Last week was Remembrance Day when we had the spectacle of hypocritical politicians mourning the war dead while condemning more young men and women to tragic, unnecessary deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan.
By Tom Baldwin, Socialist Party
The occupation of these countries has not brought peace or stability. On the contrary, in Afghanistan Nato troops face a resurgent Taliban. The Taliban are able to recruit from ordinary Afghans driven to desperation by poverty and the continued presence of foreign troops. The attacks by US pilotless drones over the Pakistani border are also increasing tensions in that country.
In Iraq, bomb attacks are a continual fear for ordinary Iraqis. The imperialist tactic of divide and rule between the different ethnic and religious groups has meant the occupying forces have increased tensions, not eased them.
Now, with Bush and his neo-cons soon to depart the White House, many hope the era of American military intervention and occupation will follow him. Indeed, part of the wave of desire for change that carried Barack Obama to power was the hope that he would end the unwinnable war in Iraq.
But while Obama has spoken of a timetable for withdrawing combat troops from Iraq, the trade-off for this is keeping many US bases in the country, and an increased presence in Afghanistan.
This is no less of a quagmire for America than Iraq is. On the basis of widespread poverty and an unpopular occupation to prop up a powerless government, Afghanistan cannot be stabilised. Obama’s proposed troop surge may give temporary results but as Iraq shows, overwhelming military might cannot bring peace. These wars were fought to increase the power and influence of US imperialism but have served to show its weakness.
The war in Iraq is not just unwinnable but unpopular, with a majority of Americans opposing it. Obama will come under pressure to make good his promises on Iraq but this falls well short of the immediate withdrawal of all troops that anti-war campaigners demand.
Another indication that the change Obama promised may not be all it is hoped for is that he may reappoint current Republican defence secretary Robert Gates.
It is the working class and poor in Iraq and Afghanistan that are suffering the most from the occupations and it is these forces that are key to ending them. A struggle for a decent standard of living, united across ethnic groups, can bring unity, whereas the occupying forces stir divisions.
For ordinary Afghans and Iraqis to be able to control their own destinies means not just ending the occupations but building socialism in those countries. Anti-war campaigners in Australia, Britain and America must support this and continue to demand the immediate end to the occupations, no matter who is in the White House.