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[casi] Between Bush and Baghdad lies Palestine

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Dear anti-sanctions, anti-war lists

... I was asked to contribute an article to the newsletter of the Greater Manchester Campaign 
Against Sanctions and War. It seemed to me that a most interesting and important aspect of the 
crisis, something set to dominate phase two of the "war against everyone we don't like", is how the 
Israel-Palestine crisis and the Iraq crisis interrelate and interact. So this article discusses 
this, and leaves out other important issues; in particular, why the UK government is sticking with 
Bush, and the whole issue of "weapons of mass destruction".


War, Iraq and the Palestine crisis

Results of Phase One
Afghanistan has been violated, its national sovereignty has been torn to shreds. Power has been 
handed to pro-US warlords who are already fighting with each other for control over territory and 
next year's opium harvest. Tens of thousands of civilians have been killed or maimed, a multitude 
more have fled the destruction and are clinging to life in vile refugee camps.

The US attack caused a 3-month interruption in food supplies to a population already suffering 
their third year of famine. Bridges, roads, factories, public buildings, entire neighbourhoods and 
essential services have been demolished. In continuing operations, US forces are exterminating all 
who show resistance.

The terrible truth is that Afghanistan was just a prelude. Now we must prepare ourselves 
emotionally, politically and physically for 'phase 2'.

The "war against terror" is already being fought on five continents. This incipient world war is 
centred on the Middle East, where the US is now preparing to bomb and then invade Iraq, and where 
Israel is engaged in a futile attempt to crush the Palestinian's desire to live in freedom upon 
their own land.

Between Bush and Baghdad lies Palestine
Is the US really going to invade Iraq? If we recall what Bush and his lieutenants have already done 
to Afghanistan and what they say they are going to do to Iraq, there can only be one answer.

The destruction of Iraq's infrastructure in 43 days of round-the-clock bombing in 1991 and the 
sanctions siege since have caused the death of 1.5 million Iraqis and have wrecked the lives of 
millions more, yet the US rulers have failed in their goal of reinstalling a client regime in 
Baghdad. How much violence and suffering will Bush junior have to inflict upon Iraq if he is to 
accomplish what his father failed to do ten years ago?

One reflex, faced with the terrible prospect of war on Iraq, is to disbelieve and deny. Is the US 
really going to wage war on Iraq while at the same time supporting Israel's brutal onslaught on the 
Palestinians? Is the US government prepared to take such risks?  US military action against Iraq 
would mean that the US was in practice converging with the Sharon regime. The two wars - in 
Palestine and for Iraq - would be correctly perceived as two fronts of the same war, a war for 
domination over the region's resources and peoples. Arab regimes supporting such a policy would 
lose what little remains of their popular legitimacy and could only stay in power by resorting to 
yet more state terror.

The convergence of the Iraq and Palestine crises is a sign of how different things are this time 
around. In 1990-91, George Bush senior succeeded in keeping the two crises apart, even though the 
first Palestinian intifadah against the Israeli occupation was raging at that time. This time, the 
US cannot do this. This exposes a fundamental reality: US domination over the Middle East has 
continued to weaken in the eleven years since the US laid waste to Iraq.  At the heart of this 
weakening is the failure of successive US  and Israeli administrations - who have always working in 
tandem - to persuade the Palestinian people to accept a bantustan in place of a sovereign state. 
Increasingly combined with this is the now universal Arab rejection of the sanctions which have 
destroyed Iraq's economy and caused so much death and misery. Why does the US reward Israel's 
occupation of Palestine but punish Iraq so much for its invasion of Kuwait? This burning question 
is helping to radicalise tens of millions of people across the Middle East and beyond. It has 
turned the Middle East into a different place.

There is another huge difference over 1990-91: this time, the US is determined to go all the way to 
Baghdad. Retreat from the goal of recapturing Iraq is "not an option",  declares George Bush. So, 
the US is to embark on a military rampage through the Middle East, and they intend to do this with 
the support, as opposed to acquiescence, of just two governments  - Ariel Sharon's and that of the 
puny Tony Blair, whose reliability will be put to the test by the storm of protests which we will 
unleash against him.

At the time of writing  (mid-March 2002), the US vice-president Dick Cheney is embarked upon a tour 
of Middle East capitals with the aim of lining up Arab regimes for war on Iraq. His tour is turning 
out to be a complete failure: Arab rulers insist they cannot support war moves against Iraq while 
Palestinian towns are being bombed and invaded. Cheney has been forced to get personally involved 
in efforts to broker a cease-fire between Israel and the Palestinians, but this is impeded by his 
refusal to meet Yassir Arafat - the US administration has been boycotting the leader of the 
Palestinian Authority for longer than the Israelis!

