This penetrating article on the motives and machinations behind the
first Gulf War, written by the founder of Workers World Party,
appeared originally in the Aug. 23, 1990, issue of Workers World. At
that time, the first Bush regime was furiously rounding up
international support for its coming onslaught against Iraq. Ronald
Reagan had invented the term
Evil Empire to describe his
adversaries. Sound familiar? But as Marcy shows, the real Evil Empire
was based in Washington and Wall Street.
The Evil Empire is hard at work, moving faster than at any time since World War II. It has mobilized the largest naval armada since that global conflict. It has already deployed thousands of U.S. soldiers on the sands of Saudi Arabia and along the coast of Kuwait. President Bush is talking openly of a quarantine, which is the last step before open war.
Why are we in Saudi Arabia? asks the Wall Street Journal of
We're there to protect the integrity of the
world's oil supply, say the Journal editors. But the
world's oil supply doesn't belong to the world. It belongs to
a handful of multinational corporations, as greedy, avaricious, and
extortionate a grouping as ever existed.
The world cannot tolerate, says the Journal,
a power with
the capability of imposing a tax on all the West, especially a power
that would use its profits to build nuclear, chemical, and biological
weapons to extract more declarations of surrender and tribute.
Who is the Journal talking about? Who is imposing a tax on the
American people as of today? Look at any gas station in the country
and the answer is as clear as crystal. It is Mobil, Exxon, Texaco,
Ashland, Gulf--or any one of a dozen of smaller companies. Even in the
period of a glutted oil market, they dared to raise the price of
gasoline! And when President Bush was asked why he didn't do
something, he urged them to exercise
uses its profits to build nuclear, chemical and
biological weapons to extract declarations of surrender and
tribute? Isn't that the U.S.? Wasn't the Pentagon the
first to store chemical, nuclear and biological weapons by the
hundreds of thousands?
Don't they extract both tribute and surrender from oppressed peoples who dare to stand up to the behemoth of imperialist finance?
Saddam Hussein is indeed a modern pirate, whose men this week were
literally looting Kuwait of its material wealth and carting it back to
Baghdad, says the Journal editorial.
So it's Saddam Hussein. Yesterday it was Noriega. He's all but forgotten in the last few months, now that Panama is presumably securely occupied by U.S. military forces after the many, many casualties meted out to the population, women and children included. The day before that it was Muammar Qaddafi.
But this week it's Hussein whose men are looting Kuwait of its material wealth. Oh, how the imperialists can lie and lie in the face of the most obvious facts!
The wealth of Kuwait has been flowing into the coffers of the Western imperialists for decades. It's in the superbanks of the imperialist world--Chase Manhattan, Chemical, Manufacturers Hanover, as well as the big British, French, Swiss, Belgian, German and Japanese banks. Who should know this better than the financial hotshots of the Wall Street Journal?
Then the Journal quotes Secretary of State James Baker. He briefed
NATO foreign ministers last week, suggesting
that 'the world
could be plunged into a new dark age' if the Iraqis got away with
stealing Kuwait. All the Middle East knows that the Kuwaiti
government has been a puppet of U.S. imperialism and that its wealth
has been stuffing the deep pockets of the bankers in New York, Tokyo,
What constitutes the Evil Empire? It is the unholy alliance of big oil, the multinational corporations, the military-industrial complex, the big banks, and the capitalist government which undeviatingly acts as their willing servants. How else can we account for the deafening silence from Congress and the liberal luminaries of bourgeois public opinion in the face of a global conflagration?
Nobody has spoken out. At the time of the notorious Gulf of Tonkin resolution giving Lyndon Johnson a free hand in Vietnam, Senators Wayne Morse (D-Ore.) and Ernest Gruening (D-Alaska) voted against it. Why isn't there even one senator or representative speaking up today?
Such a monolithic situation can arise only because free expression is stifled by the complete monopolization of all the vital arteries of communication by corporate entities intimately connected to or owned by the Evil Empire.
How different the situation was a century ago! In 1898, when U.S. capitalism was already moving into the imperialist epoch, it invaded the Philippines during the Spanish-American War. But at that time, literally half a million people--when the U.S. population was less than a third what it is today--joined the Anti-Imperialist League, along with many intellectuals and even business people, to protest the brutal colonialist occupation of the islands.
