The Fall of Baghdad and Its Lessons

Revolutionary Worker #1197, May 4, 2003, posted at

We received the following from A World To Win News Service:

14 April 2003. A World to Win News Service.When the U.S. army blasted its way into Baghdad, it was a cruel blow to people all over the world. Progressive people everywhere had taken hope from the fierce resistance the Iraqi people had waged in the first two weeks of the war in the southern part of the country. Even the U.S. imperialists themselves had become concerned that their war plan might come unraveled. Yet suddenly, in just a few days, the government in Baghdad collapsed and the U.S. armed forces marched in with little resistance. No doubt over the months and years ahead many people throughout the world will be studying this war, but even now we can begin to draw some lessons.

The lesson that the U.S. wants to get across is that their armed forces are invincible. Indeed, the U.S. proved their vicious, barbaric and cowardly character to a whole new generation of people. They gleefully rained death and destruction against a vastly weaker foe from the safety of the skies or from their heavily armored vehicles. They are indeed a formidable enemy. An enemy that is now even more puffed up and arrogant, determined to reconfigure the Middle East and the whole world by shattering the bones and searing the flesh of opponents and countless innocent victims alike.

From the beginning it was a vastly unequal contest--a vastly weaker Iraq against the strongest power on earth. But despite the overwhelming military superiority of the U.S./U.K. invaders, the early stages of the fighting showed that it was possible for lightly armed forces, many of whom were not even trained soldiers, to inflict serious casualties on the invaders by attacking their supply lines and their weak points while avoiding the kind of conventional battles on open terrain where U.S. superior firepower would be decisive. The first weeks of the war gave a glimpse of the guerrilla warfare that a weaker force can use to disrupt and wear down a more powerful enemy. This was done successfully by the Vietnamese people in their heroic fight against the U.S. and by Mao Tsetung and the Chinese revolutionaries in the war they led against Japan.

Furthermore, early fighting in some of the southern cities showed that urban house-to-house warfare also put some limitations on the U.S. superiority. Fighting at very close quarters made it difficult for the U.S. to call in air strikes without suffering even more "friendly fire" casualties. Some southern cities held out against the invaders this way for two weeks. Many commentators had suggested Iraq had planned a "Stalingrad defense" of Baghdad (a reference to the decisive battle of World War 2 when the Soviet Red Army and the support of the population of Stalingrad defeated the German invaders after months of heroic fighting street by street). Although the U.S. had begun the war with massive bombing attacks on Baghdad to "shock and awe" the regime and the people alike, and despite mounting civilian casualties, the people of Baghdad in their millions did not seek to leave the city for safer ground but seemed determined to resist the foreign invaders.

The U.S. had been routed in the arena of world public opinion and was isolated and virtually alone with its U.K. crime partners. But this made the U.S. even more determined to show, in the words of George Bush, that the U.S. "doesn't have to get anyone's permission" before invading, brutalizing or occupying any country in the world it chooses. The U.S. rape of Iraq proved once again that "political power grows out of the barrel of a gun." But international public opinion does matter and can help transform the whole war situation. During the Vietnam War, a powerful movement around the world and in the U.S. itself played a vital role in bringing about the defeat of the American imperialists.

In almost every country public opinion was almost unanimously against the U.S./U.K. invaders. The whole region was aflame with anti-U.S. hatred. Under the pressure of the mass movement and trying to protect their own imperialist interests, even some of the traditional allies of the U.S. such as France and Germany opposed the war. These factors would have become more and more of a difficulty for the U.S. the longer the war went on.

The Iraqi regime was unable to make use of these favorable factors to put up the kind of fight that would have really put a stick in the spokes of the U.S. war chariot and rallied the people of the region and the world to their defense. The Iraqi military was dependent on oil sales and arm purchases from the imperialists. Its economy had been crippled by 12 years of imperialist-imposed sanctions and the people impoverished and exhausted. Yet the Iraq regime had a more fundamental flaw that assured its ultimate failure. It was a reactionary regime that had ruled over the peoples of Iraq with an iron fist. The only chance of defeating the U.S. was through a lengthy people's war, a war that mobilized the entire population and relied upon it, and used a strategy and tactics that could neutralize the advantages of the U.S. From such a perspective, the importance of the battle for Baghdad was not that the whole war would be decided by it. The question was how the battle there, which the Iraqi forces could not avoid even if it was not the most favorable terrain for people's war, would set the stage for a protracted struggle by the people throughout the country against the occupiers and spark even more support from the people in every country, especially the bordering countries in the Middle East. Given this context, even if the city ultimately were to fall, a fierce and heroic battle would have made it possible to continue the war. This is what people throughout the world hoped for, only to have these hopes dashed by Saddam Hussein once again.

How could Saddam Hussein's generals ever be like the guerrillas who Mao Tsetung said were like "a fish swimming in the sea of the people"? How could those who themselves relied on terror and force to ensure their rule ever believe that, in the last analysis, the strength of a poorly armed people could overcome the strongest army on earth? How could a regime that had oppressed the Kurdish minority and the Shiites ever be capable of uniting all the people of the country? How could a state which had waged the reactionary Iran-Iraq war at a cost of over a million dead ever hope to rely on the support of the peoples of the region? How could a ruling class accustomed to living a life of opulence while the people fell further and further into malnutrition be expected to wage a prolonged, bitter war that would require so much sacrifice?

History shows again and again that in today's world the exploiting classes cannot and will not unite the people and lead them in waging protracted people's war. But history also shows that this kind of war can be waged. We saw that in Vietnam where after ten years of hard struggle and sacrifice the Vietnamese people, with the support of people all over the world, finally succeeded in driving the vastly superior U.S. army out of the country. And today we can see it in Nepal, in the People's War where the revolutionaries led by the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) have been able to build up strength over seven years, going from small squads of fighters using a few captured rifles to a powerful people's army threatening to take nationwide power.

With the fall of Baghdad, the U.S./U.K. imperialists won a victory in a battle, but they are far from achieving their objectives in Iraq or the Middle East. Look how hard it has been for Israel to occupy the West Bank and Gaza with only three million Palestinians. It will be difficult indeed for the U.S. to colonize Iraq with its 22 million population, especially if the Iraqi people begin to develop new leadership. Furthermore, Iraq is only one stop on the U.S. imperialist war against the world. Who will be next: Syria, North Korea, Iran? The U.S. imperialists are driven into a frenzy of war and conquest; they cannot and will not stop of their own accord. But the more they lash out, the more people rise against them. Neither the people of Iraq nor any other will allow themselves to be trampled and bled silently. In Iraq and throughout the world more and more people are searching for the ways to resist and defeat the reactionaries. Each new drunken step by the U.S. imperialists is bound to increase the determination of the people. However lengthy and complex the process, final victory will belong to the people.

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