What Is at Stake: Iraq and SARS
By Eric Lerner
NJ Workers Democracy Network

While US tanks were bringing to Baghdad the benefits of American
civilization--the sacking of the city's hospitals, universities, museums
 and libraries-- newspapers around the globe were also reporting on the
spread of the deadly SARS virus.  These two events may seem to be
entirely unrelated, but they are not. They are instead  part of a single
process. If that process of destruction is not stopped by mass
working-class movements, it will result in not only the collapse of
civilization, but in the death of hundreds of millions in every nation
in the world.
The policies of the US government not only in Iraq, but throughout the
world, aim at extracting an ever-increasing amount of wealth to prop up
capitalist corporations and a capitalist financial system that totters
on the verge of bankruptcy.  These policies aim at controlling workers
everywhere to ensure that there is no effective resistance to this
looting.  But in the process these policies are destroying the basis for
not only civilization, but for survival, creating the ideal conditions
for epidemics like SARS.  If this process is not stopped, such epidemics
 will, either in the short run, or, inevitably over the course of the
coming years, cut like the Black Death through all humanity, not sparing
even the all-powerful United States.
Part I: Destruction, control and looting
There can be no doubt that the looting of Iraq's hospitals and
universities, and the world-famous Museum of Antiquities, as well as the
 burning to the ground of the National Library and other libraries was
the result of a deliberate American policy, not of carelessness.  The US
 Army, moving with impunity through Baghdad, did in fact protect against
looters the building that they valued--the Ministry of Oil-- and they
did it with just a squad of troops.  Fifty such squads-- 2% of the US
troops in the city-- would have protected all the hospital, universities
 and the precious National Museum and Library.  On April 10 and 11, as
the looting raged, Iraqi doctors, educators and museum curators begged
US troops to stop the sack of the city. Instead, as the New York Times
reported, the troops waved armed looters, bearing their loot, through US
check points, while stopping those who had arms but no loot.
This is really no secret.  US soldiers openly told reporters that they
had orders not to stop looters (except at the Oil Ministry).  When asked
about the looting of the National Museums, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld
laughed it off, asking "My goodness, who would have thought they had
that many vases in the country?" and showing to the world his deep
contempt for  the culture and civilization of ten thousand years that
the Museum had displayed. Nor was it a secret that the Museum looters,
appearing simultaneously with American troops, were equipped with
professional cutting equipment not even available in Iraq.
But why would the US encourage such looting?   Clearly, one motivation
is to make the Iraqi population entirely dependant on the occupying
army.  With hospitals stripped bare, sick Iraqis are begging US soldiers
 to let them come to the few US military field hospitals that have been
set up.  The US forces as well appear as the immediate alternative to
the looters, as the forces of law and order.
The terror and destruction wrought by the US-sanctioned looting also
made it easier for the Americans to establish the "authorized
opposition", an essential aspect of the strategy of control. Islamic
fundamentalist militias, allowed to patrol in certain areas of Baghdad,
swiftly took over many of the attacked hospitals, offering protective
services and even offering to pay staff wages.  Iraqis are thus offered
dependence on the fundamentalists as the only alternative to dependence
on the Americans.  The US would like nothing more than to have the only
opposition to American rule to be those who would imitate the Taliban.
The destruction of the universities, the Museum and the National and
Islamic Libraries also greatly increases the control the US exercises
over the minds of the Iraqis.  Libraries, universities and museums, are
dangerous places for those who conquer.  Through them come dangerous
ideas from the past--a book about the history of imperialism, an
inspiring lecture, the sweep of civilizations rising and falling.  And
of course, ideas come in via the Internet through university and library
Far better for the US to wipe the past clean, to destroy any evidence of
 Mesopotamia's proud past, its struggles under colonial rulers, the
triumphs and defeats of its workers.  Far better to have all the
information available channeled though US-controlled TV and radio
But equally or more important is the economic motivation for this
destruction, which should be familiar to those who live anywhere in the
world, including in the US.  In Latin America, in Africa,  in Asia, in
Russia and East Europe, the prescription of the IMF has everywhere been
the same--gut public services, gut education, gut hospitals and health
services, add fees to make them less available, privatize them AND
direct the money saved to paying the debt to US banks, funded by exports
to the United States. All over the world, hospitals, schools, libraries
and museums have been shuttered or crippled by the IMF, as wealth flows
to the great imperial center.
In the United States itself, we see the same policies on a lesser
scale.  As money flows from the government to arms producers, to the
corporations wallowing in "reconstruction contracts" or directly to the
capitalists in the form of tax cuts, support for health, education,
libraries and museums are slashed. Across the United States basic health
 services, especially for the poorest, are eliminated, teachers are laid
off, university fees increased, library hours reduced.
But everywhere these policies are meeting with greater and greater
working class resistance. In Latin America especially opposition has
toppled several governments. In Iraq it is far easier to let the
authorized looters "zero out" the hospitals, schools, library and
museums. Then the generous Americans can build up from zero to a far
more modest level--a miserable, almost nonexistent level-- that is so
much harder for the capitalists to achieve by cutting back existing
This is the ultimate goal of the Global War of Conquest the United
States began in Afghanistan and has continued in Iraq.  For three years,
 markets have been contracting, profits shrinking, bankruptcies mounting
as the fraud-backed bubble of the '90's burst. The threat to capitalists
is that as companies can not cover their debts, they start to sell their
 assets, leading to a collapse of asset values (a Crash), global price
deflation and a melt-down of their fortunes as in the 1930's.  To
prevent this, and to maintain profits in a shrinking market, capitalists
 must slash public expenditure, slash wages, slash anything that is an
expense of maintaining a work force and funnel the money saved into
corporate profits. When ordinary political means are no longer
sufficient to do this, as the mass resistance to the IMF policies in
Latin America is demonstrating, force must be used--an endless series of
 wars that levels the infrastructure of whole countries and reduces their
 workforces to penury.(For a fuller explanation of the reasons for this crisis
Within capitalism there is no end to this cycle, because as workers'
wages and public services are slashed, the market for goods shrinks
further, threatening a new round of price deflation and a new melt-down
of profits, to which the only cure is another battle, another crushing
of a nation's past, present and future-- as in Iraq.
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