

The U.S. has in fact sought to form a repressive alliance with the capitalist restorationist regimes in Russia and China by backing their wars against the oppressed peoples who live within their states Thus, it has declared the Chechen rebels against Russian rule “terrorists,” as well as the insurgent movements of non-Chinese peoples in Peking-ruled Central Asia. The Putin regime has long appealed to the U.S. for an “alliance against Islamic fundamentalism,” and seems to have gotten its wish in the context of Bush’s “war against terrorism.”

However, the rebellions of peoples of Islamic tradition in the long term are far less important for Russia and China than their general economic and strategic interests, which clash with those of the United States. In particular, the U.S. military expansion into Central Asia, its attempt to recover its bases in the Philippines, and the reinforcement of Taiwan threaten a military encirclement of China to which even the most craven of China’s capitalist restorationist rulers are unlikely to remain indifferent.

In all, the U.S. project of reimposing colonial control over Iraq is a major step toward creating a more dangerous world situation, as most of the world’s population can see to one degree or another. But in this situation, if masses of people mobilize determinedly to deter the attack planned by the U.S. rulers, the chances for a better future for all the world’s peoples will be greatly improved.

Here in the United States, it is essential that everyone who hopes for peace and a better world come out for the Oct. 26 demonstrations against Bush’s planned attack on Iraq. These actions may be the last chance to halt the warmakers.

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