the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist
“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx
Nov 14, 2003
At the end of September, Attorney General Ashcroft announced that the Justice Department was opening a criminal investigation into a leak emanating from the Bush administration. Bush's attorney general may not have been very pleased to launch this probe, but the CIA, by proposing its own inquiry, had given him no choice. Someone in the administration had revealed the identity of CIA agent Valerie Plame in retaliation for an article written by her husband. When Bush's press secretary and a Republican party spokesman tried to downplay the consequences of the leak, current and former CIA officials declared that the leak not only had endangered Plame's life, but the lives of entire networks of agents, seriously damaging national security as a consequence.
Of course, that's as absurd as many of the Bush administration claims, but the fact that the CIA would attack the White House in this way, insisting even on a probe, is unusual. And the fact that it was doing so in the middle of a war is extraordinary.
So is the candidacy of General Wesley Clark for president. Clark, the former lieutenant general who led NATO forces during the war in Kosovo, is charging that the Bush administration had so mismanaged U.S. relations with other powers that it had turned the war in Iraq into a disaster.
In fact, the CIA probe and the Clark presidential challenge are parts of an ongoing campaign, emanating from different parts of the state apparatus, attacking the Bush administration over its handling of the Iraq War.
This campaign started many months earlier, even before the war started. In the early days of the buildup toward the war, not only did Colin Powell and the State Department publicly question Bush's rapid push toward the war, so did the CIA and the military.
Early on, for example, the CIA compiled a report arguing that a U.S. war against Iraq could inflame sentiments in the Middle East against the U.S. and bring about more terrorism, not less. Although the report wasn't issued publicly, the CIA let it leak to the press.
As it had leaked the report drawn up by Joseph Wilson, which shot down claims that Iraq had tried to buy uranium from Niger, one of the wild stories floated by the team around Defense Secretary Rumsfeld. When the CIA proposed that Wilson investigate the claims, it was pulling out the big guns. Wilson was a high government official broadly connected to the CIA, State Department and foreign policy teams under both Republican and Democratic presidents. He had run the U.S. embassy in Iraq in the period leading up to the first Gulf War and then went on to become the NATO commander's security advisor during the war in Kosovo. The CIA did not need Wilson to investigate the claim, which obviously was bogus, but to embarrass the Rumsfeld bunch. The CIA did issue other reports publicly, contradicting administration claims that the occupation of Iraq would present few problems. Rumsfeld was so incensed by the CIA's conduct that he actually proposed to shift much of the CIA's work to a new intelligence department under his control, a proposal quickly shot down by Congress. Even the news media, which were backing the administration's move to war to the hilt, ridiculed it.
Meanwhile, as the administration's drum-beating for war heated up, news reports began to appear indicating that the professional military was constantly clashing with the civilian administration in the Pentagon – Rumsfeld and his deputies, Wolfowitz and Feith, the so-called "neo-conservatives" or "neocons." The military began to speak out publicly, mostly through retired generals or former Defense Department officials at least at the beginning. In September 2002, for example, James Webb, secretary of the navy under Reagan, writing in the Op-Ed pages of the Washington Post, broadcast the military's dissatisfaction with the Rumsfeld bunch: "American military leaders have been trying to bring a wider focus to the band of neoconservatives that began beating the war drums on Iraq before the dust had even settled on the World Trade Center. Despite the efforts of the neocons to shut them up or to diss them as unqualified to deal in policy issues, these leaders, both active-duty and retired, have been nearly unanimous in their concerns. Is there an absolutely vital national interest that should lead us from containment to unilateral war and a long-term occupation of Iraq?"
In January 2003, Norman Schwarzkopf, who had been the commander of the first Gulf War, put it even more bluntly: "Candidly, I have gotten somewhat nervous at some of the pronouncements Rumsfeld has made.... He actually gives the impression that he enjoys this kind of thing."
It was especially significant that many of those criticizing the current Bush administration came out of the administration of the first Bush president, the very ones who had engineered and led the wars in Panama and the Persian Gulf, including Papa Bush's secretary of state, Lawrence Eagleburger, and his chief foreign policy adviser and collaborator, former General Brent Scowcroft.
