The Global Ambitions Behind the U.S. War on Iraq
Revolutionary Worker #1242, May 30, 2004, posted
They said the war was for Weapons of Mass Destruction. But there were none.
They said the war was about terrorism--but no ties to al-Qaida were ever
They said the war was to end mass graves--but Bush's troops sent hundreds
of Iraqi people in Fallujah to mass graves.
They said the war was to bring "freedom and democracy" to
Iraq--but all it brought was a brutal occupation--house to house searches,
shutting down newspapers, postponing and controlling elections, jailing people
for expressing opposition.
They said the war was to remove the regime of Saddam Hussein--but now they
are elevating former Baathist generals to be new warlords in areas of
And they said the war was about ending "torture chambers and rape
cells"--but now we all know that U.S. military intelligence and CIA took
over the regime's prisons to carry out torture and rape.
So can we now all, finally, talk about the real causes of this long-planned
"Can we now finally talk.?" Revolutionary
Worker,#1241, May 23, 2004
There has been a deluge of media coverage, revelations, official statements,
hearings, and near constant debate and analysis of the invasion and occupation
of Iraq. Yet the real motives for the U.S. war have largely been ignored,
obscured, or deliberately covered up.
If you don't understand why the U.S. is in Iraq--if you think this is just
about George W. Bush and his cronies-- then there's no way you can understand
the character of this war or make sense of the rapid march of events. Nor will
you fully understand the urgency of the moment, the enormity of the stakes, or
what must be done to resist the U.S. rulers' war on the world. You won't grasp
the imperialists' deep vulnerabilities--including the real possibility of a
major defeat in Iraq and the possibility of an intense political crisis right
here in the belly of the beast. And you will not be able to see the immense
potential for mass struggle and resistance from below to change the course of
IN A NUTSHELL,
Overwhelming evidence proves that every U.S. government excuse for the
war--to prevent attacks on the U.S., to disarm Iraq, to liberate the Iraqi
people or to bring greater freedom to the peoples of the Middle East--has been a
In reality, the war of 2003 is a continuation of 80 years of U.S. imperialist
intervention in the Middle East aimed at dominating and controlling this
crossroads between Europe, Africa and Asia with 60 percent of the world's oil
This war was also shaped by a new audacious global agenda implemented by the
Bush administration after Sept. 11. Waged under the rubric of a "war on
terror," this unbounded war is in fact a war of terror against the masses
of people of the world intended to extend and deepen U.S. imperial global power
for decades to come.
Creating a pro-U.S. client state in Iraq was seen as pivotal to implementing
this agenda of greater U.S. empire.
The growing resistance and turmoil in Iraq are "embedded" in the
predatory and unjust nature of the war and occupation, and in the staggering
ambitions and real limits of U.S. power.
ROOTS OF THE 2003 WAR
What are the roots of the 2003 war? There has been an outpouring of books
criticizing Bush and his administration--his lying, his family's ties to the CIA
and various dictators and tyrants, his corporate connections. This shows how
deeply troubled many people, with widely divergent viewpoints, are about the
Bush regime, and much interesting information has been brought to light.
But we need to dig much, much deeper. This war didn't emerge from the twisted
personality, corporate connections, or family history of George Bush, Dick
Cheney, or some gang of neo-conservatives. It has emerged from the deep, sordid
depths of the current social order.
This system, and the empire it has given rise to, are rooted in the
exigencies of global capitalism or imperialism--a system which demands the
worldwide exploitation of markets, resources and labor, and the
political-military domination of vast stretches of the globe by a handful of
powerful capitalist states. This is why today, the U.S. has $5 trillion invested
overseas, does $2 trillion in foreign trade a year, and operates networks of
manufacturing, finance and commerce that ring the planet. Some 500,000 U.S.
troops are stationed at 700 military bases in 120 of the UN's 189 member states,
and the U.S. spends over $450 billion a year on its military--far more than any
other nation in history.
Imperialism is a system which gives rise to bitter global rivalries between
major powers--as we are witnessing today in the tensions between the U.S.,
Russia, France, and others. It is a system of organized greed backed by weapons
of mass destruction, which constantly gives rise to interventions and wars.
Where does Iraq fit in? Control of the Middle East--including Iraq--and its
vast oil reserves has been key to global power for nearly 100 years.
What is this oil connection? This was an issue the Bush team carefully
avoided even mentioning before the 2003 war. They came up with a veritable
parade of pretexts--from anthrax to WMD to al-Qaida to liberation--so many it
was hard to keep track of their "excuse du jour." Yet they would never
mention the word "oil" in connection with Iraq.