To interpret the sometimes contradictory and always hypocritical pronouncements of US leaders on 
"peace between Israelis and Palestinians", it is important to remember how the current phase of the 
Israel-Palestine conflict began, in early December of 2001. Using a series of sucide bombings as a 
pretext, Sharon dramatically tightened the seige of Palestinian areas, ordered waves of 
air-strikes, and severed all relations with the Palestinian Authority, declaring it to be a 
"terrorist entity".

George W. Bush and other senior officials ended a long period of aloofness from the 
Israel-Palestine crisis by giving a green light to Sharon's ferocious military assault. From this 
moment on, Israel's military offensive became part of the "war against terrorism".  The lingering 
hopes of some, that the US might act to preserve the anti-Taliban alliance by putting serious 
pressure on Israel to relax its siege of Palestinian areas, were dashed. "We are not about to tell 
Mr Sharon what he should do," said secretary of state Colin Powell, following Sharon's visit to 
Washington on December 2.

This decisive move in US policy was not part of a coherent plan. Different factions within the US 
administration feel varying degrees of enthusiasm for openly allying with Sharon. They would have 
much preferred to put the Israel-Palestine confrontation on ice, because they sense the strength of 
support for the Palestinian cause. This exists not just in the Middle East but across the globe. 
Its depth and extent was seen at the UN Conference Against Racism in Durban, held in South Africa 
in August 2001. There, delegations representing an extraordinary range of peoples' organisations, 
from the Dalits of India to landless peasants of Brazil to African campaigners for cancellation of 
the Third World Debt, joined together to denounce Israeli policy as racist. They did so even though 
they were warned their stance would lose them favour. By endorsing Sharon's murderous aggression, 
GW Bush is picking a fight with all these people.

The nature of the US -Israel alliance
Sharon is criticised for not having a strategy, but his strategy could not be clearer - to 
confiscate the sliver of sovereignty conceeded to the Palestinians on the White House lawn eight 
years ago, to bury the so-called "Oslo Peace Process" and the promise of an independent Palestinian 

Sharon's quest for a military solution requires that all Palestinians who refuse to submit must be 
either killed, imprisoned or expelled. Sharon's policy is leading the Zionists towards carrying out 
their own "final solution".

Palestinian resistance runs very deep. A glimpse of this was provided on March 1st, when Israel 
launched its first ground invasion of Jabaliya refugee camp. Journalists reported that the ground 
invasion was preceded by repeated loudspeaker warnings that civilians should immediately leave the 
area. Despite this, the population refused to leave their homes. This is symbolic. The Palestinian 
people will not be moved. They will fight for every inch of their land.

In contrast, Jewish immigration into Israel under the 'Law of return' (which allows Jews anywhere 
in the world to immigrate but denies Palestinians the right to return to their own villages) has 
slowed to a trickle, more Jewish settlers are leaving, and demographers report that, within a  
generation, the higher Arab birth-rate will cause Jews to lose their majority over Palestinians 
with Israeli citizenship (those who live within Israel's 1967 boundaries).

Demographics and irrepressible Palestinian resistance call into question the viability of the 
racially-defined oppressor state. Israel, as a state of settlers which excludes and denies equal 
citizenship to the native population can only survive these challenges by continuing its permanent 
war against the Palestinians and other Arab peoples.

Why has the US-Israeli partnership proved so enduring throughout the past fifty years of 
expansionist wars, uprisings and massacres? Why is GW Bush now risking his relations with pro-US 
Arab regimes by endorsing Sharon's brutal escalation? One reason often cited is the economic and 
political power wielded by Jewish capitalists within the US government. This is a false and 
dangerous misreading of US Middle East policy. If alliance with Israel was not also in the 
interests of the US capitalists who are not Jews, their anti-semitism, which is still rife, would 
be enough on its own to dissolve the alliance.

The idea that powerful sectors of US capital - for instance, the oil corporations - support 
policies towards the Middle East despite judging them to be against their own interests, out of 
sympathy for the Jews and their suffering during WW2, is absurd. It also feeds into dangerous 
"Jewish consipracy" myths.

This misconception about what guides US foreign policy is widespread in the Middle East. It 
reflects the desire of Arab bourgeoisies and the middle class for a more equal relationship with 
imperialism. Pro-US Arab regimes are humiliated by US support for Israel's military occupation. It 
prevents these regimes from obscuring their subservient status and the fiction of national 

The biggest Egyptian and Lebanese capitalists, the princes of Saudi Arabia and the emirs and sheiks 
of the Gulf have moved the bulk of their huge personal fortunes out of the Middle East, to New 
York, London and other imperialist centres.  The Saudi royal family alone has removed an estimated 
$600bn from their country, which is suffering from falling living standards, high unemployent, and 
a government forced to cut essential services whenever the price of a barrel of oil drifts below 
$18. Despite the fabulous wealth of the Middle East's Arab ruling families, their countries, all of 
them, remain oppressed, exploited semicolonies, a status which they share with the rest of the 
Third World.