James Baker, another secretary of state under Papa Bush, warned in an article he prepared for the New York Times in August 2002 that "regime change" cannot be "done on the cheap" – and all the more so if an occupation of the country were to be necessary. This meant, said Baker, that if the U.S. were to go into Iraq, it should do so only with much bigger numbers that the Bush administration had in mind. As a benchmark, Baker referred to the half million U.S. troops sent by the first Bush administration during the Gulf War. Just as importantly, according to Baker, the U.S. had to find the way to bring U.S. allies along with it. Wrote Baker, "... we should try our best not to have to go it alone, and the president should reject the advice from those who counsel doing so. The costs in all areas will be much greater, as will the political risks, both domestic and international, if we end up going it alone or with only one or two other countries.... There will be the costs to other American foreign policy interests, including our relationships with practically all other Arab countries (and even many of our customary allies in Europe and elsewhere)...."
With Cheney, Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz publicly pooh-poohing this advice, and with Junior Bush being trotted out regularly to make another bellicose sounding statement, the president's own father made a public attempt to moderate the current administration's policy. In a speech at Tufts University in late February 2003, the former president indirectly but clearly chastened Junior's administration for not trying to work with U.S. allies in the impending war, holding up his own policy in the first Gulf War as an example of what to do: "Incidentally, the Madrid conference would never have happened if the international coalition that fought together in Desert Storm had exceeded the U.N. mandate and gone on on its own, if the United States had gone on on its own, had gone into Baghdad after Saddam and his forces had surrendered and agreed to disarm. The coalition would have instantly shattered.... We would have lost all support from our coalition, with the possible exception of England. And we would have lost all support from the smaller nations in the United Nations as well." And later on, in another warning, set out in the form of a homily about his attitude toward King Hussein of Jordan who had opposed the U.S. on the Gulf War, he declared: "You've got to reach out to the other person. You've got to convince them that long-term friendship should trump short-term adversity." In other words, it was necessary to slow down and bring in the disaffected allies.
By the end of February, active military officials were issuing public warnings about the Bush administration's plans for the upcoming war. At a Senate hearing in the weeks before the invasion, for example, Army Chief of Staff Eric Shinseki pronounced the now famous words: the U.S. military would need "several hundred thousand" troops to occupy Iraq, a much bigger force than had been planned for. The senators were taken aback. The next day, Rumsfeld rushed Wolfowitz before the committee to issue public reassurances that the relatively small force being readied was more than enough to carry out the occupation.
When the Turkish parliament surprised the Bush administration, voting not to allow U.S. troops go through Turkey to attack Iraq from the north, several officers, including General Tommy Franks, charged with leading the war, warned that the invasion should at least be delayed so that U.S. forces in the north could be moved around to Kuwait to take part in the initial assault from the south. But Rumsfeld – possibly concerned about the growing opposition aimed at him coming from within the state apparatus – did not wait. In the first week of the war, when American troops suddenly bogged down in the south, the Marine Corps commandant complained to a reporter that his troops hadn't "war gamed" for that kind of battle. Former officers, like Barry McCaffrey, hired by television networks to provide commentary on the war in keeping with the official propaganda machine, broke with their script, declaring flat out that the U.S. invasion force was too small.
When U.S. troops rushed into Baghdad two weeks later, Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz declared their strategy vindicated against all the nay-sayers, casting particular aspersion on retired generals "pontificating from their rocking chairs." Puffed up with their victory, barely a month later the Rumsfeld team landed President Bush onto an aircraft carrier, dressed up in his well-cut flight suit, to announce the "end to major hostilities" – even as hostilities and tensions in Iraq were growing. During the first few weeks after the taking of Baghdad, with the Bush administration pretending that things were proceeding smoothly in Iraq, Rumsfeld was trying to "reorient" the Pentagon, getting rid of top military officials. He forced his hand-picked secretary of the army, Tom White, to resign because White had taken the side of the generals. At the end of June, Shinseki, under pressure from the administration, retired as army chief of staff a year before his term was up – and Rumsfeld gave orders that no high civilian official should attend Shinseki's farewell address. It was in that address that Shinseki issued a parting shot: "Beware the 12-division strategy for a 10-division army." So at odds was Rumsfeld with the military by that time that he by-passed all the active four-star and three-star generals, bringing back Pete Schoomaker, who had retired in 2000, to succeed Shinseki.
