The U.S.-Iraqi Assault on ISIS-Controlled Mosul:
A Murderous Clash of Reactionary, Outmoded Forces
October 24, 2016 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
October 18, 2016. Smoke rises as people flee their homes at the beginning of the U.S.-led assault to re-take the northern Iraqi city of Mosul from the Islamic State group (ISIS).
On October 16, up to 100,000 Iraqi soldiers, Kurdish fighters, Shi’ite militiamen, and U.S. forces launched a massive military assault on Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city. The city is now controlled by the reactionary jihadist Islamic State, or ISIS, which seized it from the Iraqi government in June 2014.
According to Iraqi Prime Minister Abadi and President Obama this is an “Iraqi operation” whose goal is solely to “liberate” the people of Mosul.
Iraqis may make up the bulk of the forces, but this is a U.S.-directed operation being carried out in line with U.S. imperialist interests and objectives. There are some 12 generals and 5,000-6,000 U.S. troops now in Iraq, including various “advisors,” Special Forces, and “forward air controllers” who are now on the front lines in Mosul and will be playing a crucial role in the battle. Even more critical is U.S. airpower. The U.S. has carried out 15,803 air attacks against ISIS in Iraq and Syria in the last two years and has been decisive in the Iraqi military’s ability to seize back other cities from ISIS and other Sunni forces, such as Ramadi and Fallujah.
All of these U.S.-led battles have involved mass carnage, destruction, and war crimes. The battle for Mosul promises to be no different. Fighting is now taking place and expected to last weeks if not months. Humanitarian relief organizations warn that the battle for Mosul could destroy much of the city, kill thousands, and create anywhere from 200,000 to a million refugees.
There are already reports that a funeral procession was hit by air strikes, possibly by U.S.-led forces, in the town of Daquq, some 200 kilometers (125 miles) southeast of Mosul. The mayor there reported that 17 people, mainly women and children, were killed and another 50 wounded. U.S. military officials say they’re investigating.
Mosul & the Hellish Reality of U.S. “Liberation”
Mosul is a city in northern Iraq whose population is now mainly Arabs who follow the Sunni branch of Islam (the other major branch being Shi’ism). But Kurds, Turkamen, Shi’ite Arabs, and other peoples have historic ties to Mosul, a place where many of the country’s ethnic, national, and religious divisions collide. Mosul is also an example of how the 2003 U.S. war and occupation intensified old horrors and spawned new ones.
The U.S. claimed it invaded Iraq to do good in the world, and to liberate the people from the tyrant Saddam Hussein. Hussein was an oppressor, and the Iraqi people desperately needed liberation, but U.S. objectives were just the opposite: to seize a military, political, and economic stranglehold over Iraq, as part of a bigger plan to strengthen U.S. domination over the whole Middle East and the world. A key element of this plan was “draining the swamp”: reshaping Iraq and other societies in the region to transform the social, political, and economic factors driving the growth of anti-U.S. Islamic fundamentalism. But things didn’t work out as planned in Iraq—or anywhere else. Instead, the U.S. was unable to achieve its goals in Iraq, and its actions created new horrors and instability, including by reinforcing and fueling reactionary Islamic fundamentalism.
Hussein was overthrown and the U.S. installed a new regime dominated by reactionary Shi’ite religious parties and bourgeois Kurdish forces, eager to grab the spoils of war. The U.S. and the new regime targeted and suppressed Iraq’s Sunnis, a base of the Hussein regime. A vicious imperialist occupation, sectarian civil war, and violent ethnic cleansing quickly broke out that has raged—in one form or another—ever since, focused now in Mosul.
This horrific cauldron has led to the deaths of between 600,000 and 1.4 million Iraqis and the displacement of more than four million more. All this greatly strengthened reactionary Islamic fundamentalism—both Shi’a and Sunni—and fueled the emergence of the Sunni-based Islamic State (ISIS) from Al Qaeda in Iraq in 2013.
Mosul has been a microcosm of the multiple traumas inflicted on the Iraqi people since 2003. Journalist Patrick Cockburn points out that if the U.S.-led forces take over Mosul, “it will be the fifth time the city has changed hands in the course of 13 years of war.” (“Mosul braces itself for next bloody chapter having been ravaged by 13 years of war,” The Unz Review, October 19, 2016) All were reactionary: Arab and Kurdish forces who looted the city following Saddam’s fall; the U.S. forces who took over from them; then the widely hated Iraqi government; then in June 2014, ISIS, after the Iraqi military fled in panic, rather than fight.
The ISIS Caliphate—A Medieval Nightmare, No Answer to Imperialism
In this situation, and with the absence of a genuine revolutionary communist alternative as a real presence in Iraq, the war crimes of imperialism drove sections of angry people into the arms of the fundamentalist Islamic jihadists. A tragic expression of this was the fact that when ISIS first drove out the hated Iraqi government forces, hundreds of people cheered them.
But within weeks of its takeover of Mosul, by far the largest city under its control, ISIS declared the formation of an Islamic caliphate—a theocracy claiming to embody Islam as practiced by the Prophet Muhammad and his followers in the seventh century—stretching across northern Iraq and Syria, with several million people now under ISIS control. The seizure of Mosul and the formation of the ISIS caliphate planted the pole of reactionary fundamentalist Jihad across the region and the world, attracting thousands of recruits, while shocking the imperialists and the region’s oppressive states and posing a major new challenge for them.
