Revolution #119, February 10, 2008


The Mess in Iraq, the Threat of War on Iran, and the Challenges This Poses

Editors’ Note: The following is the seventh in Part 2 of a series of excerpts from a talk by Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, last year (2007). This has been edited for publication and footnotes have been added. These excerpts are being published in two parts. Part 1 is available in its entirety, as one document, online at, and has been serialized in (the print version of) Revolution (see issues #105, Oct. 21; #106, Oct. 28; #107, Nov. 4; #108, Nov. 11; #109, Nov. 18; #110, Nov. 25; #111, Dec. 9; and #112, Dec. 16, 2007). Part 2 is also available, as one document, at

The Mess in Iraq, the Threat of War on Iran, and the Challenges This Poses

I have spoken in other talks, including Bringing Forward Another Way1 , about what a mess, what a real debacle, the Iraq war has turned out to be for the U.S. ruling class. It is striking that more than one person, speaking from the perspective of that ruling class, has talked in terms of the invasion and occupation of Iraq representing the worst policy decision that’s been made in the history of the country. That’s quite a statement! You have people like Zbigniew Brzezinski (National Security Advisor in the Carter administration and one of the main architects of the U.S. policy of backing the Islamic fundamentalist Mujahadeen in Afghanistan in fighting against Soviet occupation in the 1980s) talking in these terms. At the same time, to give us a sober sense of things (I didn’t see this, but someone told me about it), Brzezinski was on the Charlie Rose program, with Henry Kissinger and Brent Scowcroft (former high officials in the Nixon and Ford and the Bush I administrations, respectively) and apparently at one point, after talking about what a debacle Iraq was, and what a disaster it would be to get into a war with Iran, Brzezinski apparently said that, if a situation had developed with the U.S. like happened with the British sailors who were taken prisoner by Iran, then Bush would almost certainly have had to go to war with Iran—and, said Brzezinski, I would have supported him.

So this should be something sobering for us to learn from, in terms of how the ruling class looks at its interests, even amidst these tremendously intense contradictions. But that doesn’t mean that there is an easy resolution of all this for them. Without elaborating further, I’ll just refer to what’s been said previously and analyzed in our newspaper, and in Bringing Forward Another Way and elsewhere, about what is represented by this debacle in Iraq for the ruling class.

Iran: the prospect of regime change and the possibility of war

And then there is the possibility looming of war with Iran. Scott Ritter’s latest book, Target Iran: The Truth About the White House’s Plans for Regime Change, is very interesting. It has its own particularities, and ultimately it is coming from the point of view of this system and a section of people who identify with this system. It has some particular analyses relating to Israel which I don’t have time to get into in any depth here but which are somewhat striking: You can see the specter emerging of the position that Israel is maybe not such a friend of the U.S., and specifically that Israel may drag the U.S. into a war with Iran, which would be very much against the interests of the U.S., in Ritter’s view. Ritter even goes pretty far in the direction of saying that people who are calling for war with Iran, more out of allegiance to Israel than to the U.S., are traitors to the U.S. This begins to emerge in this book. Again, this is being put forward from the point of view of someone who considers himself a deeply patriotic American. Without getting into all that here, I have to say that there is a lot of interesting analysis of the many twists and turns in the inspections by the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) in Iran, and how the U.S., and the Bush regime in particular, has tried to manipulate those inspections (or the results of them) in the attempt to establish more of a rationalization for going to war with Iran—or in any case to effect “regime change” in Iran, possibly through warfare—and how the U.S. has been, at times, frustrated in these efforts but has never abandoned that essential objective of “regime change,” by one means or another.

Now, we should not get into stereotyped and linear thinking about this either. Some people, with extensive knowledge about the internal dynamics within Iran, as well as about the U.S. and its role in the world, are inclined to believe that a U.S. military attack on Iran is a possibility but that there is also a possibility that the U.S. could try to work with and through various forces within the ruling elites in Iran—forces who would try to move in a direction more acceptable to the U.S.—to bring about some sort of regime change in Iran without having to go to war. And there is also the possibility of Israel attacking Iran and then more pro-U.S. forces coming forward within Iran to present a more “reasonable alternative,” from the U.S. point of view, and to negotiate an arrangement with the U.S. to avoid further warfare.

