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   Vol. 67/No. 13           April 21, 2003  
U.S. occupation and Hussein regime
(Reply to a reader)
In a letter in this issue, Jonathan Borchardt expresses disagreement with the Militant’s stance on the U.S.-led war on Iraq. He argues that while the government established by Washington in Iraq will be imperialist-dominated, it "will still be a step forward for the Iraqi people." He writes, "The Iraqis will use our standards of democracy against the U.S. rulers." Washington’s record demonstrates the opposite, however.

The biggest enemy facing the Iraqi people, as well as workers and farmers in the United States and elsewhere, is imperialism. That is the necessary starting point for working people fighting oppression.

Washington, London, Paris, and other "democratic" imperialist powers today are the main source of exploitation, national oppression, and other forms of reaction in the world. They are the biggest threat to workers’ rights and to democratic rights wrested by working people.

As Borchardt indicates, the U.S. rulers’ aims in Iraq have to do with their calculated economic interests.

This puts the imperialists in direct conflict with the interests of workers and farmers everywhere. That is why Washington and its rivals mask their real aims, posing as a force for "democracy." To win acceptance for their assault on Iraq, they point to the brutality of the capitalist government there and claim their invasion and "regime change" will open the door to democracy in Iraq.

The phrase "our standards of democracy" is an abstraction that blurs an important class question. That is, working people and the employer class have completely different standards of democracy. For example, bosses commonly regard unionists who go on strike as a threat to their "democratic" order. They have no compunction about declaring such action illegal or using cops and thugs to break workers’ heads if they think they can get away with it. Workers, on the other hand, view the right to strike as a basic weapon to protect their living standards, job conditions, and dignity.

Likewise, on an international scale, the existence of "democratic" imperialist powers is based on the ruthless plunder of the semicolonial world--from the virtual slave conditions facing Haitian sugar plantation workers in the U.S.-dominated Dominican Republic to the brutal actions of French imperialism in much of Africa. In the Mideast, British imperialism drew the borders of Iraq and, under the "civilized" regime of Winston Churchill, subjected the Iraqi people to poison gas attacks. Those are their standards of democracy.

Nor is bourgeois democracy an inherent quality of imperialist countries. The rulers will turn to fascist methods when their rule is threatened--as they have done in the past--unless working people succeed in taking power.

The U.S.-led takeover of Iraq is an assault on the democratic rights of the people of that country, beginning with the fundamental right to national sovereignty, a weapon that working people can use to fight both the imperialist oppressors and their domestic exploiters.

The last thing the U.S. rulers want is for Iraqi working people to stand up and act in their own interests. In 1991, after the U.S. armed forces attacked Iraq in the Gulf War, the Kurdish peoples in northern Iraq and Shiites in the south--urged on by Washington--rose up against Hussein, only to have their rebellions drowned in blood as Washington refused their call for help.

For years the U.S. rulers had cultivated ties with the Hussein regime when its interests coincided with theirs. They backed Baghdad’s 1980-88 war on Iran after the popular revolution that overthrew the U.S.-backed shah.

Class-conscious workers support oppressed nations unconditionally against imperialist attack, regardless of their political regime. In 1937, for instance, Russian revolutionary leader Leon Trotsky backed China--then under the boot of Chiang Kai-shek’s capitalist dictatorship--in its war against the assault by Japanese imperialism. China’s victory in that war put workers and peasants there in a stronger position to win national sovereignty, oust Chiang, and overthrow capitalism.

Likewise, a military victory by Baghdad over the imperialist invaders would have strengthened the hand of working people around the world, including the struggles of the Iraqi people against the regime.

Some might argue that conditions in Iraq were so repressive under the Hussein regime that it was impossible for working people there to fight for their rights and that, however self-interested, Washington’s intervention is a lesser evil. But that is not true. There is no stand-in for the workers and peasants themselves. Imperialism cannot advance their interests against Iraq’s capitalist government, any more than the regime could defend them against the imperialist assault. Only the workers and farmers of Iraq can win their own freedom.

Because of the decades of terror by the Baathist party-police state, the 12-year devastation by imperialist bombing and economic sanctions, and now the U.S. conquest, it will take time for working people in Iraq to recover from these blows and move forward. What will be decisive is the aid they will receive from the struggles of our class throughout the Mideast and around the world.  
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