Aug. 11 — President Barack Obama has now become the fourth successive U.S. president to order the bombing of Iraq, this time with a “humanitarian” pretext. But it soon became clear that Obama’s “humanitarian” excuse was as much a lie as the pretexts raised by the other three U.S. presidents and that the bombing was aimed at defending U.S. imperialism’s corporate and strategic interests.
On Aug. 7, Obama announced the U.S. bombing raids on Iraqi soil. He claimed his reason was that the fighters of the force known as the Islamic State were “barbaric” and were about to carry out “genocide” against a minority religious group in Iraq called Yazidis. Some 200,000 Yazidis had fled their home villages near the Kurdish region in Iraq.
The corporate media reported that tens of thousands of Yazidis were trapped by a siege of I.S. forces on Mount Sinjar, near the Syrian border with Iraq, where they had neither food nor water.
Obama said, “Well, today [the U.S.] is coming to help [Iraq].” He insisted that this would be limited “aid” and that he would not reintroduce U.S. ground troops into Iraq. (New York Times, Aug. 7) By Aug. 9, Obama admitted the U.S. bombing raids could go on for months.
According to German parliament member Ulla Jelpke, a spokesperson for the party Die Linke, who was on a mission to northern Iraq, it was neither U.S. bombs nor the Kurdish regime’s Peshmerga that saved tens of thousands of the Yazidis. It was revolutionary guerrilla fighters from the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). This liberation organization is on the “terrorist list” of the U.S. and the European Union. Many Yazidis told her, “God and the PKK saved us.” (German daily Junge Welt, Aug. 10)
They all had pretexts
In January 1991, George H.W. Bush ordered a massive bombing of Baghdad and a military assault against the Iraqi army. His pretext was the entry of Iraqi troops into Kuwait. Before Iraq’s intervention, however, U.S. Ambassador to Iraq April Glaspie had indicated to the Iraqi leaders that the U.S. would stay neutral in Iraq’s conflict with the Kuwaiti monarchy, which was siphoning off Iraqi oil through slant drilling.
Bill Clinton not only continued his predecessor’s murderous sanctions that killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, but in December 1998 ordered four days of bombing. His pretext was the “dangerous weapons” Iraq allegedly had in its arsenal.
George W. Bush ordered the 2003 invasion and what turned into an eight-year occupation of Iraq. His pretext was the “weapons of mass destruction,” which turned out to be nonexistent. This war killed 1.5 million Iraqis and created 5 million Iraqi refugees. It also resulted in the death and maiming of thousands of U.S. troops, who were fighting to expand U.S. imperialist control of energy sources.
The goal of these interventions was destroying the sovereign Iraqi state and conquest of Iraq.
Faced with a heroic Iraqi resistance movement in 2004-05, the occupation power quickly moved to plan B: divide and conquer. U.S. officials in Iraq set up a puppet regime where the laws exacerbated differences among Iraqis of different religious and ethnic groupings. Meanwhile, the U.S. supported a subservient Kurdish regime in Iraq’s north.
The U.S.-backed Baghdad regime headed by Nuri al-Maliki has persecuted, jailed and eliminated any Iraqi leaders who had any ties with the former Ba’athist government and has discriminated against Sunni leaders. The regime is hated in the Sunni areas of Iraq and is unpopular even in the majority Shiite south for its corrupt and dictatorial record. Now it has become the target of an uprising made up of disparate forces, which include as the most aggressive fighters the group known as the Islamic State.
These same forces — the I.S. — acted in Syria against the Syrian government and received arms and funding there from U.S./NATO imperialists and their allied regimes in Turkey and the monarchists in Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the Gulf emirates.
Washington has had ambivalent relations with reactionary groups like the I.S. and al-Qaida. It has armed and used them in Afghanistan in the 1980s and more recently in Libya and Syria. At the same time the U.S. demonizes them as “Islamic terrorists” to justify military intervention, as it is doing now in Iraq.
U.S. imperialist goals
Like Bush Sr., Clinton and Bush Jr., Obama is the chief executive of U.S. imperialism. U.S. military intervention has brought only death and chaos to Iraq, as well as to Libya, Afghanistan and — through its weapons and proxy forces — to Syria and Ukraine, where U.S./NATO backs the most reactionary neo-Nazi forces that murder and plunder in the Donbass region.
The goal of these interventions is to extend U.S. and NATO military reach and recolonize the various peoples under imperialist control. That these interventions failed to establish stable puppet regimes does not soften the horror that U.S. intervention brought to these countries.
Can anyone possibly believe that this time the U.S. intends to make a “humanitarian” intervention in Iraq or that U.S. bombing will help the people there? If Washington has “humanitarian” goals, why does the Pentagon resupply Israel’s army with all the weapons it uses to carry out genocidal warfare in Gaza?
By Aug. 9, the real intention of what can only be seen as the initial, rushed U.S. bombing became clear, as admitted by administration spokespeople.
I.S. forces, whatever their intentions toward the Yazidis, are close enough to the Kurdish center of Erbil to threaten to take that city. The Kurdish region of Iraq is the only part of the country with a pro-U.S. regime that is somewhat stable. Erbil is the center where the U.S. has recently built a massive consulate and where Canadian, European and Japanese consulates have been constructed to aid business investment in Iraq and especially in the Kurdish region.
The New York Times on Aug. 10 reported, “The American airstrikes, carried out by drones and fighter jets, were intended to support the Kurdish forces fighting to defend Erbil, the capital of the Iraqi Kurdistan region, according to a statement by the United States Central Command.” The U.S. military still claimed its goals were “limited.”
While Yazidis suffering hunger and dehydration in the mountains are at risk, the Obama administration has as much as admitted that aid to the Yazidis is a pretext, not a reason, for the bombing. Washington is protecting its strategic and business interests in the Kurdish region of Iraq.
Whether this current intervention will lead to a U.S. re-occupation of Iraq cannot be ruled out. Any U.S. intervention can only lead to more suffering for Iraqis, and will also result in more sacrifices from U.S. working people, just as the 2003 invasion and occupation did.