The War on Iraq—A Crime
Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld & Co.—War Criminals!
This is a preliminary version, written March 19, of a statement that will appear in final form in the print edition of Labor Standard for Spring 2003.
A crime against humanity is about to be perpetrated on the scale of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the fire bombing of Dresden.
U.S. government officials—in particular, Gen. Richard Myers, head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff—have spoken openly and cold-bloodedly of the unspeakable horrors they plan to unleash on the Iraqi people, both on those young men and women conscripted into the armed forces and on civilians. The “shock and awe” assault projected by U.S. military leaders, they boast, will be indiscriminate. Antipersonnel weapons such as daisy cutter bombs will be rained down on Baghdad, a city of five million or more, and other large cities as well. It is not unreasonable to project civilian deaths alone of upwards of 100,000 within a few days.
On the eve of war Bush and the military machine chose, of all places, Florida (!) to “test” a new bomb—the MOAB (Mass Ordnance Air Burst). Among the military the acronym also comes out as Mother of All Bombs. The name has Biblical overtones as well. Moab was a region east of the Dead Sea, whose people were closely related to the Hebrews, though not one of the “twelve tribes.” This acronym was probably chosen deliberately—given the Bush regime’s bizarre mixture of militarism and fundamentalism, its apocalyptic lust for Armageddon Now, to pave the way for a “New American Century,” to impose a Pax Americana on the world, to create a cemetery and call it peace.
This fiendish invention, the MOAB, spreads and ignites an inflammable mist over a large area (several square miles?), consuming all oxygen and burning alive anything in the area. It has the force of a small nuclear weapon, without the radiation.
One union member wondered if the irony was unconscious or deliberate: using the Mother of All Bombs to rock the cradle of civilization.
Another union activist, the editor of Labor Tuesday, rightly commented: “Tonight (March 17) President Bush delivered a cry for war and death that will live in infamy. In the next period our feelings of sympathy for the victims of a war on Iraq must be communicated to all who will listen. Don't mourn, organize!”
On March 19, the day Bush’s “deadline” for war was set to expire, the White House warned the American people to “be prepared for loss of life.” In other words, a massacre of Iraqis, civilian as well as military, is coming, and you better get used to it.
In his “ultimatum” speech of March 17 Bush said: “War crimes will be prosecuted, war criminals will be punished, and it will be no defense to say, ‘I was just following orders.’”
It will also be no defense for the White House occupant to say, “I was just giving orders.”
A Quick, Clean War?
There is another aspect to this “shock and awe” strategy of a military assault of almost unfathomable proportions. The war makers calculate that they can avoid widespread rebellion among the American public, including its working class majority, if it is a short war with few casualties. There would be a very different reaction if it is prolonged, with large casualties.
The “shock and awe” tactic can also be seen as an expression of an underlying weakness. The war hawks do not dare to undertake a prolonged war, or a ground war with significant casualties. The renewed Vietnam Syndrome, which we see expressed in the streets in repeated mass demonstrations against the war, is only one aspect of the Syndrome, a mostly white and middle class one, as wonderful as it is. The other, which is mostly latent—and whose potential lies buried within the working class and its historical (and living) memory of the catastrophe that the Vietnam War was for the more than one million working class draftees who were in it, and are still alive—could emerge very rapidly with a longer conflict.
We know, or should know, that the Vietnam War was ended as the GI refusal to fight, attacks on officers, etc., mounted rapidly throughout 1972. The workers are not theoreticians, and they have been trained for generations not to think in broad terms. Things matter when they happen to you, not to other people. The point is this: the strategy of an attack of overwhelming force, mostly from the air, while obviously desirable in a general military sense, is also driven by an unwillingness to test the capacity of the working class rank and file of the military and their families and social milieus at home to stay with a war that exacts costs like Vietnam.
