Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page:

From The Socialist newspaper, 26 January 2001

Much blood for oil

10th anniversary of the Gulf War

TEN YEARS ago a US-led coalition of military powers went to war with Iraq, marking a new period of instability on a world scale.

Niall Mulholland.

This "mother of all battles" followed the invasion of oil-rich Kuwait by Saddam Hussein's forces on 2 August 1990. Saddam's regime was and still is one of the most oppressive on the planet, but the fate of the people of Kuwait counted for little in the schemes of the big Western powers. After all, successive British, French and US governments had bankrolled a massive military spending programme by the Iraqi regime, which created the fifth largets army in the world. Furthermore, these powers merely wrung their hands when Saddam carried out murderous gas attacks on the Kurdish minority in northern Iraq.

The Gulf War was primarily a war over oil. By invading Kuwait Saddam gained control of 20% of OPEC oil production, which allowed him to apply pressure on the lifeblood of Western capitalism. Saddam clearly believed, as "America's man", that the powers would acquiesce to the invasion. But the US could not tolerate such a direct threat to its interests, and especially not in the unstable Middle East.

Following the collapse of the Stalinist regimes in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe after 1989, the US and main powers were able to take unprecedented action against Saddam's challenge. The UN Security Council, for the first time in its history, unanimously carried a resolution that implemented a total embargo of Iraq (except food).

On the other hand, the invasion of Kuwait evoked huge sympathy from the impoverished masses throughout the Arab world, despite the monstrous nature of Saddam's regime. At last, it seemed, someone was standing up to the western powers and big business.

Test for the Left

THESE EVENTS posed a real test for the Left in Britain and internationally. The Labour Party leadership of Neil Kinnock wasted no time in fully backing the warmongering Tory government.

In contrast, Militant, the forerunner of The Socialist, along with the worldwide sections of the Committee for a Workers' International, opposed this blood-for-oil war. We explained that the coalition war machine was assembled to uphold and reinforce the power of the US ruling class and that of the main powers. We correctly predicted that a coalition victory would not bring democracy to Kuwait, Iraq or anywhere else in the Middle East. Imperialism would use a victory to try to cow the Arab masses and indeed the peoples of Latin America, Asia and Africa.

Socialists also called for the Iraqi workers, peasants and national minorities to overthrow the Saddam regime, and for the establishment of a socialist confederation throughout the region, which would allow genuine democratic and national rights. These ideas found a positive response in the broad anti-war movement that developed worldwide.

The overwhelming forces on the side of the coalition combined with the regime's lack of internal support resulted in a bloody rout of the Iraqi army. The rapid collapse of Saddam's war effort was a clear reflection of the internal weakness of his regime. Over 100,000 Iraqis were killed or injured in the 100 hours of the land war. The US-led coalition suffered only 300 casualties.

The coalition powers stopped short of marching on Baghdad and deposing Saddam. They correctly feared this would result in a drawn out conflict. The shaky war coalition would have collapsed and the western anti-war movement would have mushroomed.

A few weeks after the ending of the war Saddam unleashed his tanks against the Kurds in the north and oppressed minority Shia Muslims in the south of the country. They had been encouraged to revolt when it suited the Western powers, but now with Saddam out of Kuwait the West feared the dismemberment of Iraq and the strengthening of Iran as a regional power.

This was a short-term victory for the West. Ten years on and Saddam Hussein still presides over a "rogue state". In fact, Saddam has seen off many world leaders, including, George Bush (senior), Margaret Thatcher and John Major and now Bill Clinton.

A deadly legacy

THE GULF War may have ended but a 'secret war' against the people of Iraq continues. One legacy of the 1991 conflict - the huge use of depleted uranium shells - has resulted in thousands of children and adults dying from cancer and leukaemia.

During the last decade the US and British air forces have repeatedly bombed Iraqi targets, killing army personnel and civilians, supposedly to force Saddam to comply with the UN's 'no-fly zone' policy. Yet Turkish fighter planes have freely attacked Kurdish people living in these zones.

International sanctions still apply to Iraq, with devastating human consequences. According to Unicef, a UN agency, the blockades have contributed to the deaths of 500,000 children since the Gulf War, and 800,000 are chronically malnourished. Clinton's key foreign aide, Madeline Albright, argues that, "We think the price is worth it"! This - the deliberate genocide of a people - is the real meaning of the 'New World Order'.

Under the so-called 'oil-for-food programme', Iraq's oil revenue is held in a UN managed account with 30% being taken for "reparations". Imports are subject to approval to by the UN Security Council, which means, for instance, that equipment vital to Iraq's electricity and water supplies is held up. This results in frequently contaminated water and regular electricity cuts. Hospitals also have to cope with only rudimentary equipment because of sanctions. No wonder that 108 babies out of 1,000 will die before their first birthday.

