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Iraq war aimed also at Palestinians

By Sara Flounders

One of Secretary of State Colin Powell's justifications for a devastating U.S. attack on Iraq is that country's support for the Palestinian struggle for self-determination and a homeland.

In his 90-minute presentation to the United Nations Security Council Feb. 5 Powell said: "Iraq and terrorism go back decades. Baghdad trains Palestine Liber ation Front members in small arms and explosives. Saddam uses the Arab Liber ation Front to funnel money to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers in order to prolong the intifada. And it's no secret that Saddam's own intelligence service was involved in dozens of attacks or attempted assassinations in the 1990s."

Powell's effort to paint the Palestinian struggle as a foreign-funded terrorist organization is meant to politically delegitimize the long, heroic Palestinian struggle for self-determination.

This labeling of the Palestinian resistance as terrorism is no accident. Powell was presenting the U.S. justification for destroying Iraq. By including Iraq's support of the Palestinian struggle against Israeli occupation among the charges, Powell demonstrated U.S. imperialism's broader strategic goals in the region.

Much more than seizing Iraqi oil is at stake. It is clear that U.S. imperialism's goal is to pacify and politically transform the entire region.

The Bush administration intends to use the war against Iraq as an effort to eliminate every form of resistance in the Middle East.

What is the greatest impediment to U.S. plans to conquer the entire region? It is the fact that millions of people throughout the Arab and Islamic world deeply support and identify with the Palestinian struggle. This struggle has survived the most onerous conditions, and it has inspired generations of militants to resist imperialist control. Since the 1958 overthrow of the U.S./British-backed Iraqi monarchy, Iraq has supported the Palestinian struggle.

Every Arab government gives at least nominal support to the Palestinian struggle, because the Palestinians' heroic resistance is a living issue among the masses. In order to gain compliance among Arab states for the 1991 U.S. war against Iraq, Washington promised to broker an historic compromise that would lead to at least a nominal Palestinian state. This came to be known as the Oslo Accords.

Despite years of talks and a few minimal gains for the Palestinian movement, Israeli settlements doubled. Constant land confiscations and repression led to a new Palestinian uprising, or Intifada, that began in September 2000.

Today, Israel's colonial-style occupation of the West Bank and Gaza has strangled the Palestinian economy. Through a system of road closures and walls, the whole population is locked down into ghettos.

Now U.S. imperialism has signaled the Israeli government of war criminal Ariel Sharon that the war against Iraq is an oppor tunity for new, possibly far worse repression and expulsions of Palestinian people.

The real terrorists

Even with murky slides and dubious audiotapes, Powell's war talk at the UN presented little that was new or even original. The "irrefutable and undeniable" evidence that supposedly represented the latest declassified secret revelations from U.S. and British sources was actually a plagiarized cut-and-paste rehash of years-old academic articles posted on web sites.

While Powell and President George W. Bush reiterated their charges that bombed, sanctioned and surrounded Iraq has weapons of mass destruction, the Feb. 2 New York Times described the blitzkrieg of more than 3,000 bombs and missiles that would rip into Iraq in the first 48 hours of a U.S. attack.

One Pentagon official said: "There will not be a safe place in Baghdad. The sheer size of this has never been seen before, never contemplated before."

The plan for destruction is called "Shock and Awe."

One military planner explained, "You have this simultaneous effect, rather like nuclear weapons at Hiroshima, not taking days or weeks but in minutes." This description was printed three days before Powell's UN talk charging new evidence of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.

Labeling the Palestinian resistance as terrorism is the same upside-down reality as Washington claiming that Iraq threatens the world with weapons of mass destruction. It is Israeli military forces--funded, equipped and politically supported by Washington--that are today inflicting a campaign of mass terror on the Palestinian people. Scores of Palestinian leaders have been victims of Israeli targeted assassinations from U.S.-supplied Apache attack helicopters. This is publicly acknowledged and accompanies a policy of mass arrests, torture and closures.

Palestinians living within the 1948 borders of Israel, although nominally Israeli citizens, are denied the right to buy land or work at many jobs. They are paid far less and are forced to live under constant scrutiny and discrimination. They are the remnants of the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians driven out of historic Palestine through a campaign of systematic terror and land expropriation.

While declaring Iraq to be in material breach of UN resolutions, the United States has never proposed any action against the state of Israel for flouting literally hundreds of UN resolutions passed over the 55 years since the mass expulsion of Palestinians from their land in 1948.

But as U.S. oil and military corporations lay out their plans for a longterm occupation of Iraq and its fabulously rich oil fields, they should look again at the Israeli army of occupation in the West Bank and Gaza. Even using the most brutal tactics of mass deportations, uprooting and imprisoning tens of thousands of people, they have never been able to destroy the Palestinian determination to resist.

The strains of keeping an Israeli army of colonial occupation mobilized have created deep divisions and growing opposition within Israel--even within the military. And there is no end in sight.

In the past two years of the new Intifada, the Palestinian struggle for justice and self-determination has gained wider support, including among many Jews. Millions of young people in the United States, Europe and Latin America now identify deeply with the resistance.

Bush faces massive world opposition on the eve of war. U.S. occupation in Iraq will prove even more costly and divisive. The thin and wavering support will crumble as millions of people come to understand the enormous cost of U.S. imperialism's reactionary plan for the entire region.

The broad world movement that has mobilized to oppose the criminal U.S. war against Iraq will be strengthened by linking up and defending the Palestinian people's decades-long struggle for justice and self-determination.

Reprinted from the Feb. 20, 2003, issue of Workers World newspaper
This article is copyrighted under a Creative Commons License.
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