This is, admittedly, not much consolation in the face of the unspeakable crime about to be committed, but it is important to keep in mind that the Empire is not as all-powerful as it would like to seem. Its Achilles heel is located among the men and women who are called on to do its dirty work. As Labor Party organizer Tony Mazzocchi pointed out often in the months before his death, and after 9-11, the only power which can challenge the U.S. New World Order is here at home.
A War Against the Wishes of Most of the World
Bush, Blair, and Company are defying the plainly manifested will of the vast majority of the world as they embark on a war of colonial reconquest in pursuit of greed and maximum profits for the multinational corporations like Exxon, Shell, British Petroleum, Amoco, Halliburton, the Carlyle Group, and so on.
Iraq was a British colony before World War II, where British Petroleum controlled the oil fields; after World War II the British shared the oil fields with U.S. oil giants, and the Anglo-American imperialists jointly propped up a monarchy that served their interests—until a revolution by the people of Iraq in 1958 overthrew the monarch. Eventually, in 1972, Iraq nationalized the oil. A primary aim of this war is to reassert direct control by Anglo-American oil companies over this vast treasure, the second largest oil reserves in the world, worth at least $800 billion per year.
Some “experts,” like Professor Michael Klare of Hampshire College, a frequent contributor to the liberal weekly The Nation, argue that this war isn’t really for oil as a profit-making commodity. The argument goes that the American empire and its British sidekick want the power that control of Middle Eastern (and Central Asian) energy sources can give them against any potential rivals in the industrialized or industrializing world. In fact, the two aspects are inseparably connected. The unfolding American empire, or Pax Americana, serves profit-making corporations. The superprofits generated by the Anglo-American empire of oil serve the corporate military-industrial complex as a whole, and in turn the oil giants are served by the military.
International Working Class Action Against the War
The working class majority in European countries whose governments support this war, such as Britain, Italy, and Spain, have demonstrated in vast numbers, and have carried out work stoppages against this war even before it began. Now that war has begun the antiwar movements in those countries, the majority of the working class and its allies (as much as 80% of the population and more) are likely to take direct action to stop the war. Let us hope that the ouster of Blair as head of the Labour Party government (supported now mainly by the capitalist Tory party) will come soon, and that working class leaders will soon replace Berlusconi in Italy and Aznar in Spain.
Perhaps as a portent of things to come, news reports on March 19 told of Brazilian dockworkers carrying out a work stoppage against U.S. and British ships in the major port of Santos in protest against the war.
Meanwhile, in the United States, an impressive movement within organized labor has already grown up against this war, in alliance with antiwar mobilizations in virtually every sector of our society.
What will come with the launching of this war, none of us can fully know. We can expect a drastic escalation of repression of civil liberties, rights of free assembly and free expression, along with violent pro-war propaganda from the media on all levels. Whether this will extend to mailing privileges, as in World War I and World War II, is of course, unknowable at this point.
We intend to continue publishing Labor Standard regardless, to tell the truth, and to support all sensible actions against the war.
We must continue to build U.S. Labor Against the War, and the Labor Party, which has now endorsed USLAW. These developments constitute a major step forward in the process of labor asserting its own foreign policy instead of blindly following the “bipartisan” policy of the two bosses’ parties, the Republicans and Democrats, as the mainstream of organized labor in the U.S. has done since World War I.
We must continue to build a broad, all-inclusive antiwar movement. No to red-baiting, no to racism, no to exclusion. Among the many sectors of society that have mobilized in opposition to this war, besides labor and the traditional pacifist and socialist organizations, are the women’s movement, the oppressed minorities, especially African Americans, Latinos and Latinas, Native Americans, and Asian Americans, the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender movements, many faith-based communities, Muslim, Jewish, Catholic, Protestant, Buddhist, and other, and people in many professions—poets, historians, actors, singers, artists, athletes.
This is a fight against corporate empire for the emancipation of humanity, and for a creative future.
