Fundamentalist onslaught in Iraq: made in USA

Share with your friends


Ali supported the U.S. overthrow of Saddam Hussein and worked for “Operation Iraqi Freedom.” All the more reason for his outrage at the destruction unfolding in Iraq. Now living in the Seattle area, he says, “I lost family! I lost my country! And all for this?”

In mid-June, the Al Qaeda split-off, Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), took over a huge swath of northern and western Iraq. Thousands were killed, hundreds massacred after surrendering. An estimated 1.5 million became refugees almost overnight. The corporate media promptly took up the tale that Iraq’s sectarian warfare is centuries old and not “our” responsibility. Many liberal pundits blame Bush I and II, and give Obama a pass. Such assertions are simply lies.

It is the years of U.S. war and military assaults on Iraq, especially since the 2003 invasion, that are the primary cause of the current bloodbath. More of the same will make things worse. Only a fight by ordinary people in the Middle East and the USA can put a stop to the insanity of a U.S. imperialism that is ruinous to both.

Military terror. Before imperialism reared its ugly head, the region’s many peoples co-existed more or less peaceably. Britain and France carved up the former Ottoman Empire after World War I with divide-and-conquer in mind. For instance, the Kurds were split up between Iraq, Iran, Syria and Turkey, although they have the right of self-determination to form a nation.

It was 23 years of U.S. military assault which wreaked havoc. In 1991, the Bush senior administration told Saddam Hussein it would look the other way if Iraq annexed Kuwait, then launched war against him for doing it. Several hundred thousand Iraqis were killed. Over a decade of brutal economic sanctions and periodic bombing by both Democrat and Republican White Houses followed, that killed an estimated one million people, half of them children.

The 2003 U.S. invasion introduced a new low — the doctrine of pre-emptive attack. It was justified by Iraq’s supposed possession of “weapons of mass destruction,” later exposed as an neocon lie. At least half a million more people perished.

The U.S. occupation government blocked the development of democratic rights; it kept Saddam Hussein’s anti-union law, treated all members of Saddam’s Baath party as enemies, and dismantled the Iraqi army, forcing thousands into unemployment and want.

A new regime was set up on a sectarian basis, with religious Shia authorities in control and cruelly dominating Sunni Arabs and Kurds. Obviously, no separation of mosque and state here! The occupation fostered multiple massacres, destroyed the city of Fallujah, and introduced even harsher torture methods than in Saddam’s infamous prisons.

The U.S. defined all opponents of its rule as enemy “terrorists,” and particularly repressed leftwing secular elements as its greatest foes. That is why the political landscape moves ever rightward today.

In the occupation’s image. The current government headed by Nouri al-Maliki has embedded all these policies. Built on the occupation’s religious segregation, it has locked minority Kurds and Sunni Muslims out of any meaningful role, and severely repressed the Sunni population as a whole.

Brave and ongoing popular movements for a secular, egalitarian state have fought back. But they face great odds. An Iraqi Spring movement rose in 2010, with demonstrations around the country. Starting in early 2013, a protest movement against Maliki’s dictatorial methods against Sunnis took off in the northern part of the country. The regime responded with live ammunition and also called them “terrorists.”

ISIS first gained wide attention in Syria. Its foreign fighters, bankrolled by U.S. allies Saudi Arabia and Qatar, stormed into Syria, pretending to aid revolutionary rebels fighting the dictator Bashar al-Assad. Soon ISIS was attacking rebel militias and civilians and enjoying immunity from Assad’s bombs.

This year, ISIS became active across the border in Iraq, where the governments’ bloody repression, mass arrests and torture of Sunni Muslims has driven some into an alliance with the ISIS fundamentalists. This included former members of the Baath party, the military, and the Sunni tribal-based Awakening Councils, which expelled Al Qaeda from Iraq in 2005.

These developments echo the path of U.S. and Israeli policies, which bankrolled Islamic fundamentalists from the Taliban in Afghanistan in the 1980s, to Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Israeli-occupied Gaza. Regardless of the conflict and blood shed by these right-wing groups, imperialists favor them over secular, working-class and leftwing anti-imperialists.

Revolutionary solidarity needed. Two messages on this excruciating time for Iraq are important. One, “On Recent Events in Mosul and Other Cities in Iraq” by the Federation of Workers’ Councils and Unions in Iraq, stresses that Iraqis generally reject ISIS as well as the Maliki regime. It calls out the U.S. government as the prime cause of sectarian divisions, and says the working class in Iraq is the “only force that can end fragmentation and division.” It rejects intervention by the U.S. and Gulf regimes, and denounces Obama’s early press release expressing concern about the oil wells, but not the fleeing refugees. It condemns Maliki’s brutal sectarianism, and calls for clear international support to the peoples of Iraq.

“For a Revolutionary Secular Democratic Sovereign and Independent Iraq,” prepared by six revolutionary Marxist and socialist organizations in the region, details many of the atrocities of ISIS, especially against women, some of whom have committed suicide to escape ISIS rule. Their statement points to the need for a radical leftist movement in Iraq as the only solution. It condemns all military intervention and calls on “revolutionary left and democratic, feminist, and progressive groups in the Arab region” to work together “to defeat the sectarian/confessional threat.”

What U.S. and other Western progressives can do is actively support just such a movement in Iraq and the Mideast. This means denouncing Obama and the Democrats for their claims of U.S. “national security interests” in Iraq. It means standing against U.S. plans of global dominance, no matter which party pushes them.

U.S. troops, ships, mercenaries and drones out of the Middle East.

Massive U.S. humanitarian aid for refugees throughout the region — and U.S. vets.

Open U.S. borders to Iraqi and Syrian refugees.

Tax war profiteers.

For a secular, socialist, egalitarian Mideast.

Send feedback to the author at

To listen to this and other articles from this issue, click here.

Share with your friends