No War For Oil

WAR AGAINST Iraq would be a war for oil and a pretext for the US to assert its economic and military dominance internationally, at the terrible cost of thousands of lives lost and worldwide economic and political instability.

Ken Smith outlines the case against Bush and Blair’s war plans.

Blood for oil

“WE’RE NOT talking about a war in Tora Bora [Afghanistan] here. We’re talking about a war in the world’s main petrol station”.

(New York Times journalist Thomas Friedman.)

The consequences of this threatened war – to establish the most highly-guarded petrol pump in the world – will be horrific for the innocent people of Iraq and for millions of people worldwide.

The US effectively wants to control the Gulf region, still the cheapest supplier of 60% of the world’s oil.

Tony Blair has talked about the ‘blood price’ necessary to win this war. But who will pay it? A war will mean thousands more killed on top of the thousands of people killed in Afghanistan and the half a million or more who have died in Iraq since 1991 as a result of UN sanctions.

A new war in Iraq could create a million refugees and could cost – according to one estimate – between $100 billion to $1.9 trillion (if Iraq is occupied for ten years).

Aid agencies estimate that at least 3,000 people were killed by bombings in the US attack on Afghanistan and up to 20,000 died as an indirect consequence of the war in that country. Millions were internally displaced.

There are, according to some estimates, likely to be up to 75,000 US troops in Afghanistan until 2010.

The ‘blood price’ of war will not be paid by politicians and oil company executives. It will be paid by the long-suffering innocents of the region and by the working-class economic conscripts in the US and British armies who will be the casualties of the war.

In the Vietnam war there were 59,000 US servicemen killed and another 60,000 committed suicide afterwards because of the deep psychological trauma they suffered.

A newer high-tech war will bring destruction, suffering and trauma never experienced before in the bloody history of wars.

Who armed Saddam?

SADDAM HUSSEIN is ‘a significant problem and a serious threat’, says George W Bush.

But while Bush and Blair prepare a military attack on Iraq, it’s worth reminding these ‘freedom loving’ leaders that Saddam’s regime only exists because of the backing of previous US and British governments.

During the 1980s Saddam was built up as a regional strongman by imperialism, notably the US, Britain, France and Germany. These powers made lucrative arms deals, trade agreements and brokered massive financial loans to help Saddam wage a bloody war against Islamist Iran.

The brutal repression of Kurds and Shi’ites within Iraq along with the banning of trade unions, political parties and the imprisonment and murder of the regime’s opponents, was conveniently overlooked.

The Iran-Iraq war lasted from 1980 to 1988, cost one million lives and an astronomical $1,190 billion. Western arms companies grew rich by ignoring UN arms embargoes and supplying both Iran and Iraq.

Pre-revolutionary Iran – another dictatorship ruled over by the Shah of Iran – had been a large market for British arms exporters but as relations between the two countries soured, Iraq became the new market. In February 1982 Baghdad signed a contract with London to repair 50 Chieftain tanks captured from Iranians on the battlefield.

Although British arms sales were formally banned in 1985, non-military exports to Iraq soared to $665 million in 1986 and an illegal flow of arms to Baghdad continued with Tory cabinet approval – despite their full knowledge of Saddam’s gassing of 5,000 Iraqi Kurds in Halabja in 1988. Within one month of this atrocity Tory MP Alan Clark, representing the Department of Trade, flew to Baghdad and offered £340 million in export credits.

Iraq was by now Britain’s third largest market for ‘dual use’ machine tool exports. According to its former chairman, one arms company, Astra, was ‘taken over’ by MI6 and used as a channel to Iraq.

The US government has been no cleaner in its relations with Baghdad. In 1987 it offered Saddam $1 billion in agricultural commodity credits – a vital prop to war-torn Iraq.

Washington also increased its military cooperation with Saddam’s regime to frustrate Iran’s attacks. At this time (July 1988) an Iranian civilian jet aircraft was shot down by the US navy in the Gulf killing 290 people. The US administration expressed no sympathy.

Without the massive financial and military backing of the US and Britain, it is an open question whether Saddam’s regime would have survived till now.

The Socialist Party opposes the brutal dictatorship of Saddam Hussein but opposes any imperialist intervention to effect ‘regime change’ and, in all probability, install a new dictatorship.

Where the US has militarily intervened to effect ‘regime change’, the masses of those countries, like in Afghanistan and former Yugoslavia, have endured increasing misery as a result of the military intervention only to be left at the end at the mercy of rival warlords.

The only force that can expel imperialism from the Middle East and bring justice, peace and stability to the long-suffering people there is the working class and oppressed masses of the region.

Only the Iraqi people can effect a ‘regime change’ that meets their interests and not those of US imperialism.

The price of war

IN BRITAIN the fire-fighters who deal with trauma every day are asking for less than £400 million to settle their justified claim.

Yet, chancellor Gordon Brown says that ‘no government on earth’ could give in to such a demand.

However, when George Bush demands that the British government provides 30,000 troops and military equipment at a projected cost of £4 billion-£5 billion then Brown and Blair give in without a whimper.

The Gulf war in 1991 cost over $80 billion. A new war in Iraq is likely to cost much more. US military expenditure has been massively increased and arms factories are working overtime.

Lawrence Lindsey – previously Bush’s economic adviser – predicted a new war against Iraq could cost $200 billion. He said “that’s nothing” and compared the expenditure to a drop in the ocean.

