By JEFF MACKLER
A new coalition of the not-too-willing nations is in preparation as U.S. imperialism prepares for yet another war in the Middle East, its sixth or seventh in the past half decade. These include wars of conquest, resource exploitation, and covert bombings in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen, Pakistan, and Egypt—where the U.S., behind the scenes, backed the military coup that removed the elected president of that country.
This time around, the imperial focus is on the forces, appropriately demonized beforehand by the jingoistic corporate media, of the Islamic State, often known by the acronym “ISIS” (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria), a group essentially unknown to the world before 2014. All current “coalition partners”—feigning allegiance to the dictates or entreaties of President Barack Obama and his international road warrior/diplomat, Secretary of State John Kerry—are delivering little or nothing on the Iraqi battlefield, which U.S. warplanes now bomb daily.
The British, French, and German militaries make the record with a few bombing runs aimed at the “enemy” and deliver token supplies to the new Iraqi government of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, essentially installed by Washington. But none dare enter this U.S.-created quagmire with any illusions that the Islamic State can be routed anytime in the near future, if at all.
Virtually all of the major imperialist “partners,” it should be stressed, have declined to bomb Syria or otherwise commit serious forces to the covert (and now overt) U.S.-sponsored war to remove the Bashar al-Assad government of Syria. Like Assad himself, whose foreign minister gave the “okay” to U.S. bombing of ISIS in Syria, they fear that defeating ISIS is inseparable from aiding Assad. The Gulf monarchies, Saudi Arabia in particular, on paper agree to use their territory to allow U.S. training of anti-ISIS Syrian “rebel” forces, but only the naïve believe that the Saudis and Qataris, who have to date been ISIS’s main backers in their effort to remove Assad, will do more.
Given the U.S.-created catastrophic disarray in the region, no one seriously believes that any coalition can bring stability or a “solution” to the present crisis. General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, states that it will take 15,000 U.S. troops on the ground to “destroy ISIS.” While President Obama has already sent initial detachments of some 1400 troops and “advisors,” U.S. warplanes conduct daily bombing raids on suspected targets in Iraq and Syria, including in heavily populated civilian areas. Meanwhile, almost all military experts note that it will take six to seven years or longer to defeat ISIS—that is, almost another decade of perpetual war, once again in Iraq and now, likely in Syria as well.
To date, Obama’s insoluble dilemma revolves around how to defeat ISIS, which now occupies one-third of Northern Iraq and significant portions of Northern Syria, while defending the already discredited and newly U.S.-installed Abadi government, without aiding the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad. U.S. policy is confounded by the fact that its most hated opponents, the governments of Syria and Iran, are engaged in combat against the same ISIS forces that the U.S. is now seeks to destroy.
“We made a mistake in Syria,” said Obama in late September 2014 as the U.S. military began its bombing there. “We underestimated the power of ISIS.” The alleged “mistake,” despite the deployment of the world’s most sophisticated military and intelligence apparatus, was to underestimate the very force that the U.S. government created and helped to arm and finance, directly or indirectly, when they believed it would be a reliable ally to depose the Assad government of Syria.
ISIS, with the full knowledge of U.S. officials, got its arms and sophisticated equipment from the Saudi and Qatar monarchies or their homegrown billionaire patrons, who preferred to overthrow Assad by al-Qaida Sunni forces rather then the “moderate” Free Syrian Army, which is directly backed by the United States.
The Saudi monarchy—one of the most repressive governments in the world—gets its weapons from the U.S. The “civilized” Saudis routinely behead opponents, prisoners, and dissidents without allowing them a trial or any other “democratic” recourse. (For lesser crimes, they merely sever an arm or leg of offenders.) Some 15 Saudi beheadings have been conducted in the last few months—perhaps 100 over the past year, according to several sources—including some when President Obama was a visitor in that wondrous nation.
Saudi Arabia’s routine executions merit zero mention in the corporate media, but beheadings were front-page news in virtually every U.S. newspaper when two American journalists and a British aid worker fell victim to that “barbaric” practice. I am compelled to use quotation remarks around the word “barbaric,” a term daily repeated by scores of bloodthirsty U.S. politicians who decline to use the same term to the qualitatively more monstrous deeds of the U.S. in all nations of the Middle East. Need we mention the 1.5 million Iraqis murdered over the past decade and longer by U.S. bombings of civilian neighborhoods across Iraq, or the thousands slaughtered in Pakistan by the “civilized” device of drone war, or the tens of thousands slaughtered in Egypt and more recently in Gaza by “civilized” U.S. allies? Or need we cite the “civilized” torture conducted by U.S. soldiers and interrogators at Abu Ghraib in Iraq or in Guantanamo?
