With the vote in Parliament last week overwhelmingly in favour of involving the Royal Air Force in attacking the ISIS in Iraq, Britain has once more become involved in an extraordinarily complex and increasingly out-of-control situation in the Middle East. Owen Walsh of the Leeds Marxists looks at the latest development in Iraq.
With the vote in Parliament last week overwhelmingly in favour of involving the Royal Air Force in attacking the ISIS in Iraq, Britain has once more become involved in an extraordinarily complex and increasingly out-of-control situation in the Middle East.
This military action must be seen for what it is: intervention by a capitalist government in defence of the interests. The Tory-led Coalition cares not for the displaced Iraqi and Syrian masses and their suffering, but is primarily motivated by the needs of Western big business and by the requirement to maintain its sphere of influence in the region through the tottering Iraqi puppet government.
Arrogance and hypocrisy
It seems that, with their blind arrogance, Cameron and the other leaders of Western imperialism have learned little since 2003, apart perhaps from no longer underestimating the hostility of ordinary people to war. Following their embarrassing inability to gain support for intervention in Syria last year, the US and UK statesmen, in the run-up to this vote, led a media frenzy in favour of bombing. Obama, Cameron, et al. were beating the war drums for months in advance, buttering-up the public mood for intervention by revealing and condemning the brutal atrocities of the ISIS, in particular the beheading of innocent Western journalists.
But such crocodile tears are a blatant hypocrisy. The capitalist politicians claim to be morally appalled at beheadings, but who find no quarrel with the Saudi monarchy - allies of the USA and UK in the Middle East, and receives of vast amounts of arms from Western defence companies - who have beheaded with greater impunity for much longer than ISIS. The position of Cameron and co., therefore, is based on cynical calculation, not human compassion.
Of course, any support for Western bombing of Iraq is predicated on a complete misunderstanding of the nature of ISIS, the realities of ‘precision’ bombing and the reasons for the rise of the religious fundamentalism in the region. The simple fact is that ISIS is not an enemy that can be defeated by airborne firepower alone. They are a dispersed and small army, barely stretching into the tens of thousands, who operate in a guerrilla manner. When politicians talk of bombing ISIS bases, they say little of how these can be identified or even if significant ‘bases’ exist given the dispersed and disguised style of war being conducted.
ISIS: the child of imperialism
What’s more, so-called precision in these bombing actions invariably translates, in reality, to civilian casualties (the euphemism of ‘collateral’ damage) and even friendly fire. In the absence of a serious anti-imperialist and revolutionary force in the equation, these atrocities simply add further fuel to the sympathy for the Islamist fundamentalists. It is precisely the actions of the imperialists during the 2003 invasion of Iraq and its subsequent occupation - with mass civilian killings and the support for the Shia-dominated gangster regime of Maliki - that has created such deep divisions of sectarianism, driving thousands of Sunnis into the arms of the ISIS.
Imperialist policy - first in using Islamism as a weapon against regional revolutionary forces, and later destroying whole countries in order, ostensibly, to fight Islamism - has actually created the monster that is ISIS. ISIS is a creature of imperialism, and further imperialist attacks and adventures will only serve to exacerbate the crisis that the short-sighted actions of imperialism have created.
The truth is that as long as no revolutionary force is present – in the region or the world – offering a genuine salvation for the people of Iraq and Syria, independent of both Islamist and imperialist barbarity (which are anyway two sides of the same coin), no solution to this conflict will be found.
The fig leaf of "legality"
This is the political reality which must be presented to the labour movement in Britain. The parliamentary vote saw only 43 MPs vote against bombing Iraq, while 524 were for, with support given by the leaders of all the main three parties. This support for bombing in Iraq included, scandalously, the backing by Miliband, the leader of the Labour Party, who had previously made a big song-and-dance about his opposition to the deeply unpopular 2003 invasion of Iraq by his Blairite predecessors in New Labour. Before the vote, this time around, Ed Miliband had negotiated with Cameron a deal to support the proposal, excusing this with liberal nonsense about the legality of the action and the existence of an “international consensus” around it.
Yet despite all the talk of "legality" and "consensus", there remains an enormous confusion and lack of clarity over what exactly Britain is committing itself to. Will UK intervention be restricted to bombing, or is there the danger of "mission creep" and the eventual presence of boots on the ground? Will bombing be confined to Iraq, or is the latest intervention in Iraq only a precursor to action in Syria also? In Iraq, the government has apparently invited the "coalition of forces" in; but in Syria, this is not the case, with Assad nominally an enemy previously, but now a de facto ally of Western imperialism in the fight against the threat of ISIS.
Socialism or barbarism
Just as Miliband can only see this vote in terms of the legality offered by the United Nations and other pathetic vehicles for the international robbers, so he can only see the solution to the conflict within the confines of a capitalist system which has long exhausted its potential. We applaud the dissenting Labour MPs on their stands against the bombing campaign, but we emphasise once again that without a clear socialist and internationalist programme for the labour movement in Britain and across the world, none of the barbarities of capitalism can be defeated.
The solution to the bloody carnage in Iraq and Syria lies not within their disintegrating borders, but in the world working class, particularly in Egypt, Iran and Turkey, where an enormous revolutionary potential exists. At the same time, it is our duty to struggle against our own criminal imperialist governments, and fight for a socialist government that represents the interest of the working class in Britain and internationally. This is the most important solidarity that we can show to our brothers and sisters in the Middle East who are terrorised currently by ISIS, Assad, and all the reactionary forces in the region. Only the programme of international socialist revolution can offer a way out of the barbarism that capitalism, imperialism, and fundamentalism offers.