By Any Other Name

August 19, 2003

A recent article by Stephen Zunes, written for Foreign Policy in Focus, a liberal-left think tank, calls on "peace and justice activists" to focus their energies on a campaign "to turn the administration of Iraq over to the United Nations." This same politics is promoted by a number of political groupings which advertise themselves as "anti-war," such as The Nation, MoveOn, the Communist Party, U.S.A. and many others.

It is instructive for anti-war activists to look into both the real objectives of this politics as well as where it comes from.

The campaign to "turn the administration of Iraq over to the UN" is nothing new. All along the Bush administration and the U.N. Security Council have been collaborating; the U.S. calls the shots while using the Security Council, when convenient, to lend "international legitimacy" to U.S. aggression and colonialism. In early May, the UN Security Council formally endorsed the U.S. military-colonial occupation of Iraq, recognized the U.S.-British "Provisional Coalition Authority" as the sole authority in Iraq and declared that all Iraqi assets and oil revenue would be under U.S. control. Again, on August 15, the Security Council passed another U.S.-sponsored resolution applauding the U.S.-installed interim "Governing Council."

Last month, the Pentagon authorized a team of experts to visit Iraq and issue a report on "Iraq's Post-Conflict Reconstruction." (published by the Center for Strategic and International Studies). Amongst other things, this report warns that there is "a lessening of support for the occupying authority within Iraq" and "rising anti-Americanism." The report emphasizes the need to both increase military forces, "especially street-level presence in key conflictive areas" and to win the "hearts and minds" of Iraqis.

With these ends in mind, the report calls for "a new coalition that includes countries and organizations beyond the original war fighting coalition." One Pentagon adviser admitted that including more multinational troops and increasing the role of the UN "would be helpful to diffuse responsibility for this massive undertaking and share any dissatisfaction with others and not be the sole target ourselves."

Colin Powell, many Republicans in Congress and even Donald Rumsfeld have all called for expanding the role of the UN and deploying more troops from other countries.

So too, the leading lights of the Democratic Party - all supporters of the war against Iraq - call for broadening the U.S. military-colonial regime. For example, Senator Biden sees this as necessary to give the U.S. more "legitimacy as well as some physical cover." John Kerry, Democratic presidential candidate emphasizes that "we need to internationalize this.... in order to defuse the Iraqi sense of occupation and protect the troops." And Howard Dean, another leading "anti-war" Democrat, says: "Now that we're there, we can't get out. We cannot afford to lose the peace. That's not an option. Now that we're there, we have to find a way to make sure that a chaotic situation doesn't develop or, worse, a fundamentalist regime with Iranian influence doesn't develop. And the first thing we really ought to be doing is bringing NATO and the United Nations in so we can send some of our reserves home."

Thus when Stephen Zunes and others call on "peace and justice activists" to work for a "UN trusteeship [that] would be far more credible, both inside and outside Iraq," they are only importing into the anti-war movement a politics which originates with the policy-makers in the U.S. government.

The tactic of "broadening" the U.S. military-colonial regime in Iraq by expanding the role of the UN and various capitalist states is nothing but an attempt at diverting public opinion from the ongoing crimes of the occupiers and from the permanent aims of U.S. and international imperialism. It is an attempt to put a more benign face over the brutal U.S. occupation.

The U.S. government invaded Iraq in order to colonize it - to subjugate the country, rob its wealth and exploit its people. Everyday the ongoing occupation reveals these aims ever more clearer. The war continues and the U.S. army keeps killing the Iraqi people, carrying out mass reprisals, etc. The multinational corporations are being given a free hand to take over the Iraqi economy and enrich themselves. And all the while, the Iraqi people remain deprived of the most elemental rights - their political parties and organizations are outlawed by the occupiers, their patriotic daughters and sons are hunted and killed, their economic and social infrastructure, including even such basic necessities as water and sewage systems, remain destroyed, etc.

No makeup or facelift can change the imperialist character of this occupation. Trying to lend "more credibility" to the occupation of Iraq is nothing but an attempt to legitimize colonialism.

The colonial domination of Iraq will only be brought to an end when all the imperialist powers are forced out of Iraq and the inalienable right of the Iraqi people to self-determination and sovereignty is recognized. It is nothing but chauvinism for an American to advocate anything less that the immediate, unconditional and complete withdrawal of U.S. and Western imperialism from Iraq.

But the very crux of the neocolonial tactic advocated by Stephen Zunes and others is to take aim precisely at the forces which are struggling to end the occupation and restore the sovereignty of Iraq

- to target the resistance struggles of the Iraqi people and the anti-imperialist and nationalist movements throughout the Middle East.

Zunes writes that a "UN trusteeship" will help diffuse the "growing opposition in Iraq to U.S. occupation, including a low-level armed insurgency".... and "the rise of radical nationalist and radical Islamist elements." With eyes on the entire Middle East, Zunes wants to prevent "the growth of anti-American sentiment through the Arab and Islamic world" and thwart "leaders who are now more easily able to portray the US as an imperialist power committed to the conquest and subjugation of Muslim peoples and the exploitation of the region's natural resources."

Again, any genuine movement against U.S. aggression and U.S. colonialism must wholeheartedly support the struggles of the colonized peoples against U.S. domination and aggression. This is an essential starting point of genuine democracy.

Finally, if one is still not clear about Zunes' aims, he points out that the deployment of UN and other multinational peacekeepers in Iraq would help ease the "shortage of available personnel for other potential U.S. military operations, ranging from peacekeeping operations in Liberia... to challenging real threats to regional security (such as North Korea)..."

In sum, Zunes' neocolonial strategy seeks to cover over the real crimes of the ongoing U.S.-led military-colonial regime by renaming it as a "UN trusteeship." Not only is the right of the Iraqi people to self-determination ignored, Zunes' entire strategy is directed squarely against both the Iraqi people's resistance struggle as well as the growing anti-imperialist and nationalist movements throughout the Middle East. Lastly, Zunes aims to free up U.S. troops to police U.S. imperialism's interests in other regions and to launch more colonial wars.

Zunes is only echoing a politics which extends from the Bush administration itself to the liberal Democrats to social-democracy and opportunism. By pressuring "peace and justice activists" to adopt this politics, liberalism and opportunism are trying to get our movement to adopt the colonial agenda of the capitalist class.

This politics has no place in the anti-war movement. The task of the anti-war movement is not to help George Bush put a better face on U.S. colonialism, but to demand an immediate end to U.S. occupation, the immediate withdrawal of all U.S. and foreign troops from Iraq and the Middle East and recognition of the inalienable right of the Iraqi people to determine their destiny free of any outside interference.

The agenda of the American people is anti-chauvinist, anti-colonial and anti-imperialist; it is the agenda of a genuinely democratic foreign policy which ends U.S. intervention in all its forms, withdraws all U.S. troops stationed abroad and recognizes the sovereignty of every country.