Mass Action Needed to Demand End to Involvement in Iraq

1.  It’s Primarily About  Oil

Much has been written in  past days about the December 2011 withdrawal of U.S. military forces from Iraq. But not  much has been said about the U.S.’s  retaining a very sizable presence in  that beleaguered country after that date. For starters, there is the largest and  most expensive embassy in the world covering 4,700,000 sq. ft. and employing a  staff of 15,000. And then there are the 13,500 military and security  contractors, including those working for the State Department. Add to that the  special ops and CIA personnel and it amounts to a huge U.S. investment of personnel and resources in  Iraq.

What was behind the  government’s resolve to maintain such an extensive oversight of  Iraq? In two words, it was primarily  oil. After all, Iraq has been the second largest  producer of crude oil in OPEC.

It is no wonder that during  the height of the U.S. war  and occupation of Iraq, a favorite demand of peace  activists was “No War for Oil!” And let’s not forget that in the earliest stages  of the war and occupation of Iraq, widespread looting was ignored  by the authorities, with one exception: the Oil Ministry was secured and  protected.

On a number of occasions  Obama has cited oil as a key factor that had to be considered in connection with  Iraq, once  referring to the “tyranny of  oil.”

2. The Latest Escalation

Thursday’s announcement by Obama that the  U.S. will now send up to 300  “security forces advisers” to Iraq and that “targeted” air strikes are very  much on the table is obviously a major escalation of U.S. involvement in Iraq.

The promise that there will be no U.S. boots on the ground has been shunted aside  as the U.S. moves more air and naval weapons  of death and destruction to the war zone.  And once again Washington is bankrolling military intervention, whereas what is urgently needed is more funding for jobs,  infrastructure, education and social programs here at  home.  The capture  of Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, on June 10, 2014, by
forces of the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) and its advancement  on a number of fronts is the rationale given for the U.S. escalation.

There is  likely to be confusion on the part of some Americans who genuinely believe in  peace — leaving aside the neoconservatives and others who never met a war they  didn’t like. After all, ISIS’s avowed goal is a  renewed
Sunni Islamic caliphate — a single theocratic state for the entire  Islamic world. They reject any form of a secular state and believe that only  religious law — the Islamic sharia — is valid.

Their extreme  fanaticism and brutality are horrific. They believe that Shia Muslims — who are  the majority in Iraq — are “infidels” and worthy of
death. They accord women a virtually enslaved existence. The ease with which the  ISIS took possession of Mosul from the Iraqi  central government
raises the question of whether the United States  should step in to stop the violence and prevent this fanatical and thoroughly  reactionary terrorist
organization from imposing its rule on any more  territory.

But such  involvement poses a clear and present danger of a greatly expanded regional war  and contravenes the fundamental principle that  — whatever the problems are in the  region — they must be settled by the people there, not by U.S.  intervention.

There is far  greater pressure on the Obama administration to intervene in Iraq than there was to intervene in  Syria. Syria has very few oil resources;  Iraq’s are among the largest on  earth. Washington’s objective  is to
control Iraqi oil  production and distribution, making sure that oilfield supply and construction  firms like Halliburton and Schlumberger are able to make super-profits in  Iraq and that  Iraq not provide oil at  preferential pricing to China.

What is going  on now is the unraveling of the U.S. Middle East policy as carried out by  six previous administrations. Even though U.S.  interventionism in the region has been a complete failure on so many levels, the  Obama
administration has not fundamentally turned away from it. It is seeking through a variety of actions to impose its dominance on Middle Eastern politics.

U.S. intervention, even if one believes it is well-intentioned, has not brought about peace and in fact has made life far worse for the civilian populations of Iraq, Syria, and other countries of the region. Kevin Martin, the national executive  director of Peace Action, likened it to attempting to fight a fire by pouring  gasoline on it. It has to be stopped.

The U.S.’s objectives in the region have  absolutely nothing to do with democracy, human rights, women’s rights,  progressive secularism, or peace.  Moreover, U.S.  involvement on any level will not be beneficial to the Iraqi people in any way.  It has to be opposed unconditionally.

3. Where Do We Go From  Here?

In spite of  the complex political situation in Iraq, there is overwhelming opposition among the  American people for any new involvement in that country. Even some Republicans  who wholeheartedly supported George W. Bush’s
invasion of Iraq in  2003 are now calling it a mistake which should not be repeated.  The spontaneous and massive public  outcry from all across the country against the threatened bombing of  Syria, reinforced by committed  activists who took to the streets in several cities, proved to be sufficient at that time to deter the Obama administration from ordering air strikes.

We believe  that there is an imperative need for committed peace and social justice groups  to organize united mass actions to demand that the United States  stay completely out of the conflict. That means: no special forces, no ground  troops, no military advisers, no air strikes, no “training,” no “ intelligence  gathering,” no drones, no weapons and no money to any belligerent forces.  Actions in the streets have already begun. Antiwar vigils have taken place in  Washington and  local demonstrations are planned for the weekend of June 21–22 in many  cities.

Peace  activists need to reach out to unions, communities of color, students, the  feminist and LGBT movements, the environmentalist movement, the faith community,  veterans and other groups. Representatives of those
constituencies need to  meet together and come to agreement on mass actions in the streets to oppose any  U.S. involvement in  Iraq. There is no alternative to unity and there is no time more important to forge that unity than  now.
If you and/or your organization agree with  this perspective, please let us hear from you.

Imagine how much stronger the  U.S. antiwar movement would  be today if its major formations joined together to issue a Call for united  demonstrations on both coasts to demand an end to U.S. intervention in Iraq.  Such a Call would not, of course,  preclude additional actions being organized independently by participating  groups, but would result in an urgently needed national focus that would have  the potential of bringing huge masses of people into the  streets.

Issued by the Labor Fightback Network.

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