In fact, control of global energy supplies was an objective in the 2003 war,
as it's been a central U.S. strategic objective for decades. This is not because
Americans drive SUV's or because Bush and Cheney are "oil men."
Rather, the entire corporate capitalist ruling establishment are all "oil
men": oil is a key instrument of their global hegemony; whomever controls
the global flow of petroleum has a stranglehold on the global economy, as Dick
Cheney once put it.
Petroleum is an essential economic input whose price impacts production
costs, profits, and competitive advantage- -not just of oil companies, but
capital generally. It is an instrument of rivalry: controlling oil means
exercising leverage over those who depend on it and over the world economy as
well. It's impossible to project military power globally without abundant
supplies of oil. And the heart of the world petroleum industry lies in the
Persian Gulf, which contains 65 percent of the world's known oil reserves, 34
percent of the world's natural gas reserves, and now accounts for nearly 30
percent of the world output of each.
This is what has driven the U.S. to maneuver, intervene, threaten, bully,
wage war--even threaten nuclear war--for decades in the Middle East--no matter
which party, Democrats or Republicans, sat in the White House.
This is why in the 1960s the U.S. actually supported Saddam Hussein's rise to
power; why in the 1970s the Nixon administration cynically used, then betrayed,
the Kurdish people, causing the deaths of thousands and the forced exodus of
tens of thousands; and why during the 1980s the U.S. government was complicit in
the very crimes--the invasion of Iran and the gassing of the Kurds and
Iranians--it cited in 2003 as reasons for removing Saddam.
The point isn't just official hypocrisy. History shows that U.S. actions in
the region have always been guided by concerns of empire, never liberation; that
they have resulted in countless atrocities and enormous suffering; and that they
have led to rising anti-U.S. anger and resistance. Understand this history and
you'll choke with outrage whenever you hear anyone utter the words "United
States" and "liberation" in the same breath.
PRELUDE TO WAR--THE 1990s
The decade of the 1990s following the first Persian Gulf war set the stage
for the war of 2003, but not for the reasons you've been told.
The official narrative of both the Clinton and Bush administrations, which
generally goes unquestioned in the media, is that Saddam repeatedly defied the
UN, ignored UN resolutions, and flouted international law. This narrative pretty
much turns reality on its head. It's not true, and it can't account for what has
happened in Iraq.
In reality, the Hussein regime was desperate to have sanctions lifted, so it
mostly complied with UN resolutions and disarmed--perhaps in the early 1990s,
most likely by the mid-1990s. That is why virtually no chemical, biological or
nuclear weapons were found in Iraq after the U.S. invasion.
Yet the U.S. goal in Iraq during the 1990s was never merely disarmament or
compliance with UN resolutions. It was regime change. This is why the U.S.
illegally attempted to overthrow Hussein via coups, why it illegally turned UN
weapons inspections into intelligence-gathering operations for assassination
attempts, and why it maintained killer sanctions even after the Iraqi government
was stripped of its weapons.
Let's be clear: the failure to find WMD in Iraq not only invalidates the
prime justification for the 2003 war, it also invalidates the prime
justification for years of sanctions which killed over 500,000 Iraqis, probably
closer to 1.5 million. The victims were mainly children, as I saw on my 1991
trip there. Why aren't any of the officials and media- heads who claim to be
"oh, so concerned about the Iraqi people," screaming with outrage
In 2001, U.S. policymakers did not fear Saddam was a "grave and
gathering" threat, as Bush put it. Instead, a vastly weakened Iraq was
viewed as a target of opportunity.
Nor was the war the result of an "intelligence failure." In fact,
intelligence concerning Iraq's weapons capabilities was overall quite good. In
October 1998 the International Atomic Energy Commission certified that Iraq had
disarmed on the nuclear front. The next year the UN Security Council's
disarmament panel concluded that the "bulk of Iraq's proscribed weapons
programmes has been eliminated." Former UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter
wrote that by the mid-1990s, the UN had ascertained "a 90-95 percent level
of verified disarmament." All this proved to be accurate intelligence.
In short, the WMD scare was a deliberate, conscious lie. No wonder the lapdog
Congress hasn't "investigated" the WMD flim flam.
So the problem by the late 1990s was not that Saddam possessed WMD. Nor was
"tyranny" the problem; that tyranny over the Iraqi people had been
quite useful to the U.S., which is why they had supported Hussein in the past.
