Archive article from The Socialist Issue 377
End the war and occupation
AS THE Iraqi elections near, violence is escalating, even in previously 'safe' areas. These elections, designed to put a gloss of democracy on the reality of occupation, are only increasing the violence. General Casey, the most senior commander in Iraq, has been forced to admit that violence will be widespread on election day.
If, as is most likely, the elections go ahead, they will be a farce, with four out of the 18 provinces (accounting for more than half the population) not taking part at all. Where the elections do take place, voters will face violence and intimidation from both Allawi's government and the resistance. The vast majority of candidates are not revealing their names for fear of reprisals.
Bush has now been forced to admit that he regrets ever declaring "bring 'em on" to the Iraqi resistance. No wonder, Iraqi intelligence estimates that the resistance forces, at 200,000, now outnumber the occupying armies. That figure is likely to increase as more revelations of Irai prisoners being tortured by British forces emerges.
Short-sighted and arrogant beyond belief, ignorant and uninterested in the world outside their privileged bubble - Bush and Co. set out on a quest for oil and increased prestige for US imperialism.
As the anti-war movement warned, they have blundered into a disaster. In a sense, their ignorant approach to the world is summed up by the US army's casual destruction of swathes of the ancient city of Babylon.
Of course, it is not Bush or Blair that are paying the price for their foolhardiness. It is the more than 1,500 'coalition' troops that have died and the 10,000 who have been seriously wounded. Above all, it is the population of Iraq - an estimated 100,000 of whom have died and, in the case of Fallujans, have seen their city razed to the ground.
Overall, around a third of Iraqis are still without clean drinking water and half suffer frequent and prolonged power blackouts. Violence has become a fact of life for the Iraqi population - risk of violent death is 58 times more likely than before the invasion.
IT IS now clear to everyone - even the Bush administration - that as long as the occupation continues so will the resistance. To walk out of Iraq would be a humiliating defeat for US imperialism. But such is the scale of the crisis that voices within the US ruling class are beginning to raise the possibility.
Brent Scowcroft, national security advisor to Bush Senior, has said "we may be seeing incipient civil war at this time" and the question has to be raised "whether we get out now".
The US administration has ruled this out - and is groping around for a way to ease their situation. The 'Vietnam factor' makes it politically impossible for Bush to reintroduce conscription - but the army is stretched to its limits. 40% of US forces currently in Iraq are not full-time soldiers but are from the National Guard or are reservists.
The general who heads the army reservists has complained that they are "rapidly degenerating into a broken force". Yet the idea of extending their tours of duty beyond two years is being floated!
The main way in which US imperialism is attempting to strengthen its position is by trying to get a section of the Iraqi population to do their dirty work. To date, the Iraqi security forces have not proved effective tools of the occupation. However, during the destruction of Falluja, a mainly Sunni city, some of the most distasteful jobs - like putting the hospitals out of action - were carried out by the predominantly Shia national guard.
The unfortunately named General Luck has been sent from the US to relook at the military situation - and is rumoured to be proposing Contra-style hand-picked Iraqi death squads to target the insurgents in a 'dirty war'.
SOME LEADING US commentators have even openly called for a civil war. Thomas Friedman argued in the New York Times that "we have to have a proper election in Iraq so that we can have a proper civil war". And without doubt the US approach to the elections, combined with the brutal attacks on the towns of the Sunni triangle, partially carried out by Shia troops, are pushing Iraq towards full-scale civil war.
Sistani, the leading Shia figure in the country, has declared a fatwa that Shias must vote. Shias make up around 60% of the population in Iraq. Historically, they have been an oppressed majority, whilst the Sunni elite have dominated. It is clear that US imperialism has promised Sistani and Co. that they will have their turn to dominate if they play ball with US imperialism.
But while many Shia may vote, hoping that US imperialism will leave immediately after the election, this will, of course, not be the case. It will be extremely problematic for Sistani to convince the Shia poor masses that they should accept the dominance of US imperialism beyond the elections. The thorny question of agreeing a constitution will also create further tensions between the US and Sistani.
The vast majority of Sunnis, seeing the elections as a figleaf for the occupation, will not vote. There will be no significant Sunni parties taking part. The result will be an undemocratic and sectarian government and a step further towards civil war.
For a socialist alternative
THE SOCIALIST Party fully supports the right of the Iraqi people to resist this brutal occupation. But the road towards ethnic conflict being adopted by both Shia figures and the majority of the leadership of the Sunni resistance will be a disaster for the workers and poor of Iraq - whether Shia, Sunni, Kurd or from other ethnic or religious groups.
While the occupiers are undoubtedly fanning the fumes of ethnic division, there is also a tradition of multi-ethnic class unity in Iraq. A glimpse of this was seen in the unity demonstrated during the US attacks last year on predominantly Shia Najaf and Sunni Falluja.
The only way to combat ethnic and religious clashes would be through the formation of multi-ethnic defence forces to protect the security of all, under the democratic control of working people.
The Socialist Party stands for such measures to be combined with a mass movement of the working class and the oppressed masses for an end to the occupation of Iraq.
Such a movement should call for the convening of an Iraq-wide national assembly of democratically elected delegates to vote on the formation of a workers' and poor farmers' government that would provide the basis to deal with the crushing problems facing Iraq.
Stop the War Coalition national demonstration
19 March, central London
Details will be posted on the website
International Socialist Resistance (ISR) weekend of action against the occupation. 29 and 30 January