ISIS claimed its Islamic State was the alternative to imperialism, one which would bring true justice and an end to oppression.
But ISIS rule proved to be yet another version of hell on earth for the estimated 1.2 million people still living in Mosul, one which has nothing to do with the emancipation of humanity. During the seizure of Mosul, ISIS fighters killed some 600 inmates at the Badoush prison—for being Shiites. Christians and Yazidis (an ethnically Kurdish religious community) have been slaughtered, women of these religions raped, abused, captured, and sold as sex slaves. The population has been forced to live under medieval Sharia law, with women enslaved and forced to wear the niqab—a covering with only a small opening to see through. Violations—like missing prayers—can bring whippings, and opposition to ISIS brings summary execution. Irreplaceable historical monuments have been destroyed as “un-Islamic.” And the city has been used as a base area for reactionary jihadist attacks across the region and the world.
The U.S.-Led Assault: War Crimes in the Making
Bob Avakian on the Rise of Islamic Fundamentalism: Excerpts from Away With All Gods!
The people of Mosul—and Iraq—need liberation, but this U.S.-led assault is about replacing one reactionary oppressor with another.
The U.S. rulers claim they no longer have “boots on the ground” in the Middle East and are no longer waging war. Mosul—and much else—exposes these lies. The U.S. is pursuing its imperialist interests in Mosul, as it is everywhere else in Iraq, the region, and the world. Right now those interests mean defeating the ISIS caliphate (even as the imperialists support the Islamic jihadist forces elsewhere, including the Nusra Front in Syria); it means trying to forge a more reliable ally in Iraq; and it means strengthening the U.S. position in the fierce maneuvering now going on between the U.S. and Russia, as well as various reactionary regional powers, for territory and influence now focused in Iraq and Syria. Hillary Clinton welcomed the Mosul assault at her October 19 debate with Trump and called for the U.S. to “continue to press into Syria to begin to take back and move on Raqqa,” the ISIS headquarters.
The way this war is being fought reflects those reactionary aims. Obama claims that “humanitarian aid for civilians” is a “top priority.” But this assault is being carried out by reactionary armed forces, relying ultimately on U.S. air power.
“We’ve had, you know, people describe victories by the Iraqi government forces taking Ramadi and Fallujah, Tikrit and other places,” journalist Patrick Cockburn told Democracy Now!, describing past U.S.-led assaults on cities taken over by ISIS or other Sunni forces. “But really what happens is that the forces advance and then call in air strikes. In Ramadi, 70, 80 percent of the city is demolished. Outside Fallujah, there’s another town that only has four buildings left. So it’s very much a U.S.-led operation.” (October 19, 2016)
Every U.S. war and military assault, no matter how “precise” they claim their weapons will be, has involved widespread death, suffering, and destruction—and very often war crimes. Mosul is shaping up to be no different. (U.S. media is already reporting that ISIS is using civilians as “human shields” in Mosul. ISIS is certainly capable of doing this, but this may also be aimed at preparing the ground to blame ISIS for any U.S.-caused civilian deaths.)
And the “liberation” of Mosul may only begin yet another nightmare for the people of that city. The U.S.-led “coalition” surrounding their city and other nearby villages includes reactionary Shi’ite militias which have carried out sectarian and revenge killings and kidnappings in other areas taken from Islamic State control.
A Clash of Reactionary Forces and the Urgent Need to Bring Forward Another Way
The last 13 years of U.S. war and intervention in Iraq, right up to the coming assault on Mosul, highlight the importance of the following analysis by the revolutionary leader Bob Avakian:
What we see in contention here with Jihad on the one hand and McWorld/McCrusade [increasingly globalized western imperialism] on the other hand, are historically outmoded strata among colonized and oppressed humanity up against historically outmoded ruling strata of the imperialist system. These two reactionary poles reinforce each other, even while opposing each other. If you side with either of these “outmodeds,” you end up strengthening both.
While this is a very important formulation and is crucial to understanding much of the dynamics driving things in the world in this period, at the same time we do have to be clear about which of these “historically outmodeds” has done the greater damage and poses the greater threat to humanity: It is the historically outmoded ruling strata of the imperialist system, and in particular the U.S. imperialists.
Bringing Forward Another Way is an edited version of a talk by Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, to a group of Party supporters, in 2006. It is must reading for a serious understanding of what the U.S. "war on terror" is really about and how to bring forward a positive force in the world in opposition to both Western imperialism and Islamic Jihad.
If you happen to live in the U.S. and you genuinely want to stop war crimes both by the West and reactionary Islamic fundamentalism, then you need to start by opposing the crimes of your government and these latest war moves. The more people have supported—or stayed passive in the face of—U.S. attacks on reactionary jihadists, the more it’s strengthened both these nightmares for humanity. That’s a key lesson of the past 13 years.
The other key lesson is the urgent need to bring forward a revolutionary, emancipatory alternative to both of these nightmares for humanity. That alternative is an actual revolution, a real communist revolution based on Bob Avakian’s leadership and work, as concentrated in his newly published book, THE NEW COMMUNISM. Spreading this pathbreaking work far and wide—including across the regions now roiled by upheaval and war—is a crucial way to build that emancipatory alternative across the globe.
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