From the September 1990 issue of the Socialist Standard
There are few subtleties about the present Middle East conflict which threatens the world with yet another global war. The conflict is about oil; about who will own and control those areas of the Middle East which produce about a third of the world's oil and which contain vast untapped reserves of this key raw material, ft is about this oil, about the territory in which it is located, the pipelines and ports through which it flows, its price and. ultimately, how it affects the profits going into the pockets of rival sections of the International capitalist class, that conflict has arisen.
If the conflict sharpens, if it gets to the point where you have to be convinced that you should go out and kill Iraqis because the oligarchy of thieves who ruled in Kuwait or the bloody tyrants who rule in Saudi Arabia are being plundered by Iraq's latter-day Hitler, then the engines of state propaganda, leaders, politicians, and media will doctor reality. Oil might well become "our way of life", and Arab sheiks who cut off heads at the merest whiff of democratic challenge might become pillars of "Western freedom"!
You know that there is at least one war going on every single day. Ceaselessly, throughout the world, the scientists and the factories are hard at work turning out armaments the cost of which are beyond our imagination and men and women are being made frighteningly proficient in the business of killing.
Assessments of the total number killed, since the second world war, in which some 50 million people died, vary enormously but are most commonly put at around 25 million.
Of course the world of capitalism, which means all the nations on this planet - including those who organise capitalism under the aegis of the State and lyingly call it "socialism" - have endemic problems which might well bring about conflict. For example, according to the United Nations relief agencies, some 15 million children die every year of starvation or poverty-related diseases. These deaths occur, largely, in what is called the Third World. In the First World of highly developed capitalist states medical terminology disguises the number of lives terminated annually by diseases of poverty.
Since the last world war, then, up to half a billion people have been killed by poverty and war. Even in a world where we have become inured to the obscene statistics of capitalism's horrors, such figures must apall; even more so, they must surely make any intelligent and civilised human being ask who was fighting the wars and why were they being fought?
It can be said quite categorically that none of the wars was about poverty; no nation on earth mobilised its scientists, its finances, or its armed forces, because 40,000 children under the age of five are dying every day and could be saved by a small fraction of the wealth required to maintain the world's war machines. None of the wars that have occurred this century have been concerned with any of the problems that permanently confront the majority of people in every country - the working class.
And yet, despite the incontrovertible fact that wars have nothing whatsoever to do with working class interests, it is the working class that, almost exclusively, is called upon to do the killing, the suffering and the dying. It sounds incredible that we workers can be conned again and again into killing and risking our lives when it is patently obvious that we will not be the beneficiaries of victory and that we have not got anything an enemy would want to fight for.
Events have moved rapidly in the Middle East. Until the present crisis broke, our leaders and the media were generally hiding the truth about the barbarities of the Hussein regime in Iraq, which, according to Amnesty International, has the worlds worst record for using torture and murder against political opponents. Iran was cocking a snoot at the West: Ayatollah Khomeini and his fellow clerics were the favourite media baddies, therefore Hussein, who was butchering Iranians, could not be depicted as a ruthless despot.
Hussein has armed forces in excess of a million. His airforce has 670 combat aircraft and helicopters provided by his erstwhile allies in the West. His ground forces have 5,500 tanks, including Russian T72s. German technology has provided Hussein's forces with the means of producing nerve gases and mustard gas they used against Iran and against Kurdish villagers. For several years Iraq was purchasing almost the entire production run of French Exocet missiles.
It is possible that Iraq will not want to face the military and economic consequences of its Kuwait adventure: possible that they might negotiate a compromise solution that will temporarily ease the tension. If that happens, only the multinational oil companies will have profited from the exercise.
It is equally possible, that they might either force, or have forced on them, a military confrontation. In that event, the current alignment of military forces in the Gulf could undergo a rapid change: those Arab governments currently numbered against Iraq could change sides, or be overthrown if, when moslems started to be killed, Hussein succeeded in promoting a jihad, or holy war, against ’"he infidels".
In that event, the combined Arab armies in the Gulf would amount to some 2.7 million men armed with over 10,000 tanks, about 2,200 combat aircraft and about 500 helicopters, as well as destroyers, frigates and fast motor patrol boats. Given the American threat that their naval forces currently in the Gulf has greater firepower than the combined forces of the combatants in World War Two and the warning that Iraq may be very close to developing its own nuclear weapons, the situation must represent a frightening threat to the whole world.
WAR AIMS -SAME AS COMMERCIAL AIMS
The Iraqi rulers want more oil and they also want guaranteed bunkering and port outlets to the oil markets of the world. That is why they invaded Kuwait. If they gain control of enough oil and have the facilities to move and market that oil, then, they believe, they can exercise more control over prices and. thus, make greater profits. So Iraqi war aims are commercial as are those of the Western powers, who want to protect the profits of their capitalists by securing for them a stable supply of low-price oil.
As with all wars, and threats of war, the conflict is about the squalid interests of the owning class in our society. The World Socialist Movement again reminds our fellow workers that we members of the working class own no productive resources except our ability to work. Britain and Ireland, like all other nations, belong to the world capitalist class and, when one nation threatens war on another, it is about the ownership and control of wealth; it is about resources, markets or areas of strategic importance - in a word, about things that concern us only in that our masters order us to kill and die for them.
We say to our fellow workers in all other lands, we have no quarrel with you. On the contrary, we appeal to workers in all lands to refuse to slaughter one another for, and at the behest of, our capitalist masters. We appeal to you to unite with us in the struggle to overthrow the system of capitalism which not only causes war but all the other social problems which our class endures throughout the world.
The Socialist Party of Great Britain
The World Socialist Party (Ireland)
22 August 1990