People in every country must oppose the terror campaign the US is leading in Iraq and Syria. America seeks to maintain its intolerable political and economic domination of the region, which created the conditions for the rise of Islamic fundamentalism in the first place. The lives of the people of Iraq and Syria mean nothing.
The US and its coalition have been carrying out stepped-up terror attacks in Iraq and Syria, killing almost 1,000 civilians since the beginning of March, according to the UK-based monitoring group Airwars.org.
Although not all of these reported deaths have been verified, in many cases the organization cross-checked eyewitness accounts and lists victims by name and age. These children and adults are real individuals whose lives were cut short by murderers acting for political purposes – just like the four people killed in the attack in London’s Westminster district that British authorities are maliciously using to justify more terrorism by the UK as part of the US-led coalition.
The American authorities justify these killings of Arab civilians on the grounds of the necessities of war. But they are the direct result of the coalition’s reactionary aims in this war, which are not to liberate the people but to thwart a reactionary threat to Western domination, including by punishing and slaughtering masses of people.
Significantly, these mass killings are also being documented by organizations like the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and the White Helmets rescue workers, whose previous reports on the killing of civilians by Russian and Syrian regime airstrikes were used by the US and other Western governments to accuse these rivals of war crimes and crimes against humanity. However, until 24 March, when even the US-dependent Iraqi government called for a pause in this murderous drone and bomber assault, Washington denied that these massive civilian causalities had even occurred, and it is still refusing to change its tactics.
This most recent wave of mass murders first came to light in the Western media with a US air attack on the village of al-Jina in Syria’s western Aleppo province on 16 March. At least 46 people were killed when airstrikes hit a crowded mosque during religious classes. According to the Washington Post, two US drones fired six Hellfire missiles and then dropped a 226 kilo bomb. Photos showed the clearly identifiable fragments of the US missiles and the destroyed building. On 22 March, airstrikes hit a bakery and an adjacent market in al-Thani in Raqqa province, killing dozens of bakery workers and other civilians.
Then in what has been described as the worst airstrike on civilians since the US pounded Iraq during its 2003 invasion, US-led coalition planes hit the Mosul neighbourhood of al Jadida, where US-led forces had recently driven out the Islamic fundamentalist Daesh (ISIL). As of a week after the 17 March attack, more than 200 bodies have been pulled out from under the rubble, and the toll is expected to be much higher. Numerous bodies were found in a large basement where people were taking shelter from the fighting. Many others are thought to be buried under other buildings nearby.
The unspoken and sometimes explicit rationalization for this loss of life on such a large scale is that Daesh cannot be defeated without it. On an immediate level, this is a sick argument whose implicit assumption is that Arab lives are worth less than those of people who look like “us” – people in the Western countries who are told that they must support their imperialist rulers who “keep them safe”. What this argument also conceals is that wars are defined and conducted according to their political aims – and the unacceptable massive civilian deaths in this war flow from the reactionary aims on both sides.
Daesh’s project for a religious dictatorship in the service of old and new exploiters who feel thwarted by the present Western-dominated status quo requires treating not only people in the Western countries but also in the Middle Eastern countries they seek to rule as nothing more than cattle to be slaughtered. Its project runs counter to the basic interests of the masses of people, and it cannot ultimately rely on their conscious, voluntary support for their cause. Their shooting of people trying to flee areas under US-led attack, like the use of civilians as human shields and other tactics that disdain civilian lives, are dictated by their political and ideological aims.
This is no less true of the US-led coalition fighting against Daesh. The US, above all, seeks to maintain its intolerable political and economic domination of the region, which created the conditions for the rise of Islamic fundamentalism in the first place. The lives of the people of Iraq and Syria mean nothing to the US because the goals of the American project do not include the safety of these or any other peoples, let alone their well-being and emancipation from national humiliation and enforced backwardness.
This is true not only strategically but even in very specific, tactical ways. The US has put together an unstable coalition whose members are contending with each other and even with the US for a bigger role in running the region’s peoples, even as they often do the US’s dirty work. Despite the presence of hundreds of thousands of civilians in Mosul, for example, none of this coalition envision tactics to seriously avoid civilian deaths, which is supposed to be a prerequisite of war fighting according to the international rules of war. These rules are at most occasionally paid lip service to try to distinguish the pro-Western forces from Daesh. At the same time, a major reason why the US is stepping up its air assaults in Iraq and Syria has to do with its political aims and the necessities that flow from that. The US is facing a complex political landscape where it needs support from both Turkey and Kurds targeted by the Turkish regime, for instance, not to mention forces who look to the same Iranian Islamic Republic that the US also considers an obstacle to its interests, along with uneasy and unstable alignments with Russia and Turkey. In this context, the further unleashing of air power is a means to assert US control of the battlefield without sending in hundreds of thousands of US troops again, even though its troop numbers are increasing.
Whatever the immediate military results achieved by the US and its allies in Mosul and Raqqa, it is very likely that this situation will lead to more and not less jihadi Islamism. After all, Sunni fundamentalist Daesh arose out of US aggression and other crimes in Iraq: the extreme human cost of the Iran-Iraq war fuelled by the US, the death of hundreds of thousands of children and others as a result of the sanctions meant to bring down the Saddam Hussein regime, and then the US invasion itself and the ensuing occupation.
During the occupation and since, the US cynically backed and armed Shia and Sunni forces to wage cleansing wars against each other, resulting now in US-backed Shia domination of Baghdad and the Iraqi government. In addition to the political consequences of the actions of the US and its allies in Iraq and Syria, including the targeting the West’s more secular opponents, these latest atrocities have also exposed the hypocrisy and real content of the Western values in whose name they were committed. Reactionary Islamists then seize on this to falsely claim that their ideology and social goals are the only alternative.
Under the Obama regime, the US stepped up its war crimes from the air in Libya, Somalia, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Pakistan and Afghanistan. What is happening now, under Trump, is what was to be expected from a man whose campaign promises included removing any restrictions on airstrikes and “killing their [‘terrorists’] families”. Yet some among the imperialists and their advisers are aware that these attacks on civilians will strengthen the appeal of the Islamists and can produce results counter to US and Western interests, as can be seen in a recent report from the International Crisis Group. Still, they have no effective hand to play other than using their military might to inflict mass terror to demonstrate their ability to impose collective punishment on whole populations.
What’s involved here is more than a single campaign or even one war. This is the dynamic Bob Avakian has called “the two outmodeds”: on “the one hand, imperialism, and on the other hand, reactionary Islamic fundamentalist Jihadism – and the way these two forces actually do reinforce each other, even while opposing each other, with the very negative effect this exerts in the world. This is a situation where the more the imperialists do what they do, the more they create fertile
ground for Islamic fundamentalism.” (for more on this see Bringing Forward Another Way, by Bob Avakian, available at: http://revcom.us/avakian/anotherway/index.htm )
People in every country must oppose the terror campaign the US is leading in Iraq and Syria to counter and defeat its rival exploiters and oppressors, and the crimes of all sides against the people. This needs to be linked to building struggle for revolution in both the imperialist countries and the countries they oppress, which is the only way this dynamic can be broken and humanity freed from this awful situation.
* Samuel Albert writes for A World to Win News Service.