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WHAT WE THINK
Iraq occupation in crisis:
Why the U.S. won't defeat the resistance

December 10, 2004 | Page 3

LIKE EVERYTHING else about Washington's war in Iraq, last month's battle of Falluja took a terrible toll in Iraqi lives--but proved much less decisive than the Pentagon's spin machine promised.

This was already obvious while U.S. forces were demolishing Falluja with every weapon in the world's most deadly arsenal. Even as the brass claimed to have "broken the back of the insurgency," rebel fighters launched uprisings in Samarra, and briefly gained control over parts of Mosul.

Over the first weekend of December, the resistance launched some of its most sophisticated operations to date, killing 16 police in one police station and freeing 50 prisoners in Baghdad, while killing members of the Iraqi security forces throughout the country.

As Joseph Galloway, the well-regarded Knight-Ridder war correspondent, put it, "We now face the plain fact that the insurgency is growing." Ridiculing the idea that the U.S. military has the resistance on the run, Galloway noted that rebels carry out 150 attacks a day--10 times the number of a year ago.

There's no mystery to why the resistance is growing. The U.S. destruction of the city certainly recruited more resistance fighters and supporters than it killed. These include people like 27-year-old Mohammed, who told the Washington Post, "My house was destroyed during the war by the Americans. From that moment until now, I have hated the Americans. I support the resistance, if it's 100 percent resistance."

And the U.S. is certain to stir more anger among Iraqis with its plans for "rebuilding" the city it flattened--which basically amount to turning Falluja into a giant prison camp, complete with ID cards and mandatory work programs.

During the presidential campaign, the Bush administration claimed that the Iraq operation was "on track" to deliver the "gift of freedom" to the Iraqi people through elections scheduled for January 2005. It paraded its puppet Iraqi prime minister, Ayad Allawi, around Washington to assure the U.S. public that only a few extremists opposed the occupation, and that they would soon be swept away.

Thanks to the inept campaign of John Kerry--who flipped and flopped between criticism of the Bush team's tactics and assurances that he would continue the occupation--this dog-and-pony show got enough people to give Bush the benefit of the doubt for him to win re-election.

But the chaos and violence in Iraq since have shown how hollow these assurances were.

With at least 135 killed, November matched the deadliest month for U.S. soldiers since the war began. Now Washington has ordered an additional 12,000 troops to Iraq--ostensibly to provide "security" for the January elections, but in reality to step up the fight against the resistance.

All of this has put Washington's goal of January elections in some doubt.

A coalition of smaller political parties in Iraq--including some represented in the U.S.-appointed interim government--has called for a postponement. United Nations special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, who helped Washington engineer elections to install the pro-U.S. government in Afghanistan, said he doesn't think the vote can be held in the current state of chaos.

Political and religious leaders among Sunni Muslims--a minority of the population that held power under Saddam Hussein--fear that their influence on the Iraqi government will greatly diminish and are moving toward a position of full-out boycott of the elections, whenever they are held.

On the other hand, Ayatollah Ali Sistani, the religious leader of Iraq's Shiite majority, has staked his credibility on January elections. He could bring millions into the streets if they are cancelled or postponed without his approval.

Such a development, combined with the armed resistance, could be the deathblow to U.S. occupation.

So far, Bush is holding firm to the January plan. He faces the possibility of an election result that huge parts of the population won't accept--fueling the drive toward civil war. But the U.S. has few other options than to muddle through and hope against hope that an escalation of U.S. troops will turn the situation in its favor.

As a consequence, ordinary Iraqis and U.S. soldiers will continue to pay for Bush's fantasies with their lives.

That's why we have to rebuild the antiwar movement that was derailed during the presidential elections. This movement has to work in solidarity with the forces that can end the U.S. occupation--the Iraqi resistance, and U.S. soldiers who refuse to be cannon fodder for Washington's imperial plans.

We can start by building a strong antiwar presence in protests planned to coincide with Bush's inauguration in January. We have to make our voices heard--end the U.S. occupation now!

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