Socialists and other radicals of various stripe have played an important part, especially in building the several antiwar coalitions that now exist—ANSWER, Not In Our Name, United for Peace and Justice, and so on. It is widely recognized that in the 1960s and ’70s the revolutionary socialists then united in the Socialist Workers Party, the mainstream of the American Trotskyist movement, which stood in political solidarity with the Fourth International, played an indispensable role in building the American movement against the war in Vietnam. (For a full account see Out Now! by Fred Halstead, a participant’s account by one of the revolutionary socialist leaders of that movement.) Today unfortunately, the revolutionary socialist cadres that took part in that great battle are scattered, which is a historical tragedy, and today’s SWP plays hardly any role in the antiwar movement.
It is vital that, to whatever extent possible, the experienced antiwar cadres of the former SWP and all other radicals and socialists work together, communicate, and coordinate to build the antiwar movement. We must strive to reassert the political world outlook of socialism, the need for another world, an alternative to the war-producing system of corporate capitalism, and we must do this despite the turbulence of events because this outlook is just as indispensable as it was in the Vietnam War era.
With the outbreak of war our movement will face the test of increased repression by the Bush regime and its Democratic Party allies such as Lieberman, Gephardt, the Clintons, etc.
But we must continue our efforts against this war and against corporate rule—for another and a better world.
We are living in a time when horror and hope are inextricably mixed, and the future of the world hangs in the balance.
The hope is that links of the kind that U.S. Labor Against the War has already established—with unions and union federations on every continent, representing 130 million workers in nearly 60 countries—will grow stronger and lead to more joint action. The worldwide solidarity and cooperation of organized labor is the road to the future. The endless war for U.S. corporate domination of the world has begun. It must be stopped. Now more than ever the original slogan of the workers’ International comes to mind: “Workers of the world, unite! We have nothing to lose but our chains. We have a world to win.”
From the Kansas City Labor Web Site
[We express our solidarity and agreement with the following message sent out by the Kansas City labor website—on March 17.]
American Workers Face a War on Two Fronts
We can feel proud of our accomplishments of beginning to bring our unions into the antiwar movement—and bringing the antiwar movement into our unions. Last week Kansas City Labor Against the War (KCLAW) was endorsed by Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1287, and a substantial number of leaflets and buttons were distributed at the transit authority. Yesterday was KCLAW’s turn to organize the rally at the weekly protest in Kansas City, and I think it went quite well.
Of course our actions in Kansas City are only a small part of the antiwar activity that has been sweeping through the labor movement nationally. In Europe and Australia unions not only turned out massive numbers for demonstrations; in several countries there were brief strikes against the war.
Unfortunately, it appears that Bush and Blair have made the fateful decision to ignore all the protests, all the advice from more rational advisers, to plunge ahead into war on Iraq. The order to the UN inspectors to leave Iraq immediately undoubtedly means war is just a few days—perhaps hours—away.
Once the war begins we can expect to get far less friendly reception to our antiwar actions. There is always an upsurge in “patriotism,” demands to rally around America by uncritically supporting the war. We should be prepared that things could get ugly. We need to use some common sense to avoid provocations.
Support the Troops—By Bringing Them Home Now!
Perhaps the most cynical tactic of the jingoists is the use of the “support our troops” slogan. Their idea of support is to send them off to Iraq, to kill or be killed in an unjust war that benefits only American and British Big Business.
We, on the other hand, have genuine deep concern for our men and women in uniform. They, after all, are our children and grandchildren, siblings and spouses and parents. We support our troops by demanding that they be brought back home where they belong. Eventually we can have more calm, rational discussions even with those who get swept up in war fever.
In addition to trying to intimidate dissenters we can expect that the war will be used as an excuse to suppress the right to strike by “greedy” workers; that even more social programs will be slashed; and that environmental protections will be thrown overboard. Drilling in the Arctic will be coming up soon and will undoubtedly pass to support the war effort.
American workers will be facing war on two fronts: on the battlefield in Iraq and in the antilabor offensive here at home.
KC Labor will not be cowed by this two-front war. We will continue to disseminate the truth and support all sensible actions.