Nor were they turned around by the rhetoric of William Randolph Hearst and his nationwide chain of tabloids, who decried the cruel and despotic Spanish rulers and preached the gospel of democratic U.S. capitalist overlordship in the Philippines.
Why today is there no up-and-down vote in Congress as required by the Constitution and restated in the War Powers Act? Forget it. It's a mere scrap of paper whenever the needs of finance capital become imperative.
France, Britain and even Denmark have joined the imperialist combination to commit aggression in the Middle East. What accounts for the unanimity of the imperialist robbers? What accounts for their sudden turn from a cantankerous diversity of opinions to apparently monolithic unity?
The imperialist powers are known throughout history for their bitter rivalry and conflict over economic, financial and strategic interests. Even when allies in some respects, they retain their adversarial relationship in other areas. The present monolithic unity is therefore suspicious in light of the historical evolution of one of their principal characteristic features: the division and redivision of world markets and resources.
When the relationship of forces on a world scale no longer corresponds to the political and economic situation, then pressures build up to revise the old divisions. The decade that began with the Israeli aggression in 1967, followed by the oil boycott and the 1973 Arab-Israeli war, froze certain areas of exploitation by the imperialists, corresponding to their interests for the time being. Thus it would remain until a more attractive opportunity arose to reconsider the relationship of forces among the imperialists and develop a strategy for new aggression in this area of fabulous raw materials that holds decisive significance for a good part of the rest of the world.
Is the division and redivision of markets and sources of supply merely a theoretical premise lacking a factual historical basis? Let us look at the historical record.
In 1916, during the bloodiest international carnage ever, when the outcome of the war was still uncertain and U.S. intervention was being debated in Congress, France, Britain and czarist Russia secretly signed a treaty dividing a good part of the world markets in strategic areas among themselves. We wouldn't even know about this secret agreement except that the Bolsheviks, on taking power in Russia, kept their promise to reveal all secret treaties of the czarist regime and published the Sykes-Picot agreement. What were its terms?
The territory czarist Russia staked out for itself is not relevant to our present concern. But of preeminent importance was the agreement between France and Britain. They divided between themselves, among other areas, all of the Arabian peninsula.
When Lenin wrote his
Imperialism, in which he offered abundant
data showing that one of the characteristic features of imperialism
was the division and redivision of the world, some still argued that
this was a general theoretical conclusion not sufficiently fortified
Likewise, Rudolf Hilferding's earlier work,
Capital, had been pooh-poohed by the capitalist press as mere
theorizing, although both books relied heavily on the data of
J.A. Hobson, a British author with impeccable credentials.
None of the imperialists' plans for division and redivision of
world markets were
open covenants, openly arrived at, as
Woodrow Wilson pledged after World War I. That never happened. Nearly
all were secret, revealed only after public outcry or the overthrow of
governments forced them into the open.
We don't know any more about the secret agreements being made
today than the people during World War I knew about the Sykes-Picot
treaty. But we do know about the greed of the imperialists--whether in
the U.S., Japan, West Germany, France, Britain or even Denmark. None
of them would gratuitously join a naval armada out of humanitarian
instincts. They would only do it for what is called in imperialist
a consideration. And the division of the oil is an
enormous factor in getting their cooperation. The hows we may not
know, but we know the whys.
The present situation is characterized by the fact that the conditions
for a redivision of world markets and sources of supply have
matured. It has only awaited an attractive opportunity for the
redivision to take place. Saddam Hussein provided that opportunity, in
a way far more provocative than the shooting of Archduke Ferdinand of
Austria in 1914. The concern professed by the imperialists for the
independence of Kuwait rings as false as their forefathers'
crocodile tears over
The real reason for both world wars was the imbalance in world political and economic relations after great technological and military growth. Germany, and later Japan, had become increasingly powerful but lacked access to the world markets. The attempts of Britain and France to contain the growing might of German imperialism would in the end lead to war.
Now an amazing array of naval might is being assembled, supposedly to stop aggression. Why was this not available when the Israelis invaded Egypt in 1967? Or the countless times since when they have bombed, strafed and killed thousands of people? Resolutions of condemnation have become routine in the United Nations, but there has never been a naval armada to force back the Israelis from their illegal occupation of territories. Of course not, because the Israelis are in cahoots with the imperialists and serve as an arm for the protection of their interests.
