“The development of a genuine anti-war movement directed at the root of war — the profit system — has been systematically blocked by the left liberals, Greens and, above all, the various pseudo-left organizations.”
NINE years ago last week, on March 20, 2003, the US and its allies, including Britain and Australia, launched the illegal invasion of Iraq.
All of the pretexts used to justify the war were lies. There were no weapons of mass destruction and no links between Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda.
The protracted American-led occupation resulted in an autocratic, pro-US regime, the deaths of a million Iraqis, and an enormous social and economic regression.
Today, nine years after US troops toppled Saddam Hussein and just a few months after the last US soldier left the devastated country, Iraq has become something close to a failed state.
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki presides over a system rife with corruption and brutality, in which political leaders use security forces and militias to repress enemies and intimidate the general population.
The law exists as a weapon to be wielded against rivals and to hide the misdeeds of allies. The dream of an Iraq governed by elected leaders answerable to the people is rapidly fading away.
The Iraqi state cannot provide basic services, including regular electricity in summer, clean water, and decent health care; meanwhile, unemployment among young men hovers close to 30 percent, making them easy recruits for criminal gangs and militant factions.
Although the level of violence is down from the worst days of the civil war in 2006 and 2007, the current pace of bombings and shootings is more than enough to leave most Iraqis on edge and deeply uncertain about their futures.
They have lost all hope that the bloodshed will go away and simply live with their dread.
Acrimony in the political realm and the violence in the cities create a destabilising feedback loop, whereby the bloodshed sows mistrust in the halls of power and politicians are inclined to settle scores with their proxies in the streets.
Both Maliki and his rivals are responsible for the slide toward chaos, prisoners of their own history under Saddam.
Iraq today is divided between once-persecuted Shiite religious parties, such as Maliki’s Dawa Party, which is still hungry for revenge and secular and Sunni parties that long for a less bloody version of Saddam’s Baath Party, with its nationalist ideology and intolerance of religious and ethnic politics.
Meanwhile, the Kurds manoeuvre gingerly around the divisions in Baghdad.
Their priority is to preserve their near autonomy in northern Iraq and ward off the resurrection of a powerful central government that could one day besiege their cities and bombard their villages, as Baghdad did throughout the twentieth century.
Nine years later, the world is on the brink of even greater disasters as the Obama administration, pursuing the same imperialist ambitions, recklessly intensifies its threats and preparations for war against Iran.
The absence of a mass anti-war movement today raises critical questions about the failure of the 2003 protests and how to renew the struggle against militarism and war.
The development of a genuine anti-war movement directed at the root of war — the profit system — has been systematically blocked by the left liberals, Greens and, above all, the various pseudo-left organisations.
All of these individuals and organisations are deeply hostile to the working class and its independent mobilisation.
Their social base is a narrow layer of the affluent middle class that has shifted sharply to the right under the impact of the worsening capitalist crisis.
This layer increasingly identifies its interests with those of its own imperialist power.
The middle-class leftists who opposed the Vietnam War in the 1960s and 1970s have step by step become advocates for imperialist war.
The process was already evident during the Balkan wars of the 1990s, when a considerable section of former anti-war protest leaders directly supported Nato’s intervention and its phoney humanitarian claim to be protecting first the Bosnian Muslims and later the Kosovars.
What was behind the attack on Serbia was Washington’s determination to exploit the opportunities opened up by the collapse of the Stalinist regimes in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union.
Not a few of those who backed the Balkan interventions employed similar humanitarian pretexts to support the US invasion of Iraq in the name of removing the “dictator Hussein.”
More insidious, however, was the political role of the liberals and leftists who dominated the mass anti-war protests of 2003 and promoted the illusion that the invasion could be stopped by appealing to the United Nations or to France and Germany.
The latter had opposed the war in the UN to protect their imperialist interests in the Middle East and quickly fell into line once the US occupation became an established fact.
These renegades used their influence over the protest movement to channel the anti-war sentiment of broad layers of the population behind the Democrats and the election campaigns of John Kerry in 2004 and Barack Obama in 2008.
The election of Obama was the prelude to shutting down the anti-war movement altogether.
Behind the eruption of US militarism over the past two decades lies the attempt by successive administrations to exploit the military predominance of US imperialism to offset its historic decline, at the expense of its European and Asian rivals.
Those processes have only been accelerated under the Obama administration by the deepening global economic crisis.
The current drive to war against Iran and Syria threatens to embroil not only the entire Middle East, but to drag in other countries including China and Russia.
A new international movement against war and militarism must be based on the understanding that the fundamental cause of imperialist conflict is not the subjective characteristics of political leaders or mistaken policies.
Behind the criminality and recklessness of leaders in the US, Europe and elsewhere are the fundamental contradictions of capitalism—between world economy and the outmoded nation state system, and between socialised production and the private ownership of the means of production.
A viable movement against war requires national consciousness and a revolutionary force for pro-people policies.
So much for Uncle Sam’s ‘democratisation’ project.