Iraq: The Revolution in Progress
by Robin Mathews
When “the people” rise up and take by force the power of the State from the hands of the group in control, we call that a revolution. When a right wing or small-group insurgency seizes the State by force we call that a coup or, in French, a coup d’etat. But when a group in control serves an elite and more and more excludes “the people” from a share of wealth, government, law-making, and the economy, we also call that a coup.
Globalization is a global coup. The group in power makes new laws to exclude more and more people and then by the “misrule of law” victimizes them. (Gordon Campbell of B.C., for instance, promised solemnly in election NOT to sell B.C. Rail or B.C. Ferries to wealthy private interests. He is in the process of selling B.C. Rail and wrecking B.C. Ferries on the way to its sale.) The British Columbia people own the coastal ferry corporation called B.C. Ferries. The Gordon Campbell people in control intend to take it away from the people, to privatize it, and to sell it to U.S. interests.
To do so, the Campbell people passed a wholly new Coastal Ferries Act which strips ferry employees of rights they previously had and takes powers from the federal government. Then Campbell hired a U.S. citizen out of the U.S. to head B.C. Ferries. His actions have precipitated a strike, and begun destruction of the Ferry workers union as the next step towards privatization. Whenever David Kahn runs into obstacles, the Campbell government steps in to help him. We are very clearly witnessing a coup.
But there’s more. Riding on one of the last scheduled ferries before the present (as I write) government-management-inspired explosion on the B.C. coast, I was talking to one of the ferry employees about the looming trouble.
“This,” he said, “is globalization.”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“You bring in a yankee,” he said. “You destroy the ferry system. And then you sell it to U.S. interests. That’s globalization.”
The ferry employees have been fighting back militantly, but the B.C. population isn’t “in revolution”. It isn’t militantly organizing to take power from the group in control. In B.C. the coup is continuing; the revolution hasn’t started. “Okay”, you say, “then why do you call this column “The Revolution in Progress”?
Because what is happening in B.C. is also happening in Iraq, except things are different there. The U.S. has staged a coup. Claming the presence of Weapons of Mass Destruction and much else that didn’t exist, the U.S. launched an illegal war against Iraq, “defeated” the Iraq army, toppled the people in control, and occupied the country. Few will say that isn’t a coup. Then the conqueror began to make decisions in violation of international law. It set up a hand-picked, unelected Governing Council.
As one of its early acts, the GC made laws to exclude the Iraq people and to victimize them. Specifically, the GC passed a law that all public enterprises (nearly 200, 50% of the economy) are for sale to anyone in the world (meaning to the U.S. and its handpicked friends). It ruled, as well, that foreign owners may take100% of profits out of the country. Needless to say, Iraq capitalists aren’t in a condition to buy their own economy. And so by the time there are elections in Iraq (not to be confused with Democracy) the U.S. and its handpicked friends will have a stranglehold on the Iraq economy.
What the B.C. government is doing by stealth, the U.S. in Iraq is doing by force, fraud, and violation of international law. But the U.S. in Iraq is practicing “the misrule of law” – or trying to – in the middle of a revolution.
Look around. We now have the global talk organization against globalization, called The World Social Forum. It grew out of Quebec City 1997, Seattle 1999, Genoa 2001, Cancun 2003. Much has been said about the miracle of international solidarity against “globalization”, “the New World Order” (against the Trilateral Commission, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the reactionary direction of the European Union, the World Trade Organization, and U.S. expansionism). But serious questions are being asked about how the international solidarity against globalization will organize, will institutionalize, will budget, and will undertake effective action against the groups in control. No answer has been offered so far….
In fact, the globalizers are asking when the steam will go out of the popular nonsense and when the restive demonstrators will go home. The restive demonstrators are asking when something concrete will be formed around them, something that has real teeth. Neither group has noticed the revolution against globalization and the New World Order is in progress.