With the situation in Iraq deteriorating rapidly, Paul Bremer replaced former General Jay Garner as top civilian administrator. Despite more demonstrations by the Iraqi population and increasing guerrilla attacks against occupation forces, Rumsfeld continued to issue rosy assessments one after the other. Six weeks later, Garner would go public, despite his ties to Cheney, charging that the Pentagon had not done nearly enough planning for the period following the war. In early July, Tommy Franks, the commander who was replaced as head of coalition forces in the region, reported in testimony to Congress that U.S. troops were coming under daily attacks, ranging from 10 to 25 a day! It was the first real acknowledgment of what the administration had done its best to obscure up till then. A week later, the newly appointed regional commander, John Abizaid, rebutting claims by Rumsfeld that only a few "die-hard Saddam Hussein loyalists" were creating all the problems, described the situation in Iraq as a "classical guerrilla campaign."
The military had been warning that its forces could be stretched to the breaking point. The news media now began to pay attention to the casualty figures – and to the demoralization of the troops, which was being expressed more openly. The almost 180,000 U.S. troops in and around Iraq who had been led to believe that they would return soon after the taking of Baghdad, were informed that they were on one-year rotations. National Guard and Reserve units, many of whom had already been activated once in response to the September 11 terrorist attacks and then again for the Afghanistan War, were put on one-year rotations to serve in Iraq or elsewhere. This was almost unheard of for the so-called "week-end warriors," part-time soldiers who had not been trained for the kind of military combat some of them were now facing. (During the Viet Nam war, Johnson had refused to call them up, fearful of the political repercussions.) Then the General Accounting Office released a study, concluding that the U.S. army didn't have enough active-duty troops to rotate into Iraq, once the current troops left, not unless the number of troops were considerably reduced from other places where U.S. imperialism had interests to protect, such as Korea, Japan, Afghanistan, Bosnia, etc.
As the situation in Iraq continued to deteriorate, the CIA announced it had commissioned a study to see how Bush administration claims about weapons of mass destruction could have been so wrong – as if the CIA didn't know! But of course, that wasn't the point. The CIA announcement simply underlined the fact that no weapons of mass destruction had been found; this could only serve to embarrass the administration. The CIA also began to leak many of its own earlier internal reports, showing that the CIA was not the source of administration claims. Most significant was the fact that Joseph Wilson went public in July about his earlier report, proving that the CIA had contested the administration's bogus claims about Niger uranium. Bush was left holding the bag himself for "those 16 little words" in his State of the Union address.
The Bush administration was publicly forced onto the defensive, really for the first time. The administration convinced CIA director George Tenet to take responsibility for having let Bush put those "16 little words" into the speech. At first, Tenet went along with Bush's charade, but by all reports this caused such an uproar inside the CIA that an assistant to Bush's security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, was found to take the fall.
In a foolish attempt to intimidate its critics, the administration then leaked the information about Plame's CIA connections, getting back at Wilson of course, at the same time warning anyone else who might be thinking of exposing the Bush administration.
In fact, this effort by the Bush White House to protect itself backfired, opening it up to charges of "endangering national security" and to the possibility of a criminal prosecution – or at least threats of a prosecution. If Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld thought they could intimidate the CIA, they must have forgotten who they were dealing with: the CIA that had written the book on intimidation.
Meanwhile, the military was also stepping up pressure on the Bush White House. Whereas earlier, retired generals had been carrying the ball, active officers now were openly contesting Rumsfeld and Cheney's assertions, point after point. When Rumsfeld and Bremer, who heads the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), took pains to insist that the fighting was coming only from foreign terrorists and a few disgruntled Baathists, the U.S. commander inside Iraq, Lieutenant-General Ricardo Sanchez, declared that the U.S. occupation was facing broad resistance, coming from the population itself, an assessment that was backed by a report that Powell's State Department happened to release at the very same time. According to this report, the biggest threat to the U.S. in Iraq came from popular discontent, provoked by the inability of the occupation to restore services, etc. When the U.N. headquarters was bombed, Rumsfeld spoke of foreign terrorists smuggling in their weapons from Syria. Army spokespersons in Iraq released information indicating that the explosives had come from ammunition dumps that were widespread throughout the country. When a Rumsfeld aide issued reassurances that all ammunition dumps were now safely secured, General Abizaid within a few days reported to Congress that not only were the majority of such dumps not guarded – because the U.S. did not have the forces needed to guard them – there were many more that hadn't even been found yet. "There is more ammunition in Iraq than any place I've ever been in my life, and it is all not securable," he said.
