20th “Anniversary” of Totally Unprovoked War by the U.S. Against Iraq

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Flames from U.S. bombardment of Baghdad, Iraq, March 21, 2003.    Photo: AP

Twenty years ago, on March 19, 2003, the U.S., under the administration of George W. Bush, invaded Iraq. Over 300,000 were killed directly in the fighting; studies estimate the indirect deaths from the war (due to destruction of health care, food production, water and power system, etc.) to be over 600,000; and at least 4.5 million people were driven from their homes (see the American Crime series article on this at revcom.us for more on the invasion). The U.S. military occupied Iraq for years. They raided people’s houses, beat them, humiliated them, raped them, and—yes—killed people on “routine patrols.”  They threw thousands into prisons where U.S. soldiers and the CIA carried out sadistic sexual tortures, and more. To this day, the Iraqi people suffer the “aftereffects” of this totally unprovoked war and brutal occupation.

In Basra, this nine-year-old girl was injured from bombs dropped by coalition warplanes, March 22, 2003.    Photo: AP

Why did America perpetrate this horror? 

The U.S. claimed that Iraq had been stockpiling chemical weapons and hiding uranium to build nuclear bombs, and that it was planning war against America. Yet meticulous inspections by United Nations inspection teams turned up nothing whatsoever in the way of “weapons of mass destruction.” Long after the bloody invasion was over and well into the occupation, the U.S. was finally forced to admit that in fact there was absolutely no evidence of such weapons.

Some elements of the Bush administration also accused Iraq of being behind, or at least complicit in, the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center in 2001. In fact, no proof was ever offered—because there was none.

The real reasons the U.S. carried out this invasion were these:

First, to avenge the humiliation of the 9/11 attacks. Never mind that the Iraqi regime had nothing to do with those attacks. Everybody had to see that the big gang boss could still wreak terrible punishment on people and make any who opposed him for any reason at all pay a terrible price.

Second, the Bush regime saw a need to more firmly bring the Middle East under U.S. control. They thought the degree of instability there (including Iran with its attempts to assert a degree of independence within the imperialist order, Islamic jihadist insurgencies in various countries, the Palestinian uprisings, etc.) ran the risk of destabilizing the Middle East if left unchecked. And at the same time, they actually thought that it could fairly easily implant a U.S.-style democracy in Iraq—with all the bogus electoral bullshit to cover up the brutal exploitation and oppression. They figured they could then use Iraq as an ally, a “showcase,” and a base area in their attempts to much more thoroughly clamp down on the Middle East and to crush, or at least intimidate, any opposition whatsoever.

Torture at Abu Ghraib: a hooded Iraqi prisoner, forced to balance on a small box, with wires attached to his fingers—he was forced to stand for hours, told that if he fell over, the wires would electrocute him.    Photo: AP

Third, because they thought that they had not “gotten enough” when their former imperialist rival for world domination, the Soviet Union, collapsed. The U.S. aimed to become the unchallenged—and unchallengeable—power. 9/11 was the perfect excuse to strike hard to do that.

As then Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told top aides after the attack on 9/11, “Hard to get good case. Need to move swiftly. Near term target needs—go massive—sweep it all up, things related and not.” These orders (revealed when aides leaked their notes from that day to the news media) say it all—we can’t wait to prove who did it and may not be able to anyway, so let’s use this attack as an excuse to “sweep up” all our enemies, whether they had anything to do with it or not.

This is how they think. Gangster logic from a gangster system. 

And this—mass bombing from the air, unspeakable tortures, massacres—is how they work their will.  Gangster actions that would put 1,000 Scarfaces to shame.

U.S soldiers run past dead body in Fallujah, March 22, 2004.    Photo: AP

And why? To serve a system—an economic and political system that can only survive on the basis of massive exploitation of the people and resources of the global south and that must violently enforce that exploitation. A system of imperialism.  As Bob Avakian has said:

The essence of what exists in the U.S. is not democracy but capitalism-imperialism and political structures to enforce that capitalism-imperialism. What the U.S. spreads around the world is not democracy, but imperialism and political structures to enforce that imperialism. (BAsics 1:3)

All this did not go as America had planned. In some important ways they miscalculated, and while they won the war, they were not able to achieve their main political and strategic objectives and in some important ways lost ground. Why things “went wrong” for them—and what this says about the limitations and weaknesses both of their system and their way of looking at things—is deeply gone into in Bringing Forward Another Way, by Bob Avakian.

Bringing Forward Another Way by Bob Avakian

Today the U.S. faces much more serious challenges than it did 20 years ago. Its rivals—Russia, but even more so China—are stronger. The U.S. itself is waging a proxy war in Ukraine against Russia, using Ukrainian soldiers to do the bleeding and dying while America and its allies supply the arms, intelligence, and much of the strategic direction. As horrific as this is, it could get far worse in a flash: any incident could send this spiraling out of control into a nuclear apocalypse. And at the same time, Biden is issuing threats against China and carrying out economic warfare against it while stirring up the American people. To paraphrase and draw on Bob Avakian, this could lead to something really terrible… or—depending on what WE do—something truly emancipating. 

As the revcoms often chant: This system can’t be reformed… it must be overthrown.

And as Bob Avakian has recently said:

We can no longer afford to allow these imperialists to dominate the world and to determine the destiny of humanity. They need to be overthrown as quickly as possible.