US interventions wreck havoc

August 17, 2014
US Secretary of State John Kerry in Iraq in June.

United States planes have launched air strikes in Iraq again. The war in Ukraine is reaching a bloody outcome as the Kiev government crushes the rebellion in the east of the country.

A top US general was killed in a supposedly safe base in Afghanistan, and the Taliban overran Sangin province, where many British soldiers were killed.

A Royal Navy ship was dispatched to Libya to rescue British citizens as the embassy closed due to fierce fighting between militias.

Israel restarted its brutal assault on Gaza and the death toll of Palestinians reached nearly 2000.

This all happened in the week the world marked the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I, with politicians assuring us this could never happen again.

Unfortunately, that is not true. The same people who brought us past wars seem determined to do so again.

US President Barack Obama’s decision to launch air strikes against the Islamic State (IS) forces in northern Iraq demonstrates the desperation of Western powers faced with the reality of Iraq — and the criminal futility of their policies.

Desperation, because IS is a growing force in the country, launching sectarian attacks on religious and ethnic minorities and claiming its own state in parts of Syria and Iraq. Criminal futility because, if anything has been shown to have failed in recent years it has been US air strikes.

So while we should support everything that can bring humanitarian aid to the people now suffering in Iraq, we should not support US intervention in a region for whose disastrous state the US holds main responsibility.

The truth is that the growth of IS is a legacy of the war on terror, of the sanctions and bombing of Iraq, of an occupation that deliberately fostered sectarian divisions, and of a series of policies that have resulted in the backing of right-wing fundamentalist groups to fight anyone perceived as the enemy of the US and its allies.

This began in the 1980s in Afghanistan when the US funded the predecessors of the Taliban and al Qaeda to help defeat its main enemy at the time, the Soviet Union.

After the invasions and occupations of Afghanistan and then Iraq, the policy of the US was totally pragmatic, backing any group that would support its supposed interests in strengthening the occupations against the resistance movements that sprang up.

Iraq’s central state was destroyed, replaced by a US colonial administration that ruled from Baghdad’s Green Zone and created death squads and militias. The strategy of tension that followed helped to foster and exacerbate sectarian tensions.

The failure of the Iraq occupation accelerated the process of covert intervention, however, as public opinion turned against more ‘boots on the ground’ military adventures. The US enemy Iran became the major force in the region, and the various powers desperately threw money at different groups.

Taken aback by the wave of revolutionary enthusiasm that swept the Middle East during the Arab Spring in 2011, which resulted in two trusted pro-Western leaders toppled in Tunisia and Egypt, Western powers used opposition to dictators to further its own ends.

Remember Libya in 2011, when it was hard to mobilise large numbers in opposition to Western intervention to overthrow Gadaffi? NATO air strikes, led by Britain and France, killed 30,000 in a supposed humanitarian intervention. The country immediately descended into a barely interrupted civil war, and is now breaking up.

In Syria, Western and Middle Eastern powers funded different groups. In particular, Qatar and Saudi Arabia poured money into different armed groups, Qatar spending US$3 billion in two years.

Saudi Arabia has doubled its arms spending in the past decade. Turkey, a key NATO member, facilitated the movement of arms and funding.
IS was created in part by this funding, which continued even after the British parliament voted not to bomb Syria a year ago, and Obama had to abort similar plans.

If Frankenstein had the excuse that he did not realise what his monster would become, there is no such excuse for these rulers, who now have 30 years experience.

They get away with it because covert intervention is much harder to detect, and publicise, and therefore attract a movement in opposition to it. It is on the radar of tens of thousands, not of millions. Much of the funding, and the fighting, stays in the background, barely reported by the media.

In the foreground, of course, has been Gaza, an attack that has spurred a mass solidarity movement with the Palestinians, and which has to be seen as connected to the other issues.

The failure of all the interventions by the US and its allies has created a series of dangerous and deadly wars and conflicts. The huge protest by 150,000 people in London on August 9 was about Gaza, but it was also a protest against those who back Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians, and whose military and economic system is now wreaking such devastation across the world.

[Reprinted from Stop the War Coalition.]

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