Last week Obama announced that U.S. troops would be withdrawn from Iraq by the end of this year. He said this completed his campaign promise to withdraw from Iraq. Some people might breathe a sigh of relief, believing that the war is over. The Iraqi people are not among them. They know full well what this 8-year war of occupation has delivered and what it has left behind.
The U.S. military has carried out a massive war of destruction against Iraqi society. The loss of life has been tragic. During this war an estimated one million Iraqis have been killed and close to five million more have fled the country. More than 33,000 U.S. troops have died, another 100,000 wounded and more than 320,000 have brain injuries. Yes, a dictator was overthrown and later executed. But Iraqi society has been shattered by this war. Religious differences are being used to divide and manipulate the population. The society is now ruled over by armed militias, sometimes wearing the uniforms of the Iraqi army.
And what was gained by this war? Is the U.S. really withdrawing? First, the U.S. oil companies got what they wanted – priority access to the vast oil deposits of Iraq. To protect these and other corporate interests, the U.S. government is not leaving. It has its embassy in Baghdad – the largest in the world with 21 buildings sitting on 104 acres. An estimated 17,000 people will work for the embassy, many of them doing the cooking and cleaning for those left to run Iraq for U.S. corporate interests. The State Department has hired 3,650 private forces to protect them. And another 2000 mercenary forces will be in installations around Iraq. This is a withdrawal?
The motivations behind this war should be clear for all to see. It has been a war of domination and control of resources and the region.
In Libya a similar, bloody, but shorter war has been carried out. There, again, the U.S. and its allies mobilized supposedly to overthrow a dictator and bring freedom to a people. The people of Libya, sparked by the uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt and Syria provided the ground troops, while the U.S. and its allies supplied the weapons and dropped the bombs. Again, a dictator was overthrown and executed. And again, a nation is left in ruins, its fighters now fragmented into armed bands. And again, the spoils of war – the oil and other natural resources will be controlled by the corporations represented by the military forces of the U.S. and its allies.
Meanwhile the war on Afghanistan has entered its second decade. After 10 years of bombings, assassinations and military occupation Afghanistan is in shambles. More than 35,000 civilians have been killed, hundreds of thousands have fled their homes and 2774 U.S. forces have been killed. Various Taliban forces, supposedly the target of the U.S. invasion ten years ago, are controlling ever-larger parts of the country, as resistance to what seems like a permanent U.S. occupation deepens.
The claim of the U.S. military defending human rights and bringing democracy to various parts of the world are as old as the early U.S. invasions in Haiti, the Philippines, Guatemala, Viet Nam and other parts of the world. The freedom that is defended is the freedom for U.S. corporations to plunder and profit. The freedom that is defended is the freedom to install dictatorships that will defend the interests of those corporations.
For may of us living in the U.S., these wars are just news stories. But they are more than that. They are horrific repression and massacres carried out in our name, using our tax dollars – an estimated one trillion dollars so far in Iraq and Afghanistan. This must stop. People across the world are raising the demand for a new and better world, one where each life matters, not just the interests of the wealthy and powerful. And these movements are naming the same enemy – capitalism, a system of corporate power.