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A Socialist Worker guide to...
Bush's surge of death and destruction

January 19, 2007 | Pages 4 and 5

GEORGE BUSH has announced his long-delayed plan for a "new way forward" in Iraq. But there's nothing new about it. His proposal for a "surge" of more than 20,000 U.S. soldiers is the same old strategy of escalating violence in the hopes of silencing the Iraqi resistance.

Now, Bush is increasingly despised not only in Iraq and around the world, but within the U.S., where his approval rating dropped to all-new lows after his White House speech.

Here, ALAN MAASS examines some of Bush's claims, along with the responses of leading Democrats.

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"Our past efforts to secure Baghdad failed for two principal reasons: There were not enough Iraqi and American troops to secure neighborhoods that had been cleared of terrorists and insurgents. And there were too many restrictions on the troops we did have." -- George Bush

THE "PRINCIPAL" reason the U.S. occupation is failing is that the vast majority of Iraqis oppose it. This is why U.S. forces are unable to maintain control over Baghdad, not the number of soldiers deployed.

What else to read

Left-wing writer Stephen Zunes wrote an excellent paragraph-by-paragraph analysis of Bush's speech for Foreign Policy in Focus. For a mainstream, but still useful view, see Anthony Cordesman's "Bush's Iraq plan, between the lines" written for the New York Times.

The crucial book on Iraq for antiwar activists is Iraq: The Logic of Withdrawal, recently republished in an updated paperback edition from the American Empire Project with a foreword by Howard Zinn.

Arnove also writes regularly on Iraq for the International Socialist Review, an excellent source of news and analysis of the U.S. war. His most recent article is "The U.S. Occupation of Iraq: Act III of a Tragedy in Many Parts."

 

The population of greater Baghdad is 7 million, and the U.S. has 70,000 combat troops, along with 60,000 support soldiers, in all of Iraq. In any occupation, the occupiers depend on the support--or at least acquiescence--of the occupied when their armed forces aren't immediately on hand. Otherwise, resistance forces can easily escape occasional raids and sweeps, and return once the occupiers go back to their bases.

The previous U.S. "surge" in Baghdad--Operation Forward Together, carried out last fall--was a disaster, leading to a rise in attacks on U.S. troops and setting the stage for further sectarian violence.

Bush's new plan to send 17,500 more soldiers to Baghdad will not succeed either. According to a Pentagon field manual on counterinsurgency--written by none other than Lt. Gen. David Petraeus, the newly appointed head of U.S. forces in Iraq--the U.S. would need twice its present combat strength in the capital to quell the resistance.

Bush's claim about the lack of Iraqi troops is a perennial complaint of U.S. officials, but by the end of December, the number of soldiers trained and armed by the Iraqi Army hit 132,000--just shy of the benchmark established by the U.S. military for Iraqi forces. At the same time as the number of Iraqi troops increased, however, so did both Iraqi opposition to the occupation and the sectarian violence gripping Baghdad.

The most important reason why the U.S. can't secure Baghdad--not to mention other parts of Iraq--is that almost all Iraqis, at least outside of Kurds in the north, view the U.S. as an occupying army, and Iraqis who work with them as puppets and collaborators.

Bush's surge will not succeed in quelling the resistance, any more than previous "new way forwards." On the contrary, his talk of lifting non-existent "restrictions" on U.S. troops is a signal that the U.S. is preparing for scorched-earth tactics--like those used to level the city of Falluja--that will only intensify the opposition.

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"[W]e concluded that to step back now would force a collapse of the Iraqi government, tear that country apart, and result in mass killings on an unimaginable scale." -- George Bush

THIS IS a repackaging of the old argument that Iraq would be engulfed by civil war if U.S. forces withdrew. But Iraq is already being torn apart by sectarian conflict. Dozens of people are found dead every day in Baghdad.

The U.S. occupation is directly responsible for this nightmare, and every day that it continues makes the violence worse.

DEMONSTRATE ON JANUARY 27

Protests are taking place around the country on January 27 where activists will call for an end to the U.S. war on Iraq. Check below for details on demonstrations in different cities.

