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Iraq War from Bush to Obama

Jesse McLaren

October 6, 2014

Today Canada’s Parliament votes to send troops and fighter jets to Iraq, and politicians and pundits insist Obama’s bombs are different from Bush’s. But Obama’s Democrats are just a tactical variation on Bush’s Republicans, and the latest war is as wrong as the last one.
In 2002 it was clear the US wanted to attack Iraq. The neo-conservative wing of the US establishment called for war in its “Project for a New American Century” document; it listed as “adversaries” Iraq, as well as Libya, Syria, Iran and North Korea.
The Project for a New American Century
But it also listed “rivals” such as China and Europe: “There are, however, potentially powersul states dissatisfied with the current situion and eager to change, it they can, in directions that endanger the relatively peaceful, prosperous and fre condition the world enjoyes today. Up to now, they have been deterred by the capability and global presence of American military power. But as that power declines, relatively and absolutely, the happy conditions that follow from it will inevitably be undermined.”
In other words, the US was projecting military power to compensate for relative economic decline and the emergence of rivals in Europe and Asia. As Secretary of State Condolezzza Rice argued, “If the collapse of the Soviet Union and 9/11 bookend a major shift in international politics, then this is a period not just of grave danger, but of enormous economic opportunity. Before the clay is dry again, America and our friends and allies must move decisively to take advantage of these new opportunities.”
In 2001 the US (and Canada) invaded Afghanistan, and in 2002 it was clear the next target was Iraq.
Protest and resistance
But an unprecedented anti-war movement and resistance in Afghanistan and Iraq caused a quagmire for the US. The pinnacle of protest was February 15, 2003 when up to 30 million people around the world marched against war on Iraq. As The New York Times observed: “the huge anti-war demonstrations around the world this weekend are reminders that there may still be two superpowers on the planet: the United States and world public opinion.”
In Canada the anti-war movement began during the anti-globalization protests against the G8 in Calgary, in the summer of 2002. A meeting of about 70 people decided to organize coordinated demonstrations on Hiroshima Day in August, and this led to anti-war coalitions across the country. In September campuses set up anti-war coalitions, and in January Toronto hosted a student anti-war conference that mobilized for a day of action in January.
Similar protests were happening around the world, including the European Social Forum that called for a day of action February 15—a call that was picked up by the Cairo conference and World Social Forum in Brazil.
On February 15, millions marched in London and Rome, 250,000 in Montreal, tens of thousands in Toronto and Vancouver, and thousands in other cities across the country.
Prime Minister Jean Chrétien offered a “Canadian compromise” to delay the war so he could win UN approval, but he failed. In March another quarter of a million marched in Montreal, and the Quebec election threatened to trounce the Liberals for supporting the war. On March 17, Chrétien announced Canada would not join the war. The movement succeeded in keeping Canada out of Iraq, but the US and Britain went ahead, killing a million Iraqis.
But the anti-war movement encouraged resistance. The US hoped Iraq would be a simple stepping stone towards invading Iran, but was bogged down in a quagmire. To divide and conquer the US imposed a Parliament along ethnic lines and armed sectarian death squads, planting the seeds for ISIS to grow. Unable to advance directly the US resorted to proxy wars in 2006, backing Israel’s assault on Lebanon and Ethiopia’s invasion of Somalia. But these were resisted as well.
New imperial strategy
In 2006 US elites reassessed the situation, articulated through the “Iraq Study group”: “Iraq is a major test of, and strain on, US military, diplomatic and financial capacities. Perceived failure there could diminish America’s credibility and influence that is the centre of the Islamic world and vital to the world’s energy supply...The longer that   US political and military resources are tied down in Iraq the more the chances for American failure increase.”
For the 99% Obama’s election in 2008 represented opposition to war. But for the 1% he merely represents a shift in imperial strategy. As Obama explained: “As the US redeploys from Iraq, we can recapture lost influence in the Middle East. We can refocus our efforts to critical, yet neglected priorities, such as combating international terrorism and winning the war in Afghanistan.”
The Arab Spring was a nightmare for the imperialists, which US strategist Zbigniew Brzezinki anxiously anticipated in 2006: “The destructive war in Iraq, the hypocritical indifference to the human dimensions of the stalemate in Israeli-Palestinian relations, the lack of diplomatic initiative in dealing with Iran and the frequent use of Islamophobic rhetoric are setting in motion forces that threaten to push America out of the Middle East, with dire consequences for itself and its friends in Egypt, Israel, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.”
Arab Spring and counter-revolution
The “dire consequences” was the dream of millions, who toppled Western-backed dictators in Tunisia and Egypt, and challenged regimes in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and the UAE. The Arab Spring was both inspired by, and furthered Palestine solidarity, which saw massive demonstrations just a few months ago. Obama gradually ended the official occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq (while leaving bases and military personnel), but greatly increased US drone warfare in Pakistan and Yemen, while highjacking revolutions in Libya and Syria and arming dictatorshps in Saudi Arabia and Egypt.
Now the US is using ISIS—the product of the last war and intervention in Syria—as an excuse to bomb Iraq yet again. The latest war will kill more Iraqis, fuel ISIS, bury the history of the last war and provide a cover for repressive Western-backed states. Western intervention in Iraq has always been a bloody disaster, and the best way to help the people of Iraq is to challenge our own governments, support war resisters, and welcome refugees.
Print this petition, circulate it in your class/workplace/neighbourhood and fax it to your Member of Parliament.

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