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Views in brief

February 9, 2007 | Page 8

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Bush's new plan for Iraq
What splits at the top?

Bush's new plan for Iraq

APPARENTLY, AND not surprisingly, the Bush administration's policy toward Iraq is poised to get worse before it gets better, despite Bush's party having lost Congress to the Democrats over their failed Iraq policy.

One would think that a rational president would see the writing on the wall. Although the Democrats will not stop the war, millions of people voted for them thinking they would. Still, according to current reports in the press, Bush plans to increase--not decrease--troop levels in Iraq.

Such policies will only add to the current pandemonium there. So much for reason in the White House.

And of course, it all continues to be about oil. Presently, the Iraqi government is trying to pass laws that would privatize the oil industry, opening up the country's primary resource to exploitation by international capital.

All of this sounds strangely familiar. A previous president, Lyndon Johnson, increased troop levels and escalated the Vietnam War following criticism that the war was unconscionable as well as unwinnable. Why? Land and resources. And guess what? U.S. imperialism left Vietnam with its tail between its legs, but only after years of antiwar pressure on the government.

Which is exactly what needs to continue to happen today. Ultimately, it is possible that the combination of people's resistance within Iraq and domestic grassroots pressure on the United States government can stop this war. And history teaches that it is not only possible, but necessary.
Bruce Burleson, Boston

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What splits at the top?

SOCIALIST WORKER'S "What we think" column argued that the debate in Congress over Bush's troop surge represents a "split at the top," saying that the Bush proposal represents a neoconservative break from a ruling class that was attempting to unite around positions represented in the Iraqi Study Group (ISG) ("War machine in overdrive," January 19).

I believe this article misreads what is actually happening. There are real concerns about Bush's plan, mostly that is does not go far enough, and there is genuine nervousness at the top about the U.S. quagmire in Iraq.

Still, there is little to indicate that the Democratic "storm of words" represents anything other than political posturing, driven not by major tactical differences over which way forward in Iraq, but by the results of the 2006 election and the predictable grandstanding for position in the run-up to the 2008 election.

Not only are the Democrats determined to only pass a toothless nonbinding resolution in opposition to the surge, bypassing proposals that could actually block the surge, they have also sanctioned the replacement of more conservative generals like Abizaid with hawks like Patraeus. In fact, they heaped praise in approving these new generals who they knew favored an escalation policy.

SW argues that the "alternative" ruling-class position was expressed by the ISG report. But the report was not a plan in the first place, but a bundle of suggestions meant to frame the possible policy alternatives for the two parties. The ISG supports partial withdrawal, but provides absolutely no timeframe.

Alternatively, the ISG plan also proposes the possibility of an increase in troops prior to an eventual withdrawal. Sound familiar? Either way, many of ISG's proposals are being adopted by Bush: increased pressure on the Maliki government, increased Iraqification and imbedding of U.S. soldiers in Iraqi units.

Does Socialist Worker really propose that the ruling class is going to wage a public fight in Congress and the media and risk stirring a moribund antiwar movement over whether to engage in talk with Iran--the only piece of the ISG report decisively rejected by Bush and the neocons?

The Democrats aren't really raising that as their standard if that's the case. They certainly have raised no concerns with Bush sending another carrier fleet into the Persian Gulf or Patriot missile defense systems to Middle Eastern allies.

If this is a split, then where is the alternative plan that any section of the ruling class is rallying around in opposition to Bush's surge? There is none. Democratic posturing is about making Bush pay all the political costs of an unpopular policy while leaving the Democrats free to pick up the pieces if the policy fails.

In the end, most of the Democrats are just as committed to escalation as Bush, which is why there is bipartisan support for changing in National Guard service to allow for more immediate troop increases in Iraq and Afghanistan, in addition to the long-term increases planned in the size of the U.S. military.

This is a ruling class decisively committed around the need for more troops and more bloodshed in Iraq and Afghanistan, and preparing for escalation against Iran.

The ruling class is nervous about this surge plan and sees all sorts of problem with its limited troop mobilization. Still, the surge "debate" has allowed the entire ruling class to put distance between their need to escalate and the interests of U.S. workers who voted overwhelmingly to end the war and get out of Iraq.

In addition, it has allowed Bush to pay the political costs of "making the case" for the surge. When polls showed U.S. workers dead set against it, the Democrats dutifully echoed that opposition, while remaining sure to not actually act on it and short-circuit any efforts at trying.

This is not a split ruling class, but the same old "good cop, bad cop" routine with the volume turned up in response to a real crisis in Iraq and pressure building at home. In the past, SW has rightly argued that the stakes in Iraq are far higher than they were in Vietnam, and for that reason, the U.S. ruling class will be far more committed to the project and its actions all the more bloodier in seeing it through. That is what we currently see playing out.

We should not be fooled by the "fog of words" without deeds to match. The U.S. ruling class has only begun to play its hand and has many more cards in its deck. It will take an antiwar movement, and resistance from U.S. troops and the Iraqi resistance far stronger than we have currently to get it to even consider folding.
Andrew Libson, San Francisco

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