No, the problem was that his continued survival was eroding the U.S. grip on the
Persian Gulf and creating problems for the empire.
Hussein's survival, after a decade of tension with the U.S., was an affront
to America's "credibility"-- i.e., image of unchallengeable power--in
the region. The toll exacted by UN sanctions on Iraqi civilians, the near
constant air attacks on Iraq, Israel's step-by-step ethnic cleansing of
Palestine, and U.S. support for the region's brutal tyrants were creating a host
of contradictions--including a quantum leap in anti-U.S. anger across the
region. Sanctions against Iraq were unraveling, and their collapse would have
been a serious political defeat for the U.S. This could have increased the
influence of rivals France and Russia in Iraq, thanks to the massive oil
contracts both countries had signed with the Hussein government.
THE GLOBAL DIMENSION: `RESHUFFLING THE WHOLE DECK'
It is impossible to understand the 2003 Iraq war without understanding the
U.S.'s post-Sept. 11 global strategy.
The problems facing the U.S. in Iraq were occurring as ruling class
strategists moved to consolidate a new global strategy. The fall of the Soviet
Union in 1991 temporarily removed a nuclear-armed imperialist rival and major
impediment to U.S. freedom of action in the Middle East from the world stage,
and opened up new opportunities for Washington to assert its power more
forcefully around the world.
The Soviet collapse also unfroze Cold-War relations, accelerated capitalist
globalization, unleashed major global economic and political shifts, and had the
potential to give rise to new centers of world power. So the U.S. rulers were
confronted with new openings, and new problems; new opportunities, and new
After a decade of debate within the bourgeoisie, the Bush regime took power
determined to take down Saddam Hussein and assert U.S. power more forcefully
around the world. Sept. 11 gave them the opportunity to do both--and to enshrine
their grand strategy, made official in September 2002 with the signing of a new
U.S. National Security Strategy.
What is this new grand strategy? Most people, even those who opposed the 2003
war, still don't understand how vast, sweeping and brutal U.S. aims really
are--or their connection to Iraq.
Bob Avakian's "The New Situation and the Great Challenges," written
shortly after Sept. 11, remains the most incisive and insightful summary of that
agenda, and it's an analysis that greatly influenced my own understanding of the
seriousness of U.S. plans for war on Iraq post-Sept. 11, the larger strategic
canvas, and the urgency of the moment.
Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, put it like this: the
U.S. rulers "have ambitions of essentially reshuffling the whole deck,
reordering the whole situation--beginning with the strategic areas of Central
and South Asia and the Middle East that are more immediately involved now--but,
even beyond that, on a world scale. They've set themselves a very far-reaching
agenda with gigantic implications."1
Think about it--"reshuffling
the whole deck, reordering the whole situation" captures the enormity their
goals: Iraq, after all, was only supposed to be phase two. Then--"beginning
with the strategic areas of Central and South Asia and the Middle East."
Where were the first two wars of the so-called "war on terror?"
Afghanistan in Central Asia, then Iraq in the Middle East. What's so important
about these regions? They're home to 80 percent of the world's oil and natural
gas, and they're a gateway to Eurasia, where 75 percent of the world's
population lives and 60 percent of the world's GNP is produced. Imperialist
strategists call Eurasia the world's greatest "prize."
There are many dimensions to this global agenda, including:
preventing the rise of any rival which could challenge U.S. global or
regional supremacy--which is what lies at the heart of today's tensions between
France, Russia, and Germany on one side and the U.S. on the other.
the imperialists want to open up the oppressed countries, or Third World, to
greater and more direct U.S. exploitation and control--in other words,
globalization at gunpoint. Their first actions in occupied Iraq included
privatizing Iraqi businesses, opening up the country to global commerce and
investment, and pushing Iraq to join the World Trade Organization.
the U.S. seeks to assault and crush any resistance movement standing in its
path. All--whether genuine revolutionaries like the Maoists of Nepal,
nationalists waging just struggle against imperialism in Iraq and Palestine, or
various Islamist trends with their own conflicts with the U.S.--are
broad-brushed with the label "terrorist." Today the U.S. has
counterinsurgency operations underway in some 80 countries around the world.
In sum, the imperialists arrogantly dream of asserting U.S. power on a whole
new level. Their vision, to paraphrase the title of a recent James Bond movie:
"Most of the world is not enough, we want the whole thing."
WHY IRAQ IN 2003?
