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A socialist newsweekly published in the interests of working people
Vol. 67/No. 9March 24, 2003


Come to a meeting in New York:
The working-class response to imperialism's assault
on Iraq and deepening world depression
Speaker: Jack Barnes, Socialist Workers Party.

Washington drives toward
war on Iraq, Iran, north Korea

Washington targets Iran as 'nuclear threat'
North Korea: U.S. mounts military provocations

lead article
Iraq: British, U.S. forces
move toward invasion
Protesters fill Cairo International Stadium in Egypt's capital on February 27 to oppose drive to war against Iraq. Unions, opposition parties, and the Muslim Brotherhood organized the rally. Slogans oppose military strikes on Iraq.

U.S. and British warplanes have tripled their air patrols over southern Iraq to several hundred sorties a day.

Jockeying among the imperialist powers in the bitter contest for the purchasing of allies has sharpened. French president Jacques Chirac declared March 10 that his government would veto a U.S.-British-sponsored resolution at the UN authorizing war, while insisting that Iraq must be "disarmed." U.S. secretary of state Colin Powell said, "I would not be surprised if they vetoed," and warned that "France would not be looked at favorably in many parts" if it went ahead.

Near the Kuwaiti border with Iraq, final preparations for a U.S.-led assault have been moving apace. With U.S. helicopters buzzing overhead, "military logistics convoys clog the six-lane road stretching through the desert to the Iraqi border, which has been deserted by civilian traffic," a Boston Globe correspondent reported March 8.

UN soldiers monitoring the border have reported that U.S. marines had cut several large gaps in the electric fence along the border that were large enough to accommodate tanks.

Iraq reported that three civilians had been killed March 6 in air strikes by British bombers. A spokesman for the U.S. Central Command said the targets were mobile surface-to-air missile launchers and antiaircraft artillery in the southern "no-fly zone." For more than a decade, U.S. and British warplanes have imposed a "no-fly zone" over most of northern and southern Iraq.

U.S. and British planes have been conducting a steady bombing campaign against Iraq’s military and communications facilities. A U.S. airforce spokesman said that every known fixed air defense in southern Iraq has been hit over the past several months.

Pentagon officials have announced that U.S. and British troops in the region, now numbering about 300,000, are ready to launch an assault.

General Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, reiterated that the massive air attack has as its goal "shocking the Iraqi leadership into submission."

The plan calls for launching 3,000 "precision-guided" bombs and 600–800 cruise missiles in the first 48 hours, followed quickly by ground operations. That would be 10 times the number of missiles launched in the entire 39 days of the 1991 Gulf war.

U.S. officials said their goal was "a short conflict" with minimal U.S. casualties. Despite talk about "precision bombing," however, Gen. Thomas Franks, head of the U.S. Central Command, warned that "he cannot promise low numbers of civilians casualties" in Iraq, as one news dispatch put it.  
Turkish government under pressure
In recent days, U.S. officials have stated that a second front against Iraq from the north will be opened whether or not Turkey’s parliament reverses its decision not to allow use of its territory to U.S. forces to attack Iraq. Washington was caught off guard when the Turkish parliament rejected its demand to use Turkey as a staging area for an assault by thousands of U.S. troops on Iraq. U.S. ships had already begun unloading heavy equipment at Turkish ports in anticipation of the vote. Dozens of ships remain waiting off the coast to be unloaded.

In exchange for the use of its territory, Washington had agreed to provide Turkey with $15 billion to cushion the impact of the war on the country’s weakened economy. The U.S. government is now using the threat of withdrawing this offer of "aid" as a club against Turkey, if the parliament does not reverse itself. The new Turkish prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said the legislature may rediscuss the issue after the UN Security Council meets.

Meanwhile, the Turkish armed forces deployed the 20th Armored Brigade toward the border with Iraq March 8. It was the largest of recent troop movements in Turkey, consisting of 300 vehicles including tanks, armored personnel carriers, jeeps, and ambulances.

In the event of a U.S.-led attack on Iraq, the government in Ankara has threatened to deploy thousands of troops into the Kurdish-administered area of northern Iraq. Their goal would be to prevent the establishment of an independent Kurdish authority and to occupy the oil-rich centers of Mosul and Kirkuk.

U.S. officials have been openly discussing the kind of occupation government they plan to install in Iraq after the invasion. Last month, in a blueprint leaked to the Washington Post, the administration said that it would take "unilateral control" of Iraq and the creation of a new government would be directed by some "yet-to-be-named American civilian."

Some commentators have reported that the choice could be a U.S. army general of Lebanese origin known by his colleagues as the "mad Arab." Lt. General John Abizaid has been appointed as second-in-command to Gen. Franks, who is heading the assault on Iraq. The post was specially created for Abizaid, who is fluent in Arabic and has made frequent "visits" to northern Iraq before and after the 1991 war.

