ISIS and imperialist hypocrisy: a view from Australia

Posted: September 26, 2014 by Admin in Australian politics, Capitalist ideology, Imperialism and anti-imperialism, Internationalism, Iraq, Middle East, State terrorism, Syria, Terrorism, United States, United States - politics
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ISIS: a product of western intervention

by Corey Oakley

The Australian government’s attitude to the cataclysmic spiral of violence tearing apart the Middle East gives the notion of blissful ignorance a new and deeper meaning.

Abbott is like a kid in a candy store. As far as he is concerned, this Iraq War II is John Howard’s war on terror all over again, only this time the AFP raids and terrorist beheadings are tweeted live, and Tony “Team Australia” Abbott is the man with the plan.

It’s an all-new Boy’s Own Adventure, a rollicking tale from a world in which the Iraq war had nothing to do with the creation of ISIS, and George W. Bush was a president known for his gravitas and wit. And, most important for Abbott, Islamic State is a lot more fun to talk about than a budget that makes genital warts seem popular.

Glee for war

The glee with which the Australian political and media establishment is getting its war on is made all the more horrific when considered next to the maelstrom that is being unleashed in this new Iraq crusade.

According to Barack Obama, the new US mission in Iraq aims to “degrade and destroy” the Islamic State, or ISIS, an organisation UK prime minister and ally David Cameron described as “pure evil”.

There is no denying that the Islamic State is a grotesque and reactionary organisation. But it did not fall from the sky. The Islamic State is the child of the 2003 Iraq war. It is a barbaric consequence of an even more barbaric invasion and occupation that destroyed an entire society and killed more than a million people.

Al Qaeda first entered Iraq through the haze of white phosphorous that destroyed Fallujah, through the guns of US soldiers trained on small children, through the savage torture cells of Abu Ghraib, where a generation of young Iraqis learned the true content of Western “civilisation”.

The idea that US bombs can now help “save” Iraq from ISIS is imperial arrogance of the most obscene kind. More than that, the notion that the US has the slightest interest in helping the Iraqi people can be entertained only through wilful ignorance of the history of US intervention in Iraq over the last two decades.

Two decades of lies

The 1991 Gulf War, launched by George Bush Senior, was justified with media horror stories about Iraqi soldiers ripping Kuwaiti babies from hospital incubators. This story, which turned out to be totally fabricated, had nothing to do with the real reasons for the war, which was about establishing a “new world order” under US domination following the collapse of the USSR.

The 2003 invasion was touted as being variously about weapons of mass destruction or part of the post-9/11 war on terror. Again, utterly transparent lies. George W’s invasion of Iraq was really designed as the first step in a new wave of wars that would bring “regime change” not just in Iraq, but in Syria, Iran, North Korea and beyond.

But as war gave way to occupation, and occupation bred a ferocious resistance movement, US plans for reshaping the world in its interests unravelled.

Today, Obama’s Iraq policy is not about some grand new plan for US domination, but is a desperate rearguard effort to salvage what remains of US power and influence in the Middle East.

The US is in no position to launch a new invasion – thus Obama’s constant insistence that there will be “no boots on the ground”. But a look at the coalition that Obama is constructing, and the forces on the ground being backed by US air strikes, gives the lie to any argument that the US is re-engaging in Iraq to oppose sectarianism or Islamist extremism.

Beheading – ISIL learnt it from America’s chief ally in Arab world

The beheadings of US and British journalists by ISIS were terrible crimes. But the Islamic State does not have a monopoly on such practices. The public execution of people accused of petty crimes and on the basis of confessions extracted through torture is common practice in Saudi Arabia – a key US ally in the fight against ISIS.

In the space of two weeks in August, 22 people were executed by the Saudi state. Eight of them were beheaded.  According to Amnesty, decapitated bodies are often left lying on the ground in public squares as a “deterrent”. In Iraq, the Shia militias fighting ISIS with the backing of US air strikes have been guilty of atrocities equally as barbaric as those of ISIS.

Pictures of the charred and mutilated bodies of Sunnis captured by Shia militias have circulated on the internet, along with videos showing Sunni prisoners being beheaded. But when the victims are Iraqi rather than US, and the perpetrators are shiny new allies rather than the latest official embodiment of evil, the media pack is less interested.

Homes in Sunni villages from which ISIS has been driven have been torched and daubed with sectarian slogans. Abu Abdullah, a commander of the Shia Kataib Hizbollah militia in Amerli, was quoted in the Japan Times as saying, “There is no way back for them. We will raze their homes to the ground.”

How to project US power

None of this is of the slightest concern to the strategists of the US empire. It is true that there is a debate raging in the US establishment about the advisability of this new war, but the dispute is only about how to protect and project US power.

For example, George Friedman, director of US think tank Stratfor, argues that the US should not be directly involved in the war, but should stand back and watch the major regional powers – Saudi Arabia, Iran and Turkey – battle among themselves. He writes: “The American interest is not stability but the existence of a dynamic balance of power in which all players are effectively paralysed so that no one who would threaten the United States emerges …  The United States must turn this from a balance of power between Syria and Iraq to a balance of power among this trio of regional powers … It is impossible to forecast how the game is played out. What is important is that the game begins.”

This “great game” is the real subject of debate in the US ruling class. Hysteria about Islamist extremists, evil ideologies and beheadings is nothing but crude war propaganda, cynically fed to the population through pliant media falling over themselves to yelp the loudest for war and more.

The above article is taken from Red Flag, the site of the newspaper of Socialist Alternative, Australia’s largest left organisation.  It first appeared there on Monday, Sept 22.

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