Interview: Agenda 2003
Peace: The Colour Purple
Industrial: Long, Hot Summer
Solidarity: Workers Against War
Security: Howard And The Hoodlums
International: Industrial Warfare
History: Unions and the Vietnam War
Review: Eight Miles to Mowtown
Poetry: Return To Sender
Satire: CIA Recruits New Intake of Future Enemies
The Locker Room
A Call To Arms
A Tale of Two Malls
Talk Back Tom
On The Beach
John Howard has a political problem.
The Australian people do not want a war with Iraq. The Prime Minister does.
Howard has been a magnificent warrior for his class for 30 years. Sending troops to the Gulf to support a US invasion of Iraq is just the logical expression of his elitist politics. The Prime Minister sees real benefit for Australia's rich and their economic system in being part of the slaughter in Iraq.
The first step in understanding Howard's position is to understand why Bush will invade Iraq.
For the US the attack on Iraq has two main focuses. First, it shows economic competitors like Europe and China that the US will exercise its military power to not only retain its present economic position but to strengthen it.
The Bush administration fears China for its potential threat to US economic dominance as much as it fears Europe for its actual threat. The war in Iraq is a warning to the US's economic competitors. It says "We have the guns; you play by our rules."
China understands that the US has the guns. It just doesn't like the rules. It has increased its arms spending markedly in response. The problem for China is the same as the USSR before it. Its economy is nowhere near the size and sophistication of that of the US. Defence spending imposes a bigger burden on its economy than on the American economy.
The Bush administration knows that by escalating world tensions there will be a new arms race, a race America is confident it will win. The hawks believe that the result for China will be along the same lines as occurred with the USSR - eventually the economic cost will be too great for China. Its political and economic structure will burst apart, leaving a second order economic power that understands its subservient role in the world.
Europe is different. Because it does not really pay for the defence spending the US undertakes, Europe benefits both militarily and economically from US might. Iraq shows Europe that this state of affairs can no longer continue.
The US wants Europe to bear a greater share of the burden of its military spending. This is a backdoor way of reducing European economic power.
Europe is reluctant to share the burden. This reluctance in part explains the opposition of France and Germany to being involved in the attack on Iraq.
The war is also about ensuring a regular supply of cheap oil to the world. Without that the world economy, and the US economy, would collapse. US control of the Middle East gives America control of its economic rivals. And it gives the US the power to manipulate the price at which other countries (eg Mexico, Venezuela) supply oil to it.
The certainty of supply and relative cheapness of world oil are built on the subjugation of the Arab people. Democracy in any Arab nation in the Middle East would threaten cheap oil. This is because a democratic middle eastern regime with major oil supplies could only come to power by promising to use oil revenues to better the welfare of its people. That would produce pressure to increase the price to better the flow of funds to the Arab masses rather than to the boardrooms of the West.
US support for feudal, dictatorial and terrorist regimes in the Middle East (including Saddam Hussein's regime during the 1980s, even when it was gassing Kurds and Iranians) is an expression of this prime goal of US policy in the region - to ensure the steady flow of cheap oil. Pro-American dictators do that.
And what does any of this have to do with Australia? Quite a lot.
Australia wants to be on the winning side. The acolytes will receive their rewards in the global division of the world. We will be the America's managers for the Asia Pacific region, both to protect US interests and extend our own. It furthers our own imperialist desires in the region to have the world's most powerful military nation in the world on side.
This can be done directly or indirectly. The Government sees support for the US in its war on Iraq as being the best way to ensure Australia's interests in the immediate region are protected.
Invading Iraq is our rain check for the future.
Labor echoes the alternative view. The ALP emphasises the threat North Korea poses. This is part of its strategy to draw the US directly into
Asia. Under the cloak of US power in the region, so the rationale goes, Australia's interests can flourish.
A third way - to reject Australian imperialism and with it our dependence on the military might of the US - goes unmentioned by both main parties.
There is something else too in all of this. The US economic elite wants to overcome the catastrophic impact the defeat in Vietnam had on the psyche of US imperialism. To attack and defeat an unprotected and weak Iraq presents that opportunity. The fighting will be over very soon. The destruction will be immense.
But the failure to attack North Korea shows the extent of US weakness. The US fears military defeat in the Korean peninsula. It is a lesson other dictators must be taking note of. More and more states will begin to look to a nuclear program to defend themselves from US attack.
And then there is the UN. Labor supports attacking Iraq, but only with UN support. Some elements of the Government may have the same view.
This talk of UN support is a Machiavellian political response to the overwhelming opposition of the Australian people to a unilateral attack on Iraq.
The Blix report was deliberately ambiguous. The UN cannot survive without the US, so it must play to US imperialism. As war approaches, most members of the UN will fall in behind the one imperialist power, the US.
In the past the US has been able to buy off poorer members of the Security Council. They are doing so today with countries like Russia, offering packages better than Russian interests in Iraq at the moment.
This is complicated by the fact that the European powers have their own strategic interests in opposing the war. France and China may veto any new Security Council resolutions authorising an invasion because they see it as an attempt by the US to control their own economies through control of Middle Eastern oil.
If the UN does authorise an attack, so what? UN support does not turn an imperialist war into a non-imperialist one. This will still be a war for US interests. How does tacking "proudly bought to you by the UN" on US and British bombs justify killing tens of thousands of Iraqi women and children?
The Australian ruling class is split over how to attack Iraq. The opposition of the Australian people to a unilateral attack on Iraq has forced the Government to change its rhetoric to become more UN friendly. It has seen the ALP come out more clearly in support of a UN sanctioned attack on Iraq.
The ghosts of the anti-Vietnam war campaign are rising. One impact of our defeat in Vietnam seems to be a deep distrust of US military intervention and a healthy disrespect for politicians advocating war.
There are differences. Invading Vietnam enjoyed majority support at the start. However the Vietnamese fought back and dragged US imperialism into a long and debilitating dance of death. The slaughter in Iraq will be over in a few weeks. However the repercussions might last for decades.
Bush talks of liberating Iraq. This is a sick joke. The US will impose a pro-US dictator, just as it has done in every other country it has invaded. The liberation of Iraq is the historic role of the Iraqi people, not US and Australian imperialism.
Howard is hoping the outbreak of war will produce an upsurge of patriotism and support for "our boys". That may be, but the base of opposition is so large, and the lessons of Vietnam too deep, to think that it can last long. Howard must gamble that the war ends quickly (very likely), without Australian casualties (possible) and that post-war reconstruction produces tangible benefits for Iraqis (unlikely).
The other problem for Howard is that any fighting may well give further impetus to the anti-war movement and harden the resolve of ordinary Australians against the war.
As Vietnam shows, war can produce a swing to the Left. The anti-war movement has an important role to play in building opposition to the invasion of Iraq and in so doing opening up a space for a different politics to the tweedledee and tweedledum we presently get. Reaction can be pushed back.
Already the passive opposition of most Australians to US and Australian intervention in Iraq, and the growing anti-war movement, show that the political climate in Australia is changing. The move to the Left may be slow at the moment, but when the slaughter of Iraqis starts it could become a stampede.
During the Vietnam war, some sections of the movement adopted the slogan "Stop work to stop the war". If the Australian trade union movement mobilised workers today against the imperialist slaughter, Australian participation might end before it beings.
On top of that, industrial action against the war could become the outlet for all the suppressed anger twenty years of economic rationalism has created.
Then John Howard would be in real trouble.
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