The US and UK imperialist governments do not want partnership with the corrupt super-rich Arab 
regimes, they want subservience, in return for which the US will grant protection and a place for 
their snout in the trough.

A central pillar of Washington's global power - its control over the world's oil supplies - is 
inconsistent with a Middle East under the control of its people. For all their oil and weaponry, 
the US cannot rely on unstable Arab regimes to preserve this imperialist order. However, it can 
rely on Israel to be a "bulwark against Asia, the advance post of civilisation against barbarism", 
as envisaged by Theodor Herzl, founder of the modern Zionist movement. This is why the US maintains 
Israel's military supremacy over its Arab neighbours and confers on it, alone in the Middle East, 
the right to possess weapons of mass destruction.

Well before September 11th, the Bush and his cohorts were getting more and more frustrated by the 
refusal of their Arab proteges to support an expansion of the war on Iraq.

GW Bush first flexed his Presidential muscles within weeks of taking office, with a large-scale 
military strike on Iraqi air defences on the southern edge of Baghdad in early 2001. This action 
was condemned or criticised by all Arab regimes save that of Kuwait; indeed, the strength of 
world-wide protests came as a severe shock to the new Bush adminstration.

Then, Bush sent Colin Powell on an extended mission to the Middle East, to try to persuade Iraq's 
neighbours to stop unregulated commerce with Iraq. Instead, he received a torrent of complaints 
about US support for Israeli aggression. His mission failed. Washington's client regimes were 
getting seriously out of line.

War to restore a failing empire
Faced with  war of such awesome proportions, disbelief and denial is a natural response. But 
instead of fearing the consequences of what we know, we must understand why things have turned out 

This is not a war on terror, or to end the threat of weapons of mass destruction, but a war to 
shore up a failing empire. It is not a war to impose stability or to reimpose a status quo, but 
something altogether more radical: a war to recapture the ground which the US has lost since 1979, 
when the Iranian revolution destroyed one of the central pillars of its domination over the region.

So soon after Vietnam, the US was unable to send half a million troops to protect the Shah's 
dictatorship. It surely would have done so: Iran was the site of the biggest US military base 
outside of the US itself, and US oil companies ran the oil industry.  Alongside Israel, the Shah's 
Iran was a central pillar of US power over the entire Gulf region.

Unable to attack the Iranian revolution with its own forces, the US pushed its ally Saddam Hussein 
into invading, beginning eight years of war in which over a million people died. But instead of 
recapturing Iran, the US lost control of Iraq as well. The so-called "Gulf War" of  1991 -  in 
reality a one-sided slaughter, a "war" which had no battles - failed to substantially strengthen US 
control over the region. This is why, in his early March state of the union address, Bush named 
both Iraq and Iran as part of  the "axis of evil".

That US imperialism should be so bound to Israel and so bound by it is a further sign of the 
erosion of its strategic position in the Middle East.

Meanwhile, a supposedly secret document has been leaked which states that the US has nuclear 
weapons targetted on four Middle East states - Iraq, Iran, Syria and Libya. Never has the contrast 
between military strength and political weakness been so extreme.

This war cannot be "stopped" no more than the Vietnam war was stopped. Like Vietnam, this war can 
only end with the defeat of the imperialist aggressor. However long it takes, until then there will 
be war without end.

Even these dramatic statements do not encompass the enormity of what we are faced with. To do that, 
we would need to place the "war on terror" into the context of a world economy on the verge of 
deflationary slump and of the sort of trade wars which in the past have always led to shooting 
wars. but that would be beyond the scope of this article.

"Baghdad or bust" was how one newspaper described US policy. This gormless phrase sums up what's at 
stake. If the US fails to take and hold Iraq, the world's final capitalist empire will receive a 
terrible blow, one which would threaten to turn its decline into a tail-spin. Following September 
11, Fidel Castro described the Bush administration  as "extremist ideologists . [who] have taken 
command of the most powerful country on the planet". Their demise is inevitable. But how many 
millions more are to die before we grasp their wrists and squeeze until the guns fall from their 

Justice for Palestine - End Israel's brutal military occupation!

Lift the sanctions siege of Iraq!

All US, UK, EU troops out of the Middle East and Central Asia!

Make history! Join the struggle against this imperialist war!

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