This piece is edited 2014, and presents the interim argument made over the war in Iraq in 2005 after it became clear that the initial bleatings of anti-war opponents was proving to be wrong.
by Patrick Muldowney
All ‘left’ opponents of the illegal liberation of the Iraqi peoples’ have reasoned from the first that the war was really about oil (one way or another)and so the war was to be opposed because of this obscene reason. Every peace activist seems to know ‘viscerally’ that oil has something to do with the U.S. decision to go to war in Iraq. But none, of this blood is for oil!
In the west we have observed via the usually anti-Bush mass-media the Iraqi elections and the period of negotiations in the process that formed a government. It became clear that the major political parties in Iraq were and are unmistakably ‘stand alone’ forces, free from any suspicion of being U.S. puppets. It was always clear that any puppets could not be elected in any free and fair process.
Yet western anti-war activists, who (like me) generally knew nothing much about Iraq have been basing their analysis on the proposition that the U.S would be installing puppets. This is now demonstrably not the case. This is not a straw-man argument it is fundamental to all the carrying on about oil. Now only people on planet peace movement could think this, unless one thinks that U.S. war aims have failed and been abandoned already.
The vast bulk of ‘peace activists’ are sophisticated enough to realise that in this century the U.S. could not directly seize the oil and place it under direct U.S. ownership or control. If the U.S. was to keep actual control of the oil, despite formal Iraqi control, independent Iraqi politicians serving the national interests of Iraq would be anathema to such an undertaking. Yet that is who is running Iraq now, independent Iraqi politicians serving interests internal to Iraq.
It is now also widely known, that the parties constituting the interim government want to be rid of Coalition forces ASAP. (despite being grateful for their current assistance). Iraqi leaders are openly talking about the final withdrawal and scheduling the draw down of front line troops, region by region. What is possible, or more accurately optimal for that withdrawal, given the Iraqi military requirements for soldiers, technicians, trainers etc., is apparently thought to be about two years time.
The Iraqi political parties that were ever going to draw any size of the popular vote were never going to be puppets. The Sunni political forces that have as yet remained outside the electoral process, now want in on the next stage will of course further compound the problem the peace movement faces. The current government is not a U.S. puppet and the next government that will contain some of those who did not participate this time will be even more clearly independent.
Thus we can conclude that the U.S. will not be setting up bases in Iraq. (even bases comparable to those in Germany where the politicians are not puppets either) The U.S. may have some sort of presence in Iraq, but a bourgeois democracy in Iraq implies suspicion of the U.S. and these Iraqi parties will be both grateful for the help, and distanced from the great friend of Israel, America.
Most western anti-war campaigners (excusing any genuine pacifists that I simply can’t be bothered arguing with) would have at least theoretically supported Iraqis taking up arms to overthrow the Baathists but could not support the actual war launched by the U.S..
Apparently the anti-war campaigners would overwhelmingly have supported a revolution from below to overthrow the law and order that existed in Iraq. Well my question is; when will you admit that something is worth defending now, and is MUCH better than what went before?
An illegal war was launched against a lawful tyranny and this tyranny was unlawfully overthrown. Then along came the world’s international law making body, the UN Security Council (NB the victors of WW2), and after the fact they declared that the occupation was then the lawful authority. Naturally, ‘the revolution made the law, the law did not make the revolution’. That is what revolutions do! Now an election process has been conducted under the new lawful authority and it is not seriously disputed as to who the Iraqi interim government now is.
This brings about a massive problem for leftists who say that they would have supported a civil-war to overthrow the fascist Baathists. For leftists, there is such a civil-war going on now! Fortunately there are a couple of hundred thousand heavily armed soldiers that are on the Iraqi peoples’ side and they will definitely win.
“Those wishing to make the “more lives ultimately saved”, argument will need to make their comparisons with the number of civilians likely to have been killed had Saddam Hussein’s reign continued into 2003-2004, not in comparison to the number of deaths for which he was responsible in the 1980s and early 1990s…”
No we don’t! This regime was entirely variable in kill rate until overthrown. Trying to overthrow such a regime from an essentially unarmed position would have amounted to having been set up for mass slaughter. Leftists are about winning and overthrowing tyranny not about gloriously laying down our lives in the interest of any juvenile theory that requires people to overthrow their own tyrants unarmed and single-handedly.
Let’s look at some trends in Iraq and around the world. Western, society does not have such an awful death toll as is currently occurring in Iraq. Nor was any period during the reign of Saddam comparable to what we have in the west. That’s why the term tyranny is applied and why everyone worth talking to wants it overthrown. So the important question arises: Is Iraq now moving towards modernity and the lower death toll implied or away from it? Will more elections be held, and will the Coalition eventually withdraw?
Reflect on WW2. Did the U.S. occupy Germany to steal German coal? Did they withdraw? Is Germany (let alone Japan and Italy) part of the modern world again? What would make people think that sixty years later the people of the world would put up with U.S. imperialists nicking Iraqi oil at the cost of two endless sets of body bags?
The old regime was overthrown by an illegal invasion, yet is anyone not supportive of Saddam or the Jihadists now under the impression that the new Government of Iraq is itself illegal? The Interim Government is the body set up to generate a constitution and hold a referendum to approve that constitution, and then hold an election for a further even more representative legitimate government. Are they legitimate revolutionary goals and thus the interim Government worthy of support and assistance?
Humpty cannot be put back together again, so what’s to be done other than acknowledge the revolutionary transformation from a political system run by a lawful tyrant to a new system that runs via a new (for Iraq) electoral system? That’s not any sort of evolutionary transformation it’s a revolutionary transformation.
How should we think about moving ourselves and the heroic people of Iraq further along the path of the bourgeois democratic revolution? Would the situation be improved if all coalition troops were withdrawn now? The colonial era has “Gone with the wind” and it requires determined blindness not to see it. Yet we are still fed what amounts to an endless stream of the war is all about oil.
I wrote the following notes to an anti-war acquaintance just before the U.S. elections.
“I am glad that my side is on the offensive and gearing up for major battles once the U.S. elections are over. It may well be that Osama Bin Laden bombs polling booths or whatever during the U.S. elections. Whatever the outrage next perpetrated my side should remain on the offensive, as standing on the defensive loses wars. All the descendants of the enlightenment and forces of modernity are not about to lose this one!
Just sticking my neck out for a moment, I think Bush will win now that Bin Laden has intervened to try to cause another Madrid effect. The Yanks will do the opposite, and allow Bush to continue. We will know soon enough who is to do the gnashing of teeth. Anyway Kerry is locked in on the main game.
It is time to accept that Saddam’s regime would never have changed organically and evolved from within, so there was always going to be a war.