What seems clear is that both of these things are possible—both regime change and/or war—and certainly it would be very unwise, simply because Iraq has turned out to be a real debacle for the U.S., to therefore discount the possibility of an attack on Iran, by the Bush regime, before Bush leaves office (assuming he does). There are a lot of things at play in this, and I’m not saying this or that analysis is necessarily correct, but I am emphasizing that we should not get stuck in stereotypical, or “one-track,” thinking but rather should continue to dig down and analyze this scientifically.

What is clear, however, is that it constitutes a real contradiction for the U.S. ruling class to have an Iran which, whether or not it has nuclear arms, nevertheless is increasingly asserting itself in the Middle East. Once again (as discussed in Bringing Forward Another Way), there is a real irony in how Iran is increasing its influence, in Iraq and the region more generally, by taking advantage of the mess the U.S. has created in Iraq. And sometimes you just have to laugh, sardonically, when you hear these mainstream-bourgeois news reports: “Investigative journalism is establishing that Iranian forces are operating in Iraq!” I was thinking that there should be a spoof done along the lines of: “Investigative journalists have been engaged in a year-long study, interviewing thousands of witnesses and examining evidence from many sources, and they have now determined that U.S. forces are operating in Iraq!” [Laughter] I mean, here are the U.S. imperialists, who have, with massive destructive force, invaded and occupied Iraq, and they have their mouthpieces making noises about “unearthing the truth” that some other country has got a few forces operating in there. (And at least Iran “lives in the neighborhood”—and didn’t come from thousands of miles away to invade and occupy another country.)

Yet, notwithstanding their lies and distortions, Iran is a real problem for the U.S. imperialists, and the question of going to war with Iran is certainly not, as they say, “off the table.” Not long ago, there was an article in the Guardian of London which reported that, a month or so before that, there was a battle of sorts within the Bush regime over whether to have a more bellicose or less bellicose posture right now toward Iran, and that the result has been that Bush is leaning toward Cheney’s position of being more bellicose. But there are a number of major contradictions at play in all this. It’s not just a matter of the whims or inclinations of particular politicians—or even just the aims and ambitions of those in the Bush regime who are now at the core of ruling class power in the U.S.—but deeper contradictions that are at play, and that hold the potential to bring about a far greater “mess”—yes, for the masses of people, within the U.S., in the Middle East, and ultimately in the world as a whole, but also, in strategic terms, for the U.S. imperialist ruling class.

The pyramid of power—and paralysis

All this sets a certain framework for things. We’ve talked about the paralysis at the top of the pyramid—or specifically on one side (the “Democratic Party side”) of the pyramid—of power in the U.S. But, as dialectical materialists, one of the things we have to recognize—and which we’re discovering in very living terms—is that this doesn’t immediately lead to masses of people springing loose and going into motion with independent political action in opposition to what their government—embodied now especially in the Bush regime—is doing. To a large degree, in the short run this is contributing instead to paralysis among progressive people, particularly among those in the middle strata (although not only there) who look to the section of the ruling class that is represented in a general sense by the Democratic Party, and who are desperately striving to “come under the wing” of this section of the ruling class, but are facing the contradiction—in an even greater way than it was faced at the time of the build-up to the Iraq war, at the end of 2002 and in early 2003—that this section of the ruling class does not want to do what they want it to do. It is not just for some superficial (or subjective) reasons that it doesn’t want to do this, but because the leaders of the Democratic Party recognize that the interests it represents—and fundamentally the interests of the system it serves—don’t lie in doing what many (even the majority) of people who constitute its “base” (or who, in any case, are repeatedly pulled into voting for the Democratic Party) want it to do.