Most significant, the military higher echelon was criticizing Rumsfeld and Cheney's insistence that the U.S. could continue the occupation alone, and they made it clear that they were working with Secretary of State Powell to wrench around U.S. policy toward Europe. On one trip to Washington D.C., General Abizaid let reporters know that he had not met with Rumsfeld, nor with Bush, reporting, however, that he had met with Powell, with whom he claimed to be in regular contact. It was a startling and open slap in the administration's face.
In fact, the military opposition to Rumsfeld and Bush's policies had grown so open that at the end of August, retired General Anthony Zinni, who had been the commander of Central Command (CENTCOM) from 1997 to 2000, responsible for conducting U.S. military operations in the Middle East, took the opportunity of his speech to the U.S. Naval Institute and the Marine Corps Association, two professional groups for officers, to openly attack the administration: "My contemporaries, our feelings and sensitivities were forged on the battlefields of Viet Nam, where we heard the garbage and lies, and we saw the sacrifice. I ask you, is it happening again." He then went on to accuse the Bush administration of damaging the U.S. military. "We can't go on breaking our military and doing things like we're doing now." But perhaps the most startling thing of all was the fact that tapes and CD's of Zinni's speech were immediately made available to any officer who wanted to buy them. The press reported loud applause from the officers, and a large number of sales.
Since before the war, the Bush administration has been under an attack from the top officials who run the Pentagon, CIA and State Department – not from the ones directly appointed by Bush or his civilian appointees, but from the professionals running the permanent state apparatus, the apparatus that is in place no matter which elected officials are sitting in office.
Certainly, none of these critics opposed the aims for which this war is being fought – that is, to control Iraq and through it, Middle Eastern oil.
Even those critics who questioned the need for this war at this time did so only because they believed that U.S. aims, that is control over the region, could be achieved more efficiently by continuing to starve out and bomb Iraq periodically. Joseph Wilson, for example, wrote in the liberal Nation magazine: "Bases have been established as stepping stones to Afghanistan and Iraq.... Northern Kuwait has been ceded to American forces and a significant military presence established in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Oman.... Nations in the region, having contracted with the United States for their security umbrella, will now listen when Washington tells them to tailor their policies and curb anti-Western dissent. Hegemony in the Arab nations of the Gulf has been achieved."
U.S. hegemony, of course, means U.S. control over the vast oil reserves of the Middle East. Iraq is key in this regard, first because it has the world's second biggest – if not the biggest – oil reserves. Iraq became particularly important after the Shah of Iran, U.S. imperialism's long time cop in the Persian Gulf, was overthrown in 1979 by a mass uprising, putting a question mark over direct U.S. control of Iran's oil reserves. But the events of 9/11 gave even more importance to Iraq's oil, given what they showed about the inability of the Saudi regime to control parts of its own state apparatus and ruling elite.
In any case, whether the high ranking critics from the military, the State Department and the CIA questioned the need for a war against Iraq right now, or whether they simply opposed the way the Bush administration carried it out, they've all made it abundantly clear that they agree with the strategic goals for which the war is being fought: to solidify the grasp of the U.S. over the region's oil reserves.
All of today's critics stood behind every U.S. administration, when they weren't directly involved in their work, as the U.S. pushed more directly into the region. Today, they still justify the first Persian Gulf War, as they justify U.S. policy in the post-war period, with the terrible economic blockade that tightened a death grip on Iraq. And none of them question the vicious U.S. bombing on Iraq that targeted Iraq's electric power infrastructure, softening Iraq up for what was to come later – like the December 1998 Operation Desert Fox bombing carried out by the Clinton administration.
