1. It’s Primarily About Oil
Much has been written in past days about the December 2011 withdrawal of U.S. military forces from Iraq. But not much has been said about the U.S.’s retaining a very sizable presence in that beleaguered country after that date. For starters, there is the largest and most expensive embassy in the world covering 4,700,000 sq. ft. and employing a staff of 15,000. And then there are the 13,500 military and security contractors, including those working for the State Department. Add to that the special ops and CIA personnel and it amounts to a huge U.S. investment of personnel and resources in Iraq.
What was behind the government’s resolve to maintain such an extensive oversight of Iraq? In two words, it was primarily oil. After all, Iraq has the world’s second largest proven oil reserves.
It is no wonder that during the height of the U.S. war and occupation of Iraq, a favorite demand of peace activists was “No War for Oil!” And let’s not forget that in the earliest stages of the war and occupation of Iraq, widespread looting was ignored by the authorities, with one exception: the Oil Ministry was secured and protected.
On a number of occasions Obama has cited oil as a key factor that had to be considered in connection with Iraq, once referring to the “tyranny of oil.”
2. The Latest Escalation
Thursday’s announcement by Obama that the U.S. will now send up to 300 “security forces advisers” to Iraq and that “targeted” air strikes are very much on the table is obviously a major escalation of U.S. involvement in Iraq.
The promise that there will be no U.S. boots on the ground has been shunted aside as the U.S. moves more air and naval weapons of death and destruction to the war zone. And once again Washington is bankrolling military intervention, whereas what is urgently needed is more funding for jobs, infrastructure, education and social programs here at home.
The capture of Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, on June 10, 2014, by forces of the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) and its advancement on a number of fronts is the rationale given for the U.S. escalation.
There is likely to be confusion on the part of some Americans who genuinely believe in peace — leaving aside the neoconservatives and others who never met a war they didn’t like. After all, ISIS’s avowed goal is a renewed Sunni Islamic caliphate — a single theocratic state for the entire Islamic world. They reject any form of a secular state and believe that only religious law — the Islamic sharia — is valid.
Their extreme fanaticism and brutality are horrific. They believe that Shia Muslims — who are the majority in Iraq — are “infidels” and worthy of death. They accord women a virtually enslaved existence. The ease with which the ISIS took possession of Mosul from the Iraqi central government raises the question of whether the United States should step in to stop the violence and prevent this fanatical and thoroughly reactionary terrorist organization from imposing its rule on any more territory.
But such involvement poses a clear and present danger of a greatly expanded regional war and contravenes the fundamental principle that — whatever the problems are in the region — they must be settled by the people there, not by U.S. intervention.
There is far greater pressure on the Obama administration to intervene in Iraq than there was to intervene in Syria. Syria has very few oil resources; Iraq‘s are among the largest on earth. Washington‘s objective is to control Iraqi oil production and distribution, making sure that oilfield supply and construction firms like Halliburton and Schlumberger are able to make super-profits in Iraq and that Iraq not provide oil at preferential pricing to China.
What is going on now is the unraveling of the U.S. Middle East policy as carried out by six previous administrations. Even though U.S. interventionism in the region has been a complete failure on so many levels, the Obama administration has not fundamentally turned away from it. It is seeking through a variety of actions to impose its dominance on Middle Eastern politics. U.S. intervention, even if one believes it is well-intentioned, has not brought about peace and in fact has made life far worse for the civilian populations of Iraq, Syria, and other countries of the region. Kevin Martin, the national executive director of Peace Action, likened it to attempting to fight a fire by pouring gasoline on it. It has to be stopped.
The U.S.‘s objectives in the region have absolutely nothing to do with democracy, human rights, women’s rights, progressive secularism, or peace. Moreover, U.S. involvement on any level will not be beneficial to the Iraqi people in any way. It has to be opposed unconditionally.
3. Where Do We Go From Here?
In spite of the complex political situation in Iraq, there is overwhelming opposition among the American people for any new involvement in that country. Even some Republicans who wholeheartedly supported George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq in 2003 are now calling it a mistake which should not be repeated. The spontaneous and massive public outcry from all across the country against the threatened bombing of Syria, reinforced by committed activists who took to the streets in several cities, proved to be sufficient at that time to deter the Obama administration from ordering air strikes.
We believe that there is an imperative need for committed peace and social justice groups to organize united mass actions to demand that the United States stay completely out of the conflict. That means: no special forces, no ground troops, no military advisers, no air strikes, no “training,” no “intelligence gathering,” no drones, no weapons and no money to any belligerent forces. Actions in the streets have already begun. Antiwar vigils have taken place in Washington and local demonstrations are planned for the weekend of June 21–22 in many cities.
Peace activists need to reach out to unions, communities of color, students, the feminist and LGBT movements, the environmentalist movement, the faith community, veterans and other groups. Representatives of those constituencies need to meet together and come to agreement on mass actions in the streets to oppose any U.S. involvement in Iraq. There is no alternative to unity and there is no time more important to forge that unity than now.
If you and/or your organization agree with this perspective, please let us hear from you. Imagine how much stronger the U.S. antiwar movement would be today if its major formations joined together to issue a Call for united demonstrations on both coasts to demand an end to U.S. intervention in Iraq. Such a Call would not, of course, preclude additional actions being organized independently by participating groups, but would result in an urgently needed national focus that would have the potential of bringing huge masses of people into the streets.