Apr 18, 2004
In the middle of April, George W. Bush, who had been hiding out on his ranch for a week, was sent back to Washington for a press conference, only his third in over three years. It demonstrated how much the situation in Iraq had not only heated up, but had become an electoral problem for Bush himself.
Rather than reducing the number of U.S. troops – as the administration had been pretending all along – U.S. military commanders had publicly acknowledged for the first time that they were asking for up to 20,000 additional troops. And they admitted that another 20,000 troops who'd been there already a year or longer, were being frozen in Iraq "for at least three more months." And after three months ... then what?
For all the enormous U.S. firepower – the F-16s, helicopters with heavy armaments, weapons whose range was lengthened with the most advanced technical aids, not to mention armored vehicles and ammunition hardened with depleted uranium – the U.S. military was not in control of Iraq. And every passing day made that point more forcefully.
Attempting to smash centers of resistance to the U.S. occupation in Fallujah as well as some of the southern Iraqi Shiite cities, the military instead provoked an insurrectionary wave that swept through two-thirds of Iraq's cities. All the supply lines into Baghdad were cut. And assurances to the contrary, military and logistical supplies for troops in Baghdad were reported to be running short.
Not only would the much touted new Iraqi army not go into the areas under attack, some of them went over to the insurgents openly, taking weapons with them, shattering Bremer's claims about this "new" Iraqi army.
Even some of Bush's fellow Republicans are beginning to question the June 30 deadline that Bush had set for the fictional "transfer of power" – a date that had nothing to do with the situation in Iraq and everything to do with Bush's own re-election campaign.
In fact, the situation in Iraq seems to have turned a corner in April, becoming wider, with resistance to the U.S. occupation more deeply rooted in the population. And what the U.S. has done trying to put down the insurgency could only have further deepened the anger of the Iraqi population. One of the marines recently sent into Fallujah for a second tour of duty acknowledged that when he explained to a New York Times correspondent: "I definitely worry more. I don't trust them [the ordinary people] like I did last time. You never know which are going to come up and kill you."
It was nearly one year ago on May 1, 2003, that Bush had bounded out of a helicopter onto the deck of a returning Navy vessel, declaring triumphantly that "combat operations in Iraq are over," with a banner hung behind him declaring, "mission accomplished."
Many more people have been killed in Iraq since that day than were killed in the "official war."
Iraqis have paid the biggest price by far, just as they have all through this war, and most of the Iraqi casualties were civilians – as Fallujah showed. At least half the people killed there in one week of fighting when the marines went door to door were women and children. These deaths were not "accidental" civilian casualties – what the military cynically calls, "collateral damage." The civilians of Fallujah – just as the civilians in the poor neighborhoods of Baghdad and some of the southern cities – were targeted. The U.S. high command had ordered marines into highly populated urban areas to carry out a door-to-door military campaign, using enormous firepower against civilians to crush all opposition. It was nothing but outright terrorism, carried out by the strongest power in the world against the people of a country already decimated by years of warfare.
But U.S. troops have also paid the price for this war about which they had no say – it having been decided on inside the top circles of the U.S. ruling class. Almost as many U.S. troops were killed in the first two weeks of April alone as in the whole "official" war that ended last May 1. The vast number of those troops didn't ask to be sent there. And – as letters home to relatives increasingly testify – most don't want to be there today.
Some of the strongest opposition in this country to the war comes from the families of the troops. They are reflecting attitudes circulating among the troops, who daily experience what it means to be an occupying army in a country that doesn't want them. If there are some soldiers and their families who support the war – and the bourgeois media always manages to quote them – there are many more who write to local papers all over the country expressing their dismay and anger about it, like the California woman attending her nephew's funeral who insisted "this insanity must stop." The soldiers and their families who oppose the war have every reason to expect that the rest of us will support them in their opposition – demonstrating, mobilizing, organizing a fight against the continuation of the war.
Bush, in his press conference, dared say that even though these last weeks have been "difficult," the sacrifice of life was worth it. The U.S. – he said – was bringing "freedom," "democracy" and "security" to Iraq. It's the biggest lie of all – as if one country could bring freedom to another by slaughtering off its population.
The U.S. government's interest in Iraq was not based on a desire for "freedom" and "democracy" – any more than its concern was to root out weapons of mass destruction or terrorism. The aim of this war was, and still is, to establish U.S. control over Iraq's oil. This war – for which so many Iraqis and U.S. troops have paid so bitterly – is nothing but a war to further U.S. military and economic control of the Middle East.
Bush has had plenty of company in telling all these lies, from the Democrats as well as the Republicans. Today, Kerry and Kennedy may criticize Bush, pretending that he misled them into supporting the war. Absurd! They expect us to believe that politicians in the inner circles could not realize what millions of ordinary people around the world could see right away!
What's more absurd is the claim made by some people that getting Bush out of the White House and putting Kerry in will change the course of this war. Kerry has made it explicitly clear that he intends to pursue the war if he replaces Bush in the White House. In a mid-April "Meet the Press" TV program, Kerry said only that "the way the president went to war is a mistake." Not that going to war was wrong, but that the "way" he went was a "mistake." And when asked whether he would have 100,000 troops on the ground in Iraq a year from now, Kerry replied, "that depends on the situation on the ground."
In other words, Kerry is reading from the same war script Bush does. Yes, Kerry says he would involve the U.N. more directly – the same U.N. that gave Bush authorization for the war after he had declared it unilaterally; the same U.N. that today is trying to cobble together a puppet government so Bush can pretend to hand over power on June 30. That will not stop the hemorrhaging of Iraq, the deaths of civilians. And even if the Spanish troops were to stay in Iraq – as Kerry called on them to do – that won't stop the killing of Iraqis, it will only change the uniform of a few of those who do the killing.
The Viet Nam war was not ended by voting for politicians who mouthed platitudes about the war, but by the social movements in this country, starting with the movements against the war by the soldiers themselves. The war in Iraq will be ended the same way.