These were many of the very people who had formulated the policies that came to fruition in the current Iraq war, and some of them helped in the preparations for it. Anthony Zinni, for example, the former commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East, who today so passionately denounces the handling of the war by the current Bush administration, explained to an ABC interviewer in late September that he had drawn up invasion plans of Iraq before he retired as head of CENTCOM in 2000. According to Zinni: "The plan was criticized by this [Rumsfeld's] Pentagon as overestimating the amount of troops.... But actually the plan had those troops built into it because we looked at the security requirements immediately afterwards."
Zinni's position was the same as that of all the other generals who opposed Rumsfeld and the Bush administration: they're not opposed to going to war against Iraq; they just don't agree with the way the Bush administration carried it out. Not a one of them, of course, considers the possibility that the U.S. should leave Iraq right now. When asked about that option, Zinni, for example, declared in the same interview, "We can't fail in Iraq. We have to live up to this commitment. But what we need now is a very detailed plan."
Even more to the point, General Wesley Clark, who today is running for the Democratic nomination as the "anti-war general," explained on his website: "I wasn't one of those who was anxious to get into Iraq. I always was skeptical of it. I always doubted that there was an imminent danger that required us to do it. Nevertheless, we're there now and that's all ancient history. So, what we have to do is I think, number one: establish legitimacy."
Ah! In other words, Clark didn't want the war, but now that Bush started it, Clark wants to keep on with it!
So why have these professionals of the bourgeois state apparatus been so open in their attacks on the Bush administration?
In the first place, they are protecting their own turf. If the war continues to go badly, and scapegoats are needed, they want to make sure they don't take the fall for it. They want to shift the blame to the "neo-cons" – with whom they've been in disagreement anyway. And the permanent command of the CIA doesn't want to be sacrificed in one more round of shake-ups, hearings, investigations, public humiliations, budget cuts, etc.
Beyond that, they have their own parochial interests to defend. This is especially true for the military, which has found itself at odds with the Defense Department civilian administrators for a long time over budget questions. They have watched one administration after another carry out what is called a "transformation" or "modernization" of the armed forces, which are nothing but euphemisms for drastically downsizing the number of troops in order to funnel ever more of the military budget to buy big fancy weapons systems – which the generals sometimes don't want, but which the big corporations always do, since military contracts serve as a continual cash cow for them.
Certainly, most of the generals don't oppose giving big contracts to the corporations. Not in the least. In fact, after most of them retire, they expect to cash in on the contracts they helped send toward this or that big military contractor, signing on with them afterwards, or working as consultants, that is, selling their contacts and influence in the state apparatus. But the generals, particularly those of the army, aren't ready to see their troop strength continue to be reduced to the point of what they consider ineffectiveness, even while this military budget has grown bigger than all the military budgets of all the rest of the major powers combined. The generals are obviously unhappy at being asked to carry out a war without the troops they thought necessary, and at being asked to carry out too many actions at once – the meaning behind Shinseki's warning, about a "12-division strategy" and a "10-division army."
Beyond that, they are clearly annoyed by a series of budgetary measures that stand in the way of further recruitment and re-enlistment: for example, the cuts in veterans' benefits in the current budget, making it more difficult for vets to see doctors or get education benefits – right in the middle of the Iraq war; or the proposal by Rumsfeld to cut hazardous duty pay, a proposal so embarrassing that it was rejected by Congress, or the current rule that wounded soldiers transported from Iraq to army hospitals in the states have to pay for their meals while in the hospital! The generals want to be able to attract and pay for more troops, that is, more cannon fodder to sacrifice in future wars of imperial conquest, along with more weapons systems.
This is not a new demand coming from the military. The number of active-duty army troops has been cut nearly in half since the end of the Gulf War, with the navy suffering almost as big a reduction. Only the marines and the air force came through relatively unscathed when the civilian policy makers at the Pentagon cut troop strength. But the war in Iraq has put the generals in a more favorable position from which to push their claims. Rumsfeld – who came into office with the stated goal of reducing troop strength still further – is today a much easier target to hit. The generals had all the ammunition they needed as the situation worsened, since Rumsfeld had so vocally boasted in the early days of this war that he was its architect. When Baghdad fell, for example, he declared, "When the dust has settled in Iraq, military historians will study this war."