The Qatar monarchy, which has no army of its own and yet is a major military power in the region, relies on a U.S.-established massive military base—the largest in the region—staffed with a U.S.-funded mercenary army of the Blackwater-associated death-squad variety. It was Qatar’s mercenary army (U.S. directed) that “liberated” Tripoli during the U.S.-led “humanitarian” war against Libya. And yet, Qatar also funds ISIS and other U.S.-designated “terrorist” groups.
That war too, according to a recent Obama statement, was a “mistake.” Said the apologetic president, we helped to remove the Gadhafi government, “but we didn’t have a plan for the day after.” Today, both Qatar and Saudi Arabia are bombing Libya but aim their fire at their own designated “terrorist” enemies, while the U.S.-backed Egyptian military coup government is calling on the U.S. to join them in bombing Libyan “terrorists” on the “other side”!
We should recall that the U.S. and NATO pulverized Libya for almost a year with saturation bombing—destroying, in the name of a “humanitarian war,” that nation’s infrastructure and murdering tens of thousands. This was done in the name of aiding the “rebels,” who were touted as democrats. The U.S., as we repeatedly documented in this newspaper, created a “Libyan Transitional National Council” led by U.S., French, and other NATO-appointed millionaires/billionaires and other pro-imperialist forces that soon afterwards disintegrated into warring factions, each aiming to control Libya’s significant oil reserves and facilities. When the dust clears, there is little doubt that, as in Iraq, U.S. corporations will emerge with the lion’s share of the oil booty.
ISIS, an offshoot of the U.S.-created al-Qaida going back to the 1979 war in Afghanistan, was virtually ignored in Syria when its weapons were pointed at Assad’s forces. Repeated U.S. “diplomatic efforts” to create a unified opposition against Assad, including virtually all anti-Assad groups, met with repeated failure as the preferred U.S. political choices proved to be little more than pro-U.S. Syrian elites living in exile and attending endless U.S.-sponsored conferences to establish a Syrian government in exile overseen by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and now John Kerry. Indeed, President Obama now derisively refers to these Syrian “rebels” as nothing more than a bunch of “doctors, lawyers, and pharmacists.”
All previous and failed U.S. efforts were aimed at establishing which groupings, jihadists included, would rule over which parts of Syria, after Assad’s removal, to exploit its resources and people. All understood that regardless of what kind of new “government” might be established, the real “government” behind the scenes would subordinate that nation’s sovereignty to the interests of U.S. imperialism. We might point out that the U.S., through the CIA in Turkey and other covert and now overt agencies, has been arming Syrian “rebels” from close to day one. Even the al-Qaida-associated Nusra Front, deemed terrorist by the U.S. government, was an informal U.S. ally in past efforts to impose “regime change” in Syria. Today, U.S. bombs are aimed at the Nusra Front forces as well!
In the early stages of the U.S. war against the Iraqi people, both Sunni and Shiite forces often joined to oppose U.S. intervention, as in the infamous Battle (slaughter) of Fallujah in 2004 perpetrated by Blackwater death squads and U.S. troops. In one of the bloodiest battles since the Vietnam era, the largely Sunni city was virtually leveled, with 60 percent of its building obliterated and half its population forced to flee. The beleaguered Sunnis at that time were aided by the Madhi Army led by the dissident Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.
Yet, the U.S. government, soon afterwards, had no problem in enlisting and heavily financing the Sunni-led Awakening Group to fight alongside U.S. forces. These were the same Sunni groups that previously had backed the Saddam Hussein regime that was ousted by the U.S. intervention! Today, most of the Awakening Group is allied with ISIS or otherwise disinclined to join the latest version of the U.S. “coalition” that is preparing for yet another long war in Iraq.
President Obama now bemoans the fact that the previous U.S.-installed Iraqi Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, alienated virtually the entire Iraqi population, persecuting and victimizing the Sunni minority as well as the Shiite majority through government corruption, fraud, massive theft, intimidation and murder—none of which U.S. officials objected to as long as his power was secure and he protected and advanced U.S. interests. These included the covert granting of the lion’s share of Iraq’s vast oil reserves and their exploitation by U.S. corporations.
Maliki, U.S. imperialism’s “democratic ally” who had been often praised by Bush and Obama, belatedly saw his government majority coalition crumble under U.S. pressure. The associated diplomatic intrigues aside, he was forced to resign and take the blame for implementing U.S. policy. Today, few believe that Obama’s proposed re-division of the vast resources that Maliki kept for himself and his U.S. corporate allies will suffice to stabilize the present catastrophic breakdown. Indeed, senior U.S. officials, scrambling to patch together yet another government coalition that includes sections of the previously persecuted and excluded Sunni elite, who will presumably lay down their arms for a share of the booty, are unlikely to stem the tide of mass outrage at both the policies of Maliki and any other government that eventually emerges.
