The 2003 invasion of Iraq was a disastrous and criminal adventure. Hundreds of thousands were killed or dislocated and millions continue to suffer the worst imaginable miseries and deprivations. Far from introducing “democracy,” the entire region was destabilized and plunged into an orgy of mayhem, sectarian killings, and poverty. Bush and the Republicans carry their share of the blame for this mess. But let’s not forget that before GW, Democrat Bill Clinton enforced ruthless sanctions on Iraq, leading to over a million dead, including 500,000 children. When confronted about this on 60 Minutes, then–Secretary of State Madeleine Albright replied that “the price was worth it.” And after Obama came to power riding a wave of anti-Bush sentiment—largely fueled by anger over the Iraq War—he and his Secretary of State Hillary Clinton continued the occupation for years. Obama has now bombed no less than 7 countries.
Republican or Democrat, Bush or Clinton; the names change but the fundamental interests remain the same: to serve and protect capital at home and abroad. Nixon, Reagan, and the Bushes are rightly reviled as enemies of the world’s workers. But it was “human rights” champion and Democrat, Jimmy Carter, who first began funding the mujahideen “freedom fighters” in Afghanistan—the predecessors of the Taliban and Al Qaeda. It was Democrats JFK and LBJ who sent hundreds of thousands troops and carpet bombed Indochina. And when liberal icon Franklin D. Roosevelt was confronted with the brutality of Nicaraguan dictator Anastasio Somoza, he allegedly quipped: “he may be a bastard, but he’s our bastard!” When it comes to siding against the workers, both big business parties’ hands are dripping with blood and dirt.
Obama systematically propped up the rotten Al Maliki government, which unleashed a sectarian war against Iraq’s Sunni minority. An eventual mass Sunni uprising led to the collapse of the central authority in many regions. But the only organized force ready to fill that vacuum of power was the reactionary thugs of ISIS. Earlier, a similar process led to the degeneration and stifling of the promising early stages of the Syrian Revolution. Atomized and weakened by decades of merciless repression, the potentially powerful Iraqi and Syrian working classes were left without strong and united labor unions and political parties of their own. The void was filled by the ruthless sectarian militias now terrorizing wide swathes of both countries. It is a humiliating condemnation of imperialism that, due to its actions, a group once denigrated by Obama as the “junior varsity team” of terrorist outfits is now giving the planet’s mightiest military force a run for its money. It also reveals how weak imperialism really is, despite its fearsome might on paper.
A “grand coalition”—including the powerhouses of Andorra and Malta—has now been formed to carry out airstrikes against ISIS. Several Gulf States and Saudi Arabia have also joined in. It is here that the hypocrisy of the imperialists reeks the most. Saudi Arabia is a suffocating medieval monarchy where women have precious few rights, people are beheaded for “sorcery” and stoned to death for adultery, and the immigrant population doing the most onerous work lives under an iron heel of repression and terror. Imperialism’s only guiding principle is the pursuit of profit and the defense and conquest of profitable spheres of influence. It has a logic of its own and has always used the most savage methods to enforce its rule. Witness the cruel barbarities of the Dutch, Portuguese, Spanish, French, Belgians, English, Americans, and others in their long and bloody history of foreign occupations.
Many Americans are justifiably horrified by the atrocities being perpetrated by the ISIS gangsters. But imperialist intervention, which led to this wreck in the first place, is no solution. There is no short-term way out. Only a socialist revolution can transform the region and the world. In recent years we have seen examples of the marvelous revolutionary traditions of the workers and youth in Tunisia, Egypt, Turkey, Iran, and Israel. Sooner or later these will be revived on a broader and grander scale. The comrades of the IMT are energetically engaged in building the necessary revolutionary leadership to ensure future movements result in socialist victory. The best way to help them is to build a strong Marxist cadre organization here in the US. Without this we will be unable to fight effectively for socialist policies within a future mass party of labor. A workers’ government in the US would have no interest in exploiting and oppressing our fellow workers. 150 years ago, Marx and Engels founded the First International. With inpiring mass movements erupting worldwide, from Mexico to Hong Kong, the words “workers of the world unite” are more urgent and relevant than ever.