Given this global agenda, why the focus on Iraq? In short, there was no one
reason, but many reasons, both regional and global. Think of Iraq as a key piece
on the global chessboard of empire: conquering Iraq removed a troublesome piece,
seized strategic squares and opened up new lines of attack.
Saddam's overthrow was seen as a means of solidifying the U.S. hold on the
Persian Gulf. It was intended to send a message of shock and awe around the
world, and give further momentum to the "war on terror."
The plan was to turn Iraq into a platform for broader, interconnected U.S.
objectives. Establishing a lackey regime in Baghdad would give the U.S. favored
access to the world's second largest oil reserves. It would put American armed
forces in the center of the Persian Gulf/Central Asia region, another link in
the chain of military bases surrounding Russia and China. Post-Saddam Iraq was
envisioned as a launching pad for dealing with a host of contradictions
confronting the U.S. in the Middle East and for opening the region up to
capitalist globalization. All these measures together were intended to give the
U.S. greater control of global energy supplies and greater leverage over Russia,
China, and other potential competitors.
All this is predicated not on liberating the masses, but on attempting to
drown their struggles in blood and terror. Massacres in Gaza and Iraq and
tortures in Abu Ghraib--this is what the U.S. government's "bringing
democracy to the Middle East" looks like.
The strategic centrality of conquering Iraq explains the flood of revelations
from high-ranking officials and journalists--Richard Clarke, Paul O'Neill, Bob
Woodward and others--that the Bush government was focused on Iraq from day one,
and that it immediately began planning for war after Sept. 11--knowing full well
that Iraq had nothing to do with those attacks. And this is why, for the
imperialists, the consequences of failure in Iraq are, as Bush himself put it,
In sum, the U.S. rulers seized on Sept. 11 to implement a global agenda and
launch a war 10 years in the making. These are not "diversions" from
the economy; they are how the imperialists intend to resolve their deep economic
contradictions. They are not intended to help a few corporations, they're
intended to help U.S. corporate capital as a whole. This isn't George Bush being
a "cowboy"; this is U.S. imperialism being a "cowboy"--i.e.,
running amok, murderously scrambling to maintain and extend its grip on the
UNJUST WAR, UNJUST OCCUPATION
If the war was fought for unjust, imperialist aims, how can the U.S.
occupation be anything but unjust and imperialist, and how can anything good
come of it?
If the U.S. rulers lied their way into war, why should anyone believe them
now when they claim that want to "liberate" Iraq, or that those
opposing them are "terrorists," "thugs," or Saddam "deadenders"?
What, they suddenly took truth serum?
The occupation is a continuation of the war. Its goal is to radically
transform Iraq--militarily, politically, culturally and economically--in order
to serve U.S. regional and global objectives, not the Iraqi people. Recently,
the ardently pro-war Wall Street Journal (May 13) acknowledged,
"Behind the Scenes, U.S. Tightens Grip On Iraq's Future," and
described how occupation authorities were attempting to make sure that:
"The new Iraqi government will have little control over its armed forces,
lack the ability to make or change laws and be unable to make major decisions
within specific ministries without tacit U.S. approval."
This is neocolonialism, not "liberation," no matter how many times
U.S. officials mouth the word.
A CAULDRON OF CONTRADICTIONS
Understanding the imperialist nature of the war in Iraq and the global agenda
driving it are essential to understanding why Iraq could turn into a nightmare
for America's rulers.
Webster's Dictionary defines quagmire as, "A complex or
precarious position where disengagement is difficult." What makes the U.S.
occupation particularly precarious, and disengagement particularly difficult, is
on one hand, the enormous stakes for the U.S. in Iraq, and on the other, that
its spiraling difficulties are not mainly the product of poor planning or easily
correctable errors. Instead, they are deeply "embedded" in the unjust
aims and the brutal nature of the war and occupation.
High-level policymakers openly worry that "The strategic tide in Iraq is
turning inexorably against us" ( Wall Street Journal , May 20). All
this is a stunning confirmation of Bob Avakian's assessment that the U.S.
rulers' grab for greater global power carries with it "the potential...for
this to get wildly out of control...the imperialists have set things in motion
that can't be easily reversed, and may not be easily controlled."
OIL, POWER & EMPIRE:
IRAQ AND THE U.S. GLOBAL AGENDA
a new book by Larry Everest
390 pages, appendix, chronology, index
Common Courage Press 2004
ISBN: 1-56751-246-1 paper $19.95
Available at bookstores (distributed by Consortium and Ingram)
or through Common Courage Press: 800-497-3207
To purchase online or contact author Larry Everest: