Conquerors, not liberators

Hawks and doves in the war party assured the public that US-UK forces would enjoy a swift victory. Days, not weeks, they predicted. It has not happened. Now sober military voices warn of months. Some many months. Saddam Hussein's position was hopeless. He should scurry off into exile. His regular army was bound to disintegrate with the first wave of cruise missiles and smart bombs. So low was morale that surrender would come division by division. It has not happened. The army fights intact. Take out Saddam Hussein and his inner circle, his bunker palaces, Ba'ath party headquarters and government buildings. Then the whole Iraqi state machine collapses. It has not happened. Saddam Hussein survives and still issues commands. There might be civilian deaths, the assurances continued. They would though be very few in number and the result of accident, not design. The Shia population would rise in revolt. Myths of World War II clouding their brains, George Bush and Tony Blair told troops to expect to be greeted as liberators. It has not happened. No TV pictures of Iraqi people whooping for joy. The people of Basra do not appear to have rebelled. They do, however, lack food, water and sanitation. As the UN warns, a catastrophe is on the cards. The Republican Guard and the Ba'ath party elite might admittedly put up some token resistance. To no effect. Overwhelming air power decides 21st century battles, insists Donald Rumsfeld. Again, as Basra, Nassiriya and Najaf show, it has not happened. So things have not gone according to the stipulations of the Rumsfeld doctrine. Plans unravel. Good. Communists - in Britain and Iraq - loathe Saddam Hussein and his bureaucratic dictatorship. But this does not mean for a moment that we give any support to the drive by the US-UK coalition to re-impose neo-colonialism on the country. We prefer their defeat to their victory. We know that after Iraq it will be North Korea, Iran, Cuba and ... Thus, Saddam remains the enemy of the peoples of Iraq - but now, with the imperialists over-running their land, not their main enemy. There must be tactical shifts in the struggle against his dictatorship. The goal remains to put power into the hands of the workers, peasants and urban poor - but the US-UK forces must now be sent packing. In terms of hardware and sophistication Gulf War II must be one of the most unequal of wars in history. The sole 21st century superpower with a $400 billion annual military budget versus an impoverished and wrecked 'rogue' state. Understandably then, unlike 1991, Iraq decided not to allow the US to conduct a turkey shoot. In Gulf War I Iraqi troop and armour concentrations were systematically destroyed out on the open ground. B52s and Warthog tank busters smashed to pieces 10 Iraqi divisions in a matter of a few days. Current strategy is to hold Baghdad and its environs, defend other urban centres and harry the enemy's extended supply routes. The US army needs 500,000 tons of petrol daily for its front-line armour as well as other supplies. Tankers and lorries are vulnerable to attack by determined guerrilla forces. The US military has recorded staggering progress. They are within 60 miles of Baghdad. Yet Saddam Hussein's forces - regular army units, Republican Guards and paramilitary fedayeen - remain holed up in Basra, Nassiriya and Najaf. Unwilling to be drawn into the hell of urban warfare, US and UK forces have retreated or held back. Street fighting results in 30% to 70% casuality rates. In Basra air and artillery bombardment is deployed as a substitute for sending in the infantry. An extraordinarily blunt instrument which US-UK commanders know full well will cause mayhem amongst the civilian population. Surgical war turns into carnage. Nor have the Iraqi people welcomed the US-UK forces as liberators. Blair and his ministers desperately explain away the unwillingness of the Iraqi people to rise. They dismiss Iraqi fighters as Ba'ath party fanatics and cowards because they choose not to be massacred out on the desert planes. Geoff Hoon brands them "Saddam Hussein's thugs". US-UK forces as not liberators, but aggressors fighting an unjust war. The mass of the Iraqi population - Shia and Sunni - have no love of Saddam Hussein. But they hate the idea of being conquered more. Islam, Iraqi nationalism and pan-Arabism are therefore combining into a powerful ideology of resistance. Under these circumstances communists in Iraq will surely not suspend their democratic struggle against Saddam Hussein's dictatorship. They will though, we trust, bring to the fore the fight against the US-UK invasion force. Political independence should never be sacrificed, but the main blows should be directed at the main enemy. When US armies arrive at the outskirts of Baghdad it is still possible that they will be met with capitulation. However, that seems increasingly improbable. The US-UK coalition therefore envisages surrounding the city in force and placing it under protracted siege. They will pound the capital with shells, bombs and missiles and hope to bludgeon it into submission. Civilian deaths would rapidly mount into the tens of thousands. Those who 'support our troops' might care to ponder their responsibilities for this pending crime against humanity. Certainly the anti-war party must double and redouble propaganda and education efforts. Communists will certainly do their duty. The April 12 national demonstration in London provides another opportunity for us to take to the streets to show our undiminished strength. Meantime we must fight to bring the war home with political strikes, blacking military supplies, civil disobedience and parallel centres of authority. Our demands must go much further than 'Blair out'. To limit ourselves to that is to invite another presidential prime minister - a Gordon Brown or a Charles Clarke. We demand regime change. Out with the quasi-democratic constitutional monarchy. In with a fully democratic, federal republic of England, Scotland and Walesl Jack Conrad