From one vantagepoint, U.S. policy in the Middle East has been a disaster. The original U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq, 2003–2011, was “justified” by “proof-positive” evidence presented by then head of the U.S. military Colin Powell, and virtually all other government “national security experts,” as well as President George W. Bush, that the Saddam Hussein government possessed “weapons of mass destruction (WMDs).” None were ever found, yet the war continued. Absent the WMD false flag, the Bush administration enunciated a more accurate explanation for the U.S. slaughter, “regime change”—more politely referred to as the establishment of a pro-U.S. government for the Iraqi people. The Obama administration continues this policy with abandon in Iraq, Syria, Egypt, and everywhere on earth where working people struggle, although in confused and distorted ways, to rid themselves of the modern day Crusaders.
In truth, every disaster and horror in the Middle East today flows from U.S. imperialist policies aimed at domination, conquest, and exploitation. The twisted term “U.S. national security” is used around the world to justify every atrocity committed, including the spying on every e-mail and phone call of every American.
“Civilized” America executes by electrocution more citizens than any nation on earth. It is one of the few nations on earth that retains the barbaric death penalty. It incarcerates the largest number and percentage of its population than any nation on earth and routinely tortures through solidarity confinement and other means tens of thousand of its citizens, mostly the poor and oppressed nationalities.
In our view, the U.S. government has no standing to impose its standards of “civilization” anywhere on earth. It has never brought peace and prosperity to any nation at any time in history. This is not the objective of the imperial beast that represents the elite one percent (actually 0.1 percent or less) of the U.S. population. All U.S. wars without exception are conducted to advance the interest of this ruling-class elite, fully capable of military and political alliances with the world’s most reactionary and barbaric forces to achieve its predatory ends.
The solution to the mayhem in the Middle East begins with the total removal of all U.S. troops, mercenaries, death squads, drone armies, and associated tools of war. The responsibility for this belongs to the American working masses, who have no interest in the murder and destruction of poor people anywhere.
In the Middle East itself, the formation of deeply-rooted working-class-based revolutionary parties, aimed at opposing all U.S. and other imperialist intervention and at uniting all the oppressed and exploited against their own ruling elites, is also an absolute prerequisite to advance the interest of the vast majority.
We demand “U.S. Out Now!” from every nation of the Middle East and around the world in which it has a presence. We have zero confidence in U.S. imperialism or any forces they support or have supported to bring about freedom for the poor people of the world.
Tragically, in Syria today, we know of no “rebel” force that has not been aligned with the U.S. war machine or its allies. There are no “rebels” with any progressive credentials, whether they are of the ISIS variety or those backed directly or indirectly by U.S. imperialism—such as the so-called Free Syrian Army. We are for the defeat of them all. Self-determination of the Syrian masses can only emerge when all foreign imperialist forces are withdrawn.
We stand opposed to U.S.-orchestrated “regime change” to remove the Assad government, just as we opposed the U.S. “humanitarian war” against the Gadhafi government, and the U.S. war against the Hussein government in Iraq. All of these wars were aimed at the oppression and exploitation of these nations, not their liberation. Indeed, all of these deposed dictators had been previous allies of the U.S. when they served U.S. objectives.
The job of establishing democratic and socialist governments in these nations belongs to the beleaguered masses of these nations only. The only way that Iraq’s working people can end the ongoing cycle of war, repression and poverty, and drive the imperialist invaders from their lands is for them to construct their own independent mass workers’ party—a party armed with a socialist program that welcomes peoples of all nationalities and religious groups. Councils of democratically elected workers’ representatives can be built to organize the defense of communities and workplaces from the death squads and armies promoted and financed by imperialist forces and from reactionary fundamentalist sects that seek to impose their views by violence and terror.
The right to self-determination of historically oppressed nationalities like the Kurds must be recognized and supported, including the right to form their own nation, if they so choose. Ultimately, the borders that the imperialists erected following their post-World War I conquests and colonization a century ago must fall—replaced by a united socialist confederation of the Middle East.
Our central responsibility in the United States remains to mobilize the American people in massive, united protests to demand “U.S. Out Now!”
Photo: Children play in the rubble of wartorn Homs, Syria, in 2012. Now the U.S. is directly bombing Syrian cities, with increasing incidents of civilian casualties. Yazen Homsy / Reuters