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IMPERIALISM BY ANY NAME: THE U.S., THE "UNITED NATIONS" & IRAQ (english)
by Workers World
Email: boston (nospam) workers.org
06 Oct 2003
IMPERIALISM BY ANY NAME: THE U.S., THE "UNITED NATIONS" & IRAQ
By Fred Goldstein
Via Workers World News Service
Reprinted from the Oct. 9, 2003
issue of Workers World newspaper
IMPERIALISM BY ANY NAME: THE U.S., THE "UNITED NATIONS" & IRAQ
By Fred Goldstein
Secretary of State Colin Powell has been globe trotting and working
overtime to negotiate a United Nations resolution on Iraq acceptable to France, Germany and Russia. His goal is to give some "legal" cover for other governments to send troops and money to bolster the crisis-ridden U.S. occupation regime, which is under daily attack from the Iraqi resistance.
The struggle between Washington and Paris over the terms of the
resolution and the prospect of UN intervention has drawn sections of the anti-war movement into their own debate over this question. Some
sections have gravitated to the position that the UN should be given the administration of Iraq in order to replace or dilute the power of the U.S.-created Coalition Provisional Authority.
The much-publicized pronouncements by French President Jacques Chirac--that there must a rapid transition to Iraqi "sovereignty" and the UN
must occupy a "vital role" in the political process and reconstruc tion effort--are now being adopted, with variations, by sections of the movement.
Some of the openly social-democratic forces are simply signing on to an imperialist solution. Others argue that the most urgent task is to
weaken and end the Pentagon's harsh absolute rule and that the Iraqi
state has been smashed and society so fragmented under the occupation
that Iraqi self-determination cannot practically apply right now. Some
have even drawn the conclusion that "Bring the troops home" is an
Thus, there is a search for some illusory third way that seeks to avoid imperialist oppression, but in fact leaves the imperialists as the dominant force in Iraq, directly or indirectly.
WAR AND SANCTIONS WITH UN LABEL
A simple exercise of near-term memory should be sufficient to utterly
reject a UN takeover as the solution in Iraq. It was under UN auspices
that world imperialism and its clients, led by the Pentagon, carried out a 42-day air war against Iraq in 1991 that destroyed its basic
infrastructure, including its water supply system, and killed an
estimated 200,000 people. Iraq was left poisoned with radiation from
thousands of depleted-uranium shells.
And it was the UN that approved the 13-year sanctions regime. This was a true cam paign of mass destruction. It killed an estimated 1.5 million people, including 500,000 children, many of whom died because medicine, water purification instruments and chemicals, and other basics were embargoed. For most of those 13 years, the U.S. and British air forces carried out regular bombings in the so-called no-fly zones, under the false but unchallenged claim that they were acting pursuant to a UN resolution.
And finally, it was the UN Security Council that after the latest war
passed the resolution legalizing Washington's role of Occupation
Authority for one year, acquiescing in its military, political and
economic control over Iraq. The occupation status is renewable after a
year based upon consultation.
FRANCE, RUSSIA, GERMANY STOOD TO LOSE BY WAR
All this seems to have been obscured since last March, when the UN
Security Council tersely refused to sanction the Bush administration's
unilateral, unprovoked war of colonial aggression against Iraq. With
U.S. imperialism supported only by its underling, Tony Blair of Britain, the Security Council has since been viewed as an "anti-war" force by some.
In reality, the post-war struggle between France, Germany and Russia on the one hand and Washington and Lon don on the other over the role of the UN is a continuation of the pre-war struggle that led to the final refusal to endorse the war.
In the political sphere, this is a struggle by the leading imperialist
powers of continental Europe to contain Washington in its drive to
strengthen its absolute world domination, as outlined in the Bush
National Security Strategy document of September 2002.
In the economic sphere, where the tensions are greatest, the resistance in the Security Council to the war was really a resistance by French, Russian and German transnational corporations to being displaced or shut out by U.S. corporate power, enforced and protected by the Pentagon.
The French oil giant TotalFinElf had a $4-billion contract to develop
Iraq's Majnoon oil field. Russian oil giant Lukoil had a $20-billion
contract to drill the West Qurna oilfield and Zarubneft had a concession to drill the bin Umar oilfield. These companies had spent years working out these agreements. In addition, Iraq owed Russia between $7 billion and $12 billion. Their only hope to execute the agreements and recoup their loans was to have the sanctions lifted. Once the Pentagon moved and the Baathist regime was overthrown, the U.S. authorities would take control of Iraq's oil and finances and would inevitably cut down or totally exclude their rivals.
German interests in Iraq were considerable. According to an article in
the Washington Times published back on Feb. 20, "direct two-way trade
between Germany and Iraq amounts to about $350 million annually, while
another $1 billion is sold via third countries." Iraq was prepared to
"give priority" to German companies at the annual Baghdad trade fair in November 2001, in order to encourage German opposition to the war and deepen the split with Washington, according to the Times. "Some 101 German companies were represented at the Baghdad exposition, including companies offering air-conditioning equipment, energy and transportation services, cosmetics, textiles and other products."
In addition, as revealed in the 12,000-page arms declaration that the
Iraqi government gave to UN weapons inspectors in December 2002, German corporations were "the market leaders in supplying Iraq, even in the decade after the Gulf war," continued the Times. The document listed "80 German firms" as suppliers of weapons and industrial devices. Iraq's debt to Germany was undisclosed but was said to be significant.