Of course, none of this touches Saddam or the ruling clique around him. He has managed to consolidate his position while the desperate population are busy trying to avoid starvation. Teachers and civil servants earn, for example, around 50p a week.

The US is hell-bent on imposing its will in the Middle East, a region much more volatile than ten years ago. However, opposition to sanctions and bombings, from youth and working people across the world, is growing and seriously threatens the continuation of these policies.

A new mood of radicalism and anti-imperialism is developing throughout the Arab world. This will lead to revolutionary explosions against local dictators like Saddam, but also movements against the western capitalist powers. In no small way this will be due to the Gulf War and the barbaric crimes committed against the Iraqi people ever since.

Donate to the Socialist Party

Coronavirus crisis - Finance appeal

The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.

The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

The government has now ripped up its 'austerity' mantra and turned to policies that not long ago were denounced as socialist. But after the corona crisis, it will try to make the working class pay for it, by trying to claw back what has been given.

  • The Socialist Party's material is more vital than ever, so we can continue to report from workers who are fighting for better health and safety measures, against layoffs, for adequate staffing levels, etc.
  • Our 'fighting coronavirus workers' charter', outlines a programme to combat the virus and protect workers' living conditions.
  • When the health crisis subsides, we must be ready for the stormy events ahead and the need to arm workers' movements with a socialist programme - one which puts the health and needs of humanity before the profits of a few.
Inevitably, during the crisis we have not been able to sell the Socialist and raise funds in the ways we normally would.
We therefore urgently appeal to all our viewers to donate to our special coronavirus appeal.

Please donate here.

All payments are made through a secure server.

My donation


Your message: 


In The Socialist 26 January 2001:

Put the Fat Cats on Trial

Hackney Council Crisis Workers strike back at jobs threat

Car workers: Turn pressure into strike action

Show of strength from car workers

Huntingdon Life Sciences: Big Business rescues a friend

Scotland - an exchange of letters

10th anniversary of the Gulf War

Privatised power blacks out California


Home   |   The Socialist 26 January 2001   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate  

Related links:


triangle1920s Britain: A "country nearer Bolshevism than at any time since"

triangleA new world order - global reconstruction after World War Two

triangleThe Spanish Flu of 1918 and how it "fanned the flames of revolt"

triangleThe Tyneside apprentices' strike during WW2

triangleNo return to the 1930s: World War Two and 'a land fit for heroes'

Gulf War:

triangleGulf War 'unfinished business' remains today


triangleLibya: Civil war and chaos follow interventions by world and regional powers

triangleShell pays 0 corporation tax, and plans huge hike in fossil output

triangleDrone attacks on Saudi Arabia: Tensions ratcheted up


triangleIraq - a brutal legacy of imperialist intervention

triangleSuleimani's assassination - Middle East thrown into turmoil


trianglePandemic doesn't stop Socialist Party educating organisers: northern meeting

Middle East:

triangleBirmingham SE Socialist Party: Middle East mass protests - a socialist way forward

Saddam Hussein:

triangle15 years since the invasion of Iraq: what we said

Historic events

Historic events



1920s Britain: A "country nearer Bolshevism than at any time since"


Lucas Aerospace

The 'Lucas Plan'



A new world order - global reconstruction after World War Two



The Spanish Flu of 1918 and how it "fanned the flames of revolt"



'Victory in Europe' 75th anniversary: A resurgent workers' movement and the fight for socialism



Peter Hadden remembered



The Tyneside apprentices' strike during WW2


May Day

130 Years of May Day in Britain: Fight for workers' rights more relevant than ever



No return to the 1930s: World War Two and 'a land fit for heroes'



Lenin at 150: A revolutionary life - and the relevance of his ideas for today



How the catastrophe of WW1 sparked revolution



Class collaboration and worker militancy in World War Two Britain



All in this together? The 'Blitz spirit' myth


Poll tax

30 years since the huge anti-poll tax demo... And how mass non-payment of the tax was built



South Africa: 60 years marking the Sharpeville Massacre

triangleMore Historic events articles...

Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party
Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube



Phone our national office on 020 8988 8777


Locate your nearest Socialist Party branch Text your name and postcode to 07761 818 206

Regional Socialist Party organisers:

Eastern: 079 8202 1969

East Mids: 077 3797 8057

London: 07748 534 891

North East: 078 4114 4890

North West 079 5437 6096

South West: 077 5979 6478

Southern: 078 3368 1910

Wales: 079 3539 1947

West Mids: 024 7655 5620

Yorkshire: 077 0671 0041



Alphabetical listing

June 2020

May 2020

April 2020

March 2020

February 2020

January 2020