In Latin America – with enormously greater problems than in northern countries – Columbia, Brazil, Venezuela - the response to globalization, the New World Order, and U.S. imperialism arises in local neighbourhoods, in towns, in provinces, in the whole country. The response creates full-scale confrontations at the ballot box as well as on the street, in the factory, on the farm, in the corporation. Hugo Chavez of Venezuela reversed a coup to replace him and has told (especially Latin America) that U.S. manipulation, CIA destabilization, and internal corporate treason can be beaten. But his message is barely reported in the northern world. It is even quietly censored.
Iraq is doing something else. It is conducting an open, armed revolution against “globalization”, the New World Order”, and U.S. imperialism. But Iraq is different. It isn’t conducting a quiet revolution and it hasn’t called for global solidarity, nor has it suggested it wants a loving relation with all well-meaning people (who think noble thoughts) elsewhere in the world. As with altogether too many revolutions, it is nasty, bloody, violent, and unforgiving. And it is being reported – all the time - because the U.S. lied about, invaded, and “defeated” Iraq. The U.S. made Iraq on-going world news. The U.S. president flew to Iraq for U.S. Thanksgiving. The U.S. has set Iraq up for attention…. The Iraq revolution is nasty, bloody, violent, unforgiving - and brilliant, (sad to say).
Everyone is amazed. Armed revolution is proceeding in Iraq. How did it happen? For answer we are told that the fundamentalist warlords in the U.S. didn’t prepare, didn’t understand, didn’t believe…. But there is much more. The famous, elusive, invisible Saddam Hussein was always a highly intelligent, massively egotistical, harsh and unforgiving man. He fell into traps – set by the U.S. mostly. Urged into war with Iran, drawn into “alliance” with the U.S.A., he wakened to see he had been used and his people wasted. When the Iran/Iraq war was on, Henry Kissinger was asked which side the U.S. favoured, and he is alleged to have replied that the U.S. didn’t care as long as the two sides went on killing each other.
Even after that lesson, Saddam Hussein’s self-confidence betrayed him. Casually, almost by accident, a U.S. diplomat let it be known in 1993 that the U.S. didn’t care if he started a war against Kuwait to satisfy some old demands. Suckered into war again, he then faced the U.S. Operation Desert Storm, lies about babies murdered in a hospital nursery, and years of punitive sanctions accompanied by unrelieved U.S. and British bombing raids. Those draconian measures were preparation for war, occupation, and “regime change” in Iraq.
But Saddam Hussein had, finally, been through his long training. Chastened, humiliated, punished, he recognized what would follow when the false claims about Weapons of Mass Destruction were raised. His old ally, the old U.S. liar that had set him up for Desert Storm, that had been willing to see tens of thousands of economic-sanction deaths in Iraq, was getting ready to deliver the coup de grace, to make a final coup in Iraq.
Saddam Hussein knew he hated the U.S.A. and that he had a secret weapon – he knew that millions of the Iraq people also hated the U.S.A. For nearly a decade the hardline driver of sanctions had been the U.S.A. For almost a decade the planes dropping bombs on Iraq were U.S. and British planes. Hussein knew also there was no way to stop the U.S. war machine once it was unleashed. The Desert Storm War of 1993 and the ten years of sanctions stripped him of a major air force, of major heavy military equipment, of significant rocketry. While the U.S. war against Iraq was being prepared and conducted, Saddam Hussein’s only defense was propaganda and public relations.
When the war was over, he disappeared. That was the first sign the U.S. superpower was a sieve. (“They can’t even catch Saddam Hussein”, surprised people in the world remarked.) That was the first sign. The others are following.
The U.S. grand plan was a step in globalization, in the erection of the New World Order. Level Iraq’s State-owned operations, humiliate the Iraq people, erase police and military. Then hand all profit-making activities to (largely U.S.) friends and “coalition partners”. Privatize. Americanize. Make Iraq a huge McDonalds where all the Iraq people have to eat. Simple.