Washington, D.C.
Assemble on the Mall, between 3rd and 7th Streets at 11 am. March begins at 1pm.
Click for more information

San Francisco
Assemble at Market and Powell at Noon.
Click for more information

Los Angeles
Assemble at 9th and Figueroa at Noon. March to the Federal Building at Spring and Los Angeles.
Click for more information

Austin, Texas
Assemble at Austin City Hall at 3 pm. March to the Texas Capitol building begins at 3:30 pm.
Click for more information

Seattle
Assemble at the Center for Social Justice, 2111 E. Union, at 1 pm.
Click for more information

Sectarian differences between Shia and Sunni Muslims played little part in Iraqi history, but the U.S. set out to deepen these divisions as part of a divide-and-conquer strategy.

The new Iraqi political system established by the U.S. and its puppets entrenches sectarian identity. As the mainstream commentator Anthony Cordesman wrote, "The system used virtually ensured that Iraqis would vote by sect and ethnicity, and that the outcome would further divide Sunni Arabs and Shiites."

Under the new government--approved in Washington--government ministries became the fiefdoms of sectarian political parties. The U.S. has also trained and supplied sectarian militias that operate within Iraqi police and security forces. It has even reportedly disguised some of its own military operations as those of religious groups, encouraging reprisal attacks.

The civil war underway in Iraq was stoked and promoted by the U.S. So should we believe that Bush's surge will stop the violence--or make it worse?

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"We have given the Iraqis so much. We have deposed their dictator...We've given the Iraqi people a chance to draft their own constitution, hold their own free elections and establish their own government." -- Sen. Dick Durbin

YOU HAVE to wonder if Dick Durbin would dare say this to an Iraqi who endures the privation, fear and humiliation of life under occupation. What the U.S. has given to Iraq is death and destruction on a horrific scale.

Researchers from Johns Hopkins University shocked the world with their findings that some 655,000 people have died "as a consequence of the war"--about 2.5 percent of the pre-invasion population, or one in every 25 Iraqis. Some 90 percent of these war-related deaths were the result of violence, and a large number were directly attributable to U.S. forces.

As left-wing writer Mike Ferner calculated on the CounterPunch Web site, "Comparable casualties in our country would mean that every person in Atlanta, Denver, Boston, Seattle, Milwaukee, Fort Worth, Baltimore, San Francisco, Dallas and Philadelphia would be dead. Every. Single. Person."

Almost four years after the invasion, conditions of everyday life continue to deteriorate. Residents of Baghdad have electricity for only part of the day. Damage to water sanitation systems remains unrepaired. Iraq's health care system--once renowned as among the most advanced in the region--was devastated by more than a decade of sanctions that followed the first Gulf War, and still hasn't recovered.

As for the new Iraqi government, it depends for its survival on the favor of the U.S., and Iraqis know it. Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, for example, won his office after the U.S. decided his predecessor was unacceptable.

This is what the U.S. has "given" to Iraq.

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"Al-Qaeda is still active in Iraq. Its home base is Anbar Province." -- George Bush

THOUGH STILL a small minority of the armed resistance, groups with some relation to al-Qaeda do exist in Iraq.

Before the U.S. invasion, on the other hand, the al-Qaeda network was--despite the fantasies of Dick Cheney and the Bush administration--a non-factor in Iraq, its operations limited to a tiny enclave in the Kurdish region that was beyond the control of Saddam Hussein's government.

As the Iraqi resistance began to develop, al-Qaeda-related forces were tiny, yet the U.S. media blamed every attack on Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, giving his small organization a platform to gain a greater following. Even today, al-Qaeda accounts for less than 5 percent of the 20,000 to 30,000 people directly involved in the Sunni armed insurgency, according to the estimate of CIA Director Gen. Michael Hayden.

As for Anbar Province, the resistance is far more broad-based--and chiefly motivated not by al-Qaeda's brand of Islamic fundamentalism, but by bitterness at the brutality of the U.S. occupation, typified by the destruction of the city of Falluja in late 2004.

As before, Bush's rhetoric about al-Qaeda in Iraq is only important in providing a link between the U.S. invasion and occupation and the September 11, 2001 attacks.

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"[Iran and Syria] are allowing terrorists and insurgents to use their territory to move in and out of Iraq. Iran is providing material support for attacks on American troops." -- George Bush

BUSH'S ALLEGATIONS of Iranian and Syrian involvement in Iraq would be laughable if they didn't represent a renewed war threat.

As Mike Whitney pointed out on CounterPunch, if Iran really were arming the Iraqi resistance, U.S. forces would be facing the same kind of weaponry that was used against Israeli forces during their failed war last summer to crush Hezbollah--not improvised explosive devices and car bombs.