Yet, it would only cost $40 billion to provide a ‘drop in the ocean’ for the one billion people worldwide without access to clean drinking water and the 2.5 billion without sanitation – with enough small change to ensure that they all had a decent roof over their head and enough food to avoid starvation.

The US wants to invade Iraq to get its hands on the 200 billion barrels of oil reserves that sit underneath Iraqi soil. Even at the ‘modest’ cost of $25 a barrel that’s $5,000 billion up for grabs – 25 times more than the outrageous cost of the war.

The price of oil is likely to go up, however, in the decades to come. Already, the US imports 55% of its oil. No wonder the oil companies want this war.

But the war is about more than just getting oil for US multinationals. The Bush government wants to enhance its position as the sole world superpower and show its supreme ‘full spectrum dominance’.

US government spending on defence is as much as the next 15 to 20 national military budgets combined. The US regime spends three times more on military research than the next six powers combined.

Imperialist hypocrisy

BUSH’S SO-CALLED war on terrorism is in reality designed to allow US imperialism to increase its dominance of the world.

If they can get away with it, however, Bush and his cohorts would prefer to use the United Nations (UN) to legitimise US aggression.

But the UN’s camouflage will not stop a single ordinary Iraqi being killed when the bombs start to fall and the troops go in. The UN is not a neutral or impartial body – it is a club of the rich imperialist powers.

While every country has a seat in the UN’s General Assembly, five big powers – the US, Britain, France, China and Russia – have permanent places on the UN Security Council, with the right to veto any decision they don’t like.

Even on the Security Council in reality it is the planet’s only military and economic superpower – US imperialism – that dominates it.

Since its inception in the 1940s the UN has proved impotent in stopping wars.

There have been wars every year since 1945 and, as war and instability are becoming the norm in the capitalist system, the UN has been more and more swept aside by the remaining world superpower, the USA.

Since 1945 the US has bombed or invaded 23 other countries – 21 more than Saddam.

In the current threatened conflict against Iraq the UN is being used as a fig leaf to cover US imperialist aggression and intervention.

Unless Saddam’s regime fully co-operates with the UN-approved arms inspection body Unmovic to investigate its chemical, biological and nuclear capacity, Iraq would face attack.

But Unmovic’s predecessor, Unscom, was found to have been stuffed full of spies planted by the US government.

Weapons control – US/UN double standards

THE MEMBERS of the UN Security Council, by backing the US’s war plans, are desperate to secure a share of Iraqi oil and don’t want to jeopardise their trade interests with the US.

The major oil companies are already holding secret talks to negotiate who gets the biggest slice of the oil pie. This is a war about profit, not weapons of mass destruction.

Last year the head of the UN body – the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons – was sacked at the behest of the US. His crime? To ask to inspect the chemical weapons of five countries – including the USA.

The US has the largest stockpile of chemical and biological weapons in the world. The US has 10,600 nuclear weapons in its stockpile and is the only country in the world to have ever used nuclear weapons. The US has more weapons of mass destruction than any other country by far, and Bush has refused to rule out the pre-emptive use of nuclear weapons.

It is wrong to think that the UN can act in workers’ interests. The capitalist powers, alone or in the UN, have failed to remove from government or bring to justice those guilty of crimes against humanity.

Because there were too many big power interests involved, the UN didn’t even discuss the recent threat of war between India and Pakistan despite both powers having the ultimate weapon of mass destruction – nuclear bombs.

The Socialist Party is opposed to any war or intervention against Iraq in whatever guise – whether through a so-called UN mandate or a bogus international ‘coalition’.

The UN, dominated by the wealthy and powerful capitalist nations of the world, cannot solve the world’s problems. That’s why we fight to unite the working class worldwide in the battle to create a socialist world.

No to terrorism

THE SOCIALIST unequivocally condemns the terrorist attacks in Bali, New York and elsewhere, which indiscriminately kill thousands of innocent people, who bore not a shred of responsibility for the policies of US imperialism.

We do not agree with some in the anti-war movement who believe that such attacks are understandable or justified because of the atrocities carried out by the Israeli or US regimes. Such terrorist attacks only strengthen the warmongers in Britain and the US. Look how the horrific killing of ordinary Americans on September 11, has been used by Bush to justify his ‘war on terror’.

We know that the biggest terrorist threat and rogue state in the world today is George Bush’s right-wing Christian fundamentalist regime in Washington and condemn it as such. But we believe that the best way to bring down such a regime is by mass united working-class action. Such action can be only developed if the anti-war movement takes a clear stand and unequivocally opposes the methods of terrorism, which primarily hurts working-class and oppressed people not their capitalist rulers.

For ‘system change’

WAR INCREASES poverty, inequality, oppression, insecurity and a feeling of injustice – the very conditions that push people towards terrorism in the first place.

It’s only by ‘rooting out’ these conditions that we can rid the world of war and terror. That means fighting to change the capitalist system and replace it with a democratic socialist society.

As The Socialist explained, in the weeks following September 11, “under capitalism it is not possible to rid the world of terrorism and conflict. Even if the US succeeds in capturing bin Laden and destroying his bases in Afghanistan, the conditions which give rise to terrorism – poverty, corruption and oppression – will still remain.

“War, poverty, violence and instability are rooted in the very nature of this class-ridden system, which is based on exploitation, inequality and the ruthless pursuit of profit. It’s only by eradicating capitalism worldwide that these horrors can be ended”.