The last few weeks have seen "the most serious storm of George W. Bush’s presidency…Everyone is talking about bringing the troops home from Iraq."
"Many of the military’s most senior generals are deeply frustrated, but they say nothing in public".
The crisis of Bush and US imperialism over Iraq is deepening. The first comment above is from Philip Stevens in the London Financial Times, the second from Seymour Hersh, in The New Yorker.
Washington has increased the number of US troops in Iraq to 160,000 because of the referendum in October, and the elections on 15 December. Bush hope to convince Sunni leaders to appeal for participation in the elections, which he hopes will end in some kind of coalition government. But the coming elections will not mark any decisive change of developments in Iraq. It will be like previous propaganda coups -"the war is over" in May 2003, the capture of Saddam Hussein, the elections in January.
During 2005, Bush and Pentagon have dumped further parts of their claimed ambitions to promote "democracy" in Iraq. Events are moving in the other direction, with Washington’s blessing. The US supported present government is led by Shia Muslims with close links to Iran. The are controlling much of the new Iraqi army and police force, but also officers formerly loyal to Saddam Hussein have been allowed a come back. The new constitution says that Islam is the main source of law making, at the time as reactionary interpreters of Islam are dominating among both Sunnis and Shias. The constitution also opens the door for deepening regional splits and fighting.
Bush’s crisis at home, however, is mainly about the military setbacks of the US troops. More than 2,100 US troops have been killed in Iraq and close to 16,000 have been wounded. Seymor Hersh describes the frustration among US generals, "One person with whom the Pentagon’s top commanders have shared their private views for decades is Representative John Murtha".
The same Murtha - a Democrat and decorated marine since Vietnam - said in November that the US troops should be withdrawn within six months. Speaking in Congress, Murtha said that the number of armed attacks by insurgents in Iraq have increased from 150 a week, a year ago, to 700 a week now. He stated that 50,000 US soldiers suffers from "battle fatigue" and that none of the claimed "foreign fighters" have been among those captured in the recently. Even the Senate voted that 2006 should be a decisive year for ‘establishing Iraqi rule’.
A timetable for withdrawal was also the main demand at the recent Arab League Conference on Iraq, held in Cairo. 100 Shia, Sunni and Kurdish leaders stated "The Iraqi people are looking forward to the day when foreign forces will leave Iraq". The meeting also acknowledged, in general, the right to resistance against a foreign occupation force, alongside condemning terrorism.
The conference, however, was very much about preparing public opinion for the Iraq elections.
Even the Pentagon says that the US will reduce the number of troops after the elections. But neither the Iraqi leaders nor Bush will pull out large numbers of US troops, at this stage, unless they have confidence in the new Iraqi army.
This position was confirmed in Bush’s speech on 30 November. Iraqi forces are needed to decrease the US troops, Bush said, arguing strongly against any timetable being set. Interestingly, Bush did not name all insurgents as terrorists, but "a combination of rejectionists, Saddamists and terrorists".
When the US starts to bring home troops, ground troops will be replaced by increased US airpower. The air force is already today, to a great extent, part of the war in Western Iraq. According to Seymour Hersh, the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, alone, dropped 500,000 tons of ordinances, by the time of the siege of Falluja a year ago. The air attacks cause a big number of civilian causalities, and US officers warn that it will increase if Iraqi ground troops are guiding the attacks.
Alongside the attacks of insurgents against the occupation forces and those seen as collaborating with them, 2005 has seen an increase of religious-sectarian attacks. There is a de-facto "religious cleansing" taking place in several cities. Sunni groups have blasted Shia Muslim mosques and residential areas. The sectarian split was evident when 97 per cent voted against the new constitution in the Sunni-dominated Anbar province. This is also the province where most of the brutal, and often failed, US anti-terror operations take place.
The last few months, however, have seen an upsurge in Shia Muslim attacks against Sunnis. The New York Times (29 Nov) reports "hundreds of accounts of killings and abductions have emerged in recent weeks". A secret torture chamber in the basement of a building of the government’s Interior Department, where Sunni prisoners were interrogated and tortured, was recently exposed. The accusations are mainly directed against the Badr Brigade, the armed wing of SCIRI (Supreme council of Islamic Revolution in Iraq), which has close links to Iran. The minister of Interior, Bayan Jabr, is a top leader of SCIRI.
The government, dominated by SCIRI and the Dawa Party, was formed after three months of negotiations. Including its many US "advisors", it has blatantly failed in every area: the lack of security, jobs, electricity, water etc have not improved. One example, reflecting the discontent among the masses, is that Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani has withdrawn his support for the coalition. On the other hand, Muqtada al-Sadr’s movement, a dominating force in big parts of the Shia Iraq, joined the coalition. The coalition’s seats in the elections will be shared evenly between SCIRI, Dawa and al-Sadr. Sudden shifts in alliances and coalitions are caused by the instability in Iraq.
82 per cent of Iraqis want an end of the occupation, according to an opinion poll carried out by the British defence department, in August. 30,000-70,000 Iraqis have been killed since the official end of the war, two and half years ago. Those, in the US and elsewhere, still defending the war, claim - apart from their worry over the incredible loss of prestige it would signify - the situation would worsen if the US left Iraq.
"Victory in Iraq is a vital US interest", stated a White House’s national security paper, declassified this week. At the same time, more people believe that the US can’t win and that they’ve lost already.
"Most experts now agree that the US occupation is itself a key generator for the Iraqi insurgency", concluded Newsweek magazine.
The CWI stands for the withdrawal of the occupation troops. To avoid a further development towards a bloody civil war, there is a need to build a movement of workers, youth, peasants and poor that can unite different religious and ethnic groups in struggle. For this, a socialist programme for security, jobs and a better life is needed, combined with guarantees for the rights for all minorities. The oil in Iraq makes the country potentially rich. Transnational oil companies, and other profiteers, must be confiscated and the resources used by the people.
Iraq has shown the limits of US imperialism. The new phase of the Iraq crises coincides with new economic and political problems for Bush at home. Capitalism and imperialism inevitably leads to crises. Worker’s struggle and global socialism are the only real alternative.
This article will also appear in Offensiv (8 December) paper of the CWI in Sweden