Abizaid commanded an army battalion during the 1983 U.S. invasion of Grenada. He also served in Iraq in the late 1980s and in U.S. occupation forces in Kosova and Bosnia in the 1990s.  
Sharpening imperialist rivalry
The diplomatic front has been marked by the competing interests between imperialist rivals--Washington and London leading one side, Paris and Berlin the other. This was seen in the sharp tone of the debate at the UN Security Council following a recently televised address by President Bush.

"Vitriolic" was how the March 8 issue of the London Daily Telegraph described remarks made by Britain’s foreign minister Jack Straw aimed at French foreign minister Dominique de Villepin, during a Security Council meeting. Straw repeatedly addressed the French foreign minister in a patronizing way, using the familiar "Dominique." He dismissed the framework of the French position as "a false choice."

French president Jacques Chirac declared March 10 that his government would use its UN Security Council veto to block a U.S.- and British-backed resolution authorizing an invasion of Iraq. "Whatever happens, France will vote ‘no,’ he said."

The French and German governments have instead pressed for a resolution stating that UN "weapons inspectors" should be allowed more time to continue roving through Iraq, with the goal of forcing the Iraqi government to "disarm."

Paris and Berlin, while posing as favoring "peace" in contrast with the U.S. government, have huge stakes in Iraq, including lucrative oil contracts in that country that would evaporate if Washington took over Iraq.

In his televised address two days before the Security Council meeting, U.S. president George Bush declared that Washington would press for a resolution authorizing war against Iraq even if it might be defeated. "It’s time for people to show their cards," Bush said. Asked if he was concerned about attacking Iraq without backing from the Security Council, Bush answered, "When it comes to our security we don’t really need anybody’s permission."

Meanwhile, U.S. officials have been "lobbying" hard to get the nine votes needed for a majority in a Security Council vote. The meaning of this euphemism was made clear when Bush remarked that if Mexico or other governments opposed Washington, "there will be a certain sense of discipline." Mexico is one of 10 rotating members of the Security Council.

A U.S. diplomat quoted in the British Economist warned Mexican officials that failure to support Washington’s war effort could "stir up feelings" against Mexicans in the United States. He compared the situation to the detention of Japanese-Americans in concentration camps after the U.S. declaration of war against Japan during World War II.  
Anti-French chauvinism
One aspect of Washington’s drive to war with Iraq has been increased expressions of anti-French chauvinism. An article in the London Telegraph described French foreign minister Dominique de Villepin as "The Frenchman pointing a gun at America’s back."

The March 1 Boston Globe ran a story about a restaurateur from California who opened a cooking school in France that caterers to students mostly from the United States. In early January its owner received a cancellation from a group in Arizona saying they "refuse to support anything French." Within a month the owner received 24 additional cancellations.

In West Palm Beach, a group of people poured French champagne in the streets. A Boston restaurant halted orders of wine from Bordeaux and Burgundy. Conservative columnist George Will denounced de Villepin as "oleaginous" (oily). In Beaufort, South Carolina, a restaurant owner changed the menu to list "freedom fries" instead of French fries. On one episode in the TV show "The Simpsons," the French were described as "cheese-eating surrender monkeys."

Such expressions of American nationalism have marked several recent pro-war demonstrations, pegged as rallies to "support our troops." The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette described a March 8 rally of 2,500 in that city as "a sea of American flags and signs protesting everyone from Saddam Hussein to the nation of France." Rally organizers and many of the participants asserted that the rally was "neither for or against the war" but just in support of "our troops."

In Dallas, hundreds of people of Kurdish origin rallied in support of the U.S.-led war against Iraq. A "support our troops" rally of 5,000 was organized in Omaha, Nebraska. Former Democratic senator Robert Kerrey told the crowd that if "our commander-in-chief orders our sons and daughters into war...America will come together."

Kerrey responded to the ongoing peace demonstrations, whose predominant theme has been a pacifist "no war" slogan. "No one is here today because they like war," he said.

Similarly, when asked whether the massive peace actions around the world on February 15–16 would affect his decision to go to war, Bush retorted, "I don’t like war," and argued that Iraq must be disarmed to "keep the United States safe." One sign in the rally in Pittsburgh read, "Give peace a chance! Get Saddam out of Iraq!"

Thousands have continued to turn out at peace rallies across the country, from a March 5 national day of student actions, to celebrations of International Women’s Day on Mach 8. National demonstrations will take place March 15 in Washington, D.C., and San Francisco, and in New York on March 22 (see coverage of March 5 actions on page 5).
Related articles:
Washington targets Iran as ‘nuclear threat’
North Korea: U.S. mounts military provocations
Bring the troops home now!

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