Thursday, September 13, 2007

Iraq: The Return of "Colonialism"

After the Second World War, colonial imperialism (formal colonies, military forces stationed in them, colonial administrators working formally or in many cases informally with local usually hereditary local rulers to maintain control) was largely destroyed as national liberation movements drove out colonial powers bankrupted by the war and the major powers of the "cold war world," the socialist Soviet Union and the capitalist United States were not colonial powers(although the U.S. supported the French colonial war in Vietnam after WWII as part of its larger cold war policy and then created a quasi colonial state, South Vietnam, when the French were defeated, leading to another, more devastating war in Vietnam for the Vietnamese).

The policy and much of the "debate" concerning the Iraq occupation today makes sense in terms of pre World War II colonialism. Just as the British colonialists in India, for example, the world's largest colony for a few centuries, worked with local hereditary rulers whom they funded and played Hindus against Muslims against each other and then claimed that they were in India to "protect" the "princely states" (hereditary rulers) and Hindu and Muslim communities, the U.S. is playing Shia and Sunni Muslim communities against one another and attempting to work with hereditary rulers (sheiks here as against maharajahs) in the name of peace and development (civilization and progress the British called it, "nation building and democracy" the U.S. is calling it). In reality the policy remains one to divide and rule, so that even if national independence/liberation is achieved, as it was in India, fall back positions (which for the British meant favoring and working with Muslim elites to establish a Muslim separatist state, Pakistan, that would continue to serve their imperialist regional interests) can be implemented.

For the Bush administration, an emerging fall back position seems to be dividing Iraq between Sunni, Shia religious and Kurdish ethnic populations (perhaps formally) and developing some sort of military
political alliance with one or more of these groups in order to sustain control over Iraqi oil and in all likelihood military bases and an indefinite military presence whose purpose would be to exploit the oil for U.S. and other transnational corporations.

At the moment, most of the Democratic candidates are debating Bush and the Republicans within the context of this colonialist discourse (Dennis Kucinich, who unfortunately does not at this time have the resources to be considered a major candidate is a crucial exception) advocating significantly smaller troop deployments, specific goals to be met, and concrete timetables for troop withdrawal, and developing counterinsurgency capacities among the Iraqis).

While this is certainly better than Bush and the Republicans in a lesser of two evils vein, the Democrats are not coming forward with a policy for the economic reconstruction of Iraq, with entails protection of its oil resources from U.S. and European corporate predators, and a policy to advance reconciliation between Shia, Sunni, and Kurdish communities, which both the previous pre WWII British colonial rule and Saddam Hussein's brutal, fascist (as Iraqi Communists have long called it) Baath party dictatorship built upon. Rather than implementing policies of reconciliation (which would make "nation building," which of course Iraqis can only do for themselves, into something more than a Big Lie) Bush administration policy has been to heighten conflict in order to sustain its de facto colonial position.

The old colonialism was destroyed after WWII thanks in large part to the advance of the socialist movement globally, the existence of the socialist Soviet Union which from its establishment had been the global center for anti-colonialism, and for that matter the U.S., which while it happily absorbed the assets of the old colonial powers the way John D. Rockefeller merged companies, wasn't interested in paying the overhead of colonial rule(the U.S. strategy, perfected in central America and the Caribbean, was indirect rule by supporting regimes like Somoza's in Nicaragua and sending in the marines to prop up such regimes on an ad hoc basis).

Even though the Soviet Union no longer exists and the Peoples Republic of China, an emerging great global power still led by Communists, is in no way playing the global anti-colonialist anti-imperialist role that the Soviet Union played in its history (I am not saying that to criticize the present course that China is on, its controversial attempt to develop socialism in the context of social market economy or accusing it of acting as an imperialist power, but merely stating what I consider to be a fact, that is, it is not in any significant way playing the anti-imperialist part that the Soviet Union played in world affairs for so long) the U.S. or any state following what is essentially a colonial policy as the Bush administration is in the 21st century can only lead to disaster as it did for the British, French, Italian German, and Japanese Empires among others in the 20th century. In the 2008 elections, we should fight to pressure the opposition to right Republicans not only to end the Iraq occupation but to come forward with anti-colonialist, anti-imperialist policies that will not only lead to reconstruction of and independence for a sovereign Iraq but prevent the next administration from establishing a colonial presence in new Iraq's.

Norman Markowitz

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