100 U.S. and British warplanes
launch massive air assault on Iraq
White House leads campaign
for imperialist war in Mideast
Socialists campaign against U.S. war moves
BY PATRICK O’NEILL
On September 5 some 100 U.S. and British warplanes attacked air defenses in the west of Iraq, striking as close as 50 miles from the Jordanian border.
In the little-publicized action, nine U.S. F-15 Strike Eagles and three British Tornadoes took off from airfields in Kuwait, backed up by dozens of planes performing such tasks as fighter cover, midair refueling, and reconnaissance.
The aircraft dropped their precision-guided bombs on an Iraqi command and control facility and military airfield--the major such installation in the western region of the country.
U.S. and British planes carried out another bombing assault, this time southeast of Baghdad, on September 9. The "past few weeks have seen a resurgence of [hostile] activity in the no-fly zones," reported one major British daily.
U.S. military officials are organizing a simultaneous buildup of heavy military equipment in the Arab-Persian Gulf region.
In contrast to the United States, where the scale of the September 5 raid went virtually unreported, prominent papers in the United Kingdom described the attack in some detail. Its military purpose "could have been to improve control over Iraqi airspace ahead of military action," commented the London-based Financial Times. "That would make it easier to insert troops such as special forces without being detected. Search-and-rescue missions for coalition troops could also more easily be mounted from Jordan"--an indication of collaboration by the Jordanian regime with the imperialist war preparations.
The London Daily Telegraph reported that the raid "appeared to be a prelude to the type of special forces operations that would have to begin weeks before a possible American-led war."
At the same time, the Pentagon has continued to shift heavy armor, ammunition and other equipment to the region, and between the Gulf states of Qatar and Kuwait. "We have done a lot with pre-positioned stocks in the Gulf, making sure that they are in the right spot to support whatever the president wants to do," said U.S. army secretary Thomas White.
Having exhausted the capacity of its own fleet to carry war materiel to the region, the U.S. Navy has reportedly booked a series of giant commercial transporters to carry tanks, artillery, ammunition, and backup vehicles.
Construction at Qatar base
While U.S. forces use Saudi Arabia to patrol the imperialist-imposed no-fly zone in southern Iraq, the Saudi stance is that Washington and London cannot use their airfields and territory as a staging ground for a massive new assault on Iraq. So U.S. forces have begun a forced march to expand their facilities in Qatar. A "concerted U.S. construction program" has focused on the 12,500-foot runway and hangars at the Al-Udeid base, the British Independent reported.
U.S.-led attacks from the south would draw on the dozens of U.S. and British aircraft stationed in Kuwait. "A northern attack into Iraq would be likely to come through Turkey," the Independent stated, while "Bahrain would be an ideal base for air and naval operations."
These moves continue despite the stated opposition, to one degree or another, by the governments of these countries to the war preparations. In face of its overwhelming military and political influence, Washington expects them to "come on board," reported the Independent.
Washington has adopted a similar stance toward its imperialist rivals in Europe. U.S. president George Bush warned them on September 4 that "their credibility is at stake." Vice President Richard Cheney said in a September 8 television appearance, "We are in a place now that some...of our European friends, for example, have difficulty adjusting to.
"They also really don’t have the capacity to do anything about the threat," he said, rubbing salt into their realization of their military inferiority with respect to Washington. "They could participate in an international coalition, but left to their own devices, they can’t deal with Saddam Hussein."
British prime minister Anthony Blair is so far the only enthusiastic public backer of the war drive. Blair declared September 6 that London would be at Washington’s side "when the shooting starts."
Muting its previous statements of opposition, the French government has called for a plan involving UN Security Council backing for the use of military force. The proposal hinges on aggressive UN inspections of alleged weapons sites in Iraq--a procedure designed to provide a justification for an escalating assault.
White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said Bush was "pleased" with the French statement, Reuters reported. The official "hinted at the possibility of so-called coercive inspections in which foreign troops would be prepared to shoot their way into suspected weapons sites if denied access by Iraq."
On September 12 Bush took his campaign to the UN General Assembly, arguing for a military assault against Iraq on the basis of Baghdad’s alleged possession of "weapons of mass destruction."
Bipartisan support for drive to war
Confident of bipartisan support, the White House is pushing for a motion of approval in Congress. While Bush administration officials have made clear they don’t need the body’s endorsement to launch a war on Iraq, Bush "apparently feels it wise to win a renewal of the authorization Congress granted to remove Saddam during [Democratic president William] Clinton’s second term," Wall Street Journal columnist George Melloan wrote September 10.
Democratic leaders have made it clear they support the administration’s preparations for war, while quibbling over tactics. "I’m more concerned about getting this done right than getting it done quickly," said Thomas Daschle, leader of the Democratic majority in the Senate.
Robert Graham, the chairman of the Senate’s Intelligence Committee, told the New York Times September 9 that the Bush administration needs to develop a broader-based and more "aggressive war plan. Victory is going to be won on the offensive." The Democrat listed "Syria and Iran as countries that should be the first targets of any aggressive effort against state sponsors of terrorist activity," the Times reported.
Administration officials have primarily based their propaganda, not on accusations of some Iraqi involvement in the September 11 attacks, but on Baghdad’s alleged development of missile systems and biological, chemical, and nuclear warheads.
On September 8 several members of Bush’s "war cabinet," as the Washington Post put it, appeared on television shows to reiterate their case for "regime change," that is, the overthrow of Iraq’s government and the installation of a compliant pro-U.S. regime enforced by imperialist bayonets.
On NBC’s "Meet the Press," Cheney declared that Iraqi president Saddam Hussein has refused "to comply with the United Nations Security resolutions" and has "aggressively sought to acquire chemical, biological and nuclear weapons" in the 11 years since the U.S.-led Gulf War.
"We’ve underestimated the extent of his [nuclear weapons] program," he said. Baghdad, he stated, is "actively and aggressively seeking to acquire nuclear weapons." Later, however, Cheney said the supposed evidence for this claim would remain "classified."
Three days earlier, Bush told a public meeting in Kentucky that "we cannot let the world’s worst leaders blackmail America, threaten America, or hurt America with the world’s worst weapons.... My job is to not only chase down those who have hit, but to anticipate. We’re a battleground."
The U.S rulers promoted commemorations of September 11 to boost their war preparations. In bipartisan ceremonies across the country, liberal and conservative politicians issued an orgy of patriotic speeches on defending an "America under attack," while the government used warnings about security to demonstratively deploy military planes in the urban skies, National Guard troops on city streets, and an aggressive police presence everywhere.
Going along with this America First theme, the AFL-CIO officialdom did its part by organizing Labor Day celebrations in many cities as patriotic, pro-government rallies.
At the event in New York, held in Battery Park, near the site of the former World Trade Center, the speakers--both capitalist politicians and union officials--addressed the theme of "honoring labor’s contribution" to the local response to the destruction of the twin towers. Rally organizers and speakers directed participants to applaud as U.S. military jets flew low overhead.
One year later: how communists responded to Washington’s war drive and September 11