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The alternative to a world of war

January 26, 2007 | Page 9

ELIZABETH SCHULTE argues that there is an alternative to a world of war and poverty.

"A DAY in the life of the average Iraqi has been reduced to identifying corpses, avoiding car bombs and attempting to keep track of which family members have been detained, which ones have been exiled and which ones have been abducted." So wrote Riverbend, the Iraqi woman who has kept an Internet blog since the U.S. invasion of Iraq, at the end of last year.

Every day that the U.S. continues its occupation of Iraq, the misery suffered by the Iraqi people grows worse.

Yet there are still some people who sincerely want an end to the killing in Iraq who conclude that immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops would make a bad situation worse. Now that the U.S. has caused a disaster in Iraq, they say, it has to stay and fix it.

But the U.S. government--no matter which party is in control--won't "fix" the situation in Iraq. The U.S. military won't bring an end to violence in Iraq any more than it invaded to promote "democracy" in the Middle East.

Whatever the rhetoric of the day may be--from Bush's talk of "democracy" in Iraq and Afghanistan, to the "humanitarian" interventions in Haiti and Somalia--the U.S. only goes to war where its own interests are at stake.

In particular, the interest of profit. As Michael Klare pointed out in the Nation magazine a few months before the 2003 invasion, "This could prove to be the biggest oil grab in modern history, providing hundreds of billions of dollars to U.S. oil firms--many linked to senior officials in the Bush administration."

But success in Iraq goes beyond the pocket-lining of Bush cronies. The war and occupation are about the U.S. controlling Iraq's vast, untapped oil resources; using that control in its competition with rival powers around the globe; and creating a client state that can serve as a launching pad for projecting U.S. power in other countries.

Both mainstream parties in the U.S.--the Republicans and the Democrats--are committed to these goals, and that's why the Democrats' differences over Iraq are limited to tactics, not the imperial project itself.

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THE U.S. is by far the most powerful and vicious warmonger on the planet. But it is also part of a world system based on war and plunder. Under capitalism, wars are built into the system--a system where countries relentlessly compete for control over resources and profits.

Even if it means devastation and misery to millions, war is always a price our rulers find worth paying. As Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice explained in December to reporters who asked about whether the loss of lives had been justified in Iraq, "There have been plenty of markers that show that this is a country that is worth the investment."

With such brutality so exposed for everyone to see, how is it that the rulers of the U.S. get away with it?

This is where ideology plays an important role. As Karl Marx explained in the Communist Manifesto, "The ruling ideas of each age have ever been the ideas of its ruling class." So when colonial rule began to flourish in the 19th century, it was backed up with an ideology of the "white man's burden"--the idea that Europeans were responsible for "civilizing" the "uncivilized" world.

During the Cold War, the violence was justified as a fight to inoculate the rest of the world--from Central America to Southeast Asia--against Communist totalitarianism. After that came a string of "humanitarian" wars to stop "rogue nations."

After September 11, 2001, the U.S. used the fear of more terrorism to coerce support for its wars on Afghanistan and Iraq. Today, the argument from conservatives and liberals claims that Iraqis are incapable of ruling their own country--which has served as justification for a continuing occupation and withdrawal of U.S. troops.

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BUT JUST because these ideas are the dominant ones--pushed by politicians and the media--doesn't mean that they have an iron grip.

During the Vietnam War years, public opinion shifted dramatically about why the U.S. was fighting a war halfway around the world--and whether it should be. This was the result of three things: opposition to the war at home, opposition within the ranks of the U.S. military, and the struggle of a Vietnamese resistance that couldn't be defeated by the most powerful military in the world.

During the First World War, the initial patriotic enthusiasm for the "war to end all wars" was transformed into opposition and eventually outright revolt among the soldiers who fought.

Not only were troops sickened by the horrors of war and famine, but they came to see that their interests had nothing in common with the leaders who sent them into war. They also came to see how much they had to gain from the bond between soldiers on both sides.

Eventually, as part of the 1917 revolution against the Tsar in Russia, soldiers revolted, refusing to fight. In 1918, German sailors rebelled as well, and participated in the German revolution that helped pave the way for the end of the war.

Socialist Eugene Debs summed up war "in a nutshell. The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and all to lose--especially their lives."

Socialists today want to take up antiwar sentiment wherever it exists--for example, among soldiers and veterans organizing against the war--and amplify it for everyone to hear. We aim to help knit together this opposition, and cut against ideas that might divide us, such as racism against Arabs and Muslims.

And socialists expose the vast inequality that is at the heart of this war--and at the heart of the capitalist economic system in general.

Today, Iraqis line up for hours, even days, to buy cooking gas and fuel--in a country with the second-greatest oil reserves in the Middle East. This is only one among the untold number of outrages of the war-ravaged system we live in.

There are enough resources to fulfill the needs of the world's people, without competing for a single grain of rice or drop of oil. The world that we deserve is possible--a world without borders and a world without wars. We need to organize to make it happen.

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