WHAT WE THINK
October 31, 2003 | Page 3
THE PAMPERED elite that runs Washington's occupation of Iraq got a taste of the violence and chaos that grips the rest of the country last weekend when guerrillas launched a rocket attack on the Rashid Hotel in downtown Baghdad. Missiles fired from a makeshift launching system slammed into the building at 6 a.m., leaving the overseers of U.S. colonial rule to flee "in their pajamas and shorts," reported the Associated Press.
The next day, suicide bombers carried out coordinated attacks at police stations and the Red Cross headquarters in Baghdad, killing 35 people and wounding more than 200.
The Rashid is a symbol of the American occupiers--the "home away from home" to top Pentagon brass and representatives of Corporate America looking to make a quick buck off the big business invasion of Iraq that followed the military one. For Iraq's poorly equipped guerrillas to carry out a bold strike on the hotel--and then follow up with the coordinated car bombings--underlined the crisis facing Washington's war makers.
Paul Wolfowitz, the super-hawk deputy defense secretary who was staying at the Rashid and led the early-morning scramble to escape, complained about "[t]hese terrorist attacks [that] will not deter us from completing our mission, which is to help the Iraqi people free themselves."
Does anyone believe this junk any more? More and more U.S. soldiers have their doubts. They were told they would be welcomed as liberators--now they face the threat of armed attacks on every patrol.
Meanwhile, ordinary Iraqis endure chronic unemployment, shortages of the most basic goods and services and the everyday violence of a society that was left to dissolve into chaos under the very noses of U.S. forces. This is the source of the resistance--not some mythical "terrorist threat" imported from Syria or Iran, or the remnants of Saddam Hussein's regime, but the brutality and cynical exploitation of a U.S. occupation for oil and empire.
The Bush administration--so cocky and confident just a few months ago--is on the defensive. And Wolfowitz's boss Donald Rumsfeld is on the hot seat. Last week, USA Today publicized a secret Rumsfeld memo that cut through the administration's hot air about its successes in Iraq with a grim assessment of Washington's failure to meet any of its war aims.
Such cracks at the top show the pressure that the Bush gang is under. For the first time since September 11, they are beginning to fear that they may go the way of Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon--two presidents who, in different ways, were driven out of office because of the U.S. defeat in the Vietnam War.
But to judge from the Democratic "opposition" in Washington, Bush isn't going anywhere anytime soon. Leaders of the "party of working people" have staked their supposed opposition to the occupation on demanding that Iraq repay $10 billion in loans out of the $87 billion that Bush demanded in occupation funding.
That's why it was so important that the antiwar movement turned out to Washington, D.C., and San Francisco last weekend for the first national mobilization since the invasion of Iraq--and with a clear message to end the occupation and bring U.S. troops home now.
The mainstream media unanimously dismissed the protests as smaller than the mass demonstrations that took place before the war. But no one in the antiwar movement should be disappointed by the turnout. This is the beginning of a new phase of organizing--rebuilding the antiwar movement to oppose the disastrous occupation.
The swift U.S. victory in Iraq--and the United Nations' endorsement of the occupation that followed a war it had opposed--left many in the antiwar movement disoriented. Many of the hundreds of thousands of people who protested in the run-up to the invasion were left demoralized because the massive turnouts failed to stop the war.
But the vast majority of these activists have not changed their mind about the invasion, and they have grave misgivings about the occupation. That is why the October 25 protests were so important--as a first step in giving voice to those misgivings, which are as broad now as they were before the war.
Reaching out to this potentially enormous audience is the next job of the antiwar movement--to answer their questions and involve them in taking a stand on the side of the Iraqi people resisting Washington's domination, and of U.S. troops who are sick of being used as cannon fodder.