Except for the revolution. Saddam Hussein couldn’t win the war. But he knew the U.S. and its policy-makers. He knew them well – their strengths and their weaknesses. He knew they were grand technofighters and bad soldiers. He knew they sent out military men from an aging and luxurious imperial country. He knew the U.S. would try to hand the hard work to satellite powers and the humanitarian work to the U.N.
He knew the U.S. wouldn’t be prepared for a revolution in - of all places – Iraq, especially a revolution against the New World Order, against globalization.
This time the U.S. walked into a trap, not Saddam Hussein. In the months preceding the war, he really did give credible room to the “inspectors”. He did build up strong confidence in many important countries about Iraq’s real position. When the war came, the U.S. didn’t intend that some of its traditional partners would be dead against the action and would refuse to cooperate.
Then the U.S. walked into a second trap. Ignoring the advice of its most sober militarists, it went for a quick, snappy technowar, believing all else would fall into place. The U.S. forgot that Saddam Hussein hates it. It forgot that millions of the Iraq people hate the U.S.A. It forgot Iraq is a country floating in secondary armaments (perfect for a continuing guerilla revolution). That guerilla revolution is now in full spate. Revolution? “What do you mean ’Revolution’?”, you ask.
To put the matter another way, “What is it revolutionizing?” It is revolutionizing everybody’s view of U.S. power. It is revolutionizing everybody’s idea of the simple common sense of the U.S. It is revolutionizing everybody’s understanding of what U.S. imperialism really is. It is revolutionizing what people thought was the meaning of “globalization”. And – probably most important – it is revolutionizing consciousness in many, many parts of the world about what revolutionary activity can be.
With strategic brilliance Saddam Hussein (or someone else with the same name) is operating a revolutionary strategy to teach the world. First, the revolutionary forces concentrated on proving the U.S. forces openly vulnerable. Secondly, they began picking off elements of the “coalition” – South Koreans, Italians, Spaniards, British, and not only in Iraq. Lately, moving to a third step, they have begun picking off (innocent) foreign workers who are in Iraq to man the privatization and Americanization of Iraq enterprises.
Not at all pretty, but very instructive. The revolutionaries in Iraq are pointing out that 300 million U.S. people can’t rule the six billion in the world, can’t turn the globe into a U.S. superstore, can’t turn whole populations into forelock tugging colonials if significant numbers of other people on the globe resist.
Little Iraq was blasted in a long war with Iran, blasted by the Desert Storm war of 1993, leveled by crippling sanctions and on-going U.S. and British bombing after that war, and then leveled again in a U.S. technowar. That U.S. technowar has been transformed into a people’s revolution against U.S. capitalist imperialism, globalization, and the New World Order. Not only are the forces in Iraq revolutionizing everything people thought the U.S. was and could do. The Iraq forces are also bludgeoning U.S. economic and moral stability. Four billion dollars a month are being spent to “hold” Iraq. U.S. deficits soar. And, very slowly, the U.S. population is turning.
No matter. Saddam Hussein (or someone else with the same name) is laughing (darkly). The U.S. turned Iraq from a vibrant, modern (though repressive) society into a swamp. Now the U.S. is sinking in that swamp. From his hideout somewhere in Iraq, Saddam Hussein is saying: “Anti-globalization workers of the world unite. You have nothing to lose but the false ideas you have of U.S. power and invincibility.” He is saying, too: “The World Social Forum matters, all the demonstrations matter, the conflicts in Latin American matter, too. But the Revolution against globalization, the New World Order, and U.S. imperialism is in progress. Here. In Iraq. Now.” That’s hard to face as a fact - a very tough piece of gristle for we anti-globalizationists to chew upon!
Robin Mathews publishes on culture, politics, the arts, and Canadian Intellectual history. He lives in Vancouver with his wife, a potter. His column appears regularly on Vive le Canada.