So this “striving to come under the wing” of that section of the bourgeoisie (represented generally by the Democratic Party) is in some significant ways frustrated. But, again, this leads to extremely contradictory results in the short run, in people’s thinking and in what they do—and don’t do—politically. It poses very sharply—and adds another dimension to—the whole challenge of political repolarization (and here I’m speaking of repolarization on different levels—on the level of World Can’t Wait and its objectives and basis of unity, on the one hand, as well as more fundamentally and strategically in terms of repolarization for revolution).

The continuing urgent need for mass political resistance

With that as a background and framework, I want to say some things briefly in terms of World Can’t Wait. First of all, it is important to scientifically examine what has and has not yet been achieved by World Can’t Wait. What has not been achieved is all too obvious: the mass outpouring that needs to be brought forth around the demand to Drive Out the Bush Regime! and repudiate its whole program. On the part of World Can’t Wait, there have been attempts on several occasions in the past two years to call forth this outpouring of political opposition and resistance—and work around this has reached hundreds of thousands of people and has resulted in the mobilization of many thousands, in relatively large and smaller demonstrations in cities around the country—but unfortunately this has still not been on anything close to the massive level that is required. I am not arguing—and I don’t believe it is true—that it was wrong for World Can’t Wait to call for and seek to mobilize this mass outpouring, and to paint, as the “Call”2 of World Can’t Wait powerfully does, a picture of what it would look like, and what it would mean, to have such a mass outpouring. But the reality is that this has not yet happened—for reasons that have to do with things that I have discussed in this talk (and that we have examined in other places) in terms of what people are objectively up against and how they are viewing and responding to that (or not responding in the ways that are urgently needed). So it remains a challenge—for our Party; for others, coming from different viewpoints, who are working within World Can’t Wait; and for those generally who feel compelled to actively oppose the horrors that are being perpetrated by their government—to actually bring forward the massive political resistance that is so urgently needed, and to struggle through the political and ideological questions, as well as developing the concrete means and forms, to make this a reality.

At the same time, while this is, unfortunately, still a secondary part of the picture at this point, it is important to recognize that some things have happened as a result of World Can’t Wait being on the political terrain. You can get at that by just posing the question: What would the political terrain be like if World Can’t Wait had not been out there for the past couple of years? Would the question of mass opposition to the crimes of the Bush regime—crimes which are captured so powerfully in the beginning of World Can’t Wait’s “Call” (the “Your government” indictments) and which have been added to, and have stood out in even sharper relief, since that “Call” was written—would the opposition to that be on anything like the level it is on, without World Can’t Wait (as limited as that level still is, in relation to what actually needs to happen)? I believe the answer is clearly no. Would the question of actually removing this regime, through impeachment or some other political means—driven by mass independent political opposition and resistance—would that be posed even to the degree that it is posed now, without World Can’t Wait? Again, I think the answer is clearly no. I don’t say this by way of ignoring the role and effect of other political forces, or so that we and others can not feel too badly about having fallen short so far. This is part of making a scientific analysis and assessment—it’s dialectically related to recognizing what the shortcomings have been and trying to understand more and more deeply why, but also what there is to build on, in terms of larger objective conditions (some of which I have been speaking to here) but also in terms of the particular things that World Can’t Wait has brought forward and the challenges it has posed to people, which have had a political impact and influence, even though this has so far fallen short in terms of that translating into the kind of mass outpouring that is still so urgently needed.

And there are also new features on the terrain which, in my opinion, have something to do with what has been done by World Can’t Wait, as well as other forms of political opposition. For example, I believe that even something like the present electoral campaign circus—and, more particularly, the fact that this started so early, nearly two years before the actual Presidential election in 2008—is at least indirectly related to what’s been stirred up through the efforts of World Can’t Wait (as well as others). Everybody’s been struck by the fact that this election circus has been out there so far in advance of the actual election. I was just watching CNN the other night: “Countdown to the YouTube debate.” [Laughter] Countdown to the fucking YouTube debate—it’s about a year and a half before the election and we’ve got “Countdown to the YouTube debate”!

