The Bombing in Samarra and the Horrors of the U.S. Occupation of Iraq
Revolution #037, March 5, 2006, posted at revcom.us
The Iraqi people took another wrenching leap deeper into the hell of U.S. occupation in the early morning of February 22. A group of men dressed in police uniforms set off bombs that destroyed the golden dome of the Askariya shrine in Samarra, one of the most important mosques for Shi’a Islam. The reactionary attack on Askariya in turn triggered more reactionary violence aimed at the mosques, political parties, and ordinary people associated with Sunni Islam, the main rival trend to Shi’a.
As of February 25, two straight days of curfews had been declared in Baghdad and nearby areas, and some 200 people reportedly hadbeen killed, mainly Iraqi Sunnis. News headlines around the world described Iraq as "on the brink" of a civil war, and described U.S. efforts to politically hammer together a new client regime as "in ruins."
U.S. officials immediately blamed Al Qaeda in Iraq for the Askariya bombing, hypocritically posing as voices of moderation and tolerance while washing their hands of any responsibility. But first of all, it is not at all clear who carried out the February 22 bombing; different forces with different motives could have been involved. Second, whoever was responsible for this specific attack, the deeper reality is that this incident and the resulting bloodshed ultimately stem from the U.S.'s illegal, immoral, and unjust war in Iraq—just like the torture at Abu Ghraib prison, the rampant death squads, the use of white phosphorous bombs against people, and the other horrors—and literal war crimes of the U.S. occupation. And the continuing U.S. occupation can only mean worse nightmare and suffering for the masses of oppressed Iraqis.
Let's get into this more and look at what's happening here in the context of what the U.S. has been doing overall in Iraq and the region.
Iraq and the U.S. War for Unchallenged World Domination
Before the U.S. invasion, the Hussein regime enforced a particular structure of oppressive relations in Iraq, relying on a certain social base—the largely secular Baathist Party and its followers, which was mainly though not exclusively based in areas of the country where Sunni Islam was dominant and which violently suppressed a whole range of opposition groups, from communists to Kurdish nationalists to followers of Shi’a Islam. The Hussein regime never attempted to break with or even challenge its subordinate position in the world imperialist system, but it did try to play the rival imperialist powers off against each other for its own advantage. At different times and to different degrees, the U.S., the former Soviet Union, France, and others all extracted wealth from Iraq and utilized it as a tool in power struggles within the region. By the 1990s, with the collapse of the Soviet Union, the U.S. imperialists increasingly aimed to "liberate" Iraq—that is, to oust Hussein and make themselves the dominant and basically unchallenged power in Iraq, as part of a larger strategic design to transform the Middle East and bring it more firmly under U.S. domination.
With 9/11, the Bush regime saw its opportunity to do that. Despite the lack of any ties between the 9/11 attackers and Iraq, and despite the UN’s failure to find any "weapons of mass destruction" in Iraq, the U.S. launched an utterly unprovoked war against in Iraq in March of 2003. The Bush regime's goal behind the 2003 invasion of Iraq (aside from directly taking over a major oil producer) was to make Iraq into a kind of forward base for the U.S. military, as well as a "model regime" for reconfiguring the other societies and regimes in the Middle East— on the basis of intensified imperialist domination.The main Bush strategists and planners apparently thought the U.S. could relatively easily and quickly dismantle the old Baathist regime in Iraq and then hammer together and force on the Iraqi masses a new oppressive structure drawing in various anti-Hussein forces (with the possible role of former Baathists up for debate) and under the domination and protection of the U.S. military, which would have bases in the country.
To hammer together this new oppressive structure, the U.S. occupiers began with a reign of terror, both in areas where the Hussein regime had some strength and in other areas like Baghdad. At the same time the U.S. threw hundreds of thousands of people, who were formerly part of the Baathist social base, out of their jobs in the government, military and police, and state-owned enterprises. But in many respects this backfired, and many people who had been neutral or at least did not put up active opposition when Hussein came under attack came to hate the occupation forces and increasingly went into resistance against them. At the same time, the U.S. also unleashed and supported various ugly reactionary forces in Iraq, and have consistently tried to manipulate religious hatred and violence to serve its consolidation of a new regime. Sometimes this means stirring up "ethnic cleansing" against Sunnis and directly and militarily supporting the death squads located in the current government, sometimes propping up Sunni clerics and demanding "inclusion" for them in the regime; sometimes turning a blind eye to Shi'a militias, sometimes going against them; sometimes backing more secular forces, and so on. And sometimes doing all of the above simultaneously.
