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WHAT WE THINK
Iraq's crisis grows deeper as constitution deadline nears
Is U.S. rule unraveling in Iraq?

August 5, 2005 | Page 3

WITH WASHINGTON exerting intense pressure, the 71-member committee charged with drawing up Iraq's new constitution announced that it intended to meet its August 15 deadline to deliver the document, as Socialist Worker went to press.

But sharp disputes between Iraq's Kurds, Shiites and Sunnis mean that the negotiators will almost certainly avoid settling the most contentious issues--postponing and potentially aggravating the very tensions that the U.S. occupiers hope to contain.

U.S. officials will put the best face they can on the outcome, whatever it is, but it will be hard to paper over the holes in a constitution that the Bush administration claims is an important step along "Iraq's road to democracy."

One factor driving U.S. demands that negotiators stick to the August 15 deadline is the surging strength of Iraqi resistance forces and their increasingly effective attacks on U.S. occupation forces.

"Despite months of assurances that their forces were on the wane, the guerrillas and terrorists battling the American-backed enterprise here appear to be growing more violent, more resilient and more sophisticated than ever," the New York Times reported on July 23. "We are capturing or killing a lot of insurgents," an unnamed U.S. Army intelligence officer told the Times. "But they're being replaced quicker than we can interdict their operations. There is always another insurgent ready to step up and take charge."

Despite the deepening crisis of the occupation, the mainstream media were filled with reports last week that the Pentagon was planning "dramatic reductions" in U.S. troops stationed in Iraq by spring 2006.

Gen. George Casey, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, predicted "some fairly substantial reductions" next year--but only if "the political process continues to go positively and if the development of the security forces continues to go as it is going." Yet according to Marine Gen. Peter Pace, the incoming chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, two-thirds of Iraq's army battalions are only "partially capable" of taking on Iraq's resistance, and half of Iraqi police units are not yet ready for the field.

The Bush administration hasn't introduced a new policy for a sped-up withdrawal--only a new marketing strategy to sell the continued occupation. "Still pledging not to 'cut and run,' the White House can gain from spin that indicates withdrawal is much more likely and more imminent than previously believed," wrote columnist Norman Solomon. "Floated withdrawal scenarios will be part of an enormous hoax."

One reason for the talk of withdrawal is opinion polls showing growing opposition to the occupation. More than half of Americans now believe that the U.S. will lose the war in Iraq, 51 percent want the administration to set a timetable for withdrawal, and only 37 percent think the Bush has a clear plan to deal with the situation.

On top of that, the administration has to be concerned about the strain of extended deployments and plummeting morale on the military. "Military planners...are deeply concerned about driving away Army careerists and recruits if current deployments are forced into 2007," Newsweek reported. "If the U.S. Army has to do another rotation into Iraq in the fall of 2006 to keep force levels up to their current 138,000, it 'goes off a cliff,' says retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey."

But however unpopular the war becomes, the Bush administration can't simply walk away. Setting up a pro-U.S. regime in Iraq and establishing U.S. military bases there stands at the heart of a long-term U.S. objective--shared by Republicans and Democrats alike--of dominating the oil-rich and strategically important Middle East.

To serve this goal, Washington's war planners daily predict a bloody civil war in Iraq if U.S. troops aren't there to keep the peace. The truth is precisely the opposite.

"Iraqis are portrayed as a people who can't wait to kill each other once left to their own devices," left-wing Iraqi exile Sami Ramadani wrote in Britain's Guardian newspaper. "In fact, the occupation is the main architect of institutionalized sectarian and ethnic divisions; its removal would act as a catalyst for Iraqis to resolve some of their differences politically...

"Every day, the occupation increases tension and makes people's lives worse, fuelling the violence. Creating a client regime in Baghdad, backed by permanent bases, is the route that U.S. strategists followed in Vietnam. As in Vietnam, popular resistance in Iraq and the wider Middle East will not go away, but will grow stronger, until it eventually unites to force a U.S.-British withdrawal."

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