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WWP STATEMENT

Imperialism and the capture of Saddam Hussein

The Bush administration's claim that the capture of Saddam Hussein is a great step in bringing democracy and freedom to Iraq should be denounced by all those who opposed the war, oppose the occupation and are against the entire enterprise of U.S. imperialism in Iraq.

The capture of Saddam Hussein by U.S. military forces is an act carried out solely in pursuit of strengthening the criminal colonial occupation and weakening the Iraqi resistance. What ever the immediate outcome of his capture, however, it cannot alter in any fundamental way the historic anti-colonial sentiment of the Iraqi people and their will to struggle for independence.

The only "democracy and freedom" that Washington intends for Iraq is the freedom to sell off all the state and privately owned enterprises to powerful multinational corporate exploiters; to allow 100-percent imperialist ownership; to allow the imperialists to take over the 110 billion barrels of oil reserves and repatriate the profits squeezed out of the Iraqi people; to set up bases for the Pentagon; and to install a puppet government beholden to Washington.

It is in pursuit of these objectives that Washington waged its illegal, "pre-emptive" war of aggression against Iraq. These are the motives behind the administration's fraudulent charges about weapons of mass destruction, terrorism, and so on. It is in pursuit of purely imperialist objectives that U.S. forces have rampaged across Iraq trying to crush the resistance--raiding homes, imprisoning thousands of suspects, taking hostages and rounding up leaders. It was for these reactionary objectives that Washington hunted down Saddam Hussein.

The gloating triumphalism of the Bush administration, its systematic attempts to humiliate the former head of the Iraqi state, and its preparation for an imperialist-run show trial are meant to send a message to everyone who refuses to bow down to the dictates of U.S. imperialism: "If you resist, we will get you." It is reminiscent of Rome's imperial armies, that brought back rebellious leaders in chains or put their heads on pikes, and of the U.S. Cavalry, which displayed the bodies of Native leaders who resisted them.

To the dismay of Bush, Bremer and the military, the initial response to the capture of Saddam Hussein has been car bombings, rocket attacks and protest demonstrations. Bush himself has been cautious in touting this event as some sort of decisive victory.

He and his advisers undoubtedly are mindful of recent history. Shortly after taking Baghdad, U.S. generals sat in the newly captured Republican Palace and gloated over their "amazing victory," virtually claiming that Iraq was theirs. Then came Bush's photo-op on the aircraft carrier when he pronounced the war over. And again, after the execution of Saddam Hussein's sons, Qusay and Uday, photos of their bullet-ridden bodies were put on world display.

Each of these moments of "triumph" was followed by renewed resistance from the Iraqi people.

The administrations in Washington, Republican and Democratic, have focused their wrath on Iraq for 12 years, including two wars, a genocidal sanctions regime and now a bloody occupation. During this time well over a million Iraqis have been killed and many more injured or sickened. No one should forget the admission by Clinton's Secretary of State Madeleine Albright on CBS's "60 Minutes" program on May 12, 1996.

Leslie Stahl asked Albright, referring to the sanctions: "We have heard that half a million children have died. I mean that's more children than died at Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price worth it?"

Albright replied: "I think this is a very hard choice, but the price--we think the price is worth it."

Can anyone make the case that the illegal capture of Saddam Hussein by U.S. forces has anything to do with concern for the Iraqi people? Indeed, one U.S. administration after another has tortured them. Washington's invasion of Iraq was illegal. Its occupation is illegal. And any trial of Saddam Hussein or other Iraqi leaders that is set up by Bush, Rumsfeld, Bremer, Wolfowitz and company is illegal and calculated to further the oppression and exploitation of the Iraqi people.

The Iraqi people feel violated by this capture and parading of Saddam. This is reflected in the fact that, try as they may, the U.S. television networks have been unable to produce any shots of mass demonstrations celebrating his capture, even by his most strenuous opponents. All their video takes are tight shots of small groups. While paid print journalists and television commentators fantasize about "demonstrations" of celebration everywhere, somehow the cameras are unable to find them.

U.S. troops fire on demonstrators

In the meantime, U.S. troops are firing on and killing demonstrators protesting Saddam Hussein's capture.

If anyone has any doubt about the reactionary character of this operation, they have only to listen to the proclamations of the other imperialist governments. The former colonizers of the world, from London to Paris to Berlin to Rome to Madrid to Tokyo, are all hailing the event. Can these robbers--the promoters of corporate "globalization" and neo-liberal schemes to trample on the sovereignty of governments and plunder the national economies of oppressed peoples in Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Middle East--be suddenly overjoyed because "democracy" and "freedom" are on their way to Iraq?

To be sure, within the framework of the Iraqi national revolution--which began with the ousting of the British colonialists in 1958--Saddam Hussein has played a contradictory and often reactionary role. Among other things, he and the Baathists suppressed the Iraqi Communist Party--which at that time was a genuinely anti-imperialist and pro-working class party--and waged a reactionary bourgeois war of conquest against Iran, even accepting support from Washington for his efforts.

On the other hand, unlike the feudal oil monarchs of the Persian Gulf states, who became complete clients of oil imperialism, Saddam Hussein used Iraq's oil wealth to build up the country's economic infrastructure on a bourgeois basis, largely through state capitalism. During his regime, Iraq became one of the most developed countries in the Middle East. Significant social benefits accrued to the people, including free medical care, widespread education and literacy, rights of women and a social safety net. Above all, however, the Iraqi president refused to let imperialism take over the country.

The most aggressive sections of the U.S. ruling class, particularly the oil companies, long ago set out to destroy Saddam Hussein and the Iraqi nat ional state exactly for these reasons: they held on to national independence and control over the oil, the fundamental conquests of the 1958 anti-colonial revolution. With the coming to office of Bush, these elements galvanized the entire U.S. ruling class who wholeheartedly support ed their program of conquest.

It is only in the context of the struggle of U.S. and British imperialism on the one hand, and on the other the Iraqi people fighting to undermine the occupation, that the capture of Saddam Hussein can be assessed. Under these conditions, anyone opposed to imperialism must reject the right of the U.S. to imprison him and of Washington's "Governing Council" stooges to put him on trial.

Whatever role Saddam Hussein played in the resistance, if any, it is an illusion of the empire builders in Washington to think that the Iraqi people will ever reconcile themselves to colonial enslavement--either direct rule through an occupation, or indirect rule through a puppet government.

Justice for the Iraqi people will begin on the day that the war criminals in Washington are put on trial.

Reprinted from the Dec. 25, 2003, issue of Workers World newspaper

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