Despite the presence of over 140,000 troops, and despite their feverish efforts to sponsor one after another puppet and to manipulate ethnic and religious divisions, the imperialists have found to their dismay that this has not been the "cakewalk" they envisioned. The forging of the new repressive structure has not gone smoothly, and the level of anti-occupation resistance has surprised and stunned the U.S. imperialists, throwing into disarray many of their particular plans and stratagems.
The situation is complex and fluid. First, there is just resistance against the U.S. imperialist occupation going on. The U.S. army has no right to be in Iraq! The only "stability" it aims to bring is a further deepening of imperialist penetration and domination, and this on the basis of huge war crimes. No one should accept that. At the same time, there are different reactionary political forces in Iraq—none of whom represent the real interests of the oppressed masses—jockeying for position, including in the framework of who is going to have what share of an imperialist-dominated neocolonial state apparatus. To the extent that there is not a clearly anti-imperialist, revolutionary trend setting the terms within the resistance, these reactionary forces will and do try to utilize the resistance to serve their own narrow ends. But, again, this situation is fluid and the positive thing in all this is that, for a complex mix of reasons, the U.S. has NOT been able to consolidate an even more subservient repressive client government in Iraq—the situation is still in motion, there is still the potential for an anti-imperialist revolutionary trend to emerge.
Cauldron of Contradictions
In his work "The New Situation and the Great Challenges" (first published in 2002 and reprinted in last week's issue of Revolution and online at revcom.us), Bob Avakian pointed out, in analyzing the U.S.'s sweeping and brutal war to "reshuffle the deck, reorder the whole situation" on a global scale, that: "All of this comes together and mixes wildly—that's why I call it a cauldron of contradictions—to produce a lot of potential for things to go in many different directions and even to get out of their control… A crucial point to emphasize here again is the imperialists have set things in motion that can't be easily reversed, and may not be easily controlled."
This "potential for things to go in many different directions and even to get out of their control" is taking a particular and acute form now in the situation the U.S. imperialists are facing in Iraq.
The New York Times (2/24) noted: "The violence in Iraq after the bombing of a Shiite mosque this week has abruptly thrown the Bush administration on the defensive... The American enterprise in Iraq seemed beleaguered on two fronts, political and military... ‘The situation is very, very, very bad,’ said Reuel Marc Gerecht, a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute who supports the American efforts in Iraq. ‘The bombing has completely demolished what [U.S. Ambassador] Zalmay was trying to do…’"
The Wall Street Journal editorialized (2/24) that what's happening now in Iraq "could be the tipping point beyond which neither U.S. forces nor Iraq forces can re-establish control."
And all this could spread beyond Iraq and shake up the whole region. A UN official told the NY Times (2/26): "A civil war in Iraq would be a kind of earthquake affecting the whole Middle East. It would deepen existing cleavages and create new cleavages in a part of the world that is already extremely fragile and extremely dangerous."
In the face of these developments, and given what the Bush regime's aims and actions have been in Iraq, what would it mean for people outside Iraq—especially inside the U.S. imperialist "homeland"—to support U.S. moves to "stabilize" the situation in Iraq? Such a stand—however it's couched or whatever the intentions behind it—is not going to do any good for the people of Iraq and around the world. It can only aid the U.S. efforts to get things "under control" and to complete its "mission" in Iraq, as part of its agenda of war for greater global empire. This could only guarantee the continuation of murders, tortures, and other vicious acts carried out by the U.S. and its Iraqi puppets, and the continued buttressing up of backward and reactionary elements within Iraq (including theocratic forces). As part of that, and to serve it, it would also mean an exacerbation and continued manipulation of the oppressive divisions within Iraqi society in many ways, shapes, and forms for decades to come.
In contrast, if the U.S. were forced to end its occupation of Iraq and pull out, this would be in the interests of the oppressed Iraq nation as a whole, even if such a pullout resulted in intensified chaos and conflict in the short term. And it would also be in the interests of the people of the world, who have no interest whatsoever in the emergence of a consolidated "forward base" and "model" for U.S. imperialism in Iraq. What is really needed right now is a revolutionary secular force that genuinely attempts to rupture with imperialist domination of whatever kind—and the driving out of the U.S. from Iraq could help the emergence of such a force. And beyond that, a U.S. defeat in Iraq would be a serious blow to the U.S.'s global war for empire and would make further aggression more difficult. This would give heart to people all over the world and possibly fuel new waves of anti-imperialist and revolutionary struggle internationally.
In all this, it is crucially important that the Iraqi people, and people all over the region and the world, see that there is a force from within U.S. society that opposes its own rulers in their designs to bring Iraq, and the whole world, under even tighter imperialist domination by the U.S. It is crucially important that there be a movement that is not based on "how best to secure American interests," but on opposition to the crimes of this regime, in Iraq, around the world, and within the U.S. itself.