The White House has announced the opening of a new military base in Anbar Province, Iraq, with the sending of 450 new U.S. troops, increasing the total number in Iraq by about 15 percent. The 450 troops will support a smaller number of U.S. “advisors” to the Iraqi military.
The 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq has cost live lives of about 5,000 U.S. soldiers and a hundred times as many Iraqis. The new rising U.S. military involvement raises the question of how many more deaths will occur in our name and paid for with our tax dollars. How can we work to stop this renewed war?
The “enemy” is now called the Islamic State (ISIS), or Daesh. In Anbar province, Iraq, it obtains support from people and tribes that have suffered under the ten-year U.S. occupation and the hostile U.S.-allied regime that followed. The Iraqi government is led by members of the Shi’ite branch of Islam whose alliance with the U.S., and whose policies in Sunni areas of Iraq, have caused Sunnis to see Al Qaeda and ISIS as lesser evils.
The increased U.S. presence is likely to increase recruitment to ISIS as a form of resistance to foreign invasion. That resistance declined as Washington withdrew most U.S. troops after 2011.
ISIS, like the Al Qaeda group that is well-known for flying planes into the World Trade Center, claims to represent the Sunni branch of Islam via a fundamentalist sect called Wahhabism. It is also the official religious doctrine in Saudi Arabia, and significant funds have gone from that country both to Al Qaeda and ISIS.
Wahhabism labels the non-Sunni, Shi’ite branch of Islam an “infidel” enemy. It is at war with Shi’ites in neighboring Bahrain, Yemen, and even occasionally in Saudi Arabia. The Saudi government is currently waging an air war against Yemen that has killed over a thousand people and recently destroyed a United Nations World Heritage site in Yemen. Washington has given military and diplomatic support to this war.
Saudi Arabia is also a very close U.S. ally because it is a major oil supplier. Washington is committed to the kingdom of Saudi Arabia in part by five U.S. military bases and the provision of modern military aircraft. The Saudi monarchy is caught between its alliance with Washington and its Sunni and Wahhabist war projects. It is showing evidence of internal conflict.
Syria is in a civil war and Washington has supplied some anti-government militias there. U.S. war planes have also targeted ISIS forces in Syria. The Syrian government has protested U.S. operations. Saudi money has supported Al Qaeda or ISIS in Syria and Yemen.
Thus U.S. troops in Iraq are placed in the middle of, and on multiple sides of, a war among several groups in several countries that is fought partly under the banner of religion. That war cannot be won by an outside force like the U.S., as the White House seemed to acknowledge when it withdrew most U.S. forces from Iraq, starting in 2011.
The proposed base for U.S. troops in Anbar, Iraq, will be close to cities held by ISIS and is sure to draw fire from that expanding force. These troops and Iraqis are likely to be firing on each other once again.
This growing war is a concern for socialists, antiwar groups, and groups working for racial and gender equality. Dr. King told us that freedom cannot be attained in a country at war with Vietnam. The same is true today, but instead of Vietnam, the U.S. is involved in a war throughout the entire Middle East.
Active opposition to war is a central part of the socialist program. The Socialist Party Platform states, “We call for the closing of all U.S. military facilities at home and abroad that train foreign military and paramilitary personnel … [and] for the United States to immediately and unconditionally withdraw its forces from Iraq and Afghanistan.”
The SP Anti-War Campaign is one of four major projects launched by the 2013 convention. Readers are invited to get in touch with the Anti-War Commission, or with their local peace group or coalition.