Likewise, no one seriously believes that Syria is participating in the insurgency. Certainly, some non-Iraqi resistance fighters--who remain, by the estimates of the U.S. military, no more than 5 percent of guerrilla forces--crossed into Iraq over the Syrian border, but there is no evidence of government support for them.

Iran does have varying degrees of influence with Shia leaders, but that hasn't stopped the U.S. from striking up its own relationships. For example, in a seeming attempt to promote a possible alternative to al-Maliki, the U.S. is cozying up to the Shiite political leader with probably the strongest ties to Iran--Abdel Aziz al-Hakim, who uses the Iraqi Interior Ministry as cover for the death-squad operations of his Badr Brigade.

In his speech, Bush issued barely veiled threats against Iran with the announcement that he was deploying an additional carrier strike group to the region--the Iraqi resistance, after all, does not yet have a navy--and talk about setting up Patriot air defense systems in allied countries, whose only conceivable use would be against missiles fired by Iran in retaliation for a U.S. first strike.

To underline the point, Bush personally authorized recent U.S. raids in which Iranians in Baghdad and other Iraqi cities were seized.

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"There have to be some consequences to the Iraqis not coming to a political accommodation...It is time for us to send a message to the Iraqi government that they have to stand up." -- Sen. Barack Obama

IF REPUBLICANS and Democrats can agree on one thing about the disaster in Iraq, it's that Iraqis should be objects of blame.

To hear the way Obama tells it, you might think that the U.S. was invited to invade, and now the Iraqis--by refusing to live the life of freedom and prosperity planned out for them by Washington--aren't holding up their end of the bargain.

In reality, the U.S. has called the shots on every major decision in the "new" Iraq. Politicians like Obama, for example, regularly berate Prime Minister al-Maliki for refusing to take on sectarian violence. But Maliki told reporters late last year that he was powerless to move a single company of Iraqi soldiers without permission from U.S. and British forces.

Though Bush claimed that the Iraqi government had designed and proposed the new strategy for securing Baghdad, the bickering over details that followed his speech showed the opposite.

The U.S. remains the real power in Iraq, and its actions have made life increasingly intolerable for the vast majority of Iraqis. Nevertheless, blaming Iraqis for "not standing up" or succumbing to "ancient religious hatreds" is a convenient cover for absolving the U.S. of any responsibility for Iraq's nightmare.

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"The challenge playing out across the broader Middle East is more than a military conflict. It is the decisive ideological struggle of our time. On one side are those who believe in freedom and moderation. On the other side are extremists who kill the innocent, and have declared their intention to destroy our way of life." -- George Bush

THE U.S. war on Iraq was never about freedom, and it has been anything but moderate.

Take a look, for example, at the assortment of crooks and thugs the U.S. proposed to lead the "new" Iraq--after, that is, it gave up on direct colonial rule through the Coalition Provisional Authority.

The U.S. is no more committed to democracy elsewhere in the Middle East, where its favored ally Israel presides over an apartheid system designed to crush all aspirations of the Palestinian people, and where its clients among Arab regimes use dictatorial repression to maintain their grip on power.

So what has the U.S. war been about? Oil, for one thing--U.S. control over the world's second-largest proven reserves.

The Bush surge comes at a critical time for his oil company pals, who are counting on the Iraqi government to deliver on a new oil law, expected to be voted on in the coming weeks and put in effect by March.

The law--"carefully scrutinized," wrote Pepe Escobar in Asia Times, "by Washington, Big Oil and the International Monetary Fund, but not by Iraqi politicians"--would establish 30-year production-sharing agreements with Western oil companies and bar any future government from nationalizing the oil industry. "In essence, it's a game of 'if you nationalize, we invade you--again.'" Escobar concludes. "So the law fulfills the early-2003 neo-con boast of 'we are the new OPEC.'"

Beyond oil, Iraq is the centerpiece of U.S. plans to project its military power in the Middle East through the establishment of permanent bases--and "to maintain the legitimacy of U.S. imperialism, which needs the pretext of a global war on terror to justify further military intervention, expanded military budgets, concentration of executive power and restrictions on civil liberties," wrote Anthony Arnove, author of Iraq: The Logic of Withdrawal, in the International Socialist Review.

Those who really are on the side of freedom need to speak out for immediate U.S. withdrawal--and for the right of Iraqis to determine their own future.

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