Beyond their parochial interests, most of those who criticized the Bush administration's handling of Iraq share a common political disagreement with the Bush administration. It can be summed up in two letters: U.N. Opponents of the current Bush administration wanted to go into Iraq the way the U.S. had gone to war over the last 20 years, with the blessing of the U.N. and in alliance with the other imperialist powers, as well as the different states of the region. Certainly, even with other troops, the war would still have featured the overwhelming power of the U.S. military, using all its high tech weapons and enormous bombs and artillery. But once this phase of the war was over, the U.S. forces should have had help with the much more difficult, problematic and costly occupation. The critics wanted the cover of the United Nations, which would run the "humanitarian" programs, and they wanted the other major powers to bring in their troops and provide the money to help keep order in the region after the fall of the dictatorship that had kept order for so long.
None of the administration's critics ever asserted that the U.S. should cede actual control over Iraq or the Middle East to the other powers. But it would have to offer some quid pro quo, a few crumbs, some oil or reconstruction contracts, etc. – just as the first Bush administration had done after the first Persian Gulf War. From the standpoint of allowing the U.S. to increase its grip and overall domination of the terribly explosive Middle East, this was a relatively cheap price to pay for providing the U.S. a cover and getting others to share the burden.
Instead, while Powell was trying to put together some agreement at the U.N. before the war started, Rumsfeld was busy ridiculing the different governments. Publicly, he made it crystal clear that the U.S. intended to control Iraq and its oil one hundred percent, not to mention the big cost-plus contracts awarded in advance for "rebuilding" what the war was to destroy. And he went out of his way to insult the other powers, saying they could handle the "humanitarian stuff" if they wanted to do something. Wolfowitz declared that the huge 150 billion dollar to 200 billion dollar debt that Iraq owes to France, Russia, as well as several Arab countries, should not be repaid at all – since it had been contracted by a ruthless dictator! In other words, Rumsfeld, Cheney and Wolfowitz thought they could rewrite the rules of the game.
To officials from the first Bush administration, not to speak of the leaders of other governments, it must have been absolutely amazing to watch Rumsfeld and Cheney thumb their noses at the U.N., to hear Junior Bush declare it "irrelevant." (Just as the generals, always worried about a resurgence of the so-called "Viet-Nam syndrome" in the American population, must have been amazed to hear Bush's school-yard taunt, "Bring-em-on!" just at the point U.S. casualties were becoming a staple of the evening news and polls were showing support for the war in a big nosedive.)
Yes, the U.S. is the only super-power today. It imposes its interests on the whole rest of the world. That's not the same as saying it can do whatever it wants whenever it wants however it wants. The critics understand that the U.S. still has to at least take account of the other main powers, if it doesn't want to create unnecessary problems for its own expansive aims.
And yes, the U.S. calls the tune at the U.N. – and the nations that supposedly opposed the U.S. over Iraq know that better than anyone else. But U.S. presidents are not supposed to publicly call the U.N. irrelevant, nor to put on a two-gun cowboy performance while standing at the podium of the U.N.
If there is a single word almost all the critics of the Bush administration would use in describing what they think about Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and Company, it would be "nincompoops." Not because the "neo-cons" went to war but because they did not seem to understand what would have been obvious to anyone in even the lowest ranks of the diplomatic services. The "neo-cons" thought they could arrogantly give marching orders to the other powers, and then rub their noses in it.
It's difficult, of course, to say what will happen inside this teapot where the generals, the spies and the "neo-cons" have been carrying on their tempest. In great part, it depends on how the situation in Iraq develops. If the stepped up bombing and attacks by U.S. forces on civilians carry the day, cowing the population into submission, at least for a while, Rumsfeld's crew may once again be offering to give history lessons about warfare. But, if things continue to go from bad to worse for the interests of U.S. imperialism, scapegoats will be needed. And it's certainly possible that Rumsfeld's deputies, if not Rumsfeld himself, can be thrown to the wolves in order to protect Junior Bush. The door is clearly being left open for that possibility.