I believe that this traveling circus—a version of which they had out early last time, well before the 2004 election, but which has started this time even further in advance of the election—is very consciously a part of the efforts of significant forces in the ruling class to promote the thinking that “Bush is terrible, what he’s doing is terrible, he’s the worst president we’ve ever had, and this is really intolerable…but the clock is ticking down and, after all, he’ll be out of office soon.” That idea, and the paralysis it leads to—the way in which it diverts people in a negative sense, away from the kind of mass political resistance they need to be waging, back into the dead-end of the bourgeois electoral process—gets reinforced by having the campaign already going on. It contributes to creating the impression—or, really, the illusion—that Bush is already gone, and now the attention is focused on who will next occupy the position of chief executive and commander-in-chief.

As I see it, one of the reasons why this traveling circus is out there already is that there is a real awareness among conscious sections of the ruling class that they have to do something about—something which will sidetrack into harmless channels, and politically “anesthetize”—the widespread disgust and outrage over the Bush regime and everything it stands for—everything it has done and is doing, but also everything it stands for in a very basic sense. There is the danger, from the ruling class point of view, that this could be galvanized into a mass political outpouring that breaks out of the confines of bourgeois politics as usual and the electoral framework that reinforces and gives concentrated expression to that politics.

Yes, we have what I call the “Frank Rich illusion”—or delusion—that (to paraphrase): “Bush is over; the Christian fundamentalists, they’re no longer a real phenomenon, that’s all over and done with.” Every once in a while, people with this viewpoint have a moment where they return to reality and recognize that this is not really what’s going on, but there is this whole illusion that’s being promoted—and probably believed by people like Frank Rich, but promoted in any case: “Now, everybody just calm down. Yes Bush is terrible, yes what’s happening is terrible. But everybody calm down. He’s almost gone. These forces are defanged, they really have no more influence.” Never mind the reactionary Supreme Court appointments and decisions. Never mind the ongoing torture (which is not really even disguised and is denied only barely, and with the most evident hypocrisy). Never mind the continuing efforts to treat the scientific fact of evolution in the same way as the right to abortion—that is, as some kind of “crime” and moral outrage (a crime and outrage against Christianity and decency) being committed by various “ists” (“abortion-ists”…”evolution-ists”…and so on). Never mind the fact that Bush still has a firm grip on his role as commander-in-chief, and nothing the Democrats have done—or even talked about doing—has in any way shaken that. Yet, in the face of all that, still we hear: “They are over, it’s all done, they’re defanged, don’t worry about it.” Even when this is in the form of “liberal triumphalism,” it is at best self-delusion.

And in 2008 we will face the fact the election will be in high gear. All the primaries are going to be early in the year, and basically the terms of (ruling class) politics are going to be set by early spring, at the latest.

Al Gore and illusion, delusion and misdirection

And then we have the role of Al Gore. In addition to what I pointed out earlier about Gore and the role he is playing now3 , it is worth looking at what is said—and what is not said—in his new book, The Assault on Reason. The title of this book is a direct reference to what is being done by the Bush regime (and those allied with it). Well, the first thing I did when I got this book, before I read it, was to go to the index. Does the word “evolution” appear in the index? Noooo. Does the phrase “intelligent design” appear? Noooo. Then I read the book itself, and I never found—maybe it’s there and I just missed it, but I don’t think so—I never found any discussion of evolution in this entire book in which the assault on reason by the Bush regime is being criticized by Al Gore.

It is also very interesting, and significant: A number of times Gore actually uses this word crimes in speaking of the Bush administration and what it has done—he repeatedly accuses it of breaking the law. Therefore, in the concluding chapter of the book, Gore calls for impeachment? Noooooo. That never comes up. Here is a bourgeois politician talking about the great “founders” of the U.S. and “our great Constitution” and how it’s being trampled on and manipulated—and yet there seems to be some sort of gap here, some sort of lacuna, where the “remedy” that is provided in the Constitution, when the President commits crimes and breaks the law—this remedy, impeachment, is not spoken to in this book (and not put forward by Gore in general).

