Socialist Action: ‘U.S. Occupation of Iraq has Achieved Chaos and Ruin’

According to, SOCIALIST ACTION – Socialist Action is a Trotskyist political party of “revolutionary socialists” originally founded by expelled members of the Socialist Workers Party. While the SA shares the SWP’s pro-Castro views, the SA still tries to retain its Trotskyist ideological roots (versus the SWP, which has drifted away from Trotskyism towards a more Soviet communist ideology). The SA states that they “oppose the Democrats and Republicans, all capitalist political parties, and all capitalist governments and their representatives everywhere … [and] Stalinist and neo-Stalinist regimes from the ex-Soviet Union to China.” To date, this group of communists have fielded some local political candidates in San Francisco and a few other communities. Youth for Socialist Action is the youth wing of the party.

by Gerry Foley / December 2009

As the U.S. administration debates escalating its war in Afghanistan, more and more shocking stories are coming out about the extent of the ruin the U.S.-led war has created in Iraq. And they also give an indication of why it is so difficult for the U.S. government to get out of what is clearly becoming a deepening abyss in Afghanistan. Moreover, and what is worse from the standpoint of ruling rich, it is one from which U.S. capitalism as a whole can extract little profit, since Afghanistan has no oil.

The most privatized war since the Spanish American war has spawned a welter of parasitic big businesses, including Murder Incorporated-type mercenary forces, that do profit enormously from such operations, operations that bring only ruin to the peoples who are their victims and waste the national wealth of the United States and the lives of many of its young adults.

An article in the Nov. 20 New York Times revealed that the more than $53 billion that the U.S. has spent supposedly on “reconstruction” in Iraq (the largest amount of “aid” since the Marshall Plan) has been wasted. The article’s headline put the blame on the Iraqi government, which was allegedly failing to support the projects built by U.S. money, but reading further on shows that in reality projects were not planned so much to benefit the Iraqis as to fatten U.S. big corporations.

The article acknowledged: “While Iraq has often been guilty of poor management, American authorities have repeatedly failed to ask Iraqis what sort of projects they needed and have not followed up with adequate training. And whether or not the American-built health centers and power plants are ever used as intended, the American companies that won the lion’s share of rebuilding contracts from federal government have been paid.”

The article repeatedly stated that the Iraqis lacked the personnel to properly use these facilities, but the writer did note: “Exacerbating the problem, Iraqi and American officials say that hundreds of thousands of Iraq’s professional class have fled or been killed during the war, leaving behind a population with too few doctors, nurses, engineers, scientists and others.”

And whose fault is that? This is a discreet reference to the carnage wreaked by the U.S.-led war and occupation, which has far exceeded the crimes committed by the bloody Saddam Hussein regime, supposedly the target of the U.S. attacks. The Iraqi people have seen primarily the destruction wrought by the United States, not any benefits from its “reconstruction.”

According to The Times article, “Ali Ghalib Baban, Iraq’s minister of planning, said that U.S. expenditures had had no discernable impact. ‘Maybe they spent it,’ he said, but Iraq doesn’t feel it.’ …

“‘Where is the reconstruction?’ asked Sahar Kadhum, a resident of Kut, about 100 miles southeast of Baghdad. ‘The city is sleeping on hills of garbage.’” The Times article pointed out that 40 percent of Iraqis still lack access to clean drinking water and 90 percent of hospitals still lack the basic medical equipment. It also noted that according to one aid organization, “Iraqis also have disproportionately high rates of infant mortality, cerebral palsy and cancer.”

The rate of cancer and birth defects is particularly high in the city of Falluja, where the U.S. launched a massive military operation in reprisal for the popular lynching of four members of the hated mercenary force, Blackwater. The British Guardian reported Nov. 13: “Doctors in Iraq’s war-ravaged enclave of Falluja are dealing with up to 15 times as many chronic deformities in infants and a spike in early life cancers that may [sic!] be linked to toxic materials left over from the fighting.

The Guardian article, moreover, pointed out: “Abnormal clusters of infant tumours have also been repeatedly cited in Basra and Najaf—areas that have in the past also been intense battle zones where modern munitions have been heavily used.”

The real object of the U.S. assault is now generally recognized as oil. Even some U.S. officials admit, as Jackson Williams pointed out in the Nov. 15 Huffington Post: “Alan Greenspan noted in his 2007 memoir The Age of Turbulence, ‘I am saddened that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows: the Iraq war is largely about oil.’”