The media has reported that the decision to go back to the U.N. was the result of an open alliance between Powell's State Department and all the top generals, who presented Bush with a new resolution for the U.N. when he came back from one of his long vacations at the beginning of September. Rumsfeld, who had earlier derided suggestions about going back to the U.N. as meaning the U.S. would being going "hat in hand," was not consulted – or so the media have been told.
But for now, the deal that has been cut appears to be the one explained by Republican Senator Lugar, chairman of the Senate's Foreign Relations Committee, when he appeared in mid-October on NBC's "Meet the Press" program. Declaring that "the president has to be president," Lugar went on to explain,"that means the president over the vice-president and over these secretaries of state and defense." He added that Condoleezza Rice "cannot carry that burden alone." And if this implies that Junior Bush has let himself be led around too much by the Rumsfeld crew, Powell and the generals are not going get rid of Rumsfeld completely. A few days earlier, Rice, the president's "trusted" national security adviser, was designated as the person heading the Iraqi "reconstruction" effort, that is, the ongoing war and occupation.
Behind these public shifting of responsibilities, it appears that there was also some shifting in policy, vis a vis the U.N. and the European allies. In this regard, Powell and the generals muzzled Rumsfeld's crew a bit. The fact that this resolution was passed by the U.N. Security Council unanimously does not derive from any significant differences between it and the one the U.S. couldn't get passed before the war began. It's only a mark that Powell was able to promise a few more contracts to the other powers than what was held out before. It was significant that the "investors conference" was held not only before the "donor's conference," but before the U.N. vote. Its guardedly optimistic title – "Doing Business in Iraq: Kickstarting the Private Sector" – may have promised more than the U.S. was prepared to or could deliver, but the fact that it was held at all shows that Powell had been given authorization to smooth over quite a few of those feathers that Rumsfeld's coterie had purposely ruffled.
Certainly, we have no way of knowing the real discussion between the U.S. and its newly re-found "allies." Whatever contracts were offered, they either weren't large enough yet, since none of the countries rushed to offer troops nor even real commitments of money – nothing beyond a token contribution; or the other powers don't believe that Iraq will be open for investment any time soon. But those offers of contracts did accomplish one thing – they gave the U.S. its belated unanimous vote at the U.N. for the war against and occupation of Iraq – seven months after the war started – but who in the U.N. was counting?
In any case, this vote in the U.N. does not change the imperialist nature of the occupation. It serves only to authorize the U.S. to do what it had already been doing. And it lets the U.S. hide its imperialist aims for Iraq behind the U.N.'s "humanitarian" cloak. It's not the first time the U.N. has served such a purpose. To go back only as far as 1990, it was under the banner of the United Nations that the U.S. had carried out the first Persian Gulf War against Iraq; it was the U.N. that authorized the subsequent economic embargo, as well as the intrusive weapons inspections; it was the U.N. that gave approval for the intensive bombing campaign carried out against Iraq during the Clinton administration. And it's the U.N. that in November 2002 passed the infamous resolution demanding that Iraq give up the "weapons of mass destruction" that U.N. inspectors had already shown did not exist – or face the consequences. It's the U.N. that passed three subsequent resolutions after the U.S. invasion, each in some way justifying the dirty U.S. war on Iraq.
If other nations were finally to offer significant numbers of troops, what would that change for Iraq? Nothing – except that its people would be killed not only by U.S. soldiers, but by others as well. The war would not be any less deadly for all that.
Last winter, significant parts of the movement that demonstrated in the U.S. against the build-up to the war did so with the illusion that the U.N. could prevent that war. One of the biggest demonstrations, for example, took place in New York City, right across the street from the U.N., calling on the U.S. to respect the U.N. Security Council – the same Security Council that in November 2002 had just given the U.S. the weapons ultimatum it wanted.
This pinning of hopes on the U.N. was an enormous delusion, and the events that played out showed this painfully.
So what do the forces that helped divert the opponents of the war toward the U.N. have to offer today? Nothing but another diversion – this time, to the candidacy of the supposed "anti-war" Democrats, people like Governor Dean or General Clark.