But let us assume that there is genuine concern about the fate of a small, independent country being taken over by a larger neighbor. Shouldn't it be considered first as an internal affair of the region? Shouldn't an opportunity be afforded to the people in the area to discuss and take whatever measures they regard necessary? But this never happened.
From the beginning to the end, it has been the U.S. and its imperialist allies, with the collaboration of the USSR and China, orchestrating every move. It is brazen intervention. Only as an afterthought, when it became clear that a virtual firestorm of protest would come from the masses, the workers and peasants, the progressive intelligentsia, did the imperialists begin to think that perhaps there should be an Arab solution.
Then came the idea of an Arab League summit meeting. But it's a
fraud to call this an Arab solution. These are the bought-and-paid-for
tools of imperialism. Take the largest and most significant country in
the Arab world, Egypt. The government of Hosni Mubarak has been
getting $2.3 billion a year for the last 10 years. No wonder, exclaims
a New York Times article of Aug. 13 , that aid to the Egyptian
really paid off in terms of American interests
in the area.
Egypt is leading the so-called deployment of Arab soldiers to guard Saudi Arabia against invasion. The Saudi government is as totalitarian and dynastic as any ancient monarchy ever was and as removed from the people.
What this Arab solution amounts to is a rounding up by the imperialists of compradore elements of the Arab bourgeoisie to guard the interests of the imperialists against any attempt to dislodge them from their fabulous empire of oil. This is the issue.
The mass of the people in these Arab nations have not been heard from. Of course, the PLO, Libya and Yemen have registered their opposition. But even if only Arab nations were involved, this would not necessarily exhaust the issue of the right of all nations to self-determination. ...
Apart from the division and redivision of world markets and sources of
raw materials, there is still another factor that accounts for the
suspicious unity of the imperialists in their flagrant aggression in
the Middle East. It is the accommodation of both the USSR and China to
the needs of the imperialists, particularly the U.S. A number of
nonaligned countries have also followed suit, incapable
of resisting the pressures of both the imperialists and the
accommodating position of the two large socialist countries which
previously had stood as obstacles in the road of imperialist
Why is it so woefully wrong for a socialist country, or a workers' state that aspires to socialism, to vote in the Security Council--as both the USSR and China did--for an imperialist-sponsored resolution condemning Iraq and imposing sanctions?
Because it confuses the masses. They are concerned about the rights of nations to self-determination against unjust or illegal annexations or amalgamations. That's what world progressive public opinion is concerned with. That's what the anti-imperialist forces and the advanced working class everywhere is concerned with.
But the U.S., Britain, France, Germany, Japan--what are they concerned with? The super profits to be drawn out of the sweat and blood of the Arabian workers and peasants. They're concerned with predatory, avaricious, extortionate profits.
That's why they are sending their naval armadas and are ready to go through an imperialist holocaust, just as they have done in two imperialist world wars and innumerable coup d'etats and interventions.
To vote with them is to convey the impression that they are concerned about the rights of small nations. In the face of what has happened in Grenada, Panama, Nicaragua, Kanaky, the Malvinas, and many other parts of the world, that's wholly wrong. Confusing the masses facilitates the role of the imperialists and has enabled them to virtually issue a declaration of war against Iraq.
But note this. Having seen that the imperialists are on the verge of open military warfare and have gathered such a vast armada, both China and the USSR have become worried about where all this is leading.
Earlier they agreed on sanctions, thinking it's a slow process
which may not work and is less important than arriving at some sort of
accommodation with the imperialists. Foreign ministers Eduard
Shevardnadze and James Baker made a joint statement Aug. 3 calling for
an international cutoff of all arms supplies to Iraq. It was a
signal for the imperialists, especially the U.S., to hurry the
military and especially the naval preparations to attack Iraq.
The point is that the U.S. originated the maneuvers for sanctions in the Security Council, getting the support of China, the USSR, and some other countries that ordinarily would have been glad to denounce the U.S. for its intervention.
This gave the U.S. a sort of legal basis for its unilateral action against Iraq, although this was not specifically agreed to by the Security Council. You can read backwards and forwards the resolution that was passed. It did not give carte blanche to the U.S. and its allies to open aggressive military action against Iraq.