Some American oil companies have reaped a bonanza, most notably in the Kurdish area, where the resentment of the U.S. is less. (Saddam Hussein undertook a genocidal campaign against the Kurds.) But in Iraq as a whole, the hatred created by the destruction, repression, and abuse inflicted under the aegis of the U.S. will undoubtedly seethe for generations and eventually wipe out any oil concessions U.S. companies have gained. In the long run, Kurdistan may not be an exception, since the U.S. rulers have been and remain opposed to the national aspirations of the Kurdish people.

At least one American official is set to garner a huge windfall, but not for service to an American oil company. The New York Times reported on Nov. 12, “we learn that Peter Galbraith, former ambassador, foreign policy expert to Joe Biden and John Kerry, and son of the famed economist John Kenneth Galbraith, is in line to reap $100 million dollars—maybe more—from contracts between a Norwegian oil company and the autonomous Kurdish region of Iraq. As an advisor to DNO, Galbraith and a partner received a 10% stake in a large Kurdish oil field back in 2004.” A hundred million dollars (or more!) is quite a perk for a diplomatic assignment.

It is not only ruin and robbery that the Iraqis can remember the occupation forces for. It is also the abuse, in particular the humiliation of detainees. The story of the abuse of Iraqi prisoners by U.S. military at Abu Ghraib prison has become a legend, throughout the entire Muslim world in particular. And recently there have been parallel revelations about outrages by the junior partner of the United States in the Brotherhood of Torturers, Great Britain. But in Britain, at least, the victims of torture and humiliation at the hands of British military personnel have found legal advocates.

The Nov. 14 British Guardian reported: “The Ministry of Defence has confirmed it is investigating 33 cases of alleged abuse, including rape and torture, of Iraqi civilians by British soldiers. The lawyer representing the alleged victims, Phil Shiner, said there could be hundreds of uninvestigated claims of abuse.

“One claimant alleges that soldiers based the abuse they allegedly subjected him to on photographs of the abuse at the notorious US detention centre at Baghdad’s Abu Ghraib prison, the Independent reported. In one case, British soldiers are accused of piling up Iraqi prisoners on top of one another before subjecting them to electric shocks.”

Shiner said: “Given the history of the UK’s involvement in the development of these techniques alongside the US, it is deeply concerning that there appears to be strong similarities between instances of the use of sexual humiliation.”

Some American officials, including the lavishly rewarded ex-ambassador Galbraith and the current vice president, Joe Biden, favor the partition of Iraq into three mini-states, which they claim would be more stable than the ethnically and religiously divided present country. They probably think that smaller entities would be more easily dominated. But the likelihood is that they would have even less legitimacy than Iraq in its present form.

That is, of course, except for an independent Kurdistan, which is what the overwhelming majority of the Kurdish people want. But U.S. imperialism’s major ally in the region, Turkey, is violently opposed to the independence of any part of Kurdistan. And a small Shiite majority entity in the south would almost certainly become a satellite of Iran. That is an inevitable geopolitical reality. A “Shii-istan” in the south of Iraq would confirm that the major gainer from the U.S. assault on Iraq would end up being Iran.

Moreover, given the ruin and degradation inflicted on the Iraqi people by the U.S.-led wars and occupation, how could any government established under the aegis of the United States have any authority? In fact, the continuation of guerrilla attacks—although the most active guerrilla organization, al-Qaida in Mesopotamia, has become discredited by its ruthlessness and sectarianism—has revealed that the Iraqi army and police are far from faithful to their government.

In the case of a recent major bombing in central Baghdad near important government buildings, the Iraqi government arrested 61 military officers and men for negligence or collusion with the bombers (Washington Post, Nov. 30).

After almost a decade of involvement in Iraq, it is evident that the U.S. has achieved nothing but create a massive festering sore. But out of the chaos and ruin U.S. big businesses and corrupt officials have reaped huge profits. So, they want to extend operations to Afghanistan and Pakistan and beyond.

U.S. imperialism has reached a morbid state that mirrors the decadence of the crumbling capitalist system as a whole, and actually is coming more and more into conflict with the interests of preserving the system overall.

The U.S. capitalist class now apparently recognizes that the Iraq adventure was a fiasco. That is probably one of the reasons that decisive sections of it backed Obama in order to try to give U.S. policy a new look. But all the corruption they fostered is like a tar pit in which they find themselves stuck. Only mass mobilizations in the U.S. and elsewhere for immediate and unconditional withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan and an ending of the covert intervention in Pakistan can end the descent into ruin—not only in the countries that are victims of U.S. military intervention, but in the United States itself.

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