The United States has supported brutal dictatorships around the world as it once enthusiastically supported Saddam Hussein. And it had nothing to do with weapons of mass destruction, stopping the spread of international terrorism or heaven forbid, establishing democracy. In reality, it was about installing a dependent pro-American regime in Baghdad and gaining strategic control over Iraq’s oil. We don’t need the Chilcot Enquiry findings to tell the world what the world already knows. We actually need the Chilcot Enquiry to help fuel the campaign to try Tony Blair as a war criminal.
The consequences of the invasion have been dramatic. Upwards of a million people killed and millions now living in exile. The complete destruction of Iraq’s economy. The collapse of basic services such as water and electricity. The disintegration of the institutions which held the country together and resulting sectarian strife of almost biblical proportions. All this more than a decade after the invasion and with untold billions of dollars poured into the country to try and keep it afloat. The current crisis has been described as an attempt by an Islamic fundamentalist army to take control of the country. To say that this is a gross exaggeration is an overstatement. The group in question, ISIS, are certainly playing the lead role but are being assisted by a generalised Sunni uprising against the regime in Baghdad. This includes remnants of the old Baathist regime, Sunni tribal groups and disaffected sections of the army. What unites them are grievances against the Shia dominated government in Baghdad; a regime propped up by Shia militias and American money. These grievances include turning the Sunni population into second class citizens in their own country, collusion between Shia death squads and the Iraqi army and the general malaise in which the country finds itself.
Iraq is no longer any kind of unitary state; that was smashed to pieces by the American invasion; rather a patchwork of ethnically divided regions. In fact ISIS have declared the establishment of an Islamic state stretching from Syria to Iraq. Putting it back together again will be extremely The starting point must be the creation of an inclusive, democratic and secular state. The conflict also highlights a wider issue. In the Arab world the main struggle is between the forces of secularism and that of Islamic fundamentalism. Secular forces embrace a wide range of movements and issues including progressive and left forces, those fighting for civil rights and the emancipation of women, for democracy and modernity. The main aim of the left is to ensure that in this struggle secularism triumphs and that the left achieve a leading role. Islamic fundamentalism is the polar opposite of this; authoritarian, socially conservative, anti-democratic, anti-modern and embracing a vision of society which is deeply reactionary. All conflicts in the Arab world; no matter how diverse; must be seen within this context.
Among the Sunni population of Iraq are many who do not want to see the establishment of an Islamic state and there is already some evidence of armed conflict between these forces and ISIS. While recognising the genuine grievances of the Sunni people and we should vigorously oppose ISIS and support those, mostly Baathist forces who oppose them. However, this conflict cannot be resolved without a political settlement in Baghdad. The starting point must be the removal of the Maliki Government. Although elected it is a government which lacks any real legitimacy; its victory obtained through a combination of bribery, electoral fraud and the repression of opponents. The aim must be to replace this by a government of national unity. Following, there must be a genuine programme of nation building at aimed at restoring the economy and infrastructure, and a political program which includes moving towards a more federal structure ensuring rights for all groups and communities within the country. American domination of the country must be brought to an end including the removal of American bases.
Ultimately, the future of Iraq can only be secured through the establishment of powerful left forces aiming to take the country down a very different road from that of the past. The country has a strong history of mass left movements particularly the Iraqi Communist Party, before it was destroyed by Saddam Hussein in open collusion with the CIA who supplied the regime with the names of tens of thousands of Iraqi communists. The corruption and brutality of the Baathist regime under Saddam Hussein brought the country to the edge of a precipice. The American attack on Iraq destroyed it. Only the re-establishment of a strong secular state, led by the left and moving in the direction of socialism can safeguard the interests of the Iraqi people.