But the imperialist press, following the orders of their respective governments, have interpreted it that way, and the world movement has been incredibly confused by the apparent full-scale agreement of China and the USSR with the imperialist powers. For all that anyone knows, they are so much in cahoots with the imperialists that perhaps they will share in the booty in one way or another.
But note this. No sooner had U.S. military forces arrived in Saudi Arabia than the USSR suddenly discovered that there really is no UN authority for the military intervention. Why else would they call a Security Council meeting and ask the council to pass a resolution calling for a UN role?
Fearful now that this has gone too far, too fast, the USSR wants the UN Security Council to appoint a military commander to guard against invasion who would have the consent of the Arab countries as well as the others. By asking for UN intervention rather than the unilateral intervention of the imperialist allies, they demonstrated a fear that this may turn into a general conflagration going far beyond the occupation of Iraq.
Had the USSR been concerned from the very beginning with the potential for imperialist aggression, they would have denounced U.S. plans for intervention, as they have done on other occasions together with China. But having gone halfway to meet the demands of imperialism, they found themselves in a trap and tried to pull back somewhat by calling for a UN role. What kind of UN role can there be when an alien force is already poised in the Gulf, albeit without the permission of the other countries of the region? ...
If in a labor dispute, a large union because of bureaucratic and class collaborationist tendencies begins to undermine a smaller union, is it right to seek a special agreement with the employer? That can only result in scab-herding and strike-breaking. No self-respecting union with a militant tradition would ever engage in it.
For oppressor and oppressed to join in a common resolution, as in the UN, completely wipes out the principal division in the contemporary world, which is between the super-exploited billions of people and the handful of imperialist powers which dominate the world. This tendency has become strengthened by the willing collaboration of the USSR and China in this ghastly act of imperialist interventionism.
In light of the contemporary situation in the Middle East, it would be foolhardy for the workers and the peasants to allow one or another of the bourgeois states to dominate the area on the basis of its oil wealth or military strength.
The very idea of domination is alien not only to anti-imperialist but to socialist principles. In the world labor movement, it is elementary that no large union should infringe on the rights of a small union or try to absorb it by high-handed tactics contrary to the will of the membership. What's applicable in the movement of the working class is also applicable among sovereign, independent and oppressed nations.
Current science and technology teach us how indispensable it is that there be a world organization to deal with environmental factors arising out of industrialization, particularly high technology. But it will never be viable if it's composed of oppressors and oppressed, where a few of the exploiting groups manage to hoodwink or corral the rest, claiming to be representative of no less than humanity.
What's needed is a world organization composed of the oppressed people and socialist countries. Actually, this is not a new thought. We advanced it in the sixties, as did President Sukarno of Indonesia. He actually proposed such an organization from which the imperialists would be excluded, rather than one in which they are dominant.
The UN in its long existence since 1945 has not solved a single significant issue which was not in the long run solved by the masses themselves. It was under the cover of the UN that the U.S. opened the Korean War and cowed more than a dozen nations to send military forces under the command of General MacArthur. The UN flag still flies there although it can no longer disguise naked U.S. occupation.
The UN may have some useful purposes here and there, but grave and very serious issues like imperialist intervention in any country can be solved only by the people themselves and their representatives. The fact that the UN Security Council at this late date is still dominated by a pro-imperialist majority disqualifies it from any progressive struggle.
Some countries don't have oil and need an equitable redistribution of the world's resources. It is an altogether regressive feature of the contemporary world that one small country, by virtue of its underground resources, can control the destiny of millions of people in other geographical areas. The imperialist bourgeoisie or the compradore bourgeoisie cannot be relied upon for an equitable or just solution.
Indeed, the world cries out against domination by the big imperialist powers. But not to replace it with another form of dominion. The only answer is a world cooperative socialist federation, where the means of production are the common property of the workers and peasants and, as we are learning more and more, its natural resources are utilized in an equitable way regardless of the geographical position of the country or the availability of the resources.
Only a world federation of socialist states can rid humanity not only of predatory imperialist wars but of poverty and underdevelopment as well as all kinds of disequilibriums that have developed as a result of society having been divided into antagonistic classes, into oppressors and oppressed.
As Marx put it in his monumental introduction to
A Critique of
Political Economy, the abolition of capitalism will close the
pre-history of humanity. But in the meantime, stopping imperialist
aggression is the first priority.