In a September 12 open letter, film maker and self-proclaimed anti-war spokesman Michael Moore, appealed to General Clark. (This letter, entitled "A Citizen's Appeal to a General in a Time of War (at home)," can still be found on Moore's website. Praising Clark because "you respect the views of our allies and want to work with them and with the rest of the international community," Moore said, "And you oppose war. You have said that war should always be the 'last resort' and that it is military men such as yourself who are the most for peace because it is YOU and your soldiers who have to do the dying. You find something unsettling about a commander-in-chief who dons a flight suit and pretends to be Top Gun, a stunt that dishonored those who have died in that flight suit in the service of their country."
After a good deal more in the same vein, and acknowledging that he had been for Dean up to that point, Moore concludes: "But right now, for the sake and survival of our very country, we need someone who is going to get The Job done, period. And that job, no matter whom I speak to across America – be they leftie Green or conservative Democrat, and even many disgusted Republicans – EVERYONE is of one mind as to what that job is: Bush Must Go.
"This is war, General, and it's Bush & Co.'s war on us. It's their war on the middle class, the poor, the environment, their war on women and their war against anyone around the world who doesn't accept total American domination. Yes, it's a war – and we, the people, need a general to beat back those who have abused our Constitution and our basic sense of decency.
"The General vs. the Texas Air National Guard deserter! I want to see that debate, and I know who the winner is going to be."
In other words, according to Moore, without Junior Bush and the "neo-cons," there would be no war. That flies in the face of every statement made by Clark, Dean and the other Democrats, who, with one exception, voted to authorize the war. It flies in the face of every word of criticism that the people linked with Clark have been making. They don't want an end to this war – if end means that the Iraqi people will be left to settle their own fate themselves – they want a quicker U.S. triumph, leading to easier control over the area.
To adopt the arguments of people from the state apparatus – the military, the CIA and the State Department – who criticized the conduct of the war, and not the war itself, does not oppose the war. These servants of imperialism want only to more efficiently advance U.S. control of the wealth of the whole globe. Choosing one side or the other is no support for people everywhere impoverished by that imperialism.
Clark himself admits he would have voted for the war. And he still says he would continue it now. So what kind of opposition does his candidacy represent? As we saw, Clark explained it in terms of establishing "legitimacy" for this latest U.S. war. And in pursuit of "legitimacy," how would he differ from the Bush administration "neo-cons"? Clark explained it thus: "For some reason, we fought the U.N. full endorsement of this mission and the full engagement of the United Nations. For the life of me, I don't know why. The same people who fought the U.N. were telling me five years ago – all they could talk about was 'burden-sharing, burden-sharing, burden-sharing,' 'mission creep, mission creep, mission creep,' 'exit strategy, exit strategy.' And somehow, all that disappeared and I don't understand it. So, I'd go first to the United Nations. I'd say, 'Look, we know you don't have a security force. We'll finish the job, we'll work for security. We want you to come in and we want you to really help us work the reconstruction and the redevelopment of Iraq.'"
But the Bush administration has now gone to the U.N., it's now offered some inducements to the allies whose views Moore says Clark "respects." Now that the U.N. has given its support, what has changed? Nothing – except that the U.S. now has U.N. authorization to "finish the job," to use Clark's ingenuous term. Perhaps emboldened by U.N. authorization to "finish the job," the U.S. in recent days has resumed the bombing and strafing of civilian targets from the air; it has stepped up its nightly raids through whole civilian areas. The situation in Iraq is rapidly becoming reminiscent of what a U.S. officer in Viet Nam once alluded to when he said, "we had to destroy the village to save it."
The only way to consistently oppose the war in Iraq is to demand that the U.S. get out of Iraq and the rest of the Middle East immediately. From that standpoint, the demonstration that took place in Washington on October 25 is a small step forward. Although it was certainly smaller than the more massive one at the U.N. before the war started, it also was much clearer in its main slogans, which were "an immediate end to the occupation of Iraq and withdrawal of U.S. troops." A spokeswoman for a group formed by people with family members in Iraq declared, "Don't extend them. Don't redeploy them. Don't replace them. Bring them home now."