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The Meaning Of The War
Before this war started many explanations were presented to excuse it. Even in the United Stars and Britain these utterly failed to convince the vast majority of the population that war was either necessary or justified. No weapons of mass destruction were found by UN weapons inspectors and no link could be made between the Iraqi regime and the events of September 11th. Few could have been convinced that the war was to be fought to bring democracy to Iraq when it was revealed that the United States planned to put a US general in charge of the country once it was conquered.
Now, despite all the censorship and journalists’ talk about ‘the fog of war’, the real nature of the war in Iraq has become even clearer. The brutal reality of an imperialist war of plunder and aggression cannot be hidden.
We were told that the war had nothing to do with oil yet the first act of the invading British and American troops was to seize the oil wells! We were told by the supposedly sincere Tony Blair that the war was being fought for the highest of moral reasons yet before it had even started the US government had awarded contracts to American companies for work in Iraq worth $900 million. One of the first has gone to Halliburton, a company formerly headed by the US vice president Dick Cheney, who remains on the company’s payroll.
No sooner had the Iraqi port of Umm Qasar been captured than a US company was awarded a $4.8 million contract to run it. ‘A nice piece of business’ was how Bob Watters, the vice president of the company’s Asian operations put it.
This is what we mean when we say this is an imperialist war of plunder.
We were told that the war would be short, that the Iraqi army would desert in droves and that the invading troops would be welcomed by cheering crowds in the street. Instead the Iraqi army has fought against overwhelming odds and many civilians have taken up arms to defend their country. Iraqis abroad have returned to their country to defend it. They know that this is not a war of liberation as claimed by Bush and Blair.
They know that a free and democratic Iraq would immediately demand the removal of foreign armies of occupation and oppose the privatisation of oil resources and their hand over to US companies. All claims by the US and British armies that civilian casualties are being kept to a minimum are the purest deceit. US control of Iraq can only be made secure through intimidation and repression of the Iraqi people. The brutal killing of Iraqi civilians is not accidental but an inevitable consequence of the war.
This is why we call the war a war of imperialist aggression.
Why all this matters
It is important that those opposed to the war know what sort of war they are opposing. It is important it is realised that this war is inevitably one of imperialist plunder and aggression. It is important because a second UN resolution authorising the war would not have changed its nature one iota. The war would have been just as brutal and just as unjustified. It is therefore utterly mistaken to see UN involvement in the running of Iraq after war is ‘over’ as some sort of solution. The sanctions regime imposed by the UN over the past dozen years has killed many more people than this war.
Blair is arguing with Bush over UN involvement only because he realises that absolute US control will mean only American companies get contracts for ‘reconstruction’, control of the oil and the other spoils of war. France, Russia and Germany similarly seek UN involvement so that they too can take part in the carve up. The UN is not the solution to this war or to the plight of the Iraqi people.
Iraq belongs to the Iraqi people. The oil and resources of the region belong to them and to no one else. It is up to them to determine the nature of their government. They must determine their own future and those of us who demonstrate because of their oppression should support their right to self determination.
Many Iraqi people, in fighting against the invaders, have not suddenly become fans of Saddam Hussein but they know that the invaders do not bring liberation and will not bring peace. They can distinguish between defence of their country and their national rights and defence of Saddam Hussein. We who sympathise with their oppression should be capable of the same understanding. We should support the right of Iraq to defend itself against imperialist aggression.
Many Iraqi people know that the American and British armies do not bring liberation because they fought long and hard to get the British out of their country once before. They fought at exactly the same time as Irish people struggled to remove British rule.
Why the war matters to Ireland
This war is one of global significance. It affects us in Ireland just as it effects every country in the world. In our own country Bertie Ahern has been forced to dispense with the least pretence at neutrality and is now providing to the United States everything that the Irish State could offer in terms of assistance in the war. But it is worse than that.
Ahern says he does not know whether the war is legal or illegal, whether it is justified or unjustified. He cannot say because while the whole world knows that it is both illegal and unjustified he cannot say so because it would offend the US and Britain. In other words the Irish State cannot speak and has lost all claims to an independent foreign policy. It can no longer claim to be able to present the views or aspirations of the Irish people on the world stage.
It should be no surprise that the war, which threatens the independence of one small country through war, has annulled the independence of another small country. If the Irish people and others do not join in protesting and standing against this war then George Bush will have no hesitation in using the military power of the US against others who refuse to follow his demands.
Just as foreign policy is a continuation of domestic policy, so is the craven capitulation of Fianna Fail to US and British imperialism over the war in Iraq just the continuation of its capitulation to these forces at home. Fianna Fail supports this war because the interests it represents, the Michael Smurfits, Tony O’Reilly’s and Dermot Desmonds of this country, are but local versions of those that seek to turn a profit out of the occupation of Iraq.
Capitulation to those prosecuting the war against Iraq is simply the latest expression of a policy of subordinating the interests of the majority of Irish society to the needs of US imperialism. Through all the years of the Celtic Tiger the phenomenal growth that has occurred has benefited mostly US companies and their local partners.
Through social partnership Irish workers have witnessed the share of national wealth devoted to wages shrink while that of profits has soared. Private greed stands side by side public disgrace as our health system is in crisis and affordable housing is out of reach of our young people. Now after years of growth Irish workers face rising unemployment and job insecurity and falling living standards.
Partition and the domination of the Irish economy by US multinationals are the result of the failure of Irish people to control their own country just as the war against Iraq is the result of the inability of the vast majority of humanity to govern their world.
None of This Matters?
It is possible to oppose the war without
believing it has anything to do with imperialism.
It will not however be possible to oppose the imperialist ‘peace’ that follows war or to change the world and rid it forever of the scourge of war unless we do understand these things. Bush and Blair will not be defeated unless we fight them, their whole agenda and their local allies in Fianna Fail and other establishment parties. Unless we defeat Bush and Blair they, or their replacements, will come back for another war, and another and another. This is what Bush promises by his indefinite ‘war against terrorism.’
We need an alternative not just to the war but to those who have dragged us into it. Such an alternative is rising in front of our eyes. It is an international alternative of working people across the globe determined to reject the lies of their rulers, demand an end to their war policies and demand real democracy. Such democracy grows out of the movement itself. We need to discuss how to build this movement and what alternative it has to offer to a world of imperialist war.