The French, German and Russian governments were stalling for time, for
more inspections, for overflights, for any means to stop the war and
lift the sanctions--not out of concern for the Iraqi people but because they did not want to lose their stake in the profits.
EUROPEAN POWERS SCHEME TO REGAIN POSITION THROUGH UN
The struggle today over transferring authority to the UN in the post-war period is really about trying to regain positions lost. A March 25
dispatch in the April 17 edition of Alexander's Gas & Oil
Connections, a widely read industry publication, said: "Worried that it could be shut out of business deals in post-war Iraq, France is drawing up plans to win French companies access to lucrative oil and reconstruction contracts, officials said. The government is determined that French companies will be part of the rebuilding of Iraq, despite President Jacques Chirac's opposition to the war."
The publication reported that "a meeting between France's most powerful business federation, government leaders and the French-Iraq Association for Economic Cooperation was scheduled for April 3." It went on, "France opposes any U.S. reconstruction plan that would sideline United Nations development agencies, multilateral organizations and non-governmental aid groups."
Thus the French ruling class was plotting to get back into Iraq when the war was still on. And a key to their plan was to use the United Nations. The same can undoub tedly be said for the Russian and German bosses and bankers. Their problem was that the rapid dominance of the U.S. in the air and ground war quickly gave the Pentagon a lock on the entire operation in Iraq. All the other imperialists were shut out. Even those U.S. firms that were not closely tied to the Bush administration were being shut out, not to speak of the French, Russians and Germans.
So dominant was the U.S. after taking Baghdad that the UN Security
Council pas sed the above-mentioned resolution to ratify the U.S.-
British occupation and "grant" them complete financial, political and
economic control over Iraq for 12 months.
IRAQI RESISTANCE OPENS DOOR
But the Iraqi resistance has turned the tide. With the U.S. military
suffering casualties daily and with general hatred of the U.S.
occupation growing--along with mass unemployment, poverty and social
disintegration in Iraq--the French, German and Russian governments and
business magnates are trying to utilize Washington's crisis to push
their way back into Iraq via the UN. Their motivation is now even
greater. Before the war they were constrained in their profit taking by the independent government of Iraq. Now they will deal with a compliant colonial regime that will multiply their profits.
As things stand now, the U.S. Agency for International Development is
giving out the contracts. It is handing out billions to Dick Cheney's
cronies at Halliburton and its subsidiary Brown & Root; to Bechtel,
Fluor, Stevedoring Services of America and MCI-WorldCom, among others.
More U.S. firms are greedily lining up to cash in on the $87 billion
Congress is about to vote on.
The other imperialists want to change that around. They want UN agencies to grant contracts under the supervision of the Security Council, meaning that U.S. and British monopolies will have to share with French, Russian and German capitalists. This would be the wedge by which these rival bandits could force their way into the picture. They need to be on the ground in Iraq with authority and access to the political and economic process. Only in this way can they make their connections, build their own factions, and take part in shaping the puppet colonial administration. Above all, they want to keep their eye on the development of the oil fields.
SECURITY COUNCIL: A GROUP OF PREDATORY POWERS
The argument over whether the UN should take over Iraq is completely
obscured by the very term "United Nations." First of all, what is meant is really the UN Security Council. But the Security Council is not an independent entity. UN Secretary General Kofi Annan must do what he is told by the U.S. government or other imperialist governments. He has no genuine authority. The Security Council members--aside from the People's Republic of China, which is not taking part in the horse trading--are independent imperialist states, each with its own predatory interests.
Keeping that in mind, and eliminating the obfuscating term "UN," the two sides of the argument reduce to the following: Should Iraq remain in the exclusive grip of the Pentagon, its corporate masters on Wall Street and the U.S. oil industry, along with their junior colonialist partners in London--or should the Iraqi people be set upon by the entire collection of imperialists in the Security Council and be picked apart and exploited by a "multilateral" gang of corporate cutthroats operating through an international front agency?
In either case, the Iraqi people would still be subjected to super-
exploitation and domination by imperialist capital. In either case, the Iraqi people would be denied true sovereignty and self-determination.
The role of the anti-war movement is to fight to get U.S. troops out of Iraq and to oppose the sending in of any other occupation troops under the guise of "peacekeepers." The absolute precondition for the Iraqi people to regain their independence and sovereignty as a nation is to expel imperialism and its instruments of military, political and
economic power from their country.
It is certain that the Iraqis will never get sovereignty through a
puppet regime that has decreed that the world of international capital
has the right to purchase 100-percent ownership of any enterprise in the country, except for its oil. Most of the anti-colonial movements of the 20th century struggled to limit the penetration of capital from the imperialist powers. This was elementary national self-defense against economic enslavement. The 1958 revolution in Iraq was the beginning of the struggle to bar the door to foreign corporate takeover. Now that door is wide open.
BRING THE TROOPS HOME!
How the Iraqis will reconstitute themselves after the terrible blows of imperialism, the destruction of their independent state, and the
devastation to their national development delivered by the war and occupation cannot be known now. Whether they can find a way to soon bridge the gaps and unite in the face of imperialism in order to rebuild, or whether there is to be strife and conflict until the situation is resolved, only the future will tell.
One thing is for sure. The only type of leadership that can regain the
sovereignty and independence of Iraq is one that will emerge in the
struggle against imperialism, not one that collaborates with it.
Whatever hardships they may endure, it is for the Iraqis to determine
their own future, free of the pernicious influence of imperialism. The
role of the anti-war movement is to get imperialism--whether in its
"unilateral" or "multilateral" form--off the backs of the Iraqi people.
- END -
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