Instead, through the efforts of Gore and others, people are being channeled into things which are ineffective but safe—or at least seemingly so—things which hold out the illusion of doing something about the state of the world and the future of humanity, but without any real risk—and without really affecting the state of the world and the future of humanity in any meaningful and positive way. People’s attention is being turned to things like the environment, things like Darfur—and as important and as presently ominous and tragic as these things actually are, the way in which these issues are being addressed, and what people are being told to do about them, by the likes of Gore, are either meaningless or extremely harmful. They either involve courses of action (or inaction) which won’t get anywhere near the actual causes of the problems, and don’t provide an actual solution, or they advocate things, such as military intervention by the U.S. (or forces led by or beholden to the U.S.) into various countries—the actual effect of which would only be, over any period of time, to make things worse in the world. Even if, in the short run, such intervention might lessen some of the violence, in the long run what it will contribute to is more suffering on the part of the masses, and more violence inflicted on them in various forms.

Transforming the political terrain

All this—the operation of the imperialist system overall, as a result of its underlying dynamics, the particularity of the Bush regime and the comprehensive nature of what it is doing and setting out to do, with the lasting implications and impact of this—is still very little understood and confronted. This has imposed and is imposing very real and profound necessity, not only for different sections of the people, but for the ruling class and the system as a whole—within the U.S. itself as well as in the international dimension. For example, the massive debt that’s been accumulated; the gutting of government programs, combined with massive tax cuts; the Supreme Court appointments and decisions—these things have lasting effects and implications that are not easily reversed.

The whole phenomenon which is spoken to in the “Call” of World Can’t Wait, the move to change society in a fascist direction and for generations to come—with torture and the gutting of habeas corpus and the right to trial, attacks on dissent and critical thinking, the many-sided assault on science and the scientific method, and on rational thought itself, the promotion of ignorance and bigotry—this has gone a long way already and has set in motion things that are not easily reversed, including from the point of view of the ruling class and the maintenance and furtherance of the interests of their system. Even if other sections of the ruling class were able to come to the helm of the ship of state (to use that metaphor), and even if they wanted to change course, at least in some significant measure, it would be very difficult for them to do so. Creating a situation where it would be very difficult to undo what they have set in motion—this has, of course, been a conscious intent of the forces grouped around Bush, but it’s also been the actual effect.

Still, at this point (or in the near future), if a mass movement were called forth around the demand to Drive Out the Bush Regime!, it would have a tremendously positive impact on the whole political terrain—rupturing things onto a whole different course, or at least posing a powerful mass demand to rupture things onto a whole different course, and creating much more favorable political terms, in this country and indeed throughout the world—making things more favorable for further resistance against the crimes of this system and, more fundamentally from our standpoint, more favorable in terms of repolarization for revolution. Would things be acutely contradictory, even if this mass outpouring were to come forth? Yes, of course. Would this strengthen a lot of bourgeois-democratic illusions? Yes. But this, again, is part of the material reality that we’re working with—and driving out the Bush regime as a result of mass political opposition and resistance would create a far better set of contradictions, so to speak, than not having such a mass outpouring, even with all of its contradictory tendencies and effects. And in any case, the great need remains to repudiate, and bring to a halt, this whole program and bring about a profound change in the political terrain, through massive political opposition and resistance; and this is a challenge that we, together with others, must continue to confront and strive to break through on.  

1. Bringing Forward Another Way is a talk given by Bob Avakian in the fall of 2006. An edited version of this talk is available at, and this was serialized in Revolution in #83, March 25; #85, April 22; #86, April 29; #87, May 6; #88, May 13; #89, May 20; #90, May 27; #91, June 10; #92, June 17; #93, June 24; #94, July 1; #95, July 15; #96, July 22; #97, July 29, #98, Aug. 19; #99, Aug. 26; and #100, Sept. 9, 2007.[back]

2. The “Call” of World Can’t Wait, and other information about this organization, can be accessed at[back]

3. The earlier discussion of Al Gore is found in the first installment in this series (of Part 2), “Enriched What Is To Be-Done-ism,” in issue #113, December 23, 2007.